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:
- Dispelling the Myth of Ellis Island Name Changes (About.com)
- No, Family Names Were Not Changed at Ellis Island (EOGN)
- They Changed Our Name at Ellis Island (Genealogy.com)
Editor’s Note: Previous Upfront with NGS article on this topic, Ellis Island Name Change Rumors Persist.
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