Sunday, December 23, 2012


A common myth with family research is that the immigration officers purposely changed my families surname. This is a myth that needs to be broken. Remember when our family members entered the country they spoke with heavy accents and many were speaking a completely different language that that of the immigration officer. The immigration officers were reviewing hundreds of people every day. The goal was to take information quickly and accurately to process the new arrivals. Often errors occurred in the communication. Spelling errors were common. Language and accents played an important part in the mistakes. Immigrants often lacked the ability to read or write English when they came to this country. When the clerk showed them the information and asked if it was correct they would say Yes not realizing that an error had been made. This was by far the more common reason for the errors. This would even occur with English speaking people that did not know how to read. What would appear as simple names would sound correct to the ear, but be spelled wrong on the paper. As they worked there way into the fabric of our country the likely hood of the error's continuing was even more dramatic. The people our ancestors were coming in contact we in a lot of cases spoke and wrote English. It would take a while before our ancestors would if at all. This is a big reason why non English speaking immigrants located in the same communities with other folks that spoke the same language. Many of the non English speaking men would obtain jobs where communication was not their primary function, but using their muscles was. Mistakes were made from both parties. Confirming spellings with at least thee different sources is key. Listening to the stories of name origins are key. Name origins is one of the most difficult things to understand as genealogist. Keep track of all the various spellings. You will not know which was is correct until you have done a complete search.

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