Why Your Family Name Was Not Changed at Ellis Island

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on December 26, 2013

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, 2013.

“Between 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…”

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