Ellis Island et al. (was: Re: O'Kun)

Peter A. McGraw pmcgraw at LINFIELD.EDU
Tue Jul 30 17:41:32 UTC 2002

I've always wondered whether the spelling of my surname was the result of
an Ellis Island clerk's approximation of the name as he (probably) heard
it, or whether it might represent a choice my immigrant ancestors to
sacrifice the spelling McGrath in an attempt to get people over here to at
least approximate its pronunciation in Ireland, [mIgra:].  I hadn't heard
about the ships' logs as a possible source for a respelling, but I wonder
about it.  It seems highly unlikely that anyone in Ireland (even a British
steamship line official stationed there), where an emigrant's steamship
ticket would have been issued, would misspell a name that's one of the most
common in Ireland and is NEVER spelled McGraw there.  In any case, would
U.S. immigration officials really get the passengers' names from a ship's
log?  Even if it was before the age of passports, wouldn't
emigrants/immigrants have carried official identification "papers" of some
sort, and wouldn't immigration officials have taken the names from those?
(I haven't seen the research that reached the ship's log conclusion--maybe
it somehow ruled this out.)

Peter Mc.

--On Friday, July 26, 2002 10:20 PM -0500 Donald M Lance
<lancedm at MISSOURI.EDU> wrote:

> There's a video out by an Alan Berliner who looked up other people with
> that name and had a dinner in New York for 12 of them.  He did lots of
> research for the project, including interviewing people who actually
> worked at Ellis Island.  They simply took the names from the ships' logs,
> so the changes were made before they got on the boat or after they had
> cleared through the Ellis facility.

                               Peter A. McGraw
                   Linfield College   *   McMinnville, OR
                            pmcgraw at linfield.edu

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