Chlewiński - Klevinski - Klewiński
Created by Administrator Account in 3/14/2010 5:48:41 AM


...Could you please research my family name Klevinski. My father thinks the original spelling started with "Ch". My grandfather came to America from Poland around 1890. Thank you in advance for your help.

The problem here is trying to figure out what the original form of the name was in Poland. The v is wrong because Poles don't use v; but that's not a big problem, Polish w sounds like v and thus is often spelled as v by non-Poles. So we can say Klewiński is the way the name would be rendered by Poles. But what about the first letter? Your father could be right, non-Poles often had trouble with the guttural ch or h sound in Polish and turned it into k, which is the closest sound in English. So we might be dealing with Chlewiński.

But Klewiński is a recognized Polish name -- as of 1990 there were 72 Poles named Klewiński, living in the provinces of Warsaw (18), Bielsko-Biala (5), Gorzow (16), Jelenia Gora (1), Leszno (3), Lublin (6), Olsztyn (22) and Opole (1). There's no recognizable pattern to this, they're scattered all over the country. But the point is that this name is possible. It derives most likely from Klewe, a German place name, and generally Klew- in German comes from a short form of the first name Niklaus (Nicholas); there is a village Klewinowo in Białystok province.

If the name was originally Chlewiński, it comes from the root chlew, "pigsty." There were 238 Poles named Chlewińskias of 1990, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Olsztyn (40) and Pila (52), in northcentral Poland, the area formerly called Prussia and ruled for a long time by the Germans.

So either name is possible, and there's really no way I can tell you for sure which is right in your case. I guess you'll just have to hope you can find some record (immigration and naturalization papers, ship passenger lists, parish records in this country) that will establish what the original form was and where the family came from.

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