It's a Historical Myth That Immigrants' Names Were Changed at Ellis Island

In the 1974 film The Godfather Part II, young Vito Andolini from Corleone, Sicily is processed by immigration officials at Ellis Island. A clerk who doesn’t speak Italian writes his name down as “Vito Corleone”, thus changing the name of this fictional family for all time.

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I remember learning in middle school that it was common for these immigration officials to change the names of immigrants because they didn’t understand them or to intentionally Anglicize them to encourage assimilation.

That is an urban legend.

Rosemary Meszaros, a government documents librarian, and Katherine Pennavaria, a genealogical librarian, published an article in 2018 in the scholarly journal Documents to the People that argues that the documentary records simply don’t support the notion that immigration clerks changed immigrants’ names.

Immigration to the United States at the time was carefully controlled and recorded. Ellis Island officials used written records established before the immigrants even arrived on American shores. They knew who was on which ships and checked in immigrants against pre-established manifests.

Don’t believe everything you learn in school.

-via Marginal Revolution

Source: neatorama

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