The New York Public Library is the latest organization to publish an article about the myth of “the family name was changed at Ellis Island” and then describes exactly one exception. Almost every genealogy writer in the US, including myself, has written about the myth before. It is nice to see someone with the authority and credentials of the New York Public Library write about it. Perhaps this fairy tale will now be put to rest.
The article by Philip Sutton says many things, including:
“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.”
The article then humorously goes on to describe one exception. Despite the clarification of the name change myth, there was one person’s whose name actually was changed at Ellis Island. Harry Zarief, “the assistant concert master for Morton Gould,” and famously a father of quadruplets, had his name changed at Ellis Island from Zarief to Friedman. The man now named Harry Friedman apparently was not happy with the name change.
In 1944, HarryFriedman went to court and obtained a legal change of name, BACK TO ZARIEF!
You can find the article, Why Your Family Name Was Not Changed at Ellis Island, at https://goo.gl/DxpnMy.
My thanks to newsletter reader William M. Wilson for telling me about the article.