Next Meeting: Sunday, April 14, 10 a.m. Return to Galicia, Sherri Venezia Albert Einstein Center, Sacramento After a decade of family research, SherriApr 12 1 of 12View Source
Next Meeting: Sunday, April 14, 10 a.m."Return to Galicia," Sherri Venezia Albert Einstein Center, SacramentoAfter a decade of family research, Sherri Venezia felt an intense need to go to the Ukraine and visit Lviv, a city central to where her ancestors lived and the capital of the historic region of Galicia. Lviv is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.With the help of a local guide and researcher, Sherri discovered the names linked with places through research and also visited a local concentration camp, Janowska, and a former ghetto enclosure. She'll share her visit as the first person in her family to set foot in Lviv in more than 100 years.Sherri Venezia lives in Davis and is a retired school psychologist.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Thanks to Dave Reingold, here's the link from last week's CBS Sunday Morning piece on the 20th anniversary of the Holocaust Museum.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~A fascinating Washington Post story on two Italian sisters who survived Auschwitz together and travel with students back to the camp.http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/sisters-live-to-tell-their-holocaust-story/2013/04/07/5c2d24a2-9aea-11e2-9bda-edd1a7fb557d_sto~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~New Life in U.S. No Longer Means New NameBy SAM ROBERTS New York TimesFor many 19th- and 20th-century immigrants or their children, it was a rite of passage: Arriving in America, they adopted a new identity.Charles Steinweg, the German-born piano maker, changed his name to Steinway (in part because English instruments were deemed to be superior). Tom Lee, a Tong leader who would become the unofficial mayor of Chinatown in Manhattan, was originally Wong Ah Ling. Anne Bancroft, who was born in the Bronx, was Anna Maria Louisa Italiano.
The rationale was straightforward: adopting names that sounded more American might help immigrants speed assimilation, avoid detection, deter discrimination or just be better for the businesses they hoped to start in their new homeland.Today, most experts agree, that traditional immigrant gambit has all but disappeared.“For the most part, nobody changes to American names any more at all,” said Cheryl R. David, former chairwoman of the New York chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.Precise comparative statistics are hard to come by, and experts say there was most likely no one precise moment when the practice fell off. It began to decline within the last few decades, they say, and the evidence of its rarity, if not formally quantified, can be found in almost any American courthouse.The New York Times examined the more than 500 applications for name changes in June at the Civil Court in New York, which has a greater foreign-born population than any other city in the United States. Only a half dozen or so of those applications appeared to be obviously intended to Anglicize or abbreviate the surnames that immigrants or their families arrived with from Latin America or Asia. (A few Russians and Eastern Europeans did, but about as many embraced their family’s original surnames as adopted new ones.)The vast majority of people with clearly ethnic surnames who applied to change them did so as a result of marriage (belatedly adopting a spouse’s surname or creating a new hyphenated one) or childbirth (because they were legally identified when they were born only as a male or female child or were adopting a parent’s name).Iyata Ishimabet Maini Valdene Archibald of Brooklyn changed her name to Ishimabet Makini Valdene Bryce. Guo Wi Chan of Forest Hills, Queens, changed his to Ryan Guowei Chan. And after Jing Qiu Wu, the Flushing, Queens, mother of 5-year-old Star Jing Garcia, divorced, she renamed her daughter Star Rain Wu, dropping her husband’s surname.Several dropped Mohammed as a first name, adopting Najmul or Hayat instead. And one older couple changed their last name from Islam to Khan, but they said they were conforming to other younger family members rather than reacting to discrimination.Sociologists say the United States is simply a more multicultural country today (think the Kardashian sisters or Renée Zellweger, for instance, who decades ago might have been encouraged to Anglicize their names), and they add that blending in by changing a name is not as effective for Asians and Latin Americans who, arguably, may be more easily identified by physical characteristics than some Europeans were in the 19th century and early 20th century.Also, at least in certain circumstances, affirmative action and similar programs have transformed ethnic identity into a potential asset.“If you are talking about 1910, the social forces on conformity were much stronger,” said Marian Smith, senior historian of the United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, “whereas now an immigrant arrives with all these legal and identity documents, a driver’s license in their pocket, a passport, with one name on it. To change this is a big deal.”Douglas S. Massey, a Princeton University sociologist, suggested that newcomers from overseas and their children no longer felt pressure to change their surnames beginning “during the 1970s and 1980s, as immigration became more a part of American life and the civil rights movement legitimated in-group pride as something to be cultivated.”You can apply to the State Supreme Court to change your name (for $210) or to Civil Court (for $65) as long as you swear that you are not wanted for a crime and are not doing so to defraud anyone. Immigrants can simply check a box on their applications for naturalization. (The government said that in 2005 fewer than one in six did so, and for every possible reason.)A century or so ago, some names were simplified by shipping agents as immigrants boarded ships in Europe. Others were transliterated, but rarely changed, by immigration officials at Ellis Island. Many newcomers changed their names legally, from Sapusnick to Phillips (“difficulty in pronouncing name, interferes with their business,” according to a legal notice), Laskowsky to Lake (“former name not American”) and from Katchka to Kalin (Katchka means duck in Yiddish and a particular Mr. Katchka was “subjected to ridicule and annoyance because of this”).Most requests appear to have been granted routinely, although as recently as 1967, a Civil Court judge in Brooklyn refused to change Samuel Weinberg’s family name to Lansing “for future business reasons, such that my sons shall not bear any possible stigma.” The judge’s name was Jacob Weinberg.During World War I, another Brooklyn judge refused the application of a Weitz to become a Weeks.“There is no good reason why persons of German extraction should be permitted to conceal the fact by adopting through the aid of the court names of American or English origin,” the judge ruled. “It may involve some moral courage to bear German surnames or patronymics in these days, but the discomfort can best be borne by a display of genuine loyalty to this country.”Nancy Foner, a sociology professor at Hunter College of the City University of New York, said: “Jews and Italians changed their surnames in the past so that people wouldn’t identify them as Jews or Italians, the famous cases of course being movie stars. But if you look, phenotypically, nonwhite — East Asian, for example, or black — changing your last name is not going to make a difference. Betty Joan Perske became Lauren Bacall, and most people didn’t know she was Jewish; whatever name she used, Lena Horne was black.”Lisa Chang, whose parents came from Korea in 1976, had assumed she would marry a Korean man, but decided to retain her maiden name when she wed a Caucasian instead.“I felt like I would lose a part of myself and my Korean heritage and like I was cheating on my family’s name,” said Ms. Chang, 28, a troubleshooter for online advertising sites. “No one actually told me I had to change my last name, but I did feel some pressure from my future in-laws.”Marija Sajkas, 40, a health care advocate who moved from Yugoslavia seven years ago, is adopting her Bosnian husband’s surname, Tomic — partly because it is easier to pronounce. “I am fortunate,” she said, “to have a great husband who also has a pronounceable surname.”Even these days, finding precisely the right adoptive name — one syllable or not — can be a problem. Not long ago, David M. Glauberman, a Manhattan public relations executive, grew tired of having to spell his name every time he left a telephone message. Instead, he legally changed his name to Grant. The first time he left a message, a secretary asked: “Is that Grand with a ‘d’ or Grant with a ‘t’?”Sam Roberts’s grandfather arrived in the United States as Samuel Rabinowitz. His family first changed the name to Rubin, then to Roberts.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~See you Sunday morning!
Sunday, June 16, 10 a.m., Albert Einstein Residence Center Breaking Down Brick Walls Our June meeting focuses on breaking through the barriers, solving theJun 13 1 of 12View SourceSunday, June 16, 10 a.m., Albert Einstein Residence CenterBreaking Down Brick Walls
Our June meeting focuses on breaking through the barriers, solving the problems you haven't been able to solve. Join us Sunday as our members provide guidance on those tough questions that impede research. The answers may help you in your own research efforts.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~And here's an item from Avotaynu about the new museum in Antwerp. You may recall a speaker we had in the last year or so who discussed the Red Star Line and is involved with the museum.Red Star Line Museum To Open in September
A Red Star Line Museum will open on September 27 in Antwerp, Belgium. It will be housed in three buildings in Antwerp harbor that originally served the ship line. In the museum, a timeline of human migration is illustrated with 20 personal stories of passengers who traveled on the Red Star Line.
Antwerp was a particularly popular port of emigration for Jews from Central and Eastern Europe. These people constituted a sizeable proportion of the Red Star Line’s passengers. The shipping company recruited its customers from deep within Eastern Europe. It conducted a vigorous advertising campaign and used an extensive network of agents. To take one statistic: of the 2.8 million people to leave czarist Russia for the United States between 1899 and 1914, 40% were Jewish. These people came largely from Lithuania, White Russia (Belarus), Ukraine, Bessarabia (Moldova) and Poland. In addition, there were also many Austrian-Hungarian Jews. In many cases, these were people of very limited means who were assisted by several Jewish relief organizations in Antwerp. The majority of these migrants came by train through Germany with a minority reaching Antwerp by boat. A further description can be found at http://tinyurl.com/RedStarJewish.
At present, the purpose of the museum is to display the immigrant experience. There is no mention of research facilities or record collections. The museum’s website is at http://www.redstarline.org.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~And here's Part 3 from the New York Times series on archival techniques for preserving your family history:
June 12, 2013Tips on Archiving Family History, Part 3By THE NEW YORK TIMESReaders sent dozens of questions about archiving and preserving family history and stories to Bertram Lyons, an archivist at the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress in Washington. He was recently asked to be the editor of the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives, an organization that aims to share best practices in the management of audiovisual materials internationally. He received his master’s degree in museum studies from the University of Kansas in 2009.The first set of answers dealt with questions of preserving audio. The second set of answers addressed film and photos, digital and analog. This week Mr. Lyons fields questions about manuscripts, video and other issues. This feature is now closed to new questions.How to Store Aging DocumentsQ. I’ve been told that plastics are not the best thing to store old documents in, and they should be placed in archive quality, acid-free paper products and boxes. However, what advice can you give to family members who keep and cherish documents from the 1800s that are flood prone and who probably would not be willing to consider safety deposit boxes, because they want to keep them at home? Are there sealed, waterproof containers that are advisable in this situation? PamA. Pam, check out this list of suppliers of archival products that the Smithsonian maintains. It’s not the case that all plastics are bad. In fact, certain plastics are highly recommended for long-term storage. The key with plastics is to avoid PVC-based polymers and to avoid any type of plastic that off-gases to a dangerous degree. Three forms of plastic that are regularly used in preservation scenarios are polyethylene, polypropylene and polyester. Look for archival storage products that are composed of one of these three polymers. If photos are involved, make sure the product has passed the Photographic Activity Test (PAT). If so, most products will advertise this fact.Q. How could you preserve an autograph book that has writings in it from friends of my great-grandmother. The dates are 1885 through 1887. Cukie, Lacombe, La.A. Cukie, the first thing I would do is to purchase a high-quality storage container for it. You want something that lays horizontally and that encloses the book entirely. It also needs to be made of acid-free and lignin-free materials. Hollinger Metal Edge sells such containers. You can also purchase 100-percent-cotton fabric to wrap the book before it is stored in the box. Keep it out of the light entirely (the full-enclosure box will help that), and keep it in a cool, dry space. Heat, light and moisture all speed the decay of cellulosic materials (which is what the paper of the book is made of).Digitizing Documents From World War IIQ. We have a massive collection of old family WWII letters, many of which are near crumbling. We would like to have them digitized and then made into a physical book and an e-book. What suggestions do you have to accomplish this myself or with services that do this type of archival work? Thanks. KoaQ. My grandfather’s negatives from World War II are crumbling. I know from letters written between him and his brothers that Agfa chemicals and paper were used. How do I preserve them? They are 120-millimeter format. Should I try refixing them with fixer? Villette 1Q. I have a box filled with items from my father’s WWII experience in the Persian Gulf — many letters, photos, crumbling newspaper clippings, pamphlets, patches. How do I preserve and put them together to form an interesting archive for my children and grandchildren? PeggyA. Koa, take a look at the responses I provided to other questions about photo digitization and preservation. I provided a lot of resources related to digital imaging (scanning) that will be useful for your case, too. Before you prepare for any scanning, though, it would be helpful for you to stabilize the letters physically. If they are not already, be sure to store them in acid- and lignin-free folders and boxes and to keep them in dark, cool, dry locations, preferably off the floor.Villete 1, I’m sorry that I cannot be of more help. I have little experience with physical conservation of damaged negatives. This article by Paul Messier gives a good introduction to preservation considerations for negatives. It also has a useful bibliography that can lead you to further sources. Also, see my earlier answers to photo-preservation questions in which I included many other links to resources.Peggy, it sounds as if you have a wonderful collection to pass on to your children. See my earlier answers to questions about photo and manuscripts preservation and storage. There are links to resources that provide guidance on methods to store and protect your collections. Remember to also document what the contents are. If there are people in photographs, document them. Your children will not have the information otherwise. Document dates and places as well. You can keep inventories on paper or in digital formats that your children can use in the future to know what everything is. And if the collection is ever donated to an archive, these inventories will be of great help to archivists and researchers.Being an employee of the Library of Congress, I would be remiss not to mention the Veterans History Project (VHP) as a potential home for collections that document the experiences of United States veterans. Its Web site gives information about the project and how to participate. It is an amazing and growing resource documenting the experience of veterans of all United States wars from World War I to contemporary conflicts.Many Choices for Digital VideoQ. We hold a growing community archive of recorded and filmed oral histories. For archival purposes, we’ve been using digital video tape for filming, as well as CF cards for audio.1. Is there any reason not to switch completely to nontape video recording? What format or quality setting is most universal (HD/Standard)?2. I recently became aware of the limitations of the Mac’s Time Machine as an archive and now create actual file backups. Should we abandon Time Machine or double up on the external drive stack?3. What is the most important part of any interview to save and in what format? Our archive of recordings and transcripts is stored on external drives and refreshed, but we also keep printed hard copies of all interviews. ChinquapinA. Chinquapin, you ask great and difficult questions. For long-term preservation purposes, the trend is to move toward file-based digital formats instead of carrier-dependent formats. This trend assumes an underlying strategy for maintaining the integrity of digital files and for keeping the files alive and redundant. Unfortunately, for video, there are many choices when it comes to codecs (the way the bits are encoded/decoded to represent the visual data, e.g., ffv1, H.264, Apple ProRes) and wrappers (the way the elements of the video — video, audio, metadata, etc. — are packaged together into a single file, e.g., Quicktime, AVI, MXF). And then there are more choices for matters such as resolution, color space and frame rate. I serve on a working group for audiovisual guidelines as part of the Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative (FADGI). Although it is not available yet, we are working on a comparison chart for digital video codecs and wrappers.I am not too familiar with Time Machine’s limitations, but I am certain that you should make an effort to keep redundant (multiple) copies of your files on multiple drives, and if possible on multiple storage formats, as well as in different physical locations.At the American Folklife Center, we keep the raw footage from interviews as well as the final produced version (if one exists). We also generate transcripts and store those transcripts in physical and digital formats.Kara Van Malssen (Audiovisual Preservation Solutions) provides a useful overview of video preservation and management in this article that was written for a project called Oral History in the Digital Age. The article includes a list of resources that add further depth to the conversation, including “A Primer on Codecs for Moving Image and Sound Archives” by Chris Lacinak and a link to the video preservation Web site.The Importance of MetadataQ. What is the role of metadata in the personal/ family archive. Should an independent archivist have a metadata strategy when preserving digital historical material? Where do we even begin? I would also love to hear your thoughts on the longevity of external hard drives. a_wallA. A_wall, metadata, at its most basic, is information about the what, who, when, how, why and where regarding any given object, idea or event. Therefore, in my opinion, metadata plays an essential role in the personal/family archive. The beautiful thing about family history is that we often pass it orally from generation to generation. Humans also have a long history of writing things down in memoirs or letters or on things themselves in order to send information about the past into the future. I think people will continue to do such things.The harder question, however, is in what format will humans share information about digital collections as we pass it down from generation to generation. You cannot write on the back of a digital file, as we all know. But you can write in the digital file. And you can keep supplemental information about the digital file in spreadsheets and databases and other electronic forms. I think it is important that we all independently think about the methods through which we will share essential information about our digital collections with future generations. In my work, I’ve found that simpler methods of description prove more sustainable than complex methods. As an independent archivist, if you can develop a consistent strategy for describing your digital historical materials, you will be doing a service to those who come after you. With digital material, this assumes that you also develop a long-term storage strategy for your collections and the documentation about your collections, which leads me to your next question about the longevity of hard drives.Hard drives will not last forever. They have an average failure rate of about three to five years at this point. This means that you need to have plans to migrate from drive to drive about every three years. It is also important that you have redundant copies of your collections on separate drives (if possible on different storage formats or with some combination of online storage services and local hard drives) and in separate physical locations. Digital preservation is a long-term commitment to active migration.No Storage Medium Lasts ForeverQ. What’s safer (i.e., more crash-proof and more secure from prying eyes): an external hard drive or online storage? What are the best online storage sites? LarryQ. What is the life expectancy for an external hard drive? Will my backups last forever? SamQ. I’ve already lost pictures, videos and audio because of lost and broken drives and computers, so I’ve started storing media in the cloud more and more. But is “the cloud” really safe in the long term? spacebaileyA. As part of a Web site about personal archiving, the Library of Congress recently put together a quick guide to thinking about storage media. The key takeaway, in my opinion, is that no storage medium lasts forever. With digital information, active migration is essential. You will need to be prepared to develop a storage strategy for your digital files that includes multiple storage formats (hard drives and online storage services, among others), multiple locations (home, online, neighbors, friends, family) and active monitoring and migration to new storage in regular intervals. At this point in the game, no single storage format or service is enough to ensure the health and integrity of your files.Q. When will the Twitter archive be available for public search and retrieval? Jason F.A. Jason F., here is the most current release of information about the Twitter archive from the Library of Congress. Included at the bottom of the page is a detailed white paper on the topic.Unifying Family’s Oral HistoriesQ. I’ve been interviewing my grandparents and great-aunts and -uncles as part of a project to create an oral history of my family for future generations. The recordings are digital, but at this point I have dozens of hours of recordings spread across CDs, USB keys and external hard drives — and I haven’t transcribed any of it. Do you have any pointers for organizing this audio, other than the basic transcription services out there? I’d love to be able to sort the audio by family member, date or other information. CarolA. I love that you are doing this project, Carol. It will be a valuable resource for future generations. First and foremost, I recommend that you unify all of your recordings under one roof. Move them all to an appropriate-size external hard drive and then make a copy of that drive so that you have two copies. See some of my other answers in this column for more information about digital file management. Next, take time to make at least a preliminary inventory of your recordings. Use a spreadsheet instead of a text document so that the data is standardized and can be imported into other formats. At the very least, include information about the interviewer, the interviewee, the date of the interview, the location of the interview and the duration of the interview, as well as a short summary of the contents of the interview. Also provide a unique identifier for each audio file (e.g., the file name) and connect this identifier to the data in your spreadsheet. This will provide quick searchability while you wait to move to a more automated method.At this point you have the raw materials necessary for use in any automated interface. There are simple and basic systems that you could use for search and access, even something like iTunes could work locally on your computer. Be sure not to assume that a searchable system will provide preservation. You’ll need to continue to be active in your efforts to ensure the integrity and health of the files and the descriptions about the files. There are also more robust systems that you can use to provide access (for yourself, your family or the public) to the interviews. A new project, Pop Up Archive, hopes to provide support for people like you who are looking for methods to organize, preserve and provide some type of access to audio collections.The Need to Share StoriesQ. I thought my mother’s diaries, tiny handwritten lines, would be a memory trove. But I find myself not reading them. Now I am trying to leave memories to my grandchildren, writing memoirs, assembling pictures. But I ask, “Will they care?” Maybe all this memoir writing is for me, to justify my life, not for them? How can I put these artifacts and words together so it might be relevant to their lives? BarbaraQ. I have a rambunctious group of siblings, associated nieces and nephews, grand-nieces and -nephews and an angelic, positive 92-year-old mother who is full of stories developed over the life of all these people. Her attitude in life has brought her through so many situations with positive outcomes, an exhibition of what a positive attitude can do in face of the most difficult of situations. How can we best capture her life for sharing with the current and future generations of our family? KatA. Barbara, Kat, in my mind, you are asking questions about the most fundamental impulse that drives collecting institutions like archives, museums and libraries: memory. How do societies document evidence and information about the past in such a way that will be useful for their members in the present as well as for anyone at anytime in the future? How do families pass down their knowledge, experiences, histories and legends from one generation to the next? People have been successful at this endeavor for centuries and centuries, and I have no doubt that we will continue in step. Different groups in different times have employed a diverse set of available technologies to communicate to future generations, including oral traditions, written traditions and documentary recording media (still images, sound recordings and moving images).In my opinion, what we have learned up to this point is that we need to continue to exploit all of these methods to ensure that we pass on as much as possible from one generation to the next. We need to share stories; we need to write to each other, and about each other; and we need to record our voices and our likenesses. We cannot preserve everything. And not everything needs to be preserved. But the more we talk, the more we write and the more we document, the better chance some fragment of our expressions and experiences will make its way to our descendants.Previous Ask an Expert columns can be found here.
Please join us on Sunday: Sunday, July 21, 10 a.m. The WPA: Sources for Your Genealogy Einstein Center 1935 Wright St., Sacramento Gena Philibert-Ortega willJul 17 1 of 12View SourcePlease join us on Sunday:Sunday, July 21, 10 a.m. "The WPA: Sources for Your Genealogy"Einstein Center 1935 Wright St., SacramentoGena Philibert-Ortega will talk about the Works Progress Administration of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, that involved projects to help Americans get back to work. Less well known may be projects that included gathering historical information and conducting oral interviews. The presentation will look at the WPA's legacy and how its projects can enhance your genealogical research.Mark Your Calendars -- "Who Do You Think You Are?" ReturnsNew shows featuring celebrity genealogy will start again on Tuesday, July 23, 9 p.m., on the TLC network.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Article from the New York Public Library:Why Your Family Name Was Not Changed at Ellis Island (and One That Was) by Philip Sutton, Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building July 2, 2013Between 1892 and 1954, over twelve million people entered the United States through the immigration inspection station at Ellis Island, a small island located in the upper bay off the New Jersey coast. There is a myth that persists in the field of genealogy, or more accurately, in family lore, that family names were changed there. They were not. Numerous blogs, essays, and books have proven this. Yet the myth persists; a story in a recent issue of The New Yorker suggests that it happened. This post will explore how and why names were not changed. It will then tell the story of Frank Woodhull, an almost unique example of someone whose name was changed, as proof that even if your name was changed at Ellis Island (it wasn't), it wouldn't have mattered. Confused? Read on...The legend goes that officials at Ellis Island, unfamiliar with the many languages and nationalities of the people arriving at Ellis Island, would change the names of those immigrants that sounded foreign, or unusual. Vincent J. Cannato's excellent book American Passage: The History of Ellis Island explains why this did not happen:Nearly all [...] name change stories are false. Names were not changed at Ellis Island. The proof is found when one considers that inspectors never wrote down the names of incoming immigrants. The only list of names came from the manifests of steamships, filled out by ship officials in Europe. In the era before visas, there was no official record of entering immigrants except those manifests. When immigrants reached the end of the line in the Great Hall, they stood before an immigration clerk with the huge manifest opened in front of him. The clerk then proceeded, usually through interpreters, to ask questions based on those found in the manifests. Their goal was to make sure that the answers matched. (p.402)Inspectors did not create records of immigration; rather they checked the names of the people moving through Ellis Island against those recorded in the ship's passenger list, or manifest. The ship's manifest was created by employees of the steamship companies that brought the immigrants to the United States, before the voyage took place, when the passenger bought their ticket. The manifest was presented to the officials at Ellis Island when the ship arrived. If anything, Ellis Island officials were known to correct mistakes in passenger lists. The Encyclopedia of Ellis Island states that employees of the steamship companies,…mostly ticket agents and pursers required no special identification from passengers and simply accepted the names the immigrants gave them. Immigrant inspectors [at Ellis Island] accepted these names as recorded in the ship's manifests and never altered them unless persuaded that a mistake had been made in the spelling or rendering of the name. Nonetheless the original name was never entirely scratched out and remained legible. (p.176)Although it is always possible that the names of passengers were spelt wrong, perhaps by the clerk when the ticket was bought, or during transliteration, when names were translated from one alphabet to another, it is more likely that immigrants were their own agents of change. Cannato, for instance, suggests that people often changed their name in advance of migration. More commonly, immigrants would change their names themselves when they had arrived in the United States, and for a number of reasons.Someone might change their name in order to make it sound more American, to fit in with the local community, or simply because it was good for business. There is at least one instance of a small businessman arriving in the United States from Eastern Europe changing his name, at least his public name, to something that sounded Swedish, because he had settled in a Swedish neighborhood in New York City. Immigrants would sometimes officially record their name change, when naturalizing for instance, but often, as there was no law in New York State requiring it be done, no official record of a name change was made. People would just start using a different name.John Colletta, in his book They Came in Ships, describes the immigration process at Ellis Island in more detail:[The] Inspector [in the immigration receiving center] had in has hands a written record of the immigrant he was inspecting and, asking the same questions over again, could compare the oral statements with it. The inspectors therefore, read the names already written down on the lists, and they had at their service a large staff of translators who worked along side them in the Great Hall of the Ellis Island facility. (p.12)Contemporary descriptions of Ellis Island do not mention name changes at Ellis Island. A search of historical newspapers using the ProQuest Historical Database produces only one story about name changes written during the time that Ellis Island was in operation.Leonard Lyon's entertainment column Broadway Potpourri, in the Washington Post of April 10th, 1944, states that Harry Zarief, "the assistant concert master for Morton Gould," and famously a father of quadruplets, had recently changed his name back from Friedman.Friedman. His name originally was Zarief, but when his family arrived at Ellis Island the immigration inspector told him that Zarief was too complicated, and recorded his name as "Friedman." Many years later the "Friedman" was changed back to the original Zarief. (p.9)There are hundreds of stories about the immigration inspection station in the newspapers of the time that do not mention names being changed. In a 1922 article, titled To Be or Not to Be American in the New York Times, journalist Elizabeth Heath describes a visit to Ellis Island, and the Great Hall where immigrants were processed.Upstairs, in the great main hall of the building, the straggling crowd is skillfully split into a dozen long lines, each leading to the desk of an inspector. Before him is spread the manifest of the steamship company, giving the required information about each steerage passenger - religion, relatives in America, amount of money, source of passage money, literacy, occupation, and the positive statement that the candidate for admission does not believe or practice polygamy or anarchy. It is a seeming miscellany of information, but each item has a direct bearing on the legality of admission. (p.41)A letter to the Chicago Tribune advice column The Legal Friend of the People, dated September 16, 1912 discusses name changes and an application for citizenship, and mentions Ellis Island.After having lived in the United States for five years I changed the spelling of my name. When I made my declaration to become a citizen of the United States, about a year and a half ago, I gave my name as I now spell it. Will this cause any hitch in my taking out final citizenship papers six months hence? [...] I understand that all declarations of intention to become a citizen are forwarded to New York and verified by the records at Ellis Island. When it is discovered that my name, as I spelled it when I took out my first papers, is not on the books [the ships manifests] there, will this interfere with my taking out my final naturalization papers?The advice given in reply:On making the application for final papers, you should spell your name as in the original application. You have the right to change the spelling without a court process. (p.6)The idea that names were changed at Ellis Island raises lots of questions. For instance, if names were changed, what happened to the paperwork? And if inspectors were charged with changing names, why are their no records of this? Where are the lists of approved names? Where are the first hand accounts, of inspectors and immigrants? If immigrants had name changes forced upon them, why did they not simply change their name back when they entered the country? Or, if they could not, where is paperwork describing the roles of Federal officials charged with making sure that names were not changed back?All rather silly, perhaps. Yet the myth persists, almost exclusively in family lore. One explanation might be that we live in more enlightened times. People migrating to the United States no longer feel that they have to change their name to fit in, and so it seems strange that people would voluntarily change their name generations ago.Marian L. Smith, in her essay American Names: Declaring Independence, suggests that another interpretation of the Ellis Island myth might be:That an immigrant is remembering his initial confrontation with American culture. Ellis Island was not only immigrant processing, it was finding one's way around the city, learning to speak English, getting one's first job or apartment, going to school, and adjusting one's name to a new spelling or pronunciation. All these experiences, for the first few years, were the "Ellis Island experience." When recalling their immigration decades before, many immigrants referred to the entire experience as "Ellis Island."There is always the exception to the rule. The clipping below is from the passenger list for the steamship S.S. New York, which arrived at the Port of New York, from Southampton, England, October 4th, 1908. It shows that a passenger's name has been crossed out and replaced with another, that of Mary Johnson. The clipping below that is from the United Kingdom Outward Passenger Lists and confirms that the passenger had described himself as Frank Woodhull, a clerk, and alien in the United States.List or manifest of alien passengers: S.S. New York (American Line) Sept 26th,1908United Kingdom outward passengers: S.S. New York (American Line) Sept 26th,1908The S.S. New York's passenger list includes an addendum, a page titled Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry. This was a list of the names of passengers disembarking from the S.S. New York, who were detained at Ellis Island. The reason given for "Mary Johnson" being held for further inspection is that "she" was travelling as Frank Woodhull "in male attire." Mr. Woodhull proved that he would not be a financial burden on the United States, and was allowed to continue his journey to New Orleans.Record of aliens held for special inquiry: S.S. New York (American Line) Sept 26th, 1908The incident generated headlines in newspapers all over the country, and Frank Woodhull gave a number of interviews, where he told his story, a story that tells us much about the times. Here it is as told to the New York Times, October 5th and 6th, 1908.My life has always been a struggle. I come of an English-Canadian family, and I have most of my fight to make all alone. Thirty years ago, when I was 20, my father died and I was thrown entirely on my own resources. I came to this country a young girl and went west to make my way. For fifteen years I struggled on. The hair on my face was a misfortune. It was often the subject of rude jest and caused me endless embarrassment. The struggle was awful, but I had to live somehow, and so I went on. God knows that life has been hard, but of the hardness of those years I cannot speak.Then came a time fifteen years ago when I got desperate. I had been told that I looked like a man, and I knew that in Canada some women have put on men's clothes do men's work. So the thought took shape in my mind. If these women had done it why could not I, who looked like a man? I was in California at the time. I bought men's clothes and began to wear them. Then things changed. I had prospects. My occupation I have given here as canvasser, but I have done many things. I have sold books, lightning rods, and worked in stores. Never once was I suspected that I was other than Frank Woodhull. I have lived my life, and I tried to live it well. Most of the time I have been in California, but now I am going to New Orleans, where there are chances of employment.I have never attempted to take citizenship papers. I knew to do so would be either to reveal my sex or else become a law breaker. I have never been the latter. I did not know that there was a law against women wearing male attire in this State or I would have sailed to another port. My folks come originally from England and it had long been my wish to go there and take a look about. So with a measure of success the longing grew and I began to save up for my holiday. I went over in the steerage two months ago and returned the same way.On October 8th, 1908 Woodhull returned from Europe, and passing through Ellis Island, as an alien, despite having lived in the United States for a number of years, was pulled to one side by an official who thought that he might have Tuberculosis. Erica Rand, in her book The Ellis Island Snow Globe, quotes an article that appeared in the New-York Tribune, describing "what happened when Woodhull was called for further examination:[…] Woodhull told the surgeon "Oh, please don't examine me!" She pleaded. "I might as well tell you all. I am a woman, and have traveled in male attire for fifteen years." "(p.80)Woodhull was brought before a Board of Special Inquiry at Ellis Island, who according to the New York Times, October 6th, declared him a "desirable immigrant [who] should be allowed to win her livelihood as she saw fit." (p.6)Woodhull talked about how women were expected to behave, dress, and of the types of work open to them.Women have a hard time in this world. They are walking advertisements for the milliner, the dry goods stores, the jewelers, and other shops. They live in the main only for their clothes, and now and then when a woman comes to the front who does not care for dress she is looked upon as a freak and a crank. With me how different.See this hat? I have worn that hat for three years, and it cost me $3. What woman could have worn a hat so long? Bah! They are the slaves to whim and fashion. What could I do when fifteen years ago I faced the crisis in my life? There was only housework to which I could turn.[…] Men can work at many unskilled callings, but to a woman only a few are open, and they are the grinding, death-dealing kinds of work. Well, for me, I prefer to live a life of independence and freedom.The New York Times goes on to add that the individual identified at Ellis Island as Mary Johnson, was freed, to "face the world as Frank Woodhull." (p.6)A thorough search of Ancestry Library Edition provides no clues as to Frank Woodhull's whereabouts after leaving Ellis Island, though the internet does include references to his settling in New Orleans, becoming an American citizen, and dying in 1939: citations are missing. Perhaps, after the furor, Frank decided to change his name, to avoid further publicity. This story illustrates one thing. Once Woodhull left Ellis Island, he was no longer obliged to be known as Mary Johnson, but was free to resume his life, complete with the name and identity of his choosing. Ellis Island could not impose a name upon him.Further readingCopies of ship's manifests, or passenger lists, are avialable at New York Public Library, via the database Ancestry Library Edition.If you would like to read more about Ellis Island, try searching for materials in the Library's catalog. You can use the following subject terms:The Library's Digital Gallery includes many images of Ellis Island.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~From Gary Mokotoff's E-zines, July 7 and 14, 2013:Lithuanian Internal Passport Indexing Project Reaches 116,000
The LitvakSIG Internal Passport Project (1919–1940) has now indexed 116,191 records. For the period 1919–1940, every Lithuanian citizen age 17 or older was required to have an internal passport. They are called “internal passports” because they could only be used for travel within Lithuania. In reality, they were personal identification documents ... and a valuable genealogical resource because they include name, date/place of birth, address, nationality, religion, occupation, some special traits (if the person had any), family status, information about children.
There is an 18-month delay between the date the data is extracted and the date they are available to the public at no charge. The information is more readily available if a person contributes money or time to the project. Complete information can be found at http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Lithuania/InternalPassports.htm.
Genealogical Research in the 1980sWhile placing the contents of Avotaynu’s files back into their proper order after our move, I [Gary Mokotoff] came upon two file drawers that represented my early family history research in the 1980s. It made me think about how things have changed with the advent of the Internet and digitized images. Here are some examples.
Some of my most cherished possessions from the 1980s’ collection are the passenger arrival (Ellis Island) records acquired by expending much energy. The records, available then only on microfilm, required that you first search an index sequenced in soundex order. My original family name, Mokotow, soundexed to M230. The American version, Mokotoff, coded to M231. Consequently, I had to look in two different places in the index. (It was one of my motivations for creating the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System—a system that supports Germanic and Slavic names as well as Anglo-Saxon names.)Once you found the index card, you could identify which microfilm had the actual passenger record and then retrieve the microfilm reel of the passenger list and locate the page of interest. The film was then brought over to a microfilm printer and a copy of the pages(s) was made. I never did find the arrival record of my great-grandparents because their surname was misspelled on the passenger list. I had to wait more than 20 years for the Stephen P. Morse One-Step site on the Internet which can locate passengers with minimal information about the name.
In 1981, I stumbled onto a place called the (Mormon) Family History Center in New York City. The Family History catalog, then on microfiche, showed they had Jewish vital records of the Mokotow ancestral town of Warka, Poland. At that time the Center did not have a microfilm printer. Wanting to capture every document of a person named Mokotow, I brought along my non-digital camera loaded with black/white film and took a snapshot of every Mokotow record projected on the microfilm table. The film was taken to a photo store where it was developed and printed. These snapshots are still in my possession. Years later, a trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City allowed me to make prints from the microfilm. Today, Jewish Records Indexing – Poland has indexed these records, and it is likely that in the next 12 months, the actual digitized images located at the Polish State archives site will be linked to this index.
My collection also includes some excellent indexed road maps of the countries of Eastern Europe. These were used to find an ancestral town in the 1980s before there was http://maps.google.com.
We have come a long way in the past 25–30 years in doing family history research. What used to take hours or days now takes minutes. What could not be found due to misspellings has been overcome with indexes that include wildcard and soundex searches.~~~~~~~~~~~See You at Sunday's Meeting!