Name Changes Due To Immigration???!!

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Joined: 11 May 2006, 00:00
Location: Detroit, MI

Name Changes Due To Immigration???!!

Post by Agrusso » 11 May 2006, 15:47

I originally was going to just ask if it was a reasonable explanation that my surname was changed when my grandfather came to ellis island form agrusa or agrussa to agrusso seeinng as we are certain he came from balestrate, sicily , but I guess what I am asking is did anyone else run into problems tracing there geneology due to surname changes when migrating to the US and furthermore how I would go about overcoming this obstacle? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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Re: Name Changes Due To Immigration???!!

Post by Marisa6 » 11 May 2006, 16:10

Hi Agrusso

I can't comment on spelling changes in the US but I have come across several in my own family. Mistakes in spelling were quite common - especially when the immigrant could neither read nor write. On the Ellis Island manifests there is a column that states whether the immigrant had these abilities and that is worth a look. If your ancestor couldn't read or write, then he was relying on the person filling out the form who would write what he heard phonetically. Many changes in spelling derive from that. I have some real crackers among my ancestors where the name has been written as it was heard. Once the altered spelling was on official documentation, it could sometimes be easier to stick with the new spelling than try to change it. This may be what has happened in your case.

Visocchi, Forte, Marcantonio, Iannetta

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Re: Name Changes Due To Immigration???!!

Post by ally » 11 May 2006, 19:44


I had the same problem with my grandfathers last name.

He came here under his original name, however, when settled in states, the children were born, baptized under real name, however communion, confirmation etc were under different spellings. Even when they went to school they cut in down, they could not pronounce it so the teachers listed as they saw fit.

Census reports cut our name in half and dropped the last vowel of a and made it an o. On all years this happened. Also Caterino, Caterina
and lastly Casterino. Go figure!! (Surname is Santacaterina)

I worked along the children of my grandfather, obtaining birth, baptism records as well as marriages. . I knew where they lived in Jersey so I went thru all the different spellings, came across him in the census after awhile.

Need to see what other papers have the spelling on them.

Also if you know where any family members are buried, try the cemetery.
They have the original deed of the purchaser of the plot, thus will give you another spelling of the name. And who is buried in each plot/location etc.

I agree with Marissa. When our forefathers came to America they didn't know how to speak english/let alone spell their name. They trusted in America to do the right thing. When they settled in, they just kept the record of the new spelling because it was much easier. My gram for instance you to tell everyone her last name was Vanelli, however her name is Vernaglia!

My family tree has at least 5 variations of all our Italian surnames.
Even when buried their names are mispelled too! It took me 7 mos to find my g-grandfather's burial! His last name was not even close, Vernatzia!

Try other papers if you know your aunts/uncles- churches they attended.
I find the parish priests here in Jersey to most helpful in tracking down information of this stuff. Also can give you god parents names too.
Which in most cases leads you to antoher family member.
And some, not all list an address on their records. And usually they can track down from a baptism if they married there also. Great abundance of info at the church!

Lastly, try obits, they listed family members and locations sometimes.
It would list other variations or the correct one at that.

Hope this gave you some other ideas to try, it worked for me!
Good luck!

Alice :D

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