Surname changed on arrival in US

New user here. Just in the process of moving data into Gramps from MS Office etc… My grandfather was born Francis McCormack in Ireland. He immigrated to US in 1914. I have his birth certificate and the ship manifest that list his surname as McCormack but the Ellis Island docs list it as McCormick. Word of mouth among my aunts and uncles is that the immigration officers sometimes spelled names wrong based on what they think they heard from the applicant. If I list him in my FT with his birth name as a McCormack he becomes his own Family and I don’t know how to tie him to his children and spouse, nor do I see where to note the change in surname. Using either spelling in his Name field disconnects him from some other records. Help or suggestions would be welcome.

The Ellis Island officers used the names from the passenger lists, second, most of them was multilingual, so the most likely place the typing error was, was when the people was registered in the passenger list…

Gramps supports a person having multiple names. The ‘Names’ tab in the Person Editor shows preferred and alternate names and allows you to add/edit/remove/shift order of these names.

Gramps also supports ‘Name Grouping’ for displaying people with similar names (or even dissimilar ones) together for situations like this. You can set this up in the lower half of the Person Name editor (accessed by editing (double-clicking) one of the names in the name tab, or with the edit icon to the far right of the ‘Given’ name in the top of the person editor.


Welcome Brian

Firstly, in Gramps, a person can have more than one name recorded. In the person’s edit window, there is the Names tab. Here you can add other names. So you can give your grandfather his Birth name as well as the name he was known by after immigration. You can set this new name with a type. You can also add dates, notes and citations for each name.

You can drag-n-drop which name is put in the preferred name position which determines the displayed name and the how it it is sorted.

Note: there are also options to override the default display and sort names most useful when titles and suffixes come into play but probably not applicable in this case.

If you leave your grandfather’s birth name as the Preferred name but want him sorted in Gramps with his McCormick descendants, you can Override how his name is grouped. Check the Override box, and the attached name field becomes available. You can override the McCormack with McCormick and select the option for him alone or for everyone named McCormack. It does not change a person’s name. It only changes where the name is Grouped in sorted name listings.

See the Name Editor for more information.

I am an avid user of the Group As override. @emyoulation was kind enough to add it to the wiki so I do not have to type it out again. If interested you can find it here as Grouping Surnames.


Some interesting reading:

Why Your Family Name Was Not Changed at Ellis Island (and One That Was)
by Philip Sutton, Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History & Genealogy, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
July 2, 2013

Did Ellis Island Officials Really Change the Names of Immigrants?
by Alicia Ault
Smithsonian Magazine
December 28, 2016

The Ellis Island Name Change Myth
by Joel Weintraub, PhD
November 2015; Revised March 2017

They Changed Our Name at Ellis Island
by Will Moneymaker


My most interesting finding was a cousin’s grandfather leaving Ireland. The ship manifest on embarking at Queenstown (Cobh) was Keefe. The ship manifest on disembarking in Boston had him listed as O’Keefe. Looking at a few other pages from both manifests, his was the only change that I found.

He and his descendants only ever used Keefe.

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I think I got it figured out. What’s strange about this is the ship manifest very legibly list McCormack, yet every artifact I have from any US source shows McCormick. He had 8 children with 2 different wives. Both children with first wife are McCormick (including my father) but two of the other six (the second and the third) use McCormack, although I have no artifacts for them. Its a mystery. So I put my grandfather in with McCormick as preferred surname with Type: Unknown, and McCormack as an Alternate surname with Type: Birth. I will have a few other entries from folks in Ireland who all use McCormack so I’ll need to have that entered as a new Family when I get there. Thanks for all the help. This is a powerful tool, yet not a brainstrainer to learn.

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