How to Find a Name Change #poland #names

Gail H. Marcus

Earlier this year, I posted a question (#655832) about a puzzling ship manifest someone found for me that looked like it might be my family (all 7 first names, birth order and approximate ages were right), but had a different surname (Penesuch instead of Grossman).  I received a number of helpful replies--many thanks to all who responded!!!  Since then, I have been trying to see if I can find some "proof"--that is, some record that connects the 2 names.  This has unearthed a new dilemma for me, and I am hoping someone can help me figure out a logical explanation for several discrepancies I am seeing.

Here is the background:  I have found a few records in Poland that "might" be some of my ancestors, but nothing linking the 2 names, or in fact, linking any of the names to each other, so I thought I would see if any of the naturalization records referenced the former name.  In the first place, I don't see where a name change should be indicated.  I don't see a place for it on the declaration and petition forms, so it would help me to understand where I should be looking for this information.  In the second place, I have 3 records for brothers who should have traveled together.  They all give different dates of travel, and all the dates are different than the Penesuch record we found.  One says the ship is unknown, and 2 give the same ship name, the same month and day, but different years!  And although I do see that there was a ship by the right name, I don't see any record that it arrived on that date in either year!  I thought the officials were supposed to check the manifests to verify the information in the naturalization forms, so I am seeking an explanation for how this could have happened.  Were the checks not as rigorous as I've been told?  Were officials bribed to sign off without checking?  Is there another explanation?

If there is a plausible explanation for what I am seeing, and/or if there are other records I should be looking for (along with information on whether they exist and where I can find them), that alone would be a great help. 

I wasn't sure if it was necessary to provide all the details, and doing so makes the message rather long, but in case my explanation above is not clear, the following are the details of what I have found and what they seem to show:

The details:  I searched for 3 brothers whose names I know as William, Max and Jack Grossman who came from the Lomza area of Poland (not sure if the city or the province).  William was probably Wulf in Lomza, and I know Max was Isaac.  Jack, of course, was Jacob.  All were born around 1880-1888.  The naturalization papers I have found include the following:  for William, a Declaration dated Nov. 27, 1909 and a Petition dated Sept. 19, 1912; for Max, a Declaration dated 1923, I think (the date is smudged), a second Declaration dated Oct. 3, 1941, and a Petition signed Feb. 3, 1944; and for Jack, a Declaration dated Nov. 12, 1913, another Declaration dated Aug. 23, 1923, and a Petition dated Dec. 18, 1925.

In their Declarations, Max and Jack Grossman said they sailed from Hamburg to NY on the Amsterdam, arriving Sept. 15 (Max said it was in 1896 and Jack said it was 1894).  William didn’t remember the name of the ship, but said he sailed from Glasgow to NY, arriving July 29, 1892. Let me qualify this slightly—most of the records for Max and Jack say they sailed from Hamburg, but Max apparently let his first Declaration of Intention expire, and his second one (almost 20 years later) gives the same ship name and same date of arrival, but says he sailed from Rotterdam.  The Penesuch record (or Pencsuch in the U.K. manifest) has the mother, these 3 children and 3 other children (for whom I have found no naturalization papers, and in 2 cases, I believe none exist--one was naturalized under her husband's petition and the other lied about her age so appeared to have been born in the U.S.) sailing on the State of California and arriving on Aug. 27, 1895. 

William, Max, and Jack were all minors at the time they came here, so it doesn't seem likely that they went back and forth.  I also wondered if they could have been confused and mixed up names a little bit (i.e., remembering that the ship was the name of a Dutch city, but getting the wrong city), so I tried to search to see if there was a ship named Rotterdam.  I did find a ship named Rotterdam that arrived from Amsterdam on Sept. 15, 1894, but I don’t see any Grossman family members listed.   I even tried to see if there was a ship named Hamburg, but it looks like there wasn’t one that sailed during that period.

In all the Declarations and Petitions, I find some piece of information (an address, a spouse's name, and/or the name of a witness) that I believe confirms that these are the right individuals.  

I hope this hasn't gotten too detailed.  Most of all, I'd be happy to know if there is anything else I could check to find out if there was a name change, but any other help or advice is certainly appreciated.

Gail H. Marcus
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