How To Document A (Given) Name Change #names

Martin Kaminer

Hello All,
My maternal grandmother was born Aranka Feigenbaum in Hungary in 1906. She arrived at Ellis Island on August 16th 1927 along with her mother and siblings and is listed as Aranka on the manifest (as well as on the visa application dated 1921). At some point soon thereafter she started using the name, or being known as, Gladys Feigenbaum. She died in 1998 having lived in New York City since her arrival 71 years earlier.
I do not know whether her name was ever legally changed, though her legal documents -- including naturalization -- use the name Gladys, not Aranka. 
How might I determine whether her name was ever legally changed?  If it was never legally changed, what other methods might be used to document this?
Martin Kaminer


Did she receive Social Security? If so, you can check with them to see what name she used when she was assigned an SSN. What name did she use in census records? The earliest census record for her would have been in 1930. If you can narrow the time window of the name change, it might help.

Kathryn bkj


Aranka usually turned into Goldie in English (since that is literally what it means), which I would not consider a name change. Turning it into Gladys (which may be from an old Welsh name that's commonly associated with Claudia) may be a sign of the same line of thinking that leads to the modern American Jewish custom of honoring deceased ancestors with names that share a first initial. Or (or also), Goldie and Gladys share G-L-D in that order, so perhaps someone who didn't (yet) speak English chose the wrong "equivalent", and then it stuck?

In any case, I don't think there was any sort of extra documentation for this kind of change. You could (and as far as I know, still can) choose a totally new name at naturalization; you just had to provide the name you arrived under at the start of the process. In that sense, the naturalization _is_ the documentation of the name change.

Julia Szent-Györgyi
./\ /\

Sherri Bobish


Hope some of the following is helpful.

Regards,  Sherri Bobish

Have you seen her nat papers?  The naturalization process was sometimes used as a chance to legally change a name.  I've seen handwritten notations on nat papers regarding change of name.

I see someone who may be her on the 1930 census in NY with name Gladys Feigenbaum.  Were here siblings Eugene, Elsie & Violet?

She used the name Gladys on her 1932 NYC marriage record.
Name: Gladys Feigenbaum
Gender: Female
Marriage Date: 4 Sep 1932
Marriage Place: Kings, New York, USA
Spouse: Max Wasserman
Certificate Number: 12479
Here is info as transcribed on Ancestry for the U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index.  
Name: Gladys Wasserman
[Gladys Feigenbaum] 
Gender: Female
Race: White
Birth Date: 1 Apr 1908
Birth Place: Uphely, Hungary
Death Date: 26 Jul 1998
Father: Herman Feigenbaum
Mother: Hannah Klein
SSN: 132322345
Notes: 04 Nov 1983: Name listed as GLADYS WASSERMAN


Actually, one can change one's name with or without the courts at any time, as long as it is not for fraudulent purposes.  My father's first name was changed when he was three year olds--we assume ill health--and he and his brothers changed their last name around 1940.  They were first generation Americans.  None of them had their names changed in court, but my father used his "adopted" name when he entered the service.  Only Social Security used his original name.
Barbara Sloan
Conway, SC

Judy Floam

My father-in-law changed his name from Sylvan to Sidney.   He continued to use Sylvan on legal documents but otherwise was known as Sidney.


Judy Floam


I documented the name changes in my family by using the AKA feature on my genealogy program. If yours does not have that, perhaps you can put it in notes attached to that record, citing sources as you would for any other data.
Barbara Sloan
Conway, SC