When immigrants entered America in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, they faced an immediate problem. As they were coming largely from Germany, Poland, Russia and other countries in Eastern Europe, their names were long and unfamiliar to the English-speaking inspectors. Names were intentionally shortened, accidentally misspelt and, occasionally, completely misunderstood. There are records of "Schultz" becoming "Salt" and of the name "Yankele" becoming "John Kelly". Sometimes, immigrants elected to translate their names into English; an example is "Schneider" becoming "Tailor" (and often "Taylor"), since that is the German origin.

The story goes that there was a Jewish immigrant who had decided to change his name on arrival in America, a common practice at the time. With the confusion of the moment, however, the immigrant forgot his new name. When the inspector asked him for his name, the man panicked and blurted out, in Yiddish, "Schon Vergessen!", which loosely means "I've already forgotten it!". The English-speaking inspector did not understand Yiddish, but assumed that the man had given his answer.

The inspector entered the name in his records, and promptly welcomed Sean Ferguson to America.

This story has been dismissed as apocryphal and there don't seem to be any records of the man actually existing; but it's a wonderful tale. Still, if you ever meet any Jewish Fergusons, you know exactly how they came about.