General => The Common Room => Topic started by: EJM526 on Thursday 30 July 20 01:00 BST (UK)

Title: Name Change?
Post by: EJM526 on Thursday 30 July 20 01:00 BST (UK)
There's nothing like spending your whole life thinking you come from a long line of "X" from Germany, only to find out an ancestor changed their name 3 generations back.
Is there any good answer to why one would change their last name? And not until many years after arriving to the USA?
Title: Re: Name Change?
Post by: Ruskie on Thursday 30 July 20 01:26 BST (UK)
There could be a multitude of reasons. Unless you can find some documentation you can only ever speculate.

If they were from Germany the name change could be due to wanting to appear more American to fit in. One I am aware of was simply because the person was teased for their surname so often went by another name. One of mine changed when he moved to a different county, but I later found out that both surnames have a similar derivation. If the names are completely different it could be due to wanting to hide identity due to criminal dealings.

What are the names and approximate dates of the change? Someone may be able to work out a reason.

Are you 100% sure you are looking at the same family under both surnames?

Title: Re: Name Change?
Post by: EJM526 on Thursday 30 July 20 01:39 BST (UK)
Up until the recent months, we believed our ancestors were Schneiders. But lacked information from the Schneider who emigrated from Germany. I came across a marriage certificate that listed Georg as a Streicher. I now, at least, believe it was accurate after I found that their first three children had the Streicher name on birth certificates, and then the 3rd had a name change to Schneider. After that, census records point to the name being Schneider (sometimes listed as Snyder and other variations). Georg was born in 1866, census says he came to the US in 1888, married in 1897, and didn't change the family name until after 1907 (When third child was 5)
Title: Re: Name Change?
Post by: aghadowey on Thursday 30 July 20 08:42 BST (UK)
Variations in spellings or names is actually quite common.

One of my paternal grandfather's German ancestors had a fairly uncommon surname in early 1700s but upon reaching America the spelling changed from ending with 'ele' to 'ley.' A generation or so later, and moving westward, our branch changed the middle bit from 'ue' to 'ee' and the 'ley' ending to 'ly.' Other branches changed the first letter of the surname to a similar sounding one as they moved even further west.
My mother, not terribly interested in genealogy, always looked in the phone book when arriving in another town on holiday to see how many relatives she could spot. Ironically the spelling my great-grandfather settled upon and still used by his descendants is very similar to an Irish surname so that when I have to provide my mother's maiden name no one here in Ireland comments on it.

Sometimes the spelling of a name is changed when arriving in a new country (foreign accent, illiterate/semi-illiterate immigrant/unconcerned official) and the newly arrived person finds it easier to use the new version from then on. This can also happen at any later stage when it's easier to go with a change rather than try to get a legal document corrected.
Title: Re: Name Change?
Post by: Kiltpin on Thursday 30 July 20 12:39 BST (UK)
Another thing is that most languages in Europe have their own alphabets - mostly like English, but not quite.   

The umlaut - ¨ -placed above vowels can be found in both French and German
Likewise the tilde - ~ - for Spanish. And the Poles have this - Ł

All these and many others modify the sound of letters. So even if people were literate and could spell their own names, they might not be able to be read. 

People take the path of least resistance - what they can personally accept and what will let them get on with their lives. 



Title: Re: Name Change?
Post by: iluleah on Thursday 30 July 20 13:21 BST (UK)
Spelling variants are very common, until the last century spelling was not considered important at all  and many people didn't read/write even up to 100yrs ago, so in documents scribes who could read/write wrote the name how it sounded to them, so each record could be written differently, once the general population could read/write themselves they would copy how the scribe of their record wrote it........ it was only once spelling became important that words including names were written the same.
We are very 'precious' about the spelling of our name nowadays but this is a 'new thing'

In so far as a whole new surname change, there are many reasons why, to 'distant' themselves from their family, to avoid or escape the law, to fit in when migrating or just as they fancied a new name
Title: Re: Name Change?
Post by: Ruskie on Thursday 30 July 20 13:31 BST (UK)
Streicher /Schneider - sounds like a variation rather than a deliberate change. :)
Title: Re: Name Change?
Post by: decor on Thursday 30 July 20 14:19 BST (UK)
Maybe because Schneider is easier for English speakers to pronounce than Streicher.

Or maybe after nearly 20 years, he was fed up of his name being pronounced Striker.
Title: Re: Name Change?
Post by: ThrelfallYorky on Thursday 30 July 20 15:38 BST (UK)
I'm told that in many cases it was the immigration staff of various more or less English speaking countries, who often "approximated" the name given to them by the immigrants.
Mutual ignorance of the language spoken by the staff and/ immigrant didn't help, nor did any lack of literacy.
Often the immigrating family were so grateful to have got to their destination that you could have called them "Puddingflump" and they'd not have argued.
To emigrate and leave your lifestyle, home and extended family behind must have been so big a decision that names were mere details.
Title: Re: Name Change?
Post by: Andrew Tarr on Friday 31 July 20 09:56 BST (UK)
Georg was born in 1866, census says he came to the US in 1888, married in 1897, and didn't change the family name until after 1907 (When third child was 5)

I don't know whether the same applied in the US, but in England as WW1 approached, many settlers from Germany decided to 'anglicise' their surnames - including our royal family, as is well known.  A friend of mine's ancestor arrived in Liverpool as Karle, which was altered to Carr - a very suitable English alternative.
Title: Re: Name Change?
Post by: brigidmac on Sunday 02 August 20 22:39 BST (UK)
Streicher to Schneider doesnt sound like an anglicization to me .
Do you know anything about the wider family
It would be interesting to know if Georg Streicher s siblings also kept  or changed their surname spellings.
Title: Re: Name Change?
Post by: Ruskie on Monday 03 August 20 06:04 BST (UK)
Depends how many examples you have of the “changed surname.”

If you have multitudes of examples of the new name after 1907 on various formal documents, and numerous examples of the previous surname on various documents, then it might have been an intentional change or variant.

If the only example of the name change is the 1907 document, then it might just be that whoever completed the document, misheard or misinterpreted the surname.

It is odd to change a Germanic sounding surname to a slightly different Germanic sounding surname.