Consolidated Surname File 3
Created by Administrator Account in 12/19/2009 11:00:56 AM

 


OLENDER - OLĘDER

...My maiden surname is Olander, formerly Olender. I know nothing about my heritage except that my Great-Grandparents immigrated from Poland years ago. I am interested to learn as much as I can about this name. 

In Polish there is a letter written as an E with a tail under it; this letter is pronounced much line "en" in most cases. Almost any time you see a Polish name with an "EN" preceding a consonant, it will usually turn out that it can also be spelled in Polish with this letter Ę. So the name you're asking about is Olender or Olęder, pronounced roughly "oh-LEND-air." 

This name comes from German Holländer, "Dutchman," and is a term used by Poles to refer to the German and Dutch colonists who came to settle in Poland over the centuries, often at the express invitation of nobles who valued their skills in crafts and farming and wanted them to settle on their land and increase their revenues. If you pronounce German Holländer (roughly "HOLE-end-air") you can hear the similarity in sound; Olender or Olęder is just a slightly Polonized version of this term. In fact, there are a number of places in Poland called "Olędry" because they started out as settlements founded by these Germans and Dutch immigrants. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 3,961 Polish citizens named Olender. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 227, Katowice 279, Lublin 262, Olsztyn 303, Ostrołęka 486, and Suwałki 244. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. This data just shows that the name is found all over Poland, but is particularly common in northeastern and eastern Poland. 

There were also 80 Poles named Olęder, with the largest number living in the provinces of Chelm (14), Gdansk (12), Radom (16), and Siedlce (21). This is a bit unusual in that when you have names that can be spelled with either Ę or EN, the form with Ę is usually the more common or standard form. I was actually a little surprised to see that Olender is so much more common than Olęder; I would have expected it to be the other way around. But with surnames, you always have surprises!

If you'd like to learn a little more about these Holländers, there is a translation of an article on the subject at this Web address:

../../history/dutch_populace.htm 


DZIATKOWICZ

... please see if you can find information on the name dziatkowicz.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 65 Polish citizens named Dziatkowicz. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 22, Nowy Sacz 26, Zamosc 10. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. This data indicates the name is scattered in small numbers all over Poland, since Bydgoszcz is in the northwest, Nowy Sacz is in southcentral Poland, and Zamosc is in southeastern Poland.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it is a variant of the name Dziadkowicz; that name is actually pronounced as if the second D were a T, so that it can easily be spelled phonetically Dziatkowicz; both names sound like "jot-KO-vich," so that Dziadkowicz and Dziatkowicz are essentially just different ways of spelling the same name. 

The suffix -owicz means "son of," so the name means literally "son of Dziatko or Dziadko." That, in turn, is an old first name (which has also come to be used as a surname) coming from the root dziadek, "grandfather, old man"; it may have been used in its literal meaning, but it may also have come from nicknames or short forms of ancient Polish pagan names such as Dziadumil, "dear to grandfather," or Milodziad, "dear grandfather." The suffix -ek or -ko is diminutive, meaning "little" or "son of." 

So Dziatkowicz can be interpreted two ways: 1) as "son of the little grandfather" or "son of grandfather's son," or 2) as "son of Dziatko," which in turn can be a name meaning "little grandfather, son of grandfather," but can also be a nickname from those ancient names I referred to earlier, Dziadumil, Milodziad, or something similar.


PONIEWAZ

... I would like to have information on the Poniewaz surname as what it may mean and where in Poland that it was found.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 417 Polish citizens named Ponieważ. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Ciechanow 36, Lublin 198, Olsztyn 32; the rest were scattered in small numbers all over the country. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. This data indicates the name is found all over Poland but is concentrated in two areas, one near Lublin in east central Poland, the other in the area north of Warsaw.

In Polish this name is pronounced roughly "pon-YEAH-vosh." None of my sources discuss its origin, and it's a little perplexing. There is a word in Polish ponieważ, and it seems likely a surname that matches it so closely must be connected with it. But the word is a conjunction, meaning "inasmuch as, although." I suppose it's possible the surname began as a kind of nickname making fun of someone who was always using that word, but that seems pretty tenuous. 

It's also possible the surname comes from the archaic verb ponieważyc', "to hold in contempt," and referred to a person with a snotty attitude, or one who was regarded with contempt. I also cannot rule out some connection with the Lithuanian city of Panevezys, which is called Poniewież in Polish. So I have several possibilities, but none of them is obviously correct; and without more facts, I can't establish which is right.

Since I don't have the time or resources to do more detailed research on names, all I can give is "quick and dirty" analysis. If you would like to get an opinion from the real experts and don't mind spending about $20, you can write the
Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow. The staff consists of Polish scholars specializing in name origins, with access to large collections of material on the subject; there is surely no one else in the world better qualified to answer questions on Polish names. They can correspond in English, and the charge for researching a single name is seldom more than $20-30. You write to them with your request, and the individual who does the research will reply, and will tell you how much he/she is charging and how best to send payment. It is usually quite painless, and most people I hear from are very satisfied with the results; but the staff has been a bit slow lately in answering letters -- they have lots of other work to do, after all -- so patience is advisable.

If you do write the Instytut, I would be very interested in hearing what they have to say, so I can include the information in the next edition of my book on Polish surnames, and thus pass it on to others interested in this name.


WEYNA

... Hello, My name is Dianne Weyna and this is supposed to be a polish last name. I have heard my name means "war" in polish and have also met a person named Wojna in which he also said his name meant "war". I am wondering if you have ever heard of this name before in Poland, or any ideas as to what it derivation is. I did not find this name on your list. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 277 Polish citizens named Weyna. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 175, and Gdansk 24; the rest were scattered in much smaller numbers all over the country. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. There were also 26 Poles who spelled the name Wejna, all living somewhere in the province of Bydgoszcz. This data tells us the name is found primarily in northwestern Poland, especially in the area around Bydgoszcz.

This name is a hard one to figure, because there are too many possibilities. The Polish word for "war" is wojna, pronounced "VOY-nah," whereas Weyna is pronounced "VAY-nah." Could it be a variant from that word for "war"? Yes, it's possible. But it seems a little too much of a stretch to accept without some sort of corroboration.

It might also come from the Polish word wejna, which means roughly "Look at that!" It could have started as a nickname for one who was always going around saying that. Also possible is derivation from German Wein, "wine," or Weiner, "waggoner, carter." All these are possible, but I have no information that would let me pin it down and say "This is the right one in your case." Only extensive detail on the family's background would shed light on the historical, linguistic, social, and geographic context in which the name developed and came to be associated with your family.

That's all I can tell you with resources at hand. If you would like to get an opinion from the real experts and don't mind spending about $20, you can write the
Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow. The staff consists of Polish scholars specializing in name origins, with access to large collections of material on the subject; there is surely no one else in the world better qualified to answer questions on Polish names. They can correspond in English, and the charge for researching a single name is seldom more than $20-30. You write to them with your request, and the individual who does the research will reply, and will tell you how much he/she is charging and how best to send payment. It is usually quite painless, and most people I hear from are very satisfied with the results; but the staff has been a bit slow lately in answering letters -- they have lots of other work to do, after all -- so patience is advisable.


BUDA

... The family name is Buda. my parents both came from the town of Scherps (sp). any information on family name would be appreciated.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as far back as 1424. It can come from several sources. Names beginning Bud- can be short forms of ancient pagan names such as Budzislaw, where the first part comes from the root budz-, "to build." Or such names can come from that root, meaning something along the lines of "one who builds." 

But most likely this name comes directly from the noun buda, "stall, shed." It might refer to a worker who went into the forest, set up a small shed to work from, and proceeded to clear land or cut down trees for other uses, or some other kind of laborer who worked out of a shed. It can also refer to one who set up a small stall in a marketplace and sold goods out of it. I can't be sure, but that's probably what the name refers to here, an ancestor who sold inexpensive goods from a stall in the marketplace.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 4,444 Polish citizens named Buda. They lived all over Poland, with no really helpful concentration in any one area. 

"Scherps" may be a phonetic spelling of the Polish town Sierpc, which sounds like "sherpts." Sierpc is perhaps 30 km. or so north of the city of Płock, a little north of the center of the country. If so, this name is unusually rare in that area -- as of 1990 there were only 10 Polish citizens by that name living in the province of Płock. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find them. 


KORZEŃSKI - KORZYŃSKI

... I would greatly appreciate any help with my family name: Korzynski. Apparently, it is rather rare, there are only a few of us here in America, and I can't get any of the remaining older family members to give me any information about our origins except that they think we are from Białystok. Thank you for your help in this matter. Paul.

In Polish the name would be spelled Korzyński. It would be pronounced roughly "ko-ZHIN-skee." Two of my sources give this name as a variant of Korzeński, which comes from the basic root korzeń, "root." The name might just mean "of the root," referring perhaps to one who dealt in roots as a source of food or materials, or to one who lived in an area where roots were especially easy to find. 

But I think more often it would refer to the name of a place, and the place, in turn, got its name because of a perceived connection with roots. Thus my sources mention Korzeński/Korzyński as referring to such places as Korzenna in Grybow district, Korzeń in Gąbin district, and Korzeniec in Warka district. So there isn't just one place the surname might refer to. Only successful genealogical research might enable one to find exactly where in Poland a family by this name came from, and then would shed light on which of the possible places it originally referred to in their particular case.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 287 Polish citizens named Korzyński. They were scattered all over the provinces of Poland, although the largest number, 37, lived in the province of Białystok. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. This data tells us the name can come from anywhere in Poland, but if your info suggests a link with Białystok, that is quite plausible. (By the way, the number of Korzeński's in Poland was 188, also widely scattered.)


ARĘDARSKI - ARENDARSKI - HARENDARSKI

... I was wondering if you would be able to help me out with any information on the name Arendarski. I haven't been able to find anything even near it and I am really interested in find out the history of my name.

Polish scholars say this name comes from the noun arendarz, "lease-holder, publican." That term started out meaning "one who leases a property," but since the kind of property most often held in that kind of lease was either a tavern or a mill, the term gradually came to be more closely associated with those properties, especially taverns. So it could refer to one who leased any property, but was especially likely to refer to one who leased a tavern from a nobleman who actually held the title to it (the nobles actually owned most property).

The -ski is adjectival, so that the name means literally "of, from, connected with, pertaining to the lease-holder." In practice it would usually mean either "kin of the lease-holder" or "one from the place of the leaseholder." I can't find any places offhand with names that would fit (such as Arendarz, Arendarze, etc.), so I suspect most of the time, practically speaking, the name would boil down to "kin of the tavern-keeper." 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 924 Polish citizens named Arendarski. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Katowice (136) and Kielce (326). Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

One last thing I should mention. The noun arendarz has been used in other, slightly different forms, and those forms are reflected in surnames that can be regarded as variants of the basic name Arendarski. Sometimes you see the -en- replaced by the Polish nasal vowel written as an -e- with a tail under it, because that vowel is pronounced much like "en." Sometimes the name also has an initial H stuck onto it. So don't be surprised if you happen to run into variant forms of the name such as Arędarski or Harędarski or Harendarski. Consistent spelling of surnames is a comparatively recent development, and in records you often see names spelled a number of different ways. 


MURDZA

... Would you have any information as to the meaning and origin of the surname Murdza.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 516 Polish citizens named Murdza. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 48, Kielce 40, Krakow 39, Tarnobrzeg 100, and Tarnów 31. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. This data tells us the name is found all over Poland but is most common in the southeastern and south-central part of the country, in the region Poles call Malopolska, "Little Poland," which used to be ruled by Austria as the western half of the crown land of Galicia.

None of my name sources mention this one, so all I can do is make an educated guess on the meaning. But I notice that murdza is mentioned in an extensive Polish-language dictionary as a variation of murza, a dialect term meaning "dirty, disheveled fellow." Also of interest as possibly relevant are the Ukrainian terms murga, "dirty fellow, black ox, churlish person"; murda, "sheep with black circles around its eyes"; and murza, "dirty-faced child." The common thread in all these cases is some association with blackness or dirt, and that's why I think the Polish dialect term murdza/murza may be relevant -- it would suggest the name started as a nickname for one whose appearance was rather dirty. Not the most complimentary name in the world, I admit; but compared to some Polish names I've seen, it's really not that insulting.


CURYŁO - CZURYŁO - SYRYŁO

... Mr. Hoffman I am running down my Family Line and I seen your Area, maybe you can help? The name is Curylo, father was John Stanley, don't know Granddad or Great-Granddad. Also some of the nom de plumes, I have come across are: Czurylo - Cyrylo - Crylo - Syrylo's. I have been in touch with the only KNOWN Family in Poland, Michalska from Mogilno, e. of Posen. Any info you can get me would be Greatly Appreciated. 

The short answer is, this name means "Cyril," deriving from various forms of that name, from Greek Kyrillos, from a word meaning "of the lord, belonging to the lord" (if you're Catholic and old enough, you may remember the prayer "Kyrie eleison" in the old Latin Mass -- that phrase is actually Greek, and kyrios is Greek for "lord"). This name came into different languages in different forms. In English it's Cyril, in modern Polish it's Cyryl, in modern Ukrainian it's Kyrylo. But in earlier times, before it became standardized in Polish as Cyryl, it also appeared sometimes as Curylo, Czurylo, Kiryl, etc. These forms existed in the Middle Ages, about the time surnames were starting to develop, and came to be used as surnames as well. So the name means basically "kin of Cyril." The various spellings are not unusual, this name has several sounds that are subject to variation in spelling.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,463 Polish citizens named Curyło (the Polish L with a slash through it, pronounced like our W). There were 162 named Cyrul, 92 named Cyryl, 2 named Cyryło, and 6783 named Czuryło. They lived all over Poland, so one cannot just look at the name and say, "Oh, a family by that name must have come from this place right here." People by these names could come from almost anywhere, although they're somewhat more likely to come from southeastern Poland and western Ukraine.

You might find interesting the note I've pasted in below, which I recently sent to another researcher looking into the same basic name.


... Working on my mother's ancestry for 6 years now, I found more information and living relatives through the internet, which is still very new to me, than I've found through writing letters etc. Any information you can give me about the name Syrylo or possibly Cyrylo will be a great help to me. It is my mother's maiden name and for years all my leads never amounted to anything.

Without an absolutely certain form of the name, there are limits to the information I can give, and how sure I can be that it's accurate. Syrylo and Cyrylo could be two very different names, of different origins. However, I think it likely Syrylo and Cyrylo are variants of the same basic name, from Cyryl, which is a form of the first name "Cyril." Cyrylo would be pronounced roughly "tsi-RILL-oh," and that initial TS sound can easily be simplified to a plain S. So the most likely derivation of the surname is that it originally was a kind of short way of saying "Cyril's kin." Cyril is an honored name among Slavs because it was Sts. Cyril and his brother Methodius who originally brought Christianity to the Slavs; we see his name used a great deal as a first name among Poles and other Slavs, and any first name could easily give rise to a surname in the way I mentioned, as a kind of short way of referring to a family as "Cyril's kin."

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 92 Polish citizens with the surname Cyryl, and 2 named Cyryło (the Polish L with a slash through it, pronounced like our W), one living somewhere in Wroclaw province, the other in Tarnów province. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

There were 55 named Syryło, living in the following provinces: Katowice 4, Krakow 2, Przemysl 46, Rzeszow 3. This shows the name is found mainly in southeastern Poland, near the border with Ukraine. This is interesting because Syryło or Cyryło is kind of a hybrid between the Polish form of that first name, Cyryl, and the Ukrainian form, Kyryllo.

As I say, it's possible the name could derive from something else, including the noun syr, "cheese." Without detailed research into the family' past, there's no way to know for sure. But I feel pretty confident the name does in fact come from the first name "Cyril," and most likely indicates origin somewhere in southeastern Poland, or possibly Ukraine.


STASIEŃKO

... Very, very interesting site, I enjoy reading it. Could you tell me how and where the name Stasienko was developed or derived from

Stasieńko, pronounced roughly "stah-SHENK-o," comes from a nickname for the first name Stanisław, which is usually rendered Stanislaus in Latin and English. It comes from ancient Slavic roots (used not just by Poles but also Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, etc.) meaning "be, become" and "fame, glory," so that giving a child this name expressed the parents' hope it would grow up to be famous and glorious. 

Poles and Ukrainians often formed nicknames by taking first names, keeping the first few sounds, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes. So from Stanislaw they took Sta-, added the suffix -s (with an accent over it), to give the nickname Staś (sounds like "stosh" to English-speakers), which is still a very common nickname for males named Stanisław. Once the name Staś existed, it could have suffixes added to it, and -enko is basically a diminutive, so that Stasienko means something like "little Staś, son of Staś." 

The suffix -enko is used by Poles, but is more often associated with Ukrainians; this surname may have originated among Ukrainians rather than Poles, although that's not absolutely certain. Because Poles ruled Ukraine for a long time, it was often regarded as Polish territory and people from there were called "Poles." That explains why it might be regarded as a Polish surname even if the people bearing it had roots in Ukraine rather than Poland.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 234 Polish citizens named Stasieńko (with an accent over the n). The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Przemysl 67, and Wroclaw 64. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data shows us the name is found primarily in southern Poland. It's very possible those 64 Stasienkos in Wroclaw province lived farther east, nearer the Ukrainian border, before World War II, because after that war millions were forced to relocate from east to west. If we had data from before 1939, I strongly suspect you'd see this name mainly in southeastern Poland. But we don't have data from then, and I have no data on how common the name is in Ukraine these days.


CZAPSKI

... I have been directed to address through a relative that is working on a family tree with me. I am trying to located information on my mother's side of the family. Could you please check out for me information and meaning for the name Czapski. It was my mother's maiden name. I'm not sure what area of Poland they originated from. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 4,577 Polish citizens named Czapski. The name is found all over Poland, with no particular concentration in any one area, so that a family named Czapski could have come from anywhere.

Generally you'd expect this name derives ultimately from the term czapa or czapka, "cap." Czapski just means "of, from, connected with, pertaining to the cap," and thus might have started as a name for one who wore or made caps, or his kin. It might also come from the name of a place where the family lived centuries ago, when surnames were developing, a place with a name beginning Czap-. 

I should add, however, that some sources say the name can refer to places named Czapla and Czaple, which actually come from the noun czapla, "heron." If all went according to the rules, the surname referring to these places should be Czaplski or Czapelski; but apparently sometimes the L got dropped, so that it could sometimes end up as Czapski. In any case, there are too many possibilities to know which place the name refers to in a given instance without detailed research into a given family's background. (This is the case with most Polish surnames referring to the names of places.)


MROZIŃSKI - RADZIŃSKI

... My name is Patricia Sweeney. My maiden name was Radzinsky (Radzinski). My mother's name was Mrozinski. The Mrozinski's came from Warsaw, Poland. Do you have any other information? 

In Polish Radzinski is spelled with an accent over the N; so the name is spelled Radziński and pronounced roughly "raw-JEEN-skee." It refers to the name of a place where the family lived at some point several centuries ago. Unfortunately, due to changes in spelling and pronunciation over the years, the surname could refer to any of several places with different names, such as Radzie and Radzyn and Radzyny. Without detailed info on the family, there is no way to know which place the name refers to in a given instance. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 830 Polish citizens named Radziński. They lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area.

Mroziński, pronounced roughly "m'raw-ZHEEN-skee," also refers to the name of a place beginning with Mroz-, from the root meaning "frost." The place name would mean something like "the frosty place" or "place of the frosty one," and Mroziński would mean "one from the frosty place or the place of the frosty one." As of 1990 there were 4,083 Poles named Mroziński, and they, too, lived all over Poland, with no concentration in any one area that's any help in tracing a family.


KOLBA, KOŁBA, KOLBE

... My last name is 'Kolba', myself and my family are from Poland. I've heard that this surname is of Austrian origin, though I've been unable to confirm this as there are many Polish people who have this name. However, I've yet to find anyone who is Austrian with this name. Basically, I just want to know whether my name is Polish, Austrian, or whatever. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 251 Polish citizens named Kolba. There was no significant concentration in any one part of Poland, a Kolba could come from anywhere. 

There were 326 more Poles who spelled the name with a slash through the L, and which is pronounced like our "w," so that Kołba would sound like "KO-bah" with a distinct W sound at the end of the first syllable. The largest number, 140, lived in the province of Kielce, with the rest scattered all over. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. There were also 127 Polish citizens by the name Kolbe, scattered all over Poland.

Unfortunately, with many names there is no way to determine the meaning, or even the language of origin, without detailed genealogical research. That's because the same words and names can develop in different languages independently. Thus if Kolba or Kołba is of Polish origin, it would probably come from the noun kolba, which means "anything roughly round in shape, such as a butt end, cob, spadix, flask (used in chemistry, for instance)." But the same word, of completely different origin, was also used an archaic term for "quarrel, fight, tourney, tournament" -- it came from the Czech word kolba. 

Kolba could just as easily be a Polonized spelling of the German name Kolbe, which German name expert Hans Bahlow's Deutsches Namenlexikon defines as "a club used in battle, cudgel"; he adds that in East German and Silesian dialect it can mean "head of hair." Many, many ethnic Germans came to live in Poland over the centuries, so we find names of clear Germanic origin all over Poland, often borne by people who'd punch you out if you suggested they were German!

So this is the problem -- without detailed info on a family's background, there's no way to know if their name came from the word for something rounded, or from the archaic word for "fight, tourney," or from the German word for "cudgel" or "head of hair." The only way to find out is to dig through the oldest records one can find, in hopes of noticing some note somewhere that sheds light on the derivation. If, for instance, the early family members bore German first names or were Protestant, that would tend to support the German derivation. If their names were purely Polish and they themselves were Roman Catholic, that would argue against a connection with the German word and point toward one of the other meanings. 

I should add that there was a Polish saint named Rev. Maksymilian Kolbe (born Rajmund Kolbe), who was martyred at Auschwitz during World War II. He was canonized in 1982 by Pope John Paul II. If you say the name Kolba or Kolbe to most Poles, he is the one they would probably think of immediately. I'm not sure where he was born, but he attended the seminary in Lvov, which is now in Ukraine, and I believe this territory was included in Galicia, the part of the old Polish Commonwealth seized and ruled by Austria from the late 1700's to World War I. He was born in 1894, so one could say with perfect accuracy that he was Austrian, even though he considered himself, and is considered by others, a Pole.

I'm sorry I can't answer your question about the ethnic or linguistic identity of the name, but there's no point pretending to you that the answer's clear when it isn't. It could be of German or Czech or Polish linguistic origin, and there are probably other possibilities I haven't even thought of. As for national identity, in view of the partitioning of Poland and the fact that it was ruled for a long time by Germany, Russia, and Austria, determining even that becomes a challenge.


OLEJNICZAK

Any information about the name Olejniczak?

It is pronounced roughly "oh-lay-NEE-chock," and comes from the archaic term olejnik, "oil container; one who makes or sells or works with oil" (referring to olive oil, sunflower seed oil, etc., rather than petroleum). The -czak suffix means "son of," so the surname means more or less "son of the oilman." As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 17,327 Polish citizens by this name. They lived all over Poland, with no real concentration in any one region.

 

  

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

MIELAK

… My name is Jason Mielak, and I am inquiring whether you have any information about the meaning or history of the name Mielak. I had ancestors who came over to America at the end of the 19th century from Tarnow, Poland.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 28 Polish citizens named Mielak. They lived in the following provinces: Czestochowa 2, Radom 9, Tarnow 17. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. But this data does indicate the name is found most often in southeastern Poland, especially near Tarnow. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as far back as 1425, and comes from the root seen in the verb mleć, "to mill," and the noun mielnik, "miller." The suffix -ak is used as a diminutive to show some close connection with the word it is attached to, so Mielak would probably mean something like "little miller, son of the mill guy." It would be pronounced roughly "M'YELL-ock." 


GRZYB - POPIOŁCZAK

… I am interested in finding out more information about two surnames. The first one is Popolchak.  This was my mother's maiden name. Her mother's maiden name was something like Gryzp, or Gribbe. I've seen it those two ways on two documents: the first (1953), on my mother's Certificate of Age from her church, required for marriage, and the second way (1967), on the death certificate for her brother.  

It's almost certain both of these spellings are mangled forms of the original names, if the names were Polish. Popolchak makes no sense as a Polish name, but is probably a phonetic spelling of Popiołczak, which would be pronounced roughly "pope-YO-chock," with a distinct W sound at the end of the second syllable. (The slashed L pronounced like our W). As for Gryzp or Gribbe, my best guess is that it would be a mangled form of Polish Grzyb, pronounced roughly "g'zhipp" (using "zh" to stand for the sound of "zh" in Zhivago, or the "s" in "measure"). I could be wrong in both cases, but those are the forms that strike me as most likely -- and in cases where folks don't supply me with firm, verified, correct name forms, educated guesses are all I can offer. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 9 Polish citizens named Popiołczak. They lived in the provinces of Katowice, 5, and Legnica, 4, in what is now southwestern Poland, an area long ruled by Germany. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 

This name would come from the noun popioł, "ash, cinder." The -czak suffix means "son of, kin of," so the surname probably started out meaning "son of the cinder guy." 

As for Grzyb, it's very simple: it comes from the noun grzyb, meaning "mushroom." As of 1990 there were 11,045 Poles by that name, with large numbers all over Poland. A family by that name could come from anywhere. (There were entries for Gryzp or Gribbe). 


GWIZDOWSKI - ZECMAN

… My paternal grandfather Gwizdowski was born in Gwizdow, Galicia in 1880. I have located two towns of this name in southern Poland that are within 50km of each other. I am guessing that the southern most of these is the one most likely to be within the Galician district at the time.

I have found only a few scattered occurrences of the Gwizdowski surname.  Perhaps a small handful in Poland, another small handful in Germany, Austria and France, and my own family in America along with another Gwizdowski "tribe" in a different state. I wonder if the town of Gwizdow would have derived it's name from the family, or would the family have taken it's name from the town?  Perhaps it is impossible to say? My maternal grandfather Zecman remains the most enigmatic of my ancestors.  All I know is that he claimed to be Russian-Polish on his 1910 Census and 1918 Draft registration.  I believe his wife - my grandmother - was from the area of Pyzdry, about 100km west of Warsaw, and assume that he must be from that area as well.

Generally surnames ending in -owski refer to place names. There are at least four places the surname Gwizdowski could refer to. One no longer insists, a Gwizdów in Miedzno district of Czestochowa province; but it did presumably exist back when surnames were developing, and thus Gwizdowski could have started as a way of referring to one from there. Also there's a Gwizdów in Lezajsk district of Rzeszów province, and also one in Modliborzyce district of Tarnobrzeg province -- I imagine these are the two you found. There was also a Pogwizdów that apparently was once called Gwizdów, but the multi-volume set from which I'm taking this info hasn't gotten up to the P's yet, so I can't tell you more about that. 

As a rule you'd expect the surname Gwizdowski to come from the name of the place. The basic root gwizd- means "to whistle," and one source explains that a place might come to be named Gwizdów because it was located in an area open and bare, so that all you heard there was the whistling of the wind. But apparently some records do show Gwizd as a personal name -- perhaps originally a nickname for one who whistled -- and it's conceivable Gwizdowski could have started as a way of saying "kin of the Whistler." 

I'm afraid only very successful, detailed research into a specific family's history might uncover facts that would establish the exact origin of the surname. As a rule we'd expect names in the form X-owski to mean "one from X," and thus from places with names like X-ów or X-owo or X-y or X-owice. So I would normally figure the surname just referred to a family from one of those places named Gwizdów. But there could be exceptions. Only solid research would settle the matter, one way or the other. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 162 Polish citizens named Gwizdowski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 13, Bielsko-Biala 10, Kielce 16, Krakow 30, Legnica 16, Tarnobrzeg 18. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 

As of 1990 there was only 1 Pole listed in the Surname Directory named Zecman, living somewhere in Warsaw province -- again, I have no info on exactly where. Names ending in -man are usually of German origin, and I feel fairly certain this is a Polonized spelling of a German name; it certainly sounds German. Exactly what the German name was is hard to say. German Setzmann would be the most likely phonetic equivalent, because that initial S is pronounced like Z, and German TZ is spelled C by Poles; so German Setzmann would be spelled Zecman by Poles. But I can't find any info on that name, and it's not the only possibility. The German name could conceivably have been Sitzmann or Saetzmann or Zetzmann or Zitzmann, etc. There are so many possibilities that the only really good way to find out the original name is in an old record. 

If Setzmann was the original, the root setz- means "set, place, put." A similar Yiddish name, Zetzer, can mean "typesetter, compositor," also "one who puts bread into the oven." So the name might have meant "man who sets or places or puts something." But as I say, there are other possibilities. 


STRĄK - STRONK

… My mother's maiden name is Stronk.  She was told by her mother that the last name was changed here in America, but she didn't know what it was changed from.  All the relatives from my mother's side of the family are deceased.  I can't seem to get any info anywhere on what the previous name could have been.  I am also uncertain as to when the change happened.  I am under the impression that the change happened here in Illinois, US before my grandfather was born, which was about 1900. Can you give me any help?

Without detailed research into the specific family's history, I can't say anything for sure. And I don't do genealogical research, just observations on the origins of names. 

I can say this. If you have reason to believe the family was Polish, the name may originally have been Strąk. The Polish nasal vowel A with a tail under it is pronounced somewhat like "own." Thus Strąk is pronounced roughly like Stronk, and we often see names with Ą also spelled with ON. So it is perfectly plausible Stronk is a phonetic spelling of Polish Strąk

That name is thought to come from the noun strąk, "pea, pod, hull." As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 1,922 Polish citizens named Strąk. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 281, Czestochowa 155, Katowice 182, and Kielce 108. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data indicates the name is found all over Poland, with no real concentration in any one area; a Strąk family could come from anywhere. 

There were also 122 Poles who spelled it Stronk; the largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 19, Czestochowa 20, Katowice 54, and Kielce 13. 


GLISZCZYŃSKI

… What a wonderful thing that you might do this!  I would appreciate any information about my family name:  Currently we use Glisczinski, however, it seems as though my great-grandparents used Gliszczynski or a variation.  From what I have read, does it make sense that the name implies we came from a town named something like Glesno?

There are a couple possible original forms in Polish. One is Hliszczyński, pronounced roughly "glish-CHIN-skee." But Gliściński (accent over the first S and the N) is also quite possible; that name is pronounced roughly "gleesh-CHEEN-skee." Either of these could have been Anglicized into the form you're using; but it seems more likely Gliszczyński is the relevant form in your case. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions both names in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says Gliszczyński comes from the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago, a place with a name such as Gliszcz. He mentions in particular a village Gliszcz, Sicienko district, Bydgoszcz province. Gliszczyński makes perfect sense as meaning "one from Gliszcz." 

He says Gliściński, however, comes from the noun glista, which is a term for a kind of worm, the nema. Thus Gliściński would mean literally "of a glista"; it can also indicate origin in a place called Glista or Gliscin or something similar. 

Without detailed research into a specific family, there's no way to know for sure which derivation is appropriate, or which place the name refers to. I can only supply "quick and dirty" analysis, and leave it to you to do research which will fill in the blanks. With a little luck you'll uncover facts which will establish the correct origin. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 84 Polish citizens named Gliściński. They lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers in the following provinces: Lodz 29, Olsztyn 13, and Piotrkow 14. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 

As for Gliszczyński, there were 1,986 Poles by that name. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 306, Gdansk 208, Lodz 108, Piotrkow 137, Slupsk 258, and Wroclaw 216. So this name is found all over Poland, especially western Poland. 

I should add that the names Gliszczyński and Gliściński sound similar, and it is entirely possible they have been confused in some cases. In other words, you may very well find the same family called Gliszczyński in one record, Gliściński in another. Ideally, this shouldn't happen -- they are two distinct names with different pronunciations. But in an imperfect world names are sometimes confused, and it wouldn't surprise me if these were sometimes. 


DZIEWULSKI

 

… Curious if you have any information on Dziewulski surname

The name is pronounced roughly "jeh-VOOL-skee." As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,524 Polish citizens named Dziewulski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 478, Chelm 123, Lublin 186, Ostrołęka 151, and Siedlce 482. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it refers to the name of a place where a family so named lived at some point centuries ago. One good candidate is Dziewule near Zbuczyn Poduchowny in former Siedlce province; there may be others, but that's the one Rymut specifically mentions. Certainly "one from Dziewule" makes perfect sense as the original meaning of Dziewulski


KUBIACZYK

… Let me know something about surname Kubiaczyk. How many people live in Poland with that surname? Where? What's origin of it?

It comes ultimately from Kuba, a short form or nickname of the first name Jakub (in English "Jacob"). Most likely this particular surname developed by adding the suffix -yk to Kubiak = Kubiaczyk, meaning "kin of Kubiak, son of Kubiak." That name Kubiak, in turn, meant "son of Kuba (=Jakub), kin of Kuba." So Kubiaczyk means basically "son of Kuba's son" or "kin of Kuba's sons." In other words, all it tells us is that this family had an ancestor named Kuba. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 860 Polish citizens named Kubiaczyk. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Kalisz 86, Katowice 44, Konin 43, Lodz 56, Poznan 214, Sieradz 90, Wroclaw 45. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is found all over Poland but tends to be most common in the western part of the country. 


FUJARCZUK - PRYPUTNICKI

… I wonder if you could tell me what these two names mean. I hope they are spelled right because they have been translated by English-speaking Canadians. The names are Fujarchuk and Pryputnicki.  These people were originally from Galicia.

Actually, these names are probably Ukrainian, which makes sense -- the eastern half of Galicia was what is now western Ukraine.

The -chuk suffix (spelled -czuk by Poles) means "son of," and typically appears on names of Eastern Slavic origin (i. e., Belarusian, Russian, or Ukrainian). The term fujara means "piper, one who plays a shepherd's pipe or fife" or, in a transferred sense, "a useless, helpless, ne'er-do-well." So the surname Fujarchuk (or Fujarczuk if spelled by Poles) would mean "son of the piper" or "son of the ne'er-do-well." 

Pryputnicki is definitely Ukrainian, and would refer to the name of a place the family came from at some point centuries ago. It means roughly "one from X" where X is a place name beginning Pryputni-. Only research into a specific family would establish exactly which place this is, as there may be many little villages with names that qualify. 


GLEBA - GŁĘBA - KRYCKA - ANKIEWICZ

… The first is Gleba. At first it seems to be an exact translation of the Polish word for "earth" or "land", but after reading a few entries on your page about "Glembin" it may have originally referred to "cabbage" and could have been twisted to get away from the connotation to "cabbage head". Also, in the English dictionary "gleba" referrs to the soft, fleshy part under a mushroom where the spores grow.  So regardless it seems to either refer to a profession or looks and not a village name. . .would you comment on this further?

There are two different Polish names that must be distinguished. Gleb or Gleba with normal L and normal E and pronounced roughly "GLEH-bah," may come from the term "soil," from Latin glaeba. The root meaning "stalk" or "depths" has a slash through the L and a tail under the E , which means Głęba is pronounced roughly "G'WEM-bah." In some forms it has the nasal A instead, which I indicate as Ą, so that gląb is pronounced roughly "g'womp." 

These are totally different words in Polish, and the difference is crucial. You have to establish which root your name comes from. If your name was originally Gleba with normal L and E, it probably comes from the word for "soil" and the cabbage head and fleshy part of the mushroom has nothing to do with it. 

I consider it likely your name was Gleba, not Głęba, because Głęba is a much, much rarer name. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 774 Polish citizens named Gleba. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Łomża 92, Olsztyn 174, Ostrołęka 179, and Suwałki 95. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data indicates that name is found primarily in northeastern Poland. There were 3 Polish citizens named Głęb, and no data on any named Głęba. So I believe you can concentrate on the "soil" derivation. The exact nature of the connection between a given family and this word is something that could be determined only through detailed genealogical research into that particular family's past. 

… The second is Krycka.  This is a lot less common in the US than Gleba and may have been twisted for easier pronunciation or to get away from bad connotations. It seems to have Ukrainian origin and reading your entries the root "Kriv" means "crooked" and Krzykwa refers to "storm". Is this name related in any way?  I have not discounted that it could refer to a village name. . .would you comment on this?

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it can come from several different roots. It can come from the participle kryty, "covered" (which also means "covered" and "secret" in Ukrainian) or from dialect kryca, "wrought iron," or from the Ukrainian first name Hryts (derived ultimately from the same name we use as "Gregory"), or from the German name Kritz, or even the noun kryczka, a term for "cabbage." I would add that in Ukrainian kritsya means "steel"; and krytka can mean "unmarried woman." So there are a lot of possibilities. Genealogical research into a specific family would be the only hope of finding information that would establish which derivation was applicable in that particular family's case. It's not likely the name would be connected with the roots meaning "crooked" or "storm," however. 

As of 1990 there were 630 Poles named Krycki (pronounced roughly "KRIT-skee"), of which Krycka can be the feminine form. They were scattered all over Poland, with no concentration in any one area. There were also 2,283 Poles named Kryczka, which in some areas could be pronounced and therefore sometimes spelled Krycka ("KRITCH-kah"); they, too, were scattered all over. There were also 16 Poles who spelled the name Kryćka, using the accented C; they lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 2, Katowice 1, Piortkow 8, Radom 5. 

… The last is Ankiewicz. This seems to be the least common of the three in the US and I could find no similar references on your web page.

The suffix -ewicz means "son of," and the first part of the name can come from diminutives of Anna or Jan. So the name means "son of little Anna" or "son of little John." Polish surnames generally come from male rather than female names, so the more likely derivation is "son of John," but we can't rule the other one out completely. As of 1990 there were 707 Polish citizens named Ankiewicz (pronounced roughly "onk-YEAH-vich"). The largest numbers were in the following provinces: Warsaw 41, Ciechanow 121, Gdansk 65, Olsztyn 139, and Torun 58.


MIKOŁAJEWSKI

… I wish to know any Info on the name Mikolajewski. My heritage wasn't taught to me and I wish to build it again for my future children since my brother and I are the only males left to carry the name on.  Thank you for your time.

In Polish the name we call "Nicholas" takes the form Mikołaj. The Polish L with a slash through it, is pronounced like our W, and Mikołaj sounds like "mee-KO-why." 

The suffix -ski is adjectival, meaning "of, from, connected with, pertaining to." The suffix -ew- is possessive. So Mikołajewski, pronounced roughly "mee-ko-why-YEFF-skee," means literally "of, from, connected with, pertaining to the _ of Nicholas." In practice that blank is filled in with something so obvious it doesn't need to be spelled out, usually either "family, kin" or "place." So most times you see Mikołajewski it started out meaning either "kin of Nicholas" or "one from the place of Nicholas." Surnames ending in -owski and -ewski are especially likely to refer to names or places, such as Mikołajew, Mikołajewo, Mikołajewice, sometimes also Mikołajki, Mikołajow, etc. There are a lot of place names this surname can come from, and there are a lot of villages in Poland by those names. 

So all we know from the surname itself is that it means either "kin of Nicholas" or "one from Nicholas's place," and the latter could be any of a large number of places in Poland with names beginning Mikołaj- because of some historical association with a fellow by that name. Only genealogical research into the history of a specific family might uncover facts that would help establish exactly what place the surname refers to in their particular case. This Mikołajewski family might come from here, that one might come from there, and so on. There is no way to tell without tracing each family. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 4,189 Polish citizens named Mikołajewski. They lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one place -- which is to be expected, since there are places by those names all over Poland.

 

  

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


SZWEDA - WASIKOWSKI - WĄSIKOWSKI 

… Origin and meaning of my name Szweda and the name of Wasikowski. My granddaughter is doing a genealogy  of her name in school.  

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 4,554 Polish citizens named Szweda. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 421, Gdansk 838, and Katowice 1,737. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. This data tells us the name is found all over Poland, but is particularly common in southcentral Poland, with another sizable concentration in the northcentral to northwestern part of the country. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the noun Szwed, "Swede." People from virtually all European countries resettled in Poland over the centuries (and vice versa), and there was a particularly big influx of Swedes in the mid 1600's, when Sweden invaded Poland. So this is not a particularly rare name. It might have originally applied to an actual Swedish immigrant, but I suppose it might also have been used as a nickname for one who looked Swedish, i. e., tall, blond, with a ruddy complexion. The name is pronounced roughly "SHVADE-ah." 

As for Wasikowski, in Polish it is pronounced "vah-she-KOFF-skee." As of 1990, according to the Slownik nazwisk, there were 180 Polish citizens by that name. They lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw, 76, and Szczecin, 39. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it, along with many other surnames beginning Was-, derives from nicknames of first names beginning with Wa-, such as Wawrzyniec (Lawrence), Iwan (John), Wasyl (Basil), etc. Poles often formed nicknames from popular first names by taking the first few sounds of the name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes. So they would take Wa- from those first names, drop the rest, add -s, and that gave the nickname Was. Add the suffix -ik and you have a name meaning basically "kin of Was, son of Was, one connected to Was." 

The -owski means "of, from," so this surname just indicates that an ancestor was kin of, or came from a place owned or founded by, a man with a nickname from a first name beginning Wa-. Without detailed research into a specific family's history there's no way to know any more about it. Generally, though, surnames in the form X-owski come from a place name beginning X, so we'd expect this to mean "one from Wasiki or Wasikow or Wasikowo" or some place with a similar name. 

I should add that there is another name in Polish spelled Wąsikowski with a tail under the A. When people by that name came to English-speaking countries, the tail was often just dropped, leaving the name spelled Wasikowski. This name is pronounced roughly "von-shee-KOFF-skee." As of 1990 there were 867 Poles by that name; the largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 169, Bydgoszcz, 152, Krakow 79, Torun 68. It comes from the word wąs, "moustache," and means something like "kin of the guy with the moustache" or "one from the place of the guy with the moustache," i. e., Wąsiki or Wąsików or Wąsikowo, etc. 


GĄGOLA - GĄGOLEWICZ - GONGOLA - GONGOLEWICZ

… I am interested in my mother's maiden name: Gongolewicz. I have "met" online someone who is interested in his family name: Gongola. I understand that -ewicz means "son of".  I hope you can help both of us.

The names in question are usually spelled in Polish Gągola and Gągolewicz, using the nasal vowel written as an A with a tail under it. This letter is usually pronounced much like “own,” or as in French bon, and thus names with that letter are often spelled phonetically with on. But in most cases the standard or "correct" spelling is with the nasal vowel I'm representing as Ą. Thus Gągola is pronounced roughly "gone-GO-lah," and Gągolewicz is "gone-go-LAY-vich." 

The -ewicz suffix does mean "son of," and Gągol- comes from the noun gęga (another nasal vowel, an E with a tail under it, pronounced roughly "en"). That noun means "goose," and a related noun is gągor, a dialect term meaning "gander." So Gągola probably started as a nickname meaning something like "Goosey," and Gągolewicz would have originally referred to the son or kin of one who bore that nickname. "Goosey" sounds rather silly in English, but in Polish it's not necessarily ridiculous. It could be an affectionate nickname for one who tended geese, bred and raised them, lived in an area where there were a lot of geese, sold them, or somehow made a noise or had a way of walking that reminded people of a goose. Nicknames are often very ingenious, and these names developed a long time ago, so there's no way to say exactly what the name signified in a given instance. The most we can do is note what it means and then make plausible suggestions on the nature of the association that caused people to start calling someone by that name. 

I should add, however, that in Polish there are two L's, one normal and one with a slash through it, pronounced like our W. There is also a term gągoł that means "a kind of duck or duck-like bird," Latin name clangula glaucion (apparently the duck called the "golden-eye" in English is a member of this family). So in some instances the surname might refer to a perceived connection between a person and this duck. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), here's how many Polish citizens bore the names Gągol, Gągola, Gągolewicz, Gągoł, Gągoła, Gongola, and Gongolewicz

Gągol: 300; largest numbers in the following provinces: Krakow 50, Lublin 33, Siedlce 33, Slupsk 51
Gągola: 225; largest numbers in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 26, Nowy Sacz 30, Tarnobrzeg 21, Tarnow 42
Gągolewicz: 39, living in the following provinces: Warsaw 3, Elblag 1, Gdansk 13, Lodz 7, Piotrkow 9, Szczecin 6
Gągoł: 302; largest numbers in the provinces of Lublin, 187, and Torun, 22
Gągoła: 0 [this means the name was in the database but data was incomplete, so we don't know how many there were or where they lived -- presumably there was only 1, and the form may well be a misspelling of one of the other forms]
Gongola: 18, living in the following provinces: Krakow 1, Rzeszow 5, Szczecin 1, Tarnobrzeg 11
Gongolewicz: 6, in the following provinces: Białystok 1, Gdansk 4, Lodz 1 

Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 

As you can see, it's of some importance to determine the original spelling of the name in Polish. It was probably Gągola, if the numbers are any indication, and thus came from the word for "goose." But it could be a form of Gągoł, in which case the meaning and distribution are different. 


KOZŁOWSKI - ZAWACKI - ZAWADZKI - ZAWASKI

….. Hello I am a 19 year old college student inquiring about the history of my name.  I was the queen of the Polish American Cultural Club last year and have since been looking for information about the origin of my name.  My family name is Zawaski. Any info on this name would be appreciated.  My mother's maiden name was Kozlowski - any info on this name would also be great.

In Polish the name Kozlowski is written with a slash through the L. The surname is pronounced roughly "koz-WOFF-skee." It is one of the most common Polish surnames; as of 1990 there were 72,368 Poles by this name, living in large numbers all over Poland. So we can't point to any one area and say "That's where a Kozłowski family came from"; people by this name could come from anywhere in Poland. 

The name means "one from Kozłowo" or other, similar place names from the root kozioł, "he-goat." In other words, it means literally "of the he-goat," but usually referred to places with names from that root, places named Kozłowo or Kozłów or something similar. The problem is there are a great many places in Poland by those names, so without the kind of detailed background information produced by successful genealogical research, there is no way to know which place the surname refers to in a given instance. 

Zawaski is almost certainly a variant of the name more often spelled Zawadzki or Zawacki. Both those names are pronounced roughly "zah-VOTT-skee." They come from the noun zawada that means "obstacle, impediment," and in archaic usage "fortress," because soldiers often set up fortified positions in places where some natural feature of the land would block the way for enemy armies and make them vulnerable to attack. The surname Zawadzki or Zawacki means "of the zawada," and thus could refer to a person somehow connected with such an obstacle or fortress. 

More likely, however, the name refers to a family's coming from any of a number of places named Zawada or Zawady because of a connection with such an obstacle or fortress. There are literally dozens of places by those names, and the surname could refer to any of them. Only genealogical research into the history of a specific family might enable one to determine which of those places the name refers to in their particular case. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were no Polish citizens named Zawaski, but there were 35,225 named Zawadzki and another 751 named Zawacki. They lived all over Poland, with no real concentration in any one area. So a family by these names could come from almost anywhere in Poland.


BARYCZ - OWCZARZAK 

... I am looking for any information on the surnames Owczarzak or Barycz. Thank You. 

Owczarzak is pronounced roughly "off-CHAH-zhock," and consists of the noun owczarz, "shepherd," plus the diminutive suffix -ak. So it would mean literally "little shepherd," but more often as a surname would be used in the sense of "shepherd's son, shepherd's kin." 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,340 Polish citizens named Owczarzak. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 476, Konin 93, Pila 105, Piotrkow 105, Płock 125, and Poznan 861. So this name tends to be most common in central to western Poland. 

As for Barycz, pronounced roughly "BAR-itch," Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1412 and can come from the noun barycz, "marketplace, trading center," or from any of several places named Barycz, or from the personal name Barycz (which would mean basically "son of Bar"), or from a Proto-Slavic root barych that mean "bog, marsh." So there isn't just one possible derivation, but several; it would take detailed research into a specific family' history to find any clues as to which one was applicable in their particular case. 

As of 1990 there were 92 Polish citizens named Barycz, scattered all over Poland but with some concentration in the southcentral provinces of Bielsko-Biala (12) and Krakow (26). Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 


BLICHARZ 

... Could you tell me what the name Blicharz might mean? 

According to Rymut's book on Polish surnames, Blicharz and Blecharz are both names coming from the noun blicharz or blecharz. It is a term for an occupation, a "bleacher." A Blicharz family presumably got that name because it had an ancestor who bleached or whitened cloth or clothes. Rymut says it appears in records as early as 1561. By English phonetic values Blicharz would sound kind of like "BLEE-hosh," but the "ch" sound is a bit more guttural than English H, yet less guttural than German "ch" in "Bach." 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,446 Polish citizens named Blicharz. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Biala Podlask 136, Lublin 198, Rzeszow 135, Tarnow 170, and Zamosc, 560. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is found all over Poland, but is particularly common in the southeastern quarter of the country. 

Blecharz, by contrast, was the name of only 251 Polish citizens, with the largest number, 128, in the province of Krakow, and the rest scattered in small numbers all over Poland, especially southwestern Poland. I'm not positive, but this distribution suggests the word for "bleacher" was pronounced one way (with a short E sound) in southcentral to southwestern Poland, and another way (with the longer EE sound written in Polish as I) in eastern and southeastern Poland. 

Incidentally, "bleacher" is an example of an English word that has come to mean something entirely different from what it once meant. At one time it was used primarily to mean "one who bleaches clothes." These days you never hear this word, but the plural form "bleachers" is common. It means "an often unroofed outdoor grandstand for seating spectators" -- rows of seating, sometimes outside, sometimes in a gymnasium, for people to sit on as they watch a sports event or other activity. Apparently it came to mean that by comparison to the bleaching effect the sun has on linens hanging outside to dry. 


BRONICKI 

... I am trying to learn anything about the name: Bronicki. Do you know anything about its origin or anything else?  

In Polish Bronicki is pronounced roughly "bron-EET-skee." This name would usually refer to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago, a place with a name beginning Bronic-. If they were noble, they owned an estate there; if they were peasants, they lived and worked there, or had occasion to do business there frequently. This name can also be a variant form of the very similar surnames Broniecki or Bronecki -- names that close were often confused -- in which case places with names beginning Broniec- or Bronec- or even Bronka or Bronki could also be involved. 

There are several places in Poland and the neighboring countries this surname could refer to. Genealogical research is the only way to pin down which one your particular Bronickis came from. If you can locate the area they came from, you can search in that specific area instead of all over eastern Europe. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 758 Polish citizens named Bronicki. There was no one area in which they were concentrated; a Bronicki family could come from practically anywhere. 

I'm afraid the vast majority of Polish surnames just don't give you much in the way of useful clues as to exactly where a given family came from. I estimate fewer than 5% are concentrated in any one area, or have some aspect of their meaning that helps you trace them. 


BROZIŃSKI - BROŻYŃSKI - PIETRAS 

... I am looking for information on the following surnames: Pietras & Brozinska. Any information you could provide on the origins and meanings would be greatly appreciated. These are the names of my paternal grandparents who immigrated to Canada in the early part of the last century. I am attempting to do a family genealogy. Unfortunately, their personal paper were thrown away years ago and I am starting from scratch. 

Pietras, pronounced roughly "P'YET-ross," is a moderately common surname by Polish standards. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 9,007 Polish citizens by that name, as well as another 806 named Pietraś (using the tilde ~ to indicate the accent over the S) and another 1,022 with the similar form Pietrasz (both those names sound roughly like "P'YET-rosh"). All three names come from the first name Piotr, the Polish version of the first name "Peter." They would mean little more than "Peter's kin," indicating that somewhere along the line there was an ancestor named Piotr or Pietr (Peter). As with most surnames derived from popular first names, this one is common all over the country; the name itself gives no clue where a specific family named Pietras would have come from. 

Brozińska is a feminine form of Broziński (accent over the N) -- most Polish names ending in -ski change the ending to -ska when referring to a female. That name is pronounced roughly "bro-ZHEEN-skee." As of 1990 there were 92 Polish citizens by that name. They were scattered all over Poland, with the largest concentration, 43, in the southeastern province of Tarnobrzeg. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 

A very similar name, Brożyński (with a dot over the Z and an accent over the N) is pronounced "bro-ZHIN-skee," and is therefore very, very similar in pronunciation. Considering how variable spelling used to be, it is entirely possible you might see the same family called Broziński one time, Brożyński the next. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions both names in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. Broziński most likely comes from a short form of the first name Ambroży, the Polish form of "Ambrose." Brożyński can come from the same origin, or it can come from the noun bróg, "stack, rick, haystack." So the name could mean "kin of Ambrose" or "one from Ambrose's place," or it could mean "one from the place of the haystacks." Only detailed research into a specific family's background might uncover information that would let one establish more; the name itself just doesn't tell us more than that. 


CHWALKIEWICZ - FALK[E] - FALKIEWICZ 

[Posted to Herbarz-L in response to erroneous comments about the origin of the name Falkiewicz] 

In his book Nazwiska Polakow, volume 1 (Instytut Jezyka Polskiego PAN, Krakow, 1999) Kazimierz Rymut lists a number of Polish surnames from the root Chwal-, then comments "z dawnym malopolsko-mazowieckim przejsciem chw- w f-" and proceeds to list a number of surnames beginning Falk-, including Falkiewicz. Thus in Malopolska and in Mazowsze there was long ago a tendency to simplify the consonant cluster chw- in names to f-. Chwalkiewicz/Falkiewicz may be the best known example of this phenomenon, but there are others: Chwailbog vs. Falibog, Chwast vs. Fast, Chwiała vs. Fiała, etc. (Incidentally, a number of different Polish onomasts have noted this tendency of Chw- to simplify to F-, not just Rymut. From what I can tell, it is generally accepted as a proven hypothesis among Polish name scholars.) 

The patronymic Chwalkiewicz would have meant "son of Chwalek or Chwalka or Chwalko." Those names, in  turn, began in most cases as affectionate diminutives of ancient Slavic dithematic names which, in Polish, took the forms Chwalisław (praise-renown), Chwalimir (praise-peace), Chwalibog (praise-god), etc. A name such as Chwalek or Chwalko could also develop directly from the noun chwala, "praise," or the root of the verb chwalić, "to praise," so that Chwalek or Chwalko could have originally meant something like "little praiseworthy one, son of the praiseworthy one" or "little one who praises, son of the one who praises." But in most cases it is thought they began as nicknames or short forms of those ancient names Chwalisław, Chwalimir, etc., just as "Eddie" developed from "Edward" in English by truncation of the original name and addition of a diminutive suffix. 

So it is perfectly appropriate to interpret Falkiewicz as "son of Falek/Falka/Falko = Chwalek/Chwalka/Chwalko." In such cases the name would indicate origin in Malopolska or Mazowsze... Of course it's true a name ending in -ewicz can refer to a place name; that is not out of the question, by any means. But the prime hypothesis in such a case is that the name means what it appears to mean, "son of Falek or Falka or Falko." One should turn to toponyms only if the patronymic derivation proves inapplicable. 

Names origins are seldom as simple as they appear, however, and as <eduard@eswo.org> wrote in his original question, Falkiewicz could indeed come from a German root. Rymut has an entry for Falk, "od niem[ieckiej] nazw[ej] os[obowej]

Falk(e), ta od śrwniem. [średnio-wysoko-niemieckiego (Middle High German)] falche, 'sokół,' lub od im[ion] słowiańskich na Chwal-." Thus in addition to the link with Chwal-, Falk or Falke can exist as a name of German origin meaning "falcon," much as Sokół can exist as a Slavic name meaning "falcon." Falkiewicz could be an instance where that Germanic name came into use among Slavs, and the patronymic suffix -ewicz was later added to indicate "son of the falcon." While one must be careful about postulating the addition of Slavic suffixes to German roots, there is no question that did happen at times, when people of German descent lived and worked in a Polish linguistic environment. If a German was named Falke and lived among Poles who grew accustomed to his name, his descendants might well come to be called Falkiewicz by his neighbors. 

I don't know on what basis the original questioner says Falkiewicz is of German origin. If he did so on the basis of sound genealogical research, and thus had good reason to make this assumption, we can only accept what he says and proceed from there. But it would be wise to remind ourselves that Falkiewicz cannot be ASSUMED to come from the German name unless one has evidence to that effect. All things being equal, we'd normally expect Falkiewicz to be Polish, a variant of Chwalkiewicz. But if the evidence is there that the name does derive from German Falk- and not Polish Chwalk-, that is certainly a tenable position to take.


DEREŃ - DEREŃSKI 

... I have a question regarding the origin of my maternal grandfather's name.  He traveled with his parents from Poland to the United States around 1896.  The surname he used as an adult was Deren (Daren on a SS form).  One of my aunts said that he may have changed his name as a young man and that the family name was something such as Derensky. Can you shed any light on the origin of this name?

 In Polish the basic name is Dereń, with an accent over the N, pronounced roughly "DARE-rain." As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,974 Polish citizens named Dereń. They lived all over Poland, but with the largest numbers in the southern part of the country, especially the provinces of Krosno (191), Opole (313), Rzeszow (156), Tarnobrzeg (281), Tarnow (180), and Walbrzych (331). I'm afraid this doesn't shed too much light, however, on where a specific family by this name might have come from. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the noun dereń, "dogwood (Cornus mas), dogberry." Thus the name probably started as a nickname for an ancestor whom people associated with the dogwood for some reason. Perhaps he lived in an area where there were a lot of dogwoods. In any case, we can feel sure there was some link that was obvious enough to make the name seem appropriate. 

Dereński is a pretty rare name these days -- as of 1990 there were only 17 Polish citizens by that name. The numbers suggest Dereń should be treated as the main form of the name. But I'd add that you should keep your eyes open for either form. Poles instinctively recognize Dereń and Dereński as closely related names -- one means "dogwood," the other means "of the dogwood." So if a person or family was called Dereń, it would be pretty common to refer to them or their kin also as Dereński, or even Dereniewicz (son of Dereń) or Dereniowski (of the Dereńs). Of all those names only Dereń is very common today. But until the last century or two there wasn't any great emphasis on using the same form of a surname consistently, and in most Polish villages everybody knew everybody else, so there wasn't all that much attention paid to surnames. 

In other words, odd as it seems to us, you might see the same family called Dereń in one record, Dereński in another, Dereniewicz in another, and so on. The Poles all recognized the people involved, and the names were all so closely related that they saw no reason to act like some Prussian screaming "You vill use ze same name every time or ve vill punish you!" That frame of mind was foreign to Poles. They didn't make a big deal out of surname consistency. Thus your Dereń might well have been  called Dereński sometimes. But at least in modern usage Dereń is the main form of the name.

   

  

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


DĄBROWSKI - DOBROWSKI - DOMBROWSKI - MARUD - MARUDA - MARUT

... My name is Donna Campbell (nee:  Marud).  I'm curious to know about the last names Marud and Dobrowski.

None of my sources mention the derivation of Marud, but I think there's a pretty good chance it comes from the term maruda, seen in both Polish and Ukrainian and meaning "procrastinator, dawdler, dull (irresolute or tedious) person, grumbler." 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 224 Polish citizens named Marud, plus another 233 named Maruda. They lived all over Poland, with no really significant concentration in any one area, although the largest number of both names lived in the southeastern province of Radom (42 Maruds and 37 Marudas). 

The name Marut, borne by 1,754 Polish citizens, may sometimes come from this same word, although it can also have developed from other roots. Marud would be pronounced roughly "MAH-root" (which is why Marut is a plausible alternative spelling), and Maruda would sound more like "mah-ROO-dah." 

Dobrowski, pronounced roughly "dob-ROFF-skee," is a rare name; as of 1990 there were only 18 Polish citizens by that name, scattered all over the country. Dobrowski could come from the names of villages such as Dobrow, Dobrowo, etc., of which there are several. The only way to determine which one a given family was connected with at some point centuries ago would be through genealogical research that focused on exactly what part of the country that particular family came from. 

I should add that Dobrowski could also be a simplified form of the name usually seen as Dombrowski or Dąbrowski, using the Polish nasal vowel written as an A with a tail under it and pronounced usually like "on," but before B or P like "om." In other words, Dąbrowski and Dombrowski are two slightly different ways of spelling the same name, pronounced roughly "dome-BROFF-skee." That could sometimes be simplified by dropping the nasal "om" sound, leaving Dobrowski. So while this name certainly could mean "one from Dobrow or Dobrowo," I can't overlook the possibility that it's a variant of Dąbrowski. That is a very common name, just meaning "one from the place of the oak grove," and both forms of the name are common all over Poland, as are places named Dąbrowa ("oak grove"). 


DOMIN - NIEWIADOMSKI

... Before his immigration from Poland, my great-great-great grandfather's last name was that of Niewiadomski, or Niewiaduemski, (something of that nature), which was changed to "Nevadomski." My grandmother's maiden name is Domin, however I do not know the original variation: she is Polish as well. I haven't the slightest idea what either name means or the family history behind them. If you could make inquiries regarding their meanings, I'd be eternally grateful.

It's highly likely the name was Niewiadomski, which is pronounced roughly "n'yev-yah-DOM-skee," and comes from the adjective niewiadomy, "unknown." Niewiadomski means literally "of the unknown one." It's hard to say exactly what this would mean in a given case, but the name could, for instance, refer to the kin of one about whom his neighbors knew very little. In most villages everyone knew everyone else, so a mystery man who moved into the area might be called the "unknown one," and his descendants might bear this name. Or the name might be given to the kin of a man whose father was unknown, i. e., an illegitimate child, or to the kin of a foundling of unknown parentage. It's hard to say precisely how the name got started, since in different cases it might have gotten started different ways. All we can say for sure is that it means "[kin] of the unknown." 

However, if one did detailed and successful genealogical research on a given Niewiadomski family, one MIGHT find documents that give a clue what the name originally meant. There are no guarantees, but that would be just about the only way to establish exactly how and why this name came to be associated with a given family. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 13,220 Polish citizens named Niewiadomski. They lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area. Very few Polish surnames give us any useful clue as to exactly where a given family by that name came from, and this is no exception. Families by this name could come from practically anywhere in Poland. 

As for Domin, it is pronounced roughly "DOUGH-meen" (first syllable rhymes with "go"). As of 1990 there were 3,145 Polish citizens by that name, and they, too, lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area. This shows that Domin could be the original name; that is, at least, a legitimate Polish surname. Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1403, and began as a short form of the first name Dominik, which comes from Latin dominicus, "of the lord." So all this surname indicates is that an ancestor was named Dominik, or Domin for short. 

The name may have been changed after the family came to America. But if it was, I'm not psychic and I have no way of knowing what it was originally; there are many, many possibilities, including Dominski, Dominiak, Dominiec, Dominik, Dominikowski, Dominiuk, Dumin, Duminski, etc. Only successful genealogical research might uncover documents that would establish what the name originally was. 


DRAZDAUSKAS - DROZDOWSKI

... I am interested in only one document at this point and that is the one of Antonina Drazdauskaite (perfect Lithuanian spelling today_, however I feel perhaps on records then, where she was born, her name is corrupted by Russian or more likely, Polish. The information I know is:

Antonina Deazdauskaite
Father: Juozas Drazdauskas

Actually the name is probably Polish or Belarusian in origin and has been modified to suit Lithuanian linguistic preferences. In other words, it was probably Drozdowski, and Lithuanians changed that to Drazdauskas. The ending -aite simply means that was her maiden name; surnames ending in -us in Lithuanian change to -aite when referring to unmarried females.

Drozdowski is a fairly common name, borne by some 9,476 Polish citizens as of 1990, living all over Poland. It means basically "one from the place of the thrush," referring to any of a number of places named Drozdów, Drozdowo, etc. It is pronounced roughly "droz-DOFF-skee" in Polish. 

Since Polish and Russian have been the languages of record in Lithuania for most of the last three centuries, the name probably would appear in records in either Russian or Polish form. So I would expect it to appear as Drozdowski or, in feminine form, Drozdowska or Drozdowszczanka. I'm afraid I have no idea how to convey the Cyrillic spelling that would be used in Russian. But the good news is that workers in the Archives are used to dealing with name forms like these. They would almost certainly recognize Drazdauskas as a Lithuanian form of Drozdowski, and would recognize the Russian spelling of the name, as well, if they see it. So I'm hopeful that they will be able to give you real assistance in your search. 


GAŁKOWSKI - SZCZEPKOWSKI - SOKOLIŃSKI

... I am trying to help my husband find out about his heritage and family. I would like any info on: Galkowski, Szczepkowski, Sokolinska. Any info appreciated.

Regarding Szczepkowski, Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut it in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surname of Poles]. He says it can come from two different roots: 1) that seen in the noun szczep, "tribe, sowing, seedling, log" and szczepa, "chip, sliver"; or 2) the first name Szczepan, "Stephen." Either way, it breaks down as Szczep + -k- + -owski. The -k- is from the diminutive suffix -ek or -ko, and -owski is a suffix meaning "of, from." So the name means either "of, from the X of the little tribe/sowing, etc." or "of, from the X of little Stephen." Usually that X is a word obvious enough it didn't have to be mentioned, either "kin" or "place." 

That's as to the literal meaning and derivation. In practice, most of the time you'd expect Szczepkowski started out meaning "one from Szczepki or Szczepkowo." There are several villages in Poland by those names, which come in turn from the roots mentioned above, and this surname could refer to origin in any of them. If the family was noble, they owned the villages or estates by these names; if they weren't noble, they probably worked the land there. There was a time centuries ago when -ski names were the exclusive property of the nobility, formed from the names of their estates. But since the 1600's such names have come to mean little more than "of, from such-and-such a place." 

As of 1990 there were 2,381 Polish citizens named Szczepkowski. There was no one place or area with which the name is particularly associated, a family named Szczepkowski could have come from virtually anywhere in Poland. 

The surname Galkowski is usually spelled in Polish with a slash through the L. Gałkowski is pronounced roughly "gaw-KOFF-skee." As of 1990 there were 2,529 Polish citizens named by that name. 

As I said, surnames in the form X-owski usually refer to the name of a place with which the family was connected at one time; if they were noble, they owned it, and if not, they lived and worked there. So we'd expect this surname to mean "one from Gałki, or Gałkow, or Gałkowo" -- something like that. There are a number of villages by those names in Poland, and without detailed research into a specific family's past there is no possible way to tell which one they came from. Your research, however, might enable you to do so. 

Sokolińska is simply the feminine form of Sokoliński (accent over the N) and is pronounced roughly "so-ko-LEEN-skee." As of 1990 there were 664 Polish citizens named by that name, living all over Poland with no concentration in any one area. (Incidentally, that's the norm -- I estimate fewer than 5% of all Polish surnames are concentrated in any one area, to the point that a researcher can afford to focus on that area.) 


GOMOKE - GOMOLKA - GOMÓŁKA - GOMUŁKA - GUMUŁKA

... I am doing some genealogy research for my aunt.  She is of Polish decent, and the last name that she is inquiring about is: Gomolka (apparently the "L" within the name had a slash or squiggle through it).  Her family used the spelling Gomoke since they have been in the United States.  I was wondering if you had any information on these names so that I could let her know if I have found anything. 

In Polish this name is spelled with the slashed L and with an accent over the second O. Thus when I spell it Gomółka, that means you'd write it with an accent over the 2nd O and a slash through the L. The accented o sounds like "oo" in "book," and the Ł sounds like our W, so Gomółka  sounds like "go-MOOW-kah." 

You can see how "Gomoke" would be a plausible phonetic spelling of this name for people speaking English, and that probably explains why the spelling was changed. Immigrants often simplified or changed their names to make them easier for Americans to deal with, or to help them "fit in" better and seem less "foreign." 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the basic root seen in the word gomoła, "without corners or edges," but more particularly from the noun gomółka, which can mean "a roundish lump of something soft" but is especially used as a term for a kind of homemade round cheese. Presumably the name began as a nickname for an ancestor whom people associated with this kind of cheese for one reason or another -- perhaps he made this cheese, or was very fond of it, or his shape somehow reminded people of it (I suppose a chubby, round-bodied fellow could conceivably be called this as a humorous nickname). 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 1,750 Polish citizens named Gomółka. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Biala Podlaska 250, Kalisz 233, Katowice 285, and Nowy Sacz 106. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data indicates that the name is most common in southcentral to southwestern Poland, with another significant concentration in the area near the border of Poland with Belarus and Ukraine. But the name is not concentrated anywhere to the point we can assume a family by that name came from such-and-such a place. Only genealogical research might turn up info that would enable one to say that with certainty. 

One last point: this name also appears sometimes spelled as Gomułka or Gumułka. That's because the Polish accented O is pronounced the same as U, and this sometimes causes names to be spelled phonetically with O or U. So you might see the same family referred to in one record as Gomółka, in another as Gomułka, and in another as Gumułka. Spellings in older records are often very inconsistent, so that almost any phonetically possible spelling may show up. It can be helpful to know this so you don't automatically assume those other spellings are necessarily different families; sometimes they are, but not necessarily always. 


GRUŹLEWSKI

... Does anyone know the meaning of the surname Gruzlewski?

In Polish this name is normally spelled with an accent over the Z, and is pronounced roughly "groozh-LEFF-skee." Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the archaic noun gruzla, which mean "ulcer, growth, blister." Gruźlewski means literally "of the ulcer, growth, blister," and presumably began as a name for the kin of someone who had a disfiguring ulcer or growth or blister. 

Names ending in -ewski often come from place names, so that Gruźlewski could also mean "one from Gruźle, Gruźlew, Gruźlewo," etc. But I can't find any places by those names. It's possible they were or are too small to show up on most maps; or the name may have changed over the centuries; or they may have disappeared, or have been swallowed up by other communities. It's impossible to say without knowing exactly where a given family came from and studying the history of that area in detail. So this surname could mean "one from Gruźle/Gruźlew/Gruźlewo," but it may have simply meant "kin of the guy with the big blister." 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 358 Polish citizens named Gruźlewski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Ciechanow 29, Gdansk 25, Olsztyn 37, Torun 178; the rest were scattered in tiny numbers all over Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. But this data indicates the name is found most often in northcentral Poland. 


JASIEŃSKI - JASIŃSKI - JASHINSKI

... I'm hoping you can help me with the meaning of my surname:  Jashinski.  I've found almost nothing on this or any other spelling of the name.  Would you be so kind as to e-mail me back with whatever you can find?

Since Polish doesn't use the letter combination -sh-, it's immediately clear we're dealing either with a non-Polish name or a name that is Polish but has been Anglicized. Without a lot more info there's no way I can say for sure, but it's reasonable to believe this probably is a slightly modified version of the Polish name JASIŃSKI (an N with an accent over it). It is pronounced roughly "yah-SHEEN-skee." 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of  Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 35,545 Polish citizens named Jasiński, living all over the country. The name is not associated with any one part of Poland, a Jasinski could come from practically anywhere. It's also pretty clear there isn't just one huge Jasinski family, but rather a number of separate families that came by the name independently. 

In his book on Polish surnames Prof. Kazimierz Rymut says Jasiński is connected in many cases with the first name Jan (John), or with other first names beginning with Ja- (such as Jakub, Jaromir, etc.). The Jas- comes from nicknames or short forms of Jan, Jakub, etc.; the -in- is a possessive suffix; and -ski is an adjectival ending, meaning "of, from, connected with, pertaining to." So Jasiński breaks down as meaning "one of, belonging to, connected with Jas." It might refer to kin of a fellow with that name, or to people coming from a place owned by such a fellow. 

However, we can't rule out a connection in some cases with the old Polish term jasin, in more modern Polish jasion or jesion, "ash tree," or any of the numerous villages named Jasien, Jasiona, etc. These places could generate the surname Jasieński which could then be simplified to Jasiński. So this connection is also one that must be considered when dealing with this surname. 

Only genealogical research might uncover information that would shed light on exactly how the name came to be associated with a specific family. With one Jasiński family the surname might refer to an ancestor who was a relative of a guy named Jas; with another it might refer to origin in a place named Jasin or Jasien. The name could develop in different ways, so all I can do is give general info on its most basic meaning, and leave it to individual researchers to fill in the details as they discover them. 


KOTŁOWSKI - RODE - TREPPA

...Almost exactly one year ago, on 06-May-2000, you replied to my questions about our great-grandparents names Trepski or Trepki, and Katlowski... Anyhow, these new records still give variations, but not quite so widely different. Our great-grandmother was apparently a Trepp, or Treppa, or Treppe. And very oddly, on three of the birth-baptism records, her last name was consistently shown as Rode! ... Inspection of the LDS films showed many Rode (and some "Rhode") in that area through the years of the films contents, about 1830-1880.  In her records, she was shown first as Trepp etc, then Rode, then I think for the last one or two kids she was again shown with the name Treppe or such.  What is that all about?  Our knowledge of her age, marriage and Kotlowski kids' birthdates strongly indicates that she had never been married before, and that Kotlowski was her only husband.  Although I suppose it would be possible for her to have been married for a year or maybe 2, when she was quite young (under age 18 or 20). 

Actually, it'd be a miracle if there weren't some variation in the records. What you describe is definitely par for the course. 

There's just no way I can tell you what significance that has. People run into this sort of thing all the time, and the explanations can be many and varied. What they have in common is, if you ever do discover what it's all about, you realize there was no way to have predicted it reliably. You might have had a good notion what the explanation was, but the only way to be sure is by finding evidence in the records. And I'm sorry to say in many cases people never do figure out what the heck was going on. 

... Our great-grandfather, as you had suspected was a Kotlowski, although the church also spelled it as Kottlowski (with two "t") and  Kotlewski (with an "e"). Would I be asking too much to ask for your definitions and origins for these (3?) names, as high-lighted above?  Your previous email had touched on Kotlowski, but you had replied mostly in regard to the name Katlowski, with an "a".

Kotłowski (the slashed L is pronounced like our W) is pronounced roughly "cot-WOFF-skee." Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], and adds that Kotlewski and Katlewski are both forms also seen of the same name; Poles don't normally double letters, so Kottlowski is probably a German-influenced spelling. All these spellings are well within the bounds of normal variation of name forms. 

According to Rymut this surname, like most ending in -owski and -ewski, refers to the name of a place with which the family was associated at some point centuries ago. One good candidate is Kotlewy, Dobryszyce district of Piotrkow province; but there certainly could be others. The surname could come from almost any place with a name beginning Kotlow- or Kotlew-. Those names, in turn, probably come from the noun kocioł, "boiler, kettle," so that Kotlowski would mean "one from the place of the kettle." 

But that's really a secondary issue; the main point is that this surname probably refers to the name of a place where the family lived long ago. If you'd like to see maps of some of the possible candidates, go to this Website: 

    http://www.jewishgen.org/shtetlseeker/loctown.htm  

Enter "Kotl" as the place you're looking for, select "Poland" as the country to be searched, and select "All towns starting with this precise spelling." Click on "Start the search," and after a moment you'll see a list of various places in Poland with names starting Kotl-. You can skip the ones that don't begin Kotle- or Kotlo- or Kotly-, as those three forms are the only ones likely to generate a name Kotłowski. For each place, click on the blue numbers (latitude and longitude) and you'll get a map showing that location. You can print the map, save it, zoom in and out, etc. 

This will show you there are several possible places the surname might refer to. All things being equal, we'd expect the one nearest to Gdansk and Oliwa to be the best candidate, but that's making assumptions that prove unjustified. Unfortunately, unless your family was noble and owned an estate at Kotlowo or Kotlewy or whatever, it's unlikely any surviving records go back far enough to let you make a positive connection. Still, it may give you something to go on. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,269 Polish citizens named Kotłowski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Gdansk 1,059, Slupsk 261, Lublin 187, and Torun 98. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. But this data suggests your Kotłowskis come from the area where the name is most common. 

Trepp, Treppa, and Treppe are all variants of the same basic name. It might be from Polish trepa, "stairstep," or trepy, "clogs." But those spellings suggest German influence, and I'm sure Polish trepa comes from the German noun Treppe anyway -- it means "step, stair." And trepy surely comes from German Trippen, which are clogs, a kind of wooden shoe. So the most likely interpretation is that the family was of German origin -- hardly rare in western Poland! -- and an ancestor was associated with clogs. Perhaps he made them, perhaps he wore them, perhaps there was some other connection less obvious to us today. 

Rode is also a German spelling, sometimes seen as Rhode; in Polish it would be spelled phonetically Roda, and that makes me think this name, too, should be interpreted as German. In German Rode is usually a variation of standard German rot, "red," and thus a Rode was one with red hair. If the name were Polish it would have something to do with the root rod- meaning "birth, family." But if it's consistently spelled Rode, that's a pretty good hint that it was German, and suggests an ancestor was red-haired. 

As of 1990 there were 222 Polish citizens named Trepa (15 in Gdansk province), and 114 named Treppa (104 of whom lived in Gdansk province); there was one named Treppe, also somewhere in Gdansk province. There were 634 named Rode; they lived all over Poland, but the larger numbers were in the provinces of Bydgoszcz, 95; Gdansk, 85; and Katowice, 81. I should add that some 4 million people of German descent fled Poland after World War II to resettle in what was then East Germany, so the stats from 1990 on distribution and frequency of names of German origin are not really all that representative of the situation before World War II.

   

  

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


 

 


WLAZŁOWSKI

... Please help! I have been wondering about the origin of my surname Wlazlowski and would appreciate any information at all. 

In Polish Wlazlowski would normally be spelled with a slash through the second L. That letter is pronounced like our W, while Polish W is pronounced like our V. So the name sounds like "vloz-WOFF-skee." As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 502 Polish citizens named Wlazłowski. There was no one area in which the name was concentrated; a family by this name could live almost anywhere in Poland. 

The basic root of this name is probably the noun wlazło, which Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut defines as "ubiquitous person, meddler, uninvited guest." So it's possible the surname might mean "kin of the meddler." But most of the time the suffix -owski refers to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago. In other words, it means "one from Wlazłowo" or some similar name beginning Wlazł-. Thus the surname could be interpreted as "one from the place of the meddler."

I can't find any places with names beginning Wlazł- on modern maps, but that's not unusual. Polish surnames often came from the name of a field or hill or little settlement, names used only by locals, that would be unlikely to appear on any map or in any gazetteer. So the place this name refers to may be quite obscure, or may even have disappeared or renamed or absorbed into another community centuries ago.


KOCIENIEWSKI - KOCINIEWSKI - KUBISIAK - KUBISZAK

Last time we analyzed the surname Kocieniewski you thought it might be from the root Kot or even a reference to kitten. However, you also thought it could have been derived from a place name. Since then I have done my homework and found references to a couple of places that start with Kocie nearby. One is a village to the west called Kocien Wielke and another to the north called Kociewie.

The longer I study Polish names, the clearer it becomes that names ending in -ewski usually -- not always, but usually -- derive from names of places. The name Kocieniewski would therefore mean in most cases "one from X" where X is a name something like Kocien or Kocieniew or Kocieniewo. One source that discusses the name Kocieński says Kociński is a spelling variation of that name, so I think you're right -- Kocien- or Kocin- is the same thing, possibly developing because of a spelling error, or even because of a slight difference in the way people pronounced the name. Thus the surname could also refer to places with names beginning Kocin-.

None of my sources discuss this specific name, so I can't pin its derivation down with certainty. But you know the region your ancestors came from, which simplifies things -- we can pay more attention to places somewhere near there, as odds are the family name refers to a place fairly nearby. Kocien Wielki seems to me a very good candidate. As a rule we'd expect that name to yield the surnames Kocienski or Kocinski, but it wouldn't be unusual for Kocieniewski to come from it as well. Literally, Kocieniewski would translate more or less as "of, from the _ of the Kociens." That fits pretty well with Kocien Wielki. But I suggest you keep looking: often if there's a place named X, one finds other places nearby with names in the form X-ewo or X-y, and then surnames such as X-ewski can easily develop from those names. So Kocien might be the right place, or it might point to a smaller place nearby with a name like Kocienie or Kocieniewo.

I wish I could tell you what those place names mean, but I have no information on that. The Polish Language Institute is publishing a series that gives lots of info on the meanings and origins of place names, but so far they've only got as far as the letter I. So it may be another year or two before they get to the K's and I can see what their research indicates about the basic meaning of place names beginning Kocien- or Kocin-.

In addition I read an article in the PGSA Journal that referenced a group of people from centuries ago known as the Kociewacs or something on that order. I can't find anything on the internet about them however. I think you may have even been involved with that article. It even included a map with that name located just to the northwest of my ancestral towns. I have not been able to find that article again. It was from a couple of years ago. 

That's not likely to be relevant. The root of the name would be either Kocien- or Kocin-, and that -n- is an integral part of the name. The other name (I think it was Kociewacy) would have nothing to do with it, except in that it may have come ultimately from the same linguistic root.

I know your book includes Kociniewski but not Kocieniewski. My spelling, Kocieniewski is the older of the two names from my research. I can trace it back to the early to mid 1700's. It seemed like the Kociniewski spelling developed around the early 1800's in an adjacent town. My guess is that it was an error that just stuck, so as to differentiate two distinct branches of the family. I tend to think the two names are related and may try and prove it some day through my research.

As I said, I think you're right. We often see such spelling variants, forms with -in- and -ien-. That's very common, and can have a lot to do with the way people pronounced the names.

Let me know if you have any new opinions on my surname. Also how can I check if there is a coat of arms for my family? As you can see I enjoy doing the research so just point me in the right direction when you get a chance. I am not in any hurry. Just looking for some ideas and hoping to borrow some of your expertise. Thank You.

I can't tell you a thing about coats of arms. But you might be able to learn more if you post a question to the mailing list Herbarz-L. It is frequented by gentlemen with access to various armorials and libraries, and very often they are able to provide some information on specific noble families and their coats of arms.

To subscribe (which costs nothing), send an E-mail message with just the word SUBSCRIBE to this address:

HERBARZ-L-request@rootsweb.com

No one reads this note -- a computer will process it automatically, add you to the mailing list, and send you a brief note explaining procedures. Then you can post a note to the list itself, where it will be read by the members, at this address:

HERBARZ-L@rootsweb.com

I also have another family name not covered in your book, Kubiszak. This was my great grandmother's maiden name. 

That is basically the same name as Kubisiak, and is pronounced almost the same, much like "koo-BEE-shock." The "sh" sound of SZ is a little chunkier than the sound of SI, which is lighter, more hissing, with the tongue arched higher in the mouth. The -ak here is almost certainly a suffix meaning "little, son of," and Kubiś and Kubisz are both nicknames from Jakub. So Kubisiak or Kubiszak would both mean something like "Jake's son, Jake's kin."

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 4 Polish citizens named Kubiszak, living somewhere in the provinces of Torun. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. But this suggests Kubiszak is just a rare variant, found in the Torun area, of the more common name Kubisiak.


GOTFRYD

... I am interested in more information than it seems is readily available from here. My grandfather, Joseph Gotfryd, came from the area somewhere around Jaslo in the province of Galicia somewhere around the turn of the century. At that time, of course, the area was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  I have been contacted by Gotfryds in Belgium and in New york, each seeking to know if we are related. The Gotfryds in Belgium seem to be ethnic Poles, while the Gotfryds in New York are jewish, having come from Spain during the Inquisition. They changed their names to Gotfryd. Why? What is the derivation of Gotfryd, which seems Scandinavian/Germanic, and then is a given name?  My parents and I believe that we are ethnically Slavic/Polish and are Roman Catholic.

Gotfryd is a Polish phonetic spelling of a name of Germanic origin, seen in modern German as Gottfried, and in English as Godfrey and Jeffrey. It comes from ancient Germanic roots meaning "god" and "peace," modeled after pagan names that combined two basic words as a kind of prophecy or name of good omen for a child; naming a child Gottfried expressed the parents' hope it would grow up to live in God's peace, or something like that. 

Some of these two-part names, such as Alexander (from Greek, "defender of men") and Polish Stanisław ("may he become famous/glorious) date back to pagan times, and thus have no hint of Christianity about them. I'm not sure if Gottfried is that ancient; if it is, it originally referred to the peace of the gods or peace in the gods. What's certain is that its use in the last thousand years or so would be colored by Christian beliefs, expressing a hope that one would have peace in God. 

However, the basic sentiment expressed is compatible with Jewish beliefs -- Jews have many names that use the Hebrew roots for "God" or "peace," so that Jewish parents might feel this was a suitable vernacular name for their child. I would expect it in most cases to be associated with Christians, but as I say, some Jews might find it appropriate as well -- particularly Jews who did not want to compromise their faith but were willing to use a name that didn't sound so foreign or alien to Christians. Such a name helped them fit in a little better, but was acceptable because the basic idea behind the name's meaning is one Jews would find proper and decent. Many Jews spoke German or Yiddish, which is based on an old dialect of German, so it wasn't unusual for them to use German-sounding names or names similar to those borne by German Christians, so long as the meaning of the name was not offensive to their beliefs.

I cannot tell you why any particular family would change its name to Gotfryd; that requires research into the individual family's background. There could be a thousand reasons for taking this name, and I don't have the time or resources to do the kind of detailed study necessary to shed light on the change.

It's not at all unusual for surnames to come from first names; consider English names like "Edwards" or "Davidson" or "Peters." Usually they started out as a way of saying "kin of so-and-so," and thus Gotfryd might originally have been a way of referring to a family as "Gotfryd's kin." There are a great many names of Polish origin that were formed from first names.

Over the centuries Germans and Poles interacted to a great extent -- millions of Germans settled in Poland to escape war and trouble in Germany, or because they were invited to come settle unused land. So we see German names among Poles and Polish names among Germans; German names are particularly common in western Poland, in the areas seized by Germany during the partitions, and also in southeastern Poland, where many Germans settled over the centuries. Initially German names would feel "foreign" to Poles and we'd see them used only by immigrants from the lands west of Poland; but as time went on many German names were Polonized and came to be used by Poles, such as Henryk (German Heinrich, English Henry). 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 583 Polish citizens named Gotfryd. The largest numbers lived in the southeastern provinces of Tarnów, 165, and Krosno, 79 (which is the province Jaslo was in as of 1990); the rest were scattered in much smaller numbers all over Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 

So the bottom line is, Gotfryd is of Germanic origin, and that particular form is probably most common among descendants of German Christians living among Poles. But it wouldn't be strange to find it among native Poles as well, especially in southeastern Poland, due to the large numbers of Germans who settled there over the centuries. Some German-speaking Jews might also find it an acceptable name because its meaning was compatible with their beliefs and heritage (although many would refuse to use it because it wasn't Jewish enough). It began as a first name, but came to be used as a surname much as many other first names came to be used that way, as a kind of verbal shorthand for "kin of X." There would not be one big Gotfryd family, but rather a number of separate ones that came to use the name independently under different circumstances.


ANIOŁOWSKI

... Hello! I was looking at your website and didn't see any of the names of my relatives from Poland on there. My grandmother's maiden name was Pawłowska, and my last name is Aniołowski. I know Pawłowski is a fairly common name (at least in the Chicago area), but I have not been able to find many other Aniołowskis besides the ones I am related to in Chicago. Do you know what areas of Poland these names are common in, and what they could mean? 

Pawłowski (pronounced roughly "pahv-WOFF-skee") is a very common name. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 52,744 Polish citizens named Pawłowski, living in large numbers all over Poland. So I'm afraid we can't point to any one area and say the name is more common there than elsewhere; families by this name could come from anywhere in Poland.

The name refers to the name of a place the family came from at some point centuries ago, places with names like Pawłów and Pawłowo, which just mean "Paul's place" and were usually named after someone who owned or founded them. The problem is there are a great many places in Poland with names that fit, so the surname doesn't provide any useful clue whatsoever as to where a particular Pawłowski family came from. Only genealogical research might allow one to determine which particular Pawłów or Pawłowo or Pawłowice (etc.) a given family took its name from.

Aniołowski ("on-yo-WOFF-skee") is a little different. As you say, it's much less common. As of 1990 there were 257 Polish citizens named Aniołowski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 35, Elblag 37, Gdansk 23, Suwałki 49, and Torun 73. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is found mainly in the northcentral and northeastern quarter of Poland. 

This, too, would come from the name of a place, but there are fewer candidates than with Pawłowski. I can find only three places in modern Poland that make sense as possible sources of this name. One is called Aniołów and was in Lodz province (according to the provincial arrangement in force 1975-1998). Another Aniołów is just north of the city of Czestochowa and is apparently part of that city now. There is also a Aniołowo that was in Elblag province. Both these names mean "[place] of the angels" or perhaps "of Angel" if that was used as a first name for one who owned or founded the settlements. 

I should add these aren't necessarily the only candidates. Polish surnames developed centuries ago, and often the places they referred to have since disappeared, changed names, become too small to show up on most maps, etc. So in a given case the surname might refer to some other "Angel's place" besides the two I've mentioned. But the geographic distribution suggests chances are very good many, if not most Aniołowskis derive their name from one of these places.

If you'd like to see a map of where Aniołowo is located, go to this Website:

http://www.jewishgen.org/shtetlseeker/loctown.htm 

Enter "Aniol" as the place you're looking for, select "Poland" as the country to be searched, and select "All towns starting with this precise spelling." Click on "Start the search," and after a moment you'll see a list showing one place in Poland with a name starting Aniol-, ANIOLOWO, 5408 1936, 142.3 miles NNW of Warsaw. Click on the blue numbers (latitude and longitude) and you'll get a map showing that location. You can print the map, save it, zoom in and out, etc.

I don't know why that site doesn't show either Aniolow. The one in Lodz province is 5 km. west of Zgierz, and you can see a map of that area by using the same procedure described above to find Zgierz. It will work for Czestochowa, too, although as I say, apparently they don't show the places with names beginning Aniol- on those maps. (You might also use this site to check out how many places there are with names beginning Pawlow-, and you'll understand why Pawłowski is a much more difficult name to deal with!).


BUCZKO - WIELOCH - WIERZCHOWSKI

... Can you translate the following names? I found some similarities in your site, but don't know if the translations are the same: Wierzchowski, Buczko, Wielock.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 4,263 Polish citizens named Wierzchowski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 314, Biala Podlaska 401, Ciechanow 222, Lublin 404, Siedlce 240, Torun 394. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is found all over Poland, especially in the east and southeast, but not to the point one can be sure a given family with this name must have come from there -- it could come from anywhere in Poland.

Names in the form X-owski almost always come from the names of places where the family lived centuries ago. We'd expect Wierzchowski (pronounced roughly "v'yezh-HOFF-skee") to come from places names beginning Wierzch-, from the noun wierzch, "top, summit, peak." The surname could refer to places named Wierzchy or Wierzchów or Wierzchowo, all meaning more or less "place of the peak, place of the summit." There are quite a few places in Poland with these names, so there's no way to tell just from the surname which place it refers to in a given family's case. Only detailed genealogical research might narrow the focus down to a specific area, at which point one might be able to point to a specific settlement near one's ancestors' home and say "This is probably the place they were named after."

As of 1990 there were 1,076 Polish citizens named Buczko ("BOOCH-ko"), with the largest numbers living in the following provinces: Przemysl 108, Suwałki 72, Zamosc 233. So while the name is found all over Poland, it is particularly common in the northeastern and southeastern parts of the country. Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles], saying it appears in records as far back as 1349 and can derive from the noun buk, "beech tree" -- so that it could mean something like "little beech," perhaps referring to one who worked with beech wood or lived near an impressive stand of beech trees. But it can also come from the verb buczeć, "to hum, drone, buzz," and especially from the dialect noun buczek, "crybaby, one always crying about something." Either basic root could apply, and only the most detailed research might determine exactly which one is relevant in a given family's case.

Wielock is not a name found in Poland today, and is probably a misspelling or variation of Wieloch ("V'YELL-okh," with the final sound a guttural as in German "Bach"). As of 1990 there were 1,387 Polish citizens named Wieloch, living all over the country, with no concentration in any one area. 

This name can come from the root wiel- meaning "much, many," but exactly how it derives from it is not so easy to say. It might also have begun as a kind of nickname for various ancient Polish pagan names beginning with the archaic root wiel- meaning "to order," such as Wielimir or Wielisław; if so, it's just a nickname and doesn't mean much more than "kin of Wielimir or Wielisław." If it comes from the root meaning "much," it might mean something like "one who has a lot." There is a noun wieloch that means "very high, very great person," and it's possible the name started out with that meaning, either used directly or ironically ("Oh, here comes the big shot!"). Again, hard to say without extensive research into a family's history. Rymut says this name appears in records as far back as 1497, so it's been around a long time.


KUSZEWSKI

I have checked the Polishroots surname web site and I can't find any information about the name Kuszewska, if you can get any information about my family name I would be very grateful. 

The -ska in this case is a feminine ending, so the standard form of the name would be Kuszewski. A male would be called Kuszewski, a female Kuszewska. So Kuszewski is the form we need to look at.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 985 Polish citizens named Kuszewski. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Warsaw, 115, and Kielce, 253; the rest were scattered in smaller numbers all over the country. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

Names in the form X-ewski almost always come from the names of places where the family lived centuries ago. We'd expect Kuszewski (pronounced roughly "koo-SHEFF-skee") to come from places names beginning Kusz-, which can come from the noun kusza, "crossbow," or from a short form of the first name Jakusz, which is in turn a nickname for Jakub (Jacob). The surname could refer to places named Kuszy or Kuszew or Kuszewo, all meaning more or less "place of the crossbow" or "place of Jakusz." There are several places in Poland with these names, so there's no way to tell just from the surname which place it refers to in a given family's case. Only detailed genealogical research might narrow the focus down to a specific area, at which point one might be able to point to a specific settlement near one's ancestors' home and say "This is probably the place they were named after."


KACZANEK - KACZENIAK - KATZANEK

Hello! I just completed a family tree project of both my husband's side of the family and mine. His can be traced back about 500 years to England, Ireland and Scotland ... and mine fizzles out after about 100 years. I know that my grandfather came from Poland, the town of Brest-Litovsk, and emigrated to the US around the turn of the century. His name was changed at Ellis Island.
But here is my question to you: In the few documents I have that have his name on them, his surname is spelled differently each time. If I were to give you the spellings I have, are you able to just look at them and tell me which is a correct Polish spelling? Then at least I can have a definite surname to work with!
Here are the choices:
Katzenek
Katzanik
Katzonik
Katzenak
........and other combinations!
Which do you think is a Polish spelling? Thanks for your time!


I'd like to help you, but none of these is a correct Polish spelling. Poles don't use the letter combination TZ; they write that sound with the letter C. Usually names with TZ are German or English modifications of the original Polish name. My experience with such changes suggests the original name might have been Kacanek, Kacanik, Kacenik, Kaconik, or something similar. Also very possible are Kaczanek, Kaczanik, Kaczenik, Kaczonik; Germans in particular were prone to turn Polish C and CZ into TZ. Since most Poles emigrated by way of German ports, usually Bremen or Hamburg, it was not unusual for this contact with German officials to be reflected in the way the surname was spelled.

The problem is, none of those names is very common. I looked in the 10-volume Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland" -- which uses data from a 1990 government database on 94% of the population of Poland to list surnames, tell how many people bore those names, and how many lived in each province -- and the only one I found was Kaczanek. As of 1990 there were 18 Poles named Kaczanek, living in the following provinces: Czestochowa 1, Katowice 4, and Opole 13. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

There were 30 Poles named Kaczeniak, so that's a possibility too. They lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 4, Koszalin 3, Legnica 7, Slupsk 2, Tarnobrzeg 14.

Historically, similar names such as Kacanik and Kocanek and Koczonek appear in the records, but they seem to have died out in modern Poland. At least Kaczanek and Kaczeniak still exist, albeit in small numbers.

As I say, these names are pretty rare, so I have to wonder if the original name was something else that I haven't been able to reconstruct. That is a very real possibility. But numbers don't necessarily mean much, and Kaczanek and Kaczeniak do, at least, make sense in terms of phonetics and spelling; so you might try looking for those forms. According to Polish name experts, both would derive from the term kaczan, "cabbage stump, cob," presumably used at first as a nickname.


CEMPA - CĘPA - CIEMPA - CIĘPA - CZEMPA - CZĘPA

... I am attempting to locate any information while tracing my family history. My rather recently passed away, as has my grandfather, and I have no one left to provide me with any useful information on the surname "Ciempa". If there is any information you can provide that would assist me in my search, I would be most grateful. 

With this name it's important to realize there are several sounds in it that can be spelled two ways, so the name might be spelled different ways. The sound combination "emp" in Polish may be spelled that way, but the "em" can also be spelled with the nasal vowel written as an E with a tail under it. So Ciempa and Ciępa are both possible spellings. Also, the CI in Polish is a soft "ch" sound, whereas CZ is how they spell a harder, chunkier "ch." Ideally the two sounds should never be confused -- Poles distinguish them easily -- but in fact they sometimes are, because they sound similar. Thus with dialect influence, or simply misspelling or mishearing a name, Cz- instead of Ci- is also possible. So Czępa and Czempa could come into play as well. All these names would be pronounced roughly "CHEM-pah."

Also, in some dialects of Polish we sometimes see the "ch" sound of CZ alternate with the "ts" sound spelled C. So we can't rule out Cempa and Cępa (pronounced "TSEM-pah").

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 74 Polish citizens named Ciempa. They lived in the following provinces: Gdansk 2, Katowice 7, Krakow 9, Krosno 18, Rzeszow 5, Tarnów 9, Walbrzych 15, Wroclaw 9. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data shows that the name was most common in southern Poland. It may be before World War II it was found primarily in southeastern Poland, but after that war millions were forced to relocate from eastern Poland to the western part of the country. So it may be the name was originally found mostly in the southeast; but we don't have data to let us say that for sure.

There were 14 Poles named Ciępa, living in the following provinces: Kielce 6, Legnica 2, Rzeszow 4, Walbrzych 2. 

There were no Poles named Czępa, and 73 named Czempa, living in the following provinces: Gdansk 3, Katowice 63, Opole 7.

As of 1990 there were 561 Poles named Cempa, with the largest number, 303, living in Nowy Sacz province, in southcentral Poland; the rest were scattered all over in much smaller numbers. There were 25 named Cępa, in the provinces of Krakow (3), Rzeszow (7), Tarnow (15).

The common thread here is that all these names are most common in southcentral and southeastern Poland. This region was ruled by Austria from roughly 1795-1918, along with the western half of Ukraine, and was called Galicia. It seems to me pretty likely this name is associated mainly with the territory of former Galicia. I would make note of all these spellings, because it is entirely possible you might see any of them during the course of your research.

I have only one source that mentions any of these forms. It's a book specializing in names of southcentral Poland, and it suggests Czępa and Cępa both come from a verb cępieć or czępieć, which means "to squat, to labor over something, to doze off while sitting down." I can't find anything on cięp- or ciemp-, except one source that mentions another name beginning Cięp- that is a variation of a name beginning Częp-. 

With all this, I think it's at least plausible to say these are all variations of the same basic name, and probably began as a nickname for one who often squatted, or dozed while sitting. This is by no means certain, but it hangs together, and is consistent with the information I was able to find. 


BIEGOŃ - BIEGUN

... I was wondering if you could shed some light my last name and its possible variations: Biegun or Biegon. The name on the Wall of Honor at Ellis Island is Biegun but I've seen the name spelled Biegon on my grandparents' steamer trunk and also my father's birth certificate and marriage certificate. I ran into a Society for Bieguns, et al for Canada that had these and other variations. I don't speak or read French or Polish, so I couldn't read the history behind all the names or the function of the society. 
The Wall of Honor says my grandfather was from Warsaw, but I realize that might have been were he left from to come to the States. My father said his father was Austrian but my grandparents spoke Polish. They're buried in a Polish cemetery in outlying Niles, Illinois. 
Another interesting fact is that my grandparents are the only two Bieguns on the Ellis Island listing, but there's gobs of Bieguns in the U.S. and I also discovered, Canada. 


As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 1,874 Polish citizens named Biegun. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bielsko-Biala 1,155; Katowice 162; Krakow 129. The rest lived in much smaller numbers scattered all over the country. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 

What this data tells us is that this name is highly concentrated in southcentral Poland, which was on the western edge of the territory seized by Austria during the partitions. It comprised part of the Austrian province of Galicia, which ran from a little west of Krakow east to cover much of Ukraine. Most persons who came from this area were ethnic Poles or Ukrainians, but for official purposes they were classified as citizens of Austria or Austria-Hungary.

The name is pronounced something like "B'YEGG-oon." There is also a name Biegoń with an accent over the N, pronounced roughly "B'YEGG-oin." It was found mainly in the same areas as Biegun, and can be regarded as meaning virtually the same thing. These names sound similar enough that they could easily be confused, so that the same family might easily show up in records as Biegun one time and Biegon another. Technically they can be distinct names, but they mean the same basic thing and, as I said, could well be variations of the same name.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions Biegun in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. It comes from a verb meaning "to run," and biegun means more or less "the runner." In modern Polish it is also used in the meanings of "(North or South) Pole," also "rocker"; but in names, which developed centuries ago, "runner" is probably the relevant definition. We'd expect the name started as a kind of nickname for one who was noted for his ability to run, or perhaps one who ran away at some crucial moment. More than that we can't say.


STRAŻ

My name is Scott Straz and I saw your site on the internet. I was wondering if you could tell me anything about the Polish name Straz. 

In Polish this name is generally spelled with a dot over the Z. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 132 Polish citizens named Stra
ż
. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 38, Krakow 23, Rzeszow 13. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is not very common, and is found all over Poland, mainly in the south.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the noun stra
ż, "guard, sentry," related to the archaic noun straża, "vigil, alert." So the name probably began as a way of referring to one who stood guard in case of enemy attack, fire, and other dangers. In modern Polish the word straż is still used to mean "guard," and the fire department is called the straż pożarna, the municipal police are the straż miejska, and so forth. So the meaning hasn't changed a great deal, except that the noun these days is used as a collective term for the members of a group who guard against fires, crime, etc., whereas when used as a name it would refer to an individual who performed such duties.

 

  

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


FILIPKOWSKI - TYSZKA

... I've just begun to search for my origins. Paternally -- Tyszka and maternally Filipkowski. Any information would be helpful. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,805 Polish citizens named Tyszka. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Gdansk 148, Łomża 533, Ostrołęka 840, Suwałki 135, and Warsaw 374. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is most common in northcentral and especially northeastern Poland.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1427 and came from a kind of nickname for first names beginning with Ty-, especially Tymoteusz (Timothy). Poles often formed nicknames from popular first names by taking the first few sounds of the name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes. So they would take the Ty- from Tymoteusz, drop the rest, add -sz- to give a basic nickname, then add a diminutive such as -ek or -ka or -ko; the process is kind of like the one that gave us "Teddy" from Theodore. So to the extent you can say Tyszka means anything, it would mean "little Tim, Timmy," or something like that. It is pronounced roughly "TISH-kah."

As for Filipkowski ("fee-leep-KOFF-skee"), as of 1990 there were 2,656 Poles by that name. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of: Białystok 104, Gdansk 165, Katowice 109, Łomża 819, Olsztyn 193, Ostrołęka 103, Suwałki 478, and Warsaw 128. So the name is found all over the country but is most common in the northcentral part.

Surnames ending in -owski usually refer to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago. We'd expect Filipkowski to mean "one from Filipki or Filipków or Filipkowo" or some similar place name, all of which mean more or less the same thing, "[place] of Phil (little Philip)." Rymut notes that the place this name is most likely to refer to is Filipki in Łomża province, Kolno gmina, and in view of the name's distribution pattern, I think he's right. But it's worth mentioning that the surname just means literally "of the _ of little Philip," and thus in some cases it could conceivably mean "kin of Phil" or "one from Phil's place." In some cases the surname could refer to some other little farm or settlement known locally as Filipki or Filipków or Filipkowo, too small to show up on maps. Still, that Filipki is the most likely candidate, especially if you find your ancestors came from that general region.


KALĘBA - KALEMBA

...I was just curious if you could dig up any info on the name Kalemba Anything would be appreciated.

In Polish when you see -EM- before a consonant, it is usually a variation of the same name spelled not with -EM- but with the nasal vowel written as an E with a tail under it. So we would expect the name to be spelled Kalęba. That nasal vowel is pronounced like "em" when it comes before a B, so that Kalęba is pronounced "kah-LEM-bah." Thus Kalęba and Kalemba both make sense as reasonable ways of spelling this name.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 145 Polish citizens named Kalęba. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bielsko-Biala 29, Krakow 75. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. But this data tells us the name is found mainly in southcentral Poland.

What's odd is that usually the standard spelling is more common than the phonetic one, but as of 1990 there were 2,640 Poles who spelled the name Kalemba! The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice, 495, Krakow 330, Poznan 418. So this form of the name is also common in southcentral Poland, but also in the western part of the country. But in fact, the name is found in smaller numbers all over Poland; so a Kalemba could come from almost anywhere. There's nothing about the name itself that points toward any particular region of the country as a place of origin.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as far back as 1494, and comes from a dialect word kalęba that meant "thin old cow," and was also used colloquially to mean "fat woman." I'm not sure exactly how such a name got started as a surname, but it was probably by way of a nickname. In studying names I've come to realize humans can be very inventive when it comes to giving nicknames. And often a particular name makes perfect sense if you knew the guy or were there when it started, but otherwise it makes no sense. So with names given centuries ago we often have no way of figuring out exactly what they meant. About all we can say is what the word meant that the name came from, and then make plausible suggestions as to what the connection was that caused that name to "stick" to a particular guy and his family.


CZERMAK - PĘKALSKI - PENKALSKI

I saw the question and your response to the name Peczkowski - Penczkowski. My first question: is my name (Penkalski) a derivative , or is it from a different root? My second question regards my grandmother's maiden name, Czermak. Can you give any insight into the origin of this surname? 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 598 Polish citizens named Czermak. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bielsko-Biala 112, Katowice 48, Tarnow 116, Wroclaw 71. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is found all over Poland but is most common in the southcentral to southeastern part of the country.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1417 and comes from an archaic Polish word czermak, a red-winged bird. Another source mentions a possible link with the archaic word czerm, "worm, grub," and yet another points out the link to the Czech word ĉermak, meaning "redstart, a common European songbird," a term also used sometimes to refer to the devil (because of the association with the color red). There are many Polish names derived from words for birds, and I think that's the most likely connection with this name. It may have originated as a nickname because a person lived in a place where there were many of these birds, or he could imitate their singing, or his clothes reminded people of the birds' coloring -- almost any perceived similarity or connection could lead to such a nickname, which could then "stick" as a surname.

The name Penkalski would more often be spelled in Polish not with -en- but with the nasal vowel written as an E with a tail under it; it is pronounced much like EN, and thus names with Ę were often spelled phonetically with EN. So the standard Polish spelling of this name would be Pękalski, with Penkalski a less common but still reasonable spelling. Both would sound more or less like "pen-CALL-skee."

As of 1990 there were 350 Polish citizens named Penkalski, as opposed to 1,799 Pękalski's. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 180, Kielce 378, Przemysl 125, Tarnobrzeg 111, Wroclaw 250. So this name is found all over Poland but is also seen mostly in the southeastern part of the country.

This name comes from the same basic root as Pęczkowski, but that doesn't mean much; one root can generate a great many different names with different meanings, without implying anything more than a linguistic connection that is almost incidental. I think the most likely derivation for Pękalski is as an adjective from the noun pękal, "squat fellow, one with a big belly"; thus it would mean "kin of the squat fellow, kin of the paunchy fellow." It's also possible it comes from nicknames for ancient Polish names beginning with the root Pęk-, such as Pękosław; Pękal or Pękała could come from such names, in which case the surname just means "kin of Pękal" or "one from the place of Pękal." Only detailed research into a specific family's past might uncover enough info to establish exactly when the name developed and exactly what it meant. But I think "kin of the squat fellow, fellow with a big gut" is most likely how it got started.


DUNAJSKI - GADZAŁA - GADŻAŁA - ODACHOWSKI

Hello, I have been working on my family genealogy for some time now, I was hoping you may have some information concerning the following surnames: Dunajski, Odachowski, Kodsidak and Gadzala or Godzado. Any information would be extremely appreciated.

Dunaj (pronounced roughly like a combination of the English words "do" and "nigh") is the Polish name for the Danube river, from a Slavic root meaning "deep water." DUNAJSKI "doo-NIGH-skee") just means "of the Danube." It probably began as a name for someone who lived near the Danube or some other large river referred to as a dunaj, perhaps by way of comparison with the Danube. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 1,526 Polish citizens named Dunajski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Gdansk 488, Olsztyn 120, and Torun 154 (odd, since none of those cities are anywhere near the Danube!). Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

As of 1990 there were 415 Polish citizens named Odachowski (pronounced roughly "oh-dah-HOFF-skee"). The largest numbers lived in the northeastern provinces of Białystok, 140, and Łomża, 101; the rest were scattered in smaller numbers all over Poland. Names in the form X-owski usually refer to the name of a place beginning with the X part, with which the family was connected at one time; if they were noble, they owned it, and if not, they lived and worked there. We'd expect Odachowski to mean "one from Odachów or Odachowo" or some similar name. 

I can't find any places by those names on modern maps, but that's not unusual. The thing is, Polish surnames developed centuries ago, and often came from the name of a field or hill or little settlement, names used only by locals, that would be unlikely to appear on any map or in any gazetteer. So the place this name refers to may now be quite obscure, or may even have disappeared or renamed or absorbed into another community centuries ago. It's also very possible a slight vowel change is involved and the surname refers to any of several places now called Odechów or Odechowo, such as two villages named Odechów, in Konin and in Radom provinces (according to the 1975-1998 provincial setup).

As for Gadzala or Godzada, the latter looks and sounds odd, and no one by that name lived in Poland as of 1990, so I think Gadzala is more likely correct. In Polish it is usually spelled with a slash through the L. Gadzała is pronounced roughly "god-ZAH-wah." Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles], saying it appears in records as far back as 1440. He says named beginning Gad- usually come either from the verb gadac', "to talk," or from the noun gad, "reptile," also used colloquially to mean "worthless fellow." Gadzała might come from the latter meaning, but the suffix -ała often is added to verb roots to mean "one always doing _." So I think Gadzała most likely started out meaning "one who talks a lot," though that is just a guess (and it might also mean "one always acting like a reptile" -- I can't rule that out).

As of 1990 there were 678 Polish citizens named Gadzała, with the largest numbers living in the following provinces: Chelm 86, Krosno 71, and Lublin 158. So while the name is found all over Poland, it is most common in the southeastern part of the country. 

I should add that Rymut also mentions a name Gadżała (the dotted Z is pronounced like "zh" in "Zhivago"), from a Ukrainian dialect term that means "ankle." There were 90 Polish citizens named Gadżała in 1990, scattered all over (probably because of post-World War II forced relocations). This might be applicable in your case, since the dot over the Z and the slash through the L would be lost when the family immigrated to an English-speaking country. So the name probably means either "one who talks a lot" or "ankle," perhaps referring to one who had nice-looking ankles.

Kodsidak is a problem. None of my sources mention it, it doesn't look or sound right, and as of 1990 no one in Poland bore this name. That usually means either the name was very rare and died out after the family emigrated, or the spelling has been distorted somewhere along the line. I can't think of any name that could end up as Kodsidak. The only thing I can suggest is to keep doing research until you find a document with a reliable spelling and a name of the place of origin. If you find that, let me know and I'll see if I have anything on that name. 


CZARNECKI

Please provide some information on my Mother's maiden name: Czarnecki. Thanks for your help. I've been reading all the material you have put up on the internet and it is a greatly appreciated service. 

Czarnecki is pronounced roughly "char-NET-skee" in Polish. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 32,525 Polish citizens by that name. They lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one part of the country; a family named Czarnecki could come from anywhere.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it would usually refer to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago, a place with a name beginning Czarn-, from the root czarny, "black." The name is especially likely to refer to the village of Czarnca in Kielce province, Wloszczowa district, but you can't really count on that -- there are too many other cases where it referred to any of a number of villages named Czarne, Czarne, etc. 

I'm afraid that, as with most Polish surnames, the name itself just doesn't provide much in the way of useful leads for tracing a family, even though it refers to the name of a specific place. There are usually just too many places the name might refer to. The only way to determine anything with certainty is by way of genealogical research. Once you trace your ancestors to the specific area they came from, then you may be able to make a plausible connection with some nearby place with a name beginning Czarn-. But you have to narrow the search area down; as long as it could cover anywhere in Poland, you don't have much hope of success.


GRZYMAŁOWSKI

I am searching for the name Grzymalowski. Do you have any record of that name? 

In Polish this name is spelled with a slash through the L. Grzymałowski is pronounced roughly "g'zhih-mah-WOFF-skee."

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 88 Polish citizens by this name. They lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 8, Ciechanow 18, Gorzow 19, Ostrołęka 10, Radom 7, Skierniewice 2, Suwałki 22, Wroclaw 2. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says names beginning Grzym- usually come either from nicknames for the old Polish first name Pielgrzym ("pilgrim") or from the root seen in the verb grzmieć, "to thunder," used either as a verb root or as a name component in ancient pagan names such as Grzymisław, which means literally "thunder-fame." 

But in most cases we'd expect Grzymałowski to come from the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago, a place with a name along the lines of Grzymały or Grzymałowo. Such place names, in turn, would derive from the roots mention above, so that the names originally meant something like "place of Pilgrim" or "place of thunder, place of Grzymała (the one of thundering renown)." There are a number of places in Poland with names that fit, including several Grzymałys and at least one Grzymałów, all of which could generate this surname. Without detailed info on a specific family, there's no way to know which place the surname refers to in their particular case. Fortunately, if you do some research and have a little luck, you may uncover info that will shed light on this question. 


SCHULIST - SZULIST

... I am doing research into my family whose name has been misspelled for generations. It has three current spelling in North America including: Shulist, Schulist, and what may be more original Szulist. I have been unable to find your book in our library network and Chapters (Canada's equivalent to Amazon.com) is now tracking it down. In the event that the name is not covered in the book what could you tell me about it?

You're right that the original Polish spelling was probably Szulist. The other spellings are phonetic, in that people speaking other languages (English for Shulist and German for Schulist) attempted to spell the name the way it sounded to them, using the phonetic values they were used to. Polish SZ is pronounced much like our "sh" and German "sch," so all three spellings are pronounced the same, much like "SHOE-list."

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 714 Polish citizens named Szulist. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Gdansk 513, Slupsk 107. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. This data indicates the name is highly concentrated in north-central to northwestern Poland, in the area west and south of Gdansk.

There were also 23 Poles who spelled this name the German way, Schulist. They lived in the provinces of Elblag (8), Gdansk (11), and Szczecin (8) -- all in north-central to northwestern Poland, in the area that formerly comprised the German Empire's provinces of Pomerania, West Prussia, and East Prussia.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it is one of the many names that developed from nicknames or short forms of ancient Polish pagan names beginning with the root Sul-, from an archaic verb meaning "promise." Thus ancient Poles created names such as Sulislaw, literally "promise-glory," and Sulimir, "promise-peace." Like most Indo-European peoples, the ancient Poles tended to give their children names of good omen, so that calling a child Sulislaw meant something like "may he fulfill the promise of glory," i. e., "may he turn out to be glorious and renowned." The Poles often made nicknames of those ancient names, much as we turned "Edward" into "Eddie," by taking the first part of the name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes. Thus Sulislaw or Sulimir gives Suli-, and the suffix -st was added to give Sulist or Sulista. 

In Polish we often see names beginning with S often have variant forms beginning with Sz-, as the plain S sound turned into an "sh" sound; similarly names beginning with Sz- often have variants with S-. What's interesting is that in this case the form with Sz- seems to predominate; Sulist or Sulista is very rare.

The geographical distribution of this name suggests it may be associated primarily with the Kaszubs, a Slavic people who are closely related to the Poles but have their own customs and language (very similar to Polish in most respects). I could be wrong about this, but from what I've seen in the past I believe this name is found primarily among the Kaszubs, who live in the area near Gdansk, Slupsk, and north of Bydgoszcz -- which is where this name is most common. So you might want to learn more about the Kaszubs and see if this offers any leads. This Website has some information:

http://feefhs.org/kana/frg-kana.html 


PRAWDZIŃSKI

... Do you have a meaning or origin for the name Prawdzienski? I understand relatives in Poland do not use the -ski extension.

To get to your name ... , the basic root prawda means "truth," the stem of which is prawd-. The suffix usually added to this name is -iński, with accompanying softening of the root's final -d to -dzi-. So Prawdzin means literally "of truth," possibly used as a name for "a man of truth, a truthful man," or possibly referring to a place with a name derived from prawda. Prawdziński means literally "of the _ of truth." Prawdziński might refer to the kin of a man named Prawdzin, or to people coming from a place named Prawda, Prawdzin, Prawdziny, etc. As I said earlier, Prawdzieński is just a variant of Prawdziński. I would not ascribe any particular significance to the alternate spelling without evidence of such significance; dialect or regional differences in pronunciation can easily account for it.

When I can find a place with a name that fits, I tend to go with that simply because surnames tend to come from something concrete rather than abstract; there are exceptions, but my experience suggests Prawdziński is more likely to mean "one from the place called Prawda" than "kin of the truthful man." The only way to know for sure which rendering is appropriate is to do thorough genealogical research, which might uncover some record that sheds light on the exact derivation. In other words, Prawdziński could mean "kin of the truthful one," but it can also mean "one from Prawda, Prawdzin, Prawdziny," etc.; and the odds are that the latter is more likely to be the right rendering. Still, one can't be positive without genealogical research.

In any case, I found two places in Poland with a name that fits. It may be there were or are others that qualify. Surnames originated centuries ago, often referring to names that were used by the locals for a hill or field or settlement, names that are highly unlikely to appear on any map or in any gazetteer; sometimes these places have been absorbed by other communities, or have disappeared, or have been renamed. So these two Prawda's may not be the only candidates; but they're the only ones I could find.

If you'd like to see maps of these places, go to this Website:

http://www.jewishgen.org/ShtetlSeeker/loctown.htm 

Enter "Prawd" as the name of the place you're looking for, and make sure you specify to search using the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex. Click on "Start the Search." In a moment you'll get a list of places with names that begin with sounds that match "Prawd" phonetically. Scroll on down to the ones in Poland and click on the coordinates for the two named Prawda: PRAWDA 5157 2156 N Poland 44.7 miles ESE of Warsaw, and PRAWDA 5138 1928 N Poland 77.9 miles WSW of Warsaw. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 14 Polish citizens named Prawdzin. They lived in the following provinces: Jelenia Gora 12, Wroclaw 2. There were also 11 named Prawdziński, living in the following provinces: Krakow 5, Lodz 1, Zielona Gora 5. There was no listing of anyone named Prawdzieński. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, and I can't tell you how to get that info. The Polish government in general is very protective of its citizens' privacy and does not facilitate access to information on living Polish citizens.

This data further muddles the question of whether Prawdzin means "truthful one" or "one of Prawda" and Prawdziński means "kin of the truthful one" or just "one from Prawda." The people with these names are scattered all over; that doesn't necessarily mean they were never connected with those places called Prawda, but it's not convincing evidence in favor of that hypothesis, either. 

And that's where I have to stop, because I've said all I can say. The only way to settle the matter, as I said before, is to do detailed genealogical research that reveals the historical, linguistic, cultural, and geographical context in which the name developed and became attached to your specific family. It's even possible (though, in view of the data, unlikely) that the name developed independently with different families; your Prawdziński's got the name as "kin of the truth-teller," and another set of Prawdziński's got it the other way, as simply "ones from Prawda." But without hard evidence I can't settle the matter.


STUCZYŃSKI - SZTUCYZŃSKI - WOŹNICKI 

I read with interest your derivation for Wozniak. My name is Woznicki. Is there a difference? Also, anything on Stuczynski?

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 3,744 Polish citizens named Woźnicki. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Lodz 219, Płock 328, and Warsaw 601. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is found all over Poland but is particularly common in central Poland.

Woźnicki is pronounced roughly "vozh-NEET-skee." It comes from the same basic root as Wozniak -- woz-, "convey, transport (especially by cart)." But generally would refer to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago. Thus we'd expect it to mean "one from Woźniki or Woźnica or Woźnice." On modern maps I find one Woźnice and a lot of Woźniki's, so the surname would generally mean the family came from one of those villages; but without detailed genealogical research into a specific family's background, there's no way to know which one. The places, in turn, would take their names from some connection with carts, cart-drivers (woźnica is a term meaning "cart-driver," and this name is an adjective that could come from that noun), cart-horses (woźnik, and the name can also come from that), etc. As I say, there is a linguistic connection with Wozniak in that both come from that basic root meaning, but in practice there wouldn't necessarily be any blood connection between the two names. Woźnicki is a name in its own right. 

Stuczyński (accent over the N), pronounced roughly "stoo-CHIN-skee," was the surname of 774 Poles as of 1990. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 97, Konin 70, Krakow 60, Torun 101. This data tells us this name, too, is found all over the country, with some concentration in northcentral to northwestern Poland. It would almost certainly come from the root seen in sztuka, "piece, play, art," and sztuczyna, "a miserable piece." Names and words with S and SZ often alternate, so it's not odd that Stuczyński might come from a word beginning with sz-. In fact, Sztuczyński ("shtoo-CHIN-skee") is a perfectly plausible variant of this surname; but for some reason it's less common, borne by only 80 Poles as of 1990, in the same general area as Stuczyński.

This might have started as a nickname for one who got stuck with a really pathetic piece of something, or produced rather miserable products, something like that. Or it might refer to a place with a name along the lines of Sztucz- or Stucz- or Sztuk- or Stuk-. Without a lot more detail on the individual family bearing the name, there's really no way to be sure.


ZBYDNIEWSKI - ZBYDNIOWSKI - ZBYTNIEWSKI

I would like to know if you can tell me anything about my family name, Zbytniewski. I know that my great-great-grandmother used the name with an A on the end rather than ski, but I don't know anything about the name or the origin. 

Well, to start with, most (not all, most) names ending in -ska are feminine forms of names which have standard forms ending in -ski (it's admittedly rather chauvinistic, but that's the way the Polish language developed). So a male with this name would be called Zybtniewski, and a female would be Zbytniewska; this is an integral part of the Polish language, one that Poles recognize instinctively. After immigrating to English-speaking countries, they found their new language could not deal with this feature, so they dropped it. The point is simply that the standard form of the name, the one we should look for, is Zbytniewski. It is pronounced roughly "z'bit-N'YEFF-skee."

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 566 Polish citizens named Zbytniewski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 51, Konin 51, Lublin 84, Poznan 57, Tarnobrzeg 87. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is found all over the country, but appears in two slight concentrations, one in southeastern Poland (the areas near Lublin and Tarnobrzeg) and one in western to northwestern Poland (the other provinces cited). 

Incidentally, there were also 26 Polish citizens named Zbydniewski, all but 5 living in the province of Tarnobrzeg. There were also 27 named Zbydniowski, 19 of whom lived in Tarnobrzeg province. The reason this may be relevant is that in Polish the D sometimes changes pronunciation to sound like T, and in these names that happens with Zbyd-. It is written Zbyd-, but actually pronounced as if it were Zbyt-. The spelling of names in Polish has, until fairly recently, been somewhat inconsistent; names were often spelled phonetically, going strictly by sound instead of by "the rules." What this means is Zbydniewski, Zbydniowski, and Zbytniewski are all potentially different forms of the same basic name. If so, you need to know this -- if you research your family, it's possible you might run into any or all of these spellings. But of them all, Zbytniewski is clearly the most common spelling these days, and thus by default the standard spelling.

Names in the form X-ewski usually refer to the name of a place beginning with the X part, with which the family was connected at one time; if they were noble, they owned it, and if not, they lived and worked there. Thus we'd expect this name to mean "one from Zbytniew or Zbytniewo" or some similar place name. I can't find any places by those names on modern maps, but that's not unusual. The thing is, Polish surnames developed centuries ago, and often came from the name of a field or hill or little settlement, names used only by locals, that would be unlikely to appear on any map or in any gazetteer. So the place this name refers to may now be quite obscure, or may even have disappeared or renamed or absorbed into another community centuries ago.

The interesting thing is, I see two places named Zbydniów, one in Tarnobrzeg province (as the provinces were organized 1975-1998), the other in Tarnow province, both in southeastern Poland. Recalling what I said about D sounding like T, you'll see immediately that it's very possible these are the places the surname refers to (the change of -iów to -iew- is not troublesome, that happens often). It would not be at all odd if either the place name or the surname has changed spelling over the ages. I don't have any sources that discuss the original forms of these village names, so I don't know whether they were originally Zbytniów and the -t- changed to -d- over time, or if they were always Zbydniów and it's the surname in which the -d- changed to -t- (in most cases; as we see, there are still some who bear the name with -d- instead of -t-). Either way, I think chances are very good these two place names are what the surname derived from.

The distribution of the surname supports this, to some extent; the names seem to show up most often in southeastern Poland. As for the concentration in the west, it could be the family or families came from southeastern Poland and relocated there at some point in the past. It could also be they were forced to move there after World War II, when millions were forcibly relocated from east to west. For that matter, maybe there is or was another place in the west with a name beginning Zbyd- or Zbyt-I don't have data that would settle this. But if you do some genealogical research and have any success at it, you may uncover facts that will shed light on this.


CETNAR - JAROSZ

I am looking for information about the surname Cetnar. I was told that the family came from Pilzno, Poland. To the best of my knowledge the name has never been shorten. The GGG grandfather was married to a lady from Jaslo, Poland. Her surname was Jarosz. Thanks, Jackie

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 431 Polish citizens named Cetnar. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bielsko-Biala 38, Krosno 84, Rzeszow 42, Tarnow 73, and Wroclaw 38. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is most common in southcentral to southeastern Poland, which includes the area of Pilzno.

In Polish this name is pronounced roughly "TSET-nahr." Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the noun cetnar, also seen as centnar, a term for a unit of weight, in English "quintal, hundredweight, 100 kilograms." Exactly how and why that came to be a surname is hard to say; surnames developed centuries ago, and often there are no surviving records that tell us exactly how a name got started. Presumably it began as a nickname for one who dealt with such weights in his work, or even a person who looked as if he only weighed 100 kilograms or pounds. It comes ultimately from Latin centenarius, "of, relating to one hundred."

Jarosz ("YAH-rosh") may have started as a nickname of older pagan compound names such as Jaroslaw, where the first part is an ancient root meaning "harsh, severe," or in some cases "robust, young." But some scholars think the specific names Jaroch and Jarosz came from a variant of the Slavic version of "Jerome." So the name probably meant originally something like "kin of Jerome." As of 1990 there were 20,694 Poles by this name, living in large numbers all over the country.

If you'd like more info on Jaslo and Pilzno, you can visit these Websites to see my translations of gazetteer entries on those towns:

http://www.pgst.org/jaslo.htm 

http://www.pgst.org/pilzno.htm 


MOCHADLO - MOCZADŁO

... I am a high school student, doing a report on my geneology. My last name is Mocadlo, but I have been told it was originally Moczadlo. Joseph Moczadlo worked in Poznan before coming to the U.S, and that is all that I know about our origins, in terms of location. I have contacted Dr. Regina Moczadlo, whose name I discovered on a search engine. She told me that she too has no information about our family, since WWII destroyed documents. She now lives in Germany. 

I think I can help a little. In Polish the name would be spelled Moczadło -- the Polish letter written as an L with a slash through it and pronounced like our "w." The Polish combination cz is pronounced like our "ch" in "church," so that Moczadło is pronounced roughly "moch-ODD-woe" (rhyming with "go, Claude, go"). Polish name experts say it comes from the noun moczadło, which means "swamp, damp area, submersible device." So it probably referred originally to a person or family who lived in a swampy area -- there are many, many such names in Polish and other European languages. The basic root is mocz-, which means "wetness, dampness, moisture" -- the noun mocz has come to mean "urine," but at one time it just referred to any kind of wetness or moisture.

In certain areas of Poland there is a dialect tendency to turn the "ch" sound spelled CZ by Poles into the sound they spell C, which sounds like the ts in "cats." So in some areas the name might be pronounced more like "mote-SOD-woe," and thus spelled phonetically Mocadło. But the standard form is Moczadło.

As of 1990 there were 349 Poles by this name; it was most common in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (76), Olsztyn (30), and Torun (85), in northcentral and northeastern Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've giv%n here is all I have. I should add that Poznan is in western Poland, whereas the areas I mentioned above are farther north. But the Bydgoszcz area was once part of Provinz Posen (Poznan province), the name the Germans gave this region when they ruled it (during most of the 19th century and up to World War I). Most immigrants could not speak English well or at all, and thus had trouble making themselves understood. When asked where they came from, they didn't try to say "I'm from the village of Plochniczno Szczedrowskie" (a name I made up, by the way) because there's no way any American official ever heard of this place. So instead they gave the name of the nearest large city. I'm explaining this because it's possible your ancestor didn't actually live in the city of Poznan itself, but in a village or town somewhere within the region of which Poznan was the biggest city. If you research this, don't be surprised if it turns out your ancestor wasn't actually from Poznan; this happened a lot. On the other hand, Poznan's a big city, and a lot of people did live there, so maybe that is where he came from.

I'm sending a copy of this note to a gentleman named Jim Presenkowski, because last year he asked about the name Mochadlo. My brain must have been somewhere else that day --but for some reason it never dawned on me that may well be a phonetic spelling of Moczadło (sorry, Jim!). I wanted him to read this note in case it might be helpful, and also because it is very possible the name he's researching is the same one you're asking about, and maybe you can compare notes to your mutual benefit. When I can bring together people researching the same thing, I like to do so. If it turns out you have no connections, no harm is done; if you do have connections, it may help both of you.


JUCHNO - MALICKI

... Malicki (Vincent) from Rzeprennik Strzyzewski region of Poland; Juchno - or - Yuchno - or - Uchno- or - Iuchno. Thank you. Appreciate any help or any brief amount of time you can manage. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 7,750 Polish citizens named Malicki. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 609, Katowice 419, Kielce 683, Poznan 682, Warsaw 604, Wroclaw 313, and Zielona Gora 339. Basically what this data tells us is that the name is found all over Poland, with no particular concentration in any one area.

Oddly, the Surname Directory shows only 12 Malickis in Tarnow province, which is the province Rzepiennik Strzezowski was in under the 1975-1998 setup. I wish I could tell you how to get first names and addresses of the Malickis in that province, but I don't have access to any further data, just a breakdown by province. You might be able to contact the PGS-Connecticut/Northeast to see if they have copies of the Tarnow province phone directory. If so, for a moderate fee they can check to see if a specific name is listed, and if so, tell you the address given. It's a long shot, but it's the only way I can think of you might get an address, short of writing to the parish church that serves that area and asking if the priest can help you get in touch with relatives.

Malicki is pronounced roughly "mah-LEET-skee," and would generally refer to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago -- places with names like Malica or Malice. I can't find any places named Malica offhand, but there are at least five villages named Malice. The only way to know which one is referred to in a given family's case is by genealogical research that would pin down exactly where the family came from in Poland and then allow one to search for places named Malice or something similar in the area.

Juchno is tough because the J and CH stand for sounds that can be spelled different ways, and because this name could develop in several different ways. The J is pronounced like our Y, and the CH is a guttural, kind of a mild version of the "ch" in German "Bach" -- the name sounds like "YOOKH-no." Thus, depending on the language of the official who wrote down the name, it could be spelled Juchno (Polish), Iuchno, Yuchno, Yukhno, etc. 

In theory it could come from the Polish word jucha, "gore; rascal." But it usually started as a kind of nickname formed from various first names beginning with the J, such as Józef (Joseph), Joachim, Juchim (a Ukrainian name from the Greek name Euthymios), and Juryj (Ukrainian form of "George," pronounced the same as Russian "Yuri"). Poles and Ukrainians often formed nicknames from popular first names by taking the first few sounds of the name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes. So they would take the Jo- or Ju- sound from those names, drop the rest, and add suffixes such as -ch-, plus further suffixes such as -no. That's how this name started, Ju- + -ch- no. It amounts to no more than a nickname, with no real meaning in and of itself, kind of like "Teddy" is a nickname from "Theodore." Teddy doesn't mean anything, but comes from a name that did mean something originally (in Greek Theodoros means "gift of the gods"). Juchno is a nickname from a number of different names.

As of 1990 there were 283 Polish citizens named Juchno, scattered all over the country, with no real concentration in any one area. One might also run into this name in Ukraine, but there it would be spelled in Cyrillic, which would look kind of like this:
Юхно

That's about all I can tell you. I hope it's some help, and wish you the best of luck with your research.

 

  

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


 

ŁYSEK

... My Grandfather immigrated to America in the the 1910s, I think. He is listed on the 1930 census as Frank Lysek. He at first went to Pennsylvania to work in the coal mines with his brother but moved to Florida and homesteaded there. I had some info once that our name may have been changed when he Immigrated from "Woesek?". I would like to know what the name means and what town or county he came from.

It's pretty unlikely the surname was changed from Woesek. That spelling is totally foreign to Polish, whereas Lysek is perfectly natural and normal. The thing is, in Polish that L is almost certainly not the normal L but the "hard" L written as an L with a slash through it and pronounced like our W. The name Łysek sounds kind of like "WISS-eck" -- perhaps that "Woesek" was someone's attempt to describe how the name is pronounced in Polish, and someone got confused. In any event, it's exceedingly unlikely any Pole would be named Woesek in the first place, let along change it to Lysek. I can't think of any language in which Woesek would be a normal name.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 1,313 Polish citizens named Łysek. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bielsko-Biala 148, Katowice 168, Kielce 153, and Krakow 285. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is seen all over Poland but is most common in the south central part of the country. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1481, and comes from the noun łysek, which means "bald person." The adjective łysy means "bald," and łysek is a noun formed from the same root. So it's highly likely this started out as a nickname for a fellow who was bald, and somewhere along the way the name "stuck" and became a surname.


KWIATKOWSKI

Any special familiarity for the last name Kwiatkowski? Please share.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 62,629 Polish citizens named Kwiatkowski. They lived in large numbers all over the country; a Kwiatkowski family could come from literally anywhere in Poland.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He said it refers to any of a number of places with names such as Kwiatkowice, Kwiatków, Kwiatki, etc. Those names, in turn, derive from the Polish root kwiat, "flower." The suffix -ek is a diminutive, so Kwiatek means literally "little flower." Adding the suffix -owski to make Kwiatkowski makes it mean literally "of, from, pertaining to the _ of the little flower," where the blank is filled in with something so obvious it didn't have to be spelled out -- usually either "kin" or "place." 

Thus Kwiatkowski could mean "kin of the guy nicknamed Little Flower." But most of the time -owski names refer to specific places, so that the surname is properly interpreted as "one from the place of the little flowers" or "one from the place of the guy nicknamed Little Flower" -- and there are lots of villages and settlements that qualify. The only way to determine which one is relevant in a given family's case is by genealogical research that establishes exactly where that family came from, and sheds light on the circumstances under which this name happened to become associated with that family.

A rule of thumb -- not always correct, but often true -- is that if you trace your ancestors to a particular area in Poland, and see a village or settlement nearby with a name beginning Kwiatk-, chances are quite good that's the place the surname originally referred to. It doesn't always work out that way, but very often it does. 


KRZYŻANOWSKI

While browsing your site I didn't see Krzyzanowski listed. From what I can tell there are a lot of Krzyzanowski's around the world (US, Canada, and Poland). I was hoping you might have some information about the Krzyzanowski surname. I believe that it has some reference to Kross, Cross, or Crucifix in it?

The ultimate root is krzyż, "cross" (Ithe Polish dotted Z is pronounced much like "zh" in "Zhivago"). But usually names ending in -owski derive from the names of places where the families once lived, centuries ago. We'd expect this surname to mean "one from Krzyżanów or Krzyżanowo" or some other place with a name beginning Krzyżan-. That place name, in turn, is what derives from the word for "cross." So the place names mean something like "place of the cross" or "place of the man of the cross," and the surname means "one from the place of the cross/place of the man of the cross." So all the surname really means is that at some point centuries ago your ancestor came from any of a number of villages called Krzyżanów or Krzyżanowo or Krzyżanowice, named for some connection with crosses.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 12,027 Polish citizens named Krzyżanowski. They lived all over Poland (probably because there are places with the names I mentioned all over Poland); there was no one area with which the name was particularly associated. So I'm afraid the only way to determine which place a given Krzyżanowski family took its name from is through successful genealogical research. Once you manage to pin down the exact area the family came from, at that point you may be able to find something that helps you establish "They took their name from this nearby place right here, with a name beginning Krzyżan-." Determining that is beyond the scope of what I can do -- but it may be something you can do!

... As you can tell from my email address I was lucky enough to get 

http://www.krzyzanowski.com  

Now I'd like to share that with other Krzyzanowski's around the world by providing links to their home pages and family trees. The site started off and is still mainly just to benefit my own family with many pictures within the photo galleries. I'm not out to gain anything so anything you find would be appreciated and I will freely share that information on my web site along with a link to your web site.

I'll be glad to include word of this in my reply posted on-line, so that other Krzyzanowskis can learn of your site and visit it!


ŻURAWIK

... I am interested in learning more about my mother's family. Her parents (my grandparents) left Poland as young teenagers around the turn of the century. I do not know (nor does my mother) from which part of Poland they came. My grandfather's last name is Zurawik. When they met and married in Chicago, they became Bruno and Josephine Zurawik. Any light you might be able to shed would be appreciated! 

In Polish this name is usually spelled with a dot over the Z. That letter is pronounced more or less like "zh" in "Zhivago," so the name sounds like "zhoo-RAH-veek." 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 882 Polish citizens named Żurawik. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Katowice 237, Konin 229; the rest were scattered in much smaller numbers all over Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is not really associated with any one area of Poland, although it appears more often in the area south and west of the center of the country.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the noun Żuraw, "crane" (the bird). The suffix -ik is kind of a general one meaning "connected with," and in surnames often can be interpreted as "kin of, son of." So basically the name means "son of the crane." Most likely it started out as a reference to the kin of one whose nickname was Żuraw, "the crane." 


KUDERSKI

... I am researching the names Sawicki and Kuderski. I would appreciate any information you might have about these surnames. Thank you.

Another researcher asked me about Sawicki, and I can add nothing to what I said in my response, so I've pasted it in at the end of this note. 

As for Kuderski, in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles] Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut says names beginning Kuder- generally come from the root seen in the noun kudry, "shag, mop of hair," so that Kuderski could mean "kin of the mop-top." He mentions that such names can also come from the dialect term kudra, "backwater, lake," so that the name might also mean "one from the backwater." 

It is especially likely this name refers to the name of a place where the family once lived, and that name, in turn, derives from the roots shown above. If this is so, we'd expect the place to be named Kudry or something similar. There is at least one place in Poland named Kudry, and it could be the surname means "one from Kudry." The place name, in turn, might mean "place of the mop-top&quo4; or "place of the backwater." Only detailed research into the family's background might uncover documents that would shed light on the exact derivation.

If you'd like to see a map showing this places, go to this Website:

http://www.jewishgen.org/shtetlseeker/loctown.htm 

Enter "kudr" as the place you're looking for, select "Poland" as the country to be searched, and select "All towns starting with this precise spelling." Click on "Start the search," and after a moment you'll see a list of various places in Poland with names starting Kudr-. Several of them could possibly be connected with this name, but I'd concentrate on Kudry, 5145 2307 N Poland 96.4 miles ESE of Warsaw. Click on the blue numbers 5145 2307(latitude and longitude) and you'll get a map showing that location. You can print the map, save it, zoom in and out, etc.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 379 Polish citizens named Kuderski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Białystok 86, Suwałki 33, and Warsaw 46. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This distribution suggests origin in what is now eastern Poland, which might be consistent with derivation from that place name Kudry.


SAWICKI

... I am in search of the origins of the Sawicki surname. I have searched the web and have found little. Any information would be appreciated. Thank you.

Sawicki is a rather common name in Poland; as of 1990 there were 31,808 Polish citizens by that name, living all over the country. It is adjectival, meaning either "of Sawic or Sawicz" or "from Sawica or Sawice or Sawicze" (or some other place with a similar name).

All those names come from the same basic root, Sawic- or Sawicz-. The suffixes -ic and -icz mean "son of," so Sawic or Sawicz means "son of Sawa." The surname Sawicki comes from it, and can mean either "of the kin of Sawa's sons," or "one from Sawica, Sawice, etc.," which in turn mean "[place] of the son(s) of Sawa." According to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut in his book Nazwiska Polaków, Sawa is the Polish spelling of a Biblical name, from Aramaic saba, "old man"; other experts, e. g., Jozef Bubak in Księga naszych imion, say it is from a Hebrew word for "servitude, slavery." 

The first name Sawa or Sava (as it would be spelled in English) is more common among Eastern Slavs than Poles, to the point that we'd expect a family named Sawicz to have come, originally, from eastern Poland or the land east of Poland's current borders: Ukraine or Belarus, now independent countries but for centuries part of the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania. But Sawa and names formed from it have spread over the centuries, so that we see a village named Sawica in Olsztyn province and a village named Sawice in Siedlce province. These days the surname Sawicki is seen all over Poland; but it still much more common in the eastern provinces. And while I have no data for Ukraine, I strongly suspect it would be fairly common among Ukrainians (but spelled in Cyrillic, of course). 


ŁYSZCZARZ - ŁYSZCZASZ

... Am interested in knowing what my last name means. My name is Lyszczasz in America we use the last name Lystash. Do not really know about my family I think my family came from Krakow.

In Polish this name would be spelled with an L with a slash through it,  which is pronounced like our W. The way Poles pronounce the name would sound to us like "WISH-chosh." 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 18 Polish citizens named Łyszczasz. They lived in the following provinces: Czestochowa 3, Poznan 9, Sieradz 2, Tarnow 1, Wroclaw 3. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

Saying the name out loud, I realized that it is pronounced the same as another name, Łyszczarz; the combination rz is usually pronounced like the "s" in "pleasure," but at the end of words it is pronounced more like "sh" in "ship." So Łyszczasz is almost certainly just a phonetically spelled variant of the surname Łyszczarz. That means the name we are looking for is probably Łyszczarz, and in your research you should keep your eyes open for either spelling.

As of 1990 there were 1,406 Poles by that name, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Czestochowa 175, Katowice 166, Krakow 69, Poznan 72, Rzeszow 136, Tarnobrzeg 81, and Tarnow 126. So while the name is found all over Poland, it is most common in the southcentral to southeast part of the country -- this is the area that was seized by the Austrian Empire during the partitions in the late 18th century, and was ruled by them until after World War I as a province of Austria called Galicia.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the word łyŻka (slash through the L, dot over the Z), which means "spoon." A łyszczarz was one who made spoons. So this name is one of many in Polish that came from terms denoting an ancestor's occupation.


DUDKOWSKI

... Do you know the Polish name Dudkowski? Please respond Jacque 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 1,914 Polish citizens named Dudkowski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 206, Lublin 154, Lodz 107, and Płock 209. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us there is no one part of Poland with which this name is associated; a Dudkowski could come from almost anywhere, especially the central and eastern part of the country.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the basic root dudek, "hoopoe" (a kind of bird), also used colloquially to mean "nincompoop." Dudkowski means literally "of the _ of the hoopoes," and usually the blank, which represents a word so obvious it didn't have to be spelled out, would be either "kin" or "place." Thus the surname could mean "kin of the nincompoop" or "kin of the hoopoe" (with dudek obviously used as a nickname). But I think far more often it would refer to any of a number of places named Dudki. In other words, the surname probably means "one from Dudki" = "one from the place of the hoopoes." There are at least 6 places by that name in Poland. Without the kind of detailed info on a specific family that genealogical research can provide, there is no way to know which one a given family took its name from.


WOJEWÓDKA

... Can you tell me where the Polish name Wojewodka originated from?

In Polish the term wojewoda means "voivode, palatine," a term used for the governor and "leader of warriors" (that's what it means literally) in charge of large areas under the king. In modern Polish the term for his jurisdiction, województwo, is still used to mean "province," one of the areas into which the country is divided, like states in the U.S. The term wojewódka is a diminutive, meaning "little voivode," or perhaps referring to a female relative of a voivode. Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions the name Wojewódka in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], saying it appears in records as far back as 1399. The name is pronounced roughly "vo-yeah-VOOT-kah."

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 751 Polish citizens named Wojewódka. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Gdansk 117, Katowice 54, Krosno 50, Radom 61, Sieradz 57, and Wroclaw 60. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. What this data tells us is that the name is found all over Poland, so a family by this name could have come from anywhere in that country -- there's no way to tell, just from the name, what part of Poland a Wojewódka came from.


CISEK

... saw YOUR WEB PAGE AND WOULD LIKE TO KNOW ABOUT THE NAME OF CISEK.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 3,401 Polish citizens named Cisek. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 288, Przemysl 254, Rzeszow 1,011, Zamosc 315. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is most common in the southern part of Poland, and especially the southeast.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says Cisek appears in records as far back as 1428, and comes from the noun cis, "yew-tree," or possibly the adjective cisy, "tawny." Just looking at the form of the word, however, with that diminutive suffix -ek, the most likely interpretation is "little yew." That suggests the name started as a kind of nickname for one whom people somehow perceived as connected with yews. He may have lived near a conspicuous yew, or worked with yew wood, or wore clothes that were colored like the tree, etc. With names that originated this long ago, there's no way to know exactly how the name got started, unless one is fortunate enough to uncover old documents that shed light on how it came to be associated with a particular person or family. Generally all we can do is note what the name means and then make reasonable suggestions as to the nature of the connection.


KARANEWSKI - KARANOWSKI - SKORODA

... I wanted to know if you have information on the surname Karanewska. It was my great-grandmother's maiden name. Also, would you happen to know anything about the surname Skoroda. 

Karanewska is a feminine form; the standard form would be Karanewski. As of 1990, however, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were no Polish citizens named Karanewski. There were 41 named Karanowski, and -ewski and -owski are suffixes closely related, so that one might consider Karanewski merely a variant form of Karanowski. The largest numbers of those 41 Karanowskis lived in northeastern Poland, in the provinces of Białystok (13) and Suwałki (9). Unfortunately I don't have access to more details such as first names or addresses, and can't tell you how to get such info.

If the name does in fact begin with Karan- (instead of being a variation of a name beginning with some other root, such as Koron-), the ultimate root of the name is probably that seen in the verb karać, "to punish," and the participle karany, "punished," especially in the sense of one who has been convicted legally and fined or otherwise punished. Thus Karanewski could be interpreted as "kin of the one punished" or "one from the place of the one punished." Usually names ending in -ewski and -owski refer to place names, so that I'd expect the name actually to mean "one from Karanewo" or some similar place name, which in turn would derive from karany. I can't find any places with appropriate names on modern maps, but that's not unusual. Polish surnames developed centuries ago, and often came from the name of a field or hill or little settlement, names used only by locals, that would be unlikely to appear on any map or in any gazetteer. So the place this name refers to may now be quite obscure, or may even have disappeared or renamed or absorbed into another community centuries ago.

I should say, however, that I have sometimes seen A and O switched in names, so I can't rule out the possibility that this is a variation of a name such as Koronowski. That's a possibility worth keeping in mind as you research.

Skoroda is also pretty rare. As of 1990 there were only 51 Poles named Skoroda, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Ostrołęka, 23, and Katowice, 14. 

None of my sources on names mention Skoroda or any likely variant. I see in my dictionary, however, that skoroda is a popular term for woodruff, an herb (genus Asperula). It is entirely plausible that such a term might come to be a personal name -- there are many names in Polish and other Slavic languages derived from words for flowers or herbs. Perhaps an ancestral Skoroda used this herb, or knew where to find it, or supplied people with it, or wore clothes with colors that reminded people of it. All these centuries later it's hard to say exactly what the association was; all we can do is say what the word means and then make plausible suggestions.


KAPINOS

... I am interested in any information on the surname Kapinos

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 698 Polish citizens named Kapinos. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 110, Rzeszow 133, and Tarnow 179; the rest were scattered in small numbers all over Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is found mainly in southcentral to southeastern Poland.

According to Polish name experts, this surname developed as a combination of two Polish roots, from kapać, "to drip," and nos, "nose." So I'm afraid what it means is "drippy nose," and thus is one of the many surnames referring to a trait or characteristic of an individual. It probably began as a nickname for a person whose nose ran quite a bit, and gradually came to be applied as a surname to his kin. Not the most complimentary name in the world, I admit, but by Polish standards it's not bad. I've seen some names that are so insulting and nasty they make this one look like a compliment!

 

  

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


 

OTOCKI

... I have been looking for information about the last name of my late grandfather who came to the United States from Poland when he was just thirteen. I am writing to see if you might be able to answer one simple question before I pursue a detailed inquiry. Is the last name "Otocki" 100% Polish? I cannot seem to find it anywhere and I am wondering if perhaps the name may have another orgin. A "yes or no" answer or appropriate re-direction in this matter would be greatly appreciated.

Otocki is definitely a Polish name. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 744 Polish citizens named Otocki. The largest number, 188, lived in the province of Lodz in central Poland; the rest were scattered in much smaller numbers all over the country. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

In Polish Otocki would be pronounced roughly "ah-TOT-skee." One of my books mentions this name as deriving from a place name, Otok, in the district of Sieradz, and says it appears in records from the 1st half of the 14th century. In other words, it originally meant "lord of Otok," since Polish nobles often took their surnames from the name of their estate. Later on, as surnames spread throughout Polish society, peasants took them too, and a name like Otocki came to mean nothing more than "one from Otok."

I should add, however, that that one Otok in Sieradz district is not the only place in Poland with this name, and the surname could refer to it or the others. The only way to tell which place the name refers to in a given family's case is by way of genealogical research.

 

If you'd like to see maps showing at least some of these places, go to this Website: http://www.jewishgen.org/shtetlseeker/loctown.htm

Enter "Otok" as the place you're looking for, select "Poland" as the country to be searched, and select "All towns starting with this precise spelling." Click on "Start the search," and after a moment you'll see a list of various places in Poland with names starting Otok-. For each one, click on the blue numbers (latitude and longitude) and you'll get a map showing that location. You can print the map, save it, zoom in and out, etc.


MAJUSIAK

... Hi I was wondering if you had any info. on my surname, Majusiak, I would like to find out some general info, and what my family crest or coat of arms is. Thank you and I appreciate your time.

In Polish the name is pronounced roughly "mah-YOOSH-yock." As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 89 Polish citizens named Majusiak. They lived in the following provinces: Gdansk 12, Gorzow 4, Jelena Gora 3, Kalisz 69, Leszno 1. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. From this data we can see that the name is most common in an area just a little southwest of the center of Poland.

As for the origin of the name, one of my sources mentions it, saying that it could have two derivations. It could come from Latin maius, "May," and in fact there are a lot of fairly common Polish surnames from the Polish word meaning the same thing, maj (e. g., Majewski, Majkowski). So such a derivation is plausible; in that case the name would mean something like "kin of the May guy," referring to someone called Majus because there he was perceived as having some connection with May -- perhaps he was born in May, or converted to Catholicism in that month, or had some special duty or obligation to perform in May.

The other possibility is a connection with the Latin term magus, "Persian priest, wise man, sorcerer." In Polish the Latin G was often modified to J (pronounced like our Y), so this, too, is plausible. The exact nature of the connection with one of the Magi is hard to say. One possibility is that an ancestor played one of the Magi in a Christmas play. Often that's how improbable names connected with Biblical characters got started; a person might be called by that name because he'd played that role in one of the morality plays staged on special feasts. So one of your ancestors may have played one of the Three Wise Men in such a play. But of course, it's also possible you had an ancestor who came to Poland from the Middle East and was regarded as an exotic fellow, perhaps even a Magus.

Surnames generally developed centuries ago, and in most cases there's nothing written that's survived to tell us exactly how they originated. About all we can do is note the basic meaning and then make plausible suggestions. So your name probably means either "kin of the May guy" or "kin of the one who reminded people of one of the Magi, or played that role in a Nativity play."

As for family coats of arms, you must understand they were restricted to the nobility -- these companies that send out mailings saying "Here's your coat of arms" are con men. Only detailed genealogical research can establish whether or not a particular family was, in fact, entitled to bear a coat of arms. Having the same surname as a noble family doesn't even prove it, because as surnames spread through Polish society, many that were once used exclusively by nobles came to be used by peasants as well. The only way, I'm afraid, is to trace your family to a specific place and time, then see if they show up in registers of nobles. If they do, it's great news, as records on noble families usually go back centuries further than those on peasants. But of course, the peasants were the majority. -- though if you trace your roots back enough generations, the odds increase you'll find intermarriage with nobles somewhere along the line.


DEPTUŁA

... I'm trying to find the origin of the surname Deptula. I can not find any reference to it anywhere. Could you please help, with some information? 

In Polish this name is spelled with a slash through the L. Thus the name is Deptuła and is pronounced roughly "depp-TOO-wah." 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 3,783 Polish citizens by this name. They lived all over Poland, but the largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Olsztyn 777, Ostrołęka 1,397, Warsaw 257. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data indicates the name is most common in northeastern Poland.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says names beginning Dept- come from the verb deptać (accent over the C), which means "to tread on," or the dialect noun depta, "dawdler." As a rule names in the form X-uła mean "one always doing X, one always demonstrating the trait X." So Deptuła probably began as a kind of nickname for one always treading on something, or one always dawdling around. I would think the second interpretation is more likely to be applicable to a surname. So I think most likely this name means you had an ancestor who was perceived by others as a dawdler -- or else the name was meant ironically, the way guys named "Tiny" are usually huge, so a might also have been one who never dawdled. These names developed centuries ago, and all this time later all we can do is give the basic meaning, then make reasonable suggestions on what the name might have meant originally in a given context.


GNIECH

... Have you run across the name GNIECH? The most I know is it came out of Prussia

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 72 Polish citizens named Gniech. They lived in the following provinces: Gdansk 70, Konin 1, Suwałki 1. So the name is definitely concentrated in the area of Gdansk, which was formerly ruled by Prussia. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

As for the name's origin, Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions Gniech in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it began as a kind of nickname or affectionate short form for ancient Polish first names such as Gniewomir, literally "wrath-peace," or possibly others beginning with Gnie-. In other words, these names existed long, long ago, before the Poles converted to Christianity, made up of two roots that produced a name of favorable omen for the child so named. There were names with the first part gniew from a word meaning "anger, wrath." But just as we produce nicknames like Teddy from Theodore, Poles began creating nicknames like Gniech from those longer names. Eventually the nicknames came to be names in their own right, and then became surnames. So having a surname Gniech suggests nothing more than that somewhere along the line you had an ancestor by that name.


TREUTLER

Where can I find out how many Treutler's are still living in Poland.Seen something like this in a forum and the data is from 1990

The source in question is the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," ISBN 83-85579-25-7, which was compiled from data covering about 94% of the population of Poland as of 1990. That data was provided by the PESEL Government Information Center, which administers certain social programs and thus deals with virtually all Polish citizens. According to it, as of 1990 there were 14 Polish citizens named Treutler. They lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 2, Bydgoszcz 3, Czestochowa 1, Krakow 6, Opole 2. (Please note that this is based on the setup of provinces in force from 1975 to 1998; they have since been changed.)

Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. The PESEL Center does not allow researchers access to its data, in the interests of protecting Polish citizens' privacy. The one source that might help researchers find a specific individual or family was mentioned in the July 2000 issue of the Polish-American Journal. In that issue the PAJ Answerman suggested one can find individuals or families "by contacting the one office in Poland that has on file the addresses of all people currently living in Poland: Centralne Biuro Adresowe, ul. Kazimierzowska 60, 02-543 Warsaw, POLAND." I have no idea whether this works or not, I've never tried it. But I thought it worth passing on, in case it might help you.

That's about all I can tell you. I hope it's some help, and wish you the best of luck with your research.


RYDZ

I am researching the background of my grandfather, Simon Lisear Rydz, who was born in Slesen, near Kalish, in 1853 and migrated to England in the 1880's. I have noticed your answer to a previous enquirer under the name Rydzewski. The family is Jewish and I am curious to know if this name is commonly Jewish, especially as the pre-war head of state bore the name Rydz-Smigly and it seems unlikely that a person of Jewish descent would have held that office in those years. I plan to visit Slesen shortly to see what I can discover there.

You're right that it would be unlikely for a person of Jewish descent to hold such an office... There are a lot of surnames that are borne almost exclusively by Jews, and others borne almost exclusively by Christians. Rydz falls into the category of those that could be borne by either. Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles], and says that it comes from the root seen in the noun rydz, an edible species of agaric, Lactarius deliciosus. Another expert says it can come from the adjective rydzy, "reddish-gold color." A Jewish expert, Alexander Beider, mentions the agaric but not the "reddish-gold color" in his book on Jewish surnames from the Kingdom of Poland.

Frankly, I suspect the color might be a factor when the name appears among Jewish families, simply because the adjective might refer to reddish hair, which I understand is found far more among Jews than ethnic Poles. I cannot be sure -- this is simply speculation -- but it would make for a plausible connection. Still, a name like Rydz might just as easily refer to an ancestor's liking that agaric, or cooking often with it, or selling it, or living in an area where it was common. Without detailed research into a family's background, there's no way to be sure which derivation is relevant in their particular case. The most I can say is that this name is borne by Christians and Jews, since there is no factor that would limit it to one or the other. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,564 Polish citizens named Rydz (pronounced roughly "Rits"). The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 143, Katowice 118, Kielce 203, Krakow 131, Lublin 198, Lodz 198, Radom 124, and Tarnow 108. Only 33 lived in the province of Kalisz. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. What this data tells us is that the name is found all over Poland; it is not associated with any one area. 

Have you looked to see if there are other researchers studying this name? You can try the following searchable database:

http://www.jewishgen.org/jgff/ 

That's about all I can tell you. I hope it's some help, and wish you the best of luck with your research.


MRZYGŁÓD

… After conversation with my friend I have been given another spelling, it is Mrzyglo. Perhaps this will have more luck, if you have the time could you check this name for me.

This is a step in the right direction. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), here were the following numbers of Polish citizens with names beginning Mrzyglo-, with a total for all of Poland and a breakdown by province:

MRZYGLOD: 9, all in Katowice province
MRZYGLÓD: 1, in Jelenia Gora province
MRZYGŁOCKI: 189; Warsaw 14, Bydgoszcz 6, Czestochowa 2, Gdansk 26, Gorzow 16, Jelenia Gora 22, Katowice 4, Krakow 4, Opole 34, Slupsk 1, Szczecin 3, Walbrzych 11, Zielona Gora 36
MRZYGŁOD: 10; Bielsko-Biala 2, Katowice 5, Lodz 1, Torun 1, Walbrzych 1
MRZYGŁODZIK: 30, all in Katowice province
MRZYGŁODZKI: 19; Jelenia Gora 1, Katowice 1, Krakow 14, Lodz 1, Opole 2
MRZYGŁOWSKI: 8; Olsztyn 6, Slupsk 2
MRZYGŁÓD: 1,989, with the largest numbers in the following provinces: Bielsko-Biala 637, Katowice 228, Krakow 87, Tarnow 265
MRZYGŁUD: 1, Kielce province
MRZYGOD: 7, all in Katowice province
MRZYGÓD: 1, Walbrzych province
MRZYGUT: 4, all in Katowice province

The Polish slashed L, pronounced like our W. the accented o sounds like "oo" in "book." The RZ combination sounds like "zh" in "Zhivago," or like "s" in "measure." So Mrzygłód sounds like "M'ZHIGG-woot," MRZYGŁOCKI sounds like "m'zhigg-WOT-skee," and so on.

All these names except Mrzygłowski are variant forms of one name, of which the standard spelling is Mrzygłód. This comes from a noun mrzygłód, which means "starveling, miser." The surname can also refer to places named Mrzygłód, of which there are at least two (one in Czestochowa province, the other in Krosno province), or to Mrzygłódka in Czestochowa province. You'll note the names above tend to appear all over Poland, but Mrzygłód appears mainly in Bielsko-Biala, Katowice, and Tarnow provinces -- in other words, in the area from southcentral to southeastern Poland. People by these names don't have to come from there, but that's where they tend to be most common.

The term mrzygłód comes from a combination of the verb mrzeć, "to die," and the noun głód, "hunger," so that it means literally "die-hunger, starve." In fact there is a common expression in Polish, mrzeć głodem, "to die of hunger, starve." Presumably Mrzygłód began as a nickname for one who ate very little, was very thin, perhaps because he was very tight with his money.

Now Mrzygłód is quite a handful to say if you're not used to speaking Polish, and it wouldn't surprise me if it was simplified a little along the way, if only by dropping the diacritical marks and the final d. So I'm guessing your friend's name is an Americanized form of Mrzygłód, meaning an ancestor was a miser or a starveling.

I can't find any other Polish word or root that begins mrzyg-, so I think this is most likely to be right. At least it's the best I can do with the information available to me. I hope it's some help, and wish you the best of luck with your research.


KOTEWA - KOTWA

… I was curious about the surname Kotewa which was my ex husband's name. His grandparents were the first immigrants and I was thinking that maybe they shortened it at Ellis Island.

First I should mention it's a myth that names were often changed at Ellis Island. The officials there simply went by the names on the passenger lists given them by arriving ships' officers. Obviously with human error some inadvertent modification may have happened. The overwhelming majority of name changes, however, occurred before and especially after arrival in America. It usually turns out the name was changed when the new immigrants realized their names sounded too foreign and were making it hard for them to fit in. Also, census officials and other officials tended to massacre Polish names, and sometimes the mangled forms stuck because they were written down on paper. In any case, when a name was changed -- and many, many were, often past all recognition -- it usually happened after Ellis Island. 

It's hard to say whether Kotewa was changed or not. That name is found in Poland, but it's rather rare. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 33 Polish citizens named Kotewa. They lived in the following provinces: Czestochowa 6, Pila 27. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 

This name probably derives from the noun kotwa, "anchor," which also appears in some areas in the form kotew. So Kotewa is almost certainly a variant of that noun, and originally was a nickname for one associated somehow with anchors -- perhaps an ancestor made or sold them, or was a seaman. It's tough to say exactly what the nature of the association was, but it's pretty likely the name started out meaning "anchor guy." 

Incidentally, Kotwa is a more common name, borne by some 463 Poles as of 1990. Kotwica, from the same root, is even more common, borne by 2,824 Poles, but that's not a factor here. Kotwa could have been the original form of the name, with Kotewa a modification made after the family arrived in the U. S. Or Kotewa could be a form that originated in Poland, as a variant between Kotwa and Kotew. Tough to say without detailed research into the family's history.


MAŚLANKA - MAŚLONKA

… I just found your web site and saw that you are able to do surname research. Is it possible that you research two names? My mother's maiden name and my father's name? The two names are Kasprzak and the other is Maslonka.

In Polish Maslonka is usually written with an accent over the S, which I indicate online as Ś; it is pronounced roughly "mosh-LONE-kah." As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 123 Polish citizens named Maślonka. They lived in the following provinces: Bielsko-Biala 33, Bydgoszcz 23, Czestochowa 1, Gdansk 3, Kalisz 3, Katowice 15, Krakow 1, Legnica 6, Leszno 17, Opole 3, Pila 15, Poznan 1, Wroclaw 1, Zielona Gora 1. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 

None of my sources mention this particular name, but I think we can safely regard it as a variant of Maślanka, a name borne by 6,371 Poles as of 1990 and coming from the noun maślanka, "buttermilk," or the adjective maślany, "buttered," or the noun masło (Ł = the Polish slashed L, pronounced like our W), "butter." So it seems likely Maślanka, and its variant Maślonka, originally were applied as nicknames to people associated with something buttery. Perhaps they made butter, or sold it, or their complexion or color was butter-like; with nicknames it can be very hard to figure out, if you weren't there, exactly what the association was that originally caused people to associate a particular person or family with a particular nickname. 

As for Kasprzak, it is pronounced roughly "KOSP-zhock." It means literally "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. 


PLEBAN

… I’d like to know the meaning of Pleban. Is it Polish, I’m not sure? 

I can't say it is exclusively Polish -- it is possible this name could develop independently in another language. But Pleban is definitely a name used by Poles. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 713 Polish citizens named Pleban. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 130, Katowice 62, Rzeszow 55, Tarnow 44, Skierniewice 176. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the noun pleban, "parish priest, village priest, curate." Presumably it was originally applied to the kin of a local priest or someone closely connected with him. It is pronounced roughly "PLEH-bonn."


GDOWSKI

… Would you be able to give me information on the Polish surname Gdowski, I am trying to research about my family and also the family crest. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1614, and in some instances might derive from gdowa, a dialect term for "widow." So in some instances it might mean "kin of the widow, one from the place of the widow." 

But as a rule names ending -owski come from the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago. We would expect Gdowski to mean "one from Gdy or Gdów or Gdowo" or something similar. Rymut mentions that this surname is particularly likely to derive from the name of the town Gdów, southeast of Krakow. So while the derivations mentioned earlier might prove relevant in some cases, for most folks named Gdowski the name would just mean "one from Gdów." 

If you'd like to see a map showing where Gdów is, go to this Website: 

    http://www.jewishgen.org/shtetlseeker/loctown.htm 

Enter "Gdow" as the place you're looking for, select "Poland" as the country to be searched, and select "All towns starting with this precise spelling." Click on "Start the search," and after a moment you'll see a list of places in Poland with names starting Gdow-. It's a short list, and the second one is the one most likely to be relevant. Click on the blue numbers (latitude and longitude) and you'll get a map showing that location. You can print the map, save it, zoom in and out, etc. 

As for family coats of arms, you must understand they were restricted to the nobility -- these companies that send out mailings saying "Here's your coat of arms" are con men. Only detailed genealogical research can establish whether or not a particular family was, in fact, entitled to bear a coat of arms. Having the same surname as a noble family doesn't even prove it, because as surnames spread through Polish society, many that were once used exclusively by nobles came to be used by peasants as well. The only way, I'm afraid, is to trace your family to a specific place and time, then see if they show up in registers of nobles. If they do, it's great news, as records on noble families usually go back centuries further than those on peasants. But of course, the peasants were the majority. 

You might be able to learn more if you post a question to the mailing list Herbarz-L. It is frequented by gentlemen with access to various armorials and libraries, and very often they are able to provide some information on specific noble families and their coats of arms. 

To subscribe (which costs nothing), send an E-mail message with just the word SUBSCRIBE to this address: 

     HERBARZ-L-request@rootsweb.com  

No one reads this note -- a computer will process it automatically, add you to the mailing list, and send you a brief note explaining procedures. Then you can post a note to the list itself, where it will be read by the members, at this address: 

   HERBARZ-L@rootsweb.com

If there was a noble family named Gdowski, chances are good someone on the list can offer a little more info. 


OSAŁKOWSKI - PAWŁOWSKI - PRUSS

… My grandmother had said "On her side one of the ancestors was the right-hand man to the king" and that we are Pruss. It was her parents that migrated here. She was born in 1913, surname Osalkowski. My grandfather on the other hand came here as a 6-month-old infant with his parents, that would have been approx. July 1902, surname Pawlowski.

Using the Polish L with a slash through it, Pawłowski (pronounced roughly "pahv-WOFF-skee") is a very common name. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 52,744 Polish citizens named Pawłowski, living in large numbers all over Poland. So I'm afraid we can't point to any one area and say the name is more common there than elsewhere; families by this name could come from anywhere in Poland. 

The name refers to the name of a place the family came from at some point centuries ago, places with names like Pawłów and Pawłowo, which just mean "Paul's place" and were usually named after someone who owned or founded them. The problem is there are a great many places in Poland with names that fit, so the surname doesn't provide any useful clue whatsoever as to where a particular Pawłowski family came from. Only genealogical research might allow one to determine which particular Pawłów or Pawłowo or Pawłowice (etc.) a given family took its name from. 

It's also not out of the question that Pawłowski could just mean "kin of Paweł." The form Pawłowski is adjectival and just means "of the _ of Paweł," where that blank is filled in with something so obvious it didn't have to be spelled out. Usually it's "place," but in some instances it can be "kin." So we'd expect the name usually to mean "one from the place of Paweł" and thus refer to places named Pawłow-. But "one of the kin of Paweł" is also possible. 

As for Pruss, it just means "Prussian," and it's a common name, since East and West Prussia were located in territory now part of Poland. As of 1990 there were 6,505 Poles named Prus, another 1,176 with the same name but spelled Pruś, with an accent over the S (so that it sounds a bit more like "proosh"), plus 442 who spelled it Pruss. There are numerous other forms of this same basic name, including Preuss and Prajs. People by these names lived all over Poland, although of course they were particularly numerous in areas ruled or colonized by Germans. So the name itself doesn't offer any useful leads; it just means you had an ancestor who was Prussian. 

In Polish Osalkowski is usually spelled with a slash through the L, so the name sounds like "oh-sowk-OFF-skee." As of 1990 there were 18 Polish citizens named Osałkowski, living in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (13) and Pila (5). 

None of my sources mention this name, but surnames in the form X-owski usually refer to the name of a place where the family came from centuries ago. Thus we'd expect this surname to mean "one from Osałki or Osałkowo" or some similar place name beginning Osałk-. I can't find any places by those names on modern maps, but that's not unusual. The thing is, Polish surnames developed centuries ago, and often came from the name of a field or hill or little settlement, names used only by locals, that would be unlikely to appear on any map or in any gazetteer. So the place this name refers to may now be quite obscure, or may even have disappeared or renamed or absorbed into another community centuries ago. It's also quite possible the place name or surname, or both, have changed somewhat over the centuries. I'm afraid only genealogical research might uncover facts that would clear up exactly what place the surname originally referred to. 


WRĘBIAK

… Just checked your book for a newfound ancestral surname but could find nothing. My gggg grandmother was Anastazya Wrębiak. The family was from Tereszpol, of woj. Zamosc. Any information on this surname would, as always, be appreciated and revered...

In Polish this name is spelled with the nasal E written as an E with a tail under it. Normally pronounced much like “en,” before a b or p it is pronounced more like “em,” so that Wrębiak sounds like “V’REMB-yock.” 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 324 Polish citizens named Wrębiak. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Gorzow 26, Legnica 35, Zamosc 118. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. But this suggests the area your ancestors came from is the main place where you find folks by this name. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the root seen in the verb wrąbać, "to guzzle, wolf down," and the noun wrąb, "incision, notch." The -[i]ak suffix is diminutive, often meaning "son of" or "one always doing X," so Wrębiak could mean "son of the guy who wolfs his food down" or "little notch" or something equally inscrutable. It may be one of those instances where the name's relevance was perfectly obvious to anyone who knew the person, but you had to be there. 


CZECH

… I was wondering if you could tell me the origin of the surname Czech. I know that my grandparents came to America from Poland, but I'm curious if I'm part Czechoslovakian? I have found this surname on some websites as Polish, therefore I truly hope you can answer my question!

I'm afraid it's not that simple. Some Polish names come from one and only derivation: Kowalski comes from kowal, "smith," and that's about all there is to it. Other names could develop independently in more than one way, and the only means by which one can determine which derivation is relevant in his particular ancestors' case is genealogical research, which might uncover some old document that mentions something enlightening. 

In Polish Czech is the word meaning "person from Bohemia," and it is entirely possible the name indicates you had an ancestor who was called this because he was a Czech. In fact, that Cz- spelling is Polish; Czechs or Bohemians use a C with a little v over it to indicate the "ch" sound that Poles spell as "cz," so that the Czech word for "Czech" is actually Ĉech. 

But among Poles this surname can also come from a kind of nickname or affectionate short form for a number of ancient Polish first names beginning with Cze-, such as Czesław. Poles often formed nicknames from popular first names by taking the first few sounds of the name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes. So they would take Cze- from Czesław, drop the rest, and add the guttural -ch. The result, Czech, would sound kind of like our word "check," but the final sound isn't a K, it's a light guttural somewhat like "ch" in German "Bach" or Scottish "loch." 

So the name can have more than one meaning, and it's very hard to say which one applies in your ancestors' case. I'd think odds are good the name refers to an ancestor who came from the area now covered by the Czech Republic. But there's no denying the name can also come from that nickname for Czesław or other old names beginning Cze-

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 15,305 Polish citizens named Czech. They lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one part of the country. So a family named Czech could come from anywhere -- although obviously, if the name does refer to the ethnic group, at some point, centuries ago, an ancestor must have come from the lands south of Poland.

 

  

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


 






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