These Days, Immigrants Keep, Cherish Their Names

Ellis Island white-washing a thing of the past
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 26, 2010 10:15 AM CDT
Ellis Island's ferry building, partially seen at right, was where many new Americans who passed their legal and health inspections disembarked for destinations all over the country.   (AP Photo/Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island)
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(Newser) – Our long-simmering great American Melting Pot may finally be ready to handle a little ethnic spice: Unlike in Ellis Island's heyday, when wave upon wave of tired, poor, huddled masses anglicized their names in order to assimilate, today's immigrants are sticking with their surnames. “For the most part, nobody changes to American names any more at all," one immigration lawyer tells the New York Times.

“If you are talking about 1910, the social forces on conformity were much stronger,” says a historian with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. A few, however, are bowing to a hostile religious climate, the Times notes, with several of the petitions for name changes it reviewed coming from men dropping Mohammed as a first name, while another family ditched Islam as its surname. But even those seeking simplicity sometimes fail: One man who recently traded Glauberman for Grant was asked while leaving a message, “Is that Grand with a ‘d’ or Grant with a ‘t’?”

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