Worst Case Name Changes and Some Advise

Over 25 million Italians have emigrated between 1861 and 1960 with a migration boom between 1871 and 1915 when over 13,5 million emigrants left the country for European and overseas destinations.
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Worst Case Name Changes and Some Advise

Postby jschotz » 22 Aug 2007, 14:07

Hello all, after some time off and gathering of documents and meeting the consulate official to review my documents prior to submission...the news was not good but one must always looking forward. She looked at all the name problems and birth date problems and she said "this is the worst I have seen." Yes...Quote. No doubt that some of the documents must be corrected.

We have 5 years difference in 3 reported birth years and at least 5 different first and last name combinations. Basically my great-grandfather took on two extra letters at the end of his legal Italian last name when he came off the boat. When he naturalized, it changed to "Americanized Version #1". With a wife that couldn't read or write, his death spelled the end of consistency and emerged all of my grandmother's 6 siblings to have the same sounding last name, but each one spelled differently. My great-grandfather's death certificate has the extra two letters of the Italian last name while the headstone has "Americanized Version #2".

My grandmother was born with the extra two letters and an Italian first name - but this certificate was issued 17 years later. As far as her siblings, she was the only one to have a birth certificate issued as no record of any others have been located. She then applied for a SSN and was miraculously one-year older and using one of her two "nicknames" as her first name and "Americanized Version #3" for the last name. Then she married and used her other "nickname" and "Americanized Version #4" and was then 2 years younger from her birth (because she didn't want anyone to know she was marrying a younger man). Then my mother's birth certificate had now added a middle name (which hadn't been used prior), "Americanized Version #4" and the birth date now was 4 years younger for her mother.

My grandmother's death certificate has the same name as her birth certificate and correct birth year, but adds one of the "nicknames" and has the parental names being those with the extra two letters as well.

And just to make sure all of it can't be anymore messed up, my mother's marriage certificate lists her mother with "Americanized Version #5" and my great-grandmother's death certificate actually shows two different spellings of the last name on the same certificate!

Anyway...after a tally of what - at worst case and making vital records perfect - would need to be corrected is:

3 Marriage Certificates (in Pennsylvania, Washington & Delaware)
4 Death Certificates (Pennsylvania and Washington)
2 Birth Certificates (Pennsylvania and Washington)

Now this is how we navigated this so far without lawyers. Some of this is luck of the laws and others are just because of the resources I had.

As far as the marriage certificates, Pennsylvania is most difficult but in the Orphans Court of the County, I had scheduled a meeting with the Solicitor and showed him this situation and asked him where do I go from here. He said it would be him - the Solicitor - petitioning the court on my behalf for the "correction of error." He felt that the addition of the two letters at the end and the misspelling of his first name was an error from the birth name on the certificate. I needed to provide a certified translation of the birth record from Italy, a certified copy of the Italian birth record, proof of my relationship, and a crisp $100 for fees for the Court and Solicitor to process the petition and make a ruling. So, success number 1, processing time about one month.

Washington State law allows any spouse to amend the marriage certificate with an official affidavit and I think $4. Success number 2. Processing time about 1 week.

Delaware only requires submission of proof to Vital Records and they make an administrative ruling and process a new marriage certificate with the changes as new data applied to the original certificate. No cost and about 6 weeks.

Death Certificates in Pennsylvania and Washington normally will require a court order, but also funeral directors (or homes) have the ability to process changes for you when it is to add to or correct information (except the medical certification and the place and date of death). Normally a signed statement by the the funeral director (or home depending on the state) who filed is good enough, but in Washington State, there is a special form which the funeral home must process. My father is a funeral director in Washington State and knows the person who processed the death certificates for my grandparents. So before you go calling on lawyers for death certificate corrections, try to explain to the funeral home that processed the death certificates the situation and see if you can't provide proof to them first. You will have better even better standing if you were the executor or executrix of the estate; or you can also try to go through the executor or executrix and explain to them the situation and have them work on your behalf. Also, the informant of a death (and birth too) is almost as good as gold for corrections. So while it doesn't always help errors in the 1890's, still recent certificates have a much better chance at being corrected by the funeral director or informant. While for some, it could be a long shot if you are on the fringe of the family relationship, but appealing to the funeral director in a sit-down-session and laying it out with all the evidence and a close relative at your side could go the distance. So far, I have been successful but I am still working on Pennsylvania. The processing time in Washington is long...about 6 months to correct the data. Pennsylvania is - as I was told - 9 months.

Birth Certificates in Pennsylvania and Washington I have not done yet as I am sort of grouping my efforts on certificate type. But I think that this is going to be the toughest nut to crack. Washington State will require a trip to court but I will be contacting the local Law School's Law Club to see if they wouldn't mind having one of them look up how this "petition" would be drawn up. Usually Law Schools have clubs or offices for their students to do some projects and if you ask nice, maybe one of them would be helpful in researching. When I contacted the Court Clerks in both states, they have told me that this is something I could do on my own with the judge as the proceeding is just in court discussing the error and presenting the evidence.

Anyway, this is how I am approaching my situation and your situation may not be the same or work for you at all. But since I had what appeared to be a worst case scenario for names, and reading the board about peoples positive and negative issues with name correction, I thought I would write up something that could prove helpful. After talking to the family, we just decided if we are going to correct things, we might as well get them all right and all done at one process. And for 66% of the process, we have spent about $200. Better than $2000 and lawyers in 3 different states.

Just food for thought on those out there that are dealing with name problems so catastrophic it makes your head spin.

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Re: Worst Case Name Changes and Some Advise

Postby peggymckee » 22 Aug 2007, 18:53


You are so right that legal self help (also called pro se) can be extremely effective.

You are also right that now is the time to clean up documents--correct official documents will be more important in the future, not less (IMHO).

That said, some states are much more difficult than others, New York State (not New York City) being one of the worst. Still, over all I agree with you. First try to do it without an attorney.

Keep us posted on the birth certificates. I am guessing they will be the hardest because they are the gold-standard proof of identity.

Good luck, Peg
Surnames: Bertellotti - Ridolfi - Marchi

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