OT - today I learned my real last name

Tom McAndrew

Well-Known Member
Staff
May 29, 2001
54,411
37,448
1
Tom, would this have been the same at other ports? I believe my Grandfather sailed into Philadelphia (or perhaps Baltimore) from either Germany or England. He did not go through Ellis Island. Thanks

@Nitwit -- the process wasn't as formalized in the 1880s. And Ellis Island didn't handle immigrants until 1892.

Philadelphia and Baltimore did have immigration operations (as did other port cities along the East Coast). I've done research on Philadelphia the most, but some research on a few of the other ports, and the processes just weren't as standardized in the 19th century.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Nitwit

Tom McAndrew

Well-Known Member
Staff
May 29, 2001
54,411
37,448
1
#13- on the STUTTGART's manifest, 4-10-1924
Vardzel is listed on the inventory, I'm wondering if he changed the name to Wardzel later in the courts. I know he would not have the money to have his name changed. My grandfather was born in America - western PA. No one left in the family to find an accurate account of the name change.

@step.eng69 -- I think @Midnighter2's explanation is the most plausible. I've done either historical or genealogical research on people from Germany and areas east of that in Europe, who emigrated to America, and it's not uncommon for their name to change (the spelling) within a generation (or 2) of being in America. It does add a hurdle to tracking an individual/researching a family, but some of the changes do appear to be based on nothing more than how the individual pronounces their name (as to how it was spelled when they were processed on arriving in the US).
May have to do with pronunciation; Germans/Europeans pronounce 'W's' as 'V's' and vice versa. So, 'Volkswagen' is pronounced 'Wolkesvagen' in Germany.
 

Tom McAndrew

Well-Known Member
Staff
May 29, 2001
54,411
37,448
1
FWIW, my ancestor arrived in Philly in 1775 and signed an indentured servants contract. The name or spelling is not how they spell it in Germany. Spelling in colonial times was a fairly flexible thing. Just read any colonial document or newspaper. I have seen revolutionary war documents that relate to my ancestor and the spelling is not consistent. I think that there are many reasons why names change.

My family was even approached by other people with a different spelling of our name and they proposed remarking the ancestor's original grave changing the spelling to the German version and we opposed it.

There was absolutely no formal immigration process in the 18th century. For that matter, there wasn't even a standardized spelling for most of the century.

For genealogical research, it does cause problems for non-English speaking individuals, as it's not uncommon for siblings, cousins, etc. to arrive in different years, and to spell their last name differently.

For historical research, it can be hard enough just to decipher the writing. And with no standardized spelling for most of the century, even if you get past understanding the letters in each word in a letter, diary, etc., you then have to try to figure out what the words are, what the abbreviations mean, etc.
 

LionsandBear

Well-Known Member
Dec 7, 2009
2,801
1,977
1
Good story. Like many in Central PA, my family came from Germany in the 1700s and immediately settled in PA Dutch Country. German was the spoken language in the Old and New country, so my name went unchanged.
 

Nitt1300

Well-Known Member
Nov 2, 2008
60,832
18,109
1
Statue-of-Liberty-New-York-USA.jpg
 
  • Like
Reactions: Nitwit

kgilbert78

Well-Known Member
Apr 9, 2013
8,489
5,193
1
May have to do with pronunciation; Germans/Europeans pronounce 'W's' as 'V's' and vice versa. So, 'Volkswagen' is pronounced 'Wolkesvagen' in Germany.
Eh, not quite. The W is pronounced more like an "f"--so "Folksvagen". I've lived in Germany and studied there.

In my family tree we have a maternal line of "Farrell". Always thought they were Irish. But then we found out that the family attended a Lutheran church in Hilltown in Bucks Co. before the Civil War A--German Lutheran church with services etc. in German--and the name was actually Ferrell (like Will). In a previous generation one of the surnames was Flake. But it came from Fluke which came from Fluck, which came from Pflug. All sound fairly similar. So I had a source of German heritage I did not know about until I did the research.

And, as Tom notes, Colonial spellings were often somewhat random--even after Colonial times. There are a a lot of variants on my surname, which is not a difficult one.
 

Midnighter2

Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2021
1,453
2,274
1
Eh, not quite. The W is pronounced more like an "f"--so "Folksvagen". I've lived in Germany and studied there.

In my family tree we have a maternal line of "Farrell". Always thought they were Irish. But then we found out that the family attended a Lutheran church in Hilltown in Bucks Co. before the Civil War A--German Lutheran church with services etc. in German--and the name was actually Ferrell (like Will). In a previous generation one of the surnames was Flake. But it came from Fluke which came from Fluck, which came from Pflug. All sound fairly similar. So I had a source of German heritage I did not know about until I did the research.

And, as Tom notes, Colonial spellings were often somewhat random--even after Colonial times. There are a a lot of variants on my surname, which is not a difficult one.

I mean, you’re picking nits - I lived there too (nearly five years). My friends said ‘schwarzwald’ like ‘schvartzvald’; the German spelling of Vienna is Wein and pronounced with a ‘v’ sound; Edelweiss is pronounced ‘Edelveiss.’ There are tons of examples. Point is if someone comes to America with a German name that begins with a V, when asked they likely pronounce it with a W sound and vice versa - this the evolution of the spelling.
 

kgilbert78

Well-Known Member
Apr 9, 2013
8,489
5,193
1
I mean, you’re picking nits - I lived there too (nearly five years). My friends said ‘schwarzwald’ like ‘schvartzvald’; the German spelling of Vienna is Wein and pronounced with a ‘v’ sound; Edelweiss is pronounced ‘Edelveiss.’ There are tons of examples. Point is if someone comes to America with a German name that begins with a V, when asked they likely pronounce it with a W sound and vice versa - this the evolution of the spelling.
You are correct about how the W is pronounced. The V--not so much. Look it up. F (fou not eff, though--it's a lighter F) or sometimes V--never W. All of your examples above are how "W" is pronounced.

Link
 

Midnighter2

Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2021
1,453
2,274
1
You are correct about how the W is pronounced. The V--not so much. Look it up. F (fou not eff, though--it's a lighter F) or sometimes V--never W. All of your examples above are how "W" is pronounced.

Link

Ok - so not ‘vice versa’ - but explains why last names that began with ‘W’ morphed into last names that began with ‘V’.

I’d add the European pronunciation of ‘v’ as a ‘w’ is more apparent in their pronunciation of English words like ‘victory’ and ‘vector’ - which are ‘wictory’ and ‘wector’ respectively; and something like ‘seven’ where they say ‘sewen’. This isn’t necessarily exclusive to Germany.
 
Last edited:

republion

Well-Known Member
Mar 24, 2009
1,775
2,979
1
Cool story bro! And I don’t mean that in the normal mocking way. It really is, a cool story. Congrats on finding out the info.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Nitwit

Marylovesthelions

Well-Known Member
Sep 29, 2008
6,605
2,185
1
76
Mt Dora FL
My Grandparents came to the USA in the 1880s from what we knew as Russia. I know my Grandfather didn’t want to serve in the Czar’s army so he switched identity with his younger brother, and as immigrants commonly did, found a ship to the USA with not much except what he could carry. When he arrived at the port at the age of 19, they asked him his name which he answered in Russian. They wrote down what they understood the English version of it was and for all generations since that has been our family name, although there was a suspicion that it was close but not completely accurate, which proved to be true. I’m not going to reveal here for privacy reasons. BTW my mother’s grandparents came from Belarus but at the time that was Russia too and we had better info about her family. They all considered themselves Russians.

Fast forward, my daughter found some records on Ancestry.com put together by a distant second cousin which has the real name - it was a fairly common name from the area of the Ukraine where my grandfather lived and elsewhere, and it was formerly part of Russia. So now in my old age I finally know what my real last name was and exactly where my Grandfather was from. BTW my Grandfather didn’t speak much English and although I visited him until he died at age 94, he didn’t talk much about the old county.

I think his family had a sawmill business there. He went on to build a furniture frame factory in Pennsylvania and was a successful and very hard working man. He would insist on running the lumber through the saws himself when he was 80 years old and my father and uncles who also worked at the factory had to talk him down feeling he would keel over. They died in their 50s and. 60s and my grandfather and his wife who was 10 years older both made it to 94. He had a good appetite and I remember he liked to eat 6 poached eggs with bread for his meal. He had a high forehead, a bushy mustache, and a broad smile and he always dressed up in a fancy suit and tie for holidays.

Anyway I’ll go to bed tonight with a certain sense of identity and satisfaction in learning my heritage. I’m sure as more investigatory work is done I’ll find out about distant relatives both here and abroad.

Thanks for indulging me by reading through this personal stuff. I’m sure others have stories of their found family histories.
I never met my father. He passed thru town thousands of times as I grew up. I had his last name but consider myself a Pratz. My mother's maiden name. A name is not as important as what you do to make a difference in this world.
 

HazletonLion

Well-Known Member
Nov 17, 2003
3,643
2,576
1
Just a tip on Ancestry they have a free search for family military records back to the American Revolution. I'll open up a new message in another thread.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Midnighter2

dailybuck777

Well-Known Member
Jan 2, 2018
7,721
10,067
1
My Grandparents came to the USA in the 1880s from what we knew as Russia. I know my Grandfather didn’t want to serve in the Czar’s army so he switched identity with his younger brother, and as immigrants commonly did, found a ship to the USA with not much except what he could carry. When he arrived at the port at the age of 19, they asked him his name which he answered in Russian. They wrote down what they understood the English version of it was and for all generations since that has been our family name, although there was a suspicion that it was close but not completely accurate, which proved to be true. I’m not going to reveal here for privacy reasons. BTW my mother’s grandparents came from Belarus but at the time that was Russia too and we had better info about her family. They all considered themselves Russians.

Fast forward, my daughter found some records on Ancestry.com put together by a distant second cousin which has the real name - it was a fairly common name from the area of the Ukraine where my grandfather lived and elsewhere, and it was formerly part of Russia. So now in my old age I finally know what my real last name was and exactly where my Grandfather was from. BTW my Grandfather didn’t speak much English and although I visited him until he died at age 94, he didn’t talk much about the old county.

I think his family had a sawmill business there. He went on to build a furniture frame factory in Pennsylvania and was a successful and very hard working man. He would insist on running the lumber through the saws himself when he was 80 years old and my father and uncles who also worked at the factory had to talk him down feeling he would keel over. They died in their 50s and. 60s and my grandfather and his wife who was 10 years older both made it to 94. He had a good appetite and I remember he liked to eat 6 poached eggs with bread for his meal. He had a high forehead, a bushy mustache, and a broad smile and he always dressed up in a fancy suit and tie for holidays.

Anyway I’ll go to bed tonight with a certain sense of identity and satisfaction in learning my heritage. I’m sure as more investigatory work is done I’ll find out about distant relatives both here and abroad.

Thanks for indulging me by reading through this personal stuff. I’m sure others have stories of their found family histories.
My paternal grandparents were Southern Italians and my grandfather was illiterate. My father had 5 sisters. Everyone knew their given name was incorrect, but neither my father nor his sisters had any interest in finding out what their real name was. My mother (of English descent) wanted to visit Italy but my father had zero interest. My speculative guess is that he thought that his relatives were poor and that where his grandparents were born might be poor and dirty. Personally, I have always been fascinated by Italian history.

About 18 months ago (while preparing to file for Italian dual citizenship), I finally found my grandfather's real name. Between the different vowels in my grandparents first and last names, they went by about 15 different (sometimes trivially so) names during their lifetime. There is no birth certificate for my father in Northern Ohio, although there is a baptismal certificate. In about 4 or 5 months, will find out whether Italian consulate will accept my documentary evidence.