How immigrant surnames were changed #general


David Laskin
 

My grandfather's name in the Russian Pale was Szmul Lonckewicz but in America he
was known as Samuel Laskin. I had always heard that the surname was changed on
Ellis Island (he arrived in 1921), but I recently read in Vincent Cannato's book
American Passage that this did not happen: Cannato states definitively that
officials on Ellis Island were not in the business of altering names. So how did
Lonckewicz become Laskin? Following Cannato's suggestion, I speculated that my
grandfather must have made the change himself -- but a cousin now tells me that he
distinctly remembers grandpa saying that the name WAS changed. But by whom? I'd
welcome any insight into how immigrant names were changed. Thanks.
David Laskin, Seattle, WA

MODERATOR NOTE: Check in the JewishGen Discussion Group archives for the many
conversations about this


Mordechai Perlman
 

I have heard that at one point at Ellis Island, officials shortened
surnames they could not pronounce or the applicants could not spell into
English.
My grandfather did not come thru the USA but came thru Canada. I do
not know when he changed his name >from Pyereplotchik to Perlman. But he did
so successfully.

Mordechai Perlman
Ramot, Jerusalem

Researching: LEVINE, BARR, SHAPIRO, NITSBERG, PYEREPLOTCHIK

--
From: David Laskin <laskin.david@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 16 Mar 2011 11:06:34 -0700

My grandfather's name in the Russian Pale was Szmul Lonckewicz but in America he
was known as Samuel Laskin. I had always heard that the surname was changed on
Ellis Island (he arrived in 1921), but I recently read in Vincent Cannato's book
American Passage that this did not happen: Cannato states definitively that
officials on Ellis Island were not in the business of altering names. So how did
Lonckewicz become Laskin? Following Cannato's suggestion, I speculated that my
grandfather must have made the change himself -- but a cousin now tells me that he
distinctly remembers grandpa saying that the name *was* changed. But by whom?
I'd welcome any insight into how immigrant names were changed.


Avrum Lapin
 

Contrary to popular belief, names were not changed at Ellis Island.
"Ellis Island" used the names as listed on the ships manifest
(occasionally making a transcription error or a phonetic error). The
clerk or purser who compiled the hand written manifest may have also
made an error.

In my family my great uncles (the first of 8 siblings to leave Grodno)
supposedly changed the name >from Lapunsky to Lapin while crossing the
ocean on their way >from Grodno to Canada because they were told that
Lapins would face less discrimination than Lapunskys in
Canada.(obviously they did not know that Lapin meant rabbit in French
Montreal).

We have no physical evidence of the paper work that they used in
entering Canada, For all I know they could have bought a "green card"
from the ancestors of the guys who sell them in LA.
There are other possibilities for the name change as well (in any order)

a) they decided to honor their late mother who was born a Lapin
b) Lapunsky was on a wanted (for conscription list)
or

In the US there was an opportunity to change one's name when one began
the immigration process.

I think that the Ellis Island myth arose either because of some
sheepishness about the true reason for the name change or fear of the
long? arm of the Tsar's secret police (I have anecdotal evidence of the
latter)

Avrum Lapin

From: "Mordechai Perlman"<mordechaiperlman@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 17 Mar 2011 09:59:03 +0200

I have heard that at one point at Ellis Island, officials shortened
surnames they could not pronounce or the applicants could not spell into
English.
My grandfather did not come thru the USA but came thru Canada. I do
not know when he changed his name >from Pyereplotchik to Perlman. But he did
so successfully.

--
From: David Laskin<laskin.david@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 16 Mar 2011 11:06:34 -0700

My grandfather's name in the Russian Pale was Szmul Lonckewicz but in America he
was known as Samuel Laskin. I had always heard that the surname was changed on
Ellis Island (he arrived in 1921), but I recently read in Vincent Cannato's book
American Passage that this did not happen: Cannato states definitively that
officials on Ellis Island were not in the business of altering names...


abe simon
 

We can (and do) argue this point "fun heint biz morg'n" but the fact remains
some names were changed somewhere on the journey. Whether it occurred at the
point of European embarkation, or on the ship, or at Ellis Island. Whether
it was the non-Slavic, non-Yiddish speaking clerk, or the misspelling , or
the mispronouncing, or mishearing persons, or the difficult
transliterations, including the immigrant, there were changes. Let's face it
and get on with life. If it went in as a tzibele and came out an onion it's
a change. This semantic type of discussion goes on in many fields.
In my own family my grandfather was always to my knowledge Louis (Eliya)
Felman. When I searched for him on Ellis Island Database I finally found him
as Elias Feldmann. I know it was him because of the arrival date and the
name of his spouse (my grandmother) still in Ukraine and last residence
listed on his ship manifest.
Recently my cousin gave me a copy of the US passport my gf had obtained 14
years after arriving in the US as he was getting ready to go get his
children which he never did, but they came to him the next year 1923. On it
his name was spelled (typed) and he signed it Louis Falman.

Abe Simon
Las Vegas, NV
abe_simon@cox.net

Researching - FELMAN and BREKHMAN in Ukraine, SIMONOWITZ and BINDER/BENDER
in Minsk Gubernia in Belarus


Barbara Mannlein <bsmannlein@...>
 

You do not say if your GF was literate in English, or how heavy an
accent he had.nWhen your GF applied for his passport, he may have
needed help in filling out the forms and a helpful clerk understood
him to say Falman not Feldman. We don't know, your GF may have used
the former spelling for a while.

Your GF's passport is a perfect indication that spelling was unimportant
in earlier, pre-computer, days. I have a copy of a great uncle's wedding
license >from NY. On that one form he spelled his surname in three
different ways: Manlein, Mainlein, and Mannlein! Oh, and his father's
surname was spelled Menlein! In addition the name was spelled
differerntly >from census to census.

We must be careful not to revise history as we research and come across
information that we do not understand or that does not fit in with our
ideas. Yes, names changes did occur, but we must not ignore the
historical fact that names were *not* changed at Ellis Island.

see: ? http://www.ellisislandimmigrants.org/ellis_island_records.htm
? http://genealogy.about.com/od/ellis_island/a/name_change.htm
? http://www.ancestry.com/learn/library/article.aspx?article=3893

Barbara Mannlein
Tucson, Arizona

On Mar 19, 2011, at 1:47 AM, abe simon wrote:
We can (and do) argue this point "fun heint biz morg'n" but the fact
remains some names were changed somewhere on the journey. Whether it
occurred at the point of European embarkation, or on the ship, or at
Ellis Island. Whether it was the non-Slavic, non-Yiddish speaking clerk,
or the misspelling , or the mispronouncing, or mishearing persons, or
the difficult transliterations, including the immigrant, there were
changes. Let's face it and get on with life. If it went in as a tzibele
and came out an onion it's a change. This semantic type of discussion
goes on in many fields.
In my own family my grandfather was always to my knowledge Louis (Eliya)
Felman. When I searched for him on Ellis Island Database I finally found
him as Elias Feldmann. I know it was him because of the arrival date and
the name of his spouse (my grandmother) still in Ukraine and last
residence listed on his ship manifest.
Recently my cousin gave me a copy of the US passport my gf had obtained
14 years after arriving in the US as he was getting ready to go get his
children which he never did, but they came to him the next year 1923. On
it his name was spelled (typed) and he signed it Louis Falman.


Frank Schulaner
 

Us young folk have been spoiled by the written
word. The average shopping list gets the respect
once reserved for the Tanach and the written-down
Talmud. We understand it when immigration clerks
and ship's officers write Zaide's name wrong, but
we're horrified when he himself gets it wrong.

No need be horrified. Even Shakespeare, whose
plays were meant to be spoken and listened to, not
read, had a hard time spelling his own name. A few
times began it "Ch..."

Zaide's world was like Shakespeare's/Chaxper's,
where the spoken, not the written, was the "real"
word.

(The zaide/zeide difference is a whole 'nother
story.)

-- Frank Schulaner


Alexander Sharon
 

David Laskin wrote

My grandfather's name in the Russian Pale was Szmul Lonckewicz but in
America he was known as Samuel Laskin. I had always heard that the
surname was changed on Ellis Island (he arrived in 1921), but I
recently read in Vincent Cannato's book American Passage that this
did not happen: Cannato states definitively that officials on Ellis
Island were not in the business of altering names. So how did
Lonckewicz become Laskin? Following Cannato's suggestion, I speculated
that my grandfather must have made the change himself -- but a cousin
now tells me that he distinctly remembers grandpa saying that the name
*was* changed. But by whom? I'd welcome any insight into how immigrant
names were changed. Thanks.
David Laskin, Seattle, WA

MODERATOR NOTE: Check in the JewishGen Discussion Group archives for the
many conversations about this
Some 13 years ago in one of those popular indeed topics, I wrote:

It remains the story about a newly emigrated to America traditional Jew from
Poland by the name Sean Fergusson.

"How come, you have such a name?" people asked him. "When I arrived, the
immigration official have asked about my name. And I was so exited that I
simply forgot it.

And I told him: "Shoyn forgossen"."

--
Purim Sameach and Shavua Tov
Alexander Sharon
Calgary, AB


Sylvia Furshman Nusinov
 

Thank you, Barbara. The "name change" discussion takes place quite often in
this online discussion group, and others - and even in general conversation
amongst researchers!

If one would only check Jewishgen's Discussion Group FAQ's and JewishGen's
Archives before drawing conclusions on this - or any genealogy subject.

Beginning in January, 1994 - a message quoted Warren Blatt:
<<-=> Quoting Warren Blatt to All <=-

WB> FAQ - Part 7 of 11
WB> 10) PASSENGER LISTS (con't):

WB> These passenger lists were filled out on board by the ship's
WB> purser, and checked by customs or immigration authorities upon
WB> arrival. Thus the names on these lists are the European, pre-
WB> Americanized versions of names.

" Name tags were prepared at port of departure by authorities
and names were copied at the U.S. end >from those tags, rather than name
being taken verbally >from immigrants at time of U.S. entry">>

The subject has been questioned repeatedly through the years. The answers
continue to be the same!!!

I urge all researchers to search Jewishgen's website for answers to their
questions.

JewishGen remains the paramount site for Genealogy research - especially for
beginners.

Sylvia

Sylvia Furshman Nusinov
President Emerita
Genealogical Resources Book Editor
JGSPBCI, FL

----- Original Message -----

From: "Barbara Mannlein" <bsmannlein@comcast.net>
Sent: Saturday, March 19, 2011 11:35 PM

We must be careful not to revise history as we research and come across
information that we do not understand or that does not fit in with our
ideas. Yes, names changes did occur, but we must not ignore the
historical fact that names were *not* changed at Ellis Island.


MERYL RIZZOTTI
 

Hi:
Most immigrant names were changed by the immigrant.
*not* at Ellis Island, not on the voyage, not by a clerk.
Keep in mind there were more ports of entry than Ellis Island.
My ggrandfather came to the US as Joil Povlotsky.
He later changed his name to Louis Haas. No rhyme or reason.
I can't figure out why he chose that name which was German
and not Russian.
He started out on some documents as Louis Hase then to Haas.
He was naturalized as Haas and did not put his real name
anywhere on his papers. I was the one who discovered the
name change as everyone in the family believed the name
was Haas and not Povlotsky.
He seems to be the only one in his immediate family that did
this name change and his descendants carried the name Haas.
I discovered in my research that the "real" family name was
Povlotsky and found other Povlotskys that I am related to.

Meryl Rizzotti
Researching: SPECTER, POVLOTSKY, BASS, TEPEROWITZ, ACHRAMOWITZ,
KRZEWIN, CYMES, SLEPAK


Zvika Welgreen
 

Dear All

First for those who didn't understand Alex Sharon's joke
"Shoyn forgossen" in Yiddish means "already forgot".

It happened in Israel during the massive Aliyah period as well.
The famous writer and satirican Efraim Kishon was born in Hungary
as Ferentz Hofman, when he arrived to Israel the Sochnut immigration
clerk told his that there is no such name as Ferentz Hofman and his
name would be >from now on Efraim Kishon. And this was his name since
then.

Zvika Welgreen
Israel
Searching for WELGRYN / WELGRIN / WELGREEN, BLUMENFELD, GOTFRYD /
GOTFRID, ZLOTOGURSKI >from Poland

On Sun, Mar 20, 2011 at 9:33 PM, Alex Sharon <a.sharon@shaw.ca> wrote:

Some 13 years ago in one of those popular indeed topics, I wrote:

It remains the story about a newly emigrated to America traditional Jew from
Poland by the name Sean Fergusson.

"How come, you have such a name?" people asked him. "When I arrived, the
immigration official have asked about my name. And I was so exited that I
simply forgot it.

And I told him: "Shoyn forgossen"."


Nancy Reicher
 

My husband's grandfather arrived in the U.S. in 1880. His older
brother came a few years later. The two men were partners in business
in Kansas City and then Hays, Kansas. In 1897 the two brothers and
their families moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa where they were again in
business together. In 1899 they all moved to Vinton, Iowa. This move
began their separate buinesses, no longer partners but competitors.
Around 1909 the brother went bankrupt and went to court to change his
name before moving to Chicago. On year later Grandpa decided to move
from Vinton, Iowa to Huron, South Dakota as he had heavy coats left
over >from the warmer than usual winter. The family got on the train
with one name and got off the train with a changed name (the same as
his brother's). He never went to court. That was too costly and too
time consuming. His mother got off the boat in New York and by the
time she arrived in Chicago, in 1910, she had changed her last name
to that of her sons. Folks just did it with no formalities. These men
we no longer recent immigrants. They were Naturalized citizens.

Nancy L. Reicher
Kansas City, Missouri


Joseph Fibel <jfibel@...>
 

In the families I am researching, there have been many name changes.
Here are a few:

My paternal grandfather's name was Feibel, He signed it that way on
documents including his Easton, Pa marriage certificate. My grandmother
didn't like that spelling, She changed it to Fibel in the 1870's.

My father in law and all five of his siblings' names in Poland were
Garbel. The changed it after their arrival to Garber and they all
confirmed the change in NYC court in a single hearing. The kids in the
streets called them "Garbel, garbel, Turkey.

In Europe, my wife's paternal mother's name and all of her relatives in
that line were Gradzanowskis. Most of them changed the name to Gross.
One family changed the name to Gould, one to Lewis, and one to Greene.
All these were shortened to make them more American.

A female Gradzanoski married a Kabashki male. Here they became Kubars.
One of them escaped to Danzig. He bought someone's papers and became
Kahn. He came to the u S, as Kahn. One of this same family, using the
female version of the Kubashki name, Kubashka, went to Israel and
changed the name to HaLevi.(in 1947) I still haven't found this branch
in Israel.

A couple of the Gross's came early to Westchester (in NY) Through a
cousin they were financed on their peddling routes. This cousin's name
was Sam Ellis. Despite my, and his grandson's efforts, we could not
figure out his original name. He, himself,*(Sam) changed his name
*after* he emerged >from Ellis Island in appreciation.

My wife's maternal grandfather's name in Europe was Lipkunski. He
changed it to Lipmann here. Cousins changed it to Lipcon. When one
cousin went to Israel, he changed it to Aviel.

The Olkenitzki's who went to Israel >from Voronova in Belarussia, kept
that name. In the U S, it was changed to Olken and Olkin. The
earliest member of this family that went to Israel got there illegally
in 1937. His name was Moshe Olkenitzki. He was advised to change his
name to confuse the British if he was caught. He made his father's
name Shmuel, into his last name, Shmueli. Although Moshe and his wife
Zippora are gone now several years, they have a big family now .

One of my first wife's reliatives lived in Hungary. His name was
Goodman. He wanted to go to Medical School. He surely could not go to
Med School in Hungary as Goodman so he became Gergely.(A Hungarian name)
Eventually, he headed up Obstetrics at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn
and delivered my two kids.

We remember them all and appreciate the true reasons for their name
changes.

These are the true and actual stories of an extended family's name
changes and their reasons.

Joe Fibel
New Rochelle, NY