Jankowski or Jannowski?
Arial View of Ellis Island
One of the most frustrating concepts that the family genealogist has to contend with is the constant variations or changes in tracing a surname. I have not one family name that I have researched that I have not seen variations or misspellings of that surname.
Now here is another interesting twist that you may not have realized, I didn't, that a major name change occurred in the family surname where you didn't expect it. There are many stories where an immigrant name change occurred at Ellis Island. Officially, names were not deliberately changed. This I do believe! But there is no question that errors were made by officials reading the handwritten name of the passenger and transposing it incorrectly. Many researchers are familiar with how certain names were literally slaughtered from what they were supposed to be. Usually, a researcher is delighted to uncover their ancestor at Ellis Island. Then, the research enters its new stage and you are off to search into old church and government records in Europe. Now here is the interesting twist that I experienced. You found your ancestor at Ellis Island. But later, you track down the original passport, a rarity, and discover a name transposed error. By all logic, the ancestor's original passport would have the correct surname spelling. This is more than just deciphering the US used surname being misspelled or phonetically interpreted and appearing on the ship manifest.
So if you are having problems locating European records of your researched surname, this may just be your problem. Here is what I found out hidden in my family tree and I'll let you decide. Do I research the surname of Jankowski or Jannowski in Europe?
This is the cut and paste name showing Jankowskaja, Warwara on line 14 of the Kursk passenger manifest which sailed from Libau on January 24, 1912. This document can be viewed at the Ellis Island Website frame 501.
The following two cut and paste hand written names come from pages 4 and 5 from Barbara Jankowski's original Russian passport. This passport has parts of it duplicated in three different languages: Russian, German, and French. On the pages with the names below are stamped and dated January 7, 1912. They are also stamped, certified, and signed by the Office Director of the Russian Province of Courland, in which the port city of Libau is located. The first is in German and the second page is a duplication in French. This original document was passed on to me by my cousin, Connie, another family genealogist researching the same tree. THANKS CONNIE!
The handwritten signature clearly shows Warara Jannowskaja.
The handwritten signature clearly shows Barbara Jannowskaja.
Research has shown me that many shipping line companies offered "package deals" to draw passengers. This included a train ticket from specified locations in Europe, a sleeping place, medical exam, processing of required passport, and ticket on their passenger ship line. I do not know if this was the case with 15-day period of the dated documents above, or even longer if the Kursk passenger list was formally written upon arrival at Ellis Island on February 5, 1912. Did the surname error occur because the ship line created their customer list and not even look at Barbara's passport later? Was Barbara's passport obviously misread by an official of the shipping line or Ellis Island official at the time of arrival in New York? Barbara was legally a Jankowski while living in the US. Was she a Jannowski while living in Russia?