Oh, this is a post I have wanted to do for a long time. How many of us have heard someone say that their ancestors had the spelling of their name changed at Ellis Island? WRONG!!! Never happened. NOT!!!
Remember a few days ago when I blogged about Manifests? A ship's manifest held the name of the passengers. Whatever was on those manifests is what was seen at Ellis Island or any of the other ports of arrival. No one was changing anyone's name.
My grandfather sailed from Antwerp in 1913. The ship's manifest does give the name of a town I have never been able to locate, but it does spell his last name with the letter 'b'. All my life, including up to a few years ago, my relatives have said the name was spelled with a 'p', not a 'b' and that it was changed at Ellis Island. I gave up arguing with them.
But interesting enough, my grandparents had two daughters who died shortly after birth, and even though my grandfather has his name spelled with a 'b', both daughters have a 'p' in their last name instead. Totally weird.
Back before the first world war folks coming to America or Canada were not travelling with passports. (I found it interesting that people travelling from Galicia were required to give up any expectation of returning home if entry to the United States was denied. I suppose that could have been common among European countries and may be why I have seen folks whose nationality is stated as 'stateless' on documents.) Hence, the identifying document was often just the manifest.
So, moving on to the spelling issue. I have found that relatives in Italy changed the spellings of their last, and sometimes first, names after unification in 1861. And even before for that matter. And often last names of a family varied depending on the town they lived in. So, the Gasparot family could also be the Gasparotto, Gaspard or Gaspardo family.
The letter 'Z' which was common to Slavic spelling, became 'S'. So my Mariuz relatives are also Marius. Marcuz became Marcus. Zempellin became Cempellin. You get the picture. Which means when I am searching, I am pulling my hair out.
In Napoleonic records around 1800, Valentin is the first name. Get to the United Italy records after 1870 and now he is Valentino. And lots of surnames had the letter 'O' or 'I' added to the end to make it sound more Italian, I guess. So, even Marcuz could become Marcuzzi.
And it isn't just Italy. My Polish relatives alternate between Agnese, Agnieszka, and Agata - for the same person! Some of my Kozimor relatives starting using the name Kozma.
I guess it shouldn't be surprising that people change the spelling of their name. One of my high school friends started spelling her name Karol instead of Carol.
I have been trying to get a friend to get her DNA analyzed. I have matches to folks with the original spelling of her last name. I say original because her father decided to changed the spelling from a Polish name ending in 'czyk' to 'ski'. It would be weird to find out after 50 years that we are distantly related. We do know that our families came from the same general area in Galicia.
So, no more blaming someone at Ellis Island. Has anyone in your family changed the spelling of their name?