Wednesday, February 25, 2015

10 Famous Immigrants Who Changed Their Names After Arriving in America

(Thanks to Crestleaf family tree for sharing their blog post with us.)

Ever hear that you can’t find your ancestors because their names were changed upon their arrival to Ellis Island? Though this tale is actually quite a tall one, some people do change their names later in life for various reasons. You may know some family members who have done this, but it’s an even more popular occurrence among famous celebrities.

Surprising Real Names of Famous Celebrities of Yesteryear
Photo credit:

But whatever the reasons may be behind the surname (and even first name) changes of both your ancestors and celebrities, they do occur — just not by the discretion of Ellis Island clerks. In fact, the Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation has provided information on some famous celebrities of yesteryear who willingly changed their names after immigrating to the United States.
Do any of your ancestors share the following original names of these famous immigrants?

10 Real Names of Famous Celebrities from Yesteryear with Not-So-Famous Given Names

Famous Name: Irving Berlin
Given Name: Israel Beilin
Claim to Fame: Songwriter
Arrived in America: Sept. 14th, 1893
Irving Berlin is considered one of the greatest American songwriters who ever lived. You likely know the words to some of his most popular compositions like “White Christmas,” “God Bless America,” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” But what you probably don’t know is that this Russian Jew was given the name, Israel Beilin.

Famous Name: Bob Hope
Given Name: Leslie Hape
Claim to Fame: Actor & Comedian
Arrived in America: March 30th, 1908
When Bob Hope was born, he was given the English name, Leslie Hape, before he embarked on a 60-year career as an infamous television, film, radio and Broadway actor.

Xavier CugatFamous Name: Xavier Cugat
Given Name: Javier Cugat
Claim to Fame: Violinist & Bandleader
Arrived in America: July 6th, 1915
Xavier Cugat was born in Spain and immigrated to the United States where he popularized Latin music. Also known as “The Rumba King,” Xavier’s given name was Javier.

Arthur MurrayFamous Name: Arthur Murray
Given Name: Moses Teichmann
Claim to Fame: Dancer
Arrived in America: August 31st, 1897
Arthur Murray, or Moses Teichmann, was a famous dance instructor who taught other famous people such as Eleanor Roosevelt, John D. Rockefeller Jr., Elizabeth Arden and the Duke of Windsor how to dance. You may recognize Mr. Murray’s name from the dance studio chain that also bears it.

Stan LaurelFamous Name: Stan Laurel
Given Name: Arthur Stanley Jefferson
Claim to Fame: Actor & Comedian
Arrived in America: October 9th, 1912
You may know this famous name from the Laurel and Hardy comedic duo. Famously known as Stan Laurel, this funny actor’s given name was actually Arthur Stanley Jefferson.

Claudette Colbert
Famous Name: Claudette Colbert
Given Name: Lily Chauchoin
Claim to Fame: Actress
Arrived in America: October 9th, 1911
Born in France, Claudette Colbert’s original name was Lily Chauchoin. You probably recognize this Academy Award-winning actress from her roles in, It Happened One Night, Private Worlds and Since You Went Away.

Rudolph ValentinoFamous Name: Rudolph Valentino
Given Name: Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguolla
Claim to Fame: Silent Movie Actor
Arrived in America: December 23rd, 1913
The Italian-born “Latin Lover” Rudolph Valentino was famously known for his roles in several popular silent films — and for his tragic death at the young age of 31. His real name is quite long, and likely why it was changed to something much shorter and Americanized. Try this one for a true tongue-twister: Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguolla.

Cary GrantFamous Name: Cary Grant
Given Name: Archibald Alec Leach
Claim to Fame: Actor
Arrived in America: July 28th, 1920
Cary Grant was an English stage actor named Archibald Alec Leach before becoming one of Hollywood’s most defining leading men in film. His good looks, debonair demeanor and transatlantic accent were more well-known than his real name, though.

Charles AtlasFamous Name: Charles Atlas
Given Name: Angelo Siciliano
Claim to Fame: Bodybuilder & Entrepreneur
Arrived in America: September 11th, 1903
Italian-born Charles Atlas’ bodybuilding program was very popular with young boys who wanted to bulk up. In 1922, he changed his given name, Angelo Siciliano, to Charles Atlas because a friend told him he looked like the Statue of Atlas that sat atop a Coney Island hotel.

Johnny WessmullerFamous Name: Johnny Weissmuller
Given Name: Johann Weissmuller
Claim to Fame: Actor & Olympian
Arrived in America: January 26th, 1905
Austro-Hungarian-American olympic swimmer and actor, Johnny Weissmuller used to have a far-less American first name — Johann. You likely know him by another fictional name though: Tarzan.

Do you or your ancestors share first or last names with these famous celebrities? Be sure to record the stories behind your ancestors’ names in your Crestleaf family tree!

Name changes, or simply different spelling variations, can make tracing that elusive ancestor even more difficult. Give us a shout if your ideas have run out @

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Using Guardianship Records

how-to, guardianship, records, genealogy, Sweeney, Wilcoxon
Have you ever come across guardianship records in your genealogical research? And by the way, do you know what a guardianship record is? Specifically, they are a type of court record that is often under-used in genealogical research. In addition, many of these records are not available online so a large percentage of people do not know about them and an even larger percentage do not know how to use them.

The most common reason for the creation of guardianship records is the death of a parent, and most generally, the father. Before women were given full legal status, minor children were considered orphans if their father had died. A male guardian was required to oversee the financial interests of all minor children. Often, the male guardian was an uncle or an older sibling who had already reached his majority. However, a familial relationship was not required. It was the responsibility of the guardian to manage their ward’s financial interests until they reached full legal age. Most guardians were required to make annual financial statements to the court and these records can provide a goldmine of information.

While most guardianship records do not state the relationship between the minor child and the guardian, they usually state the relationship between the minor child and the deceased parent. This can be a great way to establish relationships, especially when other vital records cannot be found. Guardianship records can also establish the estimated age of the child. In most states, minor children under the age of fourteen were assigned a guardian. Children over the age of fourteen were allowed to choose their own guardian. Likewise, children reached their majority when they turned twenty-one years of age in most states. Generally, the guardianship records indicate when a child reached majority and received final payments or took over his or her own interests.

Another reason for creating guardianship records is when a child s left a legacy by someone other than a parent. Some states allow parents to act in the interest of their children, but others do not. In the case of Ruth Wilcoxon Higgins of Montgomery County, Maryland, she was left a legacy by her maternal grandfather, John Wilcoxon, when he died in 1799. Ruth received this legacy because her mother died in 1798 before her father, John Wilcoxon. Ruth inherited her mother’s portion of her grandfather’s estate. Ruth was a minor when her grandfather died, so her father, James B. Higgins, was appointed her guardian.

If you have an ancestor that died with young children, it is likely that guardianship records exist for those children. It does not matter if your ancestor had a will or not, the appointment of a guardian was required for all minor children. 

Accessing these records can be a challenge, since many are not found online, and depending on the jurisdiction, the records may be difficult to track down. Hiring will enable you to benefit from the knowledge of local researchers in specific localities and court jurisdictions as well as be able to access local court houses and repositories.  As a result, guardianship records might be the best way to jump start your brick wall research.

by Deborah Sweeney © 2015,, All rights reserved
click to go to our respective social media site

Be sure to subscribe to the blog above to automatically receive our next article.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

RootsTech 2015 Review attended it's third RootsTech Conference last week. Three of our staff members had a fantastic time visiting with guests and spreading the world about the world's largest family history research firm. We also learned a great deal:

  • Some members of our staff are rather camera shy
  • The Salt Palace is ginormous! It is probably bigger than many small towns and is the second largest convention center in the U.S.
  • "Tons" of people of all ages and technological skills attended the conference
  • Interest in family history has never been greater as attested by the over 21,000 people in attendance at this show
  • Interest in family history is still growing and shows no signs of stopping, with participants from every state in the U.S. (except for West Virginia) and 9 international countries
  • One of the most prevalent themes of the conference was the importance of capturing and sharing personal stories and histories with others
  • Another increasingly important theme is the value of combining historical perspective with DNA testing/analysis with on-the-ground research in the numerous archives throughout the world 
  • We thoroughly enjoyed speaking with those who stopped by our booth and helping people break down their "brick walls" through our unique network of over 1,000 professional genealogists, historians, DNA experts, university professors, scholars, and archivists working around the globe
We look forward to attending many more conferences this year and returning to Salt Lake for RootsTech 2016.

by Amanda Epperson © 2015,, All rights reserved
click to go to our respective social media site

Be sure to subscribe to the blog above to automatically receive our next article.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

States With the Most Valentine’s Day Surnames

Is Yours One of them?

Ahh, Valentine’s Day. Depending on your current relationship status, the season of courtly love can either conjure up warm and fuzzy feelings, or make you want to forget the day exists!
But this lovey dovey day isn’t just for couples who want to romance each other. Valentine’s Day is also a family history buff’s dream when you get right down to it. Much like the day itself, family surnames are filled with history, and we’ve found some of the best Valentine’s Day surnames from the Crestleaf Surname Database that will make even the most cynical family history aficionado swoon. But which states have the most swoon-worthy Valentine’s Day surnames? And, more importantly, did your state make it to the list?
The Valentine’s Day infographic above highlights the states in which we located the most “Valentine” surnames, with New York, Ohio and Florida rounding out the top three. Mouse over each state to see how many Valentines were found there!


  • There are a total of 11,287 people in our surname database who didn’t mind being called Valentine.
  • And a whopping 1,092 of them were lovers of the great state of New York.
  • We also found 26 Valentinettis, 24 Valentiners and 8 Valentinellis in our surname database.

This lovely infographic showcases the states where the most “Love” was found.  Move to Texas, California or North Carolina if you’re truly looking for Love. Mouse over your state to see how much Love was found there!


  • 23,115 people in our database were truly in Love.
  • And they mostly lived and loved in Texas (2,019).
  • Sadly, 3,006  people in our surname database were Loveless.
  • And 4,253 were hopelessly intertwined with Lovelace.

More Swoon-Worthy Valentine’s Day Surnames


  • Call up one of the 40 Cupids in our database if you need a little help with your love game.
  • And you might want to head to New York (11) to find yourself a Cupid in a pinch.


  • 136 Arrows are waiting for those Cupids to snatch them up.
  • And it looks like they’ll want to head to Pennsylvania for some Arrows (33) if they want to hit their target just right!


  • Only 129 Hearts were found throughout our entire database. Where’s the love? (Oh , yeah, we already covered that — California!)
  • And we found that the state with the most Heart was New York (23).
Vintage Couple Kissing
Photo courtesy of Elephant Journal


  • There are only 23 Chocolates in our database!
  • So if you need to buy Chocolates for your Valentine, you should get to Illinois (6), pronto!


  • If we run out of Chocolates, it’s all well and good because there is more Candy to go around (203).
  • We even have 50 more Candies.


  • And if Chocolates and Candies aren’t your thing, our surname database is filled with beautiful bouquets of Flowers (14,815).
  • Or perhaps you’d like to give a single Flower (1,309) to your sweetie.


  • But if you’re really serious about showing your love and devotion, you might want to buy 45,330Roses instead.
  • Or opt for a smaller bouquet of Roses from New York (3,403) or Ohio (2,887).
19 Valentine's Day Surnames That Will Make You Swoon
Picture courtesy of


  • There are only 7 Romantics in all of the Crestleaf surname database. Is romance really that dead?
  • Nope, because 55 people knew what Romance is all about.


  • And 12 people would Adore their Valentines through and through.

Valentine’s Day Locations Across the Country

In addition to Valentine’s Day surnames, these 15 locales celebrate the season of courtly love all year long.
Vintage Romance in the City
Photo courtesy of pippinmusical on Pinterest

Valentine Locales

Love Locales

Rose Locales

Romance Locales

Can’t get enough romance this season? We’re on the hunt for the greatest love story ever told to feature on our blog for Valentine’s Day! Learn how to submit a family member’s, ancestor’s or even your own great love story. Happy Valentine’s Day!

article originally published by Crestleaf
click to go to our respective social media site

Be sure to subscribe to the blog above to automatically receive our next article.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Top Genealogy Websites of 2015 (Infographic)

GenealogyInTime Magazine’s 2015 State of the Genealogy Industry – Infographic
2015 Genealogy Industry Infographic

CLICK HERE to download this infographic

Recently, our friends over at GenealogyInTime Magazine published their 2015 list of the top 100 genealogy websites. The infographic above includes highlights from this year’s fourth annual survey on the state of genealogy and lists some of the best genealogy websites to help you with your ancestral research.
And we’re excited to announce that based on the data collected, Crestleaf made the list as one of the top rising stars of 2015. We are thrilled to be an integral part of so many genealogical journeys!

What the Numbers Tell Us

GenealogyInTime Magazine’s top 100 list profiles and ranks ancestral websites based on traffic estimates from Alexa; resulting in accurate, unbiased and comprehensive results.
The findings this year show us that genealogy is a pastime that continues to grow year after year thanks to emerging online tools and advancements in research technology. As you can see from the infographic, new genealogy websites outside of the top 100 offered the most growth to the industry — growing 12.5% over the past year.
See the 20122013 and 2014 results to discover how much the genealogy industry has grown in recent years.

The Top Rising Stars

In addition to the top free and paid genealogy websites receiving a whopping 42% of all genealogy web traffic, the rising stars on the list may soon be on the brink of taking the top slots as they continue to grow in popularity.
GenealogyInTime divided the rising star list into two groups: rising stars in the top 25 websites and the 75 websites that followed. Crestleaf was considered one of their standout rising stars along with LostCousinsCyndi’s List and  The website for is also quickly becoming one of the main sites for anyone wishing to receive professional help with family history research.  
It’s amazing to see just how much of a worldwide interest genealogy has become over the past year thanks to emerging genealogy websites from all corners of the globe. And we foresee this passionate pastime continually growing. We can’t wait to see what other websites pop up in 2016!
Are there other genealogy websites you use that you didn’t find on the list? Let us know!

A version of this article originally published by Crestleaf
click to go to our respective social media site

Be sure to subscribe to the blog above to automatically receive our next article.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...