They Changed Our Name at Ellis Island


Actually, no, they didn’t. This is a prevailing myth in genealogy research, and many beginning genealogists still believe it. But, the truth is, your family’s last name was almost certainly not changed at Ellis Island. That’s just not how the island operated when admitting immigrants into this country. Those who took the names of incoming immigrants were very careful to record surnames correctly. So, how did the myth of the Ellis Island name change get started, and why do so many people still believe it today? Here’s what you need to know about Ellis Island and the recording of incoming immigrant names.
Ellis Island operated as the nation’s main immigrant processing center between 1892 and 1954. During this time, more than twelve million people came to the United States through the island. Lots of people have it in their family lore that the family’s surname was changed to a more Anglicized version at Ellis Island because immigrant processors couldn’t spell the immigrant’s last name, or understand it when the immigrant told them. Yet, this myth has been disproven dozens, if not hundreds, of times in a lot of different resources. Anyone who is familiar with genealogy will know this is a myth. But, if you’re just beginning, you might still believe it. The myth is just not true, and this is why...