The Descendents of Abraham Lagovsky and Libe Goodseit

Name Changes

Is it Lagwskie or is it Lagowsky or is it Lagovsky? Is it Gittlja Jarcho or is it Gussie Jaffe? How about Liwow or Lewon? Is Yetta Liebhoff really Loretta Lewon?

Researching eastern European Jewish ancestry can be quite a challenge. Not only is there a language barrier but records can be hard to find. Many records were lost during the holocaust and existing records are scattered throughout dozens of archives and repositories. Not living in Eastern Europe means that a researcher must depend on databases located locally like the LDS Family History Centers or online. Online databases like JewishGen are adding new records all the time but compared to researching families with western European ancestry there is still not much online information available. Research in the period after the eastern European Jewish immigrant ancestor arrived in America continues to be a challenge because of the myriad name changes and spelling variations of the same name.

Name and spelling changes were common among recent eastern European Jewish immigrants. The popular perception for the changes is that they occurred when the immigrants arrived at Ellis Island and U.S. immigration officials deliberately changed their name because they couldn't understand how the immigrant was pronouncing it or they felt it was too foreign sounding or complicated. In fact it is highly unlikely this is how the name change occurred. U.S. Immigration officials didn't arbitrarily write down names. They worked from passenger lists that were created by the shipping companies. Immigrants usually bought tickets from offices near their home so in all likelihood the ticket seller spoke the same language and transcribed the name correctly. If the name was recorded incorrectly it likely occurred at this point either because the immigrant was illiterate and couldn't spell his name or because there were several spelling variations and the shipping clerk didn't write down the correct spelling. If the reason for the name changes wasn't the immigration process, then why were the names changed?

The reality is that eastern European Jewish immigrants usually changed their own names. Today names are recorded at birth and are usually never changed unless a child is adopted or a woman changes hers when she marries. Although it is legal for a person to use any name they wish unless the purpose is fraudulent, and some members of this family tree have done so, most people don't change their names because of the many documentation requirements. That wasn't the case at the turn of the century when there were no rules about name changes and people could change their first and last names whenever they chose.

Immigrants changed their names for many reasons. The main reason was to fit into their new country better. Like immigrants everywhere, the children were especially eager to assimilate so they usually changed their style of clothing and adopted a more American name even if their parents didn't. Changing a name might mean simplifying the spelling or pronunciation of the original name by dropping syllables or difficult letter combinations. It also might mean changing it all together. Sometime the change took the form of literally translating the eastern European surname into an American equivalent. Sometimes the name changes, especially with given names, took place because the new immigrants simply liked a new name and chose to make it their own. And sometimes names may not have been deliberately changed but evolved over time into another pronunciation or spelling. This family tree has examples of all of these name changes.

Confusion involving eastern European Jewish immigrant names also can occur when two given names were used during the immigrants lives: an Americanized name for outsiders and the original foreign name within the family. This is common with first generation immigrants and the Lagovskys and their children were no exception. For instance the oldest daughter, Gertrude was also known by the family nickname Gussie. This can lead to confusion in researching records when family members use the private nickname rather than the more public name.

Another challenge with names in family history research is not confined to eastern European Jewish immigrant research. That is the spelling of names in various U.S. records. The census is notorious for its misspellings, inaccuracies and omissions but it is hardly the only record with those problems. The problem is human error and although it is common in all records, it is especially problematic in records involving non western immigrants. The people who actually recorded the names in the records, like the census taker, the county clerk, or the tax collector, may have spelled the names in various ways or changed and left out letters. If the records are online there is the additional problem of transcription errors due to hard to read handwriting. The variation and errors found in the family records in this tree are no exception.

Name changes in eastern European Jewish immigrant ancestors can make research frustrating at times but it is always interesting and sometimes even amusing

Lagovsky* Family Tree Name Variations and Changes

Abraham Lagovsky Abraham Lagofsky 1910 census
  Abraham Lagovsky 1920 census
  Abraham Lagofsky New York death index
Libe Goodseit Lagovsky Liebe Lagowski passenger list
  Libby Lagofsky 1910 census
  Lena Lagovsky 1920 census
  Libe Lagovsky New York death index
Gertrude Lagovsky Jaffe Gittlja Jarcho passenger list
  Gussie Jaffe 1920 census
Anna Lagovsky Lewon Chiske Lewow passenger list
  Anna Levow 1910 census
  Annie Lewow 1920 census
  Anne Lewon 1930 census
  Anna Login Lewon California death index
Charles Login Golulie Lagowskie passenger list
  Charles Lagofsky 1910 census
  Charles Login 1920 census
  Charley Login 1930 census
  Charles Login California death index
Max Login Motil Lagowski passenger list
  Max Lagofsky 1910 census
  Max Login 1920 census
  Max Logan 1930 census
  Max Login California death index
Sarah Login Olarsch Chaie Lagowska passenger list
  Sarah Lagofsky 1910 census
  Sarah Olarech 1920 census
Esther Login Libin Esther Lagowski passenger list
  Esther Lagofsky 1920 census
  Esther Login marriage certificate
  Esther Libin 1920 and 1930 census

*There are several spelling variants for Lagovsky including Lagofsky which other family members have used. I have decided to use Lagovsky as the spelling in this web site because that is how it is spelled on Libe's death certificate. Abraham was the source of the information on her death certificate and my reasoning is that he would know more than anyone what the correct spelling for their name was. If you have corrections or new information to add please contact me and let me know.


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