Immigrants: We're Keeping Our Names

Traditionally, if you were an immigrant arriving in America, you changed your name to fit the environment. Charles Steinweg became piano-maker Steinway, for instance. Now, experts say, immigrants don't feel the need to Americanize their names. The New York Times looked at 500 applications from June for name changes made in New York—a city with more foreign-born residents than any other. The Times says only six of the 500 appeared to be changing their names to better fit their new surroundings. The change not only suggests a new level of acceptance in America but also likely reflects the more-complicated nature of identity today. “If you are talking about 1910, the social forces on conformity were much stronger,” said one historian, “whereas now an immigrant arrives with all these legal and identity documents, a driver’s license in their pocket, a passport, with one name on it. To change this is a big deal.”