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Chmielecki - Chmieleski - Chmielewski - Malaske
Created by Administrator Account in 1/1/2010 6:33:19 AM


My ancestors from Peplin, Poland, had the name Malaske in the U.S. I just recently found an alternate spelling on a naturalization paper of Chmielecki. On another document, Chmieleski. Are any of these common Polish surnames?

As for Chmieleski, the standard form is Chmielewski. It is properly pronounced "h'myell-EFF-skee," but in everyday speech that ending is often pronounced "ess-kee," as if the name were spelled Chmieleski. Spellings in records were often phonetic, so it wouldn't be at all unusual to see the name spelled with -eski. But the standard form is Chmielewski.

It obviously comes from the same basic root as Chmielecki: the noun chmiel, "hops." Like Chmielecki, it would refer in most cases to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago. But whereas Chmielecki would usually refer to places with names such as Chmielek, Chmielik, Chmielnik, and so forth, Chmielewski would refer to places named Chmielew and Chmielewo. The distinction is that Chmielewski means literally "of the _ of the hops," and the unstated word that fills in the blank would be "place," so that Chmielewski means "one from Chmielew or Chmielewo," which in turn means "one from the place of hops." Chmielecki, however, has a diminutive suffix -ek or -ec added to the root, so that it means "one from the place of the little hops guy." A subtle distinction, perhaps, but the point is that the two names would usually refer to different place names.

However, the surnames are close enough that it would not be strange to see them confused sometimes. Unfortunately, in older records surnames often varied (even in English), so that you might see the same family called Chmielecki in one record, Chmielewski in another, perhaps Chmielewicz in a third, and so on. You have to keep in mind the possibility of such variation.

There are numerous places in Poland these names can refer to. So it's impossible to say which place either surname referred to in a given family's case. The only way to discover that would be through genealogical research, tracing your specific family back generation to generation, until you trace them to their ancestral village in Poland. At that point it might become possible to establish a connection between them and some nearby place with a name that fits.

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), there were 33,578 Polish citizens named Chmielewski, so that name is more common than Chmielecki. But it, too, is found all over Poland; the name itself gives no leads as to what part of the country a specific family came from.

Malaske can be a variation of a name in its own right, Mala[w]ski. But in this case it seems likely to be an Anglicized version of Chmiele[w]ski. Eastern European surnames were often mangled badly when immigrants came to the U. S., past the point of easy recognition. You often have no clue what the real name was until you do some research and find documents closer to the point of actual immigration. In this case, it's highly likely Malaske is the Americanized form, Chmielewski the Polish form, and Chmielecki a similar name with which Chmielewski was sometimes confused.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.


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