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Dziuma - Mohylowski - Rzegotka - Zahemski - Żegota
Created by Administrator Account in 12/25/2009 8:59:42 AM


... I went through the book looking for names in my family, and was able to track only two of them: Hudziak and Ryczko. I am especially interested in my last name, Mohylowski, which I was unable to find, and frankly have never come across...

Mohylowski almost certainly originated as meaning "person from Mohylew," which is the name of a major city in what is now Belarus; the city's name is also spelled Mogilev, Magilev, Mohilev, etc. There were 22 Poles names Mohylowski as of 1990, and 144 named Mogilewski, so it is a fairly rare name among Poles. Of the 22, 11 lived in Bydgoszcz province, 5 in Konin prov., 3 in Legnica prov., and 3 in Torun prov.

... Another family name is Dziuma, and my grandfather's (above) sister married a man by that name...

As of 1990 there were 45 Poles named Dziuma, living in the following provinces: Gdansk 7, Katowice 4, Legnica 9, Pila 17, Przemysl 3, Wroclaw 3, Zielona Gora 2. I can find no root or other source for this name, and I suspect it may not be Polish in origin.

... The name Rzegotka, my grandmother's maiden name, I don't recall seeing in your book either. ...

As of 1990 there were 19 Poles named Rzegotka, living in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala 11, Krakow 6, and Nowy Sacz 2 -- all in southern Poland, near the border with the Czech and Slovak republics. This specific name is not mentioned in the book, but Rzegocki is, and the two are surely related. Names beginning with rzegot- or żegot- apparently come from ancient roots meaning "burn" or "stab," and the name Żegota is attested as far back as 1212. The -ka is just a diminutive ending, so that Rzegotka would mean "little Rzegota/Zegota."

... The last name, Zahemski, is the name of the man who adopted my grandmother here in the New York area. There are a few Zahemskis in the Passaic, NJ area, but I don't recall seeing it in your book. ...

Like the other names, this one does not appear in the book because it is so rare. 1990 government databases list no Polish citizen by this name. However, h and ch are pronounced exactly the same in Polish, so the spelling Zachemski is also relevant, and as of 1990 there were 21 Poles by that name, all living in the province of Nowy Sacz, in south central Poland. I have to wonder if this is a mangled form of some other name, because I can find no Polish root that Zachemski would come from.

You know, it could be we're dealing with a variant of a more common name, affected by dialect, mispronuncation, misspelling, something. The za- part makes perfect sense, it's a prefix and a preposition meaning "past, beyond, on the other side of." It's possible, for instance, that this name was originally something like Zachełmski, meaning "from the other side of Chełm," or "person from Zachełmie," the name of several villages that were "beyond, past Chełm." This makes sense too because that ł is pronounced so softly that sometimes it is just dropped, which would yield something sounding very like "Zachemski." Also, a name Zachemba appears in the Surname Directory (very rare, only 8 bearers), and when the suffix -ski is added on that b sound would tend to disappear, again yielding "Zachemski." That name doesn't appear in the Directory either, but to me either Zachełmski or Zachembski sounds "more Polish" than Zachemski.

I wish I could have included every name in my book, but as I explain in it, there are literally hundreds of thousands of Polish surnames, most borne by only a few people. Since I had only a finite amount of room for discussing names, I tried to concentrate on the most common ones. For people who want to know about names that aren't listed in my book, I mention (on p. 177 in the 2nd edition, p. 137 in the 1st) the Anthroponymic Workshop in Krakow -- they're the best source of info on Polish names I know of. I highly recommend them, as they have excellent sources, can correspond in English, and charge very reasonable fees: $20 is usually enough to cover 1-3 names.

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



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