Catcavage - Franzik - Kaczorowski - Kotkiewicz
Created by Administrator Account in 7/4/2010 4:13:17 PM


... I have just begun to seek out my roots. I am a second generation American and three of my 4 grandparents came from Poland (or so I'm told). On my mothers side were the Kotkiewicz's from Warsaw. On my fathers - Kaczorowski, also from Warsaw - although there is some talk that my paternal grandmother (nee Franzik) came from Austria.

I should mention that Poland was partitioned and taken over by Germany, Russia, and Austria, beginning in 1772, and so often Poles who lived in the area ruled by Austria (called Galicia) are said to come from that country. But "Austrian Poland" was historically still Poland, and much of it was returned to Poland when that country regained its independence. So your grandmother may have lived in Austria proper, but it's also quite possible she lived in southeastern Poland or western Ukraine and never moved -- but the political boundaries moved around her, and that's how she ended up being "Austrian."

... I have registered all of these loving folks at the Ellis Island wall of immigrants. I was amazed to see a bunch of other Kaczorowski's but not one single Kotkiewicz. I would love to know if you have any idea of the origin of either of these two names.

The -ewicz suffix in Kotkiewicz means "son of," and the root kot means "cat"; the diminutive suffix -ek means "little," and the -e- drops off when further suffixes are added, so this name breaks down as Kot- + -k- + -iewicz, and is literally "son of the little cat or pussy." Surnames from the root kot are popular in Poland, which leaves us wondering exactly how people got such a name -- perhaps it was a nickname, given because an individual loved cats, or moved like a cat, or somehow otherwise reminded people of a cat. Now, centuries after these names developed, it can be hard to figure out exactly what the connection was, the best we can do is explain how the name breaks down and say there was a connection with the word for "cat, pussy."

Kotkiewicz is not an extremely common name, but it's not rare, either -- as of 1990 there were 567 Poles by this name, living all over Poland. The largest numbers by far lived in the provinces of Warsaw (98) and Torun (137), but smaller numbers show up virtually everywhere in Poland. By the way, in this country we often see this name "in disguise," so to speak, spelled phonetically as Catcavage. The Polish pronunciation sounds roughly like "cot-KYE-vich," and it's not hard to hear how that could become Catcavage. I'm a bit surprised you found no Kotkiewicz's at Ellis Island, but that's how it is with names -- there are always twists and turns to the plot!

Kaczorowski is a common name, as of 1990 there were 10,159 Poles named Kaczorowski, living in large numbers all over the country. The name breaks down as Kaczor- + -ow- + -ski. The root kaczor means "drake," the -ow- implies possession or an "of" relationship, and -ski is an adjectival ending meaning "of, from, pertaining to, connected with." So the name means literally "of or from the [something] of the drake." Sometimes such a name might refer to a fellow named Kaczor, perhaps as a nickname, and the surname could mean no more than "[kin] of Kaczor."

But practically speaking, most names ending in -owski and -ewski began as references to a connection between a person or family and a specific town or village with a similar name, such as Kaczorów or Kaczorowo (literally, "the [place] of the drakes" (or possibly also "Kaczor's place"). There are several villages in Poland with names that qualify, including a Kaczorki, two Kaczory's, 2 Kaczorowy's, 1 Kaczorów -- and those are just the villages large enough to show up on maps. In some cases the surname may have referred to a little subdivision of a village, but that place was too small to appear on maps, or has since been renamed, or absorbed by another community. Remember, surnames developed some 300-500 years ago, and a lot can change in that much time. So what I'm saying is that the surname itself doesn't provide enough info for us to point to any one place and say "Here's where you came from." Your best bet is to research, learn as much as you can about where the family lived in Poland before emigrating, and then see if there is a place with a name Kaczor- somewhere nearby. If so, odds are that's the place the surname originally referred to.

By the way, Franzik probably means something like "son of Francis," but that spelling is almost unheard of in Poland. It's possible that it is a Czech name -- I'm not sure whether Franzik is a good Czech spelling, but I suspect it is, and the Czechs and Slovaks were also long ruled by Austria. It's also possible the name was Polish and was spelled a little differently, but under German influence (since German was the official language of Austria) the spelling changed a little.

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