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Consolidated Surname File 1
Created by Administrator Account in 12/19/2009 10:37:10 AM

 


WALENTOWICZ

… I am attempting to determine the meaning of the name Walentowicz? And also, if the name denotes a reference to any particular region in Poland. I've been told by relatives that we are Prussian Poles. I have already read that the suffix -owicz means son of, so I guess the key would be to determine what walent means. My humble guess is that is is a patronmic name of St. Valentine, or possibly some reference to Walter. I'm sure my limited knowledge will be apparent.

Don't sell your "limited knowledge" short, because you're on target; some Polish names are not so tough, and this is one of them. As you say, -owicz means "son of," and the Walent- part comes from the first name Walenty, which is the Polish version of "Valentine" (originally from Latin Valentinus from valens, "strong, mighty"). So the name means "son of Valentine."

Unfortunately, by the nature of things, patronymics formed from popular names are quite common, and are seldom concentrated in any one area. As of 1990 there were 504 Polish citizens named Walentowicz (compare 994 Walentynowicz's); the largest numbers (more than 20) lived in the provinces of Białystok (31), Bydgoszcz (135), Ostrołęka (35), Szczecin (24), Torun (62), and Warsaw (40), with much smaller numbers scattered in most other provinces all over the country. It's fair to say there is some concentration of Walentowicz's in the areas formerly part of Prussia and Pomerania of the German Empire -- Bydgoszcz, Szczecin, and Torun provinces fall roughly into that area, and they have a pretty good share of the people by this name, 221 of 504. But that's still not half of the total, so I don't think we can say the name is all that closely identified with Prussia. Still, if you have family information that your folks were Prussian Poles, I'd say the numbers I've quoted do nothing to discredit the idea... I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses, I'm afraid what I've given is all I have.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


WIELGOPOLSKI -- WIELKOPOLSKI -- WIELOPOLSKI

… Could you please give me any information on the name "Wielgopolski" or "Wielopolski"? Any information you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

There are two separate names that might be involved here, Wielkopolski (sometimes also seen as Wielgopolski, because both forms sound similar) and Wielopolski. The name Wielkopolski comes from a combination of the root wielki (also sometimes wielgi) meaning "great" and the root pol-, "field," or polski, "Polish," which ultimately comes from that root. In most cases this name probably refers to Wielkopolska, "Great Poland," a division of the country running basically from northwestern Poland down toward Krakow in the south, covering perhaps a quarter of Poland (there's also a Malopolska, a "Little Poland," which is basically the southeastern part of the country). The surname Wielkopolski probably started in most cases as a name for a person from that area or somehow identified with that area. Unfortunately, it's a rather large area, so the name itself doesn't provide anything very helpful in terms of tracing ancestors. As of 1990 there were only 4 Poles named Wielgopolski, all living in the province of Konin; and there were 120 Wielkopolski, scattered all over the country.

Wielopolski is different, it derives from places named Wielopole or something similar -- that's all it means, "one from Wielopole." There are several places by that name, so this surname, too, offers nothing very helpful in terms of tracing ancestors. As of 1990 there were 252 Polish citizens by this name, and they, too, were not concentrated in any one place -- you find small numbers of folks by that name all over the country.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


PINCOSKI -- PINCZEWSKI -- PIŃCZOWSKI

… I read your invitation and hereby submit the surname Pincoski.

As of 1990 there was no one in Poland with the name Pincoski. It's possible this is a misreading or misspelling of some other name, or it may be a dialect form of a name that appears in standard Polish as Pinczewski (there were 301 Poles by that name as of 1990). When we see -oski it's almost always a dialect form of -owski, so spelled because in some areas the w isn't pronounced; and in some areas of Poland the -cz- (pronounced like our "ch") is pronounced, and therefore often spelled, as -ts-, which Poles spell with the letter -c-. So Pincoski probably = Pińczowski (ń stands for the Polish accented n). Names ending in -ewski or -owski usually started as references to a connection between a person or family and a place with a similar name, so Pińczowski meant "one from Pińczów" -- there's a village called Pińczów in Kielce province and another in Nowy Sacz province. The surname Pińczowski appears to have died out these days in Poland -- but as I say, Pinczewski might be the standard form these days. In any case, we know Pińczowski it used to exist, and it meant "one from Pińczów." I'm often surprised at how many surnames have died out after families emigrated, so that you have an odd situation where a good old Polish surname is no longer to be found in Poland, but only in other countries such as the U.S.A.!

So to sum up, I can't be positive about any of this, but from a linguistic point of view, Pincoski is probably a dialect version or misreading of Pińczowski, "one from Pińczów." The name appears to have died out in Poland, or else has been standardized as Pinczewski.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


WITWICKI

… My surname is Witwicki, which I took from my family from Poland... He was born in a village called "Rawa" that is now not in Poland.

A surname ending in -icki usually got started as a reference to a connection between a person or family and a place with a similar name ending in -ica, -ice, -iki, something like that. In this case I can find only one likely match, and that is Witwica, which is now Vytvytsa in Ukraine. The Rawa you're referring to may be Rava Ruska, which is in Ukraine, just across the border from Tomaszow Lubelski in Zamosc province, Poland -- although there may well be other places named Rava that don't show up in my sources, this is probably the "Rawa" you're referring to (in Polish the v sound is spelled with a w). Witwica and Rawa are some distance apart, but they are both in far western Ukraine, not too far from the current borders of Poland; for centuries this area was ruled by Poland, and many Poles lived there (and still do).

The probable root of the place name and surname is witwa, the basket willow (Salex viminalis), so that Witwica was "the place of the basket willow," and the Witwicki was "the one from Witwica." Here is some information on Witwica I got from a late 19th-century gazetteer:

"Witwica, village in Dolina county, 14 km. NW of Dolina, 10 km. south of the county court and post office in Bolechów. Greek Catholic church in Witwica, Roman Catholic church in Bolechów... This village is the ancestral home of the Witwicki's. From there came Stanisław, Bishop of Kiev and later of Poznań (died 1697); also from this family was the poet Stefan Witwicki, born in Janów in Podolia…"

Dolina is now Dolyna, and Bolechów is now Bolekhiv; my maps confirm that Witwica/Vytvytsa is about 14 km. northwest of Dolyna. Most of the inhabitants of this village were Greek Catholics, and would have gone to the church in the village to register births, deaths, and marriages, whereas the Roman Catholic minority would have gone to the church in Bolechów/Bolekhiv.

As of 1990 there were 955 Polish citizens named Witwicki, living all over the country, but with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (89), Katowice (97), Wloclawek (72), Wroclaw (138). There may well be many more in Ukraine, but I have no access to such data; nor do I have access to further details such as first names or addresses for the Witwicki's in Poland.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


FIGLEWSKI -- GALUS

I am researching my family tree. I need information, on the names Figlewski and Galus, if available.

Figlewski is not a very common name, as of 1990 there were only 173 Polish citizens with this name. The largest numbers (10 or more) lived in the provinces of Jelenia Gora 12, Poznan 15, Torun 57, Warsaw 11, Wloclawek 15, so the people by this name are scattered all over the country, but with some concentration in central to northwest-central Poland. Usually names ending in -ewski originated as references to a place; in this case we'd expect the name to mean something like "person from Figlewo," except I can't find any mention in any of my sources of any place with a name remotely similar. It could be there was such a place centuries ago, when the surname originated, but it has since disappeared, been renamed, been absorbed into another community, etc. The probable root of the name is figiel, "trick, prank," and Figlewski appears to mean "of, from, pertaining to the __ of the tricks"; most often that blank is filled in with "place," so that "Figlewo" would be "the place of the tricks," but sometimes "kin" is the understood word that fills in that blank. So it could be this name could be an exception and never referred to a place at all, but to the kin of a prankster. That, at least, is the best guess I can make on the basis of the information available to me.

Galus is easier, it's a moderately common name -- there were 2,665 Poles named Galus as of 1990, living all over the country but significantly more common in southcentral and southeastern Poland. It comes from the Latin first name Gallus, which is thought to derive either from Latin gallus, "cock," or from Celtic ghas-los, "foreigner, newcomer." A 7th-century Irish hermit, St. Gall (in Latin Gallus) settled at St. Gallen, Switzerland, and after his death his cell grew into the nucleus of a major monastery of the Benedictine Order. The Order spread this name throughout Europe (although it's not very well known among English-speakers), and among Poles it also developed the form Gaweł, just as in Czech it became Havel (the surname of the president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel). Galus developed from the original Latin form.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


GRABOWICZ

… I'd like to know if the name Grabowicz is listed in your book.

It is. However, I think it's silly to make a person buy the whole book if all he wants is one name. Let me tell you a bit about this name, and you can buy the book only if you want info on more names, or background info on how such names developed. -- By the way, the book doesn't go into much detail on individual names; it deals with some 30,000 surnames, so there wasn't room. Instead, the index of names gives brief indications of what roots specific ones came from, and the 12 chapters of text that precede the index provide background on how names of that sort originated. The book is long on general info, short on details for specific names; on-line I have to be short on general info, but can give more details on a specific name. So I think the book and my Website complement each other.

The suffix -owicz means "son of," so Grabowicz means "son of Grab." It appears that in ancient times Grab was sometimes used as a first name, though it's unheard of these days. There are several roots it might come from: grab, "the hornbeam tree," grabie, "rake," or grabić, "to rob." So a name like Grabowicz might refer to a person who lived near a grove of hornbeams, or who somehow reminded people of a rake -- but in most cases it probably referred to the son of a man named Grab, and that name was given to someone in hopes he would be quick to "grab" and hold onto property, wealth, whatever (I'm not sure, but I don't think it's totally coincidence that English "grab" and this Polish root are similar; they may well both trace back to some Indo-European root). Other names beginning with Grab- such as Grabowski would more likely refer to a place named for hornbeams, but I think "son of the hornbeam" or "son of the rake" doesn't make that much sense for this name.

As of 1990 there were 1,193 Polish citizens named Grabowicz. They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (106), Lodz (177), and Skierniewice (349). So the name is most common in central Poland, but I don't have access to any details that would let me get more specific than that. The name itself is little help in tracking down a particular Grabowicz family -- you'd have to have data from some other source. Incidentally, this is true of probably 95% of Polish names; comparatively few offer any real lead as to where the families bearing them came from.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


KWACZENIUK

… Maybe you can help me with another name, when you have a chance, that's not a '-ski' or a '-wicz', or anything common like that? The name is Kwaczeniuk.

The suffix -uk or -iuk is a diminutive generally used to form patronymics, and it tends to appear more often in eastern Poland, Belarus and Ukraine. So usually you can take off -uk or -iuk and render the name "son of _," and usually the first part of the surname is clearly a first name or occupation, e. g., Martyniuk = son of Martyn, Tkaczuk = son of the weaver. Kwaczen-, however, is a bit unusual because it doesn't appear to be a first name or an occupation.

Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut says names beginning with Kwacz- come from the root kwacz-, "to emit a sound like a duck," that is, "to quack"! So this surname would appear to mean "son of the quacker." (You see, you can't make this stuff up; reality is always stranger than fiction!).

Since this name is likely to have originated in eastern Poland, I was curious to see if my Ukrainian dictionary suggested any possible roots. I should mention that Poles use w for the sound we write v and cz for the sound we write ch; Kwaczeniuk is pronounced roughly "kvah-CHEN-yook" -- so what I was looking for was a Ukrainian root (written in Cyrillic) which we'd write phonetically as kvach. All I could find was the noun kvach, "clout; brush for greasing wheels; shaving brush; weak-willed (yielding) person." I don't normally disagree with Rymut, he's damned good, but since this particular name seems likely to originate from the eastern areas where Ukrainian has a lot of influence on names, I'd consider it at least possible Kwaczeniuk means "son of the kvach," perhaps referring to a person who was a bit of a push-over or wimp.

Hard to tell for sure which derivation is correct. I could imagine a person ending up with a nickname because he made a quacking sound; but the "weak-willed" connection also seems plausible. So objectively I can't be sure which one you should go with. If you find your Kwaczeniuk ancestors seem to have come from the eastern parts of the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, I'd think the "son of a wimp" derivation is more likely. But if they seem to be ethnic Poles, "quacker's son" is more likely.

As of 1990 there were only 29 Polish citizens named Kwaczeniuk, living in the provinces of Warsaw (3), Białystok (5), Gdansk (1), Gorzow (15), Legnica (4), and Poznan (1). Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses, what I give here is all I have... It's odd that the largest number live in Gorzow province in western Poland, but I strongly suspect that's due to post-World War II forced relocations; I'd bet almost anything if we had pre-1945 data we'd find most of the Kwaczeniuk's living in eastern Poland or what is now Belarus and Ukraine.

If you'd like to see if Polish name experts can come up with anything more definitive, you should go to the introduction to my Surname and read in the introduction about the Anthroponymic Workshop in Krakow. They can correspond in English, they seldom charge more than $10-20 per name, and they're the best experts I know of regarding Polish and Slavic names; they might be able to tell you more. If so, I'd be very interested in hearing what they have to say...

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


KAROŚCIK -- TRACZEWSKI

… Hello Fred, do you have any information on the origin and meaning of my Grandparents surnames: Grandfather: Karoscik, Grandmother: Traczewska.

The name Karościk is quite rare; as of 1990 there were only 6 Polish citizens by that name, 4 living in the provinces of Gdansk and 2 in Lodz province; unfortunately I don't have access to first names or addresses, but perhaps you can contact the Polish Genealogical Society of America at www.pgsa.org or the PGS-Northeast http://members.aol.com/pgsne2/ to see if they could search Polish provincial phone directories for people by this name... I'm not sure what the name comes from, it might be from a diminutive of karaś, "crucian carp," or it might come from the root kar-, "punishment; the color black when referring to horses." None of my sources mention this surname, so I don't have any Polish experts' research to rely on, but I'd say one of those is the probable origin.

Traczewska is easier. First of all, names ending in -ska are feminine forms of names given in standard form with the ending -ski, so we're looking for Traczewski. Literally the name breaks down as "of, from, pertaining to the __ of the tracz," where you fill in with the blank with some understood word, usually either "place" or "kin." In names Tracz- usually comes from the noun tracz, "sawyer, one who cuts wood" (although I wonder if sometimes it might also refer to tracz, "the merganser duck"?), so Traczewski probably started either meaning "kin of the sawyer" or "one from Traczew or Traczewo or Traczewa = the place of the sawyer." I can't find any mention in my sources of a place named Traczew/o/a, but that isn't conclusive because such a place may have existed centuries ago when the surname developed but has since disappeared, been renamed, etc. So I can't say for certain whether the surname means "sawyer's kin" or "one from Traczew/a/o," but one of those two is probably right. In either case, there's some sort of connection to a guy who sawed wood for a living (or, just possibly, to mergansers?).

As of 1990 there were 458 Polish citizens named Traczewski, and they were scattered all over the country, with no real concentration. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Warsaw (81), Ostrołęka (53), and Radom (57), thus in east central Poland, but that's not a lot of help, I know.

If you'd like to see if Polish name experts can come up with anything more definitive on Karościk, you might visit the introduction to my Surname page and read in the introduction about the Anthroponymic Workshop in Krakow. They can correspond in English, they seldom charge more than $10-20 per name, and they're the best experts I know of regarding Polish and Slavic names; they might be able to tell you more. If so, I'd be very interested in hearing what they have to say.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


KONOPKA

… Having recently found, and greatly enjoyed enjoyed your website(s) on Polish history and genealogy I am writing to inquire as to the roots and significance of the surname Konopka. Any assistance would be appreciated.

According to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut and others, Konopka comes from the root konopie, "hemp," and this name appears in Polish legal records as early as 1393. It is quite common in Poland, as of 1990 there were 11,121 Polish citizens by this name, living all over the country, with particularly large numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (1,278), Katowice (935), and Łomża (1,622)... When giving people nicknames based on the names of animals or objects, Poles often added a diminutive suffix such as -ek or -ka to help distinguish the person from the animal or object; and that's probably how the name Konopka, literally "little hemp," got started, as a nickname that eventually stuck as a surname. It might have referred to a person who grew hemp, sold it, used it a lot, etc. -- now, centuries after surnames were established, it's sometimes difficult to recreate exactly what the link was. But something about a person named Konopka seemed associated with hemp, we can be fairly sure of that.

I'm going strictly by memory here, and thus might be wrong, but I believe Władysław Konopka was the original name of actor Ted Knight, who played "Ted Baxter" on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. He is perhaps the best-known person named Konopka, although the name is common enough that there probably have been other prominent figures by that name.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


HODAS -- MAJCZYK

… I ran across your book information on the PGSA web page. If possible, could you find any information on two names: Hodas and Majczyk. Through my limited reseach found nothing about these names.

I'm not surprised you could find nothing on Hodas; none of my sources mention it, and as of 1990 there were only 8 Poles by that name, all living in Krakow prov. Unfortunately I don't have access to first names or addresses, but the PGSA can often search telephone directories for specific parts of Poland; perhaps you could contact them and see if they have the one for Krakow. Phones in private homes are rarer in Poland than here, there are no guarantees, but maybe one of those Hodas's will be listed... As for the origins of the name, the H and Ch are pronounced the same in Polish, so we might be dealing with a variant spelling of Chodas (as of 1990 there were 33 of them, with 28 living in Warsaw province), which presumably comes from the root chod-, "go, walk." But if the family's roots lie in southern or southeastern Poland, the name could come from Ukrainian hoda, "difficult, hard," or from Czech hod, "feast, festival," or hodit, "to throw, cast." Or if the family was Jewish, it's possible the name comes from Hebrew hadas, "holy" (cmp. the original name of the Biblical figure Esther, Esther 2:7).

I know that's a lot of if's, but without more info it's hard to say anything with much confidence. If the family has no Jewish blood and comes from an area where Czech or Ukrainian aren't likely to have much influence, then the link with chod-, "walk, go," seems the most likely derivation. But you can see how the place of origin could affect which source is the most likely.

If you'd like to ask the best experts and don't mind spending $10-20 for an answer, look at the Introduction to the Surname webpage and get the address of the Anthroponymic Workshop in Krakow. They have the best sources, if there's anyone who can give you a reliable answer, it's them. (If you do write them and they give you a good reply, I'd love to hear what they have to say!).

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut includes Majczyk with a number of other names from the root maj, "May." In names -czyk usually means "son of," so the name literally means "son of May." A name like this might originate because a child was born in May, or something about that time of year was associated with him. All these centuries later it can be tough trying to figure out exactly what the connection was, the most we can do is say there was a connection. As of 1990 there were 258 Poles named Majczyk, scattered all over the country, with larger numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (25), Kalisz (38), Lodz (33), Sieradz (33). These provinces are all in central Poland, so the name seems to be most common in that region; unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses, and I'm afraid this probably isn't specific enough to help you much.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


SEBZDA

… The name I am looking for is Sebzda. Both my grandparents came from Galicia, Austria, I think. My grandmother could not write so she phonetically spelled her name. It is Anna Puktah.

I'm afraid I can't help you much with these names. I've been trying for some time to figure out what Sebzda comes from, because the name intrigues me -- at times I wonder if it might be a mangled name from Sebastian, but I haven't found any info on this anywhere. It's not all that rare a name: as of 1990 there were 381 Poles named Sebzda, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Katowice (29), Przemysl (68), Rzeszow (29), and Wroclaw (107). Przemysl and Rzeszow are in that part of southeastern Poland seized by Austria and ruled as "Galicia," Wroclaw and Katowice are just a little west of there, so the name is most common in southcentral and southeastern Poland. But as I said, none of my books mention it, and I haven't been able to come up with even an intelligent guess, other than that very tenuous notion about "Sebastian." Such a connection is not outrageous, given the changes names can undergo; but such guesses are also worthless without some evidence, and I have none.

As for Puktah, I'm afraid I've come up empty there, too. There was one Pole named Pukto in Katowice province in 1990 (I'm afraid I have no access to further details such as names and addresses), and I could find no mention of any other name remotely like this. Neither Puktah nor Sebzda really sounds Polish, and it's not rare to see names of many other origins in Galicia -- Hungarian, Romanian, Ukrainian, Slovak, etc. I strongly suspect these names originated elsewhere and came to Poland with people who immigrated there over the centuries.

If you'd like to ask the best experts and don't mind spending $10-20 for an answer, look at my Introduction to the Surname webpage and get the address of the Anthroponymic Workshop in Krakow. They have the best sources, if there's anyone who can give you a reliable answer, it's them... If you do write them and they give you a good reply, I'd love to hear what they have to say, especially about Sebzda!

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


KORDALEWSKI

… Trying to find the roots of the Kordalewski family please, can you try to guide me in the right direction.

Generally names with the pattern X-ewski can be interpreted literally as "of, from, pertaining to the kin/place of X," so that we'd expect this to mean either "one from Kordalew/Kordalewo/Kordalewa" [which means "place of Kordal"] or "one of the kin of Kordal." I can't find mention in any of my sources of any place with a name beginning Kordal-, but that doesn't necessarily mean much -- surnames developed centuries ago, and sometimes the place they referred to has since disappeared, changed its name, etc. So it's still kind of up in the air whether this name referred originally to a village or settlement named something like Kordalew or Kordali, or whether it simply meant "kin of Kordal or Kordala." Those are names known to have been used in the past, coming either from the roots kord, "saber," or korda, the cord used by monks or nuns instead of belts, or (just maybe) from the Latin name Cordula.

As of 1990 there were 259 Polish citizens named Kordalewski, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Warsaw (57), Ciechanow (23), Lodz (35), Płock (75), and Skierniewice (18), with only a few others scattered in various other provinces. So the name seems to be most common in central Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to first names or addresses for any of those people, and "central Poland" is still too large an area to help you very much. I'm afraid that's the way it is with most Polish surnames -- they just don't offer much in the way of helpful clues.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


PISZCZOR

… My surname, Piszczor, traces from the Zakopane/NowyTarg region back before 1620 (based on reports of a baptismal certificate supposedly in the civil Nowy Targ records). Now the root of our name piszcz I have found to be difined as either a large rodent/high-pitched voice; or as being a claimant, making a claim. (What type of claim has always been a item of wonderment for me. Just a big whiner?)

Since I last revised my book on Polish surnames, I've got hold of a couple of books on names in that general area, especially Cieszyn and Nowy Sacz, and they shed a little more light on this name (and since as of 1990 fully 45 of the 75 Piszczor's lived in Nowy Sacz province, this seems relevant). Apparently most of the names beginning with piszcz- are thought to have referred to piszczeć, "to play a pipe, flute, pan-pipe"; so while the link with the basic root's meaning of "squeal, high-pitched sound" is clear, Wladyslaw Milerski's Nazwiszka Cieszyńskie specifically mentions Piszczor, Piszczór, and Piszczur among the names that probably began as meaning "piper." I know I'd prefer that to being a whiner or rodent!

… Anyway, I have found that region was not begun to be settled until the years 1590-1610. Now I have found on some old 1943 U.S. Army maps a village about 2km or so east of Zakopane by the name of Piszczora! Guess what I'm asking here is, can we begin to draw some conclusions from this?

Out of curiosity I looked in the Slownik Geograficzny gazetteer -- it mentions a "Piszczory, a wólka belonging to Skrzypne, Nowy Targ county, on the stream Rogoznik, in the northern part of Skrzypne, with 7 houses and 35 inhabitants." [A wólka was a "new" agricultural settlement (probably less than 500 years old, as opposed to a really old place like Gdańsk or Poznań) established with settlers from some older village; it was typically established with a 10 or 20-year exemption from rents and taxes, so the settlement could get on its feet before it started paying its noble landowner dividends.] I doubt this is the same place you're talking about, as this one would be maybe 10-20 km. north of Zakopane; but it's not unusual to see two or more places with similar names in the same general region. What I found interesting about this is that Piszczory was a subdivision of Skrzypne, and that name comes from the root skrzyp-, "creak, grind, squeak," used especially in skrzypki, "fiddle," and skrzypce, "violin." Apparently they had a kind of musical theme going in that area, with lots of pipers and fiddlers!

Anyway, I would think a place called Piszczora would have come from the genitive-case form piszczora, "[place] of the piper." In other words, the place probably took its name from people, rather than the other way around. It's risky making general statements like this, there are so many exceptions. But I think the places named Piszczora and Piszczory got those names because there were a lot of pipers around, or else from a person whose name was Piszczor because he or an ancestor had been a piper. That's how I see it, anyway.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


ŁOZIŃSKI

… Laskowski was my maternal grandmothers' maiden name, and when I showed my mother your (very NICE, thank you very much) e-mail and your web site, she also became interested. Her maiden name was Lozinski, and again, is one of those names that I couldn't find any info on on your site.

Well, the 1990 compilation I quote for data on name frequency lists some 800,000+ Polish surnames (only 44,723 of which are borne by more than 100 Poles), so there are one or two I haven't gotten to yet on my Website. Even my book only had room for 30,000 of the most common ones...

As of 1990 there were 3,095 Łoziński's in Poland -- I'm using ł to stand for the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w, and ń for the accented n; the name is pronounced roughly "woe-ZHEEN-skee." The provinces with the largest numbers were: Gorzow 169, Katowice 163, Krakow 183, Warsaw 258, Wroclaw 366, Zielona Gora 179. Those are the provinces with the most people, so basically that just means the name is rather evenly distributed all over Poland.

A name ending in -iński usually (not always) refers to a similar place name. I'd expect Łoziński to have started as meaning "one from Łozin, one from Łozy," something like that. There are several villages with names that qualify, including Łozina in Wroclaw province, Łoza in Elblag province, and at least three Łozy's (in Przemysl, Siedlce, and Zielona Gora provinces); a Łoziński could come from any of those places. The root of all these place names is probably the term łoza, "osier, wicker," so that these place names all meant basically "place with lots of wicker" and the surname meant "one from Łozina, Łozy, etc." = "one from the wicker place." Viewed this way, it's not surprising the name is moderately common, that's a name that could (and surely did) get started independently in many different places.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


DOMARACKI -- DOMARADZKI -- DOMARECKI -- DOMERACKI -- DOMERADZKI

… I found your web page through a search. I have been trying to find even just basic info. on the Polish surname, Domeracki. I've visited a lot of Polish genealogy sites but no info. Was wondering, if it is at all possibly, for you to send me any info., such as etymology etc., that you might have on this surname.

The probable origin of Domeracki is from an old Slavic pagan first name, Domarad, literally "glad at home." The ancient Poles and other Slavs gave their children names that were meant to be good omens, so giving a child a name like that was to express hope he would have a happy home. There are several villages in Poland with names that come from this name, probably because someone named Domarad founded them or owned them at some point; they include a village called Domarady in Olsztyn province, and villages called Domaradz in Krosno, Opole, and Slupsk provinces. There may be others that don't show up on my maps, but this shows there are at least four different places this surname could come from.

There are several reasonably common surnames formed either directly from the name Domarad, or else from places such as those I just mentioned, which in turn got their name from Domarad.

As of 1990 there were 1,129 Polish citizens named Domeracki, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (302), Olsztyn (117), and Torun (139), and smaller numbers scattered all over the country. There were another 755 who spelled it Domeradzki, which would be pronounced exactly the same, roughly as "dome-air-OTT-skee," and for all practical purposes they could be considered the same name; the Domeradzki's were most common in the provinces of Warsaw 107, Płock 91, Radom 98, and Wloclawek 74. However, neither name is associated with any one area to such a degree that we can say "Here's where the name came from" ... Besides Domeracki and Domeradzki we also have the "standard" or most common form Domaradzki (there were 3,409 Poles by that name as of 1990), as well as Domaracki (317) and Domarecki (603). All of these are just variants of the same basic name with slight differences due to regional pronunciations, errors, etc. The data strongly suggests there isn't just one big family that shares this name, but rather the name got started independently in different places at different times.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


CHORĄŻEWICZ -- SZABLAK

Horonzevicz (or Horonzewicz) and Szablak are the names I'm interested in

Szablak comes from the word szabla, "saber, sword." The -ak is a diminutive ending, so the name means literally "little sword." Often when Poles formed a name for a person from the name of an object they added a suffix to help distinguish the two; that may be the case here, so that the name means "swordsman." Or the -ak may imply "son of the swordsman," either interpretation is plausible. As of 1990 there were 408 Polish citizens with this name, with the largest numbers in the northeastern provinces of Ostrołęka (138) and Łomża (73) and smaller numbers scattered all over the country. The name is pronounced much like "SHAW-block" would be in English.

Horonzewicz is a variant of the name which appears as Chorążewicz in standard form; the ch and h are pronounced exactly the same in Polish, and ą stands for a a nasal vowel written like a normal a with a tail under it and pronounced much like "own."N. Ż stands for Z with a dot over it, so that it sounds like zh in "Zhivago." Both spellings sound the same -- much like "hoe-ron-ZHE-vich" -- and it's not unusual in such cases to see more than one spelling, especially in past centuries. As of 1990 there were 740 Poles named Chorążewicz, with particularly large numbers living in the provinces of Olsztyn (203) and Ostrołęka (215), both in northeastern Poland, and smaller numbers in many other provinces. There was no one in Poland who spelled it Horonzewicz, probably because with the advent of mass literacy in this century the spellings of many names have been standardized. The name means comes from the term chorąży, "standard-bearer" (tail under the a, dot over the z) plus the suffix -ewicz, "son of," so it means "son of the standard-bearer."

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


ORSZAK

… Hello, I've already ordered your book, but in the meantime I was wondering if you could provide any information on the subject surname (Orszak) which was my mothers maiden name.

I'm glad you contacted me -- I don't want people who order the book to be disappointed, and Orszak is not in there! I was a little surprised to see I hadn't included it, but generally I didn't include names borne by fewer than 300 Poles as of 1990, and as of that year there were only 183 Poles named Orszak. About half lived in the provinces of Rzeszow (58) and Tarnobrzeg (38) in southeastern Poland, the rest were scattered in small numbers all over the country; so this tells us that at least these days the name is most common in southeastern Poland, sometimes called Malopolska or "Little Poland," and "Galicia" after the Austrians took it over during the partitions. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses of those Orszak's, the info comes from a Polish government agency database, and they won't allow us access to anything other than info on how many people have a particular name and where they live by province. But it might be a little helpful to know the Orszak's are most common in that region.

Polish names can fool us, but it certainly appears that this name comes from the term orszak, "retinue, staff, group of persons accompanying someone or something," in archaic times meaning "a mass of people." My 8-volume dictionary of Polish says it comes from Turkish urszak, "group of people assembled for a specific purpose." It used to be pretty much mandatory for any important noble or clergymen to be attended by a retinue (kind of like the way people use the term "posse" in modern slang), and I suppose this name could come to be associated with a person who had or served in such a retinue. One source, Alexander Beider's Dictionary of Jewish Surnames in the Kingdom of Poland, says this term is what the name probably comes from, and speculates perhaps it referred to a rabbi's train or retinue"; so I'm not the only one who thinks that's the derivation of it the name. However, there is no reason to assume this name was borne only by Jews; I'm sure it's one of many names used by people of any religion; the only difference is, among Jews it might refer to a rabbi's retinue, among Christians it would probably refer to the retinue of a noble or high clergyman.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


KURZYNA – NIEDBALSKI -- WALIŃSKI -- WOLIŃSKI

…Is Kurzin a Polish name and if so, what does it mean? I have an ancestor with that name who came from Poznan.

The spelling Kurzin is not used these days -- as of 1990 there was no one in Poland by that name. But there were 16 named Kurzyn and 892 named Kurzyna, and Kurzin could very well be a variant dating back to the days when spelling rules weren't quite so strict or well-known. The 892 Kurzyna's lived all over Poland, with larger numbers in the provinces of Białystok (112), Łomża (150), Lublin (162), and Tarnobrzeg (180); the 16 Kurzyn's lived in the provinces of Warsaw (1), Lodz (1), Suwałki (8), and Zamosc (8). Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses... The root of either name is kur, "chicken"; kurzyna can mean "chicken meat," or "a bad hen, one of poor quality," plus several other things.

2. What is the difference between Walinski and Wolinski, or are they the same name with the same meaning?

They can be the same name -- in Polish a and o sound very similar, and we often see them confused in spelling. But in a perfect world, the two names are distinct, referring usually to the names of places the families came from, such as Wola, Wolin, Wolina vs. Waliny. The basic root of wola has to do with "(free) will," but people named Woliński were connected with agricultural settlements called Wola's, because they were settled by people from other villages who were given 10-20 years of exemption from taxes and rents while they got the new settlements on their feet. Names beginning with Wal- typically came from short forms of first names such as Walenty (Valentine) or Walerian (Valerian), or from the verb root walić, "to overturn, overthrow, upset." Poles typically form nicknames or new names by taking the first syllable of a name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes (sort of like English "Teddy" from "Theodore"), and that explains how names like Walin came from Walenty or Walerian. Then -ski is an adjective ending, so that Waliński means literally "of, from, pertaining to Walin." So in practice Waliński would end up meaning something like "kin of Val, one from the place of Val." As of 1990 there were 874 Walinski's in Poland, as opposed to 6,584 Wolinski's.

3. What does the name Niedbalski mean?

This comes from the term niedbala, "negligent, sloppy fellow." The -ski is adjectival, so that the name means literally "of, from, pertaining to the sloppy guy" -- most often in names it would mean basically "kin of the sloppy guy, son of the sloppy guy," something like that. As of 1990 there were 1,446 Poles named Niedbalski.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


LEWKOWICZ

… I am beginning to look into my heritage. I don't even really know where to start. My father's name is Stephan Lewkowicz......his father is Bronislav Lewkowicz....I was told that my grandparents came from Poland. Do you have any information on Lewkowicz?

The -owicz suffix means "son of," so this surname means "son of Lewko." Lewko is a name used by Christians and Jews, and the origin can be different, depending on religion. But the names you cite, Stephan and Bronislav, are Christian, so I will assume the family was Christian and not Jewish. In that case the name can come either from the term lewy, "left," or the first name Lew, which comes from the common Slavic root for "lion" and is basically the Slavic equivalent of our names Leon and Leo. So Lewkowicz is basically a Slavic name meaning "son of Leo." As of 1990 there were 2,943 Polish citizens named Lewkowicz, living all over the country. So I'm afraid -- like most Polish surnames -- this one doesn't provide us with any useful clues about where the family might have come from. I would think it more likely to have originated in eastern Poland or Belarus or Ukraine than western Poland, but even then it's more a matter of probability -- there are and have been plenty of people named Lewkowicz in western Poland.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


PANIKOWSKI -- PANKOWSKI

… looking for the Polish surname closest to Panikowski can't seem to find one.

Well, how about Panikowski? As of 1990 there were 139 Poles by this name, scattered all over Poland -- the largest single numbers live in the provinces of Gdansk (27) and Krakow (24), with much smaller numbers living in many other provinces, so there's no one part of the country where this name is concentrated... If you want a common name close to Panikowski, I'd suggest Pankowski, there were 3,696 Polish citizens by that name in 1990. But if Panikowski is the form you have, I see no reason to look for anything else -- Panikowski is a perfetly good Polish name.

Both Panikowski and Pankowski probably derive ultimately from the root pan, "master, lord," or from short forms of several first names, such as Pankrac, Pantelejmon, Opanas, etc. Pankowski probably comes in most cases from a name of a village such as Panków or Panki, and would mean basically "one coming from Panków, Panki, etc," and those place names mean basically "place of the pan" or "place of Pan-." There are several villages in Poland named Panki and Panków, so I can't tell you which one the name would refer to in a specific family's case.

Panikowski would probably originated as meaning "one from Paników, Panikowo, Paniki, " or some other place with a similar name. I can't find any such place on my maps, but that doesn't mean anything -- these surnames typically developed centuries ago, and the places they referred to have often disappeared, changed their names, etc. Here again, the name of the place, if there was such a place, would mean something like "place of panik," where panik might be a diminutive of pan, meaning "little master," or might be a nickname from one of those first names I mentioned earlier.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


OLISZEWSKI

… I have read your renderings of Polish surnames online and wonder if you might be able to assist me...I have only one name for you to look at! My great-great-grandmother's maiden name is Olishefskie, and I have been unable to find anything which divulges its meaning.

Well, this is probably just a phonetic spelling of Polish Oliszewski -- pronounced out loud, that name does sound very much to us like "oh-li-SHEF-skee," so that spelling makes sense. As of 1990 there were 331 Polish citizens named Oliszewski, with the largest concentration (128) in the province of Warsaw and much smaller numbers scattered in many other provinces all over the country. The name probably comes from Olisz, a sort of nickname of Aleksander -- in many parts of Poland this name takes the form Oleksander, with O instead of A, and Poles formed many nicknames from it. Oliszewski literally breaks down as "of, from, pertaining to the __ of Olisz," where the blank is filled in with something not expressed because it was obvious -- usually either "kin" or "place." So this surname probably meant something like "Al's kin," or else "one from Al's place." I can find only one place on my maps with a name that qualifies, Oliszki in Białystok province, and a family from there could have ended up with a name like Oliszewski. Or there may once have been a place somewhere called Oliszew or Oliszewo, but it has changed names or disappeared in the centuries since the surname was established. Or it may still exist and is just too small to show up in my sources.

Oliszewski is a perfectly good Polish name, but there is one other possibility I really should mention. There is a very common Polish name Olszewski (44,638 Poles bore that name as of 1990), meaning basically "one from the place of the alder trees" (thus "one from Olszewo/Olszewa/Olszew, etc."). This name is so common, and so close to what you mention, that I figured I'd better point it out, just in case it turns out that was the original form, and the first -I- in Olishefskie was inserted by mistake.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


MAKOMASKI -- OCHYLSKI -- PRACKI -- STRZELECKI

… Would you please give me info on the names Strzelecki, Pracki, Makomaski, and Ochylski? My grandfather wrote a book on our family, and I am completing his research.

I'm afraid Strzelecki is the only name I can find much on -- it generally meant a family came from one of numerous villages called Strzelce. That name, in turn, comes from strzelec, "shooter, marksman." As of 1990 there were 11,467 Poles named Strzelecki, and the name is common all over the country.

I could find no info on the derivations of the other names. I do have a source that gives the total number of Poles by specific names as of 1990, with a breakdown of where they lived by province (but I have no access to further details, such as first names or addresses). Here's what that source shows

Makomaski: 95, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (30), Płock (12), less than 10 in 11 other provinces.

Ochylski: 12, living in the provinces of Koszalin (3), Lodz (5), Poznan (4)

Pracki: 428, scattered all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Płock (76), Wloclawek (69), and smaller numbers in many other provinces.

If you would like more information and don't spending $30 or so, I recommend contacting the Anthroponymic Workshop I mentioned on the introductory page.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


KAPCZYŃSKI -- PŁOTKOWSKI -- ZAWORSKI

… I have searched for possible root words of the 3 names in which I am interested, in my Polish/English dictionary, but, probably because I have only the slightest understanding of the language, I have had no luck in figuring out whether my names have ANY meaning at all. They are: Plotkowski (with a crossbar on the l), Zaworski, and Kapczynski. (The 1st & 3rd families are from the rural area northwest of Warsaw, if this helps any.)

Kapczyński is a moderately common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 1,552 Poles named Kapczyński (by the way, I'm using ~ to mark Polish diacriticals, so that ń is the n with an accent over it, ł is the slashed l, etc.). The largest numbers were in the provinces of Warsaw (205), Bydgsozcz (169), Ciechanow (148), Lodz (106), and Pila (126), with smaller numbers scattered in many other provinces. The root of this name would seem to be kapać, to drip, but I can't seem to find Kapczyński listed in any of my sources; I would expect this surname to be connected with a place name, something like Kapcza or Kapczyn. I can't find any such places listed in my sources, but that doesn't necessarily mean much -- surnames developed centuries ago, and it's not unusual for the places they referred to then to have since disappeared, changed names, etc. Still, I can't help wondering if this is a variant of the name Kopczyński, which was borne by 8,474 Poles in 1990. In Polish the a and o are pronounced very similarly, and we often see them switch back and forth in names -- I can't help but wonder if that's happened here? The name Kopczyński appears to come from the root kopczyna, "pile, mound," especially a pile of harvest grain gathered by landless farmers.

Płotkowski was the name of 314 Poles in 1990, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (51), Gdansk (28), Szczecin (60), Torun (55), and Wloclawek (26); there were only 11 in the province of Warsaw. The name almost certainly derives from the roots seen in płot "fence, enclosure," or płotka, płoć, "roach (a kind of fish)." I would expect this name to have started in most cases as a connection with a village or place named something like Płotki, Płotkowo, so that the name would mean basically "person from Płotki, Płotkowo, etc." Those places, in turn, probably got their names because of some association with either enclosures or the kind of fish we call (rather disgustingly) "roach." As with Kapczyński, however, I couldn't find mention of any places with names that qualify, so I can't be positive.

1,884 Poles bore the name Zaworski in 1990, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Gdansk (222) and Poznan (317). It appears to derive from the term zawora, "bolt, latch," or from places named Zawory in Gdansk and Poznan provinces. I would think the link with the villages would be likely for a surname, thus meaning "one from Zawory"; the large numbers of Zaworski's in Gdansk and Poznan provinces tends to support that notion, since that's where we actually find villages named Zawory.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


REDISCH -- REDISZ

… My grandfather, Peter Redisch, left Poland and his parents in 1864.All I know is from his death certificate that the family lived in Galicia at that time.

REDISCH is hard to pin down, because that spelling of the name is clearly influenced by German -- Polish seldom uses the combination -sch, that's a German way of spelling the sound we write as -sh, which the Poles write -sz. So the question arises whether this name is actually German or Polish in origin. None of my sources mentions this name, and a look at surnames used in modern Poland shows no one named Redisch; if we look for the Polish way of spelling this name, there were 11 Poles named Redisz as of 1990, living in the provinces of Katowice (5), Krakow (4), Ostrołęka (2). I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so about all we can say is that these days the name appears mainly in southcentral Poland, which before 1918 was roughly the extreme western edge of Galicia.

If the name is German in origin, it might come from the root red-, "swamp," or from Reddich, an old variant meaning "radish." These seem unlikely, though, the suffix -isch or -isz in surnames is usually Slavic rather than German. So it's more likely this is Polish. Polish names beginning with Red- are usually northern Polish (Pomeranian) variants of names with Rad- in standard Polish. That root means either "joy" or "advise." Generally names with Rad- started as a nicknames or short forms for a longer compound name such as Radomir ("glad of peace") or Radoslaw "glad of fame"), or it could have meant "the adviser" or "the joyful one." The name Radzisz shows up as a first name in old records, and Redisz could be a variant of that. But without more information it's really very hard to say. Of course the problem with this is that the name is showing up in southcentral Poland, rather far from where Red- variants of Rad- would be expected to originate. Still, people did move around in the old days, it's hardly impossible that a family might have come from northwestern Poland and moved to Galicia. We do know from records that some people with German-influenced names settled in Galicia, often as colonists settling new communities or as prisoners of war.

So I can't be certain, but the most likely explanation, from the info I have, is that this is a German-influenced variant of an old Polish first name such as Radzisz, which started as a short form or nickname for someone named Radolf or Radomir or Radoslaw, and later came to be used as a surname. And at some point in, say, the 15th or 16th century, the family came to live in Galicia. This is, at least, consistent with the facts as we know them, and is fairly plausible.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


AUFSCHAUER

… Any info on my last name Aufschauer. My Father grew up in Lvov (Lemberg) Galicia.

This name is pure German, and almost certainly comes from the verb aufschauen, "to look up" -- Aufschauer would mean literally "one who looks up." It might seem odd that such a German name shows up in Lvov, but there were large numbers of Germans, as well as German- or Yiddish-speaking Jews, who lived in that area, so it used to be quite common to run across Germanic names there. There is no one in Poland today with this name, but that's hardly surprising, since I only have data for Poland in its modern boundaries, and Lvov is now in Ukraine, so names appearing in the Lvov area would not be included in my sources. It's questionable whether anyone with this name would still live in the Lvov region -- after World War II many of the people with German names and blood left what used to be Poland and resettled in Eastern Germany, sometimes voluntarily, sometimes not.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


JASTRZĘBSKI – JESTRIMSKI -- YASTRZEMSKI

… I have spent some time searching for information on my family name & was wondering if you per chance had any references to Jestrimski or maybe Jestrimsky

The problem with this name is that Jestrimski or Jestrimsky is almost certainly an Anglicized form of the name, not the original Polish form; and without the original Polish form, there's not much I can do. I'm pretty sure this isn't the original form because 1) there was no one in Poland with this name as of 1990, 2) I've never seen this before, and 3) the spelling is inconsistent with Polish linguistic preferences. So until we know what the name was before it was changed, it's hard to analyze it.

I'll say this, I suspect this is a phonetic spelling of the Polish name Jastrzębski -- the ę is a way of indicating on-line the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under it, pronounced normally like en but before a b or p like em, so that the name would sound to us like "yahs-CHEMP-skee." This is a very common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 19,156 Polish citizens by that name, living all over the country. It comes from the root jastrząb, "goshawk" (ą is another nasal vowel, written as an a with a tail under it, pronounced like om before b or p); the surname typically originated either as a nickname for an individual whose manner or voice or clothes reminded people of a goshawk, or from a place name, "person from Jastrzębie [the place of the goshawks]" or other places with similar names and meanings. There are quite a few places by that name in Poland, so it's difficult to tell which one a given family might have come from.

I have seen this name Jastrzębski mangled into many different forms in English – there was a famous American baseball player named Carl Yastrzemski, for instance -- and Jestrimski could very well be a rather inaccurate phonetic spelling of it. I can't be sure, but that would be my guess.

 Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.   

 


 

CHUCHRO -- HUCHRO -- PIETRYŁKA

… Thank you again for the information on the name Drazba. There are 2 more names I would like some information on. Chuchro/Huchro and Pietrylka/Petrylka.

The standard form of the name is Chuchro, but since Polish ch and h are pronounced the same, Huchro is a perfectly understandable variant spelling; both are pronounced roughly "khookh-row," where kh stands for the guttural sound of ch in German Bach. It appears to come from the term chuchro, "weakling, frail person." As of 1990 there were 563 Poles by this name (vs. 14 who spelled it Huchro). The largest numbers of Chuchro's lived in the provinces of Katowice (132) and Krakow (90) in southcentral Poland, with much smaller numbers scattered in many other provinces.

Pietryłka (where I'm using ł to stand for the l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w) is a very rare name today in Poland; as of 1990 there were only 4 Poles by that name, all living in Krosno province in the southeastern corner of the country. The form Petryłka was borne by 17 Poles, in the provinces of Jelenia Gora (4), Krosno (11), Zielona Gora (2). None of my sources mention it, but it seems likely to derive from a nickname from Piotr, "Peter." Judging by where it appears in post-war Poland and the Piet-/Pet- spelling variation, I strongly suspect it is of Ukrainian origin rather than Polish, and might be a bit more common in Ukraine -- however, I have no data for that country and thus cannot be sure.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


BENTKOWSKI -- BĘTKOWSKI -- CEBULA -- CHLEBEK -- CZUBSKI -- KASPRZAK -- LIGAS – NOWOROLNIK -- ZABRZESKI

… If you discuss any of the names listed below in your book, please let me know and I will be happy to purchase a copy. Any direction you can provide is greatly appreciated.

Well, I hate to disappoint you, but in at least 90% of cases there is nothing about a surname that indicates anything useful in tracing the family. Thus Cebula comes from the word for "onion," and as of 1990 there were 9,868 Poles with this name, living all over the country. Presumably it originated as a nickname for a person who grew onions, or liked to eat them, or was shaped like them, something like that, then later it stuck as a surname. Clearly this isn't going to help you discover where any particular family named Cebula lived.

Similarly, Noworolnik comes from noworola, literally "new field," often used for "field plowed just before spring sowing," or in some cases from nowy + rolnik," literally a "new farmer." A Noworolnik got that name because he was farming a "new field," and as of 1990 there were 486 Poles by that name; the largest numbers were in the provinces of Lublin (122), and Nowy Sacz (163), but that doesn't really tell you anything you didn't already know. (I'm afraid I don't have access to details such as first names and addresses, what I give here is all I have)... The info that your maternal grandparents' family came from Tylmanowa, near Nowy Targ in the province of Nowy Sacz in southcentral Poland (it's 20-30 km. WSW of Nowy Sacz), is far more helpful than anything I can tell you about any of the surnames. Tylmanowa is big enough to have its own Catholic parish church, which is where people living in the vicinity would have gone to register births, deaths, and marriages; if the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah has microfilmed its records, that's the place to start trying to trace them.

Bentkoski is a variant of the name Bentkowski (1,426 in 1990) or Bętkowski (1,501) -- these are the same name spelled differently, because the vowel I'm writing here as ę is a nasal vowel, an e with a tail under it, pronounced like en, so that either spelling is phonetically correct, although the spelling with ę is usually standard these days. Names ending in -owski usually refer to a place, so that this one refers to a family's origin in any of several places named Będkowice, Będkowo, or Będków. Będkowice in Krakow province might be a good bet, since this is in southcentral Poland, which seems to be the area your roots might lie in; this village has its own Catholic parish church, so with any luck the records might have been microfilmed by the LDS.

Chlebek means literally "little bread," and as of 1990 there were 963 Poles by that name, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice 220, Nowy Sacz 198, Rzeszow 108 in southcentral and southeastern Poland.

Czubski comes either from czub, "hair on top of the head," or from czubić się, "to quarrel." It might also refer to origin in a place with a name beginning in Czub-, e. g., Czuby in Lublin province, and a place with such a name derives from the roots given above. As of 1990 there were 209 Poles with this name, and the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Katowice 112 and Walbrzych 36, with much smaller numbers scattered in many other provinces.

Kasprzak means "little Casper, son of Casper," and there were 16,744 Poles by that name in 1990. As with most surnames from popular first names, this one is common all over the country; there isn't one big Kasprzak family, but dozens or hundreds of individual ones that all came by the name independently, because around the time surnames were being established, a Kasper or Kacper was prominent enough that his kin were referred to by his name.

Ligas probably comes from the verb ligać, "to kick or lie down," compare the term ligęza, "one who loves to lie around," so Ligas too may have started as a nickname for a rather easy-going fellow. As of 1990 there were 687 Poles by this name, with the largest number by far, 290, in the province Nowy Sacz.

In Zabreskiego the -ego is just an ending dictated by grammar in certain circumstances, so you drop it when looking for the standard form. This is almost certainly a simplified spelling of Zabrzeski, "one from Zabrzeż"; in this case the probable reference is to the village Zabrzeż (dot over the final z) in Nowy Sacz province, maybe 5 km. north of Tylmanowa. There are other places with names that could produce this surname, but with the info on your family's roots this is the most likely. Notice again, the surname by itself is useless, but if you have reason to believe the family came from a clearly defined area, you can look for places in that area that match up, with reasonable chances of success.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


STĘPKOWSKI

… Please send me any remarks on the surname I hold, i.e.: Stêpkowski (the third letter of it may be correctly seen using Central European Windows fonts).

Usually those of us whose machines are not configured for Polish characters use ę to stand for the nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under it and pronounced like en in most cases, but like em before a b or p. But in this note I’ll use ê so it will show up correctly on your computer.

According to onomastics expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut, the name Stêpkowski comes ultimately from the Old Polish root stêpka, "a small stêpa"; he defines stêpa as "urzadzenie do tluczenia, ubijania." In English I rendered this as a "mill for crushing grain, ore, etc." It often happens that names ending in -owski refer to place of origin in a village with a similar name, such as Stêpki, Stêpkowo, etc., and those places got their names because of some association with such mills. I can find no places by such names on the maps I have, but that is not unusual. Surnames generally developed at least two centuries ago, often much earlier, and the places they referred could be quite small, unlikely to appear on maps, or may have disappeared or changed names in the centuries since then.

This is a moderately common surname in Poland: as of 1990 there were 2,142 Polish citizens named Stêpkowski. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Warszawa (353), Ciechanow (270), Krakow (104), and Wloclawek (102), but there were smaller numbers in virtually every province (for instance there were 57 in Lodz province). Unfortunately, my source for this information, Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, does not give further information such as first names and addresses, so this is all the data I have access to.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


ROMAN

Roman is the name of my Grandfather and Anthony is his first name, they came to the USA from Poland around late 1890's and settled in Pennsylvania. My Grandmother came from a small provence near Warsaw, but there is no one alive to tell me the name or even her maiden name, I am trying to establish a family history...Thank you for your help...

I wish I could help you, but I'm afraid Roman is too common a surname to offer much help. As of 1990 there were 5,730 Polish citizens named Roman, living all over the country -- there is no one particular area where this name is concentrated. It comes from the first name Roman, from Latin Romanus, "Roman, citizen of Rome," and also from the Roman coat of arms. The name appears in records as far back as the 1400's.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


NADANER

… I'm very actively researching my maternal grandfathers family, the Nadaners, and have recently connected with two separate Nadaner families... The first translation of Nadaner yielded 'Talented', the second was 'nice, pretty'.

Linguistically speaking, Nadaner is a distinctively Yiddish form, created by adding the Yiddish-German suffix -er to the archaic Polish adjective nadany, in form a participle from the verb nadać. The translations "talented" and "nice, pretty" come from efforts to render the meaning of nadany in English: the word means literally "on-given, to-given," in the sense of "one to whom [desirable qualities] have been given." The English words "talented, nice, pretty" correspond fairly well to the meanings this word had in Polish (as I say, it's archaic now). In some ways nadany is best defined in terms of its antonym, nienadany, where nie- is the negative particle meaning "not, non-"; the term nienadany was used to mean "barbaric, wild, uncivilized." This suggests nadany was used as a positive description for someone comely, attractive, desirable.

I can't add much more; my main source of information for Jewish names is Alexander Beider's Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland, and from the info you gave I'm fairly certain you've consulted this work at some point. About the only thing I can add is that as of 1990 there was no longer anyone named Nadaner living in Poland; there were still some who bore the native Polish forms Nadany and Nadana, but no Nadaner, at least not within the limits of accuracy of the database maintained by the PESEL Government Information Center.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


WOJCZYŃSKI

… I would appreciate any information on the meaning or origin of my grandmother's maiden name [Woyczynski].

The Polish spelling of the name is Wojczyński, where ń is how we represent on-line the Polish n with an accent over it; the name is pronounced roughly "voy-CHIN-skee." As of 1990 there were 268 Polish citizens by this name, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Kalisz (221), Pila (103), and Poznan (52) and smaller numbers (fewer than 20) in many other provinces. So this name is most common in west central Poland -- but the data does not allow us to narrow the focus to any particular area.

Names ending in -ski are adjectives, and Wojczyński literally means "of, from, pertaining to wojczyn," so the question is what that means. The ultimate root of is probably woj, "warrior," with wojczyn either as meaning "son of the warrior" or a nickname from old Polish first names such as Wojciech, Wojslaw, etc. Actually, I would expect Wojczyński, like most names ending in -iński and -yński, to have referred to a place named for a warrior or a Wojciech, Wojslaw, etc., thus meaning something like "one from Wojczyn or Wojcza"; there is a village Wójcza in Kielce province, at least some Wojczyński's probably got their name because they came from this place.

There are also at least 5 villages called Wójcin, and since the letter combinations -cin and -czyn in Polish sound similar ("cheen" vs. "chin"), it is possible Wojczyński might also have referred to those places, "one from Wójcin." This place name could come from that first name Wojciech, but could also come from the word wó~jt, a kind of village mayor; so Wójcin can mean "the place of the wójt" and Wójciński "one from Wójcin = one from the place of the wójt." It's a bit of a reach from Wójciński to Wojczyński, but I can't rule it out; there probably are at least a few cases where the two names were confused.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


FUJARA -- SZWAJA

… I have come across these two names in my family. They seem unusual. Does anyone know if Fujara is actually Polish? That is the exact spelling on a good number of clear records.

Fujara can be Polish, there were 85 Polish citizens by that name as of 1990, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice (32) and Przemysl (16). It almost certainly comes from the word fujara, "pipe," the sinple musical instrument, with a secondary meaning of "nincompoop, goof-off." I think the connection is a fujara is "the kind of fellow who sits around tootling while all us poor slobs are working our butts off, damn him (and how come I don't get to do that?)." My big dictionary says the ultimate source of the word is Romanian fluera, and I'm rather proud of the fact that when I first read your note I thought, "Hmm, sounds Romanian." (If I'm so smart, why ain't I rich?)

Does Szwaia fall into Polish names? It is written exceptionally well on one record so the spelling cannot be denied.

This is in the book, but not in that spelling. As the notes on p. 11 of the book indicate, J and I and Y were often interchangeable in older Polish spelling; these days the standard spelling of this name would be Szwaja. I couldn't find discussion of this name by any Polish expert, but there is a word szwaja, a contemptuous term for "seamstress, neadlewoman," and I strongly suspect that's the source of the surname. As of 1990 there were 1,096 Szwaja's in Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Czestochowa (155), Katowice (136), Kielce (129), Krakow (93); so it's found most often in southcentral Poland.

Don't be bothered that neither of these terms is particularly complimentary. Compared to a lot of Polish names, ones meaning "nincompoop" and "seamstress" are mild!

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


DYTRYCH

… Since the birth of my son I've developed an interest in trying to trace our family tree, but I must admit I am not getting very far as records are very thin on the ground. My father was born in Poland but lived out his years in England after the war. I would be grateful if you could offer me any advice on the origins of our surname.

Dytrych is a Polish version of the German first name Dietrich; the German name is pronounced roughly "DEET-rick," whereas this Polish version (there are others) sounds more like "DITT-rick," with that first vowel a short i rather than a long e. This name is of ancient origin, from back in the days before Germans and Poles etc. were Christianized -- parents would give their children names of good omen, based on what they hoped the child would grow up to be (or naming them after a famous person who bore that name). The ancient Germanic roots in this name mean "people" and "rule," so that we might interpret the name as "ruler of the people" = "may he grow up to rule the people" (the second element is also seen in "Friedrich" [Frederick], "peaceful ruler," "may he rule in peace").

There were a great many ethnic Germans who came to live in Poland, often invited by land-owning nobles who wanted skilled farmers and craftsmen to help repopulate areas devastated by the Black Death and other catastrophes. So it's not at all rare to see names of German origin in Poland. The family bearing this name, after a while, probably thought of themselves as Poles and didn't even think about how their ancestors were actually Germans. Millions those who did continue to identify themselves as German, or who had distinctively German names, moved out of Poland after World War II, afraid to go on living there after what the Nazis did to the Poles during the war.

Dytrych is still a moderately common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 588 Polish citizens by this name, scattered in small numbers all over the country. I'm afraid there's nothing about its frequency or distribution that offers any really helpful clues as to what part of Poland families by this name might have come from; they could have lived anywhere in the old Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania. I know this may be disappointing, perhaps you were hoping the name would give a clue; but in all honesty I'd estimate some 90% of Polish names don't provide any kind of useful lead. I'm afraid usually the only thing that helps is digging in naturalization records, ship passenger lists, church records, etc.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


SIEDLECKI

… I would appreciate it if you could search my last name, Siedlecki.

Siedlecki is one of many Polish surnames coming from place names, generally indicating that the family in question came from or was otherwise connected to a place with a name like Siedlce or Siedlec. If the family was noble, it meaned at one time they owned a village or estate by those names; if the family was not noble, they probably worked the fields at such a place, or at one time lived there and later moved elsewhere, so that it made sense to distinguish them by calling them "the ones from Siedlce/Siedlec." That's really all Siedlecki means, it's an adjectival form meaning "of, from, pertaining to Siedlce or Siedlec." It's pronounced in Polish something like "shed-LET-skee."

There at least a dozen places in Poland with those names. The largest and best known is Siedlce in east central Poland, big enough to be the capital of its own province; but there are several other Siedlce's and quite a few Siedlec's. All of these place names derive ultimately from a Polish root siedl- meaning "settle" (it's not an accident the Polish and English roots sound similar, if you go back far enough they came from the same original root in Indo-European). Usually what happened is that back in the old days before Poles accepted Christianity, they named their children with names formed by sticking two roots together to express a good omen or hoped-for success, much as German Friedrich means "peace+rule" = "peaceful ruler." For instance, there was an old Polish name Siedlewit, and the roots in question are siedl-, "settle, seat" + wit, "master, lord," thus "lord of the settlement," expressing a hope that the child would be the master of the place where he lived. Then later Poles abbreviated the name and added suffixes (much as we turned "Theodore" into "Teddy"). Siedlec and Siedlce both would mean something like "the place of Siedl," and Siedlecki just means "one from the place of Siedl."

As of 1990 there were 7,786 Polish citizens named Siedlecki, living all over the country, so it's a pretty common name. And it's so widely distributed that you can't trace it back to any one place and say "That's where it came from." The only way to figure out which particular Siedlec or Siedlce your family came from would be to trace the family's roots back to Poland, pinpoint exactly what area they came from, and then look for a Siedlec or Siedlce nearby. Even that's not foolproof, because these names originated centuries ago, and a lot has changed over the ages. But that would be the only way to even hazard a good guess on which particular place a given family came from.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


WICHEREK

… Hello. My name is Czeslaw Wicherek and my family come from the Polish part of Silesia and are fiercely Polish. However, I can find no reference to the name anywhere and now not in your list… Do you know if my name is a form of any other name or anything about it, or could you advise me where to look. Any assistance you could give would be much appreciated.

Well, according to the series Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, a 10-volume set edited by Prof. Kazimierz Rymut of the Instytut Jezyka Polskiego PAN in Krakow, as of 1990 there were some 800,000+ surnames used by Poles! Obviously many of these were very rare or were closely related variants of others -- e. g. Kamieński vs. Kamiński, or Wicher vs. Wicherek vs. Wicherski -- but there were still more than 40,000 borne by 100 or more Poles. So neither my book nor my Webpage can begin to cover them all! That's why there are a great many names that don't appear in that list.

According to Prof. Rymut's book Nazwiska Polaków, the name Wicherek comes from the term wicher, "wind," or especially wicherek, "little wind, breeze," and appears in Polish documents as early as 1401. He does not discuss exactly how a family might come to get such a name, and in fact even the best experts can't always say how such a thing happened; humans are very ingenious in the names they give each other, and most of these names are many centuries old, so it can be difficult to analyze the exact origin. A name like this might have once been given someone because he was born on a breezy day and got the name to commemorate that; or perhaps he lived in an area that was always breezy. About the most we can say is that the name originally was given because of some connection to wind or breeze, and may have started as a nickname that later became established as a surname.

As of the year 1990 there were 552 Polish citizens named Wicherek. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (189), Katowice (103), and Poznan (88), with much smaller numbers in many other provinces. So the name is most common in southcentral Poland, in or just east of Silesia, depending on exactly how you define "Silesia." Unfortunately I have no access to further details such as first names and addresses.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


GIERASIK

… Could someone help me to explain the meaning if any of the surname Gierasik.

This is a diminutive form of the name first name Gieras or Gierasz, so that it would mean something like "little Gieras" or "son of Gieras." That first name arose as a short form or nickname of the Polish forms of such first names such as Gerard or Gerald, possibly even Gertrude. These names generally started as Germanic names from pagan days, when instead of naming children after Christian saints, parents gave them native names of good omen; thus Gerard comes from Germanic roots ger, "spear" + hart, "strong" = "may he be strong in use of the spear," in other words, "may he be a valiant warrior." Or Gerald is from ger + walt-, "rule," "spear ruler," "may he rule with the spear." In Polish the combination Ge- tends to become Gie-, so we see such forms as Gieralt and Gierard; most scholars seem to think Gerard is the one Gieras came from. The process of forming a new name or nickame by taking the first part of a popular name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes is seen in English, too, e. g., "Teddy" from "Theodore." So Gierasik would be a sort of Polish equivalent to "son of Jerry" in English.

That's what Polish scholars mention. To me it also seems possible the name might occasionally come from Gierasym, a Polish form of the Ukrainian name Harasym, from Greek gerasimos, from a root meaning "prize, award." Probably among ethnic Poles, however, the connection with "Gerard" or "Gerald" would hold true more often.

As of 1990 there were only 37 Polish citizens named Gierasik, living in the provinces of Warsaw (17), Białystok (2), Bydgoszcz (6, Gdansk (7), and Skierniewice (5). Unfortunately I don't have access to further data such as first names, addresses, etc. What I've given here is all I have.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


BRUDNICKI

… I am searching for information on the Polish name Brudnicki.

This name is one of many Polish surnames that indicate a family's connection with a place of similar name; we would expect Brudnicki to mean something like "one from Brudnice or Brudnica." There are at least three places in Poland that could generate this surname, Brudnice in Ciechanow province, Brudnice in Płock province, and a village that no longer exists, Dramino Brudnycze in Goleszyn parish of Sierpc county. There may have been more that have since been renamed or disappeared, but persons connected with these three villages could easily have ended up with the name Brudnicki, "one from Brudnice." The ultimate root of the place names is brud, "dirt, filth," but the surname would probably not mean "dirty one, filthy one" but rather "one from Brudnice," and that place, in turn, got its name from that root. It's worth noting that the Brudnice in Ciechanow province is thought to have been called Brodnica originally, so it's possible in some cases this surname might be a variant of Brodnicki ("one from Brodnica," and there are at least 8 towns and villages by that name); but it would be stretching things to assume that line in regard to a particular Brudicki family without a lot more evidence.

As of 1990 there were 1,123 Polish citizens named Brudnicki, of whom the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Konin (91), Lodz (62), Pila (222), Radom (79), Szczecin (76), Warsaw (69), and Wloclawek (99), with smaller numbers in a great many other provinces. So there's nothing really helpful about the frequency and distribution pattern of the name; it's seen all over the country. But generally you'd expect it started out as referring to a place named Brudnica, Brodnica, or Brudnice, with the latter as the most likely connection.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


CICHOWSKI -- MIKULSKI -- NAPIERKOWSKI -- TOBACZEWSKI

… I started this for my niece, but I've found myself wanting to learn more. Is there any way you can help me find any information on my grandparents' names. All four came from Poland. We'd like to know their history, if any. Names are as follows: Cichowski, Tobaczewski, Napierkowski, Mikulski.

Names ending in -owski and -ewski usually started as references to a connection between a family and a place with a similar name. Thus Cichowski probably means "one from Cichów or Cichowo or Cichy"; there are at least two villages named Cichów, a couple named Cichowo, as well as the village of Cichy in Suwałki province. These place names in turn come from the adjective cichy, "quiet, still, calm." As of 1990 there were 3,435 Polish citizens named Cichowski, and there is no way to know which particular place a given Cichowski family came from without detailed research establishing exactly which part of Poland they came from.

Mikulski is the most common of the names you mentioned, as of 1990 there were 9,693 Poles named Mikulski, living all over the country. It comes from a variant form of the first name Mikołaj = Nicholas. The name may have started meaning "kin of Nicholas," or it may have referred to a place named for a Nicholas, for instance, there are at least two villages named Mikulice, and the surname might also refer to them. So obviously there isn't one Mikulski family, there are lots of different families that ended up with this name because they were named for a prominent member named Mikula or came from a place named for such a person. One of the U. S. Senators from Maryland is Barbara Mikulski, and she played a major role in Poland’s acceptance into NATO.

As of 1990 there were 218 Poles named Napierkowski, scattered all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Leszno (43), Ostrołęka (63), and Poznan (49). This surname might refer to is Napierki in Olsztyn province, and that place name derives from the root napierać, to press, urge, advance.

Tobaczewski presumably refers to a place named something like Tobaczewo or Tobaczew. I can't find any places by those names, but these surnames typically developed centuries ago, and since then the places they referred to may have disappeared, been absorbed by other communities, or changed their name. The name probably comes from a short form or nickname of the Biblical first name Tobias, so that Tobaczewski may have meant "kin of Tobias" or "one from the place of Tobias." The surname is pretty rare, as of 1990 there were only 21 Poles by this name, living in the provinces of Szczecin (12) and Zielona Gora (9). I'm afraid I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


PADVAISKAS -- PODVAISKAS -- PODWOJSKI

… My maternal grandmother, Helena Olszewska (1894-1964), came from a town called "Ruda" according to the naturalization papers of her husband Frank Podwoiski (1894-1954). She allegedly arrived in the U.S. in 1909, but I have not been able to find her on any passenger list. I did find his name for 1912, and he was Lithuanian descent{Pudvolskas??}. Any ideas where "Ruda" is/was???? "A small town near the border; close by there was a forest with many mushrooms", is the family legend of her origins.

I am afraid I can't help you much. Olszewska is simply a feminine form of Olszewski, that's considered the standard form of the name, and it is an extremely common one, borne by 44,638 Poles as of 1990. It just means "one from Olszew or Olszewa or Olszewo," and those place names mean "place of the alder trees." As for Ruda, there are at least 50 villages by that name on my maps, and probably more too small to show up on my maps, so I'm afraid that's no help either; the word ruda means "ore," and this name was often given to any little community that originated as a place for mining ore or working with metal.

Podwoiski is probably Podwojski in standard spelling. As of 1990 there were 156 Poles by that name, scattered all over Poland; it comes from the word podwojski, "court crier, beadle," according to Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut. According to the best work available on Lithuanian surnames, Podvaiskas or Padvaiskas is the Lithuanian form, and it comes from that Polish word podwojski. There are and long have been a great many Poles living in Lithuania -- that's where my wife's Polish relatives live. So even though her husband came from Lithuania, he may have been a Pole by blood, or else was a Lithuanian who took a Polish name; for a long time the Lithuanian nobility considered it more fashionable to go by Polish names, and that preference filtered on down to the peasant as well, so this is feasible.

I'm sorry I couldn't help more, but the truth is 95% of Polish names don't offer any real help with tracing the family. If you know a lot about where the family lived, sometimes a surname will give you a clue to some background; but if all you have is the surname, very seldom does it lead you to a specific place or time.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


GĄGOROWSKI

… Recently, after I had sent in to GenPol a probably too long post about a recent bit of information I'd received, concerning in part, the name Gagorwoski" I received a message suggesting that I write you. Can you tell me anything about this name?

Well, none of my sources say anything about this name, but as of 1990 there were 473 Polish citizens named Gągorowski, using ą to stand for the Polish nasal vowel written as an a with a tail under it and pronounced much like on in French bon. They were scattered all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice (51), Kielce (110), and Wroclaw (70). So this is a legitimate, established name.

The probable derivation is from the Polish word gągor, a variant or dialect word meaning "gander" (comparable to the standard terms gęga, "goose," and gąsior, "gander"). The name presumably started out meaning "of, from, pertaining to the [place/kin] of the gander(s)," either in the sense "one from Gągorów or Gągorowo" or "kin of the gander" (referring to a goose-herder?). I can't find any mention of a village by these names, but surnames typically developed centuries ago, and often the places they referred to have since disappeared, changed names, been absorbed by other communities, or something of the sort.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


MAJKOWSKI -- SZCZEPAŃSKI

… In both cases - my wife's and mine - these belong to grandparents from Przasnysz. Any background and meanings would be appreciated.

Szczepański (in Polish spelled with an accent over the n and pronounced roughly "shcheh-PINE-skee") is an adjective in form, meaning "of, from, related to Szczepan," which is one of the Polish forms of the name "Stephen." So in many cases this name means simply "kin of Szczepan," in some other cases it might mean "one from the place of Szczepan" where that place was once owned or founded by a prominent Szczepan and bears a name such as Szczepanki or Szczepanowo, something like that. It's a very common name, as of 1990 there were 31,208 Polish citizens named Szczepański, living all over the country.

Majkowski is less common, but still pretty common -- as of 1990 there were 5,085 Majkowski's in Poland. This name is also adjectival in origin, meaning roughly "of, from, pertaining to the __ of Majek," where you fill in the blank with word so obvious it doesn't need to be spelled out, usually either "place" or "kin." So Majkowski could mean "kin of Majek," but especially "one from Majk, Majki, Majków." There are several places in Poland that have these names, and the surname is common all over the country, so I'm afraid this name doesn't give much in the way of clues as to where a family came from. However, since you have information leading to the Przasnysz area, it makes sense to suggest the surname referred to one of two villages in Ostrołęka province, not far from Przasnysz. Majki-Tykiewki is the name of a village about 25 km. due east of Przasnysz, and Majk is about the same distance northeast of Przasnysz. It's not certain the surname refers to one of these places, but it seems a pretty decent bet... The Majk- root comes from an old first name derived from maj, "May," probably given a child in memory of the month he was born in.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


BIERFASS -- LAUBERFELD – LÖWENTHAL -- ORLING -- TEPPER

… I was wondering if you could tell me anything about the following names I am searching in South-Eastern Poland: Lo"wenthal, Tepper (or any related names, such as Toepfer, Topper), Lauberfeld, Orling, and Bierfass.

As I'm sure you realize, all these names are of Germanic origin, which is not unusual -- large numbers of Germans, and of Jews who spoke German or Yiddish, settled all over Poland, including the southeastern part of the country. I have sources such as Alexander Beider's Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland and his similar work for the Russian Empire, plus books on German names, and they give some insights into the meanings of these names. But the only data I have on frequency and distribution of names in Poland comes from 1990 data, and I'm afraid the Holocaust and post-World War II relocation of Germans from Poland to East Germany greatly distort that data. Thus Teper is the only one of these names borne by any Polish citizens as of 1990; there were 1,038 Teper's, living all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice (247), Kielce (68), Krakow (55), Lublin (91), Nowy Sacz (74), and Warsaw (56), and smaller numbers in virtually every other province. Before 1939 there may well have been people with the other names living in Poland, but I have no way of determining how many there were or where they might have lived.

Here's what I came up with on the meanings of the names:

Bierfass: comes from the German words for "beer" and "barrel," thus might refer to someone who made barrels or was otherwise connected with brewing and storing or selling beer. The name could also be used, presumably, as a kind of insulting nickname for a person who drank a lot of beer or was rather fat, shaped like a beer barrel.

Lauberfeld: probably comes from Laub, "leaf, foliage, arbor" + Feld, "field," and thus referred to a place the family lived, literally "leaf field."

Löwenthal: comes from the German words for "lion" and "valley," and presumably referred originally to a place the family came from or lived. As of 1990 there were 9 Poles who used the Polish phonetic spelling of Lewental, living in the provinces of Krakow (6) and Walbrzych (3) -- I'm afraid I have no access to further details such as first names or addresses.

Orling: I could find nothing on this name. The root Orl- appears in Jewish names sometimes as a form derived from the first name "Aaron," and this might be relevant here. The root Orl- also appears in names of Polish origin as a form of the word for "eagle," but that usage is inconsistent with the form of this name.

Tepper: this and the other variants of the name you mention all come either from German Töpfer or the Yiddish equivalent teper, "potter."

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


JANICZEK

… If you have the time, I'm curious about my maiden name, Janiczek.

Janiczek means basically "son of little John." Jan is the Polish form of the name "John," and if you add the patronymic suffix -icz to it you have Janicz, "son of John." But Poles love to add suffixes, and once the name Janicz existed it was only a matter of time before we had Janiczek, formed by adding a diminutive suffix, -ek, to that name. So it's Jan + -icz- + -ek = Janiczek, "son of the son of John," or "little John's son." This surname appears in Polish legal records as far back as 1567. As of 1990 there were 1,520 Polish citizens by this name, living all over the country -- after all, the name could get started anywhere they spoke Polish and there were guy's name "Jan" who had sons.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


JABŁOŃSKI -- MUDRY

… I would like to find out more about the orgins of my last name (Mudry). [removed] My mother's maiden name is Jablonska and I've been told that my grandfather Stanislaw Jablonski might have had noble roots.

In the Slavic languages the root mudr- means "wise, clever, intelligent"; we see the adjective mudry with that meaning in Russian and Ukrainian. The vowel changes slightly in some of the Slavic languages, thus it is moudry in Czech, and in Polish it takes the form of the nasal vowel written as an a with a tail under it, pronounced much like "own" -- on-line we write is as mądry to represent the nasal vowel. So in all the Slavic languages the name means pretty much the same thing. Furthermore, the actual form of the name gives a general hint where it originated. If your ancestors had been ethnic Poles, or had lived in a predominantly Polish linguistic environment, we would expect the name to be Mądry. The fact that it is Mudry suggests a Russian or Belarusian or Ukrainian influence -- possibly also Czech with modification. There are several places called Brzeg in Poland, so I don't know which area your family came from, but it's not at all rare to see non-Polish versions of Slavic names in Poland. To a Pole Mudry sounds a little foreign, but still Slavic and thus not hard to understand or requiring change.

As of 1990 there were 146 Polish citizens named Mudry, and 44 more with the feminine form of the name Mudra. Of the Mudry's, the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Katowice (13), Opole (35), Wroclaw (21), and Zieona Gora (13). I'm afraid I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses, this is all I have.

Jabłoński is an exceedingly common name from the root jabłoń, "apple-tree" (the ł stands for the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w, and the ń stands for the Polish accented n); the name is pronounced roughly "yah-BWOIN-skee" in Polish. As of 1990 there were 46,728 Poles by that name, living in large numbers all over the country. There probably were Jabłoński's of noble blood, but I'm afraid I have no information on that.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


KINIC -- RUTKOWSKI

(referring to a previous disagreement on Rutkowski):

… Thanks. OK, but still think that both explanations are correct and claiming that only one is valid is an oversimplification.

Ah, I think I understand better now what you wrote. (In case it is easier for you to read Polish, I repeat my comments below in Polish. I read Polish better than I write, but Poles tell me my Polish is not bad, so I hope you will understand it.)

On the Web-page I have to discuss names in general, I don't have enough time or space to discuss them in detail. I did not mean to exclude derivation of Rutkowski from rutka (according to Mr. Rutkowski, a term for a maiden gathering rue). I meant only that in most cases the surname probably comes from names of places such as Rutki or Rutkowo. However sometimes Rutkowski surely can come directly from rutka, but more often the surname comes from the place names. But what do the place names come from? Probably from rutka! Surely these places were called that because there were rutki there. So yes, Rutkowski can come from rutka, directly or indirectly. Most often, the surname indicates derivation from the place name, and the place name can come from rutka. (I cannot exclude possible derivation from the first name Rut, and even sometimes from Rudkowski). Or sometimes Rutkowski can come directly from rutka. The one thing that’s certain is that it refers to some kind of connection with rue -- perhaps with the place where it grew or was gathered, or perhaps with the girls who gathered it.

… Apart from them do you know something about my mother's name "Kinic" ???

In his book Nazwiska Polaków Prof. Kazimierz Rymut says names with Kin-, including Kinic, come from the old Polish verb kinąć, "grow, boil, seethe" (rosnać, kipieć). Other Polish onomastics experts mention that it might also come sometimes from "Kin" as a short form of the first name Konrad. So Kinic could mean "son of Konrad," or it can mean "son of one who grows, boils, seethes." In 1990 there were 34 Poles named Kinic, living in the following provinces: Bielsko-Biala 4, Gdansk 3, Kalisz 2, Katowice 3, Koszalin 4, Lodz 2, Poznan 12, Sieradz 1, Szczecin 2, Wloclawek 1.

[PO POLSKU]

Ah, ja wierze, ze teraz rozumiem lepiej to, co Pan napisal. (Powtarzam swoje notatki tu po polsku, jesli to jest latwiej. Czytam po polsku lepiej, niz pisze, ale Polacy powiedziaja, ze moja polszczyzna nie jest najgorsza, wiec mam nadzieje, ze Pan to rozumie).

Nie mam czasu i miejsca na Web-stronie dla szczegolowego omowienia nazwisk. Nie chcialem wykluczyc derywacji nazwiska Rutkowski z wyrazu rutka. Chcialem tylko powiedziec, ze w wiekszosci przypadkow to nazwiska prawdopodobnie pochodzi od nazw miejscowosci jak n. p. Rutki, Rutkowo. Czasami Rutkowski zapewne moze pochodzic od rutka, ale ja wierze, ze czesciej to nazwisko pochodzi od nazw miejscowosci. A skad pochodza te nazwy miejscowosci? Prawdopodobnie od rutka! Zapewne te wsi tak sie nazywaly, gdyz tam byly rutki. Wiec mozemy powiedzic, ze Rutkowski moze pochodzic od rutka, posrednio lub bezposrednio. Naczesciej nazwiska odnosi sie do nazw miejscowosci, i nazwy miejscowosci pochodza od wyrazu rutka. (Takze nie moge wykluczyc derywacji z zenskiego imiona Rut, a nawet z nazwiska Rudkowski). Ale czasami jest mozliwe, ze Rutkowski pochodzi bezposrednio od rutka. Tylko to pewne, ze nazwisko to odnosi sie do jakiegos zwiazku z ruta – do miejsca, gdzie ruta rosnala, lub gdzie dziewczyny rute zbierali, lub do dziewczyn, zbierajacych rute.

W swej ksiazce Nazwiskach Polakow prof. Kazimierz Rymut daje zbior nazwisk od postawy Kin-, w tych Kinic, a kin- pochodzi od staropolskiego wyrazu kinąć, "rosnąć, kipieć." Inni polscy onomasci daja takze mozliwa derywacje od imiona Kin- jako skroconej formy imiona Konrad. Wiec Kinic moze znaczyc "syn Konrada," ale takze moze znaczyc "syn rosnacego, kipiacego, kiwnacego." W r. 1990 Polacy nazwiska Kinic liczyli 34, w wojewodztwach: bielskim 4, gdanskim 3, kaliskim 2, katowickim 3, koszalinskim 4, lodzkim 2, poznanskim 12, sieradzkim 1, szczecinskim 2, wloclawskim 1.

Man nadzieje, ze te notatki pomagaja Panu, i zycze Panu najlepszego szczescia w badaniach.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


KASPARAVICIUS -- KASPERAVICIUS -- KASPEROWICZ

… As stated above I would appreciate if you could provide me with any information on this surname (Kasperowicz). The name originates I believe from the area Wilno which was once part of Poland.

This is a pretty easy one. The suffix -owicz means "son of" (the same suffix is also used in Russian and other Slavic languages, only the spelling changes -- most often by our phonetic values it is rendered -ovich), and Kasper is the first name we write as "Casper." This is not that common a name in English-speaking countries, but it is reasonably common in Europe, because by tradition Casper was the name of one of the Three Magi or Wise Men who visited the baby Jesus shortly after his birth (tradition says the other two were named Melchior and Baltazar). So the surname just means "son of Casper."

This surname is moderately common in Poland -- as of 1990 there were 1,759 Polish citizens by this name, living all over the country, but especially common in northeastern Poland, near the border with Lithuania. My data only covers Poland in its current boundaries, so I don't have exact figures on people by this name in Lithuania -- but many ethnic Poles did live, and still live, in Lithuania, especially near the area of Wilno (now Vilnius). This surname is also reasonably common in Lithuania, but in the forms Kasparavicius and Kasperavicius, which are just Lithuanian renderings of Kasperowicz. If you have relatives still in Lithuania, chances are that's how the spell the name -- "Kasperowicz" is a little too obviously Polish and therefore foreign, Lithuanians prefer to spell the name their way.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


TRZASKOMA

… Curious to know if you've got any information on the surname Trzaskoma.

This is a rather unusual name in that it appears to come from the root trzaska, "wood chip," or the related verb trzaskać, "to whack, whip, smack," but you don't often see -oma added as a suffix to Polish roots. Still, the name appears in old Polish legal documents as far back as 1436, and Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut lists it under names coming from the roots mentioned above, so apparently there's good reason to think that's what it derives from. As of 1990 there were 504 Polish citizens named Trzaskoma, with the majority living in the province of Warsaw (361) and smaller numbers (22 or fewer) in a number of other provinces.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


JEZIORKOWSKI

… My surname is Jeziorkowski. I was wondering if you could tell me more about it.

The basic root of this name is jezioro, "lake." It breaks down as Jezior- + -k- + -owski, with -k- representing a diminutive suffix ("little lake") and -owski an adjectival suffix meaning "of, from, pertaining to the place of," so that the name as a whole parses as meaning "one from the place of the little lakes." In most cases, however, -owski names refer to a connection between a person or family and a specific place or places with similar names. In this case, we'd expect Jeziorkowski to mean, practically speaking, "one from Jeziorko or Jeziorki," with those place names meaning essentially "little lakes." There are at least a dozen villages named Jeziorki and at least seven more named Jeziorko, and the surname could refer to any or all of them, so I'm afraid the name by itself doesn't do much to clarify exactly where the family came from. If, however, you have a little luck with your research and find your family came from a specific area of Poland, and then you discover a Jeziorko or Jeziorki somewhere nearby, chances are reasonably good that's the place the name originally referred to. The surname is pronounced roughly "yeah-zhore-KOFF-skee" in Polish -- the "zhore" sounds like English "shore," but with the initial sound much like "s" in "pleasure."

As of 1990 there were 264 Polish citizens by this name, scattered all over Poland but with larger numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (54), Poznan (59), and Zamosc (32). I'm afraid I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


WARZYŃSKI

… Your book gives the meaning "to prepare (food)" for the surname Warzynski and I would like to know if you can give me any more information on the source of the name. Is it prevalent in Poland today? My ancestor came from Zerniki/Oborniki.

Well, the point is that names beginning with War- or Warz- usually trace back to the root war, "something hot," or warzyć, "to cook, prepare food." However, along the way suffixes were added to produce various names of people and places, so that we'd expect Warzyński to come from such names (here I'm using ń to stand for the Polish accented n; the name is pronounced something like "wah-ZHIN-skee," where "ZHIN" rhymes with English "shin" but the first sound is like the "s" in "pleasure"). In general the name Warzyński probably meant "person from Warzyn, Warzyny," and those place names in turn derived from that root -- perhaps these were places known for their cooking, or were founded or owned by a fellow with a name from that root. Some places that might produce this surname are the villages of Warzyn in Kielce province and Warzyń-Kmiecy and Warzyń-Skóry in Płock province, and Warzno in Gdansk province. People from those places could very well end up being called Warzyński.

I don't have data on exactly how those places ended up with these names, what the connection with the root warz- was. The Polish Language Institute is putting out a 10-volume series on the origins of place names, but so far they've only gotten up to the D's, so it'll be a while before they get to the volume that discusses places beginning with Warz-.

This is a moderately common surname in Poland, as of 1990 there were 1,007 Poles named Warzyński. They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (87), Bydgoszcz (50), Katowice (108), Kielce (118), Piotrkow (83), Pila (89), and Radom (74), and smaller numbers in many other provinces. There were only 2 in Poznan province, which is where Oborniki and Zerniki are located (there are lots of Zerniki's, but that's the only area where I find an Oborniki and a Zerniki near each other). So if your ancestors came from that area, there don't seem to be too many left there now.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


DOBRZYŃSKI

… In your spare time could you tell me about the Dobrzynski surname?

This is one of those surnames on which there's really not a lot to tell. It generally refers to origin in a town or village called Dobrzyn, meaning something like "one from Dobrzyn," and there are at least 9 places by that name in Poland. The surname is pretty common, as of 1990 there were 8,215 Poles named Dobrzyński (I use ń to stand for the Polish n with an accent over it). So unfortunately the name is too common, and there are too many places it could derive from, to give much in the way of details; a Dobrzyński could come from almost anywhere in Poland, and there are undoubtedly many separate Dobrzyński families that all acquired the name independently. Your best bet is to see if you can turn up info on the area in Poland your ancestors came from, then look to see if there's a Dobrzyn anywhere near by -- if so, chances are that's the place the name originally referred to.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


KIEWRA

… Hi, I found your web page & was wondering if you had any quick thoughts on our surname of Kiewra

I'm sorry I couldn't answer your note sooner. I've been horribly busy lately, and haven't had much time for answering name inquiries. But I did look through my sources some time ago for information, and found that none of them mentioned this name. I was waiting for another book to come in, which, I hoped, might shed some light. But unfortunately, it didn't. So I simply have to admit I don't have a clue what this name comes from. My gut feeling is that it might be Ukrainian, but even my Ukrainian sources don't mention it.

The one thing I can tell you is that the name, while not common, is not unknown in Poland. As of 1990 there were 196 Polish citizens named Kiewra, and another 94 named Kiewro. Neither name showed any particular concentration in one place, although both seem more common in western Poland, in the areas formerly ruled by Germany but returned to Poland after World War II. This is not inconsistent with Ukrainian origin, because after World War II huge numbers of ethnic Ukrainians were forced to relocate from southeastern Poland (which used to include much of western Ukraine) to those "recovered lands" (as the Poles call them) in western Poland. If we had data from before World War II (but unfortunately we don't), I would make a pretty sizable bet the name would show up almost exclusively in eastern Poland and western Ukraine.

I'm sorry I couldn't help more -- you might visit www.infoukes.com, investigate their resources, and see if anyone there can at least confirm or refute my suspicion that the name is Ukrainian. If it is, who knows, maybe someone there can tell you something useful... You might also try writing the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute -- there's more info in the introduction to this Webpage.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


ADAMOWICZ – PERKOWSKI

… I was wondering if you could tell me the origins and/or meanings of the surnames Adamowicz and Perkowski?

Adamowicz is a simple one, it means "son of Adam" -- that suffix -owicz shows up in most Slavic languages, although in the others it's usually spelled -ovich or something similar; -owicz is a distinctively Polish spelling. As of 1990 there were 7,583 Poles named Adamowicz, so it's a pretty common name, found all over the country.

Perkowski is probably like most other names ending in -owski, usually they refer to a connection between a person or family and a particular place with a similar name; we'd expect Perkowski to have started as meaning "one from Perki or Perkowo or Perkowice." Unfortunately, there are several villages in Poland that could yield this surname, including a Perki in Płock province, several settlements in Łomża province with two names of which the first is Perki (e. g., Perki-Lachy), Perkowice in Biala Podlaska province, and Perkowo in Leszno province. People coming from any of these places could easily end up with the surname Perkowski, and without detailed information on where a given Perkowski family came from in Poland, it's impossible to match them up with any one of those places.

As of 1990 there were 5,264 Poles named Perkowski, so this, too, is a fairly common name. The name was most common in the provinces of Białystok (1,235), Łomża (951), and Suwałki (272), so it is somewhat concentrated in the northeastern part of Poland, near the borders with Lithuania and Belarus. However, it is not exclusive to those areas, you do run into the name in decent numbers almost anywhere in Poland.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.

KRECZMER -- KRETSCHMER

… I would be most grateful if you could give me any information on the polish surname Kreczmer. My father is originally from Poland Poznan and I am trying find out more about this surname. I.e its meaning and if this is a common or unusal name!I am also tring to locate other Kreczmers on the net, so any information you have as to how I could go about this would be gratefully appreciated.

Kreczmer is a variant form of the name Karczmarz, which comes from karczmarz, "innkeeper." This is the source of a number of very common Polish surnames, including Kaczmarz, Kaczmarek, Kaczmarczyk, etc. The form Kreczmer is especially likely to be associated with Jews, by connection with the Yiddish word krechmer, which obviously comes from karczmarz. The name also appears in the more German spelling Kretschmer. I don't think either form is exclusively Jewish; non-Jewish Germans could bear this name. However, in Poland at least, it was often true that tavern-owners and innkeepers were Jewish, so that the name is identified with Jews more than anyone else.

As of 1990 there were 826 Kreczmer's in Poland (68 of them living in the province of Poznan), as opposed to 180 Kretschmer's; by comparison, there were 23,521 Kaczmarczyks, 59,403 Kaczmarek's, 2,297 Karczmarczyks, etc. So among Poles, names from the native form of the word are extremely common; names from the German or Yiddish forms are less so, but still far from rare.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


JURGELIONIS

… I wanted to see if you had any information on the surname Jurgelionus (or maybe Jurgelionis). The name was "Americanized" to Yurgeles during the Ellis Island experience occuring approximately 1914-1918. Due to the fear of ethnicity that pervaded that time period I have no records, oral or written, as to family history.

Actually this is a Lithuanian name, originally Jurgelionis. It comes from the first name Jurga, which is the Lithuanian form of "George," and the suffixes just mean "son of," so the name means "son of George" or "son of little George." This may seem odd, but actually it's not at all rare to see Polish and Lithuanian names confused, because for a long time Poland and Lithuania were united as one country, the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania, and the people and languages mixed to some extent. You have ethnic Poles living in what is now Lithuania (my wife's relatives, for instance, live near Alytus), and you have ethnic Lithuanians living in what is now Poland. People from western Europe and America are generally not aware that there is even a difference between Poles and Lithuanians (but for God's sake never tell a Pole or a Lithuanian that! despite their past history together, they don't always get along too well).

As of 1990 there was no one in Poland named Jurgelionus or Jurgeliois, but there were 21 Polish citizens named Jurgielanis, all living in the province of Suwałki in northeast Poland, near the border with Lithuania; and there were 491 Poles named Jurgiel, which is just a Polish rendering of Lithuanian Jurgelis.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


RADWAŃSKI

… I am just beginning to explore a long time interest in family heraldry. I would appreciate any info you might have on the surname of Radwanski. Thank you.

Radwański comes from the ancient Polish first name Radwan, which is also the name of a coat of arms. This is thought to come from the old Polish verb radować, "to make glad, cause to rejoice." As of 1990 there were 3,832 Radwański's in Poland, living in large numbers all over the country, so I'm afraid without specific data on a given family it's impossible to tell from the name alone where they came from.

Since this is the name of a Polish coat of arms, and at least some Radwanski's probably got their surname because they bore those arms, it might be worth your while to contact Leonard J. Suligowski, 218A N. Henry St. Brooklyn, NY 11222. He doesn't do genealogical research -- he's a heraldic artist, Director of Heraldry for the Polish Nobility Association Foundation, and editor of the PNAF Journal "White Eagle." He has an extensive library of armorials and other books on Polish heraldry, and he charges very reasonable fees to search his library for info on noble families. If he finds material, it would probably be more detailed than anything I have at my disposal. So I really think your best bet would be to contact him and see if there's any way to connect your family with any noble Radwański's.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


KORNASZEWSKI

… If I can impose on you to do the same for my mothers maiden name I would doubly appreciate it. Her maiden name was Kornaszewski.

Structurally speaking, this name is an adjective (like all names ending in -ewski or -owski), meaning literally "of, from, related to the __ of Kornasz," where that blank is filled in with a term obvious enough that it didn't need to be expressed -- usually either "kin" or "place." So in practice the name started as meaning either "kin of Kornasz" or "one from Kornaszew or Kornaszewo or Kornaszewice," and those place names, in turn, mean "the place of Kornasz." We see the name Kornasz used in records at least as far back as 1558, and its origin is unclear. It may derive either from the root korn-, "humble, obedient, submissive," or from the word kornik, "bark beetle"; but it might also come from the old word kornel, a kind of chalcedony, or a nickname for someone with the name Korneliusz, "Cornelius." The Polish experts feel there isn't enough data available to say for sure which of these origins applies; my gut feeling is that it probably was a first name meaning "the humble one," or else the nickname for Cornelius.

I can't find any place named Kornaszew (or Kornaszewo, etc.), but that seems the most likely origin of this surname. Surnames developed centuries ago, and since then the places they referred to could have disappeared, changed names, and so on; so quite often we can't find the places they referred to, unless we get lucky and dig up mention of them in old records. So I think the surname probably meant "person from Kornaszew/o," but possibly also it just meant "Kornasz's kin."

As of 1990 there were 548 Polish citizens named Kornaszewski, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (197) and Radom (62), and smaller numbers in many other provinces. There doesn't appear to be any one area the name's associated with, although obviously there is a concentration of people by this name in the area near Warsaw.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


FURLIT -- RYDZIŃSKI -- SMOLAK -- ZDROJOWY

… Could you tell me if you have anything for the following surnames: Rydzinski, Smolak, Furlit, Zdrojowy.

I'm afraid my sources come up empty on Furlit -- there was no one by that name in Poland as of 1990 (there were 9 Furlik's, all in Krosno province), and none of my books mention it. The only thing that comes to mind is the similarity in sound to an Italian name I've heard, Forlitti -- some Italians did settle in Poland, so it's not out of the question that the name is Italian. But that's strictly a guess, and the question arises whether the name has been mangled and was originally spelled some other way.

Rydziński probably comes from the root rydz, "agaric, a kind of edible mushroom," or perhaps from rydzy, "reddish-gold color." One of those is surely the ultimate root, but this particular surname probably referred to a place with a name from those roots, such as Rydzyna in Leszno province, Rydzynki in Piotrkow province, Rydzyno in Płock province, Rydzyny in Lodz province, etc. As you can see, there are several villages with names that could generate this surname, meaning "one from Rydzyn, Rydzyno, etc." I note that as of 1990 there were 388 Polish citizens named Rydziński; the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (49) and Torun (200), with a few scattered in other provinces. That distribution pattern makes me wonder if this name is primarily associated with the Kashubs, a Slavic ethnic group related to the Poles but with their own culture and language who live in northwestern Poland. You might wish to investigate this possible link by visiting the Webpage http://feefhs.org/kana.

Smolak comes from the root smola, "tar, pitch," or from smolić, "to dirty"; presumably a smolak was a fellow who worked with tar or pitch, or else a rather dirty fellow. This is a common name, as of 1990 there were 2,295 Smolak's in Poland. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Gdansk 100, Katowice 130, Lublin 453, Wroclaw 150, and Warsaw 347, with smaller numbers all over the country.

Zdrojowy surely comes from the root zdrój, "spring, spa," or from numerous places named Zdrój or Zdroje from that root, presumably because they were near springs. This particular name is rather rare, as of 1990 there were only 118 Zdrojowy's in Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Kalisz (45) and Poznan (30) and a few scattered in other provinces. Other names from the same root are more common, e. g. Zdrojewski (3,825).

By the way, I don't have further details on where people by these names live, such as first names and addresses -- the source I use has only a breakdown by province for each name, nothing else.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


IKALEWICZ -- SYTNIK

… I would like to find the family history of Ikalewicz and Sytnik.

Someone appears to be misleading people about what I can do -- I'm getting more and more notes like this. I can't tell anyone anything about their family history. I can only address the question of what a name means and where in Poland it is most common. Sometimes that information provides people with a clue or lead they can follow in tracing their roots, sometimes it doesn't.

As of 1990 there was no one in Poland named Ikalewicz, but it's not unusual to find that a name that did once exist has since died out, possibly because the whole family emigrated. The sufix -ewicz means "son of," so the name means "son of Ikała or Ikało." As of 1990 there were 14 Polish citizens named Ikała, all living in the province of Pila in northwestern Poland; there were also 4 named Ikało, all living in the province of Koszalin, in the same general area. I have no access to further details such as first names and addresses, I'm afraid this data is all I have. Names ending in –ała or –ało usually mean one who constantly exhibited the action or feature denoted by the root that starts the name, in this case ik-. This appears to come from the rather rare verb ikać, "to hiccup," so Ikala or Ikalo probably started as a name for someone who hiccuped often, and Ikalewicz would refer to his son.

Sytnik appears to come from the root syty, "well-fed, sated," or the related word sytny, "nourishing, satiating." Presumably the name referred to one who appeared well-fed, perhaps a bit on the chubby side. As of 1990 there were 172 Sytnik's in Poland; larger numbers lived in the provinces of Katowice (17), Krakow (10), Legnica (18), Leszno (13), Opole (20), Szczecin (20), Wroclaw (31), and there were fewer than 10 in several other provinces. Those provinces with the largest numbers are all in western Poland, in the area formerly ruled by Germany, and especially in southwestern Poland, the region known as Silesia.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


SZACH

… I would appreciate any info you could provide on Szach. I noticed on your website that you have a similar name, Szoch. Anyway, the word means "check" in Polish (from chess). The story I hear from my relatives is that it was changed to "Shark" when my grandfather entered the army in the U.S., and the recruiter couldn't pronounce his name, so he changed it.

Well, that sort of change did happen all the time, so it's certainly plausible that's how the name changed form.

None of my sources discuss the origin of this name, at least as used by Christians -- Jews used it partly because of the connection with Polish szachy and German Schach, "chess," and partly because it was short for a Hebrew expression meaning "from the lips of the priest," and was the pen name of a prominent Vilnius rabbi. When used by Christians, it probably comes from Persian shah, either directly or by way of the term for chess, which originated from the Persian expression shah mat, "the king is dead."

But I don't think we can rule out another possible derivation: a Polish nickname for first names beginning with Sa- or Sza-. Poles loved to take the first couple of sounds of popular names, drop the rest, and add suffixes (sort of like English "Teddy" from "Theodore"). There are some Polish or Ukrainian names such as Szawel ("Saul") and Sawa that could, theoretically, undergo this treatment and come out as Szach. I don't have any proof this happened, but it happened to so many other names (Jan -> Jach, Stanislaw -> Stach) that I think it has to be considered possible. And to be honest, the Polish a and o sound so much alike that they often switch, so Szach could sometimes be a variant of Szoch... Still, the sound of the expression szach is so connected with "shah" or "chess" that I think that's the association most likely to be relevant in the majority of cases.

As of 1990 there were 218 Polish citizens named Szach, scattered in small numbers all over Poland, so there's no one area we can point to and say, "Ah, that's where all the Szach's came from."

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


PRZYBYŁKO

… I'm wondering if I could ask you about a Polish spelling. Our grandfather's sister supposedly married someone with the last name: Pryzybylko(taken from a personal phone book, not official documents). However, no such spelled name is listed in the US phone directories, etc. Some people, not relatives, have suggested the correct name could be Przybylko.(without the 3rd letter Y). There about about 30 instances of this name in the US. However, my husband cautions me that this could be a different family. What do you think? We are trying to find this missing sister.

I applaud your husband for not jumping to conclusions -- it's always best to start by assuming the form of the name as given is right until you obtain convincing evidence to the contrary. But I think in this case it is justifiable to conclude the name was originally Przybyłko (using ł to stand for the Polish l with a slash through it). In Polish the combination Pryzy- is very unusual, whereas Przy- is extremely common. As of 1990 there were 547 Polish citizens named Przybyłko, but not a one named Pryzybyłko. And I have seen exactly this sort of thing happen before, where an extra -y- sneaks in. So I really think you can assume the name was Przybyłko before non-Poles got confused and added one y too many... The name, by the way, comes from a root meaning "arrive," and usually was given to a family that had recently arrived in the village, that is, a newcomer. You find it all over Poland, but it's more common in southcentral and southeastern Poland, especially Tarnow province, where 113 Przybyłko's lived as of 1990.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


BENINDA – BIENIENDA

… My family name is Beninda, My grandfather, Stanley, arrived in America approx. 1912. My father was not sure, but he thought the name might of had an extra I in it. I am trying to research my roots and could any suggestions on the correct spelling.

This is a pretty rare name, no matter how you spell it. As of 1990 there was no on in Poland with the spelling Beninda. There were 23 named Bienienda, all living in Olsztyn province in northcentral Poland; there were 21 named Bienięda (ę is how we represent on-line the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under it and pronounced much like en), living in the provinces of Gorzow (1), Lublin (2), Radom (9), Tarnobrzeg (9); and 3 named Bienięnda, all in Tarnobrzeg province in southeastern Poland. All these names are pronounced more or less the same way, like "ben-YEN-dah" or "byen-YEN-dah," and we often see variation in spelling with Ben- vs. Bien- and -ęda vs. -enda. In other words, it is perfectly correct to regard all these as mere spelling variants of the same name.

This name is thought by Polish experts to derive from the first name Benedykt, in English "Benedict." Bienięda is regarded as the "standard" spelling, and the name appears in Polish legal records (in archaic spellings) as far back as 1222, so it's an old name. The Poles often formed nicknames or short forms of names by taking the first 2 or 3 letters, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes (somewhat like "Teddy" from "Theodore" in English), so the progression is Benedkyt -> Ben- or Bien- + -ęda = Bienięda or Benięda. It started as a sort of nickname or short name like "Benny" in English, and "Benny" or "son of Ben" is about the closest we can come to a translation. It is very common to see such first names or nicknames become established as surnames.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


JASZCZ

… I was interested in getting information about the surname Jaszcz.

It could have developed two different ways. It could derive from the term jaszcz, which is a name for a kind of fish, the ruff (Acerina cernua). It can also have developed as a short form or nickname from first names beginning with Ja-, such as Jan (John), Jakub (Jacob), etc., kind of like "Jack" in English. In the case of any individual family, it's difficult to say for sure which of these two derivations applies, whether from the fish or the first name. As of 1990 there were 748 Polish citizens named Jaszcz, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (113) in northwestern Poland, and Lublin (139) and Tarnow (118) provinces in southeastern Poland.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


DOLEŻEK -- FURDAL

… My grandfather's last name is Dolezek, the "z" accented with a dot over it. I would love to find some insight as to the origin of this name. I vaguely remember hearing the mention that my great-grandparent(s) came from either Czechoslowakia or one of the countries bordering Poland in a similar fashion. Also, the surname Furdal appears in my family tree.

The key question here is whether the name is Polish or Czech. The name Doleżek (I use ż to stand for the z with a dot over it) is a legitimate Polish name, coming from the verb doleżeć meaning "to lie in bed for quite a while, especially while recovering from illness." So if the name appears among ethnic Poles, that's the likely origin. But there's no question we see such names as Dolezal and Dolezek among Czechs. They could come from that same root -- many roots are similar in Czech and Polish -- but I note there is also a term in Czech dolezat', "to fawn on someone." I don't have enough info on Czech names to say for sure which is applicable here, or whether the ż vs. z is a key factor in the meaning. I can say Doleżek is not a very common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were only 126 Polish citizens by that name. They lived scattered all over the country, with no real concentration in any one part of Poland.

I couldn't find anything definitive on the derivation of Furdal in my sources, but it seems likely it comes from the terms furda and furdal, both meaning essentially "trifle, bagatelle, thing of little value or weight" and seen in both Polish and Ukrainian. As of 1990 there were 317 Polish citizens named Furdal, living scattered all over Poland but with the largest number by far, 171, living in the province of Lublin in southeastern Poland.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


SOLAK

… As a school project I have been asked to research the meaning and geographic origin of my surname Solak. Through much research I have only been able to determine that the name possibly originated in western Poland due to the -ak suffix. Also, that sol in Latin means "sun". I also have found the city of Nowa Sol located in western Poland and wondered if it had any significance. I would appreciate any assistance you can give. Not only for the purpose of school, but now my personal interest to know the meaning of my surname has been peaked.

Well, the -ak suffix appears in names all over Poland, not just the western part. Some Polish names come from Latin roots, but generally they derive from Slavic roots, and the root sol has to do with "salt" in the Slavic languages, so that's the root to concentrate on.

Basically Solak isn't a very specific name, it means something like "the salt guy," and just indicates that people gave someone this name because of a perceived connection with salt. Perhaps he helped mine salt -- this was a major occupation in medieval Poland -- or he may have sold salt, or he may have used a lot of salt in his food. The name just isn't specific enough to let us define the connection more precisely. The term solarz was used more often for a salt dealer, and Solarz is a common Polish surname (there used to be a congressman by that name, I'm not sure if he's still in office), so I tend to doubt solak would be used in that sense. I think we have to be satisfied with "salt guy, someone connected with salt."

One other possible kind of derivation should be mentioned: from names of places. There is a river Sola in Poland (its name appears to refer to the fact that its water was salty), and Solak could have developed in some cases as indicating that a person or family lived near or on that river. The surname might also have referred to people who came from villages such as Sól in Bielsko-Biala province or Sól in Zamosc province. The village you found, Nowa Sól ("new salt") in Zielona Gora province, might also have some Solak's who came from there.

It's frustrating that we can't pin down one derivation and say with certainty "This it it." But with many names we find that there isn't just one derivation, a specific name could have developed several different ways; and without detailed information on an individual family's past there's no way to know which derivation applies to it. In other words, we can't assume all the Solak's in Poland got that name the same way, or even that they're all part of the same family; there could easily be numerous separate families that ended up with this name independently. And since surnames typically were established during the 15th-18th centuries, in many cases there are no records that go back far enough to settle the matter.

Solak is a moderately common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 1,718 Polish citizens by that name. They lived all over the country, but the largest concentration is in the provinces of Tarnow (598) and Zamosc (208) in southeastern Poland. So the name can be found anywhere in Poland, but is particularly common in the southeastern part.

A final note: the root sol- means "salt" in most Slavic languages, and the suffix -ak is not used only by Poles, so we can't say this name has to be exclusively Polish. You could run into it among Czechs and Russians and Ukrainians, too, and possibly others. I have no data on that. But I do think it probably is Polish in most cases.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


CYMBAL -- HAJDER -- KONIECZNY -- SYMBAL -- SZCZECH

… I have read with interest the facts you have provided on many polish surnames, and wonder if you have any information on some from my family, all of which I find to be fairly rare: Konieczny, Szczech, Symbal (or symbol), and Haider.

Haider is probably a variant of Hajder (since they're pronounced the same), and derives from the German name Heider, one who lived on a Heide (heath, moor). A great many ethnic Germans have always lived in Poland, so it's not unusual to come across names from German borne by people living in Poland. As of 1990 there were 576 Poles who used the spelling Hajder, and it is most common in western Poland, long ruled by the Germans, especially in the provinces of Katowice (104), Poznan (82), and Rzeszow (52), with smaller numbers in many other provinces. The spelling Haider is rare in modern Poland, only 24 Poles used that form, living in the provinces of Białystok (2), Katowice (15), and Opole (7). In older spellings i and j were often switched, so it seems likely more folks used to spell the name Haider but have since come to use the standard spelling Hajder, which is more in line with modern Polish phonetics. Unfortunately I don't have access to more data such as the first names and addresses of any of those Haider's and Hajder's, what I've given here is all I have.

According to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut, Konieczny comes from an archaic word konieczny meaning "final, last," from the root koniec, "end." Now, centuries after names were established, it can be difficult to determine exactly why a particular name got linked with a particular family; often the most we can do is explain what the basic root meant, and speculate on the reason that root became a name. Perhaps Konieczny referred to someone who lived at the end of a road or on the outskirts of a village, something like that. It is a fairly common name in Poland, where as of 1990 there were 14,126 Polish citizens by this name.

As of 1990 there was no one in Poland with the name Symbal or Symbol, and none of my sources mention this name. An educated guess is that it is a variant of Cymbal (pronounced TSYIM-ball); it is not unusual to see the ts sound of Polish c symplified to an a sound in some areas. Cymbal appears to come from the word cymbal, "dulcimer; also (referring to people) a dolt." So the name may have started as a nickname for someone who played the dulcimer, or else someone who got the slang nickname meaning "dolt, blockhead."

Szczech is thought to come from the archaic word szczesny, "happy, fortunate," which was also sometimes used as a first name, a Polish equivalent of Latin Felix, which meant the same thing. Poles often formed nicknames or short forms of first names by taking the first few sounds of the name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes such as -ch; so the closest we can come to a "translation" of this name is "Felix, son of Felix," or "the happy one, the fortunate one." As of 1990 there were 1,571 Poles by this name.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


EWERTOWSKI -- KŁOSOWSKI

… It would be most helpful if you could supply me with any information on Ewertowski and Klosowski.

Names ending in -owski usually refer to a connection between a person or family and a place with a similar name, or sometimes a person with a similar name. Thus Kłosowski, for instance -- ł stands for the Polish slashed l, pronounced like our w -- means literally "of, from, pertaining to the __ of Kłos(es)," where that blank can be filled in with some word that was obvious enough it didn't need to be spelled out. Usually the missing word is "kin" or "place," so that the surname would mean, in effect, "kin of Kłos(es)" or "one from the place of Kłos(es)." Kłos could be a first name, but in this case I doubt it is (unless it's Kloss, a German variant of Klaus from Niklaus, "Nicholas") -- the basic root involved here is probably kłos, "ear of corn."

Thus Kłosowski probably referred to a family's coming from of several villages named Kłosy or Kłosów or Kłosowo. As I say, there are several villages with those names, so without further data on a specific family it's impossible to say which of them the surname refers to in a given instance. The surname breaks down as meaning "one from Kłosów or Kłosy or Kłosowo," and that in turn breaks down as "place of the corn." Kłosowski is a pretty common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 6,697 Polish citizens by that name, living all over the country.

Similarly, Ewertowski might mean "one from Ewertów or Ewertowo," but I can find no mention of any such places in my sources. It's possible there have been places named Ewertów or Ewertowo and they've since been renamed or disappeared, but in this case "kin of Ewert" makes as much sense as "one from the place of Ewert." Ewert is an old German personal name, which also appears in such forms as Evert and Evers. There have always been large numbers of Germans living in Poland, so it's not unusual to see surnames derived from German names. As of 1990 there were 1,229 Ewertowski's living in Poland. They could be found all over the country, but the largest numbers were in the provinces of Olsztyn (317), Pila (109) and Torun (279), in north central and northwestern Poland.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


MAZIARSKI -- MAZIARZ -- MAZIERZ -- MAZIERSKI

… If you should have the time, would you please tell me anything you can find related to the surname Mazierski.

Mazierski is almost certainly from the noun mazierz, which is a variant of maziarz, "tar-burner." As such it is one of many surnames derived from terms for occupations. I must admit I don't know that much about this occupation, which was somehow involved with burning wood to distill pitch or tar -- but I see mention of it all the time in old sources, so up until a century or two ago it was clearly a pretty common way to earn a living. The standard form, as I say, is maziarz, and the adjectival form is maziarski, which means literally "of, from, pertaining to the tar-burner"; as a surname it would mean basically "kin of the tar-burner." We also see the surname Mazierz and the associated adjectival form Mazierski, and these would be the same name, it's just pronounced and spelled slightly differently in some areas, perhaps much as Americans write "color" and Brits write "colour."

In some cases the surname might also refer to origin in a place named something like Maziarze (for instance, there is a village by that name in Radom province). In other words, Maziarski or Mazierski might also have started as meaning "one from Maziarze" -- and obviously a place by that name was so called because of a connection with tar-burners. So either way the surname refers to that occupation -- in one case it would mean "kin of the tar-burner," in the other case "one from the place of the tar-burner."

As of 1990 there were 146 Polish citizens named Mazierski, scattered in numerous provinces; the largest single concentration, 55, was in the province of Wloclawek in central Poland. Just for contrast, there were 4 Poles named Mazierz, as opposed to 349 named Maziarski, 4,691 named Maziarz, and 656 named Maziarczyk ("son of the tar-burner").

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


BISKUPIAK

… Any thoughts on the surname Biskupiak? Would it relate to a particular area of Poland?

The name comes from biskup, "bishop," and just means a person in some way connected with a bishop. It might refer to kin of a bishop, a bishop's servant, or people who worked on lands belonging to a bishop -- until a few centuries ago, bishops and higher clergy owned large estates, so this isn't as far-fetched or unusual as it might sound. Often the -iak suffix means "son of," but it seems rather unlikely, in a devoutly Catholic country like Poland, that anyone would go around with a name meaning "son of a bishop" (although Lord knows there probably were a few of those around!). But the name doesn't really allow us to define the relationship more precisely -- it just means "bishop's person" in one way or another.

As of 1990 there were 215 Polish citizens named Biskupiak; they were scattered all over the country. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (53) in northwestern Poland, Lodz (28) in central Poland, and Wroclaw (23) in south central Poland. So you can't really say there's any one part of the country with which this name is generally associated.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


FINK -- HONIGMAN

… My father’s mother's name was Fink, but that probably is too common to pursue. My mother's last name was Honigman, her family came from Lodz. Any hints on that?

Fink is indeed a very common name. Despite the relocation of millions of ethnic Germans from Poland at the end of World War II, there are still 373 Fink's and 210 Finke's in Poland. The name comes from the German word for "finch," and I would imagine there are thousands of people by that name in Germany. It is borne by Christians and Jews, and probably was applied originally either to a bird-catcher, someone who lived in an area with many finches, or someone with a bright, cheerful disposition that reminded people of a finch.

Honigman is also German, obviously, and means literally "honey man." It might have referred to a person who kept bees or produced or sold honey, or even symbolically to a person with a sweet personality. In some parts of Germany "Honig" can also come from variants of the name Heinrich, "Henry," according to German name experts. As of 1990 there was no one named Honigman in Germany, but there were 8 named Honikman, which is just a Polish phonetic rendering (Honigman actually is pronounced in German as if it were written Honikman); they lived in the provinces of Gorzow (7) and Lodz (1).

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


GURGUL

… I realized that I do not know the origin of my surname Gurgul. All I know that it is not uncommon in the province of Tarnow, and that there is an area in Austria called Ober-gurgle. If you have any other info regarding this name it would be greatly appreciated.

When I did my book on Polish surnames, this one gave me a lot of trouble. I couldn't ignore it -- as of 1990 there were 1,980 Polish citizens named Gurgul, so it's rather common. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Katowice (165), Krakow (333), Nowy Sacz (180), and Tarnów (750) -- plus smaller numbers in many other provinces -- so it is most common in south central and southeastern Poland. But I could find no clear info on the name's derivation.

I noted in my book that there is a Polish term gurgole meaning "women's clothing," and that might be connected; but that strikes me as weak and far-fetched, although it is possible a person who made or sold women's clothes might end up with such a name. The name does sound rather similar to German Görgel, which is a sort of nickname from Georg, "George" -- thus it might have started as a nickname for a fellow named George or his son. German-derived names are not at all uncommon among Poles, because many Germans have lived in Poland over the centuries.

A book I recently acquired on names in southcentral Poland may shed some light. It discusses the name Gorgol, saying it comes from gorgolić, "to grumble, mumble, complain," and adds "compare Gurgol," a name found in a Polish legal record from 1415. It is not far-fetched to say Gurgul could very well come from that root.

I suspect we may be talking about two different names here: a German name from Georg and a Polish name from the word for "mumble, complain." There were and are a lot of Germans in the areas where Gurgul is common in Poland, including Tarnow province, so I can't really say one is more likely than the other. But the Polish author who wrote the book I just mentioned feels the connection with gorgolić is relevant for Poles, and I am inclined to agree. And either "George" or "mumble" strikes me as more likely than a connection with gurgole, "women's clothing" (although with surnames you never say "never").

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


MOSZCZYŃSKI

… A long time ago I was able to look through a copy of your Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings book and got totally lost on one family name. I have found out a bit about most of my husband’s Polish ancestors, but his great-grandfathers surname Moszczynski sure is a tough one to figure out.

I know what you mean. Some names are nice and clear-cut, like Kowalski from kowal, "smith," or Jankowski from Janków or Jankowo, "the place of Janek." Other names are a lot harder, and Moszczynski is one of them. In Polish it is Moszczyński (accent over the n), pronounced roughly like "mosh-CHIN-skee."

There is no short, sweet answer, but I can say that in most cases it comes from the name of a place, such as Mosty or Moszczenica or Moszczenno, and (naturally) there are several villages with those names. So this is a surname that you really can't get anywhere with until you have pretty good info on exactly where the family comes from. Then if you look at that area and find a place with a name like Moszczenica or Moszcze, chances are that's the place... In most cases these place names came from nicknames of first names, especially Moszko, which can from Mojżesz (Moses) or from some very old pagan first names such as Mojsław. Often what happened is a person named Moszko (or something similar) founded a village or owned an estate, and it came to be named after him, then people who came from there were named after it, and that's how you go from Mojsław or Mojżesz -> Moszko -> Moszczenica -> Moszczyński. As you can see, it's not exactly an obvious progression, but that's one way this name could get started.

… Also....you mention another book which has a breakdown of where people are living in Poland based on their surname. I would appreciate if you would be willing to share that data with me on the Moszczynski surname. It might aid me in my research if I actually knew where any lived. Unfortunately my husbands grandfather <first generation born in the USA> is old and no longer remembers where his father comes from.

As of 1990 there were 3,253 Polish citizens named Moszczyński. There are people by that name in virtually every province of Poland, but here is a list of the provinces with larger numbers (more than 100): Warsaw (383), Ciechanow (178), Gdansk (162), Katowice (118), Lodz (342), Olsztyn (458), Płock (125), Torun (130), Wloclawek (119), and Wroclaw (105). So the name is most common in north central and central Poland, but not to the extent that it really gives much in the way of solid leads. I know that may be disappointing, but it's typical -- I'd estimate no more than 10% of Polish surnames, and maybe only 5%, give any kind of clue to their origin that's even minimally helpful. Most of the time they mean either "son of Joe" or "kin of the carpenter" or "guy from X" where there are 25 places named X.

I realize this probably isn't a lot of help, but maybe somewhere along the line it will do you some good. I hope so, and I wish you the best of luck with your research.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.


HAŁAS

… I would like any information on the Halas surname. I have encountered a brick wall with this polish family of mine. any information would be appreciated.

The name is spelled Hałas in Polish -- the ł is how we represent on-line the Polish l with a line through it, which is pronounced like our w, so that this name sounds like "HAH-wass." It comes from the Polish word hałas, which means "noise, outcry." It's a fairly common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 3,853 Polish citizens named Hałas, another 1,242 named Hałasa, and even 348 named Chałas (the ch is pronounced the same as h in Polish, so you could see the name spelled either way). Poles named Hałas lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (342), Katowice (344), Lublin (315), Poznan (49), and Zamosc (274). Unfortunately, that just means there's no one part of the country the name is associated with, a Hałas could come from anywhere in Poland.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission. 


KOCHNIARCZYK

… I am interested in researching my family name, Kochniarczyk, specifically in the year 1910 when my grandfather, Marek, immigrated to the US, to be followed by my grandmother Regina Kochniarczyk, nee Pajdzik, and my father Stanley who was 2 years old in 1912....

This is a difficult name, because I can't find any mention of it in my sources. I can tell you that as of 1990 there were 55 Polish citizens named Kochniarczyk; they lived in the provinces of Kielce (6), Krakow (9), Krosno (5), Legnica (1), Lodz (1), Nowy Sacz (8), Poznan (8), Sieradz (2), Tarnów (9), Walbrzych (6). This means it is a fairly rare name, and is not limited to just one area -- Poznan province is in western Poland, Nowy Sacz and Krakow in south central Poland, Tarnów and Krosno in southeastern Poland. (I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses, all I have is this breakdown of where they lived by province).

As for the meaning, one part is clear -- the suffix -czyk means "son of," so it is a patronymic name, "son of X." The question is, what does that X, Kochniar-, mean? I suspect it is an unusual word meaning "cook"; kuchnia means "kitchen" in Polish, Koch means "cook" in German, and the suffix -iarz in Polish is a lot like -er in English, and that suggests kochniarz could be a dialect or rare word meaning "cooker" = "one who cooks." So my gut feeling is that this surname means "son of the cook." But I can't find any sources that confirm this, and unless I come across something more definite, it will have to remain an educated guess.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission. 


TAŃSKI

… Are you familiar with the name Tansky. We believe it's from Warsaw.

In Polish this would be spelled Tański, with ń representing the Polish n with an accent over it, which modifies the a to where it sounds almost like "TINE-skee." As of 1990 there were 2,553 Polish citizens by this name, including 237 living in the province of Warsaw; other provinces with large numbers of Tański's were Ciechanow (359), Olsztyn (376), and Ostrołęka (359). It seems to be most common in the northeastern part of Poland, although you find people by this name all over the country.

The derivation of this name is hard to pin down, because there are several possibilities. Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut lists a number of names beginning with Tan- in his book, saying they generally come from either tani, "cheap, inexpensive," or taniec, "dance." But another source mentions that it can come from an old first name Tan, seen in old compound names such as Tanard and Tancar. Another expert mentions it as possibly coming from a short form or nickname of Kajetan, a rare first name in this country but not so rare in Europe -- compare French Gaetan, Italian Gaetano, etc.

And, to be honest, we can't rule out origin from nicknames for Antoni (Anthony) and Atanazy (Athanasius) -- it's not rare at all for Poles to take just one syllable of a popular first name, drop the rest, and make a new name or nickname by adding suffixes (sort of like "Teddy" in English from "Edward" or "Theodore"). I think the link with "Anthony" is especially worth considering, even though none of my sources mention it, because northeastern Poland often has a tendency to use the sound of a instead of o -- partly due to Belarusian and Lithuanian influence -- and in Lithuanian Tanas is a nickname for Antanas, the Lith. form of "Anthony." With all the Tański's in northeastern Poland, it's quite possible some of them got the name by way of Tanas or something simiar.

So we can't really say it comes only from this word or that word -- it's quite possible the surname Tański developed from all of these sources. In one family's case, it might come from the root meaning "cheap," in another's from a nickname (kind of like "Tony" in English), and so on.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission. 


BURDZEL -- STRZAŁKOWSKI

… My ggrandfather's surname was Burdzel. I am assured he was Polish but I can find nothing about this name at all. Do you have any information on this name?

As of 1990 there were 225 Polish citizens named Burdzel, of whom by far the greatest number, 148, lived in the province of Tarnobrzeg in southeastern Poland. There were smaller numbers scattered in other provinces, including 23 more in Rzeszów province (also in SE Poland), but Tarnobrzeg is definitely the area where the name seems to be concentrated. There were also 14 named Burdziel in Rzeszów province, and that is probably a variant form of the same name. Unfortunately I don't have access to further info on the Burdzel's and Burdziel's, such as first names or addresses.

As for the derivation, well, often these are a bit embarrassing -- the most obvious link here is with burdel, "brothel." However, that doesn't have to be the origin of this name. Although the primary meaning of burdel (from Latin borda or bordelum, compare Italian bordello) is "brothel," the term also came to be used for any old, decrepit building, so the name might have started as a nickname for someone who lived in or owned such a building. According to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut, names like this can also come from the root burda, "brawl, disturbance of the peace." As such, Burdel or Burdzel may well have originated as a nickname for someone who raised hell from time to time. Not necessary a complimentary name, but better than "brothel"!

My grandmother's maiden name was Strzalkowski. I can find nothing on this name either. Can you help?

Names ending in X-owski usually break down as meaning "of, from, pertaining to the _ of X," where that blank is filled in with an understood word, usually "kin" or "place." In this case the X is the root strzałka, "arrow," or strzel-, "to shoot." So while this surname might refer to the kin of a person who made or used arrows, or who had a nickname Strzałka or Strzałek because he was a great archer or was straight and thin as an arrow, the probable origin in most cases was "one who comes from Strzałki or Strzałków or Strzałkowo," and those place names, in turn, would mean "place of the arrows." Perhaps these places were known for producing or using arrows -- all we can really be sure of is that a name like this got started because of some connection with arrows. In most cases, I would think it simply meant "person from Strzałki/Strzałków/Strzałkowo." Unfortunately there are several places by those names, so without further information there's no way to know which one this surname referred to in any one family's case. There probably isn't one big Strzałkowski family, but rather numerous ones who got the name independently because they came from a community with one of the names mentioned.

This is a fairly common surname, as of 1990 there were 4,455 Strzałkowski's in Poland. The name is found all over the country, with particularly large numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (758), Białystok (162), Bydgoszcz (171), Lodz (162), Płock (233), and Radom (342). The inescapable conclusion is that the name is not concentrated in any one area, a Strzałkowski family could come from almost anywhere in Poland. (By the way, I'd estimate this is true in at least 90% of all cases -- most Polish surnames just don't offer much in the way of specific clues. Burdzel is an exception in that it is primarily associated with one province.)

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission. 


BUBCZYK

… I was looking for the name Bubczyk and the meaning. It was my grandfathers surname. He came from Plevnik Russia/Poland County of Przasnysz now in the Province of Ostrołęka, Poland. Thank you very much. Christian Bubczyk chef3@juno.com.

The suffix -czyk usually means "son of," and the root bub-, according to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut, is buba, "something that frightens," also used in the meaning "idiot." So I'm afraid the choices are "son of the scary guy, son of the scared guy," or else "son of the idiot." I know these aren't very complimentary, but I can assure you, compared to some names I've seen, they're not bad. I just had to tell a lady her great-grandfather's name appears to come from a word for "brothel"!

Bubczyk is not a very common name, as of 1990 there were 73 Polish citizens by that name. They lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 9, Chelm 38, Gdansk 1, Katowice 4, Lublin 18, Zamosc 3. While it's a bit surprising none show up in Ostrołęka province, this is not unusual -- I often find a particular name doesn't show up in the area where you'd expect it, perhaps because the name died out in Poland after a lot of the family emigrated, or due to subsequent wars and other hardships. I'm afraid I don't have access to further details such as the first names and addresses of those Bubczyk's, what I've given here is all I have.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission. 


BRZESZCZAK -- LERYCH

… First, my father's family name is Lerych, and in the family tradition it originated somewhere in Germany. The odd thing is that apparently my great-grandfather used (or had a document issued in) the name Relich (which, I believe, is actually not an uncommon German name). I suppose that the two names could have been reversed phonetically, but I can't tell which is the original one since I do not have any documents predating the Lerych version. (Could it be French: Le Riche?).

I agree that in terms of linguistic and ethnic origin, Lerych is probably German -- it doesn't really "sound" Polish, if you know what I mean. By phonetics, we would expect this to come from something like Lerich or Lehrich in German. Looking through my sources to see if any of them mention this name, I find that Hans Bahlow's Deutsches Namenlexikon mentions Lerich under the entry for Lerch, "lark," a name typically applied to catchers and sellers of birds (but names from birds' names were also given to people whose clothes reminded them of a lark's coloring, or whose voices or movements somehow reminded them of a lark). Alexander Beider's book on Surnames of Jews in the Kingdom of Poland also cites this derivation, lerych from German Lerch, Lerche. (That does not mean the name is necessarily Jewish, many such names were used by both Christians and Jews.)

But I note that Bahlow also mentions in regard to the family name Lerich a possible connection with the German root ler, "swamp." If that is applicable, Lerich/Lerych might refer not to the lark but to the place where a family lived, somewhere near swamplands -- there are many, many names with this meaning, in German and Polish. I think the "lark" derivation is the more likely in most cases, but we cannot rule out the possibility that in some cases it originated as a name for someone living in or near swampy land.

As I'm sure you know, it is not at all unusual to find German-derived names among Poles (there are thousands of Hoffman's in Poland today). Large numbers of Germans have always lived in Poland; in the Middle Ages, many Germans fleeing war and economic distress in their homeland were invited to come settle in Poland as skilled farmers and craftsmen. And of course after Poland was partitioned many Germans came uninvited to what is now northern western Poland, to take over the best land and promote the German vision of finding living space [Lebensraum] in land east of Germany (often referred to as the Drang nach Osten, "drive to the east").

As for Relich vs. Lerich, it is not uncommon to see the switch from L-R to R-L in names. A recent issue of Rodziny, the Journal of the Polish Genealogical Society of America, has an article in which a member discusses the names Rolbiecki vs. Lorbiecki, a name found mostly among the Kaszubs, and concludes they are the same name, with Lorbiecki being the preferred form among Kaszubs and Rolbiecki more commonly used by Poles. So the variation between Lerich and Relich is not such an odd phenomenon; it still seems to me Lerich/Lerych is the original form, with Relich a later, dialectal variant.

As of 1990 there were only 13 Poles with the name Lerych, living in the provinces of Warsaw (10) and Skierniewice (3). There were also 6 Leryk's, which is surely a variant of the same name, all living in Skierniewice province. (Unfortunately I do not have access to further data such as first names and addresses, what I have given here is all I have.) This compares with 417 Lerka's, 81 Lerek's, and 489 Lerch's. The amazing thing is that there are 234 Relich's, living in many different provinces but with larger numbers in those of Gorzow (25), Jelenia Gora (20), Katowice (34), Opole (25), and Zielona Gora (44) -- all provinces in western Poland or Silesia. Without much more extensive research I cannot say how many of them bear that name as a variant of the name Lerych and how many derive Relich from something like religa, "old horse, ungainly fellow."

This is a very interesting subject, and if you would like to learn more, perhaps it would be worthwhile to contact the Pracownia Antroponimiczna, Instytut Jezyka Polskiego, ul. Straszewskiego 27, 31-113 KRAKOW. They generally charge no more than $10-20 to check their sources and see if they have information on the origin of a specific name. These are the best experts I know of on such matters, and while they can correspond in English, with you that will not be necessary! I think there's a very good chance they would be able to add to what I've said and give you some good insights on the origin of this name and the exact relationship between it and Relich.

Second, my mother's family name is Brzeszczak. Again, the family tradition maintains the first Brzeszczak was a knight who came to Poland from Hungary with king Louis and settled down there. The family, as far as I can tell, has always lived in the general vicinity of Warsaw. I suppose "Brzeszczak" could be derived from brzeszczot or the city of Brzesc (Brest), as well as any Hungarian name like Berescaky (?) or something.

As of 1990 there were 260 Brzeszczak's in Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (113), Czestochowa (80), and Radom (22), and a few in several other provinces. According to Prof. Kazimierz Rymut's Nazwiska Polaków, Brzeszczak comes ultimately from the root brzost, "birch tree," but we would usually expect it to have started as meaning "one from Brześć or Brzesko" or some similar place name, and there are quite a few places with names that qualify (all eventually deriving from brzost), so that the surname would mean "one from the place of birches."

I don't have any information on specific families, so I cannot comment on your family tradition, except to say it is certainly feasible. There are many such cases documented. It might be the knight came from Hungary, where he had a name that sounded similar and was modified by Poles to Brzeszczak, or he might have borne another name entirely and later took the name Brzeszcak because he owned an estate or town or village named Brześć or Brzesko. But it would take someone with sources on Polish heraldry to tell you that. You might contact Leonard Suligowski, 218A N. Henry St., Brooklyn, NY 11222, a heraldic artist with an extensive library on Polish nobility. He might be able to find in his sources some information that would shed light on the family's origin.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission. 


PIEKARCZYK

… I was wondering if you have any information on the name Piekarczyk... That was my Grandfather's name before it was changed to Baker. I was told that Piekarczyk translates to "little baker", but I don't know if that is true.

Yes, that is the literal meaning of Piekarczyk. The word piekarz is Polish for "baker," and the suffix -czyk can mean "little one," and in surnames it often means "son of." There is a term piekarczyk, "boy working at a bakery," according to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut. So "little baker" is a fairly literal translation, and as a surname Piekarczyk probably was applied to a baker's son or assistant -- to a considerable extent the two meanings would overlap, since you'd generally expect the baker's son to help his father in the family business.

This is a moderately common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 2,876 Polish citizens named Piekarczyk. When you think about the meaning of the name, it could be used anywhere they spoke Polish and bakers had sons, i.e., anywhere in Poland, and in fact there are Piekarczyk's living all over the country. However the largest numbers of people by this name lived in southcentral and southeastern Poland, in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (148), Katowice (572), Krakow (278), Lublin (275), Nowy Sacz (195), and Tarnów (260). I wish the data would let us be more specific, because that's a lot of area to search, but that's what the numbers say, and I pass it on in case it might prove useful. (I don't have any further details such as first names and addresses, just a total of how many there were by any specific name and a breakdown of how many lived in each province).

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission. 


KRAKOWSKI

… In using some of the information you provide your viewers, I noticed that no record of my last name - Krakowski - could be found. Originally, the name was Krakovski or Krakovsky but it apparently changed over time. What can you tell me about it?

Well, as of 1990 there were over 800,000 surnames borne by Poles, to say nothing of those that have died out in Poland after families emigrated. Now granted, a lot of those names are minor variants -- kind of like "Johnson" vs. "Jonsson" in English -- and most of them are very rare. But the sheer numbers may explain why there are still a few (a few thousand, in fact) I haven't gotten to yet! That's why I post my E-mail address there, so folks can contact me for info on the many that aren't listed.

The original spelling of your name would be Krakowski -- Poles don't use the letter v, they use w for that sound, but obviously when emigrants left Poland the spelling could easily change to Krakovski or Krakovsky to better fit English phonetic values and make the name easier to pronounce. This is one of the more common names, as of 1990 there were 6,062 Polish citizens named Krakowski. They lived all over the country, with larger numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (285), Bydgoszcz (260), Kalisz (315), Katowice (309), Konin (218), Lodz (281), Poznan (317), Sieradz (254), Suwałki (252), and Tarnow (556). It's interesting that the name is connected with the city of Krakow, yet Krakow province only has 124 Krakowski's -- this is the kind of little twist you run into all the time with names.

Names ending in -ski are adjectival in origin, they mean "of, from, pertaining to, connected with X" where X is the first part of the name. In this case, the surname would mean little more than "person from Kraków or Krakowo or Krakowek" -- in other words, more than one place name could generate this surname. However, in the overwhelming majority of cases we'd expect Krakowski to mean "one from Kraków," referring to the major city in southcentral Poland. But some Krakowski's might come not from that Kraków, but from the one in Sieradz province, or even possibly from Krakowek in Bydgoszcz province. That's one of the big problems with surnames derived from place names -- in Poland very few place names are unique. If there's one, there's usually at least 3 or 4, sometimes 30 or 40! So as I say, you'd expect most Krakowski's got that name because they came from the famous Kraków -- but there are probably exceptions, a few who go back to those other places.

Kraków/Krakowo/Krakowek actually all mean more or less the same thing, "the [place] of Krak." Krak was the name of the legendary founder of Kraków, but there were probably other folks named Krak, he's just the only one we ever heard of. The root of the name is krak, "crow." So Krakowski literally breaks down to "one from Kraków/Krakowo/Krakowek" = "one from the place of Krak" or "one from the place of the crow."

Unfortunately, this name is so common and is found in so many parts of Poland that it doesn't offer you too much in the way of solid leads or clues to help trace the family. This is actually true of probably 90-95% of Polish surnames -- they just don't tell you enough to help much. I know folks are sometimes disappointed I can't offer them more assistance, but that's just the way it is.

 Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.     

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