Topics

"His name was changed at Ellis Island" #names


Bob Bloomberg
 

Many people insist, vigorously, that names were never changed at Ellis Island.  So clearly, your great grandfather was mistaken.  His name really was Berg.


Joel Weintraub
 

Hi Polly,
 
Bershadsky to Berg?  After Ellis Island?
 
What’s needed in any of these name change stories is to go back to the records, and see 1. what was his name was on the ship manifest  2. the first time we find him on the next public record, what was his surname?  3. What was his name on the next U.S.  census?  4. What surname did he pub on his marriage license?  5. What surname is on his first born’s birth certificate?  6. What surname did he use if he became naturalized that he put on the application?  7. What name appears on City Directories?
 
Genealogy should not involve a  fictional approach to the subject.  Without documentation genealogy is mythology as one author stated.
 
I’m willing to help with following the paper trail if you wish.  Write me privately.
 
Joel
 
Joel Weintraub
Dana Point, CA



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Pieter Hoekstra
 

I don't know about name changes upon arrival in a new country except to say you may cal yourself anything you wish as long as you do not seek to gain criminally from the new name.

I have in my direct line 2 great aunts, sisters, in London who each married Cohen brothers both born in London. For some reason though one of the brothers had changed his name to Lonsdale. I guess this was to be more more English and less Jewish but as it is a guess I will never really know.
--

Pieter Hoekstra  <sold@...>


Shel
 

Haven’t nailed down the exact name on the early 20th century Passenger List yet, but I suspect it was GOLDSTEIN. GOLDSTEN was listed in the 1920 Census. It became GONSALVES at a later date, and even later became GORDON -- all in the same generation! Different children have used each of the latter two! And none of the changes was made “at Ellis Island”! :-)

Imagine the descendants doing their genealogies 100 yrs. from now!

[All names have been changed to protect the innocent, but you can see the progression!]

Shel Bercovich

Searching: LIPKIND, BERCOVICI, ZWANG (TSVANG) KLEBANOV, ECHTER (& variations)


Jx. Gx.
 

The myth that immigration officers intentionally changed the names of arriving immigrants keeps coming up like a bad dinner.  Because family lore says so doesn't make it fact. To be sure, the person entering the names into the ship manifest may have misspelled names, but that is entirely different from a deliberate attempt to change a name.  Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm guessing that misspellings may have happened when the ticket was purchased and was repeated on the manifest.  


Bob Bloomberg
 

The myth of intentional name changing has been proved false.  The discussion is about inadvertent, accidental name changes.  A vociferous, adamant group insists that never, never never happened.  All the immigrant official did was check off the name on the ship's manifest.
 
And how did the official know what name to check off.  Only two ways.  One, the immigrant had a name tag, and the official matched the tag to the manifest.  And, of course, the two always always always matched.  So, no chance that there could be any name change.  The second way was to ask the immigrant in that rare chance there was no name tag.  In that case, the immigrant said her name exactly the way it was spelled on the manifest. And, here too, there could be no confusion, no further questions, no guesses, no nothing.  Perfect system   
 


Mashiach L. Bjorklund
 

Sorry if someone might have alluded to this answer earlier. This is a long thread and towards the end I just skimmed the posts. As many have said, names did not change at Castle Garden, Ellis Island, or any of the many other ports of entry. The name on the manifest is the name they used - period. So where did the name changes occur? Answer: When they bought their ticket. Tickets were purchased at ticket offices across the continent and in the UK. Steamship lines had ticket offices located in most major cities. At the point they bought their ticket their name had to be translated/transliterated into the language of the country of their destination. For the USA that was English. For people from the UK, Italy, Germany, etc. that translation was minimal if any at all and was often very similar to their original name. For people from Russia, Poland, AKA the Pale that meant Cyrillic or Hebrew/Yiddish to English. A much more difficult translation. To compound the problem many people were illiterate, so their name was given verbally to the ticket agent. So how did the ticket agent choose the name they got? Many had postal directories from New York City, as well as a few other major US cities. They thumbed through the directories until they found a name they thought fit the bill. This is often why people like brothers, or other close family members, ended up in the US with different surnames. They bought their tickets at different times or different offices or from different ticket agents. The bottom line is they got their name and then that name on their ticket had to match the name on the ships manifest in order for them to board for passage. The manifest was then turned over to the port of entry (unaltered) on arrival and their name had to match the manifest in order for them to legally enter the country. Any discrepancy and back they went, at the steamship companies expense. Now after they entered the country and became residents they were free to change their name again if they so desired. Many did to Americanize it. For instance Pinkowitz became Pincourt, Kvint became Quint, etc.. Many changed their name upon becoming US citizens. Find their citizenship documents and you will often find two names. The one they immigrated with and the one they now choose to be called by which from the point of citizenship became their legal name. I hope this clears up some of the confusion.


Dahn Cukier
 

My name is דן (Genesis 30:6). No one in NYC was able to wrap their head
around the name.
If I wrote Dan - I was corrected to Daniel. If I said my name, it was
corrected to Donald.

But while in Boston, my name was pronounced correctly. All depends
on who writes out the manifest AND where the manifest is made out.

Dani

When you start to read readin,
how do you know the fellow that
wrote the readin,
wrote the readin right?

Festus Hagen
Long Branch Saloon
Dodge City, Kansas
(Gunsmoke)


On Wednesday, July 8, 2020, 03:39:54 PM GMT+3, Jx. Gx. <mrme1914@...> wrote:


The myth that immigration officers intentionally changed the names of arriving immigrants keeps coming up like a bad dinner.  Because family lore says so doesn't make it fact. To be sure, the person entering the names into the ship manifest may have misspelled names, but that is entirely different from a deliberate attempt to change a name.  Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm guessing that misspellings may have happened when the ticket was purchased and was repeated on the manifest.  


Mikkitobi@...
 

The ticket agents did NOT use USA directories. The ticket agents had staff fluent in the passengers languages.


eksilverman11@...
 

Mashiach: Is it possible for you to forward to us relevant references? I am not disputing your plausible statements, only seeking sources, especially about the use of postal directories in the steamship ticket offices overseas from the US. (Additionally, it would be helpful if you had information on how the manifest literally moved from shipping office to ship to arrival port, that is, in whose charge was the manifest on board the ship, etc.) As a general note, I find it useful and often crucial to be able to differentiate between statements about historical processes based on (i) verifiable published sources (e.g., scholarship) as opposed to (ii) family/personal anecdotes and (iii) individual impressions based on general familiarity.  Thank you.


Davida Handler
 

Isn't it time to debunk this myth?  There is no doubt that this be
never happened.  Search ANY internet site.  Time to move to other topics!  Davida Noyek Handler


Sherri Bobish
 


I agree with Mashiach's post.  My ggf's surname was WALTZMAN.  When my ggm (who was illiterate) traveled to NY to join him in 1904, the surname was spelled WALDSMANN  on the manifest.

This was not because of any "name change" but due to the fact that the name was written the way it sounded to a clerk in Europe, and my ggm could not read the name herself, but relied on verbal communication.

Regards,

Sherri Bobish
Princeton, NJ

Searching: RATOWSKY / CHAIMSON (Ariogala / Ragola, Lith.)
WALTZMAN / WALZMAN (Ustrzyki Dolne / Istryker, Pol.)
LEVY (Tyrawa Woloska, Pol.)
LEFFENFELD / LEFENFELD (Daliowa/ Posada Jasliska, Pol.)
BOJDA (Tarnobrzeg, Pol.)
SOKALSKY / SOLON FINGER(MAN) (Grodek, Bialystok, Pol.)
BOBISH / APPEL (Odessa)


 


YaleZuss@...
 

The grounds for returning an immigrant to Europe were first specified in the Immigration Act of 1882, and then refined in subsequent legislation.  All of the grounds listed impose a cost of some sort on the existing population, particularly the voting public.  Being listed incorrectly imposes no cost on the pre-existing population, and thus never became one of the grounds for being sent back.  Between 1903 and 1917, stow-aways appeared before Special Boards of Inquiry, and if it was determined that they didn't fall into one of the excludable categories, could be admitted. Section 3 of the Immigration Act of 1917 includes procedures for admitting stow-aways, people who weren't on the manifest at all. 
 
After studying these issues, I concluded that some immigrants may have feared that what Mashiach wrote was true, that they would be sent back if they told the inspector that their name wasn't what appeared on the manifest.  That wasn't the case, but this fear accounts for perceiving that they had to use the name appearing in the manifest, and this is the basis for the name-change-at -Ellis-Island narratives.


Mikkitobi@...
 

Interesting theory Yale. Do let us know when you have actual proof.


avivahpinski@verizon.net
 

To Mashiach:  Thank you for correctly summarizing the Ellis Island name
situation in your maingroups note below.   As you noted, if someone did
not want to use their name on the manifest or change their name, they
had the option of putting the name they wanted to be their legal name on
their citizenship papers.  This was a standard procedure and did not
cost anything extra. I am mentoring many refugees who have come into
Philadelphia in the last ten years, and they continue to have name
problems for a variety of reasons, including the fact that many
countries have different naming patterns and alphabets. In many of the
Mideastern and African countries husbands and wives do not have the same
last name and have a number of names. These individuals can make name
changes and choices when they get their citizenship papers.  So things
haven't changed that much!

I grew up in NYC hearing an Ellis Island joke.  I just googled it and
found the story as follows:

https://theconversation.com/jewish-americans-changed-their-names-but-not-at-ellis-island-96152
Awell-worn joke in American Jewish culture
<https://books.google.com/books/about/A_Treasury_of_American_Jewish_Folklore.html?id=pWoaAQAAIAAJ>goes
like this. A Jewish immigrant landed at Ellis Island in New York. The
procedures were confusing, and he was overwhelmed by the commotion. When
one of the officials asked him “What is your name?” he replied, “Shayn
fergessen,” which in Yiddish means “I’ve already forgotten.” The
official then recorded his name as Sean Ferguson.

The web site listed above has a full discussion of the name change
stories at Ellis Island, so I hope that this can put the whole matter to
rest on Maingroups.

Avivah Pinski
near Philadelphia

From: Mashiach L. Bjorklund
<mailto:logictheorist@...?subject=Re:%20%22His%20name%20was%20changed%20at%20Ellis%20Island%22>
Date: Thu, 09 Jul 2020 08:56:58 EDT

Sorry if someone might have alluded to this answer earlier. This is a
long thread and towards the end I just skimmed the posts. As many have
said, names did not change at Castle Garden, Ellis Island, or any of the
many other ports of entry. The name on the manifest is the name they
used - period. So where did the name changes occur? Answer: When they
bought their ticket. Tickets were purchased at ticket offices across the
continent and in the UK. Steamship lines had ticket offices located in
most major cities. At the point they bought their ticket their name had
to be translated/transliterated into the language of the country of
their destination. For the USA that was English. For people from the UK,
Italy, Germany, etc. that translation was minimal if any at all and was
often very similar to their original name. For people from Russia,
Poland, AKA the Pale that meant Cyrillic or Hebrew/Yiddish to English. A
much more difficult translation. To compound the problem many people
were illiterate, so their name was given verbally to the ticket agent.
So how did the ticket agent choose the name they got? Many had postal
directories from New York City, as well as a few other major US cities.
They thumbed through the directories until they found a name they
thought fit the bill. This is often why people like brothers, or other
close family members, ended up in the US with different surnames. They
bought their tickets at different times or different offices or from
different ticket agents. The bottom line is they got their name and then
that name on their ticket had to match the name on the ships manifest in
order for them to board for passage. The manifest was then turned over
to the port of entry (unaltered) on arrival and their name had to match
the manifest in order for them to legally enter the country. Any
discrepancy and back they went, at the steamship companies expense. Now
*after they entered the country and became residents they were free to
change their name again if they so desired. *Many did to Americanize it.
For instance Pinkowitz became Pincourt, Kvint became Quint, etc.. *Many
changed their name upon becoming US citizens. Find their citizenship
documents and you will often find two names. The one they immigrated
with and the one they now choose to be called by which from the point of
citizenship became their legal name.* I hope this clears up some of the
confusion.
--
Avivah R. Z. Pinski ,  near Philadelphia, USA


Bob Bloomberg
 

If the name on the manifest is the name they used--ALWAYS--then help me out please.  I've looked at literally hundreds of ship manifests.  I can decipher some, but nowhere near all, the names.  And I have all the time I need.  I have access to experts in languages.  I don't have hundreds of people waiting in line for me to make my decision.  Just like the immigration officials, I don't ask the immigrant, so I must use my best judgment as to what the name is, and how it's spelled.Butthe names were NeVER changed.  Please explain


Carol Isaak
 

Because nothing was written down.  The official compared the name on the manifest and the name tag on the immigrant.  Check mark.

On 7/10/2020 1:21 PM, Bob Bloomberg wrote: 
If the name on the manifest is the name they used--ALWAYS--then help me out please.  I've looked at literally hundreds of ship manifests.  I can decipher some, but nowhere near all, the names.  And I have all the time I need.  I have access to experts in languages.  I don't have hundreds of people waiting in line for me to make my decision.  Just like the immigration officials, I don't ask the immigrant, so I must use my best judgment as to what the name is, and how it's spelled.Butthe names were NeVER changed.  Please explain


Dahn Cukier
 

I don't think these are names they used, but the name the
purser heard and wrote in the closest way possible considering
the limitations of the language used at the port of departure,
and of course English.

Dani



When you start to read readin,
how do you know the fellow that
wrote the readin,
wrote the readin right?

Festus Hagen
Long Branch Saloon
Dodge City, Kansas
(Gunsmoke)


On Saturday, July 11, 2020, 12:13:43 AM GMT+3, Bob Bloomberg <rpbrpb2012@...> wrote:


If the name on the manifest is the name they used--ALWAYS--then help me out please.  I've looked at literally hundreds of ship manifests.  I can decipher some, but nowhere near all, the names.  And I have all the time I need.  I have access to experts in languages.  I don't have hundreds of people waiting in line for me to make my decision.  Just like the immigration officials, I don't ask the immigrant, so I must use my best judgment as to what the name is, and how it's spelled.Butthe names were NeVER changed.  Please explain


Jules Levin
 

On 7/10/2020 1:21 PM, Bob Bloomberg wrote:
If the name on the manifest is the name they used--ALWAYS--then help
me out please.  I've looked at literally hundreds of ship manifests. 
I can decipher some, but nowhere near all, the names.  And I have all
the time I need.  I have access to experts in languages.  I don't have
hundreds of people waiting in line for me to make my decision.  Just
like the immigration officials, I don't ask the immigrant, so I must
use my best judgment as to what the name is, and how it's
spelled.Butthe names were NeVER changed.
The clerk doesn't have to "read" the name, he only has to /match/ the
name with the name already written on the tag.  He writes down nothing. 
The immigrant gets his checkmark and then goes off and uses any name he
darn well pleases.  When his kid learns 10 yrs later that their "name"
was changed, the simplest answer in a busy household that in those days
did not feel it necessary to indulge children, was "changed at Ellis
Island".  As many have already noted, the anomalies would have occurred
at the point of departure in the Old Country.  That is where a clerk had
to enter the name on a manifest.

Jules Levin (name changed by grandfather from Levitan)






  Please explain


Joel Weintraub
 

Bob, you are getting hung up on the manifest and any variations of immigrant names on it.  That to me is not what the Ellis Island Name Change Belief is really about. I look at it as: the immigrant comes to Ellis Island with one family name, and because of intentional or unintentional decisions by the authorities at the Immigration Station, including an effort to Americanize immigrant  names or a level of miscommunication or insensitivity by the Inspectors, leaves Ellis Island with a very different (legal) surname which may have no correlation with the original name, and immediately uses that name in the United States.  So we get stories that Leib Nochomovsky is told by inspectors at Ellis Island that Jews in the U.S. are either Levine or Cohen, and he comes out Louis Levine.  Or Walachinsky at Ellis Island is told he is an American now, and his name is halved by the inspector to Wallace.  These sorts of stories imply or state that the U.S. authorities are writing the name down.  Down on what?  So they mispronounce the immigrants name.... does that translate to some official name change document the immigrant gets?   With my New York accent, I must have changed a lot of my students (and others)  names, right?   But let’s take an extreme made-up  hypothetical case and ask who has in the eyes of the law changed the name.   Say one of the Immigration inspectors is a practical joker and changes one immigrant’s name a day.  Nothing is written down.  No paperwork is given the immigrant that his name is changed.  The immigrant  goes into the U.S. and immediately lives for a number of years with the new name.  Most states have laws that state if you use a surname for a period of  time, it’s your name unless you were committing fraud (try to do that today to get a driver’s license!).  So who changed legally the name of this hapless immigrant.... the joker at Ellis Island or the immigrant?  It was the action of the immigrant that legally changed his name, not the inspector who had no legal powers to do so.  The immigrant’s  impressions of what happened at Ellis Island wouldn’t count in a court of law, would it?   It often boils down to how broad a definition you have about what it means to change a name, and just semantics.  I and I think most genealogists (but not all) have a narrow definition of the name change legend, which started decades after the heyday of Ellis Island. 
Joel Weintraub



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