Re: "His name was changed at Ellis Island" #names


Peter Cohen
 

Thanks to Yale Zusman for an excellent analysis.  This has been an interesting discussion. It breaks down into certain groups:
Those who can only discuss name changes in terms of "the immigration officers at Ellis Island never changed anyone's name. Therefore all involuntary name change stories are false."
Those who equate spelling changes with name changes even though the names are essentially the same.
Those who would like to discuss it.

I agree that the preponderance of the evidence is that no official of the US government changed anyone's name. I do not agree that no immigrants ever underwent an involuntary name change. I just do not know the circumstances under which it happened.  As I understand it, many immigrants referred to the entire immigration experience as "Ellis Island", even things that did not happen there. New immigrants were referred to as "greenhorns" or "greeners", implying that they did not understand what was going on around them.  In such circumstances there could well of have been interactions with people that the immigrants mistakenly believed had some kind of authority.

I keep returning to the occurrence of the same two phrases in family stories: "He asked me my name" and "He wrote down".  That kind of interaction would not have happened at the Great Hall, but nothing precludes it from having happened somewhere else while the immigrant was still overwhelmed with the new experience. This line of thinking get attacked with "there is no evidence that anything like this happened". But, there is something else for which there is no evidence:  In order for this story to be a complete fabrication in every case, there would need to be a conspiracy of silence. That in itself seems unlikely.  We have yet to see anyone come forward and say something along the lines of an uncle telling their niece or nephew "I know your father told you that they changed his name, but I was there and he made that decision himself."   I do not think there is enough information to know what actually went on, and probably never will be.

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