Recalling Third Ward Family Name Changes in the 1920s & 1930s

by Nat Bodian


When I was growing up in Newark's old Third Ward in the 20s and 30s, it was a melting pot for thousands of immigrants from Eastern European countries, facing a daily struggle to keep their families fed and clothed.

Limited in earning power by their lack of work and language skills, they saw their hopes for advancement and upward mobility would be through their children and monitored their school attendance and urged good scholarship.

As a rule, most of their children completed high school. Afterward, some went to normal school and became teachers, or attended college and found employment in business and commerce. Others became doctors, lawyers and accountants1. A scant few became involved in political affairs, and one even made it as a two-term mayor of Newark. A small handful eventually made it in the Hollywood film industry as actors, writers, directors, and producers. One even became head of MGM Studios.

As their children -- the generation between the two World Wars -- my generation, began to succeed, I became aware of an interesting phenomenon" quite a few began Americanizing their ethnic-sounding family names2.

I have made no attempt to formally catalog these family-name changes, but in consultation with others from the old neighborhood have been able to come up with this selection of examples:

Abramowitz to Arno
Apter to Ames
Becher to Baker
Berkowitz to Berk
Chadakowitz to Chase
Eichenzweig to Branch
Gradenwitz to Grydon
Greenspan to Greene
Greenstein to Greene
Guritsky to Garrett
Hershkowitz to Hersh
Kessler to Kent
Kornbluth to Kay
Levitch to Lewis
Lichtman to Layton
Lifschitz to Larson
Lipnitsky to Lipton
Lomachinsky to Loman
Lowenstein to Lowe
Orlansky to Orleans
Perlmutter to Perl
Pieriskier to Pierce
Portnoy to Taylor
Rabinowitz to Robbins
Rappaport to Pratt
Regenstriech to Regan
Reizman to Rice
Rosenblatt to Ross
Rosenbloom to Ross
Rosenkrantz to Ross
Schachter to Rathel
Shimkowitz to Shaw
Talkowsky to Talkow
Talkowsky to Taylor
Tolchinsky to Tollin
Torchinsky to Torine
Venetsky to Venet
Walerstein to Waldor
Warshawsky to Warner
Winarsky to Van
Yanowitz to Yanney
Zaragatzky to Zarra
Zozosky to Joseph

If any of you reading this are from my old Newark neighborhood and know of any other family name changes among friends, neighbors, or relatives, let me know and I will revise this list accordingly.


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