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Created by Administrator Account in 10/15/2009 1:37:19 PM


... I am researching the name Burdalski. I have done nationwide searches (myself and by paid researchers), and can find only one family in the US with that name (my group of cousins). In your book, you list BurDELski as derived from burda or burdel, but not BurDALski. Do you think these names are interchangeable? I don't understand Polish linguistics enough to make that judgment. I have found BurDELski to be very uncommon also. Again, thanks for your thoughts. ...


Burdalski isn't in my book because it's not all that common -- as of 1990 there were some 259 Poles with this name, scattered around but with the largest numbers in the provinces of Ciechanow (68), Elblag (36), Gdansk (21), and Olsztyn (54).


The -ski suffix makes one ask whether it is a surname derived from a place name, and that could be, but none of my sources show a place with a suitable name -- it would probably refer to a village or other locality named Burdały or something like that, and I can't find any such critter. That doesn't mean it isn't from a place name, sometimes surnames refer to places so small that the name was used only by local residents and would never show up in any map or gazetteer. Still, this may have nothing to do with a place.


In that case, I'm inclined to think it comes from the root burda, which means "row, brawl," and also "brawler." The -al- suffix is one typically used to show that a particular kind of behavior was habitual, so burdal- might have started as a reference to a guy who was always getting into a fight. If so, Burdalski probably was a way of referring to "the kin of that brawler fellow." This seems plausible, although we have no real proof.


The name could come from burdel, which can mean not just "brothel" but also an old building that's falling apart. When it comes to Polish vowels it's not wise to get dogmatic -- it's certainly not out of the question that Burdalski might derive from burdel. But I kind of think not, in this case. There is a perfectly reasonable interpretation for the name that doesn't demand presupposing a vowel change, so why not go with the obvious? I think the link with burda, brawler, is the most likely.


... ps, I have found some Burda's in the census in Philadelphia who claim Hungarian ancestry. I thought that was interesting. ...


Yes, it is. We often see that certain words appear in different languages, sometimes wholly unconnected. And some Hungarian-based names do show up among Poles. However, that -alski suffix is very Polish-sounding, and usually names of foreign origin have to be pretty Polonized before they start taking Polish suffixes. Burdalski could be ultimately Hungarian, but that's reaching a little bit. It's generally best to stick with Polish roots to explain Polish names, and only take foreign roots into account if no likely Polish derivation is indicated.


Anyway, those are my thoughts on the subject. I certainly could be wrong, but this is what seems most likely to me. And if you'd like some input on the subject from experts who might be able to give you a definitive answer, I'd suggest writing the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow. They can handle correspondence in English, they have excellent sources on name origins (they don't do any genealogical research, however!), and $20 is usually enough to get a good analysis of a name or two. The address is on p. 177 of the 2nd edition of my book, p. 137 of the first edition. . This is the one Polish organization I feel comfortable recommending to people, and I've heard back from quite a few folks who were very satisfied with the results. So if you'd really like to hear from the folks who are best suited to give a definitive answer, that's who I'd contact.


Copyright ©1998 W.F. Hoffman




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