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Banaszak - Dembkowski - Sikola - Sikora
Created by Administrator Account in 2/7/2010 2:34:49 PM

...I am a professor of French whose mother was French. My father was either of Polish, Ukraine or Hungarian ancestry. He was born in 1910 and placed in an orphanage at age two. I never gave much thought about my father's origins, but now that he is no longer with me, I do wonder about it. His last name was Sikola, but he also went by the last name Banaszak at one time (when very young). His mother's name was Dembkowski or something like that I think.

Well, Dembkowski is a common Polish surname, so that's likely enough to be right, but it doesn't help much because there are Dembkowski's all over Poland. Banaszak is a name meaning something like "Ben's son" -- Banach is an old nickname, so to speak, from a variant form of Benedykt, "Benedict" (Benoit, s'il vous plait!), and when the suffix -ak ("son of") was added to it, the guttural ch sound modified to the "sh" sound of sz: Banach + -ak = Banaszak. As of 1990 there were 5,410 Poles named Banaszak, living all over Poland, so that one doesn't help much either.

Sikola is a rare name, as of 1990 there were only 2 Poles by that name, living in the province of Walbrzych in southwestern Poland (unfortunately I don't have access to any further data such as addresses). It appears to come from a root meaning "to trickle, spurt," and in vulgar usage "to piss." Names ending in -ala and -ola usually denote someone who was in the habit of doing whatever the root of the word indicated, so this suggests Sikola was a name meaning "one who was always trickling, spurting." I know this isn't very complimentary, and I'm not trying to be offensive here, but all I can do is say what the word appears to mean -- and I've heard of people with names with this root changing them precisely because they got sick of people making fun of them (cmp. the notes under Krzywosika). So it's at least conceivable your father may have gone by Banaszak because that's a perfectly ordinary, common name, not so easily made fun of... However, that's pure speculation, which probably isn't much help to you.

To be honest, when I saw Sikola I wondered if it was a variant of Sikora, an extremely common name (39,850 Poles by that name in 1990), coming from sikora, the titmouse (a kind of bird). I may be completely wrong, mislead by the similarity in sound, but I have seen r and l interchanged occasionally in names, and Sikora was the first thing that came into my mind. I just wanted to mention it so you can keep it in the back of your mind, just in case it ever comes up.

...On one form he filled out in WWII he said she was born in Russia, on another, Ukraine, on another, Poland. When I asked him about it, he said that the territory had changed ownership several times over history and he wasn't sure. His half-sister, now deceased, said their father had Hungarian blood.

The most likely explanation is that he came from what was called Galicia, now southeastern Poland and western Ukraine -- though from the late 18th century to 1918 this area was ruled by Austria, it has also been ruled by Poland and Russia, so the varying data on those forms would be quite comprehensible if he came from there. Also, when you get into that area there's quite a mixing of ethnic groups over the centuries, it's not out of the question that you might run into ethnic Hungarians. That whole area was ruled by Austria-Hungary, so there are some possibilities of connections.

As for how you could try to learn more, I don't do research, but I think it's worthwhile suggesting you join the Polish Genealogical Society of the Northeast, 8 Lyle Rd., New Britain CT 06053 -- I believe their dues are $15 a year, they put out a very fine newsletter twice a year, and they have some pretty good sources for research throughout the northeastern U. S. (and many of their members come from Galicia). If there's any group in the U. S. that might be able to offer some ideas for leads, especially regarding the Pennsylvania connection, PGS-NE is the one.

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



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