This is a post I did awhile back. It is extremely important to me but I also find one of my fellow bloggers had a great story which she sent to me from comments. Here are both.
My own story of immigration has no documentation just oral history which I believe has been distorted.
I believe, and remember the facts maybe distorted, that my Great Grandfather’s name was Maxovitch Vesbrobnik. He was from Russia and came over to Ellis Island about 1909.
The problem at Ellis Island was the sheer amount of people it needed to process on a daily basis. Of thousands of people a day only two percent were not allowed into this country. The main reason was health issues.
The average wait at the island to be processed was only two to three hours. There was the forms that were filled out on the ship and the manifest document which aided the interviewing personnel. Language problems were always present. Translators were rare and sometimes a person had their words misinterpreted.
My Great Grandfather probably had a document but it was in Russian. It is a different language completely. It is not one of the Latin Languages which have some similarity. It is in Serilic. The interviewers were generally not Russian. The pressure of getting everyone done by the end of the day was enormous. Just think, where do you house all the people you can not process. That is why there were many cracks in the system as mistakes were usually buried in paperwork. The immigrants did not care as long as they got in. Many lied about their age. If they were alone and thought they had to be eighteen they lied and said eighteen. That is why many of them have the wrong age when they died. My wife’s Grandmother had a discrepancy of two years.
Maxovitch had a different problem. His name was to long and the interviewers shorten it. Maxovitch to my knowledge means the son of Max. The vitch was eliminated and he became Max. His last name was also changed. They asked what did he do in the old country. He must have made candles. So his last name became Wax. Thus in came Maxovitch Vesbrobnik and out went Max Wax. This happened to a lot of people. Last names were changed on the spot and if you wanted entry into the country with paved streets of gold you accepted the change. I believe Max had nothing to do with candles. He dealt with wax in making castings for jewelry and that was the family business. But that was a secret and many a secret was hidden by Ellis Island