Topics

"His name was changed at Ellis Island" #names


Roger Lustig
 

Perhaps we should let Betty White have the last word.

In her Saturday Night Live "census taker" sketch with Tina Fey, the
dotty Mrs. Smith (pronounced BLAHR-fen-gar) reports that "The names were
all changed at Ellis Island when I was there three weeks ago on a bingo
cruise."

Roger Lustig

Princeton, NJ USA


Bob Yuran
 

On my grandmother’s passenger manifest, her mother’s family name, Scherzer, is lined out and her father’s family name, Weiss, is written above it.  Who would have done this and where would it have been done?

Bob Yuran


C Chaykin
 

Here's the grain of truth: Someone in the family changed their surname.
Not surprising, since many "last names" were, literally, "son of X," and changed from generation to generation. 


dtolman@...
 

While names may not have been changed at Ellis Island - the names might have been changed before getting on the ship! My great-grandmother traveled under the same last name as another family from her village that was going to NY.

A century later (and almost a decade ago) her maiden name was long forgotten by the family - and starting out in genealogy I naively assumed her immigration papers were accurate and happily traced out on jewishgen a family tree... for the other family she was travelling with! A few months later I figured out the ploy when all her children born in NY listed a different maiden name for her, as well as the marriage certificates for her children born in Belarus, etc. Out goes "My family tree", LOL :)


Stephen Weinstein
 

My point was to refute the claim that absolutely no names were changed on Ellis Island at any time, before or after they went through immigration, that whatever name a person had on the ship was their name when the left the island. Obviously, marriages on Ellis Island account for only a very small percentage of the name changes that supposedly happened there.

Stephen Weinstein
stephenweinstein@...


On Monday, June 29, 2020, 07:48:13 AM PDT, Barbara Mannlein <bsmannlein@...> wrote:


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.


Alan Gordon
 



My second cousin, during an interview I conducted, informed me that his grandfather, Frank Kanserstein, had his name changed at Ellis Island.  Frank's was the husband of my great aunt, and I never met him.  According to my cousin, Frank's real name was "Thomaspol," but when they asked him what his name was, he replied, "Kanserstein," or "I can't understand."  Given your combined experiences, does this make any sense?


Michael Hoffman
 

There was no immigration officers checking the status of passengers arriving in the UK before at least 1905, passengers just walked off the ship.


C Chaykin
 

Stephen, at the risk of stating the obvious, people who claim that their family name was changed at Ellis Island do not mean that it was changed by marriage. This subject is getting old...🥴


C Chaykin
 

Your second cousin may say whatever he likes, but the names on the Ellis Island ship manifests were copied from the embarkation manifests


Barbara Mannlein <bsmannlein@...>
 

No, it makes no sense.

1. Names were not changed at Ellis Island. Read the previous posts which supplied a reading list.
2. The German would be "Ich kann es nicht verstehen.: or “Kann nicht verstehen”.



On Jun 30, 2020, at 5:15 AM, Alan Gordon <ofarg1@...> wrote:

My second cousin, during an interview I conducted, informed me that his grandfather, Frank Kanserstein, had his name changed at Ellis Island. Frank's was the husband of my great aunt, and I never met him. According to my cousin, Frank's real name was "Thomaspol," but when they asked him what his name was, he replied, "Kanserstein," or "I can't understand." Given your combined experiences, does this make any sense?


EdrieAnne Broughton
 

I think the place the name was changed was at the port of embarkation, like Hamburg or Cherbourg.  The story devolved into Ellis Island because that was the universal place that most remembered.  It was used even by immigrants who landed earlier than Ellis island opened...like Castle Garden.  The story is too common for it not to have happened somewhere and those ship's manifests I've read online are handwritten (scrawled) then folded and unfolded, got wet until it was quite a feat for the immigration at intake to read at all.  Mistakes were made, people traveled under false papers.
 
Does anyone know if patronyms were accepted for surnames?  I have a brother-in-law whose great grandfather (and all his brothers) adopted Holmer as a surname (and they did it as they embarked in Europe) rather than the name they were born with which had two umlauted ohs and a couple of other vowels.  
 
EdrieAnne Broughton
Vacaville, California 


Roger Lustig
 

C Chaykin writes:

"Here's the grain of truth: Someone in the family changed their surname.
Not surprising, since many "last names" were, literally, "son of X," and
changed from generation to generation."

Surnames as we speak of them did not change from generation to
generation. The "son of" formulation is called a patronymic. All
European countries with a substantial Jewish population required fixed
surnames by 1861; most, far earlier.

Roger Lustig

Princeton, NJ USA


Roger Lustig
 

Alan Gordon writes:

"My second cousin, during an interview I conducted, informed me that his
grandfather, Frank Kanserstein, had his name changed at Ellis Island. 
Frank's was the husband of my great aunt, and I never met him. 
According to my cousin, Frank's real name was "Thomaspol," but when they
asked him what his name was, he replied, "Kanserstein," or "I can't
understand."  Given your combined experiences, does this make any sense?"

No, for several reasons.

1) Nobody would have asked him what his name was, because it would have
been written on his ticket and on the passenger list; the agent's job
was to match the two.

2) In what language would "Kanserstein" mean "I can't understand?" In
Yiddish it would be something like "kann nikht verstehen." This is an
old trope--I grew up hearing stories about people who went abroad and
got the name "Kannitverstahn." And supposedly the kangaroo got its name
from an incident where an explorer or other visitor asked what that
animal was, and was told, "I don't understand."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kangaroo#Terminology debunks that story.
(And what language would it have been that was not spoken at Ellis
Island? Mr. KANSERSTEIN would have to have been in a small minority of
speakers of his language on that boat for there not to have been an
agent who could help.)

Roger Lustig

Princeton, NJ USA


Jules Levin
 

This has all the earmarks of a name-change joke:  Like the Jew whose
last name was Fergason because when his father was asked a question he
said "Ich hob fargessen..."  Never happened...

Jules Levin


On 6/30/2020 5:15 AM, Alan Gordon wrote:


My second cousin, during an interview I conducted, informed me that
his grandfather, Frank Kanserstein, had his name changed at Ellis
Island.  Frank's was the husband of my great aunt, and I never met
him.  According to my cousin, Frank's real name was "Thomaspol," but
when they asked him what his name was, he replied, "Kanserstein," or
"I can't understand."  Given your combined experiences, does this make
any sense?


Joel Weintraub
 

Alan Gordon wanted to know about a family story where his Kanserstein relative claims his real name was Thomaspol, but when asked what his name was at Ellis Island, he replied Kanserstein or I can’t understand”.  “Does this make any sense?”  Where is the documjentation?  Find the ship manifest.
 
Your story reminds me of the Sean Ferguson joke.  Where the immigrant tried to remember an American name if he was asked at Ellis Island (which makes no sense as it wouldn’t match the manifest name before the inspectors), and in Yiddish, said I forgot which came out as Sean Ferguson.  Kirsten Fermaglich in her book “A Rosenberg By Any Other Name: Jewish Name Changing in America” tracked down the origin of the Sean Ferguson joke.  Some of her results: This Ellis Island  joke did not emerge in the literature of Jewish Humor surnames until around 1970.  However, an early variation of it before 1969 involved a Jewish actor in Hollywood trying to pick an American name.
 
Fermaglich states: “Ellis Island name changing did not become an important image in published literature until around 1970”.  (page 148)
 
Joel Weintraub
Dana Point, CA



Avast logo

This email has been checked for viruses by Avast antivirus software.
www.avast.com


--
Joel Weintraub
Dana Point, CA


Helene Bergman
 

At some point, I hope, people will focus on the name change rather
than on where it took place.


Jonathan Wreschner
 

And his father's first name was Shaun, because he replied " Schoin fargessen".

Jonathan Wreschner
Efrat, Israel

On Tue, 30 Jun 2020, 19:21 Jules Levin, <ameliede@...> wrote:
This has all the earmarks of a name-change joke:  Like the Jew whose
last name was Fergason because when his father was asked a question he
said "Ich hob fargessen..."  Never happened...

Jules Levin

On 6/30/2020 5:15 AM, Alan Gordon wrote:


My second cousin, during an interview I conducted, informed me that
his grandfather, Frank Kanserstein, had his name changed at Ellis
Island.  Frank's was the husband of my great aunt, and I never met
him.  According to my cousin, Frank's real name was "Thomaspol," but
when they asked him what his name was, he replied, "Kanserstein," or
"I can't understand."  Given your combined experiences, does this make
any sense?


Michele Lock
 

I've followed the name changes of my maternal grandfather's surname. 

My grandfather, with the last name Leapman' had led me to believe that the name was originally 'Liebman', and had told me that we have relatives by that name in Buffalo. He also led me to believe that this name change happened at Ellis Island, and that an immigration official had done it. Or maybe I just assumed that this is what happened, because of the Ellis Island meme.

The story is far more ordinary than any of this. In the Jewishgen Litvak records, the name is Leybman. On the ship manifests I've found, the name has been either 'Leibman' (the exact way a German-speaking clerk would write it down), or a few times as Libman. 

Then I can see from various US censuses, that the spelling of the name became inconsistent here in the US. Sometime my grandfather's family used 'Lipman' and sometimes 'Leapman'. The Buffalo relatives generally used 'Lipman'. After a while, the Pennsylvania relatives settled on Leapman.

I myself, when looking over ship manifests, am quite amazed how surnames are spelled consistently, even complicated Polish surnames. I believe the German and American clerks who were doing all this writing made every effort to not change anything. 

And, as it turned out, it wasn't Ellis Island at all. Most of my maternal relatives came through the port of Philadelphia. But that is another can of worms.


sharon yampell
 

Just as an aside, family last names may not have been changed at the ports of entry but they sure can be changed by different branches of the family… My Volovich family takes up nearly half of my tree and as of today, there are 13 different variations of the last name.

 

My advise is to always look at names that seem close to what you know and investigate that person as far as you can and you might be surprised to learn they are indeed a member of your family.

 

Sharon F. Yampell

Voorhees, NJ USA

GenealogicalGenie@...

 

From: Michele Lock
Sent: Wednesday, July 1, 2020 5:59 PM
To: main@...
Subject: Re: [JewishGen.org] "His name was changed at Ellis Island" #names

 

I've followed the name changes of my maternal grandfather's surname. 

My grandfather, with the last name Leapman' had led me to believe that the name was originally 'Liebman', and had told me that we have relatives by that name in Buffalo. He also led me to believe that this name change happened at Ellis Island, and that an immigration official had done it. Or maybe I just assumed that this is what happened, because of the Ellis Island meme.

The story is far more ordinary than any of this. In the Jewishgen Litvak records, the name is Leybman. On the ship manifests I've found, the name has been either 'Leibman' (the exact way a German-speaking clerk would write it down), or a few times as Libman. 

Then I can see from various US censuses, that the spelling of the name became inconsistent here in the US. Sometime my grandfather's family used 'Lipman' and sometimes 'Leapman'. The Buffalo relatives generally used 'Lipman'. After a while, the Pennsylvania relatives settled on Leapman.

I myself, when looking over ship manifests, am quite amazed how surnames are spelled consistently, even complicated Polish surnames. I believe the German and American clerks who were doing all this writing made every effort to not change anything. 

And, as it turned out, it wasn't Ellis Island at all. Most of my maternal relatives came through the port of Philadelphia. But that is another can of worms.

 


polly.goldberg@...
 

This fascinates me. My great-grandfather's last name in Russia was Bershadsky (I know this because of family stories and a calling card from Russia that I have). After Ellis Island, it was Berg! My grandmother said that her father was always annoyed because he liked his original name. He didn't know that he could have reassumed it until many years later, when he decided that it would be too much of a hassle. I don't remember that an official was specifically blamed, but the name was changed somehow, and he didn't just acquiesce. 
So, what happened??
--Polly Goldberg