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Kujawa - Mentis
Created by Administrator Account in 9/27/2010 6:41:52 AM

 


... I am of Polish background. My father's grandparents immigrated to the United States from Poland. His surname was Kujawa. Both my parents and grandparents are deceased. If you can provide information on researching the surname Kujawa and/or Mentis I would appreciate it. My father was born in Chicago. I have been told by someone from Poland that Kujawa was the name of a region in Poland and that it was a very old name. I know nothing about the surname Mentis, I am not sure it is even spelled correctly.

Kujawa is a Polish term meaning "bare, open spot in a field, clearing, an area where nothing grows." There is indeed a region in Poland named Kujawy, which is just the plural of kujawa -- presumably the region got the name because such clearings were common there. Kujawy is defined as the area between the Wisla and Notec rivers and lake Goplo -- which puts it roughly south and east of Torun in northcentral Poland. (I know all this because the Spring 1998 issue of Rodziny, the Journal of the Polish Genealogical Society of America, which I just finished work on, has a lead article on the fate of elderly people in the Kujawy region toward the end of the 17th century, so the subject is fresh in my mind). The surname Kujawa appears in legal records as far back as 1422 and would probably designate a person who lived in a clearing, not necessarily restricted to people who came from the Kujawy region. As such, we would expect it to be rather common, and it is: as of 1990 there were 13,456 Polish citizens by this name, living all over the country.

I can't really help much with Mentis, because that's almost certainly not the Polish form of the name (if it is Polish rather than, say, Lithuanian, which it could well be); Polish avoids using the combination ti, we would expect Mentys or Mencis, but Mentis is unlikely (though hardly impossible). Sometimes I can recognize the original, "correct" forms of such names, but in this case there is no one name that seems a perfect fit, but there are several possibilities. So anything I say now would probably be misleading -- it would be sheer accident if I were right. It would be better to wait till you've managed to uncover a bit more info, maybe some other spellings, or info on where the family came from (e. g., if they had a link with Lithuania, that would change things completely). If you come up with that, write again and I'll see if it helps me tell you anything useful. But for now, there's just nothing I can come up with that would be any help.

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

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