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Created by Administrator Account in 12/23/2009 9:58:40 AM


I wanted to add my name to your surname list - Kaliszewski. I don't know much, but I wonder if the spelling was changed or if the name is still around. I appreciate it. Thanks!

Well, there's no way to tell for sure if the name was changed except by tracing your family history. Names were often changed, and sometimes the changes seem very odd to us. But I'll say this -- names were usually changed either because somebody got the spelling wrong, and the error stuck, or because the immigrant decided his foreign-sounding name was making it hard for him and his family to fit in, so he simplified it. Well, Kaliszewski is spelled fine, this is a name that definitely exists in Poland; and if someone were going to Anglicize a name, it's hard to believe he'd change it to Kaliszewski!

So I think the odds are good this spelling and form are accurate. As I say, you can't be sure without tracing the family history in various kinds of records. But I think it's reasonable to assume the name survived intact.

Poles pronounce Kaliszewski roughly "kah-lee-SHEFF-skee." That's the masculine form of the name, which is regarded as standard; females traditionally go by Kaliszewska, "kah-lee-SHEFF-skah." It's not regarded as a separate name, but simply the feminine version of Kaliszewski.

You can see a Web page with 2002 data on the frequency and distribution of these two forms, along with a color map illustrating the data, here:

As you can see, in 2002 there were 1,686 Kaliszewski's and 1,831 Kaliszewska's. They lived in many parts of Poland, with the largest numbers in in the quarter of the country from north central to east central Poland. The largest numbers were in the county of Warsaw, 79+104; other counties with large numbers were Ostrołęka (55), Gdańsk (45), and municipal Bydgoszcz (45). As is often the case, there is no overwhelming concentration in any one area that tells you a family by this name had to come from there. A Kaliszewski family could from a number of different areas.

Surnames in the form X-ewski usually mean either "one from the place of X" or "of the kin of X." Often they refer to specific place names beginning with the X part. So we would expect this name to mean either "of the kin of Kalisz" or "one from the place of Kalisz," which might refer to the city of Kalisz itself, in west central Poland, or to other places with names beginning Kalisz-. There are at least four places called Kalisz in Poland, and the surname could theoretically refer to any of them. Or, as I say, the name might mean "of the kin of Kalisz," referring to an ancestor by that name.

The personal name Kalisz appears in Polish records as early as 1309, according to the late Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut's book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. It comes from a basic root meaning "dirty, stained," and is related to words meaning "swamp" and "excrement." So as early as the 14th century there were men whose first names or nicknames were Kalisz; and Kaliszewski could have referred to them as ancestors, or it could refer to places these men owned or founded, places named Kalisz or something similar.

From the surname alone, you just can't say which derivation applies. One Kaliszewski family might have gotten the name by association with one of those four places called Kalisz. Another family might have gotten the name from another place called Kalisz. Another family might have been "of the kin of Kalisz." Yet another might have been "of the kin of Kalisz," but a different ancestor by that name. The only way to nail down how and why a specific family ended up with a specific name is to trace the family history as far back as possible. Sometimes you find info in old records that sheds light on the matter.

But without that kind of specialized, detailed info, the most we can say is that the surname means "of the kin of Kalisz" or "one from the place of Kalisz." That much is clear; it's just the exact nature of the association that we cannot tell by analyzing the surname. But with any luck, research into the family history may clear things up.

Copyright © 2009 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.





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