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Created by Administrator Account in 12/23/2009 11:36:10 AM


I am looking for my family in Poland. My Mom died at a young age, my Grandparents are also deceased. My Great Aunt does not remember what village they used to send packages to and I am hoping you can give me some information on the last name.

In Polish, males traditionally go by the form Kurpiewski, pronounced roughly "kurp-YEFF-skee," and females by Kurpiewska, "kurp-YEFF-skah." The name is moderately common by Polish standards, borne by roughly 2,600 Polish citizens as of 1990. If you'd like to see 2002 data on the name's frequency and distribution, with color maps illustrating the data, look here:

In 2002 there were 1,421 Poles who went by Kurpiewska, and another 1,381 who went by KURPIEWSKI. The name shows up all over Poland, but is especially common in the northeastern part of the country, in the counties of Ostrołęka (175+167), Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki (156+131), municipal Ostrołęka (144+129), Warsaw (89+89), and municipal Lomza (74+72). It is quite plausible the name originated in northeastern Poland and is still most common there, though some people by this name have moved to other parts of the country.

There's a reason the name is most common in the northeast. Names ending in -ewski usually refer to the name of a place. The late Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles], and he said that the name appears in records as far back as 1462. It refers to the Kurpie ethnic group, who live in northern Mazovia (northeastern Poland). It also can refer to the village named Kurpie, also called Kurpiewo, in the vicinity of Ostrołęka in northeast Poland. For more information on the Kurpie, and the areas where they live, you can refer to this Wikipedia page:

Wikipedia articles aren't always completely reliable, but by and large, I find them to be reasonably accurate -- especially on subjects like this, subjects that are not particularly controversial. That Web page also has a number of online references you can check out.

There's no way to tell for sure exactly which place in the Kurpie homeland a Kurpiewski family came from. It's reasonable to suppose the family came from that area, which is not a large area and thus narrows things down. Still, the name may simply indicate the family was Kurpie, or it may indicate they lived in a specific village in the Kurpie area, such as Kurpie in Podlaskie province, Łomża county, or Kurpiewskie in Ostrołęka county of Mazowieckie province, or possibly even Kurpie in Łodzkie county, in central Poland. This is often true of Polish surnames deriving from place names -- there's more than one place the name can refer to.

In such cases, the only hope of learning more is to trace the family in public records -- parish records, census rolls, naturalization papers, and so on. With any luck you will find some document that tells you exactly where the family came from. At that point, you have a real chance of learning more about them, since many parish records from Poland have been microfilmed by the Mormons' Family History Library in Salt Lake City, and you can have those records lent to the nearest Family History Center for you to study.

Until you nail down exactly where the family lived before emigrating, you have little chance of tracing them in Poland. Once you do find that info, you have a good chance of tracing them quite a long way. But the surname, by itself, almost never tells you exactly where to look. At most, it gives you a pretty decent idea what part of Poland to look in; but you still need to narrow it down to a specific town or village, and establish what parish church served that place.

Good luck!

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




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