Topics

"His name was changed at Ellis Island" #names


karen.silver@juno.com
 

Yes, parents and grandparents lied to their children and grandchildren for a great many reasons.  My grandmother who came in 1904 told me she was born in Kiev, that they had their own house and their own cow.  And believe me she left a lot out of that story!  Many who came as children themselves had no idea what names were used on the manifests or back home.  They had no birth certificates.  Those who came before 1907 did not have to prove what ship they arrived on or what name was used.  Acquaintences and family vouched for them on naturalization papers.  Women who gained their citizenship through marriage never needed to know any of this either.  One of my great grandmothers even lied about the ages of her twin sons on the manifest so as not to arouse suspicion about the smallness of one of them with the Ellis Island inspectors.  Spellings of names on different documents also varied due to the transliteration from the Yiddish  to Russian to Polish to English alphabets and gradual evolution of spelling and some of those variations did not follow Soundex patterns.  Using "my name was changed at Ellis Island" was an easy excuse that cut off a great many uncomfortable conversations. 

Each and every family has a different story and in my 23 years of doing this I can tell you that part of the joy of genealogy is the search for the truth.  Sometimes the truth is good and sometimes it is awful, but in the end it is just the truth.  Our ancestors were complicated people who did their best to thrive in America and yes, they did lie!


Bob Bloomberg
 

Peter,
 
Well said. To say that name changes at Ellis  Island NEVER happened is as wrong as it is to say that all name changes were the result of immigration officials willfully changing names.  With millions of people coming in--Jewish and non Jewish--sometimes they (official, translator, immigrant) just simply got it wrong, or different.
 
Bob


Barbara Mannlein <bsmannlein@...>
 

There was nothing to “get”.   All immigration official did was to match the name on the manifest to the name on the immigrant’s tag….  He did not have to write anything down.


v
   
See the white tags on the immigrants?  

Then the official ticked the name on the manifest.




On Jun 27, 2020, at 3:03 PM, Bob Bloomberg <rpbrpb2012@...> wrote:
Peter,
 
Well said. To say that name changes at Ellis  Island NEVER happened is as wrong as it is to say that all name changes were the result of immigration officials willfully changing names.  With millions of people coming in--Jewish and non Jewish--sometimes they (official, translator, immigrant) just simply got it wrong, or different.
 
Bob


jeremy frankel
 

Dear Genners,

I am extremely reluctant to add my two cents to the plethora of emails on the topic of immigrants’ names (be it first, last, or both) being “changed” at a US port of entry, but I would like to offer this story. At last year's genealogy conference, I bought a copy of Michael Krasny's book on humor. As some may will recall he was the banquet speaker. Amongst the many stories he told (in the book) was one about a Cleveland childhood schoolfriend who told Michael that her grandfather's name had been changed at Ellis Island.

Hmm, I thought. There was sufficient information to do some research, and to show that no, the name had not been changed from "pfennig" to Venig (he thought the immigration officer was asking how much money he had). The name in the manifest was actually Wenig. It probably made a nice story to “explain” to his granddaughter the slightly unusual last name she had inherited, especially as he may well have told the story with a bit of an accent.

Sweltering in place in northern California


Jeremy G Frankel
ex-Edgware, Middlesex, England
now Sacramento, California, USA

Searching for:
FRANKEL/FRENKEL/FRENKIEL: Gombin, Poland; London, England
GOLDRATH/GOLD: Praszka, Poland; London, England
KOENIGSBERG: Vilkaviskis, Lithuania; London, England; NY, USA
LEVY (later LEADER): Kalisz, Poland; London, England
PINKUS, Poland; London, England
PRINCZ/PRINCE: Krakow, Poland; London, England; NY, USA


Michele Lock
 

I have a somewhat unusual take on the 'the name got changed at Ellis Island' story. Mysimple last name "Lock" has puzzled myself and cousins for a long time, and we've individually wondered what the original surname back in Lithuania must have been. But - we've never heard an older relative talk about a name change. 

My one cousin, when he first met his future mother-in-law, was asked quite forcefully by the said woman to reveal what our original surname must have been, because everyone knows that 'Lock' is not a Jewish name. 

Well, low and behold, thanks to the JewishGen Lithuanian records, I've found numerous records on the Lak, Lack, and Lok family of Zagare/Gruzd/Joniskis. This has long been our family name, likely from the time in the 1830s when the Russian forced Jews to take surnames. On all the ship passenger lists I've found, the name is always spelled Lak or Lack. Here in the US, it became Lock or Locke (for the fancier cousins in Boston). On my grandfather's gravestone, it is spelled 'Lamed Aleph Koph', and I assume it has always been pronounced as the word 'lock' in English.

I told my cousin to go back to his mother-in-law and explain the good news.

Michele Lock
Alexandria, Va

Searching for
Lock/Lak/Lack and Kalon/Kolon/Colon in Zagare/Gruzd/Joniskis, Lithuania
Lippman/Leapman/Leybman in Dotnuva, Lithuania
Olitsky in Alytus, Suwalki, Lithuania/Poland
Lavine/Levin in Minsk Gubernia


Barbara Algaze
 

A good friend of mine tried to explain her HOLLAND surname by telling me this "family story."  The two brothers arrived at Ellis Island on a ship from Rotterdam.  The older brother said to the younger brother, "Let me talk to the clerk; I know more English."  So, when the clerk asked, "What is your surname?" The older brother thought he was asking, "Where did you get on the ship?"  His response was "HOLLAND," and that is how they got the surname.

When I helped her find the actual passenger manifest, the surname, as written, was HOLLAND !!!!!!


Stephen Weinstein
 

To be a smart ass, I would like to respond as follows to everyone claiming that absolutely no names whatsoever were ever changed at Ellis Island:

There were "hundreds of immigrants were married on Ellis Island" (https://blog.eogn.com/2018/03/23/webinar-married-at-ellis-island-single-women-and-immigration-1892-1924/).  Since married women didn't keep their maiden names in those days, unless the bride and groom already had the same surname before they married (which is possible, but not common), each woman who got married at Ellis Island would have changed her name there -- to her new husband's surname.

This, I hope, will resolve the question conclusively and bring the argument to an end -- but I don't think it will.


Stephen Weinstein
 

On Fri, Jun 26, 2020 at 08:35 AM, <YaleZuss@...> wrote:
Do you know anyone who can speak 40 languages?  Does any of them work for the amount paid the immigration inspectors?
I think the "40 languages" meant that the inspectors collectively spoke a total of 40, including English and 39 others, meaning that there were 40 languages that were each spoken by at least one inspector.  This could simply mean that 39 of the inspectors were immigrants from 39 different countries, and those 39 each spoke two languages, English and the language of their home country.  It does not mean that any one inspector spoke all 40 languages.

I know someone who can speak English and one other language.  And I think that out of several million immigrants, there were at least 39 immigrants who spoke
English and the language of their home country, but had no other marketable job skills, and would work for whatever immigration inspectors were paid.


Jules Levin
 

Similarly in my family.  My dad.s mother's maiden name was Book, and I searched Buch in the records.  Finally I learned that 'Buk' was a Jewish family name in Lithuania.  Go figure

-----Original Message-----
From: Michele Lock
Sent: Jun 28, 2020 12:53 PM
To: main@...
Subject: Re: [JewishGen.org] "His name was changed at Ellis Island" #names

I have a somewhat unusual take on the 'the name got changed at Ellis Island' story. Mysimple last name "Lock" has puzzled myself and cousins for a long time, and we've individually wondered what the original surname back in Lithuania must have been. But - we've never heard an older relative talk about a name change. 

My one cousin, when he first met his future mother-in-law, was asked quite forcefully by the said woman to reveal what our original surname must have been, because everyone knows that 'Lock' is not a Jewish name. 

Well, low and behold, thanks to the JewishGen Lithuanian records, I've found numerous records on the Lak, Lack, and Lok family of Zagare/Gruzd/Joniskis. This has long been our family name, likely from the time in the 1830s when the Russian forced Jews to take surnames. On all the ship passenger lists I've found, the name is always spelled Lak or Lack. Here in the US, it became Lock or Locke (for the fancier cousins in Boston). On my grandfather's gravestone, it is spelled 'Lamed Aleph Koph', and I assume it has always been pronounced as the word 'lock' in English.

I told my cousin to go back to his mother-in-law and explain the good news.

Michele Lock
Alexandria, Va

Searching for
Lock/Lak/Lack and Kalon/Kolon/Colon in Zagare/Gruzd/Joniskis, Lithuania
Lippman/Leapman/Leybman in Dotnuva, Lithuania
Olitsky in Alytus, Suwalki, Lithuania/Poland
Lavine/Levin in Minsk Gubernia


Stanley Levine
 

My Boss' last name was Threefoot. However, he did not look like a Native American. When i asked him about it he told me what happened to his father. His father was German with a last name of Dreyfus. This was changed to Threefoot at ellis Island. The German word "Drey" means "Three" and "Fuss" means "Foot" so it makes sense.


Diane Jacobs
 

This would be most likely after going through the formal inspection and those marriages should be recorded in the NYC marriage indexes. 

Diane Jacobs 



Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone

-------- Original message --------
From: "Stephen Weinstein via groups.jewishgen.org" <stephenweinstein=yahoo.com@...>
Date: 6/28/20 10:36 PM (GMT-05:00)
To: main@...
Subject: Re: [JewishGen.org] "His name was changed at Ellis Island" #general #usa

To be a smart ass, I would like to respond as follows to everyone claiming that absolutely no names whatsoever were ever changed at Ellis Island:

There were "hundreds of immigrants were married on Ellis Island" (https://blog.eogn.com/2018/03/23/webinar-married-at-ellis-island-single-women-and-immigration-1892-1924/).  Since married women didn't keep their maiden names in those days, unless the bride and groom already had the same surname before they married (which is possible, but not common), each woman who got married at Ellis Island would have changed her name there -- to her new husband's surname.

This, I hope, will resolve the question conclusively and bring the argument to an end -- but I don't think it will.
--
Diane Jacobs, Somerset, New Jersey


Jules Levin
 

Most European immigrants came from places where more than one language was spoken; most people, even average people, knew more than one.  This was not unusual even in the US in the 18th and 19th Century.  A German newspaper published in the US had the largest circulation in America.  The Irish immigrants who arrived from the 1840s spoke English as a second language.    My grandfather from Shaky in Lithuania certainly spoke Lithuanian as well as Yiddish.  Since his wife only knew Russian and English, I assume he also knew one or both.  Typical American monolingualism is the exception in human societies, not the norm.  Of course, no one official spoke 40 languages, although I personally know a polyglot who claims that many.
Jules Levin

-----Original Message-----
From: "Stephen Weinstein via groups.jewishgen.org"
Sent: Jun 28, 2020 7:44 PM
To: main@...
Subject: Re: [JewishGen.org] "His name was changed at Ellis Island" #general #usa

On Fri, Jun 26, 2020 at 08:35 AM, <YaleZuss@...> wrote:
Do you know anyone who can speak 40 languages?  Does any of them work for the amount paid the immigration inspectors?
I think the "40 languages" meant that the inspectors collectively spoke a total of 40, including English and 39 others, meaning that there were 40 languages that were each spoken by at least one inspector.  This could simply mean that 39 of the inspectors were immigrants from 39 different countries, and those 39 each spoke two languages, English and the language of their home country.  It does not mean that any one inspector spoke all 40 languages.

I know someone who can speak English and one other language.  And I think that out of several million immigrants, there were at least 39 immigrants who spoke
English and the language of their home country, but had no other marketable job skills, and would work for whatever immigration inspectors were paid.


Susan&David
 

I have a record of one of those marriages.  The story of the arrival and the marriage was written up in the June 2012 issue of : "MassPocha" the Newsletter of The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston. The marriage cert  says:

I _____ do hereby certify
That on the 22nd of May 1912
At the City Hall in the City of New York
I duly performed the
MARRIAGE CEREMONY
between Mr. Jacob F....  of Ellis Island
and Miss Eva W....  of Ellis Island
   etc.
Signed and Sealed.

David Rosen
Boston, MA



 

On 6/28/2020 10:36 PM, Stephen Weinstein via groups.jewishgen.org wrote:
To be a smart ass, I would like to respond as follows to everyone claiming that absolutely no names whatsoever were ever changed at Ellis Island:

There were "hundreds of immigrants were married on Ellis Island" (https://blog.eogn.com/2018/03/23/webinar-married-at-ellis-island-single-women-and-immigration-1892-1924/).  Since married women didn't keep their maiden names in those days, unless the bride and groom already had the same surname before they married (which is possible, but not common), each woman who got married at Ellis Island would have changed her name there -- to her new husband's surname.

This, I hope, will resolve the question conclusively and bring the argument to an end -- but I don't think it will.


Jules Levin
 

I assume these were not shotgun marriages with the officials holding the shotgun.  Absolutely no one is claiming that people could not resolve to use, and begin using, a different name voluntarily, while still standing on Ellis Island.  The popular argument was always understood to mean that officials gave people new names.   Perhaps you have had some legal training.  Legal language is not the same as ordinary speech, as it is normally understood.  
Jules Levin


-----Original Message-----
From: "Stephen Weinstein via groups.jewishgen.org"
Sent: Jun 28, 2020 7:36 PM
To: main@...
Subject: Re: [JewishGen.org] "His name was changed at Ellis Island" #general #usa

To be a smart ass, I would like to respond as follows to everyone claiming that absolutely no names whatsoever were ever changed at Ellis Island:

There were "hundreds of immigrants were married on Ellis Island" (https://blog.eogn.com/2018/03/23/webinar-married-at-ellis-island-single-women-and-immigration-1892-1924/).  Since married women didn't keep their maiden names in those days, unless the bride and groom already had the same surname before they married (which is possible, but not common), each woman who got married at Ellis Island would have changed her name there -- to her new husband's surname.

This, I hope, will resolve the question conclusively and bring the argument to an end -- but I don't think it will.


Bob Bloomberg
 

But according to a large number of people, immigration officials did not write down anyone's name--they simply checked their name off on the ship's manifest. But it seems to me that the multitudinous family stories  of name changes at Ellis Island must contain some grain of truth in them.


Sarah L Meyer
 

Yes I have a similar story,  My paternal great-grandfather bought papers to escape the Czarist conscription from a man with the surname Meyer.  He came here with the name Fishel Meyer (that is the name on the Hamburg manifest)-in 1884.  His father's name was Josef Perchik.  Now I know that Fishel came from Odessa, but it appears that he stopped in Kovno on the way to Hamburg.  And many years ago, when we moved to Seattle, my mother(z"l) was introduced to a Mrs. Wexler - who said that her maiden name was Meyer, could they be related.  My mother told Mrs. Wexler this story - and Mrs Wexler responded that she had forgotten - they had the same story.  So I would conclude that who ever sold my great grandfather these papers - was making a bundle selling papers.  I would not be concerned about the paperless Goldbergs - they may not have had the same first name- or the names may have been taken from those of the same age, who had died, the same way that identity theft used to be done here, before all the electronic technology.
--
Sarah L Meyer
Georgetown TX
ANK(I)ER, BIGOS, KARMELEK, PERLSTADT, STOKFISZ, SZPIL(T)BAUM, Poland
BIRGARDOVSKY, EDELBERG, HITE (CHAIT), PERCHIK Russia (southern Ukraine) and some Latvia or Lithuania
https://www.sarahsgenies.com


Barbara Mannlein <bsmannlein@...>
 

The grain of truth?  It was easier to say “It was changed at Ellis Isand” than to tell how, when and where it was changed.   

On Jun 29, 2020, at 7:14 AM, Bob Bloomberg <rpbrpb2012@...> wrote:

But according to a large number of people, immigration officials did not write down anyone's name--they simply checked their name off on the ship's manifest. But it seems to me that the multitudinous family stories  of name changes at Ellis Island must contain some grain of truth in them.
_._,_._,_


Barbara Mannlein <bsmannlein@...>
 

They wed AFTER going thru immigration, not before.

On Jun 28, 2020, at 7:36 PM, Stephen Weinstein via groups.jewishgen.org <stephenweinstein=yahoo.com@...> wrote:

To be a smart ass, I would like to respond as follows to everyone claiming that absolutely no names whatsoever were ever changed at Ellis Island:

There were "hundreds of immigrants were married on Ellis Island" (https://blog.eogn.com/2018/03/23/webinar-married-at-ellis-island-single-women-and-immigration-1892-1924/).  Since married women didn't keep their maiden names in those days, unless the bride and groom already had the same surname before they married (which is possible, but not common), each woman who got married at Ellis Island would have changed her name there -- to her new husband's surname.

This, I hope, will resolve the question conclusively and bring the argument to an end -- but I don't think it will.


btkerman@...
 

The legend in my family is that when a relative named Baum was asked their last name their accented reply sounded like Bum. The immigration officer (I don't remember if this was in England or the US) told them that it wasn't a good thing to be a bum in the new country and decided they would be Tannenbaum.
I doubt the accuracy of this story especially given how other tall tales are common in my family. (One relative tutored the Czar's daughter, while another swam across a river or maybe the Atlantic with a large golden clock under their arm!) There's probably a small amount of truth at the core of these stories that is embellished greatly by generations of imaginative story tellers in the family.

Binyamin Kerman
Baltimore MD


C Chaykin
 

The name HOLLAND was on the Ellis Island manifest because that name was inscribed on the embarkation manifest, not because of anything the older brother said.