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Bronkala - Brzakala - Brzonkala
Created by Administrator Account in 12/22/2009 9:27:36 AM

 


...I have been searching for quite some time for any reference to my maiden name Bronkala or Brzonkala (both spellings are listed on my Grandfather's death certificate). I haven't a clue as to where my ancestors may have come from in Poland. I'm hoping if I understood what the name meant, I would be able to discover their place of origin.

In a case like this the best procedure is to try, if possible, to determine the standard form of the name, as that helps clarify what root it derived from. I have a 10-volume set of books that lists every surname borne by Poles as of 1990 (well, almost every name -- the database lacked info on 6% of the population, but 94% is pretty good); it gives the name, the total number of Poles by that name, and a breakdown of where they lived by province. (It gives no further info such as first names, addresses, ages, so unfortunately I can't help with that). Looking in that directory for the likely forms of this name, here's what I found:

Bronkala: 10, all in Katowice province

Brzonkala: 0 (which means there was at least one, but the data file was missing info)

Brąkała: 1, living in the province of Nowy Sacz (the ą refers to the Polish nasal a, pronounced like "on"; the ł refers to the Polish slashed l, which is pronounced much like our w)

Brząkała: 772, living all over Poland, but with the largest numbers (more than 50) in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (54), Kalisz (208), Katowice (58), Opole (52), and Pila (83)

This suggests that Brząkała is the "standard" form of the name -- the others are all variants; they are pronounced more or less the same, so that if you take into account regional variations in pronunciation, they all make sense as slightly different forms of the same name. Brząkała is most common in western Poland and especially southwestern Poland (Kalisz, Katowice and Opole provinces); I don't see any really useful pattern to the distribution, except that Kalisz province has a large enough concentration to deserve particular attention.

Having established that Brząkała is probably the standard form of the name, I looked in Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut's book Nazwiska Polakow, and found that he does mention this name as having derived from the basic root seen in the words brzęk, "rattle, clang," and brzęczeć, "to rattle, clang, make a rattling noise" -- the ę refers to the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under it and pronounced much like "en," and it's not uncommon for the two nasal vowels ą and ę to change places with each other in names and words.

The suffix -ała usually means "one who typifies or is always displaying the characteristic denoted by the first part of the word," so Brząkała would mean "one always rattling, clanging." A closely related word, brzękałka, is a musical instrument that makes such a sound. So there was something about a clang or rattling sound that people associated with a particular fellow, so that they gave him this nickname and it eventually stuck as a surname. Perhaps he was always making noise, or ringing a bell, something like that; centuries later it's hard for us to say just exactly how the name arose, but we can be fairly certain it was something along those lines.

Copyright © 1998 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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