Stanczyk like almost all genealogists wrestles with names. What is in a name? Well if your name has Slavic roots then your name will be like a Polish sausage made from a family recipe, with no two ever completely alike. As a jester, I could appreciate John Ryś ‘s article, “Dealing With Sound Equivalents in the Polish Language“, from the PGSA’s Fall 2011 Rodziny journal, pages 20-22. What caught my eye and my heart’s fancy was the sub-title, “How Can One Possibly Misspell a Simple Three-Letter Name…”. Indeed! This jester empathizes with John Ryś. My own family, as I have always joked about, is very unlike Polish names. Look it has three vowels … out of six letters ! How could you possibly misspell that ??? Well this is about names — but not their difficulty or their many misspellings for which Slavic names are legendary — a real genealogical nightmare.
This article is about name changes. Let me just state up front, that my own name has been changed. As of 10-January-2012, my family has legally changed its name and is hence forth called: ELIASZ-SOLOMON. This jester “hyphenated” his name to reflect and to honor my wife’s family. Her name became inverted from Solomon-Eliasz to Eliasz-Solomon so that all of us in the burgeoning family of ours (including our sons) would have the same name, spelled the same way. What’s in our name?
Let me break it down this way. ELIASZ (also spelled Elijasz, Heliasz, and Eljasz — misspelled/mistranscribed too many ways to enumerate) is Polish for ‘ELIJAH’ the prophet from the Old Testament who was translated by God. You might think it is a Jewish name since that is its etymology. If it is so, I have not found it to be so for my family for whom I have Catholic records back into the 1690’s. There are in fact Jewish Eliasz (and many other variations besides those listed above) and I have often remarked on this fact to my father. For it was common for Jewish families when they were forced to adopt permanent family names to select a family name from the Bible. That leads me to the second/Jewish part of my name, SOLOMON. Everybody, just about the whole world, knows that SOLOMON is from the great, wise king SOLOMON (third and last king of the unified kingdom of Israel). Solomon in America, is the reverse of Eliasz. It is mostly a Jewish family name, although there a good number of Anglo-Saxon Solomons (usually spelled Salomon or Soloman). Of course, the Jewish and the Christian versions of the Solomon name are often spelled the other way engendering more confusion on the name.
So we are a PROPHET-KING family name now.
Now most Central European genealogists, know our ancestors changed their names quite often, to our dismay — since there was no Internet to record these changes and make them public for future genealogists. In my own family lines through just my paternal grandmother alone, we see that LESZCZYNSKI (also a king name) became LESTER. We also see that SOBIESZCZANSKI became SOBB. So name changes are nothing new for my family (and I assume for yours as well). In fact, name changes have been happening for a long while. Recall that JACOB had his name changed to ISRAEL (“wrestles with God”).
Contrary to popular notion our ancestors did not change their name going through Ellis Island. Your name coming into the USA had to match the ship manifest and ticket, so no names were changed (although I am quite sure that some Americans came here under an assumed name — using the tickets purchased by another person). The most common way was to change the name on the NATURALIZATION papers (which is no doubt how the mis-notion of changing the name coming from Ellis Island started). My own aunt Alice was Aleksandra on the Ship manifest (1913) and on US Censuses until she changed her name when she became a US Citizen and adopted Alice. Our ancestors did a name change to “Americanize” their names, often quite humorous in their attempt to do so.
Of course, for centuries women have changed their names when they got married. Now a days, women and men adopt hyphenated family names at marriage. It is unclear what the next generation afterwards will do when two already hyphenated people marry; as it seems unlikely they will adopt a four name hyphenation as a family name out of a practical matter (computer systems hate extremely long names — just look at the social network software: Facebook or Twitter). So name changes will become a regular hurdle for modern genealogists to get over (particularly so when one considers divorce rates).
Here is a little info for genealogists unfamiliar with the process:
- A petition is filed with the court (in the county where the person lives)
- The name change is published in two newspapers (pre-determined by the court)
- A judge will issue a decree declaring the name change
Afterwards, the normal paper records will document the name evolution from old name to new name for the individual. But it will be best to check both names. Besides court records or newspapers, I have seen the name change annotated in church records too!
So future descendants whoever you may be. Be forewarned, ELIASZ-SOLOMON was once ELIASZ or SOLOMON. That should be obvious. But for my descendants and my wife, Tereza, it all started in 10-January-2012 — please take note. I am also offering an apology to future genealogists for further muddying the waters on whether or not the name is Catholic or Jewish — just deal with it. Legal Decrees are shown below …