10 Famous Immigrants Who Changed Their Names After Arriving in America

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

Ever hear that you can’t find your ancestors because their names werechanged upon their arrival to Ellis Island? Though this tale isactually quite a tall one, some people do change their names later inlife for various reasons. You may know some family members who have donethis, but it’s an even more popular occurrence among famouscelebrities.

But whatever the reasons may be behind the surname (and even firstname) 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 Foundationhas provided information on some famous celebrities of yesteryear whowillingly 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

(Photo credits below: The Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation)

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 songwriterswho ever lived. You likely know the words to some of his most popularcompositions like “White Christmas,” “God Bless America,” and “There’sNo Business Like Show Business.” But what you probably don’t know isthat 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 Cugat

Famous 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 Stateswhere he popularized Latin music. Also known as “The Rumba King,”Xavier’s given name was Javier.

Arthur Murray

Famous Name: Arthur Murray Given Name: Moses Teichmann Claim to Fame: Dancer Arrived in America: August 31st, 1897Arthur Murray, or Moses Teichmann, was a famous dance instructor whotaught 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 thatalso bears it. 

Stan Laurel

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

Claudette Colbert

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

Rudolph Valentino

Famous 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, 1913The Italian-born “Latin Lover” Rudolph Valentino was famously knownfor his roles in several popular silent films — and for his tragic deathat the young age of 31. His real name is quite long, and likely why itwas changed to something much shorter and Americanized. Try this one fora true tongue-twister: Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre FilibertGuglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguolla.

Cary Grant

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

Charles Atlas

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

Johnny Wessmuller

Famous Name: Johnny Weissmuller Given Name: Johann Weissmuller Claim to Fame: Actor & Olympian Arrived in America: January 26th, 1905Austro-Hungarian-American olympic swimmer and actor, JohnnyWeissmuller used to have a far-less American first name — Johann. Youlikely know him by another fictional name though: Tarzan.Do you or your ancestors share first or last names with these famouscelebrities? Be sure to record the stories behind your ancestors’ namesin 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 @Genealogists.com. 

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Written by


February 26, 2015
Wesley is the founder of hello@traceyourpast.com.

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