Why the New York Times is Wrong – Using Basic Genealogy Tools and Methods to Show that Your Family Name Was Not Changed At Ellis Island.
There is a common misconception, call it an old wives tale or an urban legend, that family names were often changed at Ellis Island. Such myths gain a great deal of credibility when newspapers such as the New York Times, the country’s “paper of record”, perpetuates these myths by repeating them, in this case in obituaries.
When Kenneth saw one of these obituaries a few years ago, he wrote to the Times pointing out their error and suggesting sources that they could check to verify what he was saying. When they seemed to ignore him, he did the research on the family of the person named in the obituary and was able to show what the name was when the family immigrated and how the family name changed as they adapted to life in the United States. He sent all of the proof to the Times and was still ignored. Finally the Times responded. They were not going to do anything to correct the erroneous obituary but suggested they might do a news story on the issue. The experience led him to do a search of other Times obituaries with the Ellis Island story. He located about half a dozen. After doing the research on each, he was able to show the original name for each of them.
Kenneth A. Bravo received his JD from The Ohio State University, College of Law and his B.A. degree in Economics from Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey. He is Vice President of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) and, the former president and current member of the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland. Bravo has lectured on a number of genealogical topics.
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