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Consolidated Surname File 4
Created by Administrator Account in 12/19/2009 11:46:11 AM

 


MSZAŃSKI

I believe there is a town named Mszana in Poland which means Mass???

There is a town in Poland named Mszana, but it doesn't mean "Mass" (although that's a reasonable guess). The name of that town comes from mszany, which, believe it or not, is the adjectival form of mech, "moss." So Mszana was called that because it was the "mossy" place. (The adjectival form of Msza, "Mass," is mszalny).

Does my name (Mszanski) mean I am from Mszana??

Mszana is a good candidate, but unfortunately it's not the only one. There are quite a few places in Poland with names from that root meaning "mossy," places called Mszana, Mszanka, Mszanna, Mszano, etc. This surname could refer to any of them. Suffixes were often dropped before adding -ski, so that Mszański could mean "one from Mszanko" or any of the other places mentioned. I think the Mszana in Nowy Sacz province (which actually consists of Mszana Dolna, "Lower Mszana," and Mszana Górna ("Upper Mszana") may be the place the surname is most likely to refer to. But you can't rule out the other possibilities without detailed research into a specific family's past.

In Polish the name is spelled with an accent over the N, and is pronounced roughly "M'SHINE-skee." It's not 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 85 Polish citizens by this name. They lived in the following provinces: Gdansk 3, Jelenia Gora 10, Katowice 7, Konin 21, Krakow 8, Krosno 3, Lublin 6, and Nowy Sacz 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 data indicates the name is scattered all over Poland, with some concentration near the towns of Nowy Sacz and Konin. The ones near Nowy Sacz, obviously, would be especially likely to refer to Mszana Dolna and Górna, since they are fairly near Nowy Sacz.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


NIEMCZYK

Have been trying to locate the origin of my last name for some time to no avail. Any info you might have would be greatly appreciated.

The name Niemczyk is pronounced roughly "NYEM-chick." Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], saying it appears in records as far back as 1376. He says it comes from the term niemiec, "German." Niemczyk would mean simply "son of the German," and as such, we'd expect it to be found pretty much all over Poland, since Germans came to resettle all over that country -- especially in the western parts, but not exclusively.

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 7,453 Polish citizens named Niemczyk. They lived all over the country, with particularly large numbers in the following provinces: Bielsko-Biala 830, Bydgoszcz 402, Gdansk 471, Katowice 1,736, Krosno 511, Rzeszow 295. 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 confirms the surname is found throughout Poland, so we can't pin down where a particular Niemczyk family might have come from just from the surname alone. Only genealogical research might establish that, by tracing the family back, generation by generation, till you find a document that tells exactly what part of Poland they came from.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


PAJĄKIEWICZ

Today I was reading PolishRoots and I found that you could tell me something brief about my surname... As you could see, my surname is Pajakiewicz and my grandfather was born in (for what I know) in Kurowice around 1901. I was trying to find some reference of Kurowice, but I couldn't.

In Polish the second A in this name is usually the nasal vowel Poles write as an A with a tail (ogonek) under it, pronounced somewhat like "on" in French bon, sometimes even like "on" in English "on."  So I write the name online as Pająkiewicz, pronounced roughly "pah-yonk-YEAH-veech," but of course in Polish that second A would have a tail under it, not a tilde after it.

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 60 Polish citizens by this name. They lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 8, Jelenia Gora 3, Katowice 4, Opole 3, Poznan 6, Walbrzych 15, and Wroclaw 21. 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 Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. The first part of the name comes from the noun pająk, "spider," and the -ewicz part means "son of." So the name means literally "son of the spider," and probably began as referring to the son of one nicknamed "spider," perhaps because he reminded people of a spider, perhaps because he was associated with spiders in some other way.

As for Kurowice, there are several places by that name in Poland. I'm afraid your only hope is to find some document that specifies which one is the one your ancestors came from -- maybe a letter with an address, or a form that asks for place of birth. By itself, Kurowice just doesn't tell you enough to go on.

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 "Kurowic" 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 Kurowic-. For each, 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.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


PAWLISZYN - PAWŁYSZYN

Pawlyszyn is the name I am researching.........late of Przemysl. Poland.

Pawlyszyn is actually a Ukrainian name -- which is not at all unusual. Przemysl is near the border with Ukraine, and we see a lot of mixing of Polish and Ukrainian names in that area. But the -yszyn suffix is distinctively Ukrainian (except that's a Polish way of spelling it).

This name is formed by taking the Ukrainian first name Pavlo (Paul), adding the suffix -ykha (woman of, wife of) and the suffix -yn (son of). The guttural -kh- turns into an "sh" sound when the -yn suffix is added. So it breaks down to "son of Paul's wife." Names ending in -ishyn or -ishin or -yshyn or -yshin (or as Poles spell it, -iszyn or -yszyn) are quite common in Ukrainian, whereas there is nothing quite like this in Polish. So while the family may have come from an area within the borders of Poland, and the spelling of the "sh" sound as -sz- is definitely Polish, there was at least some Ukrainian blood somewhere along the line, or this name would not have taken this form.

In Polish Pawlyszyn would be spelled not with plain L but rather with the L with a slash or crossbar, which is pronounced much like our W. So Pawłyszyn would sound like "pahv-WISH-inn." 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 43 Polish citizens by that name. They lived in the following provinces: Elblag 3, Jelenia Gora 2, Lublin 1, Lodz 2, Olsztyn 14, Ostrołęka 2, Slupsk 19. 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.

No Pawłyszyns were listed as living in Przemysl province as of 1990. This could be due to missing data -- data was lacking for about 6% of the population -- or it could be due to post-World War II forced relocations of many, many Ukrainians from east to west. In other words, most Pawłyszyns may have lived in the east and southeast before 1939, but by 1946 many of them had been forced to pack up and move west. Which makes tracing families these days that much harder.

A name meaning the same thing is Pawliszyn, pronounced "pahv-LEE-shin." The only difference is that the L is pronounced like L, not W, and the vowel after it sounds like "ee" instead of the short "i" spelled Y by Poles. In effect, this is the same name, just pronounced and spelled a little different. As of 1990 there were 643 Polish citizens by that name, living all over the country, but with 18 of them in Przemysl province. As I said, I have no data such as first names or addresses; but it proves this name, at least, still survives in the Przemysl area.

Since Ukrainian names developed a little differently, and are usually spelled in the Cyrillic alphabet, any Ukrainian name is essentially being written in a foreign alphabet when spelled by Poles or others who use the Roman alphabet. Thus Polish Pawłyszyn and Pawliszyn might be two different ways of spelling the same Ukrainian name, which would look kind of like this in the Cyrillic alphabet: Павлішин

The letter И in Ukrainian sounds like short i (which Poles spell Y); but in Russian it sounds like "ee" (which Poles spell I). This causes a lot of spelling confusion.

My point is simply that as you do your research, keep an eye open for Pawłyszyn and Pawliszyn. The spelling difference doesn't necessarily mean much. It could be nothing more than a slight difference in how Poles tried to represent in the Roman alphabet a name originally written in the Cyrillic alphabet -- and when that happened, there was room for variation in spelling. So you might see it spelled Pawłyszyn one time, Pawliszyn another.

So to sum up, whichever way it's spelled, this is a name of Ukrainian linguistic origin meaning "son of Paul's wife." As such, it offers little in the way of specifics on where a given family came from.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


PIĄTEK - PIONTEK

Would it be possible to receive any information on the origination/meaning/history of the name Piontek.

I live in Yorkshire, England, and only know of family members with this name. I know that my paternal grandfather came across from Poland, via Germany in WW2, but unfortunately, I am no longer in contact with him to ask him such questions.

Piontek is pronounced roughly "P'YON-teck" in Polish, and is an alternate spelling of the name I represent as Piątek online. The Polish nasal vowel written as an A with a tail under it and pronounced much like "on" in French bon; the nasal E written as an E with a tail under it and pronounced much like "en". So Piontek is a reasonable phonetic spelling of Piątek, and in fact one may see the name spelled either way, even in Poland. But the form with the nasal vowel is the standard one.

The name comes ultimately from the root piąty, "fifth." At one time Poles counted the days of the week starting with Monday, so that Friday was the "fifth day," and piątek means literally "little fifth one," so that's the name they gave Friday. As a surname Piątek began as a sort of nickname for one associated with Friday -- he might have had some particular duty to perform on Fridays, or was born on a Friday, something along those lines. I can't rule a connection with the meaning "fifth," so that Piątek might have been a name given the fifth child of his parents; but generally we'd expect the primary association to be with the word for Friday.

This is a rather common name in 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 19,796 Polish citizens named Piątek. They lived all over the country, so a family by that name could have come from anywhere.

There were 2,018 who used the spelling Piontek, with particularly large numbers in the region of Silesia in southwestern Poland, mainly the provinces of Katowice, 971, and Opole, 409. I suspect the spelling is common there because that region has a particularly strong German influence, and Germans can make no sense of the Polish nasal vowels, so they usually spell them phonetically as ON (for Ą) and EN (for Ę). This spelling is, however, found in other parts of the country as well, just not so frequently.

In a specific family's case one might find the name spelled either way. In other words, you may find your ancestors listed as Piontek or Piątek, and the difference would not necessarily suggest anything reliable in terms of family connections. Not all Pionteks would necessarily be related, and many whose name was spelled that way in the past probably go by Piątek today. Piątek and Piontek are simply two different ways of spelling the same name, and spellings in the records were often inconsistent.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


STACHOWIAK

... I have recently become extremely interested in researching my family history and the history/meaning of my surname.

At this time I do not know anything about my surnames other than -owiak possibly means "son of".

Stachowiak would sound roughly like "stah-HOVE-yock," except the Polish CH is a bit more guttural than English h -- closer to the guttural "ch" in German "Bach."

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says the suffix -owicz means "son of," and Stach is an ancient nickname that developed from various Polish names beginning Sta-, especially the first name Stanisław; so the name means basically "son of Stach" or "one of the kin of Stach." 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 Sta- from Stanisław, drop the rest, and add the -ch to form Stach. Once that name existed, it was only a matter of time before people began referring to the sons or kin of a fellow named Stach as Stachowiak, and eventually that name "stuck" as a surname.

Incidentally, Stanislaw is the name with which Stach is most likely to be connected, but there are others, especially the first name Eustachy, the Polish equivalent of "Eustace."

As of 1990 there were 13,372 Polish citizens named Stachowiak. They lived all over the country, with some concentration in the western provinces of Bydgoszcz, 848, Kalisz, 765, and Poznan, 5,200. So while people named Stachowiak live everywhere in Poland, they are especially common in the western part of the country.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


ŻEBROWSKI

Do you have any info on the meaning and origin of the name Zebrowski?

My family is from the northeast near Białystok. A village called Grabowo

In Polish this name is usually spelled with the first Z dotted. Żebrowski is pronounced roughly "zheb-ROFF-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 10,150 Polish citizens by that name. They lived all over the country, with particularly large numbers in the following provinces: and Łomża 973, Olsztyn 551, Ostrołęka 1,637. There were 147 by this name in the province of Białystok. So the name is concentrated to a significant extent in the northeastern part of 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.

There were also 109 Poles who spelled it Zebrowski, no dot over the Z, pronounced more like "zeh-BROFF-skee." However, it's not clear how many of them really spelled it that way, and how many of those 109 were really Żebrowskis, but the name was keyed in wrong. There are, however, some parts of Poland where people tend to take Ż in the standard form of the language and turn it into plain Z. So some of those Zebrowskis may really spell and pronounce it that way. In general, however, we're justified in figuring that the form with plain Z- is probably just a variant of the standard form with Ż-.

Names in the form X-owski usually mean "one from X," that is, from a place with a name beginning with the X part, which may or may not have various endings added. As a rule we'd expect this surname to refer to a family's connection with a place named Żebrowo or Żebry or something of that sort. If they were noble, they owned an estate there at some point centuries ago; if they were peasants, they lived and worked there at some point.

The problem is, there are several places in Poland with names that qualify. There is a Żebrówka near Siedlce in southeastern Poland, and there are several places named Żebry or Żebry + a second name in the areas of Ostrołęka and Łomża. This is consistent with the large number of Żebrowskis in northeastern Poland, near those towns. It all suggests that the surname usually means "one from Żebry" -- but the problem is, which Żebry? There's no way to tell based on the name alone. Only detailed research into the history of a specific family may uncover information that establishes which Żebry your particular Żebrowski ancestors took their name from.

  

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.


BALIŃSKI - PASTUSZYŃSKI

Could you please tell me anything you know about the names Pastuszynski and Balinski?

In Polish Pastuszyński is spelled with an accent over the N and pronounced roughly "poss-too-SHIN-skee." Baliński also has an accented N and is pronounced roughly "bah-LEEN-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 141 Polish citizens named Pastuszyński. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 47, Gdansk 13, Katowice 11, and Kielce 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.

This data tells us the name is scattered all over the country, with about a third of them living near Warsaw. That's probably not much help, but then relatively few surnames are concentrated in any one area to the point that it helps you trace where a given family would have come from. You usually have to trace the family back in the records, generation by generation, to establish that.

While Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut doesn't mention this exact name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], he does mention others beginning Pastusz-, and it's quite clear this name comes from the same root: pastuch, "herdsman, one who watches the herd." The guttural -ch at the end of that noun changes to the "sh" sound that Poles spell -sz- when suffixes are added. So Pastuszynski means literally "of the herdsman's _," where the blank is filled in with something so obvious it didn't have to be spelled out -- usually either "kin" or "place."

So it is quite possible this surname refers to the name of a place along the lines of Pastuszyn or Pastuszno, which would have started out meaning "place of the herdsman." I can't find any places by such names in my sources, but then sometimes these surnames referred to little settlements or subdivisions of a village. So a Pastuszyn or Pastuszno could have been small, not likely to show up on any maps, and yet could have generated a surname. Again, only detailed research into the specific family is likely to give a really firm, reliable answer that question.

But to be honest, I think in this case it is quite likely the name just means "kin of the herdsman." These X-yński surnames often refer to place names, but not always. And "kin of the herdsman" is a pretty plausible interpretation of the name.

So if I were you, I'd figure that's probably what it means. Still, as you research, keep an eye open for a place with a name beginning Pastusz-. If you find there was such a place somewhere near where your ancestors came from, it is entirely possible the surname referred to it. What we can say for sure is that the name means either "kin of the herdsman" or "one from the place of the herdsman."

As of 1990 there were 3,374 Polish citizens named Baliński, living all over the country, with no really significant concentration in any one part. The largest numbers tend to show up in provinces near the center of the country, especially Warsaw (365), Kielce (232), Lodz (232), Torun (188), and Wloclawek (145), with another chunk in southwestern Poland (Katowice 254, Wroclaw 148). But again, there's not really a clear pattern -- a Balinski family could come from practically anywhere.

Names in the form X-iński are like those in the form X-yński -- they usually refer to places. Baliński usually means "one from Balin or Balino." The problem is, there are several places in Poland with those names, and the surname gives no clue which one is being referred to in a given case.

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 "Balin" 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 Balin-. 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. This may help you may a connection if your research helps you pin down a particular part of Poland that your Balinskis came from, and thus may help you establish which Balino or Balino they took their name from.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


CHOJNACKI - HOJNACKI

Hello, I am soon to be wed! My fiance's surname is Chojnacki. His grandfather is originally from Poland. I was wondering if you could please give me some information on my surname-to-be.

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!

In Polish Chojnacki is pronounced roughly "hoy-NOT-skee," although the initial sound is a bit more guttural than English H; it's like the "ch" in German "Bach."

Chojnacki is a fairly common name, borne by 24,744 Polish citizens as of 1990; they lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area. A Chojnacki family could come from practically anywhere in Poland.

The surname refers generally to the name of place where a family by this name lived or worked at some point centuries ago. A particularly good candidate is Chojnata, east-southeast of Skierniewice in central Poland; but there may be other places with names that qualify as well. "Chojnata" probably comes from the basic root choina, "fir, spruce tree," so that Chojnacki can be interpreted as "one from the place of the spruces," and thus it might not always refer to a specific place you can find on a map -- it might refer to any family who lived in an area with a lot of spruces. But as a rule I'd expect it to refer to a family's origin in Chojnata or some other place with a similar name, which probably referred to firs or spruces in the area.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


CERAN- CYRAN - CYRON

I am a physician in Hershey, PA and am researching my surname. Could you/would you be able to educate me regarding the surname Cyran?

In Polish this name is pronounced roughly "TSI-ron" where the first syllable has a short i sound like that in English "ship."It comes from the noun cyran, meaning "teal" (a kind of duck), according to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut. Presumably it began as a nickname for one whom people associated with teals in some way, perhaps because he lived in an area where they were frequent, or he liked to hunt for them, or wore clothes colored like a teal -- something along those lines.

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 4,541 Polish citizens named Cyran. They lived all over Poland; there was no one area with which the name was particularly associated. There were also a number of Poles using variants of this name, including Ceran (609) and Cyron (747).

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


DUSZA

I have looked quite a bit for info on my maternal grandparents name Dusza

Any help would be appreciated.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions Dusza (pronounced roughly “DOO-shah”) in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1456 and comes from the basic root seen in the verb dusić, "to suffocate," and the noun dusza, "soul, spirit." In Polish, as in many other languages, the word meaning "soul, spirit" comes from the native root meaning "breath," but in Polish that root's meaning is modified in the verb meaning "to suffocate, choke off breath."

The simplest way to translate dusza is "soul," perhaps meant as an endearment, as if to say "You're a dear soul." I know in Russian you hear a diminutive of this same word, dushenka, used as a term of endearment. I suspect that's how it was meant as a surname in Polish -- sort of like saying "Now there's someone with a soul!"

As of 1990 there were 5,002 Poles by this name. They lived all over the country, with no significant concentration in any one area; it was more common in the southern part of the country than in the north, especially in the provinces of Katowice (1,278), Nowy Sacz (335), Opole (202), Radom (299), and Wroclaw (216). Still, you can't really say there's any one part fo the couontry a Dusza family would have come from; they could come from pretty much anywhere.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


FRĄCZAK - FRONCZAK

I have been researching the Fronczak family and have heard it was spelled Frączak. I'm not very sure about this and needed some help on making this strange curly letter.

In other words, Frączak in Polish is actually spelled Fraczak, but that first A has a tail under it. That letter is normally pronounced like "on" in French bon, or a little like the "on" in English "bone," but without quite finishing the n sound. But for all practical purposes, Poles pronounce Frączak and Fronczak exactly the same -- "FRON-chock."

In Polish, Frączak and Fronczak are two different ways of spelling the same name; some spell it with the nasal -ą-, some with -on-. It doesn't really make a lot of difference which way you spell it. Either way, it means "son of Frank," coming from a short form of the Polish first name Franciszek, "Francis."

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 1,871 Polish citizens named Frączak. They lived all over the country, with the largest concentration, 556, in the province of Warsaw. There were 2,022 Poles who spelled the name Fronczak, and again, the largest number, 668, lived in the province of Warsaw. But people by both spellings lived all over Poland, so there's no way to say where a given Frączak or Fronczak family would have come from, just by looking at this data.

What all this means for you in practical terms is this. 1) The surname is a moderately common one, simply indicating that an ancestor was named Franciszek or some short form or nickname of that first name. 2) The surname may be spelled either Frączak or Fronczak. In old records spelling was often inconsistent, as the priest or clerk would simply write it down the way he heard it. You might see the same person called Frączak in one record, Fronczak in another. So as you research, you need to keep your eyes open for either spelling.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


FRANCZAK - FRAŃCZAK

I am doing a project for school. We have to look up the origin of our last name.

My last name is Frencho, but it was changed in 1893 when my ancestor Jan Franczak came over on the boat. Could you look up the meaning of Franczak?

I'm glad you were able to establish the original form of the name -- I couldn't have guessed that Frencho came from Franczak.

Franczak in Polish is pronounced roughly "FRON-chock"; the first syllable rhymes more or less with the English words "gone" and "on."

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says the name Franczak appears in records as early as 1696 (and of course may go back a lot further; that's just the earliest appearance they've found so far in surviving documents).

The Francz- part comes from the first name Franciszek ("fron-CHEE-shek"), the Polish version of "Francis" (from Latin Franciscus). Poles often formed nicknames and affectionate short forms of names by taking the first few sounds, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes. So much as we get Frank and Frankie from Francis, Poles took the Franc- part, dropped the rest, and added -ak; in the process Franc- was modified to Francz-. That suffix -ak is a diminutive, so that Franczak means literally "little Franc." But usually in surnames you can translate the -ak part as "son of" or "kin of." So Franczak should normally be interpreted as meaning "son of Franc," or, as we'd say it, "son of Frank." The surname simply indicates that an ancestor was the son of a guy called Franc or some other very similar nickname from the first name we know as "Francis."

It's also possible an ancestor was known as Franek or Franko, two other nicknames from that same first name, and the -ek or -ko turned into -cz- when the -ak was added. I felt I should mention this because it's another way this surname could have developed. But in practical terms it makes little difference -- it still boils down to "son of Frank."

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 5,131 Polish citizens named Franczak. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 323, Krakow 466, Lublin 342, Nowy Sacz 261. 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 found all over Poland but tends to be a bit more common in the southcentral to southeastern part of the country.

There is one other possibility I should mention. In Polish there are two letters N, one plain and one with an accent over it. So when I type Frańczak, just remember that it should be an accented N. That accent changes the pronunciation, so that Frańczak sounds more like "FRINE-chock," with the first syllable rhyming with "pine."

That name means the same thing, "son of Frank"; it's just some people in some areas had a tendency to modify the sound of the N, and some didn't. You run into a lot of this sort of thing with Polish names -- little subtleties of pronunciation that don't really affect the meaning of the name, but do change the way it sounds. We don't have anything quite like this in English, so it's hard to explain. The simplest way to say it is that Franczak and Frańczak are two different names that mean the same thing.

When a Frańczak came to an English-speaking country such as the United States, no one knew what to make of that accent over the N, so it was usually just dropped. Thus both Franczak and Frańczak usually ended up becoming plain Franczak in this country. And of course there could be further modification of the name later on, as there was in your case. Immigrants realized that people were having trouble with their names, so they'd modify them to make them a little easier for English-speakers to deal with. Frencho still retains some of the sound of the original name, but is easier for Americans to spell and pronounce. Or it's possible some official was filling out papers for your ancestor somewhere along the way, misheard the name, spelled it wrong, and the mistake stuck. Only detailed research into the family history might establish exactly what happened and when. But it all comes down to the same basic thing: the original name sounded too "foreign" and was modified to something a little easier to say and spell.

As of 1990 there were 1,290 Polish citizens named Frańczak, living all over the country, with the largest numbers in the following provinces: Przemysl 113, Rzeszow 91, and Tarnobrzeg 285. Those provinces are in the southeastern part of the country. So Franczak tends to show up more toward southcentral Poland, whereas Frańczak is more common a little farther east.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


JAGELSKI - JAGIELSKI

My grandfather's surname was Jagelski. Can you give me any information about my family's past, or tell me of any resources that might prove fruitful?

Jagelski is a spelling variation of the surname usually spelled Jagielski, pronounced roughly "yog-YELL-skee." The rules of Polish orthography say that the letter E may not follow the letter G unless an I is interposed (because in standard Polish the hard G sound cannot be followed by E with palatalization, which is indicated with the insertion of the I, -g + -e = -gie-). So Jagelski is not "correct," but Jagielski is... In practice, however, not everybody followed these rules all the time, especially in old records and in the context of immigration. The standard form, however, is Jagielski, of which Jagelski a variant.

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 6,696 Polish citizens by this name. This name is found all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area. (By contrast, there were 9 Polish citizens who spelled it Jagelski, living in the provinces of Gdansk, 7, and Torun, 2).

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions the surname Jagielski in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], and he says it comes from an adjective formed from the noun jagła, "millet" (the Polish L with a slash through it is pronounced like our W in English). So Jagielski can mean nothing more than "the millet guy," perhaps referring to one who grew or sold or liked millet; or it might refer to a family's origin in a place such as Jagiele in Suwałki province, and the place name, in turn, is what came from the noun for "millet."

Some have asked me whether this name might be connected with Jagiełło , the Lithuanian prince who married Polish Queen Jadwiga in 1385 and thereby began the joining of Poland and Lithuania as the Commonwealth of Two Nations. As I say, Rymut finds the connection to be mainly with the word for "millet."

Another name expert, however, points out that Jagielski can also refer to the name of a place such as Jagiełła in Przemysl province, or Jagiełła in Siedlce province. I don't know for sure, but those places might derive their name from some tenuous connection with the name of the Lithuanian-Polish king; they may have meant "place of Jagiełło or his kin." It's unlikely the surname refers to any direct connection with Jagiełło himself, although of course you never know. But more often such names referred to a servant or property of the great man himself, rather than to any blood link with him.

Jagiełło, by the way, is a Polonized form of his original Lithuanian name, Jogailo. It is thought to come from the Lithuanian roots jo-, "to ride (on horseback)" and gail-, "mighty," so that his name probably meant something like "mighty rider." When he married Queen Jadwiga and accepted Christianity he took a Christian first name and was known thenceforth as Ladislaus Jogailo; but he became better known by the Polish forms of those names, Wladyslaw Jagiełło.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


KOŚNIK

Hello, my name is Ashley and I am trying to find out what my Great Great Grandfather's name means, I believe it is spelled Kosnik. He came to Michigan, USA in 1883 at the age of three. I have not been able to locate his name on any passenger ships or anything. Do you think the spelling may be wrong?

Well, that's always a possibility you have to take into account. But I'm inclined to think the spelling hasn't been modified, because there is a Polish surname Kosnik, and I can find no other name that really matches well. But in Polish Kosnik is usually spelled with an accent over the S. So when I type Kośnik, remember that the S is with an accent over it.

In Polish that name is pronounced roughly "KOSH-neek." 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 1,048 Polish citizens by that name. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 133, Gdansk 86, Katowice 60, Łomża 88, Olsztyn 72, and Ostrołęka 319. 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 more concentrated in northeastern Poland, near the cities of Warsaw, Łomża, and Ostrołęka. You can't conclude that's definitely where your ancestors came from, but it suggests that general area might be worth special attention.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it generally comes from the noun kośnik, which means "mower, haymaker." It might also be connected with the adjective kośny, "hay-growing," but I think most likely it began as a reference to an ancestor's occupation. He helped mow the fields and make hay, and thus was nicknamed Kośnik. At some point that name stuck and became established as a surname.

As I say, chances are decent Kosnik is the right spelling (the accent, of course, was usually dropped in non-Polish-speaking countries). But I should add that names of Eastern European immigrants were frequently misspelled at various points along the way, and this could affect your search. Thus if a Pole who couldn't write (and most immigrants couldn't) showed up at a German port such as Hamburg or Bremen and gave his papers to a German official, the German might spell the name the way it sounded to him, like Koshnick. Or an English-speaker might spell it Koshnik or Koschnik or even Coshnick or Coshnik. There wouldn't necessarily be any intention of changing it; but when people encounter a name that sounds "foreign" to them, the name often ends up being modified.

It's conceivable, for instance, that your ancestor was Kośnik, but the name was misspelled at some point, and since he couldn't read or write he had no way of knowing. Once he got to the U. S., however, he might have been around other Poles who could help him spell it right again. So it might have started out correct on his original papers issued near his ancestral village; then got misspelled somewhere along the way; then was corrected once he settled down in America. There are jillions of ways this scenario might play out, any of which could cause a wrong spelling to show up just where you're looking for it. That's why with surnames you have to wrack your brain to try to think of every possible spelling variation.

One other thought comes to mind. If your family settled in Michigan, you might find that the Polish Genealogical Society of Michigan can offer some help. They've developed lots of resources to help researchers find info on families that settled in that state. If you'd like more info you can visit their Website at http://www.pgsm.org. I don't want to pressure you to join them -- I'm just saying quite a few folks have found their assistance helpful.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


MROCZKA - WOJNAROWSKI

Mroczka. From Southeastern Poland near Toki. My dictionary had an obscure reference to bat, or does it come from the root word for darkness?

The modern meaning of words from which names are derived can be misleading. What matters is what the word meant centuries ago, when names were developing. Polish name experts say Mroczka (pronounced roughly "M'ROTCH-kah") comes from the root seen in the noun mrok, "darkness," and the verb mrokotać, "to squint," and especially the noun mroczek, "one who squints, especially due to scotoma." So Mroczka probably began in most cases as a nickname meaning "squinter."

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 1,183 Poles by this name. They lived all over Poland, but the largest numbers lived in the southeastern provinces of Krosno, 184, Przemysl, 119, and Rzeszow, 142 (Jaslo was in Krosno province in 1990). So the name is most common in southeastern Poland, the part of the country that, with western Ukraine, was seized by Austria during the partitions and ruled by Austria as "Galicia." 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.

Second name, Wojnarowicz Is the root word war? Does it mean then Son of War or something similar? Same area of Poland but this time Jaslo.

Yes, according to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], this name does derive from the word meaning "war," and -owicz does mean "son of." So "son of the warrior" is probably the closest English translation. As of 1990 there were 680 Polish citizens by this name, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Tarnow, 86, and Zamosc, 89. Wojnarowicz is pronounced roughly "voy-nahr-OH-veech."

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


PARADA

I would appreciate it if you could advise me of the meaning of my maiden name Parada. My daughter is doing a project for her 4th grade class, and we have been having difficulty with this.

In Polish Parada is pronounced roughly "pah-RAH-dah." 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 974 Polish citizens by that name. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 50, Chelm 128, Katowice 70, Kielce 141, Lublin 63. 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, with no significant concentration in any one area.

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 parada, "show, exhibition, ceremony, pomp" -- in other words from the same origin as our word "parade." It is thought to have come from Old French parade, "exhibition," from parer, "to embellish," from Latin parare, to "prepare."

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


SOBOLEWSKI

Should you be so kind, I would love to get an interpretation of my maiden name….Sobolewski.

In Polish Sobolewski is pronounced roughly "so-bo-LEFF-skee," or, in some areas, more like "so-bo-LESS-kee" -- which explains why it is sometimes spelled Soboleski. But the standard form is Sobolewski, of which Sobolewska is the feminine form.

It's a moderately common name 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 15,631 Poles by that name. They lived all over the country, with no significant concentration in any one area. A Sobolewski family could come from practically any part of Poland.

Names in the form X-ewski usually mean "one from _" where the blank is filled in with the name of a place beginning with the X part. So we'd expect Sobolewski to mean "one from Sobole or Sobolow or Sobolewo" or some similar place name, meaning "the place of the sables." There are a number of villages in Poland with those names, and the surname gives no clue which one a given family would have come from. Only genealogical research into the history of a specific family might shed light on that question. Without that kind of detailed info, all I can tell you is that the name means "one from Sobole or Sobolow or Sobolewo" or some other place with a name beginning Sobol-, which, in turn, comes from the word meaning "sable."

Incidentally, sometimes X-ewski can also mean "of the kin of X," so that it is theoretically possible this name might mean "kin of the Sable," referring to an ancestor who was nicked Sobol, the Sable, for some reason. We can't rule that out with further research. But I doubt that's applicable. Most Sobolewskis would have gotten that name because of a connection with a place Sobolewo, Sobolow, etc.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


WOJCIECHOWSKI

I am looking at the surname Wojciechowska, I have no info on this name and be most grateful if you could help.

Names in the form X-ska are almost always feminine versions of the same name ending in -ski. So a female would be called Wojciechowska, pronounced roughly "voj-cheh-HOFF-skee," and a male would be Wojciechowski ("voj-cheh-HOFF-skee"). The latter is regarded as the standard form of the 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 63,519 Polish citizens by that name. They lived all over Poland, so the surname gives us no clue as to where a specific family by that name might have come from. They could have come from anywhere in Poland.

This surname started out meaning either "kin of Wojciech" or "one from Wojciech's place." Most of the time, I think the latter would apply -- the name would mean "one from Wojciechy or Wojciechow or Wojciechowo," and there are a great many villages by those names, all of which mean basically "the place of Wojciech." The Slavic name Wojciech is closely identified with the Germanic name Albert/Albrecht/Adalbert, because the original St. Wojciech was confirmed by the bishop of Magdeburg, Adalbert, and honored him by taking his name as his own confirmation name. Since then Wojciech and Albert have been regarded as equivalents (though linguistically they have no link at all). Thus Wojciechowski could be interpreted as meaning "one from Albertville."

But that's a little fanciful. In most cases it just means "one from _" where you fill in the blank with any of a number of place names meaning "[place] of Wojciech." The only way to determine which one your particular family was connected with is through genealogical research, which might provide details enabling you to focus on a specifc area in Poland and thus find the most likely Wojciechowo or Wojciechowice or whatever -- a much more promising prospect than having to search through all the places in Poland with names that fit. Unless, of course, the name simply means you had an ancestor named Wojciech. Usually, however, names in the form X-owski do refer to places with names beginning with the X part.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


WOJNAROWSKI

I was very impressed reading the descriptions of the histories of various Polish surnames on the internet through the PGSA website. I did not see my surname and am quite interested in what you can find out. My surname is Wojnarowski. My grandparents arrived from Pilsno, Poland at the turn of the 20th century (1900-1910ish). I know no other info beyond that. I would appreciate anything you could find on the name.

This name is pronounced roughly "voy-nah-ROFF-skee." Names ending in -owski usually refer to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago. We would expect Wojnarowski to refer to a place named Wojnary or Wojnarow or Wojnarowo or Wojnarowice -- something beginning Wojnar-. There are at least two villages the name might refer to, Wojnary near Nowy Sacz in southcentral Poland, or Wojnarowice near Wroclaw in southwestern Poland. Without detailed info on a given family's background there is no way to know which place the surname refers to in their given 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 3,304 Polish citizens named Wojnarowski. They lived all over Poland, with no concentration in any one area.

 

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


HARABURDA

I am very surprised to find that the surname 'HARABURDA' is not listed in your database. I am looking for the origins and meaning of the word - someone suggested that 'haraburda' is a derivative of an old ukrainian word 'halaburda'. Can u help??

No need to be surprised; a Polish government agency database showed over 600,000 surnames borne by Polish citizens as of 1990 -- and that does not include another 200,000 surnames with a frequency of 0 (meaning the name existed in the database but the entry was incomplete or corrupted; many of these were probably just misspelled). Some 40,000 surnames were borne by over 100 Polish citizens. That means roughly half a million surnames were borne by fewer than 100 Poles as of 1990. That's an awful lot of names. The fact that a specific name doesn't appear on the Website simply means no one has asked about it before -- not surprising, in view of the numbers.

As of 1990, according to the data I referred to above (from the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland, now available online at http://www.herby.com.pl/herby/indexslo.html), there were 722 Polish citizens named HARABURDA (pronounced roughly "hah-rah-BOOR-dah"). The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Białystok 149, and Suwałki 356. 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 this surname is found all over Poland but most often in the northeastern 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 is indeed a variant of hałaburda, a term meaning "brawler, one who causes disorder, one who engages in debauchery." (the Polish L with a slash through it is pronounced like our W). This noun means essentially the same thing in Ukrainian, although in Ukrainian the primary meaning is "brawling, disorder, trouble, debauch," whereas in Polish it refers to one who engages in such behavior. All in all, it seems likely the name began as a nickname for an ancestor who had a tendency toward rowdy behavior; the name stuck, and eventually became established as a surname inherited by his children.

It is not odd to see a name vary between forms with L (Halaburda) and R (Haraburda). These sounds are considered to be related phonetically, and we often see interesting variations involving them (for instance the Polish name Rolbiecki also appears in the form Lorbiecki). Probably in some areas there was a dialect tendency to turn that L sound into an R, so the word was pronounced haraburda instead of halaburda, and that fact is reflected in the surname form.

It is interesting to note that as of 1990 there were 226 Polish citizens who went by the name HALABURDA with plain L (pronounced roughly "hah-lah-BOOR-dah") and another 339 who spelled it with the Polish L with a slash through it, which sounds like English W ("hah-wah-BOOR-dah"). So 3 different forms of this noun gave rise to three different surnames, which are related linguistically (but that would not necessarily imply any relation in terms of kinship between families bearing these names).

If you'd like to study the data on the frequency and distribution of these names, go to this Website, http://www.herby.com.pl/herby/indexslo.html, and type "*a?aburda" in the box, then click on "Szukaj" (Search). Use of the wild cards * and ? will help match many different spellings of the name -- Chalaburda, Galaburda, etc. (I would ignore Malaburda, Małaburda, Maraburda, Naraburda, and Staraburda -- they are probably something else entirely, although I could be wrong). Studying the data this way can be fascinating, and can also sometimes prove to be very helpful. If I hadn't looked at it, it would never have occurred to me that this name could also appear as Alaburda (initial H sound dropped), Chalaburda (H and CH are pronounced the same in Polish, and thus often appear in variant spellings), and Galaburda (the H sound was written as G due to Russian influence).

If you need help understanding the data, you can read my article The "Slownik nazwisk" Is Online!" in the August issue of the free e-zine _Gen Dobry!  It's fascinating, too, to note that the original form, with L instead of R, persists in the different forms, Alaburda, Chalburda, Galaburda, etc. -- but the most common form is the one with R, Haraburda! This is just the sort of odd and unpredictable fact you run into all the time with surnames!

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 © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


MARCINKIEWICZ

MARCINKIEWICZ is pronounced roughly "mar-cheenk-YEAH-veech." The suffix -ewicz means "son of"; Marcin is the Polish form of "Martin"; and the -k- is a diminutive, so that Marcink- is short for Marcinek or Marcinko, meaning literally "little Martin," but possibly also used in the sense of "son of Martin." So the surname Marcinkiewicz means literally "son of little Martin," but could also be interpreted as "son of the son of Martin." It simply indicates that an ancestor was named the Polish equivalent of "Martin," or "little Martin" as a nickname.

As of 1990 there were 4,385 Polish citizens by that name, living all over the country, with no concentration in any one area; a Marcinkiewicz family could come from practically anywhere. To see the data you can search for the name at this site: http://www.herby.com.pl/herby/indexslo.html. If you need help understanding how to use it, you can read my article The "Slownik nazwisk" Is Online!" in the August issue of the free e-zine _Gen Dobry!

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 

  

 

 

 

 

 


GANSCHINIETZ - GESINIEC

Already for a long time, I am trying to trace the origin of my ancestors´ name "Ganschinietz".I only know that they came from Russia, presumably from Belorussia. Can you inform me why and when the ending "ietz" has been introduced and where can I find some literature on it, preferrably in German?

I'm afraid I don't know of any literature on this subject in Russian, but -ietz is a German phonetic spelling of a suffix that is quite common in the Slavic languages. In Polish it is spelled -iec, and it appears in many nouns, including Niemiec, "German" (root niem-, "mute," + -iec), kupiec, "merchant" (root kup-, "buy" + -iec), starzec "old man" (root star-, "old" + -iec). So a name in the form X-iec or X-ec means "one who does X, one closely associated with X."

I can add that Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions GANSCHINIETZ in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. It is a German phonetic spelling of a Polish name written GĘSINIEC, with the Polish nasal vowel written as an E with a hook or tail (Schwänzchen) under it.

The basic root of the name GĘSINIEC is the noun gęś (hook under the E, accent over the S), which means "goose" (its sound is similar to that of the German word Gänse, actually).  Rymut says the surname GĘSINIEC comes from a noun that can be spelled with nasal a or nasal e, gąsiniec or gęsiniec. He defines this noun as "chlew gęsi," "a trough for geese." (Das polnische Wort chlew übersetzt man gewöhnlich Schweinestall, aber hier bedeutet es ein Stall für Gänse, nicht für Schweine.)

It is difficult to say how a person came to bear this name, but it probably began as a nickname -- perhaps one who worked on a farm and often fed the geese might be called Gęsiniec. I think that is the most likely explanation -- the name meant "the one who often works at the trough for geese."

As of 2002, according to the best data available (a database maintained by an agency of the Polish government), I was amazed to see that this name appears in several different spellings. As of 2002 there were 5 Polish citizens who spelled the name GANSCHINIETZ. One, a female, lived in the powiat (much like a Kreis in the old German administrative divisions) of Grudziądz in Kujawsko-Pomorskie province. The other 4, 2 males and 2 females, lived in Strzelce Opolskie powiat of Opole province.

There were 273 Polish citizens who spelled the name GANSINIEC. Most fo them lived in Śląskie province, near Katowice, which is roughly the heart of the area Germans call Schlesien and English-speakers call Silesia. There were 6 who spelled it GENSINIEC, all living in or very near the town of Łomża in northeastern Poland. This area was part of "Russian Poland" from roughly 1815 to 1918.

There were 12 who spelled it GĘSINIEC. 8 of the latter (5 males, 3 females) lived in Wroclaw powiat of Dolnośląskie province, and 4 (2 males and 2 females) lived in the actual _powiat_ of the city of Wroclaw. So those who spell it GĘSINIEC all live in or very near Wroclaw (Breslau).

This data may not help you actually find relatives. But it may at least help you gain a perspective on where in Poland these various different forms of the name appear. At some point that may become helpful in your research.

I should add that people now living in southwestern Poland may not have been living there long. After World War II, when the Allies took lands long ruled by Germany and gave them to Poland -- the territory that is now western Poland -- many ethnic Germans fled, to resettle in East Germany (the DDR). The Communists wished to repopulate those regions, and also undercut resistance from people living in eastern Poland. So they forced many to relocate from east to west. Thus it is possible some of those people named GANSINIEC and GANSCHINIETZ and GĘSINIEC now living in southwestern Poland have only been there since 1945 or 1946. Before then they may well have lived in eastern Poland, in regions once ruled by Russia.

To sum up, GANSCHINIETZ is a fairly accurate German phonetic spelling of the Polish name GĘSINIEC; that is to say, if a German heard a Pole say Gęsiniec and tried to write it down, he would probably write it as GANSCHINIETZ. The name itself is of Polish origin, from a word meaning "trough or sty where one feeds geese." It probably began as a nickname for one whose job on the farm was to take care of the geese. A great many Poles came to live in Belorussia over the centuries, so it is possible your ancestors were Poles who lived there. But by the early 1800s Russia ruled all of what is now Belarus, Lithuania, and most of eastern and central Poland. So Poles who lived "in Russia" might have lived in any of those places -- and there were many Poles who lived in Belarus and Lithuania, as well as in Poland.

Copyright © 2003 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


SKRAKOWSKI

please excuse my intrusion but i am interested in finding out something about my surname, skrakowski. it has proved to be a fruitless if somewhat enlightening search on the internet as there are only a handful of entries at most in the search engines i have tried it on, yet other names produce many. it seems that my family does not have an ancestry that goes back beyond the present generation yet the nature of the name seems to be one that is old. by this i mean that its very meaning is 'from krakow' and as such must have come into existence in my mind at a time when people could still be distinguished by the place they were from. seems that my ancestors either left, or had to leave krakow sometime in early history, so why so little reference on the net? can you help

This is a fascinating question, and I must say up front I don't have a definitive answer. I often find such puzzles with names: X will be common, but X-owicz, "son of X," which you'd expect to be common also, turns out to be rare. Or vice versa. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to why a name did or not catch on.

But if you read notes written by foreigners who've studied English, you'll notice that often what they write is perfectly correct grammatically, and makes sense -- but it sounds wrong. We just don't say it that way. This phenomena is common in languages; a particular formulation is perfectly plausible, but "we just don't say it that way." The same thing happens with names. This one is common, that one is rare, and it's damned hard to figure out why.

Since I can't give you a definite answer, let me mention this. You can get an opinion from the real experts if 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. Now let me tell what little I can about SKRAKOWSKI.

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, available online at http://www.herby.com.pl/herby/indexslo.html), there were 26 Polish citizens by that name. They lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 8, Białystok 1, Gdansk 2, Gorzow 2, Jelenia Gora 6, Koszalin 2, Walbrzych 3, and 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.

This data tells us the name is scattered all over the country in tiny numbers; there's no significant concentration that would help us point to a specific area and say, "Ah, that's where the name comes from." But this data is important in one way: it establishes that the name, however rare, does exist in Poland. So it is NOT an Anglicized distortion, such as Yastrzemski from Jastrzebski. It may be a variation of a more common name, but there are Poles who go by the name Skrakowski, and that is significant.

I have to differ with you on the basic interpretation of the name; I don't think it means "from Krakow." The reason is, in my experience you very seldom see names constructed that way, S-X-owski, where the S means "from" and X is the name of a place. It's redundant: KRAKOWSKI, without the initial S, already means "from Krakow."

When nobles first began using secondary names to clarify their identity, back in the 12th and 13th centuries, at first they used Latin formulations, since Latin was the language of all writing and record keeping. Thus a Pole Jan who had an estate at Grabowo would appear in the records as something like "Joannes de Grabouo." But later Polish became an acceptable language for keeping records, and Poles naturally tended to use native expressions meaning the same thing. At first you see "Jan z Grabowa," an exact Polish rendering of Latin "Joannes de Grabouo," and closer to what a Pole would say in everyday life.

But it wasn't long before Poles dropped that formulation as a foreignism and began using a Polish way of expressing the same thing: Jan Grabowski. That adjectival usage means "of Grabow/Grabowo," as well as "from Grabow/Grabowo." For some reason Poles liked the feel of it better than "z Grabowa." So nobles began using that formulation in a big way -- more and more went by X-owski, where X stands for the first part of the name of their estate. Gradually these names became hereditary and thus became surnames, and peasants began using them to. In that way "Grabowski" went from meaning "[lord] of Grabow or Grabowo" to "[one] from Grabow or Grabowo."

So you see, there's no need to express "one from Krakow" as SKRAKOWSKI, because KRAKOWSKI already says that. Of course you COULD theoretically use SKRAKOWSKI. But in my experience Poles just didn't do that.

Now you may write the Institute and they may tell you I'm all wrong about this. But I can only go by what I've seen and learned, and my gut feeling is that SKRAKOWSKI has nothing to do with Krakow.

So what is it? Good question. Usually X-owski means "one from a place with a name beginning X," but I can find no Skraki or Skrakow or Skrakowo. Often a rare name with A is a variant of a more common name with O, so I looked for SKROK- as well, and didn't find anything encouraging. The form SKRAKOWSKI could conceivably be a variant of SKRZAKOWSKI, with the -RZ- simplified to plain -R-; but again, I found nothing to substantiate that. So to level with you, I'm baffled.

But names in the form X-owski USUALLY (not always, but usually) refer to places of origin bearing names that meant, "of X." And surnames often referred to names of places that were small and don't appear on any map or in any gazetteer. In Poland even a bend in the road can have a name, especially if centuries ago, when names were originating, it was a significant center of commerce or activity. Very often we find it difficult to track down what place a surname refers to, but it does in fact turn out to come from a place name. Rare surnames are particularly likely to preserve old or dialect variations of names, so that the place in question may now called something besides Skrak-. The hard part, of course, is figuring out what or where it is.

The bottom line is that in many, many cases the only hope of getting the right answer is through genealogical research. If you trace your family back to their ancestral village, and then talk to people there, they may say, "Oh, yeah, that name refers to that field over there. They say once there was a farmstead there, but it disappeared long ago. But we still call that place Skrakowo because a man named Skrak supposedly owned it."

That's the best answer I can give you. I hope the scholars at the Anthroponymic Workshop may be able to tell you more. If you do write them and they give you a good, substantial answer, I'd be very interested in hearing what it was. You've intrigued me -- I'd love to know just what the heck Skrakowski meant, and why it's so rare! I want to know, even if the answer is, "You blew it, Hoffman. The pros say it is indeed a very old way of saying 'one from Krakow.'"

Copyright © 2003 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


WOLICKI - WOLITZKI

Hello...and can you please help with just the 1 name Wolitski and possibly it's origin and where in poland i may look at to dig up more history on it? My grandfather came to saskatchewan canada in about 1905????? And i myself still live here!

Wolitzki is an alternate spelling of the name Poles usually spell Wolicki. The Poles pronounce the letter C as we pronounce "ts" in "cats," which is also the way Germans pronounce "tz." Poles pronounce the name Wolicki roughly "vo-LEET-skee," and when Germans, for instance, wrote that name down, they often spelled it Wolitzki or Wolitzky. But that's all simply spelling variation -- it's all the same name, and the standard Polish spelling is Wolicki.

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 and can be searched here), there were 1,132 Polish citizens named Wolicki. They lived all over the country, with particularly large numbers in the following provinces: Kalisz 103, Konin 117, and Tarnobrzeg 101. 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 concentrated in any one part of the country.

Incidentally, this source showed no one named Wolitzki or Wolitzky. That's to be expected -- only foreigners would spell the name that way. Poles would always tend to spell it Wolicki.

Polish name experts say this name usually refers to a family connection with a place named Wolica or Wolice, so that it means literally "[one] from Wolica/Wolice." The problem is, there are a number of places in Poland with those names -- at least 27 named Wolica, and 2 named Wolice. There's no way to tell just by looking at the surname which one a given Wolicki family came from. Only genealogical research might establish that. That means tracing the family back in documents, generation by generation, till you find something that tells yuo exactly where in Poland your particular Wolickis came from.

Copyright © 2003 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


CHODKOWSKI

i make research about my grand father Théophile Chodkowski. He was born in Dobrolecka M'Chi 17 january 1892. His father was Jean (Jan) Chodkowski and his mother was Félixa Kossakowska.

My grand father came in France in 1905-1910 (i don't know exactly when). He came from the Ostrołęka area. He was too a self made man, and a veteran of World War 1.

The "legend" said that he had a brother, (or a nephew, or a oncle) called Kasimir, and this one go to the United States.

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, which can be searched here), there were 1,801 Polish citizens named Chodkowski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 295, Ciechanow 277, Olsztyn 166, and Ostrołęka 455. 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 found all over Poland but tends to be most common in the northeastern part of the country, especially near Ostrołęka. So that at least indicates that your ancestors came from the area where this name is most common.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this surname in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He explains that most surnames in the form X-owski refer to the name of a place beginning with the X part. Thus we would expect Chodkowski to mean "one from Chodkow or Chodkowo" or some place with a similar name. Unfortunately, there are several places named Chodkow and Chodkowo, and it is impossible to tell which one a given Chodkowski family came from except through detailed research into that family's history.

I can tell you, however, that there are four small villages west of Ostrołęka with compound names beginning Chodkowo-: Chodkowo-Biernaty, Chodkowo Kuchny, Chodkowo Wielkie, and Chodkowo-Zalogi. If your family came from the Ostrołęka area, chances are good that their surname refers to a family connection with one of these villages. It is very common to see villages in that area with compound names. Most likely there was a connection at some point centuries ago, and one large estate was called Chodkowo, a name meaning "[place] of Chodek or Chodko"; later it was subdivided into four separate villages distinguished by adding a second name to the Chodkowo- part.

It is even possible your ancestor was noble, and that his family name originally indicated that they were the owners of the estate of Chodkowo. However, one cannot assume that. It is equally possible the family consisted of peasants who took this name because at some point they had lived or worked at Chodkowo. Again, the only way to shed light on any of these is through research into your family's history. I cannot do that, but you can, if you desire.

Copyright © 2003 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


GODLEWSKI

I am interested in the Origins of my family's surname- Godlewski. I would be happy to purchase your book if this information is contained in the volume. If not, what information can I supply to assist you in answering my request?

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, which can be searched here), there were 11,754 Polish citizens named Godlewski. They lived all over the country, with no significant concentration in any one area; the name is somewhat more common in northeastern Poland than anywhere else, but not to the extent that this offers any useful lead in research. A Godlewski family could come from practically anywhere.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it -- like most names ending in -ewski and -owski -- derives from the name of a place where the family came from, or was associated with, at some point centuries ago. He specifically mentions Godlewo, Nur district, Łomża province, as a place the surname refers to.

I would add that there are few Polish place names that are unique, and there are other places with similar names (Godlewa, Godlewo, etc.) the surname could refer to. If you'd like to see some of them, go to this Website:

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

Enter "Godl" 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 Godl-. For each, 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 is often the case with Polish surnames deriving from place names. Very often there's more than one place a name might refer to. The only way to determine which one the name refers to in a given family's case is through genealogical research. Thus if you determine the family came from a specific area, and you find a place nearby named Godlewo or something similar, chances are good that's the place the name originally referred to. In any event, I can only help with "quick and dirty" analysis, and cannot do the kind of detailed research necessary to establish this.

Copyright © 2003 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


 

 

KONCZAL - KOŃCZAL

 

Hello, I was wondering if you have any information on the name Konczal. We have been in this country a long time and no one seems to know anything about our origins. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

There are two possible names here, because in Polish there are two N's. One is normal N, and with that N the name Konczal would sound like "CONE-chall." The other is an accented N; the form of the name with Ń is pronounced roughly "COIN-chall"; that accent indicates a slight softening of the N that affects the pronunciation of the vowel as well.

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 and can be searched here), there were 95 Polish citizens named Konczal. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Biala Podlaska 10, Bydgoszcz 13, Chelm 36; the rest were scattered in tiny 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.

As of 1990 there were 1,088 Poles named Kończal. The name was found all over the country, but was highly concentrated in two provinces: Bydgoszcz, 533, and Poznan, 235. So this name is most often found in northwestern to western Poland.

The name with normal N, Konczal, is thought to come from a nickname for the first name Konrad, which also appears in German as Kuntz and in Polish as Kunc. Konczal would just mean more or less "kin of Conrad." This is the name most common in far eastcentral Poland, near Biala Podlaska and Chelm on the border with Belarus and Ukraine.

The more common form with Ń comes from a root seen in the verb kończyć, "to end, finish," and in the noun koniec, "end." In Polish names of the form X-al or X-ala the usual meaning is "one always doing X, one of whom X is typical." So Kończal would mean something like "the one who ends it, the one who finishes it; the one at the end." Thus it might have started as a nickname for a guy who tended to finish things; or it might well refer to one who lived at the end of a certain property or at the end of a village. I find that interpretation a bit more likely, because there are several names in Polish that mean that. "One who ends it" seems just a bit figurative for a name interpretation; more often than not, names are pragmatic. So I suspect the name referred to one who was somehow associated with a place at the end of a village or road or property. However, I can't rule out the other meaning; a Kończal might have been the kind of guy who said, "OK, you started this; I'm going to end it."

In theory Konczal and Kończal could be confused. In fact, some of those Konczals living in Bydgoszcz province were probably Kończals whose names were mistyped. And some names come in two forms, one with an accented consonant and one without, reflecting slight regional differences in pronunciation. I think in most cases, though, Kończal would prove to be the standard form, and it probably derives from the root meaning "end, final," rather than from a variant nickname of Konrad.

Copyright © 2003 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


LITWA

We are trying to find information on the name and ancestry for Litwa. We currently have little information on Albert Litwa, possibly from yonkers ny, parents may have migrated from binarowa, poland. We are doing the research for personal family history..... any help with the meaning or origin of this name would be greatly appreciated.

I'm afraid the nature of this name is such that I may not be able to tell you much. Litwa, pronounced "LEET-vah," is just the Polish word for "Lithuania." Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], saying that it appears in records as early as 1372; he confirms that it comes from the word for Lithuania.

As such, it probably originated as a nickname for a Lithuanian who came to live among Poles, or for a Pole who had some connection with Lithuania -- perhaps he went there once, or went there on business sometimes, or even had a tendency to hang around Lithuanians instead of Poles. It's hard to say what the nature of the connection was, because there are many different possibilities, and no way to tell which one applies in your particular case. But a family bearing a name meaning "Lithuania" obviously must have had some connection of some sort with Lithuania, or perhaps with a place in Poland called Litwa because of a Lithuanian connection.

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 and can be searched here), there were 826 Polish citizens named Litwa. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Kalisz 60, Krakow 192, Nowy Sacz 51, Ostrołęka 74, Rzeszow 52, Wroclaw 54. 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. (Binarowa was in Krosno province in 1990, and there were at least 17 persons named Litwa in that province as of that year. There may have been more -- data from Krosno province was not complete in the databank, so the actual number may have been somewhat higher.)

It seems odd, at first glance, that this name is most common in southern Poland, especially the southcentral part of the country (near Krakow and Nowy Sacz). That's a long way from Lithuania! But if you think about it, actually it does make sense. Surnames developed to help distinguish people, so that you wouldn't confuse this Jan with that Jan or this Piotr with that Piotr. Suppose you live in northeastern Poland, near the border with Lithuania -- what point would there be calling someone there Litwa? Half the people you met could be called Litwa; the name didn't distinguish you. It'd be like everybody in Texas calling each other "Tex" -- sort of pointless. But if you run into persons of Lithuanian heritage down near Krakow or Nowy Sacz or Krosno, they're a long way from home. In that case a name meaning "Lithuanian" would distinguish them by pointing to something about them that made them stand out in a crowd. So actually it makes sense that the name would show up most often among people with a Lithuanian connection who had long since moved far away from Lithuania.

Copyright © 2003 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


MACHOWIAK - POLCYN - WACHOWIAK

Machowiak, Wachowiak, Polcyn.

Would like origins of the names.

These surnames from old Polish first names to which suffixes were added that mean more or less "son of, kin of." Thus Polcyn, pronounced "POLT-sin," comes from the ancient first name Połka, a Pomeranian variant of a name seen elsewhere in Poland as Pelka (this Polka has nothing to do with the dance; the Polish slashed L pronounced like our W.) The suffix -yn means "kin of, son of," so Polcyn would mean nothing more than "kin of Połka." It can also come from the place names Polczyno or Polczyn, the names of several places in Poland), meaning "place of Połka." Either way, the name itself is not particularly enlightening.

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 and can be searched here), there were 1,209 Polish citizens named Polcyn. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 152, Pila 340, and Poznan 331. 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. Clearly this name is found most often in western to northwestern Poland.

As of 1990 there were 5,012 Poles named Wachowiak, living all over Poland but especially in the western half, especially the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 361, Kalisz 341, Leszno 485, Pila 528, and Poznan 1,733. This name developed from nicknames derived from first names beginning with Wa-, such as Waclaw and Wawrzyniec. 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 one of those first names mention, add -ch- to form Wach, then add -ow (which means basically "of") = Wachow-, "of Wach," and then further suffixes could be added to that. So Wachowiak would mean roughly "kin of Wach." But it doesn't really mean anything, any more than "Teddy" means something -- it's just a name that developed from another name that did originally mean something.

Machowiak is exactly the same sort of thing, except it developed from first names beginning with Ma-, such as Maciej (Matthias) and Mateusz (Matthew). So Machowiak, pronounced roughly "mah-HOV-yock," would just mean "kin of Mach's sons." As of 1990 there were 605 Poles by that name, with the largest numbers in the following provinces: Legnica 41, Leszno 267, and Poznan 89. So this name is found most often in west central Poland, in the former Provinz Posen [Province of Poznan].

Copyright © 2003 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


MAJERCZYK

I am writing this e-mail in hope that you can tell me where the surname Majerczyk origin. It would mean a lot to my nephew, niece and brother-in-law if they new a little more about their polish ancestry. They are part polish part mexican but they have very little information about their polish heritage. My brother-in-laws father was named Val. I believe that either his parents of grandparents were famous opera singers. That is all he knows about his family. Oh yes his father served in the military. So if you could please give me an answer I would really appreciate it.

I don't have any information on specific families, so there is nothing I can tell you about any Majerczyks who were opera singers. I can tell you that I went to http://www.google.com, did a search for "Majerczyk," and came up with a number of hits that looked like they might have good information. If you haven't tried that yet, you really should.

In Polish Majerczyk is pronounced roughly like a combination of the English words "my-AIR-chick." 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 and can be searched here), there were 832 Polish citizens by this name. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 84, Krakow 58, and Nowy Sacz 371, Walbrzych 79, and Wroclaw 50; the rest lived 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. This data indicates tha name is most common along the southern broder of Poland, especially near the town of Nowy Sacz in southcentral Poland.

The suffix -czyk usually means "son of," although sometimes it can mean "assistant, small." Majer comes from the German name Maier, Majer, Meier, or Mejer, which started out as a term for the overseer or administration of an estate. It's a common name among Germans, and many Germans resettled in Poland, so it's not rare to see Polish names that started as adaptations of German names. So Majerczyk means "son of the estate administrator," or perhaps "assistant to the estate administrator." It would be one of the many Polish surnames that refer to an ancestor's occupation.

Now I should add that this is true if the family was Christian. Among Jews the name Majer has a different source, coming from a Hebrew given name which is most often spelled Meier (but Poles spell it Majer), from a word meaning "illuminated." So if the family in question were Jewish, the surname would simply mean "son of Meier." From what you say I suspect this is not relevant in your family's case, but I wanted to mention it in case it is. The names of Polish Jews and Polish Christians can differ even when the name itself is spelled the same, as in this case.

So if the family was Christian, the name means "son of (or assistant to) the estate administrator," referring to the descendants of one who originally bore the German name or title Maier/Meier. If the family was Jewish, the name simply means "son of Meier."

Copyright © 2003 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


PARADOWSKI

I am of polish descent and my mother's maiden name is Paradowski. That is the only spelling that I know of. Have you come across this name and what is it's origin and meaning? Any help would be kindly welcomed.

In Polish Paradowski is pronounced roughly "pah-rah-DOFF-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 and can be searched here), there were 5,239 Polish citizens by this name. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 811, Bydgoszcz 284, Lodz 294, Płock 260, Skierniewice 380, Torun 248, and Wloclawek 373. 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. Basically, this data tells us the name is found all over Poland, but tends to show up most often in the 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 comes from the root seen in the noun parada, "exhibition, display, show" (from the same Latin root as our word "parade"). Surnames in the form X-owski mean literally "of X's _," where the blank is to be filled in with something so obvious it didn't need to be spelled out -- usually "kin" or "place." So in some cases X-owski can mean "kin of [the] X." But most often it refers to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago, a place name beginning with the X part, which may have various suffixes that were detached before the -owski was added. If the family was noble, they owned an estate there; if not, they lived and worked there. So while X-owski can just mean "kin of X," it generally means "one from the place of X."

So this name may simply mean "of the exhibitions, of the shows, of the parades," possibly referring to ancestors who were associated with these shows and displays. Or it may mean "one from Paradowo" or some other places with similar names. 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.

To sum up, the name is not all that rare by Polish standards, and is found all over the country, but especially in the central part. It means literally "of the parades," and could refer to ancestors who were connected with putting on displays or exhibitions; or it could mean "one from Paradowo" or some similar place name. Only detailed research into your family's history is likely to establish which analysis is relevant in their case. So you're more likely to get the final answer to this question than I am!

By the way, I went to http://www.google.com and did a search for "Paradowski" and found quite a few hits. If you haven't tried that, you should -- you never know what connection you may make that way.

Copyright © 2003 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


PODOLAK

My mother's maiden name was Podolak. I was born in 1938.

Podolak is pronounced roughly "po-DOE-lock." 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 and can be searched here), there were 2,518 Polish citizens by that name. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 102, Ostrołęka 256, Przemysl 244, Szczecin 126, and Zamosc 488. So while the name is found all over the country, it tends to be most common in southeastern Poland.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles].He says this name means "one from Podolia," which is the name of an area in southwestern Ukraine. That's why it's not surprising the name is most common in southeastern Poland, near the border with Ukraine and therefore not too far west of Podolia. You'd expect such a name to show up most often in areas reasonably near the region to which the name refers, and that's the case here. Surnames developed centuries ago, and there's been enough time for people bearing this name meaning "one from Podolia" to spread far and wide. But they still are most common in the part of Poland nearest Podolia. This name is also presumably fairly common Ukrainians, too, but I have no data for that country.

Copyright © 2003 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 


POŚLEDNIK - PUŚLEDNIK

I read your articles in polishroots and I kindly ask you where the name Puslednik comes from and what the meaning of it.

In Polish this name is usually spelled not with plain S, but with accented S, pronounced somewhat like English "sh." So the name is spelled Puślednik, pronounced roughly "poosh-LED-neek."

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 and can be searched here), there were 104 Polish citizens by that name. They lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 12, Gorzow 1, Jelenia Gora 4, Kalisz 6, Leszno 48, Opole 1, Szczecin 15, Wroclaw 11, and Zielona Gora 6. 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 primarily in western Poland, especially near the Leszno.

If you want to search the database for yourself, go to that site, http://www.herby.com.pl/herby/indexslo.html, and enter "P*LEDNIK" in the box, then click on "Szukaj" (Search). That will bring up Puślednik as well as other names that are very similar. It can be useful to compare different names and see how common they are and where they were common.

If you need help understanding how to read this data, you can read my article "The 'Slownik nazwisk' Is Online!" in the August issue of the free e-zine Gen Dobry!

None of my sources specifically mention the derivation of this name, but I looked in an extensive 8-volume Polish-language dictionary I have, which was recommended to me by Polish scholars as a good source of information on terms that often became surnames. It mentions a noun puślednik as a different way of spelling półślednik (accent over the O, slash through the L, accent over the S), which would be pronounced almost exactly the same way. That noun means "a farmer or peasant who works a 'half' farm." In Polish pół means "half," so this is a "half-farmer."

What that means needs a little explanation. Originally Polish peasants were allowed by nobles to work land that belonged to the nobles. A full-sized farm was one that was big enough to supply food for a family for a year. The size varied from place to place, but that's what a "full farm" was. However, as time went on and property was split among descendants, what began as a full-sized farm might become two half-farms, or 4 quarter-farms, and so on. A półślednik was a peasant who owned or worked a "half-farm" -- not one quite big enough to support a family by itself, but still much more land than many peasants had.

Now Poślednik (a more common name, borne by 500 Poles as of 1990, with the largest number by far, 267, in Leszno province) probably comes from a different word, poślednik, meaning "one who comes after; descendant." However, it can sometimes also mean the same thing as Puślednik. Probably the only way to find out for sure which meaning is relevant in a given family's case is through detailed research into their history, which might turn up some information that would shed light on this question.

There are other words in Polish that mean much the same thing, such as półkmieć and półrolnik. The fact that Puślednik and Poślednik are most common near Leszno province makes me wonder if it was a tendency for people in that area to prefer these terms, instead of the others? I don't know, but it does seem likely, in view of the fact that the surnames Poślednik and Puślednik are most common in that area. This might be a good indication that your family is likely to have come from that area originally.

Copyright © 2003 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

 

LIEBOWITZ

I was perusing your site in search of some information on my last name, Liebowitz. I saw that the ending -owicz means "son of" and am assuming that -owitz is an Americanized version of it. Is this a reasonable assumption?

You're close. The -owitz form is associated mostly with German, either directly or by way of Yiddish. An English-speaking person who heard the ending -owicz and tried to spell it phonetically would tend to write -ovich or -oveech. But Germans have a tendency to turn -owicz into -owitz (pronounced roughly "oh-wits"). This may just be a German tendency for no particular reason; or it may go back to early contact with Poles, who originally tended to use suffixes -ic ("eets") and -owic ("oh-veets"), and only later, due to Belarusian influence, changed the final sound from -c ("ts") to -cz ("ch").

I've never had a chance to find out WHY -owicz became -owitz under German influence, and my speculation above may be completely wrong. All I know is that you do often see Germanized forms of Polish names with -owitz (less often as -owitsch, even though phonetically that is more accurate).

However, Lieb is not a first name I have ever heard and it is not listed on behindthename.com, an exhaustive but surely incomplete listing of first name etymologies. Is "lieb" perhaps another word in Polish, a noun or adjective? And if so, how can the "son of" ending be reconciled with this? Or perhaps "lieb" is a modified spelling of "leib" (e.g. Annie Leibovitz) which has some other signficance?

LIEB is a German adjective meaning "dear, beloved," and it appears in first names, especially associated with Jews, either in German spelling or modified by Yiddish influence. So we see the feminine first name Liba or Liebe, masculine first names Liber or Lieber, Libman/Lipman or Liebmann/Lipmann, and so forth. (Note that Germans spell the "ee" sound as -ie-, but in Yiddish it is spelled with the vowel yodh, usually rendered in our alphabet as -i-; so Yiddish Liber is pronounced just like German Lieber).

As I said, these names tend to show up mainly among Jews. It wouldn't surprise me if you see them occasionally among Christians -- it would be natural for any people to call a child a name meaning "dear one," after all. Still, when I have seen names with Lieb- or Lib-, they most often turn out to be borne by Jews.

In any case, LIEBOWITZ is presumably a German version of LIBOWICZ, "son of Lib or Liba" or some similar first name deriving, directly or through Yiddish, from that Germanic root meaning "dear, beloved."

I should add that confusion is possible with another first name used exclusively by Jews, Leib or (as Poles spell it) Lejb, pronounced roughly "lape" as if rhyming with "tape." This is an ancient Hebrew name from the Bible (Genesis 49:9), and strictly speaking has nothing to do with those much less ancient Germanic names from the root meaning "dear" that I mentioned above. But factor in dialect variations, human error, and other factors, and is entirely possible that LEJBOWICZ, "son of Lejba," might sometimes end up being rendered LIEBOWITZ. It's not "correct," but many of the things you run into with surnames are not correct.

Thus for instance I believe the surname of Annie Leibovitz is Jewish and means "son of Leib." If everyone was an expert on languages and names and no one ever made a mistake, it would be regarded as completely distinct from Liebowitz, not to be confused with it. But in fact the names are often confused, and it's easy to understand why.

For more background info on Jewish names, there are several good files at this site: http://www.jewishgen.org/InfoFiles/#Names

To sum up, names ending -owitz are usually German or Yiddish versions of names Poles use with the ending -owicz (and Russians with -ovich, although of course they spell it in the Cyrillic alphabet). The name you're asking about should generally mean "son of Lib or Liba," referring to an ancestor with a given name derived from the German root meaning "dear, beloved" and used in a number of given names popular historically among Ashkenazi Jews. But due to the similar sound and spelling it can easily be confused with LEIBOVITZ or LEJBOWICZ, "son of Leib," which is an ancient Hebrew name associated with Judah.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.


TRIKOWSKY

I have a looking for some sort of background information on my surname. It is TRIKOWSKY. I have been able to trace the name back to a small village in what was Bessarabia Russian. It was an area of Germans born in Russia. My confusion lays in the name itself I am finding conflicting information of the origins of the name .Is it originally from Poland then possibly they migrated into Russia or is it a Russian name. One last twist is that my family has always spoke German and consider themselves German. But when I started digging around I began to have questions. Most of the very few people I have found to posses the name lived in Germany but I was not able to contact them. Really what I'm looking for here is whether my name is Polish, Russian, or German

The first thing we have to be clear on is that ethnic identity may have nothing to do with a name's linguistic origin. If you go back to your 128 closest ancestors and it turned out 127 of them were Poles but 1 was German, his name might be the one you'd happen to inherit. So even though in this hypothetical case you are by blood 99% Polish, yet your name would be German. This subject gets very complicated, but I want to make clear from the start I'm talking about what LANGUAGE the name originated in.

We can scratch German -- it is definitely not of German linguistic origin. That ending spelling -owski or -ovsky or -owsky originated in a Slavic language, not a German one. Talking about a German named Trikowsky is like talking about a Swede named Yamaguchi; the two don't go together. Now since people can and do travel and relocate, you might have a Trikowsky living in Germany -- in fact, it's not at all unusual to find Germans bearing Slavic names, since the Germans and Slavs have been mixing and mingling for
centuries. And as I say, it's possible 99% of a Trikowsky's ancestors were German. But the name is not.

It's tougher saying whether the name is Polish or Russian, because many, many names and other words are similar in the various Slavic languages. From the form alone it is often difficult or impossible to tell whether a specific name is Polish or Czech or Russian or Ukrainian.

However, of all the Slavs, Poles are the ones most likely to bear a name ending -owski or -ovsky or -ovsky. The formation X-owski is one that most often originated among Poles. Thus the composer Tchaikovsky seemed to be as Russian as they come; but his name appears to be a Russified version of Polish Czajkowski, meaning "of or from Czajki or Czajkowo" or some other place with a name beginning Czajk- (as Poles spell it) or Tchaik- (as we spell the Russian version in our alphabet). So somewhere in his ancestry there was probably a Pole or Ukrainian who either came from or owned a place with a name beginning that way.

I would be lying if I said all names in the form X-owski or X-owsky were Polish. You do see Ukrainians and Belarusians with names of that sort. But they tend to be rarer, especially among Russians. They tend to use just the ending -ov or -ev, with any -ski added. You can read more about this.

All things considered, I'd say TRIKOWSKY is the name Poles spell TRYKOWSKI, pronounced roughly "trick-OFF-skee." Poles normally avoid the combination -RI-, preferring -RY- (but Russians have no problem with the combination (-RI-). Also Poles never spell it -sky, always -ski.

But if you look at the name and sound it out, you'll realize TRIKOWSKY and TRYKOWSKI are just slightly different spellings of the same name. Inconsistent spelling of names is extremely common when dealing with people from central and eastern Europe; it doesn't pay to get too hung up on spelling, better to deal with the sounds involved. This name could show up in records as TRYKOVSKY or TRICKOFFSKE or TRIKOWSKY, etc. But the standard Polish spelling is TRYKOWSKI. I suspect TRIKOWSKY is a Germanized version of that name, which would look kind of like this in the pre-1917 Cyrillic alphabet: T P N K O B C K I N

The 3rd letter looks like a backwards N, and the final letter looks like a backwards N with a little curve over it. The other letters look just like ones we use, but P is like the sound we write R, B is like our V, and C is like our S.

While frequency and derivation of this name in Poland is not directly useful to you -- since your ancestors seem to have been Poles who resettled in Bessarabia (which was not uncommon) -- such data can sometimes 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 and is now online as a searchable database at http://www.herby.com.pl/herby/indexslo.html), there were 283 Polish citizens named Trykowski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 31, Elblag 28, Gdansk 38, and Torun 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 shows up most often in northcentral to northwestern Poland. I have no data for Bessarabia or any other country, so I can't give you any ideas on how common the name may be there.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it can come from the root seen in the noun tryk, "an ungelded ram," and in the verb trykac, "to butt with the forehead." Names in the form X-owski mean literally "of the _ of X," where the blank is filled in with something so obvious it didn't have to be spelled out -- usually "kin" or "place."

So TRYKOWSKI probably started out meaning either "of the kin of the ram" or "one from the place of the ram." The Tryk part may have been a nickname of an ancestor who raised rams or reminded people of a ram, or something along those lines. Then Trykowski would have been the way people referred to his kin or to people who came from a village or settlement or farm he owned or founded. It's quite possible the family got the name in Poland, then later moved to Bessarabia. As I said, that was not particularly uncommon; we find names of Polish origin all over that whole area.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
    

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