My surname has been problematic for most of my life. It is often mispronounced unintentionally, and sometimes intentionally. I have had some strange nicknames derived from my last name--like nozzie or just noz. So I always assumed that when I married, I would change my name immediately. But, I didn't. My husband's surname, Gerstein, is fairly common, easy to spell and pronounce. So why didn't I change? When I got married, in 1981, many women did not change their names when they married, and I was also a bit lazy, so I just kept the status quo.
Now I will get to the interesting part. In spite of keeping this surname, I have found out in my genealogical research, that Noznick isn't my family surname at all. My real surname is Nyznyk.
Many people assume that surnames were changed when people went through Ellis Island--but actually that didn't happen. An immigrant's name was recorded on ships' manifests at the port of embarkation, and written according to the immigrant's passport. When the person got to Ellis Island, that manifest was copied, often in longhand, and the immigrant's personal information was recorded. From what I have seen, nothing was changed at this time.
Many immigrants changed, shortened or Americanized their names after they were in the United States. On my side of the family, my mother's family name went from Kociuba to Koshuba. My grandmother's surname, Rychlyj, was changed to either Rychly or Rychley. In my husband's family, his grandmother's surname was changed from Monkovski, to Markin by some cousins. Karbovsky was changed to Krause in the 1930's. In the Gerstein family, his great Aunt's Biele Schwartz's married name was changed from Mankevetsky---to Mancoff. Her first name became Becky.
|Peter Noznick in Central Park, NYC,about 1930.|
|1930 United States Census, listing the Noznick family.|
|John Nyznyk's application for US Citizenship, 1930.|
How did he solve the problem of establishing his identity? He did get the passport and made the trip abroad. He obtained an affidavit stating that he was Peter Noznick and had been known by that name since high school.
|My Dad in the 1934 Crystal, the yearbook of Windham High School.|
How did Nyznyk become Noznick? The fact that his mother was illiterate, and did not speak English very well may have contributed to the transformation of nyznyk to noznick. Since the name sounded a bit like noznick, he became Peter Noznick. Perhaps the teachers knew of the Noznick family, who lived in New York City, and spelled my dad's surname in a was that was familiar to them. My Dad's father was literate, so his name was never changed, misspelled or mangled like my Dad's was.
So what about the Noznick surname? It is an uncommon name, but as I researched my family history, I found there were several Noznick families living in New York City. I have no idea what their ethnic background was, and I have found no family connection with any of these people.