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Kostrzewa - Kostrzewski
Created by Administrator Account in 12/24/2009 5:30:05 AM


... I asked you a question about Polish surnames some time ago, and you were kind enough to answer, so I would like to try you again. I have been researching my father's ancestors who came from the Poznan area, and I found that the earliest ones that I found were called Kostrzewski (born in 1700s), while in the early 1800s they seemed to change to Kostrzewa. I got the Kostrzewski /Kostrzewa names from Catholic Church records, whereas only Kostrzewa was used in the Prussian records I have. Can you tell me why they might have changed? Did other surnames make such a change too?

That's an interesting phenomenon. I can say that in general it's not too unusual to see Poles living in the Prussian partition (which included the Poznan area) modify their names to sound "less Polish." The Germans made no secret of their intention to root out Slavic influences and make their part of Poland basically a prime territory for Germans to colonize. Many Poles were blond-haired and blue-eyed and could pass as Germans, but retaining a Polish name or speaking in Polish tended to make you stand out as one of those trouble-making Poles the Germans wanted to eliminate. So, under pressure, many Poles spoke German and even let their names be modified to forms that didn't sound quite so "alien" to Germans.

I'll grant you, Kostrzewski to Kostrzewa is not exactly a huge leap. But at least you're rid of that -ski ending, that's something. That would be my guess as to the explanation. To Poles, Kostrzewski is a perfectly good name, it would be silly to change it to Kostrzewa; but a Pole who felt he had to to change his name but didn't want to change it too much might have felt it was an acceptable compromise. For that matter, German record-keepers may have just decided "You vill now go by zis name" -- they had a charming way of doing that sometimes.

I'm not positive this is the answer, but I suspect it is. Some Poles went all the way, completely Germanizing their names, e. g., from "Kowalski" to "Schmidt." Others made small changes, and I have a feeling that's what this is. Without the -ski on the end your ancestors may have felt they'd get a little less grief from the Germans, but they didn't completely "sell out."

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



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