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Kolano - Rykaczewski - Zbikowski - Zembrzuski
Created by Administrator Account in 10/17/2009 2:46:33 PM

 


...I have just begun researching my Polish ancestry, and am very interested in the background of the surnames I have found: Rykaczewski, Zembrzuski, Zbikowski, Kolano (in one death certificate it is Kolana). I have documents on each one, stating birth in Poland.

According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut, Kolano comes from the word kolano, which means "knee." People often received nicknames referring to some bodily feature, and these nicknames somehow stuck and became surnames; so an ancestor might have had a knee that gave him a lot of trouble, or was always on his knees, something like that. As of 1990 there were 2,185 Poles with this name, scattered all over Poland but with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (113), Katowice (249), Przemysl (120), Rzeszow (137), Tarnobrzeg (374), and Zamosc (209) -- this suggests the name is most common in southeastern Poland, but is hardly restricted to that area -- which only makes sense, a name like Kolano could get started anywhere Polish was spoken and people had knees, i. e., anywhere in Poland.

Names ending in -ewski and -owski usually developed as a reference to some association between a family and a particular place name they came from, worked at, etc. So Rykaczewski suggests an association with a place named Rykacze, Rykaczewo, something like that. The most likely place in this case is Rykacze, a few miles southeast of Zambrów in Łomża province; there could be other villages with suitable names too small to show up on my maps, but capable of generating surnames. As of 1990 there were 1,159 Poles with the name Rykaczewski, living all over Poland but with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (93), Łomża (103), Olsztyn (214), and Torun (143), suggesting the name is most common northern and northeastern Poland.

Zbikowski probably comes ultimately from the root Żbik, "wildcat" (I'm using Ż stands for the Polish dotted z, pronounced like the s in "measure"), but the -owski again indicates the family was associated with a place named Żbików, Żbikowo, Żbiki, etc., and those places got their names because there were wildcats around. There are several villages called Żbik, Żbiki, Żbikowice, and the surname could have originated in connection with any or all of them. As of 1990 there were 3,522 Poles named Żbikowski, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (598), Ciechanow (536), Ostrołęka (229), and Wloclawek (269), suggesting a concentration in central and north central Poland.

Zembrzuski also is probably connected with a place name, of which 2 prime candidates are Zembrzus Wielki (served by the parish church in Czernice Borowe) in Ciechanow prov., and Zembrzus-Mokry Grunt (Janow/Janowo parish), Olsztyn province. There could be other places that qualify, these are the only two I found offhand. The ultimate root of the name is ząbr, an illness affecting horses' gums, or ząbrz, "aurochs" (the ą stands for the Polish nasal vowel written as a with a tail under it and pronounced like on or om before b or p). As of 1990 there were 1,774 Poles named Zembrzuski, with the largest numbers appearing in the provinces of Warsaw (238), Ciechanow (427), Olsztyn (293), and Ostrołęka (151), suggesting a concentration in north central and northeastern Poland.

...Also, do you know anything about Przasnysz? It is stated as the birthplace of my great-grandfather.
Only that it's a town in Ostrołęka province that is mentioned in records going back at least to 1244; but I'm afraid I have no more info.

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

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