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Created by Administrator Account in 12/31/2009 1:49:56 PM


Our family names are Gorzalkowski, Borkowski and Korzenewski [Borkowski and Korzeniewski are dealt with in separate notes.]

Gorzalkowski in Polish is spelled with a slash through the L, which means it is pronounced like our W. Gorzałkowski is pronounced roughly "go-zhaw-KOFF-skee."

Surnames in the form X-owski mean literally "of the X's _," where the blank is to be filled in with something so obvious it didn't need to be spelled out -- usually "kin" or "place." So in some cases X-owski can mean "kin of [the] X." But most often it refers to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago, a place name beginning with the X part, which may have various suffixes that were detached before the -owski was added. If the family was noble, they owned an estate there; if not, they lived and worked there. So while X-owski can just mean "kin of X," it generally means "one from the place of X." There are, however, exceptions.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions Gorzałkowski in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles], Vol. 1, Institut Jezyka Polskiego PAN, Kraków 1999, ISBN 83-87623-18-0. It comes from the noun gorzałka, "booze, hard liquor, vodka." So this surname could mean "of the kin of the liquor guys," or it could mean "from the place of liquor."

I cannot find any place in Poland with a name such as Gorzałki or Gorzałkowo, however; so I suspect this particular name probably indicates that the family was involved in distilling hard liquor -- "of the kin of the vodka guys," rather than "of the place of vodka." It suggests ancestors were related to people who distilled hard liquor, especially vodka.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland and is now online as a searchable database), there were 48 Polish citizens named Gorzałkowski. They lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 11, Jelenia Gora 4, Opole 5, Pila 1, Piotrkow 19, Poznan 2, Szczecin 5, and Wloclawek 1. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

If you wish to look at the data for yourself, it is at this site:

If you need help using it, I wrote an article on the subject in the latest issue of Gen Dobry!, the free e-zine of PolishRoots.

This data indicates that the name is scattered in small numbers all over the country. You can't look at the name and say, "Oh, the Gorzałkowskis came from this area right here." They could have come from anywhere. Incidentally, that's how it is with most Polish surnames; very few point you to a specific place of family origin. Even if the name refers to a place, there's usually more than one place with a name that fits. The only way to determine exactly where a family came from is to trace their history as far back as possible, in hopes of uncovering info that sheds light on the matter. The surname, by itself, usually won't tell you.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.




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