Re: How do I find out why my great-grandfather emigrated from Lithuania under an assumed name? #lithuania

Judith Singer

"It is no easy thing for a family to get a passport. If for any reason the birth of any child has not been properly entered upon the records of the community, and this happens quite frequently in the case of females, or if by accident an official has omitted a name in the records that he prepares from time to time, or there is a member of the family eligible to military duty, or perchance one of the family who has died would, if alive, be eligible to such duty and his name has not been stricken from the records, there ensue complications that involve expense and loss of time." (Philip Cowen, Philip. “Immigration from Russia”, 1906 report to U.S. Commissioner General of Immigration, NARA Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.



Some young men were able to obtain another man’s military papers in order to get an exit permit; (b) some emigrants used permits that had been forged or altered (usually by a shipping company agent) by adding an unrelated person to a family’s permit, using that family’s last name; (c) occasionally a family was able to use the permit of another family who had changed their mind about leaving after obtaining a permit, and so crossed the border under someone else’s name; and (d) those unable or unwilling to obtain even fraudulent documents avoided the border guards by leaving the train on the Russian side of the border and being smuggled through the forest.

In a family named Charny from Kavarskas, Lithuania, there are ship manifests and NY and US census records showing the apparent emigration of one branch of the family to NYC, including parents and several offspring, yet a Charny family with the same given names of not only the parents but all the children also appears in Lithuanian records, such as Internal Passport Applications, at times they were shown to be living in the US. The only explanation that has occurred to me is that the true Charny family remained had obtained exit permits yet chose to remain behind and was able to sell its permits to another family with children of the appropriate sex and age. A shipping company agent might have been employed in finding a suitable family to sell or buy the exit permits. These agents kept close eyes on which of the families in their sales area might or might not be interested in emigrating. 

Once a Russian exit permit was obtained, remaining documentation including train tickets and ship tickets had to be issued in the same name. and the list that showed the immigrants names to US immigrant officials was prepared by the shipping company officers, so the name on the purchased, forged, or altered visa became the name under which the immigrant entered the US. 


Judith Singer

researching Charney and variations in Lithuania

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