Name change petition in NYC #usa

Richard Stower

My grandfather, Gustave Sechestower, came to the US in 1900. Up until the mid 1920s his name was the same as documents indicate. Then the name was shortened to STOWER. My suspicion has always been that the name was shortened informally. Still, I would like explore the possibility of a legal name change with  accompanying documents. So I am looking for suggestions as to what court in NYC would handle name change petitions.

Thank you.

Richard Stower
Yarmouth, Maine

Brian Kerr

Most of my family members that had arrived here had their name changed while being processed in the USA.

I've typically seen this reflected on citizenship paperwork.

I've rarely ever seen dated individuals go through the court system (that's usually handled by the Surrogate Courts) for this type of name change.

This is just what I've experienced myself, but others may have encountered something different.

-- ~Brian D. Kerr, Esq | SSG, U.S. Army (Retired) | SSA, Brigade G1, U.S. Army (Retired) |>>Known Family Surnames (Researching): Dessler, Walk(Valk), Mahler (Maler), Paradisgarten (Paradisegarten), Tomasy (Thomashy), Gluck, Preisz (Priess), Steinhardt (Steinhart), Grossman (Grosman), Sholtz (Shultz), Kaplan, Bloom, Fischer (Fisher), Levy, Baum, Duwidewic, Meisal (Maisel)<<|>>Known Family Locations/Regions (of Surnames): Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Hungary, Lithuania<<|

Michael Herzlich

Have you looked at Naturalization papers?  That was a common way to make a legal name change.  Also, if you check preceding and following images online you can find a certificate of arrival with name at arrival listed if it is different along with date and ship name. 
Michael Herzlich
Delray Beach, Florida USA

Galicia (Poland, Ukraine) - HERZLICH, TREIBER

A. E. Jordan

-----Original Message-----
From: Richard Stower <rstower@...>

I am looking for suggestions as to what court in NYC would handle name change petitions.

Several people already suggested that name changes were often associated with completing the naturalization process. A lot of the others seem to be someone simply wake up and saying "Today my name will be ...." Remember people were living with a lot less documentation in those years like social Security or Passports, etc.

Most of the name changes I found were done for business reasons and then they had to go to the court and explain why they wanted to change their name and then they had to publish a notice in the newspaper announcing the name change. AS lot of them were in the legal newspaper as opposed to the general consumer newspapers. The notices tell what court the process was being done in.

There's a name change bureau in Manhattan that has a lot of the records. Offhand I do not recall its official name ... I want to say it was/is on Worth Street. I went there and they have the ledgers, They are by year and surname. I went through them and found one I needed from the 1930s and they were able to retrieve the file while I waiting. The bureau serves the same function to this day so there are people in there who have married, etc. who are filing legal name change petitions currently.

The courts also have records I was told but I never pursued it into those archives. The Supreme Court record room up on the 7th floor of the same building as the Municipal Archives had them indexed on a computer and the old ones in the index cards. 

If you are going to try to find them it helps to narrow the date range. Use the census and other records, even city directory, to see when the name changes.

Odds are though unless the person had a business associated to their name that they did not go through the legal process of name changes 100 years ago. It is sort of a needle in a haystack search from my experience but I did find a few.

Allan Jordan
New York

Michael Moritz

There are two different courts that have name change records in Manhattan: the Supreme Court and the NYC Civil Court. I have looked at the ledgers in both locations. There is an index at the Municipal Archives on Chambers Street as well as on Familysearch for the Supreme Court name changes but no index for the Civil Court ones. 

Michael Moritz

Director, Romania Research Division


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Ira Leviton

The previous answers are correct, and I can make some additions.

In New York, name changes are done in Supreme Court.  The locations in Manhattan are at 60 Centre Street (the Civil "part" of Supreme Court) and 111 Centre Street (the Criminal "part").  I mention the addresses because the only way to look at the ledger books is in person.  You have to go to the main window at the court, give the clerk your driver's license or other official identification, and they give you the ledger book to take to a desk.  At one of courts, the ledger books are fairly small and cover only one year, so it's a few trips back and forth to the window to exchange books.  Considering that at most there are only a few hundred name changes in each book, most immigrants did not go through this court process, which also cost a few dollars.  One clarification to a previous post - the newspaper notices were for the purpose of announcing the intended name change so that anybody could object to it if they had a valid reason (not that that our immigrant ancestors - or anybody else except lawyers would be reading the legal notices in the newspapers, it was to fulfill the legally required public announcement and to help ensure that the name change was not being done for fraudulent purposes, to avoid the police, or to avoid paying debts).  So if you find a name change, look at newspapers in the weeks before it was done.  However, the case file will have all the information that was in the newspapers.

The execution of name changes are by court orders - the same technical process that declares a person a citizen, so often at the end of naturalization papers and sometimes overlooked, there is a statement of a name change, even if the person had been using his "new" name for years or even decades.


Ira Leviton

New York, N.Y.

Professor Ryesky

From 1896 until 1912 (except, it seems, from 1895 - 1897) the name changes were listed in the New York Miscellaneous Reports (just about any law student or lawyer in the USA knows what New York Miscellaneous Reports are).

Before becoming preoccupied with making Aliyah, one of my pastime activities when I was not gardening or swimming or delving into other hobbies was indexing these [Reclaim the Records responded to my inquiry on the subject (not inappropriately so) that what I wanted to index was already made public, and their focus was fighting the authorities for items that remained obscured from the public.].

I did not get too far with the project, what with the court libraries hang-ups about allowing members of the public (and lawyers such as myself from outside the county) access those dusty volumes, and what with the 25 cents per page charge on photocopy machines that often were in kaputt mode.

I got as far as photocopying the relevant pages from 1893 - 1895.  See attached.

Ken Ryesky,  Petach Tikva, Israel     profryesky@... 

GERTZIG, BRODSKY; Yelizavetgrad, Ukraine
IZRAELSON, ARSHENOV; Yevpatoriya, Ukraine (Crimea)