"His name was changed at Ellis Island" #names


We should thank James Castellan for calling our attention to the Philip Sutton article ( since it plays a major role in propagating the meme that involuntary name-changes during immigration (there are similar narratives for other ports of entry) weren't possible. Some of the items on the list provided us by Barbara Mannlein a few weeks ago cite this article; others, not on her list, do as well. This is going to take some time, so bear with me.
There are several basic issues. Immigration procedures were even messier than Bob Bloomberg suggests. Congressional debate on HR 15442, which became the Naturalization Act of 1906, addresses actual fraud in the process involving agents of the Immigration Service. IS employees benefited from selling "duplicates" of immigration documents to an organization that then resold them, primarily in Italy. Other IS agents manipulated the naturalization process to enable immigrants who might vote for their party to become citizens faster. These were criminal acts, even then, so people who believe such agents would be meticulous about not changing immigrant names, which wasn't a violation of law at all, bear the burden of proving their beliefs. Anyone who wishes to check this out is free to start reading the Congressional Record.
The Sutton article raises key questions about the validity of the meme itself. He provides three "proofs," none of which can stand up to scrutiny:
Sutton's first "proof" begins with "Numerous blogs, essays, and books have proven" that involuntary name-changes could not have occurred. Such claims are standard in "proofs" of the meme, but while they invariably fail to specify where such a proof can be found, Sutton quotes at length from Vincent Cannato's American Passage: The History of Ellis Island including the statement "Nearly all ... name change stories are false." "Nearly all" implies that some such stories are true, which would disprove the "no involuntary name-changes" meme.
I read Cannato's book, which includes a statement of the meme and endnotes that identify his sources, but neither the book nor the references cited contains a proof. I then contacted him to learn whether "Nearly" meant what I had supposed. He responded that the conclusion that involuntary name-changes could not have occurred is based on what actually happened in the Great Hall at Ellis Island. He hadn't studied this issue in detail (his research was on the role operating Ellis Island played in establishing the American approach to bureaucracy); his "Nearly" was simply a hedge against the possibility that one or more cases might emerge where such a change did occur. Citing the meme, or citing a source that cites the meme, is hardly a proof.
Sutton's second "proof," involving the "One That Was," is a reference to the case of a Mary Johnson who chose to re-enter the United States dressed as a man and using the masculine name Frank Woodhull. Mary had adopted this name and identity after her initial entry from Canada, some thirty years earlier, when there were no federal immigration controls, because the job opportunities available to men were much greater than those open to women. Frank/Mary was referred for a medical inspection while re-entering, and recognizing that competent medical personnel would probably realize she was a woman, gave herself up. She went before a Board of Special Inquiry, which allowed her to enter. Immigration officials changed "Frank Woodhull" to "Mary Johnson" on the arrival document.
Contact with the Historian's Office at USCIS revealed that they believe Sutton has misunderstood or misrepresented what happened here: It was the listing for Mary that was changed rather than her name; she continued to live as Frank Woodhull. By virtue of having lived in the United States for thirty years, she appears to have known she was free to call herself whatever she wished. One of the arguments made to me when I first heard the meme was that Americans were free to do so. Making this a "proof" of the meme requires establishing that immigrants who had never been to America shared Mary/Frank's understanding of American law. Not likely.
Sutton's third "proof" is a claim that there was no contemporary discussion of name-changes, which is a form of the logical error known as an argument from ignorance (The best known of these is "Absence of evidence is evidence of absence," known to be false for centuries.) but then goes on to discuss an article he found in an entertainment column in The Washington Post from April 10, 1944, that does so. That article reports that a musician named Harry Friedman was reverting to his pre-immigration surname, Zarief. Sutton appears to have totally missed the context for this article: Mrs. Friedman/Zarief had just given birth to quadruplets and publicity was good for his career.
Sutton claims there are no other such items, but I found one, by sheer luck, dating to 1897. What would a comprehensive search of all media, including those in languages other than English, reveal? Sutton doesn't know, so this claim doesn't prove anything either.
The upshot is that the gold standard "proof" of the meme doesn't actually prove anything. It is built of claims that represent either misunderstanding or misrepresenting the evidence. The dozen or so other "proofs" of the meme I have found share this weakness, and some are credible only to true believers: One such adherent told me that whatever the law said, immigration officials would ignore it to do what genealogists would want a century later...
There is a mechanism that would lead immigrants to believe their names had been changed at Ellis Island, or other ports of entry.  This mechanism is included in an earlier abridged version of my study of this topic as "Involuntary Name Changes: The Real Story,"  in Avotaynu, Vol. 34, #1, Spring, 2018, p.~34. 
Contrary to Joel Weintraub, I believe the real issue here is whether the "No involuntary name-changes at Ellis Island" meme has led to the abandonment of narratives that contained genealogical information not available through any other means, and thus to its loss: You can't tell people that their narratives are fake without leading at least some of them to abandon them and thus prevent their transmission to a subsequent generation. Since stopping their transmission was the goal of advocates of the meme, they cannot now claim that there has been no such loss, unless they can prove that all the narratives are indeed false. But they haven't even tried to do that; instead, we have the meme. To make their point, they would also have to prove that narratives long-since abandoned were also false, but there's no obvious way to even identify them.
I note that there has been no systematic effort to disparage any other type of family narrative. Each narrative, including the name-change ones, should be checked out and not abandoned unless or until it has been proven individually to be false.
This meme has been effectively and aggressively marketed, which is fundamentally different from being proved, but that puts it on an equal footing with breakfast cereals. To the best of my knowledge, "involuntary name-changes on immigration" is the only area of intellectual discourse in which one side demands that the price of not being ridiculed is abandonment of the bulk of the evidence that proves that that side's beliefs are wrong.
What remains is to figure out why this meme emerged. I have requested a document from NARA that may contain, or point to, the answer, and as I suggested early in this thread, it would be wise to refrain from making additional unsupportable claims until it can be analyzed.
Yale Zussman

Re: Origin of the name BIALYI #names #belarus

Sally Bruckheimer <sallybruc@...>

Bialy means white, like Bialyrus, now Belarus, but they were the White Russians in the Revolution. Bialys are like bagels with a dent instead of a hole in the middle, usually with onions or something in the middle, their origin, I believe, was Bailystok.
Sally Bruckheimer
Princeton, NJ

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

Bob Bloomberg

Exactly my point: "There are instances of immigrants who changed their names, but the ship manifests were not the place where the changes happened... [then where?]  Ellis?] although in some cases, an immigrant may have decided to adopt an inadvertent misspelling. [emphasis added]

Re: Origin of the name BIALYI #names #belarus

Kris Murawski

I believed always it was the Americab name of a bagel variety from Bialystok. It was known in Poland as „cebulak” (onion-bagel”). 

Re: Origin of the name BIALYI #names #belarus

Alexander Sharon

"White" in several Slavic languages

Alexander Sharon

Re: Rabbi Aharon WEINSTEIN from Rosulno #rabbinic #galicia

Yehuda Horovitz

The sources are all in Hebrew. and listed in Meorei Galicia  by Rabbi Meir Wunder, vol 2 Jerusalem 1981, page 854

Re: "Jüdische Familien In Kreuznach" #germany


To summarize the previous posts and explain my interest:

1.  In the first post, Yann asked for help in locating a copy of "Jüdische Familien In Kreuznach, Vom 18.Jahrundert bis zum Ersten Weltkrieg."

2.  In the second post, Peter Lobbenberg provided a link.

3.  In the third post, Yann commented that the link provided was not for "Jüdische Familien In Kreuznach, Vom 18.Jahrundert bis zum Ersten Weltkrieg", but for another work by the same author, called "Juedisches Leben in Kreuznach".

As I am interested in the town of Bad Kreuznach during the period after WWI, I opened that link, expecting to the find the shorter title "Juedisches Leben in Kreuznach", and hoping that it might cover the period after WWI.   To my surprise, however, it took me to the pre-WWI work that Yann was originally trying to find!

I'd greatly appreciate a link to the ""Juedisches Leben in Kreuznach" work.  My uncle, Rabbi Alfred Jacobs, was the rabbi of Bad Kreuznach from 1927 until Kristallnacht.

Thank you in advance.
Fredel Fruhman
Brooklyn, New York, USA

Kalisz Front Family #poland


Trying to find any information on the "Front" family who used to live in Kalisz Poland before WW2.
Jankel Front, Elen (Abramska) Front, Mieczyslaw Front
I'll Appreciate any HELP. 

Free birth certificates in Germany #germany

alisa barkatt

I hear you have till today free look up birthday certificates in do I get in Alisa.

Re: Ballasagyarmat: what census records are there? #hungary


"Census of Izraelites living in the borough of B. Gyarmath for the year 1845/46": (Film # 007995363 images 31 to 46).

It looks like the enumerator consistently spelled Weiss as Vaisz. 299 households to look through. (Keep in mind that each page/list of names is on at least two images, more if the page was refilmed.)

(Speaking of spelling: it's correctly Balassa-, with one L and two S-es. It's the birthplace of both of my parents, so I've had lots of practice spelling it.)

Translating (making sense of) the headers of the census would be a Project: it's making distinctions between words that I would consider synonyms (kereskedés, kalmárság). Oh: the first two pages/lists have the headers in Hungarian, the next page/list is half in Latin, the rest are all in Latin. Hmm. In my Copious Spare Time....

. /\ /\

Re: Research individuals in France #france

Judi Gyory Missel

This is so generous of you to offer help Art. My French research is looking for details of my Hirschfeld family that moved to Strasbourg, France. Anton Hirschfeld and his wife, Katarina Sessler Hirschfeld were both born in Galgocz, Hungary. This town is now Hlohovec, Slovakia. Anton was born in 1847 and Katarina was born in 1853. They moved to Strasbourg to help with the family's export-import business of goose liver pate. The Hirschfeld family traded with much of Europe from their origins in Hungary. Anton and Katarina had 10 children all born in France. Many years ago, I communicated with a gentleman who sent me some basic information, but no updates and information about modern descendants. Anton and Katarina are both buried in Galgocz. Katarina died on 2 Dec 1904 and Anton died on 26 Jul 1922. 

Thank you for any help you can share or any suggestions for a direction I can go to find out more about this family. 
Judi Gyori Missel
Mesa, Arizona USA

Origin of the name BIALYI #names #belarus

Jacques Klein

Does somebody knows the origin of the name BIALYI, met in Vitebsk area (Belarus)?
Paris, France

Envoyé de mon iPad

Re: greek jews #sephardic


My husband's grandfather, Abraham Cohen, migrated around 1905 from Kastoria.
Barbara Cohen

Re: ViewMate identification/translation requests-Russian #translation


Вексельная бумага
Для личных долговых
обязательств на сумму
рублей  300  рублей
коп  45   коп
Минск   (не ясно) Шая

Translate into English:

Bill paper
For personal debt
liabilities in the amount of
rubles 300 rubles
cop 45 cop
Minsk (not clear) Shaya

Krynki/Krinki/Krinek Virtual Verein #poland

Bob Silverstein

I have started the Krynki Virtual Verein for the descendants whose ancestors came from Krynki and people interested in that sthetl.  We will explore the genealogy, genetics and materials associated with Krynki as well as in the many places Krynkers migrated to.  We would also like to create a repository of Krynki-related materials.   If you would like to join this virtual verein, please email me including your name and locale.

Bob Silverstein
Elk Grove Village, Illinois, USA

Re: Research individuals in France #france

Nancy Reicher

Oh my!!!! I am amazed and Flabbergasted at all you have found. This is all just wonderful. I am overwhelmed. Merci tres, tres much.  My French is very rusty. I can't tell you how much I appreciate all this information. Is there any way I can compensate you other than just by my thank yous.

Yes, I knew Jeanne also from our visit in her's and Misha's home in April 1972. There is much more I can tell you about Misha's history. Jeanne was Misha's at least second wife. She was a nurse and nursed him back to health from tuberculosis in the Vouges mountains before they married. My parents visited with Misha in 1950 when they went to Europe and spent a good deal of time with Jeanne and Misha. Before they left the U.S., They asked Misha what he needed as France was still not in great shape after WW II . Misha said I need coffee and a toilet seat. My parents took him both. He was a lovely man. I loved him dearly. We had good letter writing together. He was a deep thinker. He escaped from Ukraine or maybe Russia because he was in a plot to kill the Czar. His mother was able to Bribe the jailer as he was in custody and was to be hung. He was a revolutionary. The whole family were intellectuals and university graduates .His father was a doctor. His mother a nurse of royal order. His two brothers were PHD doctors and lived and worked in the U.S.. His one sister was an agronomist. She remained in Russia. and later moved to St Petersburg. His mother finally immigrated to France, Paris. During the occupation Misha placed her in an insane asylum where he felt she would be safe. She was . She lived to be liberated but died of starvation shortly after. She was about 85 at  that time. I'd love to know when Rose Bronfenbrener died and is buried as well as MIsha's death. The last letter my father received was misha telling him he would be dead shortly and saying goodbye. My Dad died in March 1977. Misha's last  letter was not to long before that, no more than a year.  

Thank you more and more for all your help. Now I must send my first cousin all your information. He will be as overwhelmed as I am.

Nancy L. Reicher (nlreicher@...)

Re: meaning of word esboubem? #russia

Norma Klein

actually esboubem also reminds of portugese

Re: ViewMate Translation Request-French #translation

Fred Half

I want to thank Rodney Eisfelder, David Choukroun, Michael Greenfield, and Carol Bradford for the translation and all your work on this document. It is people like you that make JewishGen the wonderful community that it is. I believe that the document had more genealogical data and the usual marriage record legalize due to the fact that the parents of the bride were both deceased and that the bride was a minor (under the age of 21) at the time.

Fred Half
Palo Alto, CA USA

Lejcek family, Lake Placid #usa

David Lewin

Is there anyone from Lake Placid, NY on this list please?

If so, can you contact me privately please?

David Lewin

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

C Chaykin

RE: "If the name on the manifest is the name they used..."
That is not the gist of what has been said... The name on the manifest was the copied from the name on the embarkation manifest. 

RE: "I can decipher some, but nowhere near all, the names."
There are instances of poor penmanship. But no matter how bad the penmanship of someone who transcribes it, I still know my name. The same was true for each immigrant.

RE: "But the names were never changed." 
There are instances of immigrants who changed their names, but the ship manifests were not the place where the changes happened... although in some cases, an immigrant may have decided to adopt an inadvertent misspelling. 

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