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Created by Administrator Account in 12/23/2009 9:17:55 AM


...The surname that I am interested in is Okraszewski. I have been lucky enough to find on the internet, a student in Poland with the same last name and we are now trying to find our ancestoral connection. I understand that this name is not very common in Poland, and I would like to be able to let him know the origin of our name...

Actually Okraszewski is not all that uncommon -- as of 1990 there were 524 Polish citizens by that name. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Warsaw (88), Elblag (33), Płock (134), Skierniewice (50), and Wloclawek (57), with smaller numbers in several other provinces... Names ending in -ewski usually started as references to a connection between a family and a particular place, and the place(s) usually have names ending in -y or -ew or -ewo or -ewa. If the family was noble, that might be the name of their estate or the village they owned; if they were peasants, they probably came from there, worked there, or perhaps traveled on business there often. In this case you'd expect the place(s) to have names like Okraszy, Okraszewo, something like that. I can't find any such places on my maps, but that's not unusual -- sometimes surnames come from place-names that were used only by locals, or refer to places that have since disappeared, been absorbed into other communities, or changed their names. But if your research enables you to pinpoint the particular area your ancestors lived in, then you can try to find out more about the immediate area -- if you find a place named something like Okraszewo, that's probably the place they were named for.

...Is this the era when peasants added "ski" to their surnames to appear to be nobility?...

Well, the peasants started taking surnames about the 16th century, and the process went on into the 17th and sometimes the early 18th century. By then -ski names had become so common that they seemed almost universal. In most cases peasants weren't really trying to fool anyone that they were noble -- in small villages and parishes, where everyone knew everyone else, how are you going to con anyone about something like that? They took -ski names because such names were popular and they liked the sound of them. I mean, if you had a choice between a name such as "Peon" and a name such as "Knight," which would you choose? Originally the -ski names just had a touch of elegance and class to them, due to that former association with noble estate-owners. But by the 17th-18th centuries they had become so common that they really didn't have much of that connotation left; they were just names, and it seemed like most Poles you met had -ski names.

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




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