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Jażdżewski - Pietrowski
Created by Administrator Account in 5/12/2010 11:43:47 AM

 


... I am searching for information on the names of Jasdzewski and Pietrowski. Both of my parent's families are from central Minnesota. One person has informed me that Jazdzewski might be the correct spelling of the first name, and that Piotrowski is a more common name than the latter.

That person who informed you sounds like knowledgeable -- so often when people write and say "I was told that..." what comes next turns out to be utter garbage. Piotrowski is more common than Pietrowski; as of 1990 there were 2,031 Polish citizens named Pietrowski, and 57,934 named Piotrowski. From the viewpoint of name derivation, however, we can treat those two as more or less the same -- the ultimate root of both is the first name Piotr, the Polish version of "Peter." And it is almost certain that Jasdzewski (no one by that name in Poland as of 1990) is a variant form of Jażdżewski (2,374); very possibly someone misread a z as an s somewhere along the line. Or at one time the name may well have been spelled that way also, but in the last century literacy has become far more common among Poles, and along with it came normative influences that tended to standardize spelling -- a phenomenon I'm sure you're familiar with. So variants such as Jasdzewski would tend to be standardized as Jażdżewski. (the Polish name is spelled with dots over both z's — giving them the "zh" sound of "Zhivago," so that the name would be pronounced roughly "yazh-JEV-skee").

Polish names ending in -ewski or -owski usually began as references to a connection between a person or family and a place with a similar name, typically ending in -ew, -ewo, -ów, -owo, -y, -i, etc. Thus we'd expect Jażdżewski to mean "person from Jażdżewo or Jażdżew, etc.," and Pietrowski would mean "person from Pietrów, Pietrowo, etc." Names ending in -ski are actually adjectival in origin, and when this suffix was added to toponyms other endings tended to drop off, so that different toponyms such as Pietrów, Pietrowo, even Pietrowice could all end up with the same adjectival form, Pietrowski. At one point in Polish history these surnames derived from toponyms were used only by the nobility, but as time went on that exclusivity could not be maintained; thus if you see Pietrowski in a record from the 15th century, it almost certainly refers to a noble family that owned an estate or village named something like Pietrów, Pietrowo, etc. -- all of which mean "[place] of Peter." But as time went on the name that originally implied "noble owning the estate of Pietrow/o/ice" came to mean no more than "person or family from Pietrow/o/ice."

There are numerous villages and towns in Poland with names that could produce the surname Pietrowski or Piotrowski (in Slavic languages there is a linkage between o and e, it is not rare to see forms with either vowel), so I have no basis on which to indicate one as the place most likely connected with your ancestors. This is not surprising, when you realize how common a name Piotr is in Poland -- there could be little "places of Peter" all over, and thus the surname meaning "one from the place of Peter" can also have developed all over. So unfortunately the data on frequency and distribution of either Pietrowski or Piotrowski isn't much help -- it just tells us these are common names, although Piotrowski is by far the more common.

Jażdżewski refers to a place named Jażdżew or Jażdżewo, and that in turn derives from a root jazd-/jezd- meaning "to travel, ride," referring to travel by some conveyance as opposed to on foot. So the name literally parses as "of, from, having to do with or connected with the place of riding," but more often we'd render it simply as "one from Jażdżew or Jażdżewo or Jażdy." It's odd that this is a moderately common name (as I said, 2,374 Poles bore this name as of 1990), but I can't find any corresponding toponyms on my maps; I would have expected to find at least a couple of Jażdżew's or Jażdżewo's. This is not too unusual, however; these surnames typically developed at least two centuries ago, often more, and since then the place they referred to could easily have disappeared, changed its name, be absorbed by another, larger community. So it's sometimes very difficult to track down the place the surname originally referred to.

I have a 10-volume source that lists every name in Poland as of 1990 and how many Poles bore that name (it's the one I've been citing data from all along); this source also breaks the total down by province. So I can tell you that Jażdżewski is found in many provinces, but is most common by far in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (736), Gdansk (832), Slupsk (340). These are all in northcentral to northwestern Poland, and that geographical concentration suggests these names may be associated with the Kaszubi, a very interesting ethnic Slavic group closely related to the Poles but with their own fascinating culture and language. You might wish to visit the Website of the Kashubian Association of North America, it's very possible they could give you some good info or leads on the Jazdzewski side -- possibly the Pietrowski side as well.

Also with the Minnesota connection you might want to investigate the Polish Genealogical Society of Minnesota.

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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