Tag Archives: passenger records

Why Your Family Name Was Not Changed at Ellis Island (and One That Was)

Below is a posting by the New York Public Library which dismisses the myththat immigrants’ names were changed at Ellis island. The article was referred from Ernie Chorny. While lengthy, it is a valuable article and includes many historic pictures of Ellis Island

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…

Immigrants undergoing medical examination., Digital ID 416754, New York Public Library

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 Continue reading


Note: This is a process for searching for immigrants who came over between 1925-1935.

Before coming to the library, search the online data base of the Canada Archives for the name you are seeking. Note that if your ancestors changed their name, don’t use that name. Use the name they had on their passport. In my case I first tried the name Onyschuk to no avail. When my sister told me that my father had the Polish spelling of Onyszczuk, I then tried that name and it worked.

If you try a name and nothing comes up, try a Polish version of the name, eg. For Continue reading