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Surname Changes Create Challenges

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Genealogical Surname Changes by Greeks

Genealogical Surname Changes by Greeks living abroad and within Greece are common.

Greek surnames change for different reasons and that includes translating from the foreign characters to Latin characters, shortening of names for convenience or to make the transition into another society, and by mistakes of the government employees responsible for recording the names.

Some examples that I have seen include, Haralambopoulos being changed to Harris, Bournias to Pournias or Vournias and others.

It happens due to errors using transliteration between two languages where a person may assume that the transliteration is based on character sounds when in fact it may be based on a standard set by the government.  In the case of Greece, once a name has been recorded, it is set in stone unless a person is willing to challenge the government bureaucracy.

Papadopoulos to Payne is not the first Greek person to have his name changed but a recent article on a Greek website cited it, link below.

The Oscar winner of Greek origin, filmmaker Alexander Payne revealed while speaking at the Canadian broadcast television station CBS: "We changed our name from Papadopoulos Payne to avoid hatred against the Greeks."

It is sad that racial opinion caused this to happen.  I hope that this trend does not continue today so that people everywhere can display their last name proudly for their ancestry and heritage.


Director, producer and screenwriter Alexander Payne

The article about changing a surname for racial reasons translated to English

The original article in Greek at the website of

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