Photo ID

This photo shows the Americanization of the last name.
This photo shows the Americanization of the last name.

I chose to document a story not of my own, but of my very best friend in the world, Thomas Rhahim. His story is a familiar paradigm, consistent with many ethnic groups of the 19th and 20th century. In the late 1890’s, Thomas’ great, great grandfather and mother left what was formerly known as the Ottoman Empire, or Turkey as we know it today, to immigrate to the United States. At the time, the Ottoman Empire was falling, and the region was ripe with war. The instability went hand in hand with a lack of work, and thus a lack of food. Looking to create a better life for themselves, and hopefully start a family, they immigrated to the United States in the late 1890’s.  Upon entering Ellis Island, they were instantly exposed to their first experience of forced assimilation. Much like Chinese, or Irish immigrants of the same time, the desire to become Americanized, and assimilate was great, so they could maximize their opportunities in the U.S. To better fit in, it was suggested that they change their last name from Rhahim to something more easily distinguishable as American. They settled on Sallie, and from then on, the Rhahim name would only be found in the oral tradition of their family. Like the Chinese immigrants, the Sallie’s sought a better life in America. It was the demand for a growing labor force that pulled them in this direction, as they knew work was abundant. Changing their name from Rhahim to Sallie was the first step in starting a new life in the land of opportunity

Place(s): Ellis Island

– Andrew J. McNevin

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more