Contributing author Schelly Talalay Dardashti is the US Genealogy Advisor for MyHeritage.com
Your family name has evolved since it was adopted. It may represent your family's sojourns in different countries; its spelling and pronunciation may have changed, and it may have been changed following a recent immigration (although not at Ellis Island).
Other factors are easy to understand. Spelling wasn't engraved in stone, people were illiterate or not literate in the language of a specific area. Our ancestors didn't know how to spell their names and government officials were responsible for recording the names in registers or in important documents.
WHY IS IT SO HARD?
The official wrote the name the way he heard it. Perhaps the official was elderly and deaf in one ear, or your ancestor had a speech impediment or an accent. When your ancestor's cousin came in to record a later birth, however, a new younger official sat behind the desk, one whose hearing was excellent and the cousin spoke clearly.
When immigrants moved to a new country, they often changed their names. They wanted to make it easier for themselves, their neighbors and employers to spell or pronounce their names, and for official documents. If the original names were written in other alphabets - such as Cyrillic (Russian, Bulgarian etc.) - they were phonetically transliterated into English, providing many new spelling possibilities. Accents or dialects further complicated the choices.
New York filmmaker Francesco Paciocco did, and the result is a short documentary – Birthplace - about his ancestral home. Importantly, it addresses the importance of where our families come from and what it means to us.
No matter what background we come from, who our parents are or where we currently live, we only have one birthplace.
No matter where we live, our race, color or creed, we all have roots somewhere. History progresses, societies evolve, and people shift location. Origins, however, remain the same.
Past generations of our families crossed mountains and oceans to find better lives. But Paciocco asks how they felt about their choices, and what impact it left on future generations who today have only stories and old photographs to look through.
As our ancestors – or more recently, ourselves, parents or grandparents – traveled thousands of miles to find safety in another country for various reasons, the process of adapting to life in a new place is often challenging.
My great-grandparents came from Belarus to Newark, New Jersey, in 1905. While they barely ever learned English themselves, they made sure that their children learned English and that they did well in school. Their children and grandchildren went on to college and became doctors, engineers or entered other professions. Perhaps it was easier for them as the Yiddish-speaking immigrant community in Newark of that time was so large. There was always someone – who had arrived much earlier and learned the system - to help out with the language or whatever problem needed to be solved.
It is different when an immigrant is part of a new, smaller group of people who have only recently arrived. The community support system is not yet that well-established and the immigrants or refugees rely on the wider community to help them.
A recent study by sociologists at the University of Dayton (Ohio) indicates that adjusting to linguistic and cultural differences is a daunting task. They presented the new research at the 107th meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA).
A fifth-generation New Zealander and MyHeritage user, Carol Marriott is working on a few mysteries of history involving her family, which arrived in 1842.
The Martha Ridgway was the sixth immigrant ship sent by the New Zealand Company.
Its second voyage left Liverpool on November 6, 1841, and arrived behind Boulder Bank in Nelson Haven on April 7, 1842.
Among the steerage class married couples were Charles, 30, and Sarah Inkersell, 32, who had registered with a New Zealand company agent in Burton-on-Trent, and Eli and Ellen Cropper, with their 3-month-old daughter Mary Ann, who had registered in Halifax.
In the overcrowded shared deck space surrounded by deaths, births, terrible storms and extreme temperatures, the two couples would have come to know each other well.
Earlier this week a cruise ship, the Costa Concordia, ran aground and sank off the coast of Italy.
While a tragic event for all involved, reports have started coming in about one passenger, Valentina Capuano, and the bad luck she now shares with an ancestor.
In a strange twist of fate, Capuano’s grandmother was a passenger on The Titanic, which hit an iceberg 100 years ago on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.
Tyler’s professional success is known to many. Aerosmith has sold more than 150 million records worldwide, while American Idol, on which he is a judge, is the top-rated American television show.
Not as well known are the details of his amazingly diverse heritage, the rich history of musicians among his ancestors or the complex structure of his current family including his partners (ex and current) and his children.
To kick things off, we’ve pulled together Tyler’s family tree.
Click on the image below (or HERE) to be taken to the actual family tree on MyHeritage.
As part of our research on Tyler’s family, we found some other fascinating information.
On November 29 - 57 years ago- the greatest monument to a proud history of American immigration was closed. I am talking, of course, about Ellis Island.
During a 2008 trip to New York, I visited Ellis Island (I’m from the UK) with my family.
Many visitors to New York take the ferry to the Statue of Liberty for that iconic photograph. Fortunately, we had the foresight to remain on the ferry and visit Ellis Island. It was worth it.
Although the architecture of the Main Building (now the Immigration Museum) does hint that Ellis Island comprises an important part of American history, it isn’t until one enters The Great Hall that you realise the sheer number of immigrants that Ellis Island handled. It is very substantial - to anyone’s eyes!
This week's edition includes expansion of a digital newspaper archive, new and updated FamilySearch records, African immigration to Nova Scotia, classes, seminars and more.
ProQuest, considered the world’s largest digital newspaper archive, is expanding its Historical Newspapers collection. It is accessible for free at most US public libraries.
The newest offerings are historic American Jewish and regional newspapers dating from 1841 and covering Boston, the Ohio Valley and New York City, offering primary resources for researchers.
The papers include The Jewish Advocate (the oldest continuously-circulating Jewish newspaper in the US, a Boston-based weekly) and The American Hebrew/Jewish Messenger (from 1857, covering events before and during the Civil War). Later this year, the Jewish Exponent (1887-1990, Philadelphia) will be added, as well as the Jerusalem Post (1932-1988).
Regional coverage will expand with Newsday (1940-1984, mainly covering Long Island, NY), and the Cincinnati Enquirer (1841-1922, Ohio River Valley)
ProQuestHistorical Newspapers™ began with digital archives of a handful of major American newspapers and has grown to encompass more than 20 dailies from around the world. Collections such as Historical Black Newspapers™ and the growing number of regional papers enable researchers to conduct deep dives on specific topics and also to compare multiple perspectives of the same events. The archive is continually growing and now encompasses more than 30 million pages.
The ProQuest platform allows researchers to share, create and collaborate. Check with your local library to see if it subscribes. I know my library does. For more information, visit ProQuest.com.
Just in time for the collection is a free podcast- available on iTunes - by Lisa Louise Cooke, offered by Family Tree Magazine and focusing on tips for searching old newspapers online, finding historic books on the Web and more. Don’t know what a podcast is? Click here for Lisa's podcast primer.
Looking for more records?
MyHeritage is on the road once again - this time to Washington DC for the 31st IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, August 14-19.
This time next week, Chief Genealogist Daniel Horowitz, Genealogy Advisor for the UK Laurence Harris and myself (Genealogy Advisor for the US Schelly Talalay Dardashti) will be attending, presenting programs and staffing the MyHeritage display booth.
We look forward to meeting with old friends, with happy MyHeritage users and making many new friends.
In addition to our new MyHeritage Challenge - read below for how you can participate - we are all speaking at the week-long event.
New information from Sensis, the publisher of the White Pages in Australia, has highlighted the increasing popularity of non-Anglo Saxon surnames in New South Wales (NSW), the most populous state of Australia.
And the change is not a small one.
The Daily Telegraph, one of the major daily newspapers in NSW, has reported that 7 of the top 20 surnames in NSW have Asian roots – a sign of the changing face of Australia.
Those surnames, Lee, Nguyen, Chen, Kim, Wang, Zhang and Li, will finally help the rest of the world understand what many Australians already know and love – the fact that Australia is no longer a white, Anglo-Saxon colony in the middle of the South Pacific.