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Question about surname changes during immigration

Every1LuvzAngie 1 | 11  
17 Jul 2009 /  #1
I haven't gotten the most welcoming responses on this site but Imma try again anyways cuz I don't like to judge a whole site on a few negative ppl....but here we go...

My grandma was born here but my great grandma was pregnant with her on the boat over lmao....they got here in 1920...

anyways, long story short. When they arrived at Ellis Island they made them change their surname to something more my grandma's surname was changed to Vitek.

I am not aware of the original spelling of the name because my grandma has memory problems and don't remember exactly what is question is there any way I can find out? Or am I screwed?

I really would love to know more about her family that they left over there when they came to America...any help would be great, and plz enough with the stupid rude comments, its unnecessary.

Thank you to anyone who can help me in advance!

Grzegorz_ 51 | 6,149  
17 Jul 2009 /  #2
so my grandma's surname was changed to Vitek

It could be Witek... but that's just a thought... To be sure you would have to find their documents issued in Poland or something...
18 Jul 2009 /  #3
Did your great grandparents ever apply for US citizenship? Their Polish name could appear on those documents. If they had other children who were born in the US their Polish name might have been recorded in the Church Baptismal records.

Have you looked at any of the Ports of Entry with name variations? What year did they arrive and where did they come in?
Another surname variation could be Witkowski.
It's a search well worth doing. Who knows what you'll find.
Peter 3 | 248  
18 Jul 2009 /  #4
Would'nt the passenger manifests which were filled out BEFORE the ship arrived in the US have the correct name and spelling? You'd need to know what day they arrived on and what ship though just to narrow the search range.

It also could be that the surname was mis-spelt on the arrival entries which has hampered my own searches.
Polonius3 994 | 12,380  
19 Jul 2009 /  #5
The name could not have been Vitek, because there is no v in Polish. So somebody changed it -- either some Ellis Island official, an employer or the immigrant himself. Vitek would be a logical phoentic respelling retaining the original pronunciation.

There arer more thn 13,000 Witeks in Poladn mainly inhbaiting the country's southland. WItek is short fro Witold, a popular Polish first name adapted from the Lithuanian Vytautas.

But it could have also been shortened from Witkowski (42,000 users in Poland), probably a toponymic nick from one of the many localities in Poland containing that root (Witków, Witkowo, Witkowice, etc.). But that shortening presuposses that the name-changer knew something about Polish, namely that the rooit of Witkowski is Witek. An Irish or WASP US Immirgration official may not have known that.
Peter 3 | 248  
19 Jul 2009 /  #6
FYI Every1LuvzAngie,

If you search on ancestry for "Witek" this is what you find.....

Exact Search Results - Historical Records
You searched for Witek Refine your search

Historical Records Family Trees Stories & Publications Photos & Maps
Find census, immigration, military, vital records and more.
Census & Voter Lists 1,416
574 1930 United States Federal Census
460 1920 United States Federal Census
199 1910 United States Federal Census
82 1900 United States Federal Census
33 California Voter Registrations, 1900-1968
» View all 1,416 results
Birth, Marriage & Death 2,425
539 Social Security Death Index
305 United States Obituary Collection
164 Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960
146 England & Wales, Marriage Index: 1916-2005
123 Cook County, Illinois Death Index, 1908-1988
» View all 2,425 results
Military 484
138 World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918
131 Stars and Stripes Newspaper, Europe, Mediterranean, and North Africa Editions, 1942-1964
67 U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946
59 U.S. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942
27 U.S. Veterans Gravesites, ca.1775-2006
» View all 484 results
Immigration & Emigration 1,120
641 New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957
130 Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934 (in German)
113 Baltimore Passenger Lists, 1820-1948
52 Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s
35 UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960
» View all 1,120 results
Directories & Member Lists 5,237
1,583 U.S. Phone and Address Directories, 1993-2002
1,525 U.S. Public Records Index
1,039 U.S. City Directories
371 Massachusetts City Directories
292 Connecticut City Directories
» View all 5,237 results
Reference Materials & Finding Aids 25
21 Biography & Genealogy Master Index (BGMI)
2 Spanish-American Family History Guide
1 Bury St Edmunds Abbey Archives
1 Geographic Reference Library
OP Every1LuvzAngie 1 | 11  
28 Jul 2009 /  #7
they moved to Pennsylvania when they came here so maybe I can get records from there....
Wroclaw 44 | 5,379  
28 Jul 2009 /  #8
Check the ship's manifest for next-of-kin. The original name may show up there.

It may also lead to a new name (grandmother's maiden name, for example, through a brother) or nothing.
caprice49 4 | 224  
6 Aug 2009 /  #9
Port officials were known to get surnames misspelt. There are lots of Witek's in Poland.


Could you help me decifer an address on - registration is free My great uncle Stefan Rybinski arrived in New York on Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm vessel January 16th 1910. The ship's manifiest provides an address which I'm finding difficult to decipher. 1008 Second Street - but cant read the rest. Or even if you decipher the surname that may help. We're trying to trace relatives, and for a long while have been searching in Chicago and just by sheer luck discovered Stefan came through New York.
Peter 3 | 248  
7 Aug 2009 /  #10
I'll take a look at it over the weekend and see if I can make anything out.............I have the same problem myself.

Could you help me decifer an address on

I'm looking at the manifest and even when magnified it is practically impossible to read, the ink having blotted into the paper when it was written.

What little I can decipher is..........

----- -----islaw --li--wicz
1008 -ec---- & -- (St ??) ----- ---
brother il

In hindsight after playing around with the magnification........

1008 Second Street & St Louis ---
caprice49 4 | 224  
11 Aug 2009 /  #11
I'm looking at the manifest and even when magnified it is practically impossible to read, the ink having blotted into the paper when it was written

Thanks. I've made some progress (thanks to the help of folks on this website) and found a potential candidate in Baltimore. Now I just need to check that he is the one and only. My family have been looking to trace since the end of WW1. It's just a shame they're not around. See thread Stefan Rybinski. I'm really grateful for your input.

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