Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Those pesky name changes

Didn't these people know it would confuse future generations?!

Many of us have had to deal with these name changes, especially if our ancestors came from non-English speaking countries. Some I can understand...others just seem beyond explanation.

Lutzki to Lutzky/Lutsky - this one makes sense. In English, the "y" ending is more common than the "i". The "s" instead of the "z" is the softer English sound vs the harsh Eastern European sound.

Lutzky/Lutsky to Luth - this has got to be the oddest one I've come across in my research. My grandmother's brother Irving and her uncle Jack changed the name to Luth "for business reasons". Why they chose a Scandinavian name I'll never know. Jack didn't have any children and Irving had 2 daughters so the name didn't live beyond them. Jack's headstone (and his wife's) use Luth. Irving's headstone (and his wife's) say Lutsky.

Bergzon to Berger - actually the family story is that the name was changed from Berg to Berger because it sounded less Jewish. To who I wonder. Anyway, the name was never Berg. The spelling translated from both Polish & Russian was Bergzon. Actually the name was probably originally Berkzon meaning son of Berk, a patronymic surname. Back in the early 1800s when the Jews were forced to take surnames, one of my ancestors, the son of Berk, decided to use Berkzon/Bergzon. The problem with a patronymic surname is that 2 men living next door to each other could adopt the name Berkzon even if they're not related. This makes it more difficult to trace the family, especially if they moved around. 2 brothers could choose different surnames. Anyway, the change to Berger in the US may have been because it was more common and recognizable.

Sznajder to Schneider - whether it's spelled Sznajder, Sznaider, Shnayder, or Schneider, it means "tailor" in German and Polish. The Schneider spelling was probably just easier and more common in English. The pronunciation is practically the same, only the spelling changed.

Belinki/Bilinki to Belinsky - this one isn't too much of a stretch either. I can imagine how Belinki sounds in English spoken with a Yiddish accent...sounds like "blinky", someone who blinks a lot.

Belinsky to Bell - my guess is that this was again "for business reasons", trying to sound less Jewish. To me though, his first name Irving sounded Jewish already so changing the surname wouldn't make a difference.

Toker/Tokar to Tucker - this one makes sense to me. Tucker has a similar sound and is more recognizable.

Jablon to Yablon - this one makes sense too. The "j" in many Eastern European countries has a "y" sound so it was already pronounced "Yablon".

Jablon to Yablin - not sure how this one happened. This is a distant branch on my family tree. All Polish/Russian records for this branch show the name as Jablon. Several of cousins who came to America show up on the ship manifests as Yablin. It's interesting that the names were spelled that way on the manifests.


Jewelgirl said...

Sometimes they changed the names
because they wanted to become
"Americanized" and people were
finding it very hard to pronounce
their last names as they were
pronounced in the old country.
I have a few of those names. I
found one person who changed their nativity from Germany to France,
after WW I started,........
Or if you work on the ship passenger lists you find unbelievable spellings for easy names, this really drives me crazy!!!

Jewelgirl said...

Thanks for stopping by. You got
to read my submission for the
"carnival of genealogy" for Feb.
1st in which other family history writers submit articles about a
topic decided by the carnival.
If you would like to read us or
write & submit go to:
her January 18th has the last
carnival to read. Anyone can
submit! Hope to see you there!