Topics

legal name change in New York. #general


Richard Gross
 

I'm trying to find out when my husband's relative changed his name from Abraham Epstein to A Lincoln Epworth. He was born in New York ca 1903 and seems to have changed his name before 1930 probably because of antisemitism. As he was an attorney with offices at 1440 Broadway, New York so the name change was most likely official rather than by word of mouth but I can't be sure.
Beulah Gross (Australia). Researching Gross, Jacobs, Sloman in the UK, USA and South Africa


Sherri Bobish
 


Beulah,

Have you seen this record?

I wonder if his parents changed his name at birth, or if Abraham  had his birth certificate amended later in life?

Regards,

Sherri Bobish
New York, New York, Index to Birth Certificates, 1866-1909
Name: Abram Lincoln Epworth
Gender : Male
Race : White
Birth Date: 21 Dec 1903
Birth Place: New York City, New York, New York, USA
Certificate Number: 2633
Father: Jacob Epstein
Mother: Lizy Epstein
Mother Maiden Name: Wexler


David Oseas
 

Richard,

Once the Family History Centers re-open, you should be able to view the original birth certificate linked to this record:  https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2W4M-JPR

Regards,
David Oseas

Researching:
HYMAN/HEYMAN/HEIMOWITS/CHAJMOVITS: Zemplen-Dobra, Hungary > New York
KLEIN: Satoraljaujhely (Ujhely), Hungary > New York > Los Angeles
KRONOWITH:
Hungary > New York
OSEAS/OSIAS/OSIASI/OZIAS: Iasi, Romania > Chicago > Milwaukee > Los Angeles
SCHECHTER/SHEKTER: Kishinev, Bessarabia > New York  
SHERMAN: Iasi, Romania > New York > Los Angeles
STRUL:  Iasi, Romania > Haifa, Israel
WICHMAN: Syczkowo (Bobruisk), Belarus > Milwaukee > Los Angeles


Richard Gross
 

Thank you for this, Sherri. I hadn't found it so it's very useful. I would think he had his birth certificate amended, maybe between 1927 and 1930 as my father in law was met when he arrived in NY by a cousin, Abram Epstein on the Leviathan, 9 August 1927. On the 1930 US Census he's listed as A Lincoln Epworth. Actually, the cousin was his wife, Sylvia aka Cissy whose father was a brother to my husband's maternal grandmother. She was Lena/Lily Jacobs and he was Hyman D Jacobs. How did one get a birth certificate amended?
Beulah Gross. Researching Gross, Jacobs, Sloman in the UK, USA and South Africa.

Richard Gross


Sherri Bobish
 


How did one get a birth certificate amended?

Beulah,

Good question.  Perhaps some of the lawyers out there can answer that.

I would assume that if he did get his birth cert amended than he must have had a legal name change done, otherwise I would think NYC would not have changed the birth cert.

Regards,

Sherri Bobish


ewkent@...
 

I can't speak to all cases of amended birth certificates in New York City (and I've never been a lawyer), but I know the case of my paternal grandfather (even though I forget some of the details of what I saw).

He officially changed his name in the 1940s; I was told (when I was growing up -- probably in the 1960s) that the change was done to make life (specifically college admissions) easier for his sons (born in the early 1930s) -- so perhaps "antisemitism" was a factor; on the other hand, I don't think that he (who was a prosperous accountant when he got his legal name change) was in any more danger (in New York City -- or in the United States in general) in the 1940s than his 2 older brothers (both of whom had immigrated to the US as children; 1 older brother had already died, and his younger siblings were all women who changed their family name upon marriage) who were also still alive in 1940 -- and who kept their family name.

His original birth certificate (he was born in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn in early 1906 -- the first member of his household born in the US) had his name as "Joseph Kantor" -- with his date and place of birth (I think also the names of his parents as they were reported at the time) -- as it was written in 1906 ; when I saw the certificate on microfilm at the New York City Municipal Archives (a few years ago), I was pleased (but a bit surprised (and I think more than 1 Archives worker was surprised) to see (I believe) stamped notations indicating that his name was legally changed to "Jay Joseph Kantor" (early censuses give his name as "Jacob"; perhaps his "Hebrew name" was Yaakov Yosef (?) ) in 1940 -- but that the NY City Health Department amended his name as of a much later date (after World War II; I think about 1949 (my father has an Ancestry.com record concerning his Social Security Administration records stating that he was still named "Kantor" in June of 1948).

(I have confirmed -- via Newspapers.com -- that an official legal notice concerning the name change (by a court in Brooklyn, as I recall) to "Jay Joseph Kent" was published in the Brooklyn Eagle in July of 1940; I'm not totally sure why my grandfather seemingly didn't (seemingly) make public use of the name change for years -- although I believe that he became estranged from and then divorced from my grandmother before he publicly used his new name (and definitely was still married to her in 1940).

(By 1949, 1 of his sons -- I think -- was already at college; his other 2 sons (my father and his twin brother) were still in high school; I don't think that danger from "antisemitism" in either New York City or the US in general (he may have already traveled and bought property in New Hampshire) had *increased* from 1940.) )

So: I can say with confidence that legal name changes could result in New York City government amending birth certificates (not changing what was originally written, but including a statement concerning the changed name) to reflect the name change selected.

Sincerely,

Ethan W. Kent in New York City
(researching my Grandpa Joe's Kantors (I pretty-much know the identifies of all the few Kents who resulted from the name change) -- as well as the 3 other main branches of my family tree (immigrant heads of household with last names of Paat/Pat/Patt/Pate (and possibly a non-permanent arrival record for the father in 1888 as "Pott"), Gelperin/Halperin, and Kornhauser.)


Kenneth Ryesky
 

For whatever it might be worth:

 

More than 10 years ago, while doing scholarly research (more like archaeological digging) on some statutory history in the Queens County Courthouse Law Library, I chanced to access an oldy moldy volume of the Laws of New York.  It seems that in those days  (at least 1889 through 1905, with an apparent hiatus for years 1895 to 1897) the annual Laws of New York books indexed name changes granted by the courts.

Example:  For 1902, the list of name changes was on pages 805 - 1826; for 1903, pp. 1459 - 1479; for 1904, pp. 1949 - 1965; for 1905, pp. 2152 - 2176; for 1905, pp. 2152 - 2176; for 1906, pp. 1904 - 1926; and for 1907, pp. 2512 - 2540.  The indices list separate entries for from and to name changes, all in alphabetical order.

Further research archaeological digging disclosed that the General Index to the Laws of the State of New York 1902 - 1907 (Albany, J. B. Lyon Co., 1908) combines the listings for the years 1902 - 1907 (pages 468 - 570).  This tome is on the Internet Archive <https://archive.org/stream/generalindextol00baxtgoog>.

I found the information I had initially sought to research, and the name-change project was relegated to the lower levels of my "to-do" list.  Life subsequently intervened (including our Aliyah to Israel, the discontinuance of my college teaching gig, and the winding down of my solo law practice).  I do not know to what extent the indices have been transcribed.



-- Ken Ryesky
Petach Tikva, Israel

 

 

 


--
Ken Ryesky,  Petach Tikva, Israel     kenneth.ryesky@...


James
 

Why not check the city directories? Assume he changed it a year before the directory was printed.


Sherri Bobish
 



Ethan mentioned finding a newspaper notice of a name change in NYC.

A good (and free) site to search NY newspapers (and some other states now also) is:
https://fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html

Regards,

Sherri Bobish


Sherri Bobish
 


There is this book:

Petitions for name changes in New York City, 1848-1899

Kenneth Scott
National Genealogical Society
, 1984

I thought this book was full searchable on GoogleBooks, but now it does not seem to be.

Regards,

Sherri Bobish


Ittai Hershman
 

On the question of whether antisemitism could reasonably be a factor in name changes in the 1940s, especially for those running professional offices in their names, note this passage from James Loeffler's award winning book, "Rooted Cosmopolitans" (Yale, 2018), p. 97:

"Blaustein’s researchers reported to him that antisemitism had dramatically increased in American society during the war years. Most Americans viewed Jews as a greater threat than German Americans or Japanese Americans; one-third of respondents indicated that they would 'join or sympathize with an antisemitic political campaign.' That number soon rose to a whopping 57 percent of the public. Yet at the same time, 59 percent of Americans favored the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Even a majority of self-professed antisemites supported such a state. This presented a confounding situation for Jewish leaders: Americans liked the Zionist idea of a Jewish state even as they feared Jewish influence in domestic politics.”

Ittai Hershman
New York City


jbonline1111@...
 

Birth certificates are routinely amended when a name is changed legally.  This can happen with adoptions, petitions for name changes, etc. 

However, it's important to understand that a person can use any name he or she wishes as long as it is not for fraudulent purposes.  My father's birth certificate lists him as Louis Slominsky (misspelled, should have been Slonimsky) in 1917.  The 1920 census lists him as Lawrence Slonimsky.  Sometime around 1940 he and his brothers changed their last names to Sloan.  My father enlisted in the Army with the name Sloan though one brother used the name Slonimsky.  
--
Barbara Sloan
Conway, SC


ewkent@...
 

Hi.

A little bit of follow-up:

1) Thanks to Sherri Bobish for mentioning my find of a published notice of my grandfather's court-approved name change in a newspaper from 1940

(I clicked on that link and searched for "Jay Joseph Kent" -- and got nothing) ;

2) I'm still not clear what happened years later (legally or otherwise) to cause the New York City Department of Health to amend the birth certificate quite a few years later : I don't know if he (or a lawyer) communicated that he was only now using his new name.

(Manhattan telephone books from earlier in the 1940s -- during US involvement in World War II -- accessed via Ancestry.com -- indicate that he was still publicly known as "Joseph Kantor" -- until he decided not to be known by that name any more.

And I do not know if his first wife -- my grandmother -- ever used "Kent" in her name.)

Ethan W. Kent in New York City.

PS: It was only after he died (in 1992) that I learned (possibly my father had not known either) that my grandfather's changed "first" name was "Jay": he was known to me and my brother and sister as "Grandpa Joe", and while his return-address (postal, of course) mailing labels read "J. Joseph Kent", they said nothing about "Jay" -- and I got the impression (I think from my father) that "J." was just an affectation -- and referred to the "J." in "Joseph".

It is my guess (especially after learning from censuses from his childhood that census-takers were told his name was "Jacob") that perhaps "Jay" alluded to a Hebrew name of Yaakov Yosef.

E. W. K.


ewkent@...
 

Thanks for that quotation and information, Mr. Hershman -- concerning antisemitism in the 1940s (although the fact remains that my grandfather had 2 brothers (1 of whom I met decades later -- after I was born in 1961) who never changed their family name) in he United States.

I didn't mention earlier a quite-interesting book by a researcher named Kirsten Fermaglich (published in 2018) about (mostly) American Jews and name changing in the 20th century (as I seem to recall from the book, there may well have been a peak in the interwar years or in the 1940s; there was a decline in my lifetime) -- largely based on research into court records in New York City entitled A Rosenberg by Any Other Name: A History of Jewish Name Changing in America.

(The book does tell of continuing employment and college-admissions discrimination in the 1940s -- before things changed for the better in this country.)

Ethan W. Kent
New York City.


A. E. Jordan
 

From: ewkent
Hi.

A little bit of follow-up:

1) Thanks to Sherri Bobish for mentioning my find of a published notice of my grandfather's court-approved name change in a newspaper from 1940

2) I'm still not clear what happened years later (legally or otherwise) to cause the New York City Department of Health to amend the birth certificate quite a few years later : I don't know if he (or a lawyer) communicated that he was only now using his new name.


I am in email catch up mode so others might have responded.

If someone went through the legal process of a name change they were required by the law to publish a notice. Most times they were done in the legal newspapers but they had to do it.  If you get the name change file (if it still is available at the court) you will see they had to file a copy of the ad with the court to so it had been done.

As for the Health Department someone would have had to contact them with a copy of the name change paper work to get the birth certificate amended.  Likely they needed it for something else all those years later and instead of showing the birth certificate as well as the name change documents they took the time to get the birth certificate reissued. I do not think the Health Department proactively took those steps, except in the case of adoption when they did change the birth certificate to hide the ID of the birth parents.

Allan Jordan


ewkent@...
 

Dear Allan Jordan/"A. E. Jordan",

have not contacted the court involved with my grandfather's name change -- and have not found the name change file.

(I'm not as diligent as many other with respect to genealogy.)

I do not quite understand what you said in your final paragraph with respect to the New York City Department of Health and birth certificates: I'm not (myself) certain that it could be said that the birth certificate was "reissued" (as I stated, I saw on the microfilm the original certificate with some material added (mostly as hand-stamped text).

My research at Ancestry.com (and my impression from what little my father said about this when he was alive) lead me to believe that although (legally) the name change had been completed by September of 1940, neither my grandfather, my grandmother (who probably never used the name "Kent" for herself), nor my father or his 2 brothers publicly used "Kent" until at least 1948 -- so I suspect (although I do not know) that my grandfather (or a lawyer representing him) contacted the Health Department when he finally decided to publicly use his new name -- and that that is what prompted the Health Department to amend the birth certificate to what I saw on the microfilm a few years ago (not "they needed it for something [unspecified] else", then).

Ethan W. Kent
New York City.