Immigrant Family Name Origins & How They Changed

Dive into the archives of The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation to explore the immigrant’s journey and find out how familial names evolved!

  • Learn about the immigrant’s journey from their homeland through processing at Ellis Island
  • Explore manifests from the Foundation’s database to find examples of common spelling mistakes and changes when translating Italian, Russian, and Hebrew
  • Discover examples of notable people whose birth names don’t match other legal records

About the event:

It is widely believed that the names of immigrant families arriving to New York often underwent a transformation as families were processed through Ellis Island. However, the history of familial name changes is a bit more complicated and often occurred before even setting sail for America. In this talk with Untapped New York’s Artist-in-Residence Aaron Asis and Stephen Lean, Director of the American Family Immigration History Center at The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, you’ll explore the entire immigration journey and see exclusive video inside parts of Ellis Island that are not open to the public.

Stephen will walk the audience through the overall process of immigrating: from purchasing tickets through being inspected on Ellis Island. You’ll learn how many immigrants came through, the factors that compelled them to immigrate, and why some of those circumstances may have led to names being misspelled, voluntarily changed, or in some cases “borrowed” – all before boarding the vessel that would take them to the United States.

Next, Stephen will dive into the Foundation’s databases to examine common types of mistakes and spelling evolutions that appear on manifests. He’ll focus on the Italian, Russian, and Hebrew languages and how the phonemes/sounds commonly found in each language are often mistranslated on the manifests. Stephen will show examples of notable people whose birth names don’t match their legal or professional name, and explain what factors drove people to adapt to the circumstances they faced after immigrating.

Attendees will receive a link to join the webinar after completing the registration.

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