10 July 2013

Ellis Island -- Names were NOT changed! A very persistent myth perpetuated in our genealogical world ...

There are always persistent stories about names being changed at Ellis Island

These are mostly just that, stories.  The New York Public Library did a great post called Why Your Family Name Was Not Changed at Ellis Island (and One That Was) which goes into great detail about the process at Ellis Island.  Essentially, documentation about the naming of emigrants was NOT created at Ellis Island, it was create in the embarkation port or on board ship.  The article also goes into great detail about “1” person whose name was changed.

That said, many emigrants DID change their name shortly after arriving!  My own paternal family arrived as Kujanpää (pronounced Gui ump a) and within a year they were Acey (pronounced Ace ee) – maybe they thought the new surname was easier??!?!  That falls into the number one question I would ask my great-great grandfather – why did you change the name from Kujanpää to Acey – a not very common, often misspelled and mispronounced surname?

Read more about this very common myth:

Editor’s Note: Previous Upfront with NGS article on this topic, Ellis Island Name Change Rumors Persist.

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1 comment:

  1. I find that very interesting. We were always told that my husbands family name (arabic) was changed when in the 1890's they arrived from what was Syria (and is now Lebanon) and their American name would be ACEE pronounced the same as the writer of the above article (ACE-EE). Very interesting that we have the same name - and they came thru the same place - but from different lands with the same new name.