Created by Administrator Account in 3/6/2010 2:21:08 PM


I’m actually curious about the name ‘Krukowski’. I see on Wikipedia that it’s included as one of the families which used the Slepowron “herb”.

In Polish, KRUKOWSKI is pronounced roughly "kroo-KOFF-skee." The O in the middle syllable is a little longer than our short O in "hot," but not quite as long as in "go." If you can make it of medium length, you'll have it right, and you'll be saying the name in a way any Pole could recognize. (Actually, the way we pronounce R is very unlike the Polish R, which is lightly trilled as in Italian. But a Pole would recognize the name with no problem.)

This name is adjectival in origin, which means males have traditionally gone by KRUKOWSKI, and females by KRUKOWSKA. There are some females in Poland these days who prefer to go by the "standard" form of the name, which is the masculine one. But the vast majority still use that traditional feminine form.

You can see 2002 data on the name's frequency and distribution, along with color maps illustrating the data, on these pages:

This data tells us the name is moderately common by Polish standards, with 3,299 Krukowskas and 3,075 Krukowskis as of 2002. As the color maps indicate, it's not highly concentrated in any one area; this is normal for Polish surnames, comparatively few are so highly localized as to give us a useful clue where a specific family came from. A Krukowski family could have come from practically anywhere in Poland; the only way to find out where yours came from would be to trace the family history in various records on this side of the Atlantic -- parish records, census rolls, naturalization papers, passports, ship passenger lists, that sort of thing -- till the wonderful day you find a piece of paper that tells you exactly where they lived in Poland before they emigrated. If you have that info, you can make real progress tracing them in Poland. Without it, a surname alone is almost worthless.

Fortunately, you have info that suggests the Zamosc area is where your ancestors came from, and that can really help a lot. The 2002 data tells us that Zamosc county is where the largest numbers of Krukowskis lived (188 Krukowskas and 175 Krukowskis). This means you may very well have relatives in the area; and instead of having to look all over Poland, you can try focusing on the Zamosc area.

The late Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in Polish records as early as 1443, and, like most names ending in -owski, derives from the name of a place the family was connected with at some point, a place with a name beginning Krok- or Kruk- or Kruch-; it's not uncommon for O and U to switch in surnames over time, and the guttural sound of Polish CH can sometimes switch with K.

If the family was noble, X-owski meant something like "the lord of X"; if it was not, the name meant "one from X." Originally surnames were used only by nobles, and often came from the names of their estates. But as time went on, peasants started using surnames too, and what once mean "lord of Krokow" came to mean little more than "one from Krokow."

I mention Krokow because that is the name of one place Prof. Rymut mentions as associated with this surname. He says it was in the "Eastern Borderlands," territory once ruled by Poland but now in Belarus or Ukraine. He also lists the name under those deriving from Kruchowo, a village near Bydgoszcz in northwestern Poland. As far as that goes, the name could also refer to a family connection with any of a number of villages with names such as Kruki, Krukow, Krukowo, etc.

There are quite a few places bearing those names, so that again, you can't tell from the surname alone which one your particular Krukowskis were named for. Only successful family research might uncover something that clears that up. For instance, if you establish that your family came from near Opatow in southeastern Poland, their surname might refer to the Krukow nearby; if they came from near Bialogard in northwestern Poland, it might refer to nearby Krukowo. The Krukow near Opatow is the closest I can find to the Zamosc area, so it MIGHT be the place your family's name came from.

There were noble Krukowskis, as you found on the Wikipedia pages. It was not at all unusual for families bearing the same name to bear different coats of arms. As you've guessed, there wasn't one big Krukowski family, but a number of different ones, coming by the name in different ways. One might have been "lords of Krukowo," another "lords of Kruki," another "kin of the guy nicknamed Kruk (raven)," and so on. Of course, if the family was of the peasant class, it did not have a coat of arms at all.

The good news is that, if you can trace your family to where they lived in Poland, you will probably be able to tell quite early whether or not they were noble; if they were, records will mention it. That would be good news, because records on nobles tend to be more plentiful, better preserved, and older than those on peasants. It can be pretty hard to find any record that mentions peasants before, oh, 1700; nobles may appear in records back to the 1400s or even earlier. So I hope for your sake that your Krukowski ancestors were noble!

As you can probably tell, with Polish surnames it's usually a "good news/bad news" situation. The bad news is that nobles were far more mobile than peasants; in fact, until serfdom was abolished, serfs could not leave their lords' land without his permission. So peasants tended to stay put, at least until the 1800s. But nobles bought and sold and traded estates all the time. So a noble family named Krukowski that lived in the Zamosc area might not have been from there originally; the Kruk- part could conceivably refer to some estate halfway across Poland.

So you do have your work cut out for you. You might want to post this name on the PolishOrigins Surnames Database at This database has not been up and running all that long, but it's already got a respectable list of names. It might be an easy way to make contact with others researching the same name. I notice there is a Krukowski on there already, but apparently he's not sure of the spelling, and it doesn't sound as if his roots lie all that near Zamosc. Still, it can't hurt to compare notes!

That's about all I can tell you. I hope it's some help, and wish you the best of luck with your research.

Fred (officially "William F.") Hoffman
Author, Polish Surnames: Origins & Meanings

Copyright © 2010 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.