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Chiemengo - Ciemięga - Ciemenga
Created by Administrator Account in 1/2/2010 7:54:53 AM

 


I have been searching for a while and have not been able to find any information about my family. All I know is that they are from Poland and that my grandfather came to the U.S.A. around the early 1900's from Poland. He was sent to the U.S.A. by his father who owned a shoe factory somewhere in Poland. When they arrived at Ellis Island I have been told that the name was changed, I am not sure why but it was changed from CIEMIEGA to CHIEMINGO. My grandparents both died at very young ages, and the children were sent to farms and lost all possible family records.

My information sources don't help much with finding individual persons or families, but I can tell you a few things about the name that may prove interesting, if not helpful.

In Polish this name is spelled Ciemięga -- as an E with a tail under it, and usually pronounced much like "en." In Polish the combination CI is pronounced much like English "ch." So Ciemięga sounds like "chem-YENG-gah." Once you realize this, it's not hard to understand why the spelling might be changed to Chiemingo -- by English phonetic values, this is a reasonably good representation of how the name was pronounced in Polish. That's usually the reason for spelling changes of this sort. Different languages using the Roman alphabet use different ways of representing sounds, and in Polish Ciemięga is a very good way of spelling the sounds of this name; but it makes no sense to English-speakers, for us English "Chiemingo" is a more comprehensible spelling.

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 960 Polish citizens named Ciemięga. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 278, Radom 74, Rzeszow 149, and Tarnow 82. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. This data shows the name is found primarily in southcentral and southeastern Poland, in the region formerly ruled by Austria and called Galicia. But the disappointing thing is that it doesn't really help a great deal in tracing where a given Ciemięga family came from originally; they could come from anywhere in Poland, and especially in southcentral to southeastern Poland.

There was also 124 Poles who spelled the name Ciemienga, which makes sense phonetically, if you recall what I said about the pronunciation of that letter Ę.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the noun ciemięga, which means "dullard, worthless fellow, twerp." I know this isn't very flattering, but believe me, compared to some Polish names I've seen, this is not bad at all. There are an incredibly large number of Polish surnames that come from words that are outright insults, some of them obscene. I really think some of them were surely meant in fun, the way Americans sometimes call their friends by insulting names as a jest.

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

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