Name of immigrant before arrival in USA- how do I find out? Please PM me

+4 votes
How to find out my 4x great fathers name before changing upon USA arrival? Please help--PMessage me
in Genealogy Help by Stephanie Bach G2G4 (4.1k points)
I have nothing to contribute to your particular ancestor, but would just like to wish you welcome onboard. Oh, and if you DO happen to have some emigrated Swedes on som other branch of your tree, I MAY be able to help. As the others have said, it is not always easy.

2 Answers

+2 votes
Best answer
That's one of the most frustrating things a genealogist faces- finding an ancestor who has changed his name. I know: I had one, and it took me near 40 years and a lot of serendipty to find his name. But I did, and hopefully, so can you.

What you need to find is the ship on which he came. That is the clue for most. On it should be records of the passengers, and hopefully he will have recorded or HAD recorded his real name.

If you do not know the name of the ship, you can still search through immigration records. It might take some time, if you don't know the appoximate year he arrived.

Many people who changed their names didn't do it deliberately. They were illiterate and someone else wrote it down for them. My ancestor came from Chile and his surname was Alderete. It was recorded (in various forms) as Alterator. It was still close enough to Alderete to be recognisable as the same name once I saw it. So, if your ancestor's name was changed by someone else, you might be able to guess its true form by looking at surnames from the country he came from.

Others, for reasons of their own, changed their names themselves. Sometimes they just do small changes (a relative of ours changed his from -io to -i ending). Some are radical. A relative of my husband's took his wife's surname, because he was afraid of persecution. It was alsmost the same as his own, but a translation. That is a good place to start. A name like Hart, might be a translation of Herz, White might be Bianco and so on.

Hope this helps. If you want to, put his name up and whatever info you have on him (origin etc). I might get a better idea. Cheers.
by Susan Scarcella G2G6 Mach 7 (73.3k points)
selected by Pip Sheppard

In my area, in what is now Catawba, Lincoln, and Gaston Counties, NC, most Germans kept their names, but others translated them. Zimmerman became Carpenter, etc. It’s the “sounds like” category that gets me. My ancestor, Peter Klopp settled here in the mid 1700s and pretty much kept his name, but none of his sons did. Clubb and Club in the records. Klopp does mean “club”, but it could also be a “sounds like.” This becomes difficult when checking passenger lists. One just has to look at the whole dad gum list for any spelling. 

+1 vote
Hi Stephanie.  I agree with Susan's answer, and I would add that a change in spelling of an emigrant's surname appears to be very common happening.  In some cases it was done on purpose just to "Americanize" the name, and there may have been several different new spellings within the same family.  If you Google "surname variations," you'll find a whole list of web sites that show common variations and alternate spellings of thousands of surnames.  One is  There are a number of others, as well as sites that address the origins and history of surnames.  Don't know if any of them will solve your problem, but spend a little time looking through them, and perhaps you'll stumble onto some possible clues.
by Dennis Barton G2G6 Pilot (476k points)

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