Surname Discussions

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When possible, I give name information found in works by various German, Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, and Ukrainian experts. If I can find no expert analysis of a name, I check dictionaries and other sources for information on plausible roots for that name, making it clear that this is just my interpretation of what I find in those sources. Information from a specific family's history is likely to tell you more about why and how a particular name came to be associated with that family than generalized information typically given by name experts. I cannot guarantee the accuracy and relevance of the information I give, precisely because I have no access to detailed materials on individual persons or families. The circumstances that caused your family to use a name might differ from those that applied to another family's use of the same name.

As of 24 October 2009, I no longer include e-mail addresses in posted name analyses. If you wish to contact the person who asked me about a particular name, write me and I will forward your note to the most recent address I have for that person. Of course, I cannot guarantee that person will receive your forwarded note, or if he/she does, will answer it.
 

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Kukowski

... I’ve seen information on your work on the PGS web site. I was hoping you could help provide me with some info on the Kukowski surname. I have seen references to this surname in Poland and Germany.

Names ending in -owski usually began as references to a connection between a person or family and a particular place with a similar name, such as Kuków, Kukowo, etc.; so you'd expect this to mean "person from Kuków or Kukowo." I see at least 6 places on the map that would qualify, including Kuków in Bielsko-Biala province, Kuków-Folwark in Suwałki province, Kukowo in Suwałki province, Kukowo in Slupsk province, Kukowo in Wloclawek province, and Kukówko in Suwałki province. Any of these places could generate the surname Kukowski (and there could be more too small to show up on the maps, or places that have changed names or disappeared in the centuries since the surname developed), so one needs more info to connect the name with a specific place for a specific family. The root of the place name is kuk-, a verbal root meaning "to cuckoo, make a sound like a cuckoo," so these villages would all be "place of the cuckoos," and you could translated Kukowski as "person from the place of the cuckoos."

As of 1990 there were 1,121 Polish citizens named Kukowski, living all over the country, but with larger numbers in the provinces of Gdansk (148), Płock (90), Suwałki (159), and Torun (108) -- which corresponds roughly to the locations of the villages I mentioned.

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

Kurdziel - Pawłowicz

... In your "free time" :-) would you graciously provide whatever information you might have about the following two surnames: 1. Pawlowicz (really Pawłowicz), my paternal surname; and 2. Kurdziel, my maternal surname.

Pawłowicz just means "son of Paul" -- the suffix -owicz means "son of," and Paweł is the Polish form of the name we call "Paul." So this surname is an exact equivalent of the English name "Paulson" or "Paulsen." Surnames formed as patronymics from popular first names are usually quite common, and as of 1990 there were 3,816 Polish citizens named Pawłowicz (in fact, I'm a little surprised there weren't more). As is obvious from the nature of the name, it could develop independently anywhere they spoke Polish and had guys named Paweł, so there's no one part of Poland this name is especially common -- it shows up all over the country.

Kurdziel is an odd one, because it's also rather common -- as of 1990 there were 2,234 Poles named Kurdziel -- but you would never expect that from its meaning. According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut in his book Nazwiska Polaków, this name comes from the term kurdziel, which means "ulcer on a horse's tongue"! A massive 8-volume Polish-language dictionary that Rymut recommended to me as being particularly helpful with old words and their meanings adds that it is a popular term for a growth under any animal's tongue due to infection or irritation from a foreign body -- and that's the only meaning it gives for it. How this got to be anybody's name, let along a name borne by 2,234 Poles, is beyond me! But that clearly seems to be the derivation -- and I have to suppose it was not originally meant as a compliment. However, as Polish names go, this one is a lot better than many others I have seen!

This name appears all over Poland, but it is particularly common in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (110), Katowice (289), Kraków (790), Rzeszów (111), and Tarnów (147). So these days, at least, it is found most often in Małopolska or "Little Poland," the western half of Galicia, from the southcentral part of Poland eastward.

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

Kusznierewicz - Maciejewski

... My grandfathers last name was Kusznierewicz and my grandmothers was Maciejewski. They were both from the Kraków area of Poland.

Kusznierewicz would mean "son of the furrier"; the suffix -ewicz means "son of," and kusznierz is one of several ways for spelling a term meaning "furrier" -- the standard spelling is kuśnierz, with an accent over the s, giving it an "sh" sound, but Polish sz is pronounced similarly, so it's not unusual to see names spelled Kuśnier- or Kusznier-, as well as Kuśmierz, Kućmierz, etc. As of 1990 there were only 92 Polish citizens with the name Kusznierewicz, so it's not all that common. They were scattered all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (24) in southcentral Poland and Zielona Gora (13) in western Poland; I'm afraid I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses.

Maciejewski means "one from, of the [X] of Matthias," where the X is a person or place not named explicitly (because everyone knew who or what the connection was). So it could mean simply "kin of Matthias," or it could mean "one from Maciejew or Maciejewo," in other words, villages with names meaning "Matthias's place." There are many such villages in Poland with names that could generate the surname Maciejewski, so there's no way to pin down which one a given family came from. This is a very common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 31,224 Polish citizens named Maciejewski.

I have no information on nobility, but if you would like to contact an organization that might be able to help you learn whether any of your family was noble, you could try the Polish Nobility Association Foundation at this address: PNAF, Villa Anneslie, 529 Dunkirk Rd., Anneslie, MD 21212-2014.

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

Kwaśnica - Kvasnica

... Do you have any info or knowledge on Kwasnica, or what would be Polish spelling of this name?

Kwasnica is a perfectly plausible spelling of the name, except that in Polish there would be an accent over the s, giving it a slight "sh" sound. I find this name mentioned in one of my sources, and it says the name can derive from the word kwaśnica, which has three meanings: 1) "mineral water with a sour taste," 2) "the barberry bush, Berberis vulgaris," and 3), in Cieszyn region dialect, "juice from fermented cabbage." The basic root kwas- means "sourness, fermentation," as is clear from two of those meanings. This source, a book on surnames found in the Cieszyn region, which is in Bielsko-Biala province, in far southern Poland, almost on the Czech border. It mentions that a Marina Kwaśniczowa (the -owa just means "Mrs.) was listed in the 1726 register of deaths for Cierlicko, which is apparently now Terlicko in the Czech Republic.

As of 1990 there were only 7 Polish citizens named Kwaśnica, of whom 6 lived in the province of Katowice, 1 in Nowy Sacz (both also in southcentral Poland -- unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses). There may be more living in the Czech Republic, since the area mentioned in that Cieszyn book is now on the other side of the border. A similar word, kvasnice, means "yeast" in Czech, so it is possible you may need to divide your research between Poland and the Czech Republic, looking for Kwaśnica's in Poland and Kvasnica's among the Czechs.

In some ways it is rather bad news that the name is so rare, but the good side of that is, if you find someone with this name in that region, the chances seem very good they are related to you. I'm sorry I cannot pin the area down more exactly, but it seems likely southcentral Poland, especially near the Czech border, is the general area in which you should look for Kwaśnica's. I cannot guarantee the Kwaśnica's you're interested in are related to those people, or come from that area, but as I say, chances are they will prove to be.

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

 

Łabeński - Łabędzki

... I just read your information on "Notes for Selected Polish Names" regarding an analysis or translation of Polish names. My Polish ancestor came to America in the early 1800's. Any information to could give me on the name Labenski would be appreciated.

Labenski is a tough one, because there are a couple of possible derivations. In either case, the first letter was almost certainly Ł, which is pronounced like our w by Poles but usually rendered as simply L by non-Poles. The n is probably the accented n, so the name would be pronounced roughly "wah-BEN-skee."

Alexander Beider mentions the name Łabeński in his book A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland; he says it would come from the name of a village Łabno near Augustów in Suwałki province in northeastern Poland, and that explanation is very plausible -- it would just mean "person from Łabno." Such a name would not be restricted to Jews, Polish Christians could easily come to bear it also, since the name could apply to any family of any religion that came from the Łabno area. As of 1990 there were only 38 Poles with this name, scattered all over the country; the name is also seen spelled Łabenski (no accent over the n), and there were 31 by that name, with the majority (20) living in the province of Leszno in southwestern Poland. Many people living in what used to be eastern Poland were forced to move to the western part of the country after World War II, so it's possible those 20 Łabenski's had lived earlier near Łabno in northeastern Poland before they were forced to relocate. (I'm afraid I don't have access to more detailed info, such as first names or addresses of those Łabenski's and Łabeński's.)

The other possibility is derivation from the noun łabędź (ę is pronounced like en). This word means "swan," and Łabędz was also the name of a Polish coat of arms. It is seen in adjectival form (which is often the form used for surnames) as Łabędzki, pronounced like "wah-BENT-skee," and that same name is sometimes spelled Łabęcki -- meaning literally just "of, from, relating to the swan." Phonetically speaking, it's not ridiculous to suggest that since it sounds close to Łabeński, this name might sometimes be spelled that way, especially after Poles named Łabędzki or Łabęcki left Poland and had to spell their name in a way non-Poles could pronounce. Łabędzki was the name of 2,459 Poles as of 1990, and Łabęcki was borne by 1,410, so those forms are pretty common. As we saw above, Łabeński is much rarer, as you'd expect of a variant spelling.

So what I'd say is this: if you keep seeing the spelling Łabeński even in Polish documents, the name probably started out meaning "one from Łabno." But if you start running into spellings like Łabędzki or Łabęcki -- which is entirely possible -- you'll not be surprised by it, and you'll know the name originally derived from the root meaning "swan." The surname might derive from the noun for "swan," from the coat of arms Łabędź, or from a place with a name like Łabędź, Łabędy, etc. -- there are several such places, and they probably all got their name as meaning "place of the swans."

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

Labus - Łabus - Łabusz - Łabuś - Łabuz

... Labus is my last name. I found it listed as a Polish surname in 1790. There is a town called Labus, just north of Koszalin in what is now Poland, but in the past had been Pommerania, Germany. Labas is also a Lithuanian word meaning "good" and is used as a greeting. Any ideas?

This is a tough one, because there are several plausible derivations, and I have no basis on which to single out one and say "This is the relevant one in your case."

Labus certainly could come from the Lithuanian term -- I have often seen names of Lithuanian descent show up in the general area of Pomerania (which is not exactly what you'd expect from looking at the map). But I have a copy of a 2-volume work on Lithuanian surnames, and it seems to say this isn't a name used all that often. The names Labys, Labuŝaitis and Labuŝeviĉius appear, but not Labus or Labuŝ. Of course some names have died out since our ancestors emigrated -- I know that for a fact from Polish data -- and both Labuŝaitis and Labuŝeviĉius mean "son of Labuŝ," so clearly that name has been used and may have been more common a century or two ago.

Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions Łabus, Łabusz, and Łabuś among names deriving from the Polish root łaba, "paw".  I suppose such names originated as nicknames for a person with big hands or feet. In any case, among ethnic Poles, that would seem the most likely derivation... I can't help but wonder if in some cases the name might be connected with Łaba, which is also the Polish name for the river Elbe? I would think Rymut would have mentioned it if it was probable, and he didn't -- but then no one is right all time. I think it's worth keeping in mind.

But I also should mention that the term łabuz exists in Polish, from labuz in Ukrainian, "weed"; there is also a Ukrainian verb labuzytys', "to wheedle, coax, fawn, flatter," and under some circumstances a name Labus could conceivably come from that. I wouldn't expect it to be relevant unless research shows your family had a strong link with Ukraine, but if any such link does show up...

All three of these origins are possible, but choosing one as most probable depends on the family background. If you find a strong Lithuanian connection of any sort, origin from labas, "good," becomes much credible. Likewise, a Ukrainian connection would boost the chances of the "weed" or "wheedle" link. But if your people seem to have been ethnic Poles as far back as you can discover, then the link with łaba, "paw," seems strongest. As I say, I can't make that judgment -- but maybe you can!

As of 1990 there were 101 Poles named Łabus, 580 named Łabuś, and 1,685 named Łabuz (I think that has to be mentioned, because it would not be at all strange to see Łabus as a variant of Łabuz -- they are pronounced almost identically). If I had to bet, my money would be on Łabuś because your people were probably Poles and because the ś is often modified to simple s in many dialects. On the other hand, in 1990 none of the Poles named Łabus or Łabuś lived in Koszalin province, and only 7 of those named Łabuz lived there. (Unfortunately, I don't have access to more detailed info such as first names and addresses). Łabuś was most common in the provinces of Czestochowa (117) and Katowice (207) in southcentral Poland; Łabus was most common in Katowice province; and Łabuz was also most common in southcentral and southeastern Poland, e. g., provinces of Katowice (143), Kraków (205), Nowy Sacz (256), and Tarnów (380). It is highly likely those Łabuz'es had some Ukrainian roots.

I know I haven't handed you a nice, easy answer to the question of your name's derivation; but sometimes there isn't any one clear-cut answer, and I'd be a liar if I pretended there was. I hope this information may help you, especially as you combine it with what your research uncovers about your family's roots. I do think it's pretty clear-cut that with Poles the "paw" root is the best bet, with Lithuanians it's "good" root, and with Ukrainians it's the "weed" or "wheedle" root.

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

Latkiewicz - Ludzia - Przewozik

… When you have the time, I would appreciate information on any of these names: Ludzia, Latkiewicz, Przewozikowa.

In Latkiewicz the -iewicz suffix means "son of," so what we need to figure out is how to understand Latk-. It was most likely either a first name Latek or Latko, and appears to come from one of two roots lat-: one means "to fly," the other means "summer" or "year." There is also a root łat-, where ł is pronounced like our w; that root means "patch," so it makes a difference whether the initial L was originally a simple L or the slashed L. In any case, the surname means "son of Latko or Latek or Łatek or Łatko," and that first name could have meant several things. As of 1990 there were 56 Poles named Latkiewicz, and 41 named Łatkiewicz; in both cases they were scattered all over the Poland, with no one area of concentration.

Ludzia is rather rare, as of 1990 there were 44 Poles by that name, living in the provinces of Nowy Sącz (37), Olsztyn (3), and Wałbrzych (4). Unfortunately, I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses, so what I've given here is all I have. This name could come from the root lud, "people, folk," or it could have started as a short form or nickname of names such as Ludwik (Louis), or of ancient pagan Polish names with that root lud) as their first element, e. g., Ludomir ("peace" + "people"), etc. To be honest, I think a connection with either Ludwik or one of those Ludo- names is the likely one.

PRZEWOZIK would be the form we're looking for with Przewozikowa -- the -owa suffix is usually one added to the standard form of a surname to indicate that the bearer is a married woman; in other words, Przewozikowa could be translated as "Mrs. Przewozik." The root przewoz- in Polish has to do with transporting or conveying items from one place to another, so it seems likely Przewozik should be interpreted as an occupational name for a carter or waggoner who moved items. This root is seen in moderately common names such as Przewozny (1,977 Poles by that name as of 1990) and Przewoznik (964). In fact, I can't help but wonder if the name you're interested in was originally Przewoznik and the -n- got dropped somewhere along the way. If it was, the name is pretty common and widespread. If, however, Przewozik is right, there were only 15 Poles by that name in 1990, all living in the province of Włocławek in central Poland.

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

 

Linettaj - Linette - Linettej - Linetty

…My paternal grandmother's maiden name was Linettey. The family used many spellings in this country (Linety, Lenety, Lennety, Lenertej, etc.); only one of my grandmother's seven siblings was male, and he's elusive. On ship records (emigration) and naturalization papers (1874 and 1884), Linettey was used.

Usually with names I can make at least some guess what the derivation is, but this one baffles me. It doesn't sound Polish, but my sources on Lithuanian and German names don't mention it either. It is possible it is a Germanic variant of the first name Leonard or Leonhard -- I've seen cases where a name like that can get changed quite a bit in some German dialects -- but as I say, none of my sources mention it, so that is purely a guess on my part. However, if you've run into the form Lenertej, that kind of strengthens this hypothesis, since Lenart and Lenert are known variants of "Leonard."

If I can't help you with the name's meaning, I can at least assure you that there are Poles by this name. I have a 10-volume directory that lists all the surnames of Polish citizens as of 1990, giving how many lived in Poland and a breakdown by province (but unfortunately no further details such as first names or addresses). As of 1990 there were 2 Linettaj (1 each in Warsaw and Bygdoszcz provinces), 60 Linette's (in these provinces: Bydgoszcz 19, Koszalin 10, Opole 5, Poznan 22, Wroclaw 4), 29 Linettej's (Warsaw 1, Bydgoszcz 13, Gdansk 1, Pila 1, Skierniewice 5, Torun 8), and 100 Linetty's (Bydgoszcz 42, Pila 34, Poznan 18, Torun 6). From the viewpoint of Polish linguistics and orthography, it's a good bet these are all different forms of the same name. Looking at the distribution and frequency, it appears Bydgoszcz province in northwestern Poland is the place this name appears most often. Also, all the provinces mentioned with sizable numbers are in the western part of Poland, the area long ruled by the Germans. So some sort of Germanic linguistic influence is plausible, and again this gives a little support to the idea that this might be a variant from the name Leonard. There are and always have been large numbers of ethnic Germans living in Poland, although after a few generations many came to think of themselves, and be thought of by others, as pure Poles.

So to sum up, the name is not common in Poland, but it does exist in several slightly different spellings, and it is seen mainly in those areas with large German populations and ruled by Germany from roughly 1772 to 1945. There is some reason to think it comes from the first name Leonard or Leonhard -- many, many surnames started as references to "son of so-and-so," so the name may have first been used to refer to the kin of some prominent fellow named Leonard.

If you don't mind spending $20 or so, you might want to try writing to the
Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow. They don't do genealogical research, but for a reasonable fee they will look in their extensive sources and see if they have information on the origins of individual names; and they can handle correspondence in English.

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

 

Literski

…I would appreciate any info you may have on Literski. I have traced them back to Lipposch, West Prussia.

None of my sources mention this name, so I'll have to speculate a little, and there's no guarantee I'm right; but usually when I do this I find out later I was on the right track. So I'll hope I don't mislead you.

There are two main possibilities: that it derives from a German word or name, or that it is Polish. Your tracing the family to West Prussia suggests we can't ignore a German origin. It was not unusual for Germans living in areas with Polish populations to gradually have their names Polonized, so that something like Liter or Lueter (ü or u-umlaut) might eventually become Literski. It's unclear what the German name might have been, but I think Lueter (a variant of Luther) is a distinct possibility, since the Poles would tend to turn that umlaut-u into the "ee" sound they write as i. So going strictly by phonetics and Polish orthography, it's plausible that Literski derived from some form of Luther or Lueter, which come from ancient German roots meaning "fame" or "people" plus the root meaning "army, people."

The other possibility is that it is Polish; if so, the most likely source is the root litera (borrowed from Latin) meaning "letter." This might seem an unlikely name, but until this century most Poles were illiterate, and it wouldn't strike me as odd if a rare individual who could read and write was designated as a man "of letters" -- which is what Literski would mean literally in this context.

Without research by experts who have traced this name back in documents to its origins, I have to go with the explanations that seem most likely to me. If you find strong German roots in your family, the Luether origin might be more likely; if they were ehtnic Poles, the "letter" connection would carry more weight.

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

Łącki - Łoncki

… I was wondering if you had any information on my last name of Loncki. I have a very small family with few relatives. Thanks for your time.

Loncki is usually a phonetic variant spelling of the name "properly" spelled Łącki; Ł is pronounced like our w, and Ą is pronounced like "own." We often see the Ł written as simple L, especially by non-Poles, and since Ą sounds a lot like ON, it is often spelled that way. So Loncki is probably a variant of Łącki, pronounced "WONT-skee." This name comes from the noun łąk, "meadow," or from place names from that same root such as Łąki, literally "meadows." In some cases it might also come from the verb łączyć, "to join, unite," or from ancient first names such as Łękomir -- but I think Loncki or Łącki would usually come from the connection with "meadow," either signifying a person who lived near a meadow or one who came from a place named Łąki or something similar because of its meadows.

The spelling Loncki is not very Polish, so it's not surprising there was no one living in Poland by that name as of 1990 -- Poles would naturally tend to spell it either Łoncki (47 by that name in 1990) or, more often, Łącki (3,343 Poles as of 1990). Such a surname could get started anywhere they spoke Polish and had meadows; and since Poland is basically one large mixture of fields and meadows, it's not surprising that it is common all over the country, with no perceptible pattern to the distribution.

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

 

Gruszczyński - Łukaszewski

… What can you tell me about the Lukaszewski?? I was told it was "high ranking". Nobility maybe. I have a Jacob born 1875. Don't know where for sure. Record said Berlin Germany but he must have been in Poland sometime. Also Gruszczynski?

Łukaszewski is like most names ending in -owski or -ewski, which usually began as a reference to a connection between a person or family and a place with a similar name. Names ending in -ski are adjectives, meaning "of, from, pertaining to X" where X is the first part of the name. We would expect Łukaszewski to refer to a place with a name like Łukaszew, Łukaszewo, Łukaszów, something like that. If the family was noble, the name was probably that of their estate or a village they owned; if the family was non-noble, the name was probably that of the village they lived in, came from, traveled to, etc. The place names themselves mean "the place of Lucas" (Łukasz is the Polish form of "Luke" or "Lucas"); so Łukaszewski can be broken down to Łukasz- + -ew- + -ski, "one of or from the [place] of Lucas." In some cases it might also just mean "kin of Lucas," but more often it refers to a place.

Unfortunately there are several places in Poland with names that qualify, including Łukaszów in Legnica province, Łukaszówka in Chełm province, Łukaszewo in Włocławek province, and Łukaszewice in Wrocław province. Most of these are in territory that used to be ruled by the Germans (i. e., northern or western Poland), and as you say, a Łukaszewski may have ended up in Berlin at some point, but the family wouldn't have gotten that name unless they were of Polish ethnic origin, so at some point the trail should lead back somewhere in Poland. But the surname itself doesn't give us enough information to let us specify which of the places named (or more too small to show up on maps) the surname originally referred to.

Łukaszewski is a pretty common name, as of 1990 there were 8,690 Polish citizens by this name, living in sizable numbers all over the country.

Gruszczyński is also common, there were 8,918 Poles by that name. The ultimate root is the word gruszka, "pear," but the surname probably comes from a place name such as Gruszczyn (at least 4 of those exist) or Gruszczyno (at least 1) -- which, in turn, would mean "place of the pears or pear-trees." So the surname means "one from Gruszczyn or Gruszczyno" = "one from the place of the pears."

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

Majkowski

… I was wondering the origin and meaning of my family name Majkowski. If you have the time I would appreciate a reply. Thank you very much.

The name Majkowski is adjectival in form, and means "of, from, or pertaining to Majek's or Majko's __," where you fill in the blank. In most cases, names ending in -owski refer to a place the family was connected with, where they lived or worked. We'd expect Majkowski to have meant originally "one from Majków or Majkowo (or some place with a similar name)." There are several villages in Poland named Majków, Majki, Majkowo, and all could generate this surname, so we can't pin down which one is the right one for a specific family without fairly detailed info on the family. In other words, I supply you with an idea of the kind of place name that would fit, and you use the data you learn about your family to see if there is a nearby place with that kind of name -- if so, you've probably found the right one.

The basic root of the surname and the place name is maj, "May." People were often named Majek or Majko, perhaps because they were born in May; Majki and Majków and Majkowo, etc., just mean "the place of Majek/Majko"; and as I said, Majkowski is an adjective referring to such a place. It might also, in some cases, refer directly to the first name, meaning in effect "kin of Majek or Majko"; but more often -owski names refer to a place rather than a person.

As of 1990 there were 5,086 Poles named Majkowski, so it's a pretty common name, found all over Poland.

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

Makarewicz

… I was wondering if you know or the origin of the surname Makarewicz. The earliest relatives I know of who came over on a ship are Aloysi (not sure of spelling - might be Aloysius) and Francesca. They ended up residing in the suburbs of Boston, MA.

This surname is fairly simple: -ewicz means "son of," and Makary is a first name (from a Greek word meaning "happy, fortunate"), so the name means "son of Makary." This particular first name is used more in eastern Poland and Belarus and Ukraine, so the Makarewicz's probably (not necessarily, but probably) came originally from the eastern part of the old Polish Commonwealth. As of 1990 there were 4,484 Polish citizens by this name, living all over the country, so I'm afraid I can't point you toward any more specific region than just "eastern Poland and Belarus and Ukraine." The name just doesn't offer any clues that allow me to say anything more definite.

In Polish the first names of your ancestors would be Alojzy (= English Aloysius) and Franciszka (= English Francesca or Frances).

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

Matuch

…I have not been able to find the surname Matuch. Stanley Matuch came to US from Kolbuszowa Rzeszow Poland in Nov 1905. Any help with this name greatly appreciated have been searching for many years with no results in finding any info other than family history.

It's not surprising you're having trouble finding anything about this name -- it is quite rare, even in Poland. As of 1990 there were only 24 Polish citizens named Matuch; 3 of them lived in Wroclaw province, the other 21 lived in Rzeszow province in southeastern Poland. I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses, but this data strongly suggests southeastern Poland and western Ukraine is where this name comes from.

Names beginning with Mat- can come from the roots matka, "mother," or matać, "to swindle," but in most cases they come from abbreviations or nicknames formed from popular first names such as Mateusz ("Matthew") or Maciej or Matyjasz (both "Matthias"). Poles and Ukrainians often formed names by taking the first few letters, dropping the rest (much as we made "Matt" from "Matthew"), then adding suffixes. In fact, there is a known nickname for "Matthew" in Ukrainian, "Matyukha," which is very similar to this surname. So Matuch probably started either in Polish or Ukrainian, and it wouldn't mean much more than "Matt's son."

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

Miarka

…When you have time, could you please lookup the name of Miarka?

This name appears in records as far back as 1437, and comes from the root miar- or mier-, meaning "measure." There is a term miarka, which is a diminutive of miara, "measure," meaning something like "small measure." As of 1990 there were 1,224 Polish citizens named Miarka, living all over the country but with especially large numbers in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (206), Czestochowa (210) and Katowice (191), which are all in southcentral Poland; so while you encounter the name all over Poland, that part is where it is most common.

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

Mentus - Miętus

… I have additional information on the surname of my Grandmother. Her maiden name was spelled Mentus but she told my aunt that it was originally spelled Mietus and that her father had come from a part of Poland ruled by Germany.

It was almost certainly spelled Miętus, where ę is pronounced like "en" -- so it would sound a lot like "Mentus," and that's why it came to be spelled that way. This name comes from a word miętus, the burbot, a kind of fish (Lota vulgaris). Surnames from the names of animals and fish are quite common in Poland; this might mean an ancestor caught or sold this fish, or somehow reminded people of it -- all we can know for sure is that there was something about him that made this name seem appropriate.

As of 1990 there were 859 Poles named Miętus; the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Warsaw (110), Nowy Sacz (209), and Siedlce (133), but there were people by that name all over the country (I'm afraid I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses). Germany ruled most of northern and western Poland before World War II, so I'm afraid that doesn't narrow it down much.

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

Dąbrowski - Dombrowski - Litwiński - Milko - Ruszczyk

… I wonder if you have any information on my parents names: Milko and Dabrowski/Dabroski? or the grandmothers - Letwinski/Litwinski and Ruszczyk?

Dabrowski/Dabroski is an extremely common name, as of 1990 there were 92,945 Polish citizens named Dąbrowski (ą is normally pronounced like "own," but before b or p pronounced like "om"). The version without the -w- is less common, but does appear, and is due to the fact that in some areas of Poland they pronounce that W so lightly that it virtually disappears, so spelling it Dabroski makes sense. It's also often spelled Dombrowski/Dombroski because the pronunciation of the nasal vowel makes it sound like that, so it can also be spelled that way -- there were 2,786 Dombrowski's in Poland as of 1990. The surname comes from the term dąbrowa, "oak grove," so that it means "one from the area of the oak grove," but Dąbrowa is also any extremely common place name in Poland, so the surname could also be interpreted as meaning "one from Dąbrowa" -- and as I say, there are literally dozens of places by that name.

Litwiński is probably the standard spelling and Letwinski a variant. As of 1990 there were 2,035 Polish citizens named Litwiński. The name comes from the term litwin, which means "Lithuanian," so that Litwiński means roughly "person from Lithuania, kin of the Lithuanian," something like that.

Milko is a rather rare name, as of 1990 there were 190 Polish citizens named Milko, and another 36 who spelled it Miłko (with ł pronounced like our w). The largest numbers of Milko's lived in the provinces of Białystok (37), Jelenia Gora (29), Legnica (21), and Pila (16), in other words, scattered all over the country; the majority of the Miłko's (27) lived in Warsaw province. In some cases this name might come directly from the root mił-, "dear, beloved, nice," but usually it would derive as a short form or nickname for someone with old pagan compound names with that root -mił, such as Bogumił ("dear to God") or Miłosław ("one to whom glory is dear"). Miłek is a rather common short form of such names, Miłko or Milko was less common, but as we see, it did generate the surname in some cases. It probably started as a reference to a prominent member of the family and became a kind of shorthand, "Miłko's kin," and thus became a surname.

Ruszczyk is a moderately common name, as of 1990 there were 2,038 Ruszczyk's in Poland. The basic root of the name is probably rusz-, "to move," but it's worth noting that there is a noun ruszczyk meaning "pin-clover, pin-grass, Erodium cicutarium," and many plants and grasses served as the origin of Polish surnames. Finally, the name Rusek or Ruszek is often seen given to a person of Russian or Ruthenian (Ukrainian) origin, and Ruszczyk might sometimes develop from it, meaning "son of the Russian." In a given instance it's impossible to say which of these derivations would prove relevant; for one Ruszczyk family the grass might be the connection, for another it might be Russian or Ukrainian origin, etc.

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

Jamaika - Jamajka

I would like to get more information about my family name Jamaika (jewish family) that was given to mine grand grand fathers in warsaw polin

According to Alexander Beider's Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland, the name was spelled JAMAJKA by Poles, although spelling of surnames was inconsistent and you certainly may see it spelled JAMAIKA. That would be no at all unusual, since I and J were often used interchangeably in Polish spelling until the 20th century.

Beider says he found the name borne only by Jews in the Warsaw area, and it comes from the Polish word jamajka, which means "Jamaica rum" -- in other words, it comes from the name of the Caribbean island called Jamaica in English. Most likely an ancestor was a merchant who sold Jamaica rum, or perhaps this was a nickname for an ancestor who was especially fond of drinking Jamaica rum.

Apparently there is no one now living in Poland by this name. This is not surprising, because the name was probably borne only Jews, and obviously, the Holocaust wiped out or drastically reduced the numbers of Jewish families bearing any specific name.

I do not have any information on others with this name, but you might want to post this name on the PolishOrigins Surnames Database. 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.

If you have not already done so, you should also check the Consolidated Jewish Surname Index. The CJSI shows this name appears Beider's book on Jewish surnames from the Kingdom of Poland, as I already mentioned, but it also appears in Jewish Records-Indexing Poland. If you have not already used these resources, it is possible you may learn more there.

That's about all I can tell you. I hope it is some help, and I wish you the best of luck in all you do!

William F. "Fred" Hoffman
www.fredhoff.com

 

Misiewicz

… I have several questions about this surname, when you have a moment: 1) What does it mean?

According to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut, in most cases names beginning with Mis- or Misi- come from the root miś, "bear," that is, the animal. However, such names can also sometimes derive from short forms or nicknames of longer, standard first names, such as Michał (Michael) or Mikołaj (Nicholas) or Miłosław (no equivalent). Poles often took popular first names, dropped everything but the first syllable or couple of sounds, and added suffixes: this Michal -> Mi- -> Mis- + suffixes, and the same thing could happen with other names beginning with Mi-. It's a little like the way English-speakers formed "Teddy" from "Theodore." So we can't rule out the possibility that in some cases Mis- names derived this way.

The suffix -ewicz or -owicz means "son of," so the standard interpretation of Misiewicz would be "son of the bear," where Miś, "Bear," was probably a name given a man of great size and strength, and I'd expect it was complimentary. Or if the name derived from those shortened first names I mentioned, then it would mean "son of Mike/Nick/Miłosław, etc." To be honest, in most cases I really think the "son of the bear" interpretation would prove right most of the time.

2) How common is it? Is it more common in one region than another? (My family came from Mogelnice (near Augustow), in the Province of Suwałki, and they are still living on the same farm from which my great-grandfatheremigrated in the 1870's.

It's fairly common; as of 1990 there were 3,605 Polish citizens named Misiewicz. With those numbers you'd expect it to be encountered all over Poland, and that's true. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Warsaw (249), Białystok (268), Katowice (171), Suwałki (177), and Wroclaw (296), which is really all over the map. However, the figures for Białystok and Suwałki provinces suggest northeastern Poland is an area where Misiewicz'es are a bit more common, which fits in more or less with your data.

3) I have been told that the -wicz ending indicates that a person came from the area of northeast Poland and/or Lithuania. Is this true?

That's not really true. The -wicz ending shows up all over Poland, and you can't say "Oh, this ends with -wicz, it must come from the northeastern part of the old Commonwealth." There are just too many jillion -wicz'es in other parts of Poland.

That said, however, there is some justification for the statement. The -owicz/-ewicz suffix originally came into Polish from Belarusian, so geographically there is a link with northeastern Poland. Also, there came a point when many Poles began to feel that -wicz names were old-fashioned and middle-class, and names ending in -owski or just -ski were more elegant; so some changed their names, for example, from Jankowicz to Jankowski, because it sounded a little classier to them. They weren't necessarily trying to fool anyone into thinking they were noble -- that was hard to get away with -- they just liked the sound of the -owski names better. But the folks in northeastern Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, etc. have a tendency to be conservative linguistically, and that's an area where you might find people hanging on to the original -wicz forms. The attitude would be "None of this -ski stuff for me, my -wicz name was good enough for my dad and it's good enough for me."

So while -wicz names are hardly exclusive to northeastern Poland, they are somewhat more common there, or at least there's a popular perception that they are. I suspect that's what was meant by the person who told you that. The -wicz is not a reliable indicator of place of origin, but there may be some truth to the observation that northeastern Poland/Lithuania/Belarus has more -wicz'es per capita than other parts of the old Commonwealth. Not having studied any data on this, I can't say for sure whether that's true; but I believe there is a popular notion to that effect, and it may well be based on fact.

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

 

Mockiewicz - Moczkiewicz

… Need help for the name of Mockiewicz/Moczkiewicz. Can not find anything about the name. Looked in your book-both of them. Do you have any information about the name?

The -iewicz suffix means "son of," so we're dealing with a name that means either "son of Mocek or Mocko" or "son of Moczek or Moczko." It's tough to nail down exactly which, because in Polish the C and CZ are often used interchangeably, depending on what part of the country you're talking about; and either Mocek or Mocko would become Mockiewicz when the suffix was added (similarly, eiither Moczek or Moczko would become Moczkiewicz). As explained in my book, Mocko probably comes from the root moc, "strength, power, might," and if that's the derivation the name would seem to mean "son of Mocko" = "son of the mighty one." One source also mentions that it might come from German Motz (which Poles would spell Moc), "ram." If it's from mocz-, that root means basically "wetness, moisture," so "son of Moczko" might mean "son of the drinker" or "son of the wet one," something like that.

Neither name is common in Poland these days -- Rymut's compilation shows no citizen of Poland named Moczkiewicz as of 1990, whereas there were only 24 Mockiewicz'es, living in the provinces of Białystok (5), Bydgoszcz (5), Gdansk (8), Pila (1), and Poznan (5). Oddly, the names Mocek (1,813), Mocko (121) and Moczko (665) are more common.

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

 

Motowski

… Do you have any information on the name Motowski?

The ultimate root is probably motać, "to spool, reel, tangle," but names ending in -owski usually refer to a place name, and that place's name, in turn, would come from that root. We would expect Motowski to mean "person or family from Moty, Motow, Motowo," something like that. I can't find any such places on my maps, but that probably means either that the places in question are too small to appear in my sources, or that they may have changed names in the centuries since the surname was established. As of 1990 there were only 12 Polish citizens named Motowski, 11 of them in Warsaw province, the other in Przemysl province. I have no access to first names or addresses of any of these Motowskis, so I'm afraid that's all the info I can offer.

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

 

Munko - Muńko

… I thought I would try and write you with a request to unlock the mystery of my last name- Munko. I've asked many people that I have met who speak a Slavic language if they can tell me what it means without sucess. I am beginning to think maybe it is a foreign name that was Slavicized. (ie. German- Munk, or Munke; or Italian- Munco). Searching the internet I've found Munko in: Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Croatia; also, Denmark, and especially Germany.

Well, it is sometimes difficult to say for sure what origin a name is; a name like Szczebrzeszynski, for instance, is clearly Polish, whereas Munko is a name that could conceivably come into existence in several different languages. The most I can tell you is that there is such a name in Poland; as of 1990 there were 241 Polish citizens named Muńko, with one big concentration (160 ) in the province of Zielona Gora in western Poland, right on the border with Germany, and just a few living here and there in other provinces. I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses, but this suggests the odds are most Polish families named Muńko have roots in southern Poland. There were also 20 named Munko without the accent, of whom 13 lived in Walbrzych province, which is in southwestern Poland.

If the name in a given case is of Polish origin, I'm afraid it's not very complimentary (although believe me, I've seen much worse!). According to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut, Muńko is one of a number of names derived from the term monia or munia -- both forms are seen, and both mean the same thing: "a lazy, stupid fellow." When suffixes such as the diminutive -ko are added to roots, the vowels generally drop off, so Muńko would come from munia + -ko to mean something like "the little lazy guy," or "son of the lazy guy." As I say, not overly flattering, but there are many names far worse!

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

 

Nakoneczny - Nakonieczny

… I have always wondered when my grandfather came over from Poland if in the rush to get them through immigration whether they had translated the spelling of my surname properly or not, I have very little information on his side of the family other than a sheet with a reference to when the boat left Poland.. there are no other members of his family that immigrated, this has left a very cold trail to follow, any ideas or thoughts on this?

I don't think your surname got mangled in the immigration process. As of 1990 there were 620 Polish citizens with the name Nakoneczny, and another 2,730 who spelled the name Nakonieczny. For all practical purposes the two are the same name, with just a minor pronunciation difference reflected in the spelling; if you want to get really picky, Nakonieczny is actually the more "correct" spelling, at least in terms of standard Polish. Both come from Polish roots meaning "final, last, located on the end" -- perhaps the name originally applied to people who lived at the end of a road or something like that? Hard to say for sure, but that is the basic meaning of the name.

That's the good news, the name doesn't appear to have been mangled. The bad news is, the name's too widely distributed to offer much in the way of useful leads. It is true that Nakonieczny is especially common in the province of Lublin in southeastern Poland, home to 771 if those 2,730 -- that's the largest single concentration in Poland. But that still means there are plenty of Nakonieczny's living all over the rest of the country. So going by the odds, one might decide Lublin province is the place to start looking. But the odds are not all that favorable.

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

 

Nizow

… I read your website and would like to know if you have any information about the name Nizow.

Most likely the basic root of Nizow is niz-, "low, short" (although some names beginning with Niz- might also come from the first name Dionizy, from Greek "Dionysus," which became "Dennis" in English). Nizow would mean basically "of the low, of the lowland," or possibly "[son] of the short one." There is also a word Nizowiec (sometimes seen as Nizak and other variants) meaning "a Cossack from the lowland at the mouth of the Dniepr river." So we're dealing with a name meaning "short fellow" or one meaning "person from the lowland." It's pretty likely that's the basic meaning of the name, it's harder to say exactly what it meant, but must have been connected somehow with "low" or "short."

As of 1990 there was no one in Poland with the name Nizow, so it's possible the name was never all that common in Poland and has since died out; or it might have been a longer name that got shortened when your ancestors emigrated, although I can find no name beginning Nizow- that is common either. Another possibility is that the Nizow's never lived in large numbers in Poland proper (Polish surnames generally don't end in just -ow, usually it's -owski or -owicz or something like that), but could be found in Ukraine, especially near the mouth of the Dniepr -- for centuries Poland ruled that area, to where a person from there might well think of himself, or be thought of, as a Polish citizen, even if he was ethnically Ukrainian.

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

 

Maurycy - Osielski

… My wife has recently become interested in her Polish origins. I have been unable to find any mention of her paternal side, Osielski, or her maternal side, Maurycy, in my initial search. Any help would be appreciated.

The surname Maurycy almost certainly comes from the first name Maurycy, which is a Polish version of the name we know as "Maurice." Usually when first names were used as last names, it was as a reference to a father who was well known in the community, so that "Maurycy" would be a short way of saying "Maurice's kids, Maurice's kin." As of 1990 there were only 58 Poles with Maurycy as a surname, of whom the largest number by far, 38, lived in the southeastern province of Tarnow. (I'm afraid I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses.)

Osielski comes from the word osiel or osioł, "ass, donkey"; the surname, like all names ending in -ski, is adjectival in form, and originally would have meant simple "of, from, pertaining to a donkey." It may have been uncomplimentary, but I don't think it had to be. Perhaps it was simply a way of referring to people who raised or sold donkeys, worked with them, that kind of thing; or, of course, it may have referred to someone who reminded folks of a donkey by being hard-headed or making a noise like a donkey. It could also have started as a way of referring to someone who came from a place with a similar name, for instance, Osielsko in Bydgoszcz province or Osielec in Nowy Sacz province.

Osielski is not an overly common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were only 151 Osielski's, scattered in small numbers all over the country; the only provinces in which more than 10 Osielski's lived were Bydgoszcz (10), Gdansk (13), Katowice (18), Lublin (11) and Wloclawek (45) -- Wloclawek is in central Poland, Bydgoszcz and Gdansk in the northern to northwestern part, Katowice in the southcentral part, and Lublin in the southeastern part, so the name is really scattered!

So neither of these names is very common, and neither provides much of a lead to help you track a given family down, although with Maurycy it would make sense to focus on the Tarnow area as the likely origin (no guarantees, just a matter of playing the odds). That's not unusual, by the way -- relatively few Polish surnames offer any real help in tracing a particular family's roots.

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

 

Otlewski - Otłowski

… Fred will the Polish Library in West Bloomfield , Mi. get a copy of your book as well? They are located on Orchard Lake. I was there last week going thru your other book and was sorry to not find my family mentioned in it. I hope we made your new book! Otlewski is the surname.

Well, I have no way of knowing whether that Library will decide to get a copy -- but I hope they will think it's worth getting. For that matter, I can ask the PGSA to send them a free copy, perhaps they'll agree. But in any case, the new book deals only with first names, so it wouldn't have Otlewski in it.

I guess the version of my book you saw was the first edition; the second edition does include Otlewski. The best guess I could make is that this name derives from a place name (as do most names ending in -ewski and -owski), and the most likely candidate is the village now known as Otłowiec in Elbłag province (the Polish L with a slash through it is pronounced like our w). This place has also been known as Otłowo, and if you add the -ski suffix onto that, it would not be unusual for it to change in some cases to Otlewski, as well as Otłowski; linguistically speaking, it is plausible that both Otlewski and Otłowski derive from the same name, and this Otłowiec seems the best candidate I can find (although such names typically developed centuries ago, so these might also have derived from other place names that have since changed or disappeared).

As of 1990 there were 468 Polish citizens named Otlewski; the largest numbers of them lived in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (200) and Gdansk (71), with much smaller numbers scattered in other provinces. The name Otłowski was borne by 528 Poles as of 1990, with large numbers in the provinces of Ciechanow (102), Elblag (44), and Ostrołęka (144). I'm afraid I have no access to further details such as first names and addresses.

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

 

Pacholewski

… Have you heard of the name Pacholewski? I can't find it any place.

I'm not surprised -- it is a pretty rare name. As of 1990 there were only 23 Pacholewski's in Poland; they lived in the provinces of Warsaw (5), Katowice (2), Koszalin (2), Legnica (3), Lublin (1), Szczecin (1), Walbrzych (3), Wroclaw (1), and Zamosc (5). In other words, they are really scattered all over the country. (I'm afraid I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses, what I've given you here is all I have.)

The ultimate root of the name is pachol, "boy, lad," but this surname probably began as a reference to a connection between the family and a place named something like Pachole or Pacholewo. Names ending in -ewski are adjectives, meaning "of or pertaining to __," so the name means "person from Pachole, etc." Those place names, in turn, mean "[place] of the lads." There are at least a couple of villages in Poland this name could refer to (maybe more that are too small to show up in my sources). One is Pachole, a village in Biala Podlaska province (near the eastern border with Belarus); there is also Pacholewo in Poznan province (west central Poland), and Pacholy in Elblag province (north central Poland). Persons coming from any of those villages could end up with the name Pacholewski. With at least three places that could generate this surname, I'm a bit surprised it isn't more common.

That's about all I have on this name. If you have a little luck with your research and get hold of documents that give some clue as to what part of Poland the family came from, you may find you can associate them with one of the places I've mentioned. But the surname itself doesn't give enough clues to let us pick one of them as the likely place of origin. That's not unusual with Polish surnames, by the way -- relatively few offer enough information to let you nail down exactly where they came from.

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

 

Pałac - Paląc - Pałąc

… Could you tell me anything about my Polish surname—Palac? I believe that originally the l was crossed and the a had a hook beneath it. I am trying to research my polish roots and this is my first step.

The form Pałac is a well-known name -- as of 1990 there were some 954 Poles by this name, living all over the country, with particularly large numbers living in the provinces of Krakow (133) and Rzeszow (110) and Wroclaw (88), which are in southcentral and southeastern Poland. This name seems to come from the term pałac, which means "palace"; it presumably referred originally to a person who lived or worked in or near a palace. Also possible is a name Paląc (the Polish nasal vowel written as an a with a tail under it is pronounced almost like "own"), which would come from the term palący, "burning." This name is quite rare, there was no Pole named Paląc as of 1990, and only 7 (all living in Lublin province) named Palący.

I could find no listing for Pałąc (pronounced roughly "PAH-wonts"). That doesn't mean the name couldn't exist, but it obviously must have been fairly rare if it did exist; presumably it came from the root pal- meaning "burn, heat," the same root that shows up in Palący. So I can't tell you for sure whether that name existed, or whether the name in your case was Pałac or Paląc, discussed above; just going by the odds, it would seem more likely it was Pałac, from the word for "palace." If it was Pałąc, I can't find anything on it.

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

 

Paprotny

… Could you please help find information on the surname Paprotny?

According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut, names beginning with Paproc- or Paprot- come from one of two roots: paproć, "fern," or paprotać, "to babble." But my 8-volume Polish-language dictionary gives paprotny as an adjective meaning the same thing as paprociany, which means "of ferns, referring to ferns, ferny," so it seems reasonable to say the surname is related to the root for "fern" rather than the verbal root meaning "babble." This surname might have gotten started because a person lived near ferns, or decorated with them, or liked them, or ate them, or sold them -- hard to say exactly what the connection was, the most we can say is that there was some connection to ferns.

As of 1990 there were 1,215 Polish citizens named Paprotny, so it's not a rare name. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Czestochowa (186), Katowice (669) and Opole (60), so the name seems concentrated in southcentral Poland, but there were smaller numbers in many other provinces all over the country. However, Katowice province clearly is worth particular attention, as the place you're most likely to find Paprotny's.

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

 

Parzysz - Pasterski

… If you have time to answer, have you ever heard of the following names: Pasterska and Parzysz or Parczyz?

As of 1990 there were 424 Polish citizens named Pasterski (the -ska is just the feminine form, names ending in -ski routinely change to -ska when referring to a female, so names in -ski and -ska can be treated as the same); they were pretty scattered all over Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (55), Bydgoszcz (62), and Gdansk (25) -- many other provinces had fewer than 20. The name comes from the noun pasterz, "shepherd, herdsman" (like Latin pastor).

I've never seen Parczyz, and there was no one in Poland by that name as of 1990, so Parzysz seems more likely to be right. It appears in records as far back as 1385 and is a variant form of Parys, "Paris," as in the name of the capital of France, also the name of a figure in Trojan War. As of 1990 there were only 186 Poles named Parzysz, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Kalisz (86) and Poznan (37). What's odd is that there were 1,083 named Parzyszek, which means "little Paris, son of Paris" -- kind of interesting that the derived form is so much more common than the name it came from!

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

 

Bialakowski - Fischer - Rojewski

… I am trying to research my father's genealogy. As a young immigrant, he and his siblings were orphaned. I know he was born in Lemberg/Lvov in 1912, and his parents came from the Wiesenberg, Vyshenka area. His surname is Fischer, but his mother's maiden name is Rojewska, and he thought his grandmother's name was Bialakowska (I'm not sure of the spelling). He thought this, translated means "White", but wasn't sure.

Names ending in -owska or -ewska are just feminine versions of names ending in -owski and -ewski, so that the wife of a man named Rojewski would be called Rojewska. Such surnames usually derive from similar names of places, so that we would expect Bialakowski to have started out meaning "person from Bialakow or Bialakowo or even Bialaki," something like that. I couldn't find any places that were exact matches, but if the name was Bialikowski, there is a village Bialiki in Łomża province; or if the name was Bialachowski, there are several places named Bialachowko and Bialochowo that might be relevant...

The problem with this surname is, the root bial-, which means "white," has generated a great many names, so without really firm knowledge exactly what the form of the name was originally; there are a lot of possibilities, Bialikowski, Bialachowski, Bialkowski, etc. They would all mean something like "Whitey's place," but it's hard to say which one we want. Also, if the family came from the Lvov or Vyshenka area, we're talking about Ukraine, whereas my sources deal more with Poland in its current boundaries - Ukraine used to be part of Poland, but that was some time ago, and I don't have as much info on that region as I do for Poland.

Anyway, based on the info you gave, all I can really say is that the surname probably comes from a place name, originally referring to the place the family came from, and those place names probably came from the root meaning "white" - and there are a jillion places from that root in Poland, Ukraine, Russia, etc. If you get some more precise info on the exact form of the name, let me know and I'll see if I can tell you more.

Rojewski comes ultimately from the root roj-, "swarm, teem, hive," and there are a number of villages called Rojewo - the surname probably started out meaning "person from Rojewo." This is a moderately common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 3,162 Rojewski's, living all over the country; and there may well be more living in Ukraine, but I have no data for that country.

By the way, Fischer is, obviously, a German surname meaning "fisherman." But that can be misleading - a great many people of German ethnic origin settled in Poland and Ukraine, so we often run into German names in those areas. There aren't many names more German than Hoffman, and there are literally thousands of Hoffman's and Hofmann's and Hoffmann's in Poland.

So I'm afraid that's all I can tell you. Most Polish surnames don't provide anything very specific in the way of clues as to where or when they originated, and these are no exception. They come from basic roots meaning "white" and "swarm"; they probably began as references to the names of the villages the family came from; and the names are fairly common. I know this probably isn't as much info as you hoped for, but I hope maybe it helps a little. And I wish you the best of luck with your research!

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

 

Safiański

… As I am now 46 years old I am looking back to my roots in Poland. I have never seen another name like mine anywhere and feel that I am the last. Am I?

Safiański is not a common name in Poland, but as of 1990 there were 87 Polish citizens with this name. They lived in the following provinces: Warsaw (48), Kielce (3), Koszalin (2), Siedlce (23), Szczecin (1), Tarnobrzeg (10). There were also 12 who spelled the name Safijański, all living in the province of Olsztyn. Unfortunately my sources don't give further details such as first names and addresses, so what I have given you is all I have. But at least it does establish that the name still exists in Poland.

Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions this and several other names from the same root in his book on Polish surnames. He says the root is safian, "saffian, Moroccan leather." Interestingly, there were 416 Poles named Safian in 1990, so that name is more common than Safiański. The latter is an adjectival form, so it would mean "of or pertaining to saffian."

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

 

Schmidt - Ucker - Uecker

… Am searching the following surnames from the area that is now in Poland.Could you please see if these are listed in your book? Uecker or Ueker,Ucker from Seefeld,Klotzin,Koslin,Belgard areas; Schmidt from the Settin area near Greifenberg.

As of 1990 there was no one in Poland with the names Uecker, Ueker, or Ucker. There were 4,480 Polish citizens named Schmidt, of whom 123 lived in the province of Szczecin. I'm afraid that's all the info I have access to, none of my sources give first names, addresses, anything like that. Schmidt is just German for "smith."

There were probably far more Schmidt's, and at least some Uecker's, in Poland before World War II -- it is a documented fact that several million ethnic Germans left Poland, voluntarily or involuntarily, after that War. So any data from after 1945 would give no notion how many Germans had been living in what is now Polish territory before 1939.

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

Siwy - Siwiński

… My last name is Siwy. I understand that it is most likely a derivative of Siwinski and am aware of the meaning of the latter surname. However, I understand that the 'Siwinski' family belonged to the 'Korczak' clan. Could you possibly tell me how that connection could have come to be and perhaps a little about the 'Korczak' clan.

Well, in the first place, Siwy doesn't necessarily come from Siwiński (see the note on that name). Siwy is a surname in its own right, from the adjective siwy, meaning "grey (hair), blue-violet." There were 1,485 Polish citizens named Siwy as of 1990, so it's not a rare name. So it's a mistake to assume Siwy comes from Siwiński, unless you have something that justifies that assumption. If you have such evidence, of course, that's a different matter.

As for the Siwinski's and the Korczak clan, I'm afraid I know virtually nothing about such things. Perhaps it would be worthwhile contacting the Polish Nobility Association Foundation, Villa Anneslie, 529 Dunkirk Rd., Anneslie, MD 21212-2014. If I'm not mistaken, they offer a service whereby they search armorials for indications as to whether a particular family belonged to a noble clan. You might also consider contacting the PNAF Director of Chivalry, Leonard Suligowski -- he edits their Journal, and has a very large library of armorials and such. I know of no one in this country better qualified to find information on a particular family's noble status. Leonard does charge a fee, but I'm told it's quite reasonable.

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

Ryback - Rybak - Szkaradowski

… If and only if you have time, could you look up Skaradoski (also spelled Skaradowski) for me? That is my mother's maiden name. I don't know anything about it except that it is Polish. All of my grandparents passed away before I was even born.

As of 1990 there was no one named Skaradoski or Skaradowski (it's not unusual for that w to be dropped, in some areas they pronounce it so lightly you barely hear it at all). The thing is, whenever you have a surname starting with S-, you also want to check out the same name under Sz-, because Polish names often switch back and forth between S and Sz. There were 67 Poles named Szkaradowski in 1990, living in the provinces of: Warsaw (24), Kalisz (21), Kielce (3), Pila (2), Skierniewice (8), Wroclaw (9). (As I think I mentioned before, I don't have access to further info such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have). That's pretty widely scattered, I don't see any pattern to that distribution. The surname surely comes from a place name, something like Szkaradowo; there is a Szkarada in Płock province and a Szkaradowo in Leszno province, the surname could refer to either of these places (especially the one in Leszno province) or perhaps also to others that don't show up on my maps (too small, or they've disappeared or changed names in the centuries since the surname got established).

… Also, do you think Ryback is Polish, Lithuanian or Russian? That is my grandmother's maiden name. She claimed to be Polish, but they always said she was Russian or Lithuanian. They actually teased her. It's strange to me how immigrants were so concerned with class, but I guess that's just the way it was.

Ryback is most likely Polish; it would not be Lithuanian, and it's less likely to be Russian than Polish. The nationalities here make sense if you learn something about the history of the area. Poland and Lithuania teamed up as one nation for centuries, which finally weakened in the late 1700's, when Germany, Russia and Austria partitioned it and each took over part. Russia got the eastern part, including eastern Poland and Lithuania. There were many Poles who lived in the area now part of Lithuania -- so in ethnic terms they would correctly consider themselves Poles, but in terms of nationality of the area they lived in they could be called, officially, Russians or Lithuanians. The people in eastern Europe have gotten pretty well mixed over the centuries, so you must not fall into the trap of thinking "Poles live in Poland, Lithuanians live in Lithuania, Russians live in Russia." It ain't necessarily so! And since Poles have historically hated Russians (and not always gotten along all that well with Lithuanians), a good way to get under a Pole's skin was to call him/her a Lithuanian or Russian. These facts probably explain the whole situation with your grandmother.

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

Skwara - Skwira

… I was wondering if you knew any information about the surname "Skwira".

According to Polish name expert, Prof. Kazimierz Rymut (who usually seems to know his stuff), Skwira is a variant of Skwara, from a noun skwara meaning "scorching heat" (perhaps the English equivalent is "Texas," where we are all about to wither and die). So in other words, Skwira is just a slightly different form of Skwara, meaning the same thing but pronounced a little differently. As a name, it presumably was applied to someone who was hot-blooded, or perhaps someone who lived in an area where it was extremely hot -- that's just speculation, but there must have been some connection with heat that caused people to start calling certain folks by this name. As of 1990 there were 992 Polish citizens named Skwira, so it's not a rare name in Poland. It shows up all over the country, but the biggest numbers lived in the provinces of Lublin (123), and Radom (275), with only Warsaw (84) coming close -- in other provinces the numbers are pretty small. Radom and Lublin are both in eastern Poland, so we can say the name is most common in that region, but it doesn't really let us narrow it down to any specific area.

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

Siwiński

...Could you tell me how many Siwinski's there were in the 1990 Polish Census and their distribution?

 

As of 1990 there were 3,315 Siwinski's. Here is the distribution:

 

SIWIŃSKI, 3,315; Warsaw 487, Białystok 9, Bielsko-Biala 13, Bydgoszcz 121, Chelm 9, Ciechanow 14, Czestochowa 19, Elblag 31, Gdansk 101, Gorzow 111, Jelenia Gora 42, Kalisz 46, Katowice 100, Kielce 22, Konin 555, Koszalin 112, Krakow 13, Krosno 13, Legnica 35, Leszno 16, Lublin 72, Łomża 2, Lodz 222, Nowy Sacz 3, Olsztyn 73, Opole 16, Ostrołęka 8, Pila 56, Piotrkow 19, Płock 115, Poznan 255, Radom 25, Rzeszow 10, Siedlce 87, Sieradz 29, Skierniewice 41, Slupsk 52, Suwałki 5, Szczecin 98, Tarnobrzeg 18, Tarnow 4, Torun 32, Walbrzych 36, Wloclawek 57, Wroclaw 37, Zamosc 10, Zielona Gora 64.

 

This seems to suggest a primary concentration in the central provinces of Warsaw, Konin, and Lodz. I'm not sure how much we can make of that, but that's the only pattern I see.

 

...Any suggestions as to the origins/meaning of the surname (from the Polish word Siwa meaning grey?).

 

It seems pretty likely that's the ultimate root. The immediate derivation is tougher to figure out. It could well derive from a place name, but there don't seem to be a lot of candidates on the map: Siwki in Łomża province is possible, perhaps also Siwianka in Warsaw province; I could see either or both of those place names taking an adjectival form Siwiński, meaning person from Siwki or Siwianka. There are words such as siwień which mean the same as siwosz, a grey-haired fellow, also a greyish horse. A word siwieńki also means greyish, especially something or someone that's attractively grey. So it's tough saying exactly what the name came from directly, but clearly it got started due to some kind of association with a greyish person or animal or thing, or a place with a name derived from such an association.

 

Also, with 3000+ Poles by that name, it's highly likely the name arose in several different places, so this Siwiński might have gotten the name from one association, that from another, and so on.

 

...BTW I have recently had the pleasure of discovering the wealth of information contained in the Australian National Archives (fortunately in my home town), esp. in the area of post 1901 Naturalisation (all indexed on surname !!!) and post WW2 migration of displaced persons (one of which was my father). They have a WWW address (www.aa.gov.au) which details their holdings fairly well... I may even find the time to write a short piece on what's available there (and in the National Library) ;-)

 

If you do, you know who'd like to see it and publish it!

 

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

 

Soliwoda

... I was looking through your names for something that might come close to Soliwoda or Soliwada. On the marriage certificate the place of birth given is Russia, could you be so kind as to tell me if either of these names are Polish.

The original Polish form was probably Soliwoda, not Soliwada. Polish O and A sound rather similar, and in handwriting they are easily confused; so it's not unusual to see names variations with O or A. But this particular name was probably Soliwoda.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were no Polish citizens named Soliwada, but 959 named Soliwoda. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 103, Olsztyn 206, and Ostrołęka 342 . Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

This data tells us the name is found all over Poland but is most common in the northeastern part of the country. That region was seized by the Russian Empire during the partitioning of Poland, so immigrants born there during the 19th century or before World War I would be described, officially, as born in Russia. This infuriated Poles, who hated the Russians and the Russian occupation of their country; but since no such country as Poland existed, officially speaking, they had to be categorized as Russian citizens, like it or not. The name itself is almost certainly Polish in origin.

It comes from sol, "salt," and woda, "water," and thus means literally "salt water." Presumably it began as a nickname -- perhaps for one who a sailor and had spent much of his life around salt water. But I suppose there are other ways it could develop, perhaps as a reference to an individual's habit of salting his water. It's hard to say for sure exactly what the name meant in a given instance; the most we can do is note that it means "salt water," and for the name to develop and "stick" that must have seemed somehow appropriate. To me it seems most likely as a nickname for an old salt, a sailor; but I'm sure there are other plausible interpretations.

This name comes from the noun sokół (accent over the second O, slash through the L), which means "falcon." Sokoliński would mean "one of the falcon." It could refer to the kin of a person nicknamed the Falcon, or it could refer to someone who came from a place named for falcons, such as Sokolin, Sokolina, Sokolino, Sokoliny, etc. So as with the others, I can only tell you what it means generally; the only way to pin it down further is through detailed research into your specific family, since this Sokoliński familky might have the name from one connection, that one might have it from another.

Copyright © 2000, 2001 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Solibieda - Soliwoda

... I'm wondering if it could be spelled Solibida or Solabida?

I looked for the other possibilities you mentioned and found nothing. However, I did notice an entry I somehow missed before, for the name Solibieda. As of 1990 there were 110 in Poland, living in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 6, Gdansk 3, Konin 5, Koszalin 2, Leszno 20, Pila 8, Piotrkow 3, Poznan 41, Szczecin 16, Torun 2, Zielona Gora 4. These are almost all in western Poland, in the area formerly ruled by the Germans. Solibieda is, phonetically, quite plausible, and it seems to me this may well be the "standard" form of the name you're looking for.

My sources don't give first names and addresses, but I noticed the largest number lived in the province of Poznan, and there is a Poznan telephone directory on-line (so far as I know, it's the only provincial directory on-line). I visited it, searched for Solibieda, and got the following entries:

1. Barbara Solibieda tel.: 861-48-93
ul. Marceliñska 74/4
Poznañ

2. Barbara Solibieda tel.: 847-58-37
ul. Augustyna Szamarzewskiego 56/52
Poznañ

3. Jan Solibieda tel.: 282-38-68
Grzybno 46

4. Teresa Solibieda tel.: 425-89-57
ul. Dabrówki 20
Gniezno

5. Teresa Solibieda tel.: 426-44-93
ul. Dabrówki 20
Gniezno

Note that the symbol ñ stands for the Polish N with an accent over it, and ó is, of course, the accented O. In "Dabrówki" the a should have a tail under it, but Poles will have no trouble recognizing the name without that tail. Poznan and Gniezno are names of the two major cities in the region; ul. is short for ulica, "street," and of course "tel." precedes the phone number.

Phones in private homes are not nearly so common in Poland as in the U.S., so it's not surprising only 5 of 41 Solibieda's would be listed. I wanted to include this info, as it's just possible one of these might be a relative, or know something about the name. You would probably have to write to them in Polish, and there are no guarantees, but at least this is a lead that might prove useful.

I still don't know what the name would mean. It appears to come from the roots sol, "salt" + bieda, "need, want, poverty, misfortune." But "salt-need," "salt-want" as a name? Possible, but it's not convincing. I guess such a name might be applied to a person always craving or lacking salt -- no small matter, as the Poles regard bread and salt as symbols of the necessities of life -- but that is purely speculation. It could be the name comes from something else and I just don't recognize it. It isn't mentioned in any of my sources... There is a rather common surname (959 as of 1990) Soliwoda, "salt water," and I have wondered whether this might be a distorted form of that name? But again, that really is nothing more than speculation on my part.

If you really want to contact people who have the best chance of telling you something about the name, and don't mind spending $20 or so, I recommend writing to the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Kraków. They can handle correspondence in English and their rates are very reasonable -- but they only do research on names, not genealogy. If you wish to try them, the Institute address.

If you do write them and get a good answer, I would be very interested in hearing about it -- I would like to include this name in the next issue of my surname book, but only if I can tell people what it means (why waste space listing names if I can't explain them?).

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

Sowiński

… There is much debate in our family, but few hard facts. I suspect that Sovinski was 'Sowinski' in Poland, due to the difference in pronunciation of the letter 'W'. Sowa apparently means 'owl', but beyond this I know very little. Others suggest that it was always Sovinski, and the origin isn't Polish at all. I doubt this, and have not found a reference on the internet with our spelling outside of North and South America. Sovinski, with a 'V', cannot be found on any European search engine. A Polish exhange student who lived with us for a semester suggested there should be some sort of accent mark as well.

The Polish student was right in that the proper spelling in Polish would be Sowiński, and the name would be pronounced "so-VEEN-skee." Polish doesn't use the letter V, the letter W is used for that sound, so if the name is Polish it would be Sowiński rather than Soviński (but if you went back and found it in older documents it's barely possible you might see V rather than W).

The ultimate root of the name is sowa, which means "owl," as you say, but the surname probably comes from a place name from this root, something like Sowina, Sowince, Sowiny, all meaning roughly "place of the owls." So Sowiński can be parsed as "person from the place of the owls," or as "person from Sowina, Sowiny, etc." At one time, centuries ago, such names ending in -ski implied nobility, and would be used by a noble family that owned a village or estates near a village Sowina, Sowiny, etc. But as time went use of such names spread throughout the population, so that for some time now the name would just indicate origin at or residence in a place by those names, not necessarily ownership of them.

Unfortunately there are several villages in Poland named Sowina, Sowiny, Sowince, etc., so the name itself offers no clues as to where your family came from. It is a fairly common name, as of 1990 there were some 12,958 Sowiński's, living all over Poland.

To make matters worse, we can't assume it is Polish. The root sova (which, as I said, is spelled sowa by Polish phonetic values) appears in many Slavic languages, and -inski is not a suffix unique to Polish (although spelling it with the accented N is). It would not surprise me to find people by this name in Russian, Ukraine, possibly Belarus, etc.

Here's where it gets tricky -- the form of the name can depend on what language it was in, what alphabet that languages uses, and (if in Cyrillic) what form it took when transliterated into our alphabet. In other words, even if you find the name spelled with the uniquely Polish spelling SowińSki in documents, that wouldn't prove the name was Polish. It could have been the Russian name spelled in Cyrillic as COBNHbCKNN (flip the N's backwards, put a little mark over the last one) -- an English-speaker hearing that name pronounced would write Sovinsky, a German would write it Sowinsky or Sowinski, a Pole would write it Sowiński, and so on. So if someone by that name left Russia, came to Poland, had papers filled out there, and went on to emigrate, he might end up stuck with a Polish spelling even though he wasn't Polish. Such things happened.

So Sowiński can definitely be a good Polish name -- but a name sounding virtually identical could be borne by Russians, Ukrainians, etc., and might end up being spelled Sowinski, Sowinsky, Sovinski, Sovinsky, etc. The only way to be sure is to find documents that cite, clearly and unequivocally, places of birth and residence of your Sowiński family members; then track them down on the map and see whether they are now in Poland or Russia or wherever.

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

Stawarz

… I'm a student in Alabama. My Grandfather passed away about 2 years ago. He came to America with his Father and Mother when he was little and while he was alive I, in my youthful ignorance didn't care about my history. Now that he's gone I realized that part of my history has gone with him.

Well, for what little it's worth, you have a lot of company. I've heard that same statement many, many times. But most people don't get interested in genealogy until after they've been around a while and started to realize we don't live forever. Consequently, most researchers don't get interested until after their older relatives have died, and then they kick themselves when they realize what they've lost."

… I've looked on your webpage for my surname and I couldn't find it.

According to 1990 data, there were over 800,000+ Polish surnames, so I'm afraid there are quite a few I haven't gotten to yet! 8-)

… I know you're probably busy with real life and everything but I was wondering if you could maybe help me find out what my last name means in Polish and maybe if it was a common name or not.

Stawarz is a moderately common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 2,910 Polish citizens by that name. They lived all over the country, with larger numbers in the provinces of Katowice (209), Krakow (270), Radom (302), Rzeszow (314), Tarnow (664). These provinces are all in southcentral to southeastern Poland, so that's where the name is most common; but really, you can find Stawarz'es anywhere, so the data doesn't allow us to make a judgment as to where any one family by that name might have come from. It's pretty certain there isn't just one big Stawarz family, but rather many families in different areas that came to have that surname independently.

The name comes from the root seen in the noun staw, "pond," and specifically from a noun stawarz meaning "digger of ponds." Thus it's one of the many Polish surnames that began as a reference to a person's occupation, or at least something he often did; back in the days when surnames were coming to be established, somebody in the family worked as a digger of ponds (or perhaps also took care of them, cleaned them, that sort of thing). In Polish the name is pronounced roughly "STAH-vash."

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

Tarasek - Terasek

… Prossien (please?) provide what you know about the surname "Terasek." ... the family's last name was changed after they arrived to America in the 1920s. I'm hoping that my name will provide many clues.

Well, I hope you're not disappointed -- the truth is most Polish surnames don't really provide a whole lot in the way of helpful clues. But let's see what I can come up with, and you can judge whether it's any help. (By the way, the word for "please" is spelled Proszę)

Actually, your name would be easier if you told me the original form was Tarasek. That's not that rare a name in Poland -- there were 738 Polish citizens named Tarasek as of 1990, living all over the country but with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (284), Katowice (59), Lublin (47), Skierniewice (53), Tarnobrzeg (165), and Zamosc (94). The pattern is kind of unclear, but there are at least good numbers of them in southeastern Poland, and that's where I'd expect to find them, because in most cases Tarasek is probably derived from the first name Taras, which is more Ukrainian than Polish. The suffix -ek means "little" or "son of," so the most likely meaning of the name is "son of Taras." There is also a word taras it may come from in some cases, meaning "prison, dike."

Terasek is much rarer. As of 1990 there were only 2 Poles by that name, one in Katowice province and one in Torun province. The derivation is tough, it could be a regional variant of Tarasek -- it's not unusual to see an a in names sometimes switch to e because of regional variations in pronunciation. It might also mean "son of Teresa," although Poles are less likely to form surnames from women's name -- most such names were patronymic, i. e., referring to the father. Still, metronymics do occur, and Terasek could possibly be from Teresa. I also can't rule out derivation from the word teraz, "now" -- I've seen names formed from such terms, probably originating as nicknames referring to some word or phrase a person was always saying. It would be a little like saying "Here comes old 'Do-it-now'!"

Still, in view of the numbers, I still can't help wondering if the link to the first name Taras is the right one -- that's my gut feeling, and I've learned to pay attention to those. This name, as I said, is associated more with Ukrainians than Poles -- I believe Gogol wrote a book or story Taras Bulba, which was made into a movie with Yul Brynner, and it was about a Cossack family. You must realize this wouldn't necessarily make you any less Polish; Ukraine was ruled by Poland for a long time, a great many Poles lived there, and a great many Ukrainians lived (and still live) in Poland. Poles thought of Ukrainians as their brothers to the east, and in fact many "Polish" heroes came from what is now Ukraine, including the great Tadeusz Kosciuszko... Linguistically speaking, it wouldn't be too big a stretch to explain that Terasek/Tarasek variation -- as I said, we often see E and A switch in Polish names. And as far as the numbers go, Tarasek seems the better bet. I'm not trying to sell you on it, it just strikes me as the most likely connection.

If you'd like to see whether Polish experts can come up with something better, you could try writing the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow. They can handle correspondence in English, and I've never heard of them charging more than $20 to research a single name. They only do name origins, not genealogy -- but for Polish names, they're the best I know. The Institute address

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

Śliwa - Topolski

… Can you tell me anything about the Topolski, Topolsky, or Sliwa names?

Śliwa comes from the noun śliwa (the name sounds like "shleev-uh"), which means "plum-tree, sloe." It is relatively common in Poland, as of 1990 there were 11,499 Poles by that name, living all over the country.

Topolski is an adjective from the noun topola, "poplar tree," so it would mean literally "of, from, relating to, connected with a poplar." As a surname it might refer to a person who lived near a particularly conspicuous poplar, or dealt in poplar woood, some sort of connection like that. This, too, is a fairly common name, as of 1990 there were 4,003 Poles named Topolski; and like Śliwa, it is common all over the country, not restricted to any one area.

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

Sowa

… Have anything on the Sowa surname? All I know about it is that in Polish it means owl. I don't know anything about its distribution within Poland, though my folks came from the town of Zolynia in the Rzeszow region. If you'd like, please add the name to your database and publish it in any list you may be compiling for future editions of your book or website.

I'm afraid this is one of those cases where a name is too common to do you much good. As of 1990 there were 17,750 Polish citizens named Sowa, and the only real pattern to the distribution shows a concentration in the southcentral and southeastern part of the country. Here is data for some of those provinces: Czestochowa 868, Katowice 2,434, Krakow 789, Rzeszow 822, Tarnow 1,036, Tarnobrzeg 863. So basically the name is most common in the area called Małopolska (Little Poland), which was ruled by the Austrians after the partitions and called Galicia (along with western Ukraine). That may be some help, but that still covers a lot of ground.

I doubt writing to Krakow would turn up any information that would help you more -- although, of course, I could be wrong, and if you'd like to write them, that's your decision. If there's anybody on the planet who could tell you more, it's the scholars of the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Insitute. I'm just saying that when a name is this common and is not concentrated in any specific region, there's just not much you can do from the surname end. I doubt they could add a whole lot to what I've said.

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

 

Turok

… I was hoping, since you've been so kind with the information so far, if you would tell me what the name Turok could mean in Polish. It was the maiden name of my best friend's mother.

There are a couple of possibilities for that, and I'm not sure which is more likely. It could be a variant of turek, "Turk," a very common name in Poland (13,066 by that name as of 1990); consider another name that derived from turek, Turko, borne by 341 Poles as of 1990. In the Middle Ages and beyond the Turks were constantly making their way up into eastern Europe and wreaking havoc, and they left some descendants behind; also a person with a dark complexion might be called Turek or Turko because he looked kind of like a Turk, even if he wasn't. So turek is a definite possible source for Turok.

The other likely origin is from tur, a word for the animal we call "aurochs." It would be quite plausible that the diminutive suffix -ok could be added to that, to mean "little aurochs, son of the aurochs," or even "son of Tur" with Tur being a big, strong fellow who got that name because he reminded people of one of these large beasts. As I said, it's really difficult to say which of these two roots the name is more likely to come from.

Turok is a pretty rare name in Poland these days, as of 1990 there were only 38 of them, living in the provinces of Gorzow (2), Jelenia Gora (11), Slupsk (1), Szczecin (3), and Zielona Gora (21). The two provinces with most of them, Jelenia Gora and Zielona Gora, are in southwestern Poland, in areas formerly ruled by Germany. Unfortunately I don't have further data such as names and addresses, I'm afraid what I've given here is all I have.

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

Anszczak - Lukasik - Pietrowicz

… Working on my family tree. Found one name on your list - Nowak. Surprised to see it is a common name. I imagine this will make my search harder. I have three other great grand parent names that were not on your list. Perhaps you can tell me a little about them:Anszczak, Lukasick, Pietrowitz/Pietrowicz.

Anszczak comes from the first name Jan or German Hans = English "John." The -czak suffix means "son of," so basically this name means the same as English "Johnson." This is not a very common name, as of 1990 only 149 Poles were named Anszczak; by far the most lived in the provinces of Białystok (72) and Suwałki (24) in northeastern Poland, near the border with Lithuania and Belarus, but there were a few scattered here and there in other parts of Poland. (I'm afraid I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses, what I've given here is all I have).

Lukasick is probably Lukasik, which means "little Lucas, son of Lucas." Surnames derived from popular first names are usually very common in Poland, and this is no exception -- as of 1990 there were 15,213 Poles by this name, living all over the country.

Pietrowicz is much the same story. The suffix -owicz also means "son of," so Pietrowicz means "Peterson." It is moderately common, as of 1990 there were 527 Poles by that name.

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

 

Paciuszko

… Could you send me some information on my wifes maiden name of Paciuszko?

I'm afraid I don't have a lot of information on this name. As of 1990 there were only 7 Polish citizens named Paciuszko, all living in the province of Radom (I'm afraid I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses). The name is pronounced more or less like "pah-CHOOSH-ko," and that ending -uszko generally suggests a name is likely to be Ukrainian in origin, which may explain the scarcity of the name in Poland -- my sources deal only with Poland in its modern borders. The name may be more common in Ukraine, but I have no way of checking that. So even though the spelling of the name is by Polish phonetic values, I suspect the name is of Ukrainian origin. This is not at all unusual -- Poland ruled western Ukraine for centuries, and Polish and Ukrainian names have mixed to the extent that it can sometimes be quite difficult telling which a particular surname is, especially since the Polish and Ukrainian languages are pretty similar in the first place.

The origin of the name is probably as a kind of nickname or by-name. Poles and Ukrainians both loved to form new names by taking popular first names, chopping off all but the first couple of sounds, and adding suffixes. So someone might be called Pawel or Pavlo (Paul) or Pakoslaw (an ancient Slavic name meaning "may he gain greater glory"); they'd chop off all but the Pa-; and then start adding suffixes: Pa- + -ci- + -uszko. So the surname Paciuszko probably started out meaning little more than "son of Paul or Pakoslaw" or some other name starting with Pa-.

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

 

Rukść - Rukszcz

… My problem is I have three different spellings of my grandmother's maiden name. They are Rogszciowna, Rukscuzona, and Rukszcz. These are all taken off of early 20th century handwritten records. Can you give any advice on which of these names might be the best one to research and what a "correct" spelling might be? I know about the suffixes somewhat from reading your book, but they're not even consistent in the records. She supposedly was from a village called Sta---eow (if that helps any). Only have one record that gave her village and the middle letters are not readable. She also listed N. Poland. My grandfather was Turowka. I would greatly appreciate any guidance you can give on what would be a likely surname to research.

I'm not positive about this, but the more I looked into this name the more I think I've figured it out. I think Rukszcz is the closest, but that name doesn't appear in modern Poland. Rukść does, however; as of 1990 there were 95 Polish citizens with this name, of whom 17 lived in Katowice province, 46 in Suwałki province, and a few were scattered in other provinces. The point is that ść and szcz both sound similar, like "shch." I suspect the name used to be spelled either way, but these days has been standardized as Rukść. As I say, the key is that both spellings would be pronounced almost identically. If we assume that's right, then the other spellings become credible -- pronounced aloud by Polish phonetic values, they all sound like believable feminine forms of this name. The -ona on "Rukscuzona" might be wrong, maybe it was -owa, but it might be right, too -- if the name is Lithuanian in origin.

And I think it is! Rukszcz or Rukść doesn't really sound Polish, but it sounds and looks just right for Lithuanians. The fact that the largest number of Rukść's (say that 10 times quickly!) lived in Suwałki province as of 1990, thus right across the border from Lithuania, tends to confirm the notion. In Lithuanian there are several names that could be Polonized as Ruszcz or Rukść. One is Ruks^ta (s^ = s with the little circumflex over it, pronounced like our "sh" and like sz in Polish), also Ruks^tis. Lithuanian scholars aren't certain, but these names may well come from Lithuanian rugs^tis, "sour," or from ruks^tele, a kind of mild curse, "good-for-nothing." All things considered, it seems very likely that this name comes from Lithuanian, meaning either "sour" (like Polish names with kwas-) or "good-for-nothing" (there are a jillion Polish names that mean that). It is not that rare to see Lithuanian-influenced names in northeastern Poland. So I think your family may well have come from "northern Poland," or rather northeastern Poland, specifically the general area of Suwałki province, and had a Lithuanian background. In light of these facts, the alternate spellings of the name make perfect sense.

That's my best guess, and I feel fairly confident it's right.

[Follow-up: Lois later wrote back to say that she got an answer from Jeleniowo parish with a marriage certificate showing her grandmother’s maiden name as Rukść, from the village of Taciewo. It’s great to get one right once ina while!]

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

 

Solibieda - Soliwoda

... I'm wondering if it could be spelled Solibida or Solabida?

I looked for the other possibilities you mentioned and found nothing. However, I did notice an entry I somehow missed before, for the name Solibieda. As of 1990 there were 110 in Poland, living in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 6, Gdansk 3, Konin 5, Koszalin 2, Leszno 20, Pila 8, Piotrkow 3, Poznan 41, Szczecin 16, Torun 2, Zielona Gora 4. These are almost all in western Poland, in the area formerly ruled by the Germans. Solibieda is, phonetically, quite plausible, and it seems to me this may well be the "standard" form of the name you're looking for.

My sources don't give first names and addresses, but I noticed the largest number lived in the province of Poznan, and there is a Poznan telephone directory on-line (so far as I know, it's the only provincial directory on-line). I visited it, searched for Solibieda, and got the following entries:

1. Barbara Solibieda tel.: 861-48-93
ul. Marceliñska 74/4
Poznañ

2. Barbara Solibieda tel.: 847-58-37
ul. Augustyna Szamarzewskiego 56/52
Poznañ

3. Jan Solibieda tel.: 282-38-68
Grzybno 46

4. Teresa Solibieda tel.: 425-89-57
ul. Dabrówki 20
Gniezno

5. Teresa Solibieda tel.: 426-44-93
ul. Dabrówki 20
Gniezno

Note that the symbol ñ stands for the Polish N with an accent over it, and ó is, of course, the accented O. In "Dabrówki" the a should have a tail under it, but Poles will have no trouble recognizing the name without that tail. Poznan and Gniezno are names of the two major cities in the region; ul. is short for ulica, "street," and of course "tel." precedes the phone number.

Phones in private homes are not nearly so common in Poland as in the U.S., so it's not surprising only 5 of 41 Solibieda's would be listed. I wanted to include this info, as it's just possible one of these might be a relative, or know something about the name. You would probably have to write to them in Polish, and there are no guarantees, but at least this is a lead that might prove useful.

I still don't know what the name would mean. It appears to come from the roots sol, "salt" + bieda, "need, want, poverty, misfortune." But "salt-need," "salt-want" as a name? Possible, but it's not convincing. I guess such a name might be applied to a person always craving or lacking salt -- no small matter, as the Poles regard bread and salt as symbols of the necessities of life -- but that is purely speculation. It could be the name comes from something else and I just don't recognize it. It isn't mentioned in any of my sources... There is a rather common surname (959 as of 1990) Soliwoda, "salt water," and I have wondered whether this might be a distorted form of that name? But again, that really is nothing more than speculation on my part.

If you really want to contact people who have the best chance of telling you something about the name, and don't mind spending $20 or so, I recommend writing to the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Kraków. They can handle correspondence in English and their rates are very reasonable -- but they only do research on names, not genealogy. If you wish to try them, the Institute address.

If you do write them and get a good answer, I would be very interested in hearing about it -- I would like to include this name in the next issue of my surname book, but only if I can tell people what it means (why waste space listing names if I can't explain them?).

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

 

Szymialowicz - Szymialis

… I was looking to find out more information about my polish surname: Szymialowicz. I did not see it listed in your past research and was hoping you might have more information.

This is a pretty rare name. As of 1990 there was no one in Poland named Szymialowicz; there were 8 people named Szymial, 7 of them living in Kalisz province and 1 in Kielce province. There were also 4 named Szymialis, all living in Suwałki province in northeastern Poland -- that is almost certainly a Lithuanian form of the name Szymial. There were also 6 named Szymialojc, living in Zielona Gora province in western Poland. In some dialects of Polish (in the northeast) the suffix –owicz, usually pronounced "-oh-vich," is pronounced more like –ojc ("oich"). So we have some reason to regard Szymialojc as a spelling variation of the name you’re asking about; it’s quite possible the family or families by that name in Zielona Gora province originally lived in northeastern Poland and relocated after World War II.

It's not uncommon to find that a name died out in Poland after members of a family emigrated, that could have happened here. But as I say, Szymialojc may be regarded as an alternate, phonetic-based spelling of this name.

One thing is clear: the suffix -owicz means "son of," so this is what we call a patronymic, a name formed from the name of one's father. So at some point there was a fellow in the family named Szymial, people began calling his kin "son of Szymial," and the name stuck. So the question is, what does Szymial mean?

There are a couple of possibilities. The most likely, it seems to me, is that it is one of many names derived from Szymon, "Simon." Poles loved to form names by taking the first syllable of a popular first name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes (sort of like "Teddy" from "Theodore," in English). If that's the origin of Szymialowicz, the probable meaning is something like "son of Simon." It could well be influenced by Lithuanian -- as Szymialis and Szymialojc clearly are -- and when I looked those up in a book of Lithuanian surnames it also said the names derived from "Simon." So that strikes me as the most likely origin.

There is also a word szymel in Polish, which means "white horse," and it's also the name of a dice game. Szymel has also used been used as a term to mean "20-year-old." From Szymel to Szymial is a bit of a stretch, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

So I'd say it's probably "son of Simon," but I can't rule out the possibility it refers to szymel in one of its meanings.

I have no sources that let me answer this question definitively, but if you'd really like to know more, you might try writing to the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow. They don't do genealogical research, only work on the origins of names; but they can handle correspondence in English, seldom charge more than $20, and they are the best experts, with the best collection of sources on name origins. If you'd like to contact them, read more about them in the introduction to my Web page.

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

 

Szalkowski - Szałkowski

… If you have any spare time, I would like information on the name of, Shalkowski. Additionally, can you advise any info on the Shalkowski, coat of arms/Heraldry? Any assistance you can provide is most appreciated. I am unsure of how much time and effort this may take. Therefore, if you require money, please advise. If you are unable to assist in finding this information, perhaps you can point me in the right direction so I can continue my search.

The first question with the name Shalkowski is the correct spelling -- sh is not used by Poles, this is almost certainly an Anglicized form of the name. English sh usually corresponds to Polish sz (which is pronounced like our "sh"), so this gives us Szalkowski. As of 1990 there were 560 Polish citizens who spelled this name Szalkowski, and 2,614 who had the name Szałkowski (the Polish l with a slash through it is pronounced like our w). Without more information I have no way of determining which of the two names is applicable in your case. Both names are moderately common, although obviously Szałkowski is much more so. There is no real pattern to the distribution and frequency of the name Szalkowski; Szałkowski also appears all over Poland, but is especially common in the central, northcentral, and northwestern provinces of Bydgoszcz (292), Ciechanow (117), Gdansk (133), Warsaw (190), Olsztyn (303), Płock (154), and Torun (304).

Either Szalkowski or Szałkowski would have originated as a reference to a connection between a person or family and a place name, so we would expect the name to have meant "one from Szalków or Szalkowo or Szalki" (in each case ł instead of l is also possible). I only see one place on my maps that qualifies, Szałkowo in Olsztyn province (very near Iława, called Deutsch Eylau when the Germans ruled the area, which was part of Prussia). The surname could have derived from that place name; but there may well be other places with similar names, too small to show up on my maps, or perhaps they've changed names in the centuries since the surname developed.

As for nobility, I have very little information on that, but you might wish to write to the Polish Nobility Association Foundation. 

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

 

Walicki

… I would greatly appreciate any information on the meaning/origin of my family surname - Walicki. I know that my great-grandfather, Martin, immigrated to USA about 1873-74 (cannot locate passage info yet) via Germany.

Surnames beginning with Wal- usually derive from the first name Walenty, the equivalent of "Valentine" in English, but Walenty is a more common first name in Poland than Valentine is in English. Poles often formed nicknames or affectionate names by taking the first syllable of a popular name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes. So Walicki probably breaks down as Wal- + -ic- + -cki, where Wal- is short for "Walenty," -ic- is "son of," and -cki is an adjectival ending meaning "of, from, pertaining to." So Walicki means literally "of, from, pertaining to Wal's son." It could refer to a relative of Wal's son, or a place owned by Wal's son -- the Walicki's in some cases may have gotten their name because they came from a place named Walica or Walice or something similar, and the place in turn got its name from Wal's son... However, derivation from the root seen in the verb walić, "to knock over, knock down," is also possible.

We also can't rule out the possibility that the name was originally Wolicki (most likely referring to the many places named Wola, Wolice, etc.) but the vowel was changed from o to a. That happens, but I wouldn't worry about this unless you start seeing evidence of a vowel change in the records. Tracing Walicki's will be tough enough, don't make things worse by looking for Wolicki's unless you have reason to believe the alternate spelling is relevant.

As of 1990 there were 3,333 Polish citizens named Walicki, so it's a fairly common name. It appears all over the country, with particularly large numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (566), Lodz (168), and Suwałki (311). But there's nothing in the frequency or distribution pattern that offers any useful clue as to which particular part of Poland a specific Walicki family came from; families by that name probably developed independently in many different areas. Unfortunately, most Polish surnames just aren't distinctive enough to let us say, "Aha, this village right here is where you came from." There are exceptions, but not many.

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

Kuczyński

KUCZYŃSKI, for instance, refers to a family connection at some point centuries ago with any of several places called Kuczyn or Kuczyna or Kuczyny or Kuczynka. As of 2002, there were 7,391 Polish citizens by that name, as well as 7,878 bearing the feminine version of the name, KUCZYŃSKA. They lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers in east-central and northeastern Poland. As you can see, this doesn't really tell you much about your particular Kuczyński ancestors. For that, you have to study the history of the specific family; and that requires an experienced researcher.

Copyright © 2011 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Walicki

… I would greatly appreciate any information on the meaning/origin of my family surname - Walicki. I know that my great-grandfather, Martin, immigrated to USA about 1873-74 (cannot locate passage info yet) via Germany.

Surnames beginning with Wal- usually derive from the first name Walenty, the equivalent of "Valentine" in English, but Walenty is a more common first name in Poland than Valentine is in English. Poles often formed nicknames or affectionate names by taking the first syllable of a popular name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes. So Walicki probably breaks down as Wal- + -ic- + -cki, where Wal- is short for "Walenty," -ic- is "son of," and -cki is an adjectival ending meaning "of, from, pertaining to." So Walicki means literally "of, from, pertaining to Wal's son." It could refer to a relative of Wal's son, or a place owned by Wal's son -- the Walicki's in some cases may have gotten their name because they came from a place named Walica or Walice or something similar, and the place in turn got its name from Wal's son... However, derivation from the root seen in the verb walić, "to knock over, knock down," is also possible.

We also can't rule out the possibility that the name was originally Wolicki (most likely referring to the many places named Wola, Wolice, etc.) but the vowel was changed from o to a. That happens, but I wouldn't worry about this unless you start seeing evidence of a vowel change in the records. Tracing Walicki's will be tough enough, don't make things worse by looking for Wolicki's unless you have reason to believe the alternate spelling is relevant.

As of 1990 there were 3,333 Polish citizens named Walicki, so it's a fairly common name. It appears all over the country, with particularly large numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (566), Lodz (168), and Suwałki (311). But there's nothing in the frequency or distribution pattern that offers any useful clue as to which particular part of Poland a specific Walicki family came from; families by that name probably developed independently in many different areas. Unfortunately, most Polish surnames just aren't distinctive enough to let us say, "Aha, this village right here is where you came from." There are exceptions, but not many.

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

 

Rospłoch - Rozpłoch - Wejta

… Your busy schedule and time permitting, would you please be so kind as to give me any information on the following surnames. These are not too common, (belonging to gr-gr-grandparents) and I'd be very interested in knowing regions and meanings. My guess is the Poznan region for both: Wejta and Rosplock (or Rosbuck).

Wejta is a rare name, indeed -- as of 1990 there was no one registered as having that name in Poland. There were 29 folks named Wejt, living in the following provinces: Ciechanow 13, Olsztyn 4, Płock 1, Szczecin 3, Warsaw 1, and Zielona Gora 7. It's hard to discern any pattern to that distribution... None of my sources mention Wejta, so I have to dig around for roots it might come from. There is a Polish word wejta, a kind of exclamation meaning "Look!" or "Look at that!" or "Behold!" I could see it catching on as a nickname for someone who said that all the time -- there are other names of similar origin. The other possibilities are that it comes from a variant Weite of German Weiz, "wheat," probably for a farmer who grew wheat, or a dialect pronunciation of Wojta or Wojt, which can come either from the noun wójt, a district official or village mayor, or the first name Wojciech. If there's reason to think the family might have come from an area with a pretty strong German influence (western Poland or Poznan especially), the "wheat" connection strikes me as most likely. But I can't rule the others out.

Rosplock or Rosbuck is even harder. As of 1990 there was no one in Poland with a name beginning with Rosb-. There is a name Rospłoch borne by 43 Poles in 1990, but it's a variant of Rozpłoch, borne by 220 Poles (province breakdown: Bydgoszcz 65, Kalisz 4, Koszalin 23, Lublin 1, Pila 110, Poznan 1, Slupsk 5, Torun 3, Walbrzych 8). The hell of it is, I can't find anything that tells me what this name would mean! The prefix roz- has the meaning of "apart, separate, falling apart," and the root płoch- means "shy, fickle, thoughtless," so the name might be a combination of those two ideas. But as I say, I can't find it anywhere, and that bothers me. But Poles aren't usually big on the combinations Rosb- or Rosp-, I suspect Rozpłoch might be the name you're looking for.

These might be good names to run by the
Anthroponymic Workshop in Krakow -- if anybody could shed light on them, that's who it would be. 

Sorry I couldn't help more, but these are not what you'd call high-frequency names, as you said yourself, and I just couldn't find much. I hope what little I did find proves to be some help to you, and I wish you the best of luck with your research!

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

 

Wesołowski

… My family surname is Wesoloski and I do know my great-grandparents are from Poland. I have always been interested to find out what the name means, and where they came from.

Wesoloski is a variant form of Wesołowski (notice the second -w- drops out right before the -ski). This is not uncommon in Poland, we see many names that do this, e. g., Dombroski/Dombrowski, Janoski/Janowski, etc. In that position the w (normally pronounced like our v) softens to the sound of an f, and in some dialects it is pronounced so lightly as to be inaudible. Spelling tends to follow pronunciation, and that's how many Polish names dropped that w, from -owski to -oski. But in discussing the origin of the names we need to restore it, because the forms with the W are usually much more common.

So what does Wesołowski mean? It comes from a root wesoły that means "merry, cheerful"; the same root appears in many other Slavic languages (but by English phonetics would be spelled "vesol-"). So it's entirely possible this surname could have started out meaning nothing more than "kin of the cheerful one."

But it's also true that most -owski names began as references to a connection between a person or family and a place with a similar name, e. g., Wesołów, Wesołówka, Wesołowo are all names that could easily generate the surname Wesolowski, meaning basically "one from Wesołów (-ówka/-owo)." Those place names, in turn, got their names because of some link with "merry, cheerful"; perhaps they originally meant "the cheerful place," or "the place of the cheerful one," something like that. There are quite a few villages in Poland with names that qualify, so unfortunately the surname doesn't provide any clues that allow us to point to any one of them and say "Ah, that's where your family came from." Without specific data on the family that pinpoints the exact region they came from, we have no way of knowing which Wesołów or Wesołowo or Wesołówka a given family was connected with.

Wesołowski is a very common surname in Poland, as of 1990 there were 23,653 Polish citizens by that name, living all over the country. There were, in contrast, only 7 who spelled their name Wesołoski, so if that spelling actually persists in your family's name all the way back to Poland and your relatives still spell it that way -- well, some of those 7 might be relatives. Unfortunately I don't have access to details such as first names and addresses, but I can tell you those 7 lived in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (1), Gdansk (1), Lublin (1), Tarnow (2), Walbrzych (1), Wroclaw (1).

I don't want to throw you off the track here -- it is not at all certain those Wesołoski's would be related to you. The spelling of names is variable in the records, and the same name sometimes shows up as -owski and sometimes as -oski without it really meaning much. With a name as common as Wesołowski, it's pretty likely quite a few of them pronounced it Wesoloski, and thus sometimes had it spelled that way; then it might have been "corrected" to the standard form later. So it's hard to say under which spelling your relatives would show up in modern records.

I'm sorry I couldn't give you more to work with, but most Polish names are like this -- they don't usually provide specific clues as to exactly where they came from. Still, some of this info might prove useful to you.

Copyright © 2001 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Surname 4 Combined File

 

ONYSZKÓW -- SOROKA -- WIERZBICKI -- ZAGRODNY

… My grandfather Michał Zagrodny He was baptised Roman Catholic in 1887 in Touste SE of Ternopil'. Michał's father was Dionezy Zagrodny and his mother was Franciszka Soroka which Walter said is Ukrainian for the bird magpie.

Well, I have no hard data or numbers for Ukraine, only for Poland in its current boundaries, so I don't know how much good I can do you. But here's what I have.

Zagrodny comes from the term zagroda, "farm, croft," from roots meaning literally "behind the enclosure." There is a saying, "Szlachcic na zagrodzie rowny wojewodzie," "The petty noble on his farm is the equal of the palatine," which mean in theory all nobles were equal in rights, whether they owned a small farm or huge estate; this gives a bit of an idea what a zagroda was, a small enclosed farm that a minor noble might own. Zagrodny is just an adjectival form, "of, from, pertaining to a zagroda." This may mean an ancestor was a minor noble, or that he worked on such a farm. As of 1990 there were 352 Polish citizens by this name, with no particular concentration in any one area.

Soroka is indeed the Ukrainian term for "magpie" -- in Polish it's Sroka. This is still a prety common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 2,011 Polish citizens named Soroka, scattered all over the country, as opposed to 13,768 named Sroka (common all over Poland).

… Michał's mother is Maria Onyszków (with accent above O) and she is the daughter of Cyryli Onyszków and Franciszka Dziuda.

The surname Onyszków derives from the Ukr. first name Onysym, from Greek Onesimos, "useful, advantageous." In 1990 there were 473 Poles named Onyszko, 442 named Onyszkiewicz ("son of Onyszko"), but only 18 named Onyszków, most of them, 11, living in Jelenia Gora province in western Poland, no doubt due to post-World War II forced relocations.

I could find no info on the origin or meaning of Dziuda. I can only tell you there were 765 Poles by that name in 1990, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Lodz (161), Skierniewice (306) in central Poland.

… I'm fairly sure that Michał and his future wife, my grandmother, Anna Wierzbicki lived in Borki Male right before they came to the US in 1905 but I need to find out if family would still be there or if they may have been relocated during the war years when the borders changed.

The ultimate root of Wierzbicki is the term wierzba, "willow," but the surname probably started in most cases as a reference to a village of origin with a name such as Wierzbica (there are 20 or 30 of these) or something similar. Since there are many places with names that would yield the adjectival form Wierzbicki, it's not surprising there a great many Poles by this name -- as of 1990 there were 19,231, living all over the country.


WINCEK

… I was wondering if you have any information on the surname of my grandfather's family, Wincek. My great grandfather came to this country sometime between 1886 and 1892, possibly from Tarnow Parish.

This is almost certainly a diminutive or nickname from Wincenty, the Polish form of the name "Vincent." Poles often took the first syllable of a popular first name, dropped the rest, and then added suffixes such as -ek. The basic meaning would be kind of like "Vince" in English, or it could also have meant "little Vincent" or "son of Vincent." Names of this kind are extremely common in Poland. Wincek appears in records as far back as 1213, but it's not all that common these days -- as of 1990 there were only 298 Poles named Wincek. They were scattered in small clumps in many different provinces, with no real pattern apparent. That's not too strange, a name like this could get started anywhere they spoke Polish and had guys named Wincenty (i. e., anywhere in Poland). The odd thing is that no one by this name showed up in Tarnow province. However, that isn't necessarily a major problem -- a lot of names died out in Poland after people bearing them came to America; and the population has been shuffled around enough by war and dictators, to such a degree that finding no Wincek's near Tarnow in 1990 hardly proves there weren't Wincek's there 100 years ago.


WINKELMAN

… Would you be able to tell me if Winkelman is listed in your Polish Surname Directory. Supposedly this person came from Brzeno, poland but nothin has been found in 30 years of searching.

Winkelman is a German name, coming from a term used to mean "grocer, guy with a Mom-and-Pop grocery store." But you must realize that over the centuries there have been large numbers of ethnic Germans living in what is now Poland, so it's not at all unusual to find German names there. For instance, Hoffman is a German name, and there are literally thousands of Hoffman's in Poland -- and before World War II, there were more. Millions of Germans left territory that is now in Poland for East Germany after World War II, figuring Poles might bear a grudge over a little thing like the Nazis' attempt to subjugate and murder them.

As of 1990 there were 8 Polish citizens named Winkelman, and 77 named Winkelmann (for all intents and purposes, the single and double n have no great significance). The Winkelmann's were most common in the province of Gdansk (44), which used to be Danzig back when the Germans ruled that area, but there are a few scattered in various areas here and there. As I say, 50 years ago there were probably a lot more.


WOLICKI

… Any information on the surname Wolicki would also be appreciated when and if you have the time.

That name probably originated, in most cases, as a reference to a place with a similar name that the family was associated with -- lived there, worked there, or if noble owned it, something like that. The problem is, there are many, many places called Wolica or Wolice in Poland, and those are the place names I'd expect to generate the surname Wolicki, which means basically "one from Wolica or Wolice"; there might be other place names it could come from, too, but definitely Wolica and Wolice would qualify. Without more info, there's really no way to say which one your particular family would have been connected with. As of 1990 there were 1,132 Polish citizens named Wolicki, living all over Poland; there were particularly large numbers in the provinces of Kalisz (103), Konin (117), and Tarnobrzeg (101), with only 12 in the modern-day province of Łomża. I'm afraid I don't have access to any further data such as first names or addresses.


WOLNIEWICZ

… My father's surname is Wolniewicz. Any information you can briefly provide me with would be very much appreciated. There are too many places to go on the web and I am lost right now at where to start.

The suffix -ewicz or -owicz means "son of," and the root wolny means "free," so this name literally means "son of the free one." In the context of names, wolny often means "one freed from the requirement of doing labor for his liege lord" -- most peasants had to work so many days on week in their lord's fields in return for the right to work their own bit of land. A wolny man had somehow earned his freedom from that requirement, and believe me, that could be a big deal! If you spent half the week working on your lord's land, that left little time to give your own crops the attention they needed. A freedman didn't have to worry about that. In some ways it may have been an uncomfortable position -- the vast majority of Polish society was either peasant or noble, the relatively small number of free men stood somewhere in between -- but such men had a little more control over their own destiny.

Unfortunately, very few Polish surnames provide any kind of really helpful lead or clue when it comes to research, and Wolniewicz is no exception. As you can imagine, this name could arise anywhere they spoke Polish and had free men, i. e., anywhere. As of 1990 there were 2,039 Polish citizens named Wolniewicz; the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Warsaw (153), Pila (108), Poznan (557), and Skierniewice (207), with smaller numbers in virtually every other province. So I'm afraid the name in itself isn't going to help much.


WOŹNIAK

… What does Wozniak mean and if possible its Polish origin?

This is an extremely common Polish name -- as of 1990 there were 81,390 Polish citizens named Woźniak, spelled with an accent over the z (which is what the ~ stands for).

There are a couple of ways it could have derived. In many cases it probably comes from the term wózny, "court crier, beadle, caretaker." The suffix -iak is often used to mean "son of," so a Woźniak might have been the son of this official. This is the connection Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions in his book on Polish surnames. But it is also worth mentioning that there is a term woźniak in Polish that means "saddle horse." Here the derivation is clearly from wóz, "cart, carriage." So it seems likely this name could have originated as meaning "son of the court crier," but might also have arisen as a reference to a carter or as a nickname for someone who owned or rode a saddle horse.


WYROSDICK -- WYROSTEK

… My great grandmother tells me our family came from Hamburg, Germany but many people have said that it is a Polish name. Can you tell me if this is of Polish origin and what particular area if so? I would appreciate any suggestions. The name is Wyrosdick and they came into the Carolinas in the mid 1700's.

That name is pretty well disguised, but I feel 99% certain it is indeed Polish. The fact that your family came from Hamburg doesn't necessarily mean a thing -- many Poles emigrated from the port of Hamburg, and some had to live there for a while before they could get passage. Besides, for centuries there have been Poles living in Germany and Germans living in Poland.

To figure out what the name is, I had to pronounce it out loud and ask "What Polish name, if any, does that sound like?" As soon as I did, I realized it almost has to be Wyrostek (pronounced "vi-ROSE-tek", where "vi" has the short i sound in "sit"). This name comes from the Polish word wyrostek, "teenager, youth, young man." It is not a rare name, as of 1990 there were 879 Polish citizens named Wyrostek. They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Chelm (81), Ciechanow (35), Jelenia Gora (41), Katowice (59), Krakow (62), Lublin (78), Nowy Sacz (142), Torun (47), and Zamosc (68). That means they're really scattered throughout southern Poland, with no real concentration in any one area.

So there's good news and bad news. The good news is, Wyrostek is almost certainly the original Polish form of the name. The bad news is, there's no one area of Poland you can concentrate on. That, by the way, is normal; comparatively few surnames give you a useful lead as to exactly where they came from.


ZACHARCZYK

… I was interested in finding out more about my surname, Zacharczyk. If you could help it would be greatly appreciated.

The suffix -czyk in Polish (and some other Slavic languages, although -czyk is a Polish spelling) usually means "son of" when used in surnames, so Zacharczyk means "son of Zachar." Zachar is a form of the first name we know as "Zachary"; it is especially common among Ukrainians, who for a long time were ruled by Poland, so there was considerable mixing of Poles and Ukrainians. But I don't think we could say it's used only by Ukrainians, it can be considered a perfectly good Polish name as well; but this just might be a clue that your ancestors came from what is now eastern Poland or western Ukraine.

As of 1990 there were only 142 Poles named Zacharczyk -- fewer than I would have expected, but there were 861 Poles named Zacharczuk, which means exactly the same thing. The 142 Zacharczyk's were scattered all over the country; the only provinces with more than 10 were Warsaw (11), Gorzow (11), Łomża (29), ad Przemysl (19). Warsaw's in central Poland, Gorzow in western Poland, Łomża in north central Poland, and Przemysl in southeastern Poland, so that tells you just how scattered the name is. That may well be due to post-World War II mass relocations, which took Ukrainians and scattered them all over Poland. Besides, you usually can't pin these patronymic names (ones meaning "son of X" down to just one area, they could get started anywhere people spoke Polish or Ukrainian and there were guys with that first name, in this case Zachar.

So while this isn't a great deal of information, perhaps it helps a little: the name means "son of Zachary," is not very common, and is not limited to any one part of the country (although before World War II, who knows? I don't have data from that period).


ZALIPSKI

… I would like to know any information you could find about the surname Zalipski or Zalypski. Thank you.

The name Zalipski probably comes from the roots za, "beyond, past" + lipa, "linden tree." It might have started out as a literal reference to a person who lived just past a linden tree, or it could have referred to a place called Zalipa, Zalipie, something like that, which in turn got that name because of its location near a linden or grove of lindens. I notice there is a Zalipie, northwest of Dabrowa Tarnowska, in Tarnow province; this is one place the name might refer to, although there may be others too small to show up on my maps.

As of 1990 there were 79 Polish citizens named Zalipski, living in the provinces of: Warsaw (3), Bielsko-Biala (4), Bydgoszcz (8), Jelenia Gora (24), Koszalin (7), Krakow (1), Legnica (3), Opole (4), Pila (5), Skierniewice (1), Walbrzych (1), Wroclaw (18). I'm afraid I have no access to further details such as first names and adddresses, what I've given here is all I have. From this data it appears southwestern Poland is the area where this name is most common.


KOŃCZYK – ŚLIMKO -- ZAREMBA

… I am interested and would appreciate any information that you have on the surnames Konczyk, Zaremba, or Slimko.

Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut includes Kończyk (where ń stands for the n with an accent over it) under the list of names derived from koniec, so that the name probably means something like "the person who lived at the end" (of a street or whatever); there is also a term kończyk meaning "the end of a rod or bar." This is not an extremely common name, as of 1990 there were only 690 Poles named Kończyk.

Ślimko appears to come from the word ślimak, "snail, slug"; the root ślim- appears to be like "slime" in English, associated either with a thick, gooey liquid or creatures that secreted such a liquid. As a name for a person, it probably suggested only that he moved slowly. This is a rare name, as of 1990 there were only 56 Poles named Ślimko, most of them (43) living in Suwałki province in northeastern Poland.

Zaremba is a common name, borne by 10,907 Poles as of 1990; it can also be spelled Zaręba (ę stands for the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under it and pronounced, before b or p, like &qu/t;em"), and as of 1990 there were also 9,840 Poles who spelled the name Zaręba. It comes from a root meaning "to cut, chop, hack," probably referring either to someone who was ferocious in battle, or to someone who helped clear woods for settlement. There are a number of villages in Poland named Zaremba, and there was also a Zaremba coat of arms.


ZDROJEWSKI

… My maiden name was Zdroj... I am told that my Great Grandfather was Roman Zdrojewski, and took the last portion of our name off. I know oour family is origionally from Prussia.

Sometimes people tell me they think their name has been shortened, and it turns out there's no good reason to think so -- but in your case, you're almost certainly right. The name Zdroj or Zdrój is virtually unheard of as a surname, or at least as of 1990 there was apparently no one in Poland with this name. Zdrojewski, however, is quite common; as of 1990 there 3,825 Polish citizens by that name. They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (331), Bydgoszcz (361), Gdansk (655), and Torun (477), and much smaller numbers in many other provinces. Of the four just mentioned, all but Warsaw province were in either East or West Prussia, so it seems likely the majority of Zdrojewski's came originally from those regions.

The name itself comes ultimately from the root zdrój, "spring, spa," but by way of places names derived from that root. In other words, Zdrojewski started out meaning "one connected with Zdroje or Zdrojewo," and there are quite a few villages by those names -- most, but not all, in East or West Prussia. Places would get the name Zdroje or Zdrojewo in Polish much as German places got names like Baden and the English town of Bath got its name: there were natural springs of warm water or mineral water nearby where people came to bathe. So Zdrojewski really means nothing more than "person from the place with the springs."


ZELMAŃSKI -- ZIEMNIAK

… Any information on the surnames Zelmanski or Ziemniak. And if ppossible theregions in Poland where located.

Ziemniak comes from a basic root meaning "earth, soil," and the surname could derive from that root. But the most likely specific link is with the noun ziemniak, "potato." Presumably a Ziemniak originally got that name because he grew potatoes, sold them, was shaped like one, some sort of connection like that. As of 1990 there were 1,357 Polish citizens named Ziemniak; they lived all over Poland, with no real concentration in any one part. This just makes sense: the name could get started anywhere they spoke Polish and had potatoes, so you wouldn't expect to see it limited to any one region.

None of my sources mention Zelmański (where ń represents the n with an accent over it). It seems to me there are two likely derivations of the name, and in fact both may have produced it. One is a variant of the first name Solomon, which appears in Polish and German in many forms, including Zelman; if that's the link, the name would just mean "kin of Solomon." Or it could be from a German word such as Sellman (which Poles would write Zelman); that, too, could be a variant of Solomon, but it can also refer to where a person lived, "one who lived near Sella or Seller" -- according to German surname expert Hans Bahlow there were places by this name in the areas of Liegnitz and Gorlitz, both of which are now in Poland. There just isn't enough information available to decide which variation would prove relevant in your family's case.

As of 1990 there were 229 Poles named Zelmański, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Elblag (27), Olsztyn (47), Płock (36), and Torun (62), all areas in north central Poland that the Germans used to rule. So a German connection with the surname makes good sense.


ZIMA

… Would you have any information on the ZIMA name? I seem to run into walls on my research of this family. In the meantime I plan to order a few books and info packets to figure what I am doing wrong.

I'm afraid Zima is one of those names that's too general to offer much help with research -- it comes from the Polish word zima, "winter," and the basic root zim- means "cold." As of 1990 there were 1,237 Polish citizens named Zima; they were scattered all over the country, but there were particularly large numbers living in the provinces of Krosno (191) and Tarnow (278), which are both in southeastern Poland. So that's where the area is most common, although, as I said, you can find Zima's living just about anywhere in Poland.


ZYSKOWSKI

… I am looking for information on Leon Zyskowski, son of Alexsander. He was born in Szczuczyn, Poland, February 2,1893. Any information on the Zyskowski family name would be very helpful.

Well, I should explain that the information regards how names originated and what they meant, and is usually not too helpful with individual families or persons. However, when one has the kind of specific data you have, the information I provide can sometimes offer leads that prove useful. Let's hope that's true in this case.

Zyskowski is a moderately common name in Poland; as of 1990 there were 1,967 Polish citizens with that name. The distribution pattern may be significant -- while you can find Zyskowski's in virtually every part of Poland, the provinces with the highest numbers are Łomża (494) and Suwałki (640), in the northeastern corner of the country. Presumably the Szczuczyn your family came from was the one now in Łomża province (there is at least one other, in Poznan province, in western Poland), so that suggests your family came from the region where this name is most concentrated. Unfortunately I don't have access to more detailed info such as first names and addresses -- what I've given here is all I have -- but it does provide a little insight.

Names ending in -owski often originated as references to a connection between a person or family and the name of a specific place, generally ending in -ów, -owo, -owa, etc. Thus we'd expect Zyskowski to have meant originally "one from Zysków or Zyskowo or Zyskowa or Zyski," something like that. However, none of my sources show any such place. It could well be that there was a place by that name to which the surname referred when it originated centuries ago, but it was too small to show up in gazetteers, or has since disappeared, changed its name, been absorbed by some other community, etc. In your research, if you ever find any reference to a place named Zysków, etc., that may well turn out to be the place the surname refers to.

Names in -owski can also be simply adjectival references to a person's name, so that Zyskowski could conceivably have meant "one related to Zysek or Zysko." From my experience, that proves true less often than the link with a place, but we can't rule it out.

Either way, the question arises, what was the ultimate root? There are two possibilities. The root zysk in Polish means "profit, gain, earnings," and either personal or place names could refer to that: a man might have a nickname Zysek or Zysko because he was shrewd in business dealings, or a place might be called Zyskow/o/a because it was a rather profitable place to do business, or because it was founded or owned by a fellow named Zysek/Zysko. The other possibility is derivation from zys, "golden eagle"; Zysek or Zysko could be the name of a fellow who somehow reminded people of this eagle, or Zyskow/o/a could be the name of a place where such eagles were common. So we can interpret the surname either in terms of personal names, "kin of Zysek/Zysko," or place names, "one from the profitable place" or "one from the place of the golden eagle." If we could find a nearby place named Zyskow/o/a, that would clarify the situation considerably; if there is not and never has been such place, it would suggest the name means "kin of Zysek/Zysko," but it would still be unclear whether his name referred to profit or eagles.

Without more information it's impossible to pick one of these and say "This is the one applicable in your family's case," but at least this gives you something to work with. I hope it's some help to you, and I wish you the best of luck with your research.


KOMORNICKI

… I read your article on Polish surnames on the Net. I wonder if could you please help me ? I was born with the surname "Komornicki." I was adopted at birth and have had no contact with my natural family so I have not had the luxury of a family and family connections to find out information on my birth name.

Komornicki is an adjectival form (like all surnames ending in -ski or -cki), referring to the noun komornik and meaning "of, from, pertaining to a komornik," or else deriving from place names such as Komornik or Komorniki, which in turn began as meaning something like "place of the komornik." So the key here is, what does komornik mean?

It's rather frustrating that there are two different meanings for this word. One kind of komornik is usually translated "bailiff," and referred to an official of local courts, a kind of sheriff's officer; when applied to a nobleman, it was a functionary at the king's court. This kind of komornik was obviously a person of some status.

The other kind of komornik -- and by far the more common usage of the word -- is often translated "tenant," and referred to a person who did not own a house of his/her own, but rather lived as a boarder with someone else. This might be a poor person, but very often it was an older, retired person who had raised a family, passed the management of the family farm on to the kids, and gone to live with someone else so as not to be in the way.

The surname Komornicki probably started as a name for children or kin of a komornik -- sometimes the official, sometimes the boarder -- or else as name for someone who came from a village called Komornik or Komorniki. Since the boarder variety of komornik was probably much more numerous than the official variety of komornik, we have to suppose the surname refers more often to the boarders than the officials. But without detailed research into a particular Komornicki family's past, there'd be no way to know.

As of 1990 there were 569 Polish citizens named Komornicki; as Polish names go, that means it's not all that common, but obviously not rare either. The 10-volume work that gives that data also shows the distribution by province (but no further details such as first names and addresses), and I'm afraid this name is not concentrated in any one part of the country, at least not to any extent that would provide a useful lead. The largest numbers were in the provinces of Warsaw (96), Katowice (65), Legnica (65), and Wroclaw; the latter three are in southwest and southcentral Poland, so it appears that's the area in which the name is somewhat more common. But you find Komornicki's in all parts of the country, so without details on your specific family, I'm afraid that data isn't much help.


STELMASZEWSKI

Hi Fred,

As promised, I am passing along the information I received from "Instytut Jezyka Polskiego Pracownia Antroponimiczna." Below I have transcibed their letter. Thanks for all your help.

Kraków, March 12, 1998

Dear Mr. Stelmar,

I answer your letter of February 14, 1998, in which you asked us about the of the Stelmaszewski family name.

The explanation of the Stelmaszewski surname, made by Mr. Fred Hoffman is absolutely correct. To this explanation I can add only some details.

This village, mentioned by Mr. Hoffman, which could be the base of the surname was called Stelmachowo. It lies at present in the Tykocin county, Białystok province. It is to note that the first record of this place name was made in 1558. The locality was called a grange of Stelmachowo. It means that the base of the grange was connected with a craftman was stelmach i.e. a cart-wright.

There was also another village called Stelmachowo. Such a locality lies to-day on the territory of the former eastern region of Polish State, now belonging to Ukraine.

In the region of Malopolska (Little Poland) existed also, in the 19-th century, a grange called Mlyn Stelmachow (Engl. Stelmach's mill) belonging in that time to a large estate called Chelwiska, Konskie county.

All these localities are very far from Poznan, but it is quite possible that the bearers of the family names coming from the names of localities moved far from the original place of their residence. This could happen by various reasons, especially political.

In the region of Wielkopolska (Great Poland), the capital of which is just the town of Poznan, there was also a village called Stelmach or Stelmachy. This locality list at present in the Kopach county, Sieradz province. The problem was that according to the linguistic rules, the surname Stelmaszewski could not be derived from the name of this locality. Everything points to the younger origin of the Stelmaszewski family name, in time when the rules that were obligatory in the Middle Ages underwent laxity.

The surname Stelmaszewski was not recorded in medieval documents. Such a surname lacks also in Polish Armorials. As, at present, there are a lot of bearers of the Stelmaszewski family name in Poland, I suppose that this family name originated not so long ago. Therefore, it is not excluded that the family name came directly from a name of a profession. It is possible that one of your ancestors was in fact a cart-wright and the profession he accomplished, thus stelmach, became the base of his further family name. The family name, itself, originated by adding to the base Stelmach a suffix - ewski. In Polish the consonant ch (pronounced h as wh in English who ) before the vowels i and e changes in sz ( Engl. sh).

To-day there are in Poland 516 bearers of the Stelmaszewski family name. Most of them (124 people) reside in the historical province Mazowe (Masovia) in the administrative province Płock. 89 people live in Warsawa ( Warsaw) province. In the Wielkopolska region, Poznan province live nowadays 95 people. The rest are spread all over Poland.

This was all I could tell you about your family name. The conclusive settlement concerning the origin of your surname could be done only on the base of family documents or at least family tradition.

I acknowledge receipt of $20 sent to me together with the letter.

Sincerely,

/Janina Szymowa M.A./      

 

Andryshyn - Andryszyn

...I have been trying to find whether my mother's family name is Polish or not, but we haven't had any success so far. The name is Andryszyn, yet we are not 100% sure that's the way to spell it, but my greatgrandfather's name was Mikolaj and his wife's Anna Helena. Maybe she was not Polish, we believe she was Austrian.

I think I can help a little -- Andryszyn is a Polish spelling of a Ukrainian surname, which in English we'd spell as Andryshyn (the original, of course, was spelled in Cyrillic). It's rare in Poland these days -- as of 1990 there was only 1 Andryszyn, living in Wloclawek province -- but is probably not so rare in Ukraine and in places where Ukrainians have settled, such as Canada, Brazil, etc. The name comes from Andriy, "Andrew" -- from that is formed Andrykha, "Andrew's woman," and the suffix -yn is added, softening the kh to an sh sound = Andryszyn or Andryshyn, literally "son of Andrew's woman." Surnames ending in -ishin or -yshyn (in Polish spelled -iszyn or -yszyn) are almost always Ukrainian, formed the same way, e. g., Petryshyn (son of Peter's woman), Romanyshyn (son of Roman's woman), etc.

...They came to Brasil around 1924-30, with 6 of their 7 kids. The names were, as my grandmother used to tell us, Olga, Mary, Ida, Eugenia, Stevo, Steva and Jose Guilherme (probably Jozef Wilhelm in Polish).
It's a small world -- just yesterday I visited a Web page telling of Ukrainians in Brazil celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Ukrainian Catholic church in Brazil. Odds are it would have nothing relevant to your research, but if you're interested, here is the address:

http://www.ugkc.lviv.ua/WEBMAIL/mesg00011.html

I'm not sure exactly where to go from here, but perhaps it will help knowing the name is Ukrainian. One good Website you might check is http://www.infoukes.com/

They provide a lot of good info.

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

 

Arnista

... I am looking for information on my surname, Arnista. Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

The derivation of the name is difficult -- none of my sources mention it specifically. In Polish -ista usually refers to one who operates a particular tool or plays an instrument, so that an organista plays the organ, a cymbalista plays the cymbals, etc. But I find no native Polish root with arn-, except as a name root from Arnold, and that makes no sense with -ista... I do note that the first name Ernest has appeared in Polish as Arnest, so it's not outrageous to suggest a connection -- Arnista might have started as a patronymic, that is, a name meaning son of Ernest. But that's just a guess, and I have nothing solid that indicates whether it's a good guess.

As of 1990 there were 195 Polish citizens named Arnista, living in the following provinces: Białystok 3, Gorzow 7, Katowice 6, Łomża 102, Olsztyn 8, Opole 2, Suwałki 50, Torun 7, Walbrzych 2, Wroclaw 4, Zielona Gora 4. It's interesting that there's also a name Arnister, borne by 71 Poles, living in the provinces of: Łomża 33, Olsztyn 9, Opole 1, Suwałki 10, Szczecin 18. This suggests the original form might have been Arnister, but Poles don't care for the suffix -er and often change it to an -a. Still, then we're left wondering what Arnister means? All we know for sure is that these names are definitely most common in northern and eastern Poland, in the provinces of Łomża and Suwałki.


If you'd like to ask the best experts about this, I suggest writing the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow.

Also, if you do write them and hear back, I'd be very interested in hearing what they say. I would love to include this name and some reliable info (as opposed to my guesses) in the next version of my book on Polish surnames. So I would appreciate very much hearing anything you find out.

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

Andrychowski - Stygar - Sztygar

...I have a couple of names. My own, Stygar and my sister married an Andrychowski. Any information you have would be greatly appreciated.

Stygar probably is a variant of Sztygar, a word meaning "foreman," especially in mines. This term comes from German, and is comparable to the German names Stieger, "one who lived by a mountain path," and Steiger, literally "climber." So this could be the German name rendered in Polish spelling, or it could be a Polish name from a Polish word borrowed from German. Either way, the ultimate origin is German. The form Stygar is most common in Poland -- as of 1990 there were 310 Poles with that name. The largest numbers were in the provinces of Krosno (126) and Rzeszow (29), with smaller numbers in several other provinces, mostly in southeastern Poland, which is quite mountainous.

As with most names ending in -owski and -ewski, the name Andrychowski probably started as a reference to the name of a place the family came from or (if noble) owned. In this case two likely candidates are the villages of Andrychy, in Łomża province, and especially Andrychow, a reasonably good-sized town in Bielsko-Biala prov., southwest of Krakow. As of 1990 there were 311 Polish citizens named Andrychowski, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (57) and Łomża (54) and smaller numbers in many other provinces. The place names Andrychy and Andrychow are derived from the first name Andrzej, "Andrew," and mean basically "Andrew's place" -- so Andrychowski is literally rendered as meaning having some association with a place or thing associated with a guy named Andrew, but for all practical purposes this means "person from Andrew's town."

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

 

Białaszewski - Wawro

...I'm interested in knowing more about the Wawro and Bialaszewski (my grandmother's family name) family names.

The name Bialaszewski almost certainly derives from a connection with a place named Bialaszewo, or something similar; the most likely source is the village of Białaszewo (The Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w), about 15-20 km. SSE of Grajewo in modern-day Łomża province in northeastern Poland. There could be other, smaller places with similar names that gave rise to this name in some cases; but probably most families with this name came from, or were otherwise somehow connected, with this village of Białaszewo. The village, in turn, takes its name from the ancient first name Białasz -- probably the name of the village's founder or owner at some point; this name is from the root bial-, meaning white, with Białasz meaning something like "Whitey" in English.

This surname is not very common -- as of 1990 there were some 146 Polish citizens named Białaszewski. They lived mostly in the provinces of Warsaw (13), Gdansk (25), Gorzow (10), Pila (40), Slupsk (22), and Suwałki (22).

I should also mention there is a surname Białoszewski, somewhat more common (345 by that name in 1990), and in some cases the names might be related. But if the form Białaszewski is correct (rather than a variant of Białoszewski), I think derivation from the name of the village Białaszewo is most likely.

Wawro is an interesting name, mentioned in documents as early as 1453. According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut, it is most likely a short form or nickname of Wawrzyniec, the Polish form of the first name Lawrence. It might also be connected to the Ukrainian first name Lavro, which some say is a separate name, from Latin laurus, "laurel," whereas others see it as a variant of Wawrzyniec; Polish influence might explain the change from an l sound to the v sound of Polish w (as happened with "Wawrzyniec" = "Lawrence"). The surname Wawro is fairly common, borne by 1,827 Poles as of 1990. The largest concentrations lived in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (322), Katowice (286), Krakow (265), and Przemysl (215); no other province had as many as 200 inhabitants by this name. All these provinces are in southern Poland, near Krakow (or near the Ukrainian border, in the case of Przemysl), areas with large numbers of ethnic Ukrainians. As I say, the name might be Polish, or it might be Polish-influenced Ukrainian, since in those areas we see many names of mixed origin.

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


 

Buława - Stawecki

...I would appreciate any information you have on Bulawa and Stawecki (mother's maiden name.) Thanks in advance.

Buława (The Polish slashed l sounds like our w, so that Buława would sound something like boo-WAH-vuh) is a moderately common name in Poland. As of 1990 there were 1,130 Polish citizens by that name, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (250), Bydgoszcz (147), Katowice (83), Pila (79), and Tarnobrzeg (200) -- the largest numbers appear in provinces in southern Poland, but other than that I see no particular pattern. The most likely origin for this name is the noun buława, which means "mace, staff of office" -- apparently it was a staff certain officials carried as part of their paraphernalia. I suppose a family would get this name either because a member was an official who carried such a staff, or because something about a person's shape or demeanour somehow reminded folks of the staff.

Stawecki is almost certainly derived from place names, including candidates such as Stawek, Stawce, Stawki, Stawiec -- there are quite a few places by those names, so nothing in the name itself gives us a clue as to where a particular Stawecki family might have originated. As of 1990 there were 866 Polish citizens by this name, with the largest numbers (more than 50) living in the provinces of Biala Podlaska (59), Białystok (51), Katowice (57), Kielce (112), Leszno (59), and Lublin (141). Again, if there is a particular pattern to this distribution, I'm afraid I can't see it.

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

Chądzyński - Gołoński - Malewicz - Markowski - Mękarski - Odachowski - Przyłęcki - Strzetelski

Note: the original question and reply were in Polish. I've translated them to make them more accessible to users of this page, most of whom presumably aren't fluent in Polish! - WFH

The surnames Chądzyński, Przyłęcki, Malewicz, Markowski, and Mękarski appear in Part Two of my book, a list of surnames arranged by the roots they derived from, (i.e., Mękarski appears under Mąk-, Markowski under Mar[e]c-, Mar[e]k, etc.). The surnames Gołoński, Odachowski, and Strzetelski don't appear in the book because they are quite rare, and there wasn't room for rare names.

I can make the following short comments on these surnames:

Chądzyński surely comes from place-names, for instance, Chądzyn in Siedlce province, Chądzyny in Ciechanow province. In 1990 there were 1,344 Poles by this name, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (235), Ciechanow (135), Czestochowa (106), Lodz (68), and Piotrkow (115).

I don't know what Gołoński comes from -- probably from a place name, but I could find no such name in atlases or gazetteers. In 1990 there were 22 Poles with this surname, in the provinces of Warsaw (4), Białystok (11), Torun (2), Walbrzych (3), and Wroclaw (2).

Malewicz is a patronymic, meaning for example son of a little guy (mały) or son of a man named Mal, where Mal or something similar might be a short form of an old compound name such as Malomir. In 1990 there were 1,113 Poles with this name, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (109), Białystok (117), Bydgoszczc (173), Gorzow (82), Szczecin (82), Wroclaw (69), and Zielona Gora (68).

Markowski comes from names of villages such as Markow, Markowo, Markowka, Markowa -- of which there are many in Poland. Obviously these place names come from the first name Marek (Mark) and meant something like village or estate belonging to Marek or Marek's kin. In 1990 there were 21,938 Markowskis in Poland.

Mękarski can come from the place name Mekarzow in Czestochowa province, or from the first name Mękarz, a variant of the name Makary. In 1990 there were 561 Poles with this surname, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Czestochowa (92), Lodz (85), and Piotrkow (93).

I've never run across the name Odachowski before, but in 1990 there were 415 Poles with this surname, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Białystok (140), Łomża (101), and Walbrzych (25). At first I had no idea where this name came from, but I saw that the form is toponymic (i. e., from a place-name), and I found a locality called Odachów (currently Adakavas in Lithuania) and one called Odachowszczyzna in Nowogrodek county of Minsk province in the former Russian Empire. It seems probable to me that the surname comes from these place names.

The name Przyłęcki probably comes from place names such as Przyłęk and Przyłęki, of which there are several. As of 1990 there were 351 Poles with this name, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (23), Kalisz (56), Lodz (50), and Wroclaw (20).

I've also never seen the surname Strzetelski before, and in 1990 there were only 34 Poles by that name, in the provinces of Warsaw (3), Jelenia Gora (3), Kielce (3), Krakow (24), and Tarnow (1). The name is toponymic in form, but I could find no place with a name that seemed to fit. It is possible that such a place exists or did exist, but was too small too show up on maps or in gazetteers.

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




 

Chlapowski

... I am trying to find the origin and history of my surname which is Chlapowski (with a line over the l).

Most names ending in -owski derive from a place name ending something like -ow or -owo or -owa (similarly with -ewski). This isn't always the case, but usually with a name like Chłapowski (the ł stands for the Polish l with a slash through it or line over it, pronounced like our w) the first thing to do is look for places named Chłapow(/o/a), and usually the surname name began as a way of distinguishing people who came from that place.

According to Polish name expert Dr. Kazimierz Rymut, names beginning with the root chłap- have some connection with the verb chłaptać, which means "lap up, swill." In some cases, I can't help wondering if it might also be related to the root chłop-, which means "peasant" -- often Polish a and o sound very similar, so it's not outrageous to suggest a possible connection there. Now as to why a village would get such a name, that I don't know -- your guess is as good as mine. But the surname Chłapowski almost certainly means connected with, coming from, formerly owning, or prominent in Chłapowo.

As it happens, there are at least two villages named Chłapowo, one in Gdansk province, one in Poznan province; there may be others too small to show up on the map. Anyway, chances are good families named Chłapowski originally came from one of those villages; but without detailed genealogical research, however, there's no way to tell which one (or some other, smaller place with a similar name) would have been the one associated with your particular family. However, as you do research, if you start noticing that certain geographic facts add up, that might allow you to draw a fairly reliable conclusion as to which one is relevant.

As of 1990 there were 119 Polish citizens named Chłapowski, living in the follow provinces: Warsaw 13, Bydgoszcz 5, Elblag 4, Kalisz 2, Krakow 1, Leszno 39, Lodz 1, Opole 3, Poznan 26, Szczecin 21, Zielona Gora 4. No further info (first names, addresses, etc.) is available to me, I'm sorry to say.

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

 

Cieliczka - Tuszyński

... I am starting research on two names: 1) Tuszynski and 2) Cielcizka.

Cielcizka looks to me like a misspelling of Cieliczka, a name borne by some 260 Poles as of 1990, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Leszno (16), Lublin (15), Przemysl (178), and Walbrzych (13) -- so it looks as if southeastern Poland, and especially the Przemysl area, is the main place to look for this name.

Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions that most names beginning with the root ciel- come from the term cielę, "calf"; the dictionary shows cieliczka as a term meaning "young heifer." I'm not sure exactly how this came to be the name of a person, perhaps it was a nickname, for someone who bawled like a heifer, or was especially good at raising heifers -- about all we can be sure of is that the name arose due to some sort of association with heifers.

Tuszyński would most likely be a name suggesting a family was connected to (at one time owned, or worked at, or lived in) a place named Tuszyn, Tuszynki, Tuszynek, something like that. On the map I see four places with names that could spawn this surname, and there are probably more too small to show up on the map -- so the surname probably got started independently in several different places. Thus it's not surprising the surname is rather common in Poland; as of 1990 there were 4,711 Poles by this name. They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers showing up in the provinces of Warsaw (653), Bydgoszcz (335), Katowice (388), Radom (319), Torun (360) -- basically, the only pattern I see to this is that the surname is most common in provinces with larger populations. So I'm afraid the name doesn't offer much in the way of clues as to where a family by that name might have come from.

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

 

Cwojdak - Sikora

...I just wanted to drop you a line and thank you for your help. One more favor. If you know anything about the names Cwojdak and Sikora I would appreciate you passing the information along. Thanks again.

Sikora comes from the noun sikora, "titmouse" (a kind of bird). This is an extremely common surname, as of 1990 there were 39,850 Poles by this name, living all over the country (plus another 26,051 with the name Sikorski).

The root of the name Cwojdak is something I would like to know more about. I mentioned the root in my book because some fairly common names are derived from it - Cwojdziński (834), Czwojdrak (376), Czwojdziński (201) -- but I could find nothing definite on it. As of 1990 there was no one named Cwojdak, there were 32 Poles named Cwojda, and 14 named Cwojdrak. I did find one source that mentioned that this name is found in Silesia (southwestern Poland), and it might be related to a term cwajda, a call used for cattle or horses. It might also be a Polonized form of a German word, although so far I haven't been able to figure out what word that would be -- it just sounds as if it might have a German origin. But the bottom line is, I'm not sure, and I hope one day to find a source that tells me more.

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

 

Czaplicki

I saw your web page on Polish names. Below is what I've learned about my Czaplicki name so far. Can you review what I have and correct or add to the information. I would be pleased if you chose to add this information to the web page.

----------------------------------------------------
CZAPLICKI FAMILY NAME HISTORY

Name Origins

The Polish surname Czaplicki is classified as being of toponymic origin. Such names refer to an origin which is derived from the place name where the initial bearer lived on held land. In this instance, the surname derives from Czaple which is the name of a city located in north-western Poland, south east of Olsztyn. Thus, the original bearer of the surname Czaplicki was someone who was identified by members of his community as "one who hailed from Czaple." Etymologically, this toponym derives from the Polish term czapla which literally means "heron, stork," hence indicating a place frequented by this bird. In some cases, this surname originated as a nickname for a man with long thin legs, or perhaps for one who was shy and easily frightened.

Four Czaplicki Families

Czaplicki was the surname borne by four noble Polish families who were septs of the great clans Grabie, Kotwicz, Lubicz, and Grzymala, respectively. The Czaplickis of the clan Grabie had their ancestral seal located in the region of Chelmo which is about 50 kilometers northeast of Czestochowa, where their existence was documented in 1640. The Czaplicki of the clan Grzymala lived in the region of Prussia, although a branch of this family were registered in the district of Chelmo in 1700. The family who belong to the clan Kotwicz came originally from Mazovia where they were recorded in 1650. A Czaplicki family from Silesia used this coat of arms although their family probably faded out. Members of this family were documented as living in Lithuania in 1700. A descendant of this house, Stanislaw Czaplicki, made an endowment to the Dominican friars of Ostrowie, and in 1640 donated 5000 zloty to the monastery funds. The Czaplickis of the clan Lubicz had their ancestral seat located in Mazovia where their existence was registered as early as 1436.

Our Czaplicki Roots

This family from which my both paternal Czaplicki grandparents were born were from the Przasnysz district. The Lubicz-Czaplicki family were very branched out. Today about 6500 persons in Poland use that surname. The nest of this family was probably from the estate Czaplice in the Przasnysz district. In the gazetteer Slownik Geograficzny Krolestwa Polskiego, 1880, that place was divided into several villages, i.e.;

1. Czaplice- Bąki
2. Czaplice- Jaworowo
3. Czaplice- Furmany
4. Czaplice- Pilaty
5. Czaplice- Kurki
6. Czaplice- Milki
7. Czaplice- Wielkie
8. Czaplice- Rajki-Golanki
9. Czaplice- Koty

There is also a Czaplice-Osobne village in the nearby Łomża district and a Czaplice village in the Sluck district in Lithuania.

It looks as though the common ancestor of many of the Czaplicki families in these areas was knight Mroczeslaw de Czaplice who lived from 1410 to 1444. His descendants divided into 3 main lines: Mazovian, Lomzynian and Sandomierian.

In the 1432 Register of the Mazovian principality it lists that two first cousins from the sword side: Marcin Falislaw and Mroczek (diminutive of Mroczeslaw) de Czaplice were the owners of Czaplice in the parish of Krzynowloga in the Ciechanovian district in 1432. It appears that the Czaplicki's of the Łomża line are descendants of Mroczeslaw and that Marcin Falislaw was the ancestor of the Mazovian line.

In the Armorial of Ignacy Kapica Milewski it lists that Mroczeslaw de Czaplicki moved to Łomża district in 1436 and established the village Czaplice Osobne (parish Szczepanki). Furthermore the book mentions that Marcin de Czaplice born 1440, Andrzej de Czaplice born 1441 and Jøzef de Czaplice, son of Andrze (1498-1502).

Note: all this is information from Mr. Czaplicki, and as far as I can tell it seems accurate. I would think that while the term czapla, "heron," is clearly the ultimate root of the surname, most of the time the surname Czaplicki would derive from the place name Czaplice, rather than from Czaple. But Mr. Czaplicki got his information from some fairly good sources, and they indicate what he gives above is correct. Polish surname suffixes can be tricky, and what he says is quite plausible, so I don't disagree with it. And in any case, this is a good example of how a person who does good research can soon become much more of an expert on his/her name than I can ever be! -- WFH.

Danisiewicz

... Is there a way to find out if this name (Danisiewicz) is common in Poland and in what part of the country if it is.

Yes, I consulted a 10-volume set, the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych [Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland], which used a 1990 Polish government database with data on 94% of the Polish population to extract all surnames borne by Polish citizen and to give a breakdown of where they live by province. Unfortunately, further details (first names, addresses, etc.) which are surely in that database are not available -- the government office won't share them with researchers. So what I give here is all that's available.

As of 1990 there were 106 Polish citizens named Danisiewicz. They were scattered all over the country in 17 of the 49 provinces. Here are the provinces in which 10 or more lived: Warsaw (15), Katowice (10), Lodz (31), and Olsztyn (10). There were also 82 Poles named Danisewicz, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Białystok (10), Gdansk (9), Koszalin (8), Olsztyn (8), Slupsk (16), Suwałki (8), Szczecin (10). These names are so close that it's quite possible they could become confused, so it seemed advisable to give info on both. Danisiewicz shows no real pattern, except that the Lodz is where it's most common; Danisewicz shows up almost exclusively in the northern provinces along the Baltic that were once ruled by Germany.

I'm not surprised there is no really striking pattern to the names' distribution. The name just means son of Danis, where Danis is a first name that originated as a nickname for such Polish first names as Daniel, Bogdan or from the root word meaning to give. Names of this sort could and did arise anywhere Polish was spoken and there were guys with the appropriate first name. So -ewicz and -owicz names generally originated independently in many different places and families all over the country. It's kind of frustating for researchers, but it's a lot like trying to trace Johnsons in England -- the name itself just isn't distinctive enough to give you any clues.

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


 

Dejo - Raflewski

...While doing some research for my family tree, I came across a reference on the Net regarding a possible list you may have of Polish surnames. I was wondering if you have ever came across the name of Raflewski or Deyo? Any help you may provide would be greatly appreciated.

The spelling Deyo is not correct by modern Polish standards, which say that y can only be used as a vowel; however, in older Polish y could be used where these days they use j. So Dejo is a more likely form; however, it is quite rare -- in 1990 there was only one Pole by that name, living in Lodz province.  But -o and -a can be very hard to distinguish in handwriting, so it's not outrageous to suggest the name may have started out as Deja -- and there were 3,178 Poles by that name as of 1990. It probably comes from a dialect or slang term deja, meaning "heavy, awkward fellow." That name is found all over Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (500), Gdansk (345), Katowice (455), and Radom (619) -- if there's a pattern to that distribution, it escapes me. There were also 577 Poles named Dej, and I think it's highly likely one or the other of these names is the one you want.

I'm fairly sure that Raflewski ultimately derives from the first name Rafał (Raphael in English; the Ł stands for the Polish L with a slash through it, which sounds like our W). Usually surnames in -ewski or -owski derive from a place name ending in -ew- or -ow-, so I would expect Raflewski to have started as meaning one associated with a place named Raflewo (or something like that), and that place in turn probably took its name from a Rafał who founded it or owned it. I can't find any such place on the map, but sometimes Polish surnames came from names of places that were quite tiny, names used only by the locals, so it's not necessarily surprising that I can't find a place with an appropriate name. This is a fairly rare surname in Poland: as of 1990 there were only 42 Poles named Raflewski, living in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (3), Elblag (4), Gdansk (2), Katowice (4), Lodz (6), Olsztyn (3), Suwałki (4), and Torun (16). (Unfortunately, I don't have access to further details, such as first names, addresses, etc.).

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


 

Derlanga - Malik - Prokowski

...There are three more surnames that I wasn't able to locate and am reasonably sure that they exist, save one. The two I'm most interested in are Prokowski and Derlanga. The third one is to clarify a point, while Malik is listed in your book, one of my cousins insists that his name is spelled as Malick.

Malik and Malick are probably the same. In German and English -k and -ck are pronounced the same, and those are the two foreign languages that most often affected the forms of Polish names -- so chances are that's just a variant spelling of no great significance. The one case where it might be significant is if Malick is a shortened form of Malicki, another surname from the same basic root. This is not out of the question, but I wouldn't give it much thought unless you find other evidence that supports the idea -- and even then, it doesn't necessarily mean much.

Derlanga is a tough name to nail down, but considering how e and y often switch in Polish, I suspect it comes from the term dyrlaga, "tall, thin person," and the related term dryląg, "tall, clumsy fellow." I notice that as of 1990 there were 236 Poles named Derlaga (see below for distribution). There were 290 named Dyrlaga, and there was a listing for Derląg but data was incomplete. The spelling Derlanga did not appear in the Surname Directory, but Derlęga did, and that's very close. All in all, considering where the name is most common, I suspect it's a southeastern regional variant of a surname deriving from the term dryląg -- from a phonetic point of view, that's quite plausible.

Here are the distributions for the names mentioned above:

DERLAGA: 236; Bielsko-Biala 2, Elblag 11, Gdansk 10, Gorzow 24, Jelenia Gora 3, Kielce 37, Krakow 3, Krosno 1, Legnica 3, Rzeszow 1, Suwałki 4, Tarnobrzeg 31, Tarnow 93, Walbrzych 10, Wroclaw 3

DERLANGA -- no listing

DERLÉGA: 62; Krakow 6, Legnica 5, Tarnow 43, Walbrzych 5, Wroclaw 3

DYRLAGA: 290; Warsaw 9, Bielsko-Biala 210, Bydgoszcz 1, Chelm 4, Ciechanow 1, Czestochowa 7, Elblag 2, Katowice 4, Koszalin 2, Krakow 3, Legnica 4, Leszno 4, Nowy Sacz 2, Opole 5, Szczecin 2, Tarnow 3, Walbrzych 11, Wroclaw 10, Zielona Gora 6

Prokowski is a rare name, as of 1990 there were only 30 Poles by this name. That is often a handicap, but in this case it might work to your advantage -- of those 30, 28 live in the province of Szczecin (the other 2 in Jelenia Gora). Thus the name is very concentrated, making it more likely you can find relatives in Poland. As for the origin, one would expect it to mean "person from Prokow/Prokowo/Prokowa," and I see there is a village Prokowo in Gdansk province, about 4 km. west of Kartuzy. The surname may refer to this village, or perhaps to another I can't find on my map.

There's no way to guess exactly how people living in Szczecin province (near the border with Germany) came to bear a name that refers to a place near Gdansk. One possibility is that the Prokowskis used to live in the village near Kartuzy and took their name from it, but later moved. That happened sometimes, especially with the nobility, who often sold and bought estates and moved around. But I'd say chances are decent the surname does refer to that village, unless you turn up evidence of another place with the same or a similar name.

You might contact the Polish Genealogical Society of America to ask about having the Szczecin provincial telephone directory searched for Prokowskis. I don't know how much it would cost, probably not a whole lot. There's no guarantee any relatives will be listed, but it seems the best bet for getting an address and finding those 28 Prokowskis. If you ever find out more about the origin of the Prokowski name and any link with Prokowo, I'd be interested in hearing about it -- it might be good material for the next revision of my book!

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


 

Duda - Dudynic

... My mother's father is Alex Dudynic, and my mother says only that he came from the Ukraine. I have checked all U.S. Internet phone directories, all genealogical indexes I can find, and I can find no one with that surname. I don't even know if it is truly Ukrainian?

RE: Dudynic/Dudynich, Dudynets, etc. It would be nice to see how your name was spelled in Cyrillic, especially the suffix (nets, ich, etc.). A dudi or dudy (however it is transliterated) is a cuff on a shirt sleeve. A dudko is a simpleton or fool. Let's assume your name was not based on the town fool. A duda is a bagpipe or an amateur musician. So your surname could be derived from any of these root words.

I recommend that you obtain the arrival record of your immigrant ancestors. That will state where they were born.

Tavarishch Lavrentij


I have nothing to add, except that in Polish the usage is pretty much the same.

 

Dulka

...I am trying to trace the origin of the surname Dulka. According to the family tree the name originated in the current geographical region of Poland but I can not verify any other reference except the last known city of ancestry is Vilnius (sp?) Poland.

Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, but a great many Poles lived there (the Poles call it Wilno), especially back when Poland and Lithuania joined up as one very large country consisting of two distinct but (theoretically) equal parts, the Commonwealth of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. My wife's paternal ancestors were Poles living in Lithuania -- so this is not at all unusual.

I'm afraid the name Dulka doesn't give any clues that will help you focus on a specific place. Dulka is a name that has appeared in documents as early as 1414, but the person mentioned in that document lived near Krakow in southcentral Poland -- a long way from Vilnius! As of 1990 there were 245 Dulka's in Poland, living in the provinces of Warsaw (3), Białystok (1), Bydgoszcz (4), Gdansk (26), Katowice (22), Koszalin (3), Krakow (5), Lodz (13), Łomża (2), Olsztyn (6), Rzeszow (2), Slupsk (1), Suwałki (2), Szczecin (2), Torun (116), Walbrzych (2), Wroclaw (2). As you can see, the largest concentration is in the province of Torun, in north central Poland; but there are people by that name living pretty much all over the country...

The compilation that gives this data (and does not have first names, addresses, or any other info, unfortunately) used a database that had data only for citizens of Poland in its current boundaries, so it tells us nothing about how many Dulka's might still be living in Lithuania... There is a gentleman who has a similar source on Lithuania, however, you might contact him and ask if the name still shows up in Lithuania and what derivation they give -- David Zincavage.

If the name is of Polish origin, it comes from a basic root dul- meaning "swelling, thickening." In some dialects there is a word dula meaning a kind of pear, and dulka would be a diminutive of that. Or it might have started as a nickname for a thickset person; there are plenty of terms like that which became names in Polish. If the name is of Lithuanian origin, Dave Zincavage might be able to tell you something about it.

Note: Mr. Dulka did contact Dave Zincavage, who had this to say:

This is a very difficult one, but it's not uncommon in Lithuania. Vanagas finds 11 persons named Dulka, 65 Dulke, 1 Dulkevićius, 15 Dulkinas, 12 Dulkis/Dulkys.

Possible roots include: the Lithuanian dulke "a grain of dust"; the Polish dul-, "swelling", dulka, "oarlock", and do'l, "pit"; the German dul, "swamp" and duel [u-umlaut], "doll"; and the White Russian name Doolko [meaning not explained] which may be related to the Russian doolo, "muzzle" and "barrel" [according to my dictionary].

I wonder if there is not some Slavic name, like Dolislaw, which is the actual source. My guess would be that there is one, whose diminutive is the root.

An interesting idea! But unfortunately I can find nothing that seems to qualify to prove or disprove it either way. This is one I have to put in the "Unsolved" file, and hope one day I will find a more satisfactory answer.

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


 

Palzewicz

...any information on Polish surname Palzewicz, grandfather's name Stefan Palzewicz, came over on U.S.S. Lincoln about 1901, port of entry New York. Also had brothers 2 died another returned to Poland - Fredryk Palzewicz-but returned to america grandfather lived in East Chicago, Indiana. I have no known relatives other than family in USA.

As of 1990 there were 10 Polish citizens named Pałzewicz (the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our W); they lived in the provinces of Warsaw (5) and Lodz (5). There were also 18 named PałŻewicz (the z with a dot over it, pronounced like "s" in "measure"); they lived in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (7), Gdansk (3), Katowice (3), and Olsztyn (5). These folks are pretty well spread out, so it doesn't appear that the name is concentrated in any one area of Poland; and unfortunately I don't have access to any further data such as first names, addresses.

The root -ewicz means "son of," so the question is what Palz- means. It might just be an old first name that is no longer used, but I can find no mention of such a root in any of my sources. There is one thought that occurs to me: if Stefan's papers were filled out in Germany, or there is German influence on the spelling, Palzewicz may be a German-influenced spelling of Polish Palcewicz. The Poles pronounce c as "ts," and Germans spell that sound as z, so this is possible. Also, "Stefan" can be either Polish or German. All in all, I think it's at least possible the surname was originally Palcewicz. Not that that's a common name either -- as of 1990 there were 9 Poles by that name, in the provinces of Warsaw (6), Katowice (2), and Wroclaw (1). This appears to come from the root palec, "finger," so perhaps it was used as a nickname, "son of the Finger." Poles are very imaginative in the use of nicknames, so it's hard to say exactly what such a name meant originally.

The Palcewicz connection may not be right, but I thought it was worth mentioning, in case you run into that form during the course of further research. If the root is Palz-, I'm afraid I have no info on it.

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


 

Puchlik

...When you have a moment I would be most curious as to the origin and meaning of the surname Puchlik. This is my great great grandmother's maiden name. She was raised in Rutkowszczyzna, Białystok.

As of 1990 there were only 112 Polish citizens named Puchlik, and 57 of them lived in Białystok province (there were also 39 in nearby Suwałki province, and a few scattered in other provinces). So this suggests the northeastern part of Poland is definitely the right place to look for Puchliks. According to my sources, Rutkowszczyzna is served by the Catholic parish church at Suchowola in Białystok province, so that's where the family probably went to register baptisms, deaths, and marriages.

Puchlik appears to come from a root meaning "to swell, be swollen," and it seems likely the name began as a nickname or a name derived from a personal trait or characteristic -- perhaps an ancestor looked swollen. There is also a root puch meaning "down, feathers," so it's not impossible that the name also means "downy, feathery," perhaps referring to someone's hair. But that l in Puchl- strongly suggests it does come from the root meaning "swollen," so that strikes me as the most likely derivation.

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


 

Dec - Mitus

...If you have information on the names Dec or Mitus, I would be very pleased to receive it.

Dec is a bit of a problem, when I was working on my surname book I couldn't find any really good, firm info on it. One scholar mentioned that it was seen sometimes as a kind of short form or nickname for Dyonizy, which is more or less equivalent to our "Dennis." But there may be other derivations I don't know about; it wouldn't take too much for it to derive from some German names, e. g., Dietz, a nickname or short form for the German name Dietrich. (Dec in Polish would be spelled Detz in German, but I don't think that's related -- apparently Detz was an archaic term for "dung", so let's not go there). As of 1990 there were 7,500 Poles named Dec and another 299 named Deć. With such a common name, there might well be more than one source, and it's quite reasonable it derives from common first names, so the Dyonizy and Dietrich connections are plausible.

Mitus is the same way, I didn't find anything that let me really nail it down. As a rule, however, names beginning with Mit- tend to come from nicknames for the first name Dymitr or Dmitri. As of 1990 there were 173 Poles named Mituś, scattered all over but with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Krakow (27), Nowy Sacz (60) -- this suggests it is most common in southcentral Poland. By the way, there is a Polish term mituś that means "crosswise," I don't know whether that plays a role in this or not.

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


 

Oborski - Piglowski

...Found your really interesting site just surfing for genealogy info on the net. I have just started looking for roots, and am really interested in mine and my husbands polish ancestry. If you have time, could you let me know anything at all about the following: Oborski, which is my husband's, and Piglowski, also seen written as Peglowski and Piklowski, which is my mom's maiden name.

The name Oborski comes from the term obora, "cow-shed, barn." In practice the surname probably indicates a family came from, owned (if noble) or worked as peasants at a village or estate named Obora, Obory, Oborki, something like that (those places, in turn, took their names from the term for "cow-shed") -- and there are several places with those names. As of 1990 there were 1,029 Poles named Oborski, living all over the country, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (57), Kielce (51) Lodz (68), Warsaw (72), and Zielona Gora (59). I don't see any really helpful pattern to that distribution, which is not surprising because the various places with names beginning in Obor- are scattered all over.

It's hard to say for sure if the proper form of the other name is Piglowski or Peglowski or Piklowski, but I'm going to assume it's Pigłowski, that seems the most likely. As of 1990 there were 492 Pigłowski's in Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (42), Konin (32), Lublin (54), Lodz (48), and Poznan (69)-- again, I don't see any real pattern there. This name might come from a place name such as Pigłowice in Poznan province, or it might come from the basic root pigłać, "to nurse, care for," but with -owski surnames you usually want to go with a place name, if there is one that seems suitable. There may be other places with names beginning Pigłow- that are too small to show up on maps or in gazetteers yet could have yielded this surname. But Pigłowice in Poznan province seems a good possibility.

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


 

Oryl

...I am contacting you from Australia in an endevour to trace the lineage of my surname Oryl. My father was killed some twenty three years ago so I do not have any information to work with apart from the fact that he was from somewhere near Osiek and his name was Stanislaw Oryl. Anything you could offer to answer my question would appreciated.

When I was working on my surnames book, I could not find a reference book with analysis of the origins of Oryl. I did find a Polish term oryl, meaning "raftsman; lout" -- in other words, the main meaning is "raftsman," and apparently a secondary meaning developed later, "uncouth fellow, lout," presumably because folks came to have a rather low opinion of raftsmen's manners. While one cannot simply pick a word out of a dictionary and say "There, that's what it comes from," there are instances where such terms are plausible sources of surnames, and that's so in this case. I can find no other source that seems applicable, and occupation-derived surnames are very common in Polish. So we can't be positive, but it seems a pretty good guess that's what Oryl means.

As of 1990 there were 561 Poles named Oryl, living all over Poland but with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (61), Ciechanow (175), Elblag (52), Olsztyn (55), and Torun (40). This seems to indicate northcentral Poland (in its current boundaries, that is) is the area where this name is most common. That's not too surprising, there are numerous rivers in this region, one would think a good number of people made their livings as raftsmen. Unfortunately, I have no access to more detailed data such as first names, addresses, etc. of those Oryls, the info I give here is all I have.

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


 

Blochowiak - Blohoviak - Pachucki - Pahucki

...Am trying to learn more about my Polish ancestry and have no living relatives (except younger siblings). My mother’s maiden name was Pahucki...

Pahucki is probably a variant spelling of Pachucki -- in Polish ch and h are pronounced the same, so we often see names spelled either way. Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut says names beginning with Pach- can come from the term pacha, "armpit," or from nicknames for once popular first names such as Pakosław and Paweł (= Paul; Pakosław has no English equivalent). Poles often formed nicknames or short forms of names by taking the first couple of sounds, chopping off everything else, and then adding suffixes. Thus there is a name Pachuta seen in records as far back as 1451, and it probably originated that way: pa- + ch- + uta. Pachucki looks like and probably is an adjectival form of that name, meaning basically "kin of Pachuta, folks who came from Pachuta's place," something like that. It's a moderately common surname, as of 1990 there were 1,067 Poles named Pachucki, living all over the country, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Warsaw (88), Biala Podlaska (80), Łomża (144), and Suwałki (328). This suggests a concentration in northeastern Poland (Łomża and Suwałki provinces).

...My grandmothers maiden name was Blochowiak -- I have also seen it spelled Blohoviak.

Blohoviak is just a phonetic spelling of Błochowiak (ł = the Polish slashed l, pronounced like our w), the latter is the form that matters. There are several ways that name could have originated. It could be from German Bloch, "block"; from a variant of Włoch, "foreigner"; as a rabbinical surname; or as one of those nicknames of the kind I mentioned above. In this case Poles took such names as BlaŻej (Blaise) and Błogota (no equivalent), chopped off everything but the Bl-, and added suffixes. In this scenario Bloch- started out as a nickname, the -ow- is a possessive suffix, and -iak usually means "person from, of, son of." Thus this name might mean "person from Błochowo or Błochy (= 'Bloch's place')." There is a village Błochy in Ostrołęka province -- the surname might come from that. But it could have originated several other ways, as I said.

These days in Poland Błochowiak is not extremely common, but it's not rare either -- as of 1990 there were 518 Poles by this name. They lived all over the country, but with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (92), Gdansk (40), Leszno (63), and Poznan (167).

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


 

Budzyn - Jaktorowo

...I would like to ask if you know the meaning of two place names: Budzyn and Jaktorowo?

I can't always answer questions about the meaning of place names, but in this case I believe I can. Both names derive from personal names with the addition of possessive suffixes.

Vol. I of Nazwy Miejscowe Polski [Place Names of Poland], edited by Kazimierz Rymut, covers names beginning with A and B. The name of Budzyn comes from a very old Polish first name, Budza, with the possessive suffix -yn added (after some roots the suffix would be -in, which explains where names ending in -ynski and -inski come from). In modern Polish the verbal root budz- means "to awaken, arouse," but in archaic Polish it meant "to feel, sense," so Budza was not a Polish Buddha but rather a name given a son in the hope that he would be sensitive -- not in the modern touchy-feely sense, perhaps, but rather "alert, wide-awake, perceptive." And the village name Budzyn means "of Budza, something belonging to Budza" = "Budza's place." The book also mentions that the name could be associated secondarily with the noun budzyn, "shabbiest, worst-built part of a village."

Unfortunately I don't have copies of any further volumes of this work (I understand the next volume has only recently been printed and is on its way to me), but I'm still pretty certain that Jaktorowo comes from Jaktor, a variant form of the name Hektor (= Hector in English). J. Bubak's Ksiega nazych imion [Book of Our First Names] mentions that Jaktor is a form of "Hector" seen in records back as early as 1386; in some Polish dialects there was a predilection to modify certain sounds to Ja-, as seen with Jagnieskza as a variant of Agnieszka, Jadam instead of Adam, Jagata instead of Agata, Jaracz instead of Horacy, and so forth. So if Jaktor = Hector, the -owo suffix is just a possessive, and Jaktorowo means literally "thing, place belonging to Jaktor (Hector)." Jaktorowo is "Hector's place," presumably referring to a noble who owned the area at one time, or a man who founded the village, or a prominent citizen at some point.

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


 

Chowaniec - Penc

...Having Polish ancestry on both mom's and dad's side, I was wondering if your book contains any info on either Penc (dad's side) and Chowaniec (mom's side).

My book does mention both names, but I can add a little to what's in the book. The name Chowaniec (pronounced roughly "hoe-VAHN-yets") appears in documents from 1628 and comes from the noun chowaniec, which means "adopted child." As of 1990 there were 2,959 Poles by this name, scattered all over the country but with the largest numbers (over 100) in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (656), Katowice (458), Krakow (149), Nowy Sacz (699), Opole (122), Tarnobrzeg (109). This suggests that the name is most common in southcentral Poland (the provinces of Bielsko-Biala, Katowice, Krakow, and Nowy Sacz). I'm not sure why it is more common there, perhaps people in other parts of Poland had other words besides chowaniec they preferred to use for "adoptee."

Penc is not quite so clear-cut, there are several things it might come from but no one really obvious one, and I can't find any source that really nails it down. The most likely origin is from the word Pęc (the ę represents the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail, pronounced very much like en, so that either Penc or Pęc would be pronounced roughly "pents"). The term pęc is from a root meaning "splash, smack," a splashing or smacking sound. The name might also come from a nickname for ancient pagan compound names such as Pękosław, or from a root pąk, meaning "bundle, bunch, bud." As you can see, there are several words that are close, but none is a direct hit.

As of 1990 there were 204 Poles named Penc, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Poznan (25) and Tarnobrzeg (70) and much smaller numbers in many other provinces. There were only 7 named Pęc, in the provinces of Katowice (1), Krakow (3), Opole (1), and Wroclaw (2). So this name is not a particular common one, although there are other names presumably from the same roots that are pretty common: Pęcak (1,666 from a word for hulled barley), Pęczek (1,535, from a word for "tuft, whisp"), etc.

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


 

Grzybowski

...I'm curious to find out more about my last name, Grzybowski. Someone had actually showed me an article from the NY Times magazine a few years ago saying the was a park in Warsaw with the same name as my last name.

Surnames ending in -owski usually derive from place names ending in -y, -ow, -owo, -owa, and so on. There are at least 17 villages in Poland named Grzybow, Grzybowa, Grzybowo, etc., (probably more too small to show up on maps), and the name Grzybowski originated as a reference to association with any or all of them; it could have meant "family from Grzybow/o etc.," or it might have referred to a noble family that owned the estate there, peasants who worked on an estate there, a man who traveled there often on business, or so on. It is virtually certain the name was adopted by many different families in many different places... The root of the place name is grzyb, "mushroom," so all these places got their names because of some association with mushrooms, and the surname just means basically "one associated with the place of the mushrooms."

When a surname can come from so many places, it is usually pretty common, and that's the case here: as of 1990 there were 14,498 Polish citizens named Grzybowski, living all over the country.

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


 

Bronder

...I'm researching the Bronder family history, and I have traced the Bronder lineage back to Keltsch, Prussia, which was once part of German Silesia and is now part of Poland. It seems to be an uncommon name, I think it is either German or Austrian in origin. Do you have any information on this surname? Would you happen to know its nationality and meaning? Thanks for your time.

The only info I can find on Bronder is that as of 1990 there were 460 Polish citizens with that name, living in the provinces of Czestochowa (92), Katowice (161), Krakow (2), Opole (201), Poznan (1), Walbrzych (1), Wroclaw (2). These are areas with large German populations, and the name does sound German to me, but neither George F. Jones nor Hans Bahlow mentions it in their books on German surnames.

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


 

Bugno - Judicky - Moizuk

...The surnames I have are Bugno and Moizuk and Judicky(sp).

Bugno probably comes from the root bug-, "bend, curve," especially in a river. The most obvious case of this is the name of the Bug River, part of the eastern border of modern Poland. Bugno might mean an ancestor lived by a bend in a river, something like that. As of 1990 there were 651 Poles with this name, living all over but with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice (89), Krakow (33), Lodz (31), Nowy Sacz (160), Opole (30), and Tarnow (82) -- so the largest numbers are in southcentral and southeastern Poland.

Judycki (the standard spelling in Polish) looks like an adjectival form of the name Judyta = our "Judith." So Judycki might refer to an association with a person named Judith or a place name for her. It might also refer to Juda, "Jew" (actually that's all Judith originally meant, "Jewess"). As of 1990 there were 578 Poles named Judycki, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Warsaw (54), Białystok (48), Katowice (41), Olsztyn (34), Pila (40), Suwałki (99) -- mostly in the northern and especially northeastern part of Poland.

I could not find Moizuk, but it is very likely that is a variant spelling of MojŻuk (I'm using Ż to stand for the z with a dot over it, pronounced like the "s" in "measure"). This name comes from the name Mojzesz, "Moses," and is an Eastern-Polish form meaning basically "son of Moses." This might suggest Jewish ancestry, but doesn't have to -- in medieval times the name Moses was used by both Christians and Jews, it wasn't until later that the name came to be associated exclusively with Jews. As of 1990 there were 105 Poles named MojŻuk, living in the following provinces: Warsaw 9, Białystok 24, Łomża 4, Olsztyn 7, Sieradz 4, Suwałki 46, Szczecin 3, Walbrzych 1, Wroclaw 5, Zielona Gora 1.

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


 

Juszkowski - Lagiewniki - Logewnik

...My great-grandfather was Piotr Juszkowski and his wife was Julia Danielewski. He found under Wilhelm I in the German Army. He was born in 1861 in West Prussia in a town named Logewnik (?)... We know that he left from the port of Bremen in January 1888 for America and ended up eventually in Detroit, Michigan area where he raised his family. Have you seen this name before? What might it mean? Do you know of a town named Logewnik or something like that in Prussia? I can't find anything. He was definitely of Polish descent.

I have seen the name Juszkowski before. The root of names with Juszk- derives from the first names Juszka (seen in records as early as 1388) and Juszko (1368), which in turn originated as nicknames for such common first names as Justyn, Julian, Jozef, etc., much as "Joe" or "Joey" is formed from "Joseph" in English.

More directly, surnames ending in -owski usually refer to an association with a place name ending in -i or -ow/-owo. There are two or three places that might be relevant in this case: there's a village Juszki, south of Koscierzyna in Gdansk prov.; a village Juszkowo, some 15 km. south of Gdansk; and a Juszkowy-Grod in Białystok prov. Since your ancestors came from West Prussia, odds are the places in Gdansk province are relevant (although you can never rule anything out on such slim evidence). In any case, the surname Juszkowski means "associated with a place called Juszki or Juszkowo," and the place name means "place of Juszka or Juszko."

As of 1990 there were 79 Polish citizens named Juszkowski, living in the following provinces: Warsaw (9), Ciechanow (23), Elblag (3), Leszno (11), Lublin (1), Łomża (8), Lodz (1), Slupsk (9), Szczecin (9), Torun (3), and Wroclaw (2). Unfortunately I have no further details such as first names or addresses (people always ask, and this is all the data I have access to). If your ancestors came from West Prussia, the Juszkowski's living in Slupsk, Szczecin, and Torun provinces are the ones most likely to be related.

Logewnik seems to me a slight distortion of Łagiewniki (ł stands for the Polish slashed l, pronounced like our w, so that the name is pronounced roughly "wag-yev-NEE-kee"). This is a term for residents of settlements occupied mainly with making łagwi, wooden or leather containers for liquids used before glass-making became widespread. Unfortunately, the fact that this is a reasonably common term means there were quite a few places with this name, at least 16 in my atlas of Poland.

However, I see only two in territory that might have been considered "West Prussia" (always assuming we're not dealing with a place too small to show up on maps or in gazetteers). One, called Elvershagen by the Germans, is in Szczecin province, maybe 5 km. southeast of Resko; technically it was in Pomerania, but could easily have been regarded as West Prussia. The other is 1-2 km. south of Kruszwica in Bydgoszcz province, more in Provinz Posen than West Prussia, but the boundaries varied and it might well have been regarded as West Prussia, at least at one time. The parish church serving Catholics in that area was in Kruszwica. You might consider getting its records on loan from the LDS Family History Library and looking through them, to see if there are any Juszkowskis who match up -- it's a bit of a long shot, but better than nothing. Of course, if your Juszkowskis weren't Catholic, that may not be much help.


For further help you might want to contact the Polish Genealogical Society of Michigan at this address: PGS of Michigan, c/o Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library, 5201 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48202. A lot of people with roots in Michigan have found the PGS-MI most helpful.

A long-shot that might be worth a look is the Kashubian Association of North America (KANA c/o Blanche Krbechek, 2041 Orkla Drive, Minneapolis, MN 55427-2439). They're supposed to have a name list on their Web site: http://feefhs.org/kana

I'd try them because if your folks came from West Prussia, there is a halfway decent chance they may have been members of the Kaszub ethnic group, and if they are the KANA might prove very helpful.

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

 

Fedosz

...I am researching my paternal grandfather's surname, Fedosz. Any help would be greatly appreciated. My grandfather came to this country around the beginnng of the 1900's, from a town near Warsaw,Poland.

None of my sources mention Fedosz, but most names beginning with Fed- derive ultimately from Fedor or Fyodor, Eastern Slavic forms of the name Theodore (Teodor in standard Polish). In other words, the name probably started out as Ukrainian, Belarusian, or Russian. There are many Polish names that started out in other languages because the history of Poland has so much intermingling of Poles with Germans, Ukrainians, Czechs, Lithuanians, etc. The Poles, Ukrainians, etc. often formed names by taking the first syllable of a common first name and adding a suffix or two to it; so from Fedor we have Fed-, then add -osz = Fedosz. There is no exact way to translate this into English, it would basically just mean something like Teddie and probably originated as a patronymic, a way of referring to a person as son of so-and-so.

As of 1990 there were only 17 Polish citizens named Fedosz, living in the following provinces: Legnica 11, Poznan 4, Szczecin 2. None of those is very close to Warsaw, but that's not surprising, in view of the mass movements of people during the last couple of centuries.

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


 

Frankowski - Gąsiewski - Gonsiewski - Nawodyło - Stankiewicz - Wykowski

...I have not found much on Nawodylo or Gonsewski/Gonsiewski so far.

To start with, Gons- is just another way of spelling Gąs- (where ą is the Polish nasal vowel and pronounced very much like -on-). So the "correct" spelling of the name was probably Gąsiewski. Now names ending in -ewski or -owski are usually derived from place names that are similar but without the -ski. So Gąsiewski most likely means something "person who owned (if noble) or who came from Gąsiewo," or something like that; that place name, in turn, comes from the root gęś, "goose," so Gąsiewo would mean something like "Goose Village" (presumably there were a lot of geese raised there). On the map I see a Gąsewo in Płock province, that's one place this name might come from; but I'm pretty certain there are other places with similar names that were too small to show up on the map, but could also have spawned this name.

As of 1990 there were only 11 Poles named Gonsiewski, living in the provinces of Białystok (1), Gdansk (1), Piotrkow (2), Suwałki (1), and Tarnobrzeg (6). But there were 1,209 Gąsiewskis! They lived all over, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (172), Łomża (157), Olsztyn (83), Ostrołęka (166), and Suwałki (215). The habit of switching spellings on/ą is so common that I think you're probably better off regarding Gonsiewski and Gąsiewski as different spellings of the same name, rather than as two different names; and as such, it is fairly common.

Nawodylo: this is a rare name in modern-day Poland -- as of 1990 there were only 9 Poles named Nawodyło (the Polish slashed l, pronounced like a w, so that the name in Polish is pronounced something like "nah-vo-DI-woe," with the i being short as in "sit"). They lived in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (5), Katowice (1), Przemysl (2), and Szczecin (1). The numbers here are too small to draw conclusions from, but I've seen a similar pattern before with Ukrainian names -- they tend to show up along the southern borders of Poland, and many were relocated from Ukraine to western Poland after World War II. And Nawodyło sounds more Ukrainian than Polish to me. You'd expect dz, not simple d, in Polish, and the root verb nawodzić is rare in Polish; but the verb navodyty, to lead, direct, is reasonably common in Ukrainian, and in that language the -dy- is quite normal. "Nawodyło" can be regarded as simply a Polish phonetic spelling of Ukrainian "Navodylo." So while I can't be sure, I think chances are this is a Ukrainian name from a word meaning "to lead, direct." This is quite plausible, since historically much of Ukraine was under Polish rule for a long time, so you find Ukrainian names in Poland and Polish names in Ukraine. This doesn't mean your ancestors weren't Poles -- regardless of the linguistic origin of the name, they may well have considered themselves, and been considered by others, true Poles! But it's at least worth knowing they might have been ethnic Ukrainians, and that may be why it's hard finding much on them in Poland.

...The others are Frankowski (probably very common), Wykowski, and Stankiewicz.

Frankowski is quite common, as of 1990 there were 11,094 Poles by that name, living all over the country. The -owski, again, suggests an original meaning of "one who came from, owned, or often traveled to Frankow or Frankowo," and there are several villages that qualify (Franki, Frankow, Frankowo, etc.). Those place names, in turn, came ultimately from the same source as our name Frank, from an abbreviation of Franciszek, Francis, or perhaps in some cases from the term Frank, from the name of a Celtic tribe once living in what is now France (the name of which comes from the same root). So Franki/Frankow/ Frankowo was "Frank's village," and Frankowski was "person from Frank's village."

Wykowski is not so common, but still not rare; as of 1990 there were 689 Poles by that name, living all over but with the largest numbers (more than 50) in the provinces of Gdansk (52), Łomża (265), Ostrołęka (74), and Suwałki (66). By now you can probably guess: the name means "person from Wyki or Wykow or Wykowo," and there are several places with names that qualify, so we can't pinpoint any one area where this name started. I would think the place name comes from wyka, the vetch (a kind of plant); there are a couple of other possible derivations, but this strikes me as the most likely one. So the Wykowskis were "the people from the village with lots of vetch."

Stankiewicz is extremely common, borne by 19,826 Poles living all over the country. The suffix -ewicz means "son of," so this means "son of little Stan." Stanek or Stanko was a nickname for someone named Stanisław (Stanislaus), literally "little Stan," possible also "son of Stan," and when you add the suffix it becomes Stankiewicz, "son of little Stan" or "son of Stan's son." If a name is at all popular, as Stanislaw is, then the -ewicz or -owicz forms from its nicknames are also extremely common, and that's true here.

...Do you think it's helpful to contact other people with the same last name while doing this research? I found about 30 people with the last name Gonsiewski on the internet white pages, and have contacted one of them through e-mail. Is that name too common to think we might be related somewhere down the line or that they could help with information?

That's an intelligent question -- I hear all the time from researchers who think their name is rare, so if they find anyone with the same name, he/she must be a relative. That can be true, certainly, but so very often it's not. If you realize this, and don't jump to conclusions, yes, I think it is worthwhile contacting others with the same name. Even if the info you share proves not to have any connections, that right there tells you something about the name and how widespread it is. And if you keep on making contacts, odds are good sooner or later you'll run into a relative, and that can really pay off. So as long as you don't have unrealistic expectations that are easily frustrated, and you just take what you get as it comes and make the best of it, yes, I think such contact is a good idea.

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

 

Furgal - Furgat

...Please let us know what Furgat or Furgal means, my children have projects for school that are asking for the meaning of their names...

This name could originate in other languages besides Polish, from completely different origins; but if you have reason to think it is Polish in this case, here is the most likely origin I can discover.

There is a verb furgać (accent over the c, the word is pronounced roughly "FOOR-gach"), a term used in dialect, which means "to take flight, fly away, flee." In Polish, names were often formed by taking such verbs, dropping the infinitive ending -ać, and adding the suffix -ała (the Polish l with a slash through it sounds like our w). This suffix generally means one who's always doing the action or demonstrating the quality described -- e. g., Biegała is from biegać, "to run," and means someone who's always running. In this case, Furgał or Furgała would apparently mean "one who's always taking off, one quick to flee." So that explains the name if it is Furgal or Furgala. If it's Furgat, it probably still means something similar, but -at is a much less common suffix in Polish names. (By the way, the Polish ł looks a lot like a t, and in some names people mistook it for a t so that the name changed from -ał to -at -- that could have happened in this case.)

As of 1990 there was only 1 Furgat in Poland, living in the province of Rzeszow, in far southeastern Poland, near the Ukrainian border. Furgał is very common, however; there were 1,149 Poles by that name, living all over the country but with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice (127), Krakow (174), and Tarnow (331) -- which suggests the name is most common in southern Poland. There were also 984 Furgała's, with half living in one province, Przemysl (466), also in southeastern Poland. The large numbers in Tarnow and Przemysl provinces suggest the name is most common, and may have originated, in southeastern Poland, near the Ukrainian border. I wish I had data for Ukraine, I bet it's a fairly common name in western Ukraine, which also used to be part of the Commonwealth of Poland.

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


 

Gacek - Kochowski

...Do you know anything on Kochowski or Gacek?

None of my sources states definitively what Gacek comes from, but it seems highly likely to derive from the word gacek, meaning bat (the animal). It might have originated as a nickname because someone somehow reminded people of a bat, or lived in an area where there were bats, something like that. It is a very common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 4,749 Polish citizens named Gacek, living all over the country. In fact, I have a letter on my desk right now from a lady in England named Gacek. I'm afraid the name offers no clues that help suggest where a family by that name might have originated.

Kochowski, like most -owski names, probably originated as a reference to a place with a name like Kochow or Kochowo with which the family was associated -- if they were noble, they may have owned it, if not noble they probably came from there or did business there or traveled there often. There are at least two places named Kochow, one in Siedlce province, the other in Tarnobrzeg province, and there is a Kochowo in Konin province. This surname is not so common, as of 1990 there were only 332 Poles named Kochowski, living in many parts of the country but with the largest numbers in the provinces of Radom (46) and Tarnobrzeg (175), which are in east central and southeastern Poland respectively. I have to suspect the majority of the Kochowskis came from that Kochow in Tarnobrzeg province, since that is the place with the largest concentration of the name; but it seems likely at least some of the families named Kochowskis came from the other villages I mentioned. The probably ultimate root of all these names is koch-, which means love in Polish.

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

 

 

Głębocki - Glembotsky

... in search of Glembotsky from Vilna, Poland - looking for any / all information/ people and origin, etc. ---

I have no info that will help with the family, but I might be able to give you a few insights on the name itself. First of all, you do realize that "Vilna, Poland" (or in Polish Wilno) is Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, right? I don't mean to insult your intelligence, but sometimes people don't know how much the borders of eastern Europe have changed, and how the place names changed with them, so I figure it's always best to point these things out, just in case it clears up some confusion. I can also assure you that a great many ethnic Poles lived and still live in Lithuania, especially the Vilnius area --my wife's Polish ancestors came from that general area, and she still has relatives living in Alytus (Polish Olita), Lithuania. So it's not at all incompatible to say a Polish family came from what is now Lithuania.

Glembotsky is a Germanized or Anglicized version of the name Poles usually spell Głębocki; the l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w, and the e with a tail under it, usually pronounced like en but before a b sounding more like em. So the Poles pronounce this name "gwem-BOT-skee"; if you factor in Germans' reaction to ł (Germans have no w sound in their language, so they usually just turned ł into a normal l) you can see how easily Głębocki could come to be written Glembotsky.

Głębocki is a pretty common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 2,347 Polish citizens by this name, living all over the country; the 10-volume set from which I got this info (which, by the way, does not have first names or addresses or anything more than a total for Poland and a breakdown by province) had access only to data from Poland in its current boundaries, so it would not show anybody by that name still living in Lithuania. I see no real pattern to the name's distribution; it shows up in virtually every province and has the highest numbers in provinces that have greater populations. So unfortunately the name gives no real clue as to where a family by that name may have originated.

There are a couple of roots this name might come from: głąb, meaning "stalk" (e.g., of cabbage), or głęb-, "deep." Whichever is the ultimate root, the surname probably comes directly from a place name, indicating origin in any of the numerous places named Głębock, Głębocko, Głęboka, Głębokie, etc. That's how it usually works with these surnames that come from common place names: there's a lot of folks with such names, and they're spread all over because the name arose independently in many different places at different times. So it's a good bet there are many, many different families named Głębocki, not just one big one.

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

 

Grycki

...I had the opportunity to read about your work with Polish names. My last name is Grycki and anything that you could find for me I would appreciate.

This is a tough name, because the form of it doesn't really same quite right for Polish. I don't mean the family wasn't Poles, but there are a lot of surnames borne by Poles that aren't of Polish origin, but Ukrainian, Czech, Lithuanian, German, etc. Furthermore, the name is rare in Poland -- as of 1990 there were 24 Polish citizens named Grycki, living in the provinces of Czestochowa (1), Jelenia Gora (12), Przemysl (2), Szczecin (1), Walbrzych (6), and Zielona Gora (2). This isn't enough data to conclude much from, but I have seen similar distributions for Ukrainian names due to post-World War II displacement of Ukrainians to western Poland.

My best guess is that this name is related to the word gryka, buckwheat; Grycki could very well come from that, although names with Grycz- are more common from that root. There is another possibility that comes to mind. Sometimes in Polish dialect the vowels e and y become confused, so that would make this name = Polish Grecki, which means Greek and was often applied to Ukrainians who were Greek Catholics. In some ways that makes sense because the distribution pattern of the name suggests a possible connection with Ukrainian.

If you'd really like to get an expert opinion and don't mind spending $20 or so, contact the Anthroponymic Workshop in Krakow.

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


 

Haszczak

...I have found a new name in my family searching, it is Haszczak. Could someone look for me and tell me the origin of this name and also the numbers of people who had this name from Mr. Rymut's book. I am giving it to a man Roman Haszczak who is the only person in the US listed with this name.

The name is pretty rare -- as of 1990 there were only 22 Poles named Haszczak, living in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (4), Gdansk (1), Gorzow (4), Katowice (1), Krakow (1), Rzeszow (3), Szczecin (3), Wroclaw (5). The most likely origin is that it comes from a place, since haszcza is a thicket, a place with dense undergrowth -- presumably Haszczak started as meaning a person who lived near such a place... If Mr. Haszczak wants more info, I'd recommend writing the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow.

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


 

Hendzel

...I'm researching my ancestors that came to the U.S. in 1914 and 1920. They came from a city named Dubiecko, Poland. The last name is Hendzel. It seems this name is German?? What's the story of such a name?

Yes, the name is probably German. Germans use the -l or -el suffix the way Poles use the suffixes -ek, -ka, -ko, etc., as diminutives, "little ..." The only question is which particular first name Hendzel came from. German expert Hans Bahlow doesn't discuss this name directly, but gives info that suggests it could be from Hans, "John," in which case it's a lot like the name Hansel; or it could come from Heintz or Hentz, short forms for Heinrich (Henry). Polish expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions Hendzel and says it could come from Hans or from Anzelm (Anselm). So it could mean "little John" or "little Henry" or "little Anselm"; diminutives are also sometimes used as patronymics, names formed from one's father's name, so that it might also mean "John's son," "Henry's son," "Anselm's son." Rymut generally seems to know his stuff, so I'm inclined to say it's most likely a German-influenced nickname from the first name "Anselm."

As of 1990 there were some 934 Polish citizens named Hendzel. They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice (96), Krosno (118), Przemysl (158), Rzeszow (53), and Wroclaw (58) -- so it's most common in the southern provinces, and especially in the southeastern provinces near the border with Ukraine, Przemysl and Krosno. This fits in with your info that your ancestors came from Dubiecko, which, if I'm not mistaken, is in Przemysl province.

It's not surprising that the name is German but is found in Poland. Poles and Germans mixed with each other a lot over the centuries. You find the most mixing in western Poland, near the German border, naturally -- especially after Germany seized western Poland during the partitions and began a policy of settling German colonists on the best land; but there were plenty of Germans living all over Poland, too, dating from much earlier. When plague and war devastated medieval Poland, the nobles owning lands found their estates depopulated and plunging in value. They wanted skilled craftsmen and farmers to come settle on their land and increase the value of their estates. Meanwhile, in Germany there was disease, religious persecution, political unrest, etc., so many Germans were more than ready to go elsewhere. Nobles in Poland (and Ukraine and Russia, too, for that matter) invited them to come settle on their land, giving them various incentives (land free from taxes for up to 20 years, that sort of thing). The native Poles weren't always too thrilled to see all these Germans settling among them, but it was good for the local economy, so they made the best of it. That's why we see pockets of ethnic Germans all over Poland, and that's why a name of German origin can be quite common even in far southeastern Poland.

I know it seems a little odd at first, but believe me, the more you study Polish history, language, culture, and names, the more you realize this was commonplace.

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


 

Kazczyk - Shmegelski - Śmigielski

... My father's surname is Shmegelski and my mother's is Kazczyk (I am purely polish).

Kazczyk is almost certainly a patronymic (a name formed from one's father's name), meaning "son of Kaz" where "Kaz" is a short form or nickname for the popular Polish name Kazimierz. In Polish the suffix -czyk is most often used to form patronymics, as in Janczyk (son of Jan), Adamczyk (son of Adam), etc. The kaz- root could come from the verb kazać, meaning "to order" or in older Polish "to destroy" -- but the patronymic suffix suggests it is more likely to be in this case simply a short form of the Polish first name Kazimierz (usually rendered as "Casimir" in English), an ancient pagan name formed from the verb root kaz-, "destroy" + the noun root mir, "peace." The ancient Slavs (like most Indo-Europeans) liked to give their children names that served as prophecies or good omens, and "Kazimierz" was probably given in the hope that, in the difficult and war-like times in which the ancient Poles lived, Kazimierz would excel in battle. Later Poles loved to take these long names and chop off all but the first syllable and add suffixes to that (not unlike the way English-speaking people formed "Eddie" from "Edward"). I feel certain that's how Kazczyk started, as a name referring to those who were descendants of some fellow named Kaz or Kazimierz who was locally prominent.

The surprise here is that usually patronymics formed from popular first names are very common in Poland, but the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych [Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland, ed. Kazimierz Rymut, published 1994 in Krakow by the Instytut Jezyka Polskiego PAN, ISBN 83-85579-25-7] shows no one named Kazczyk living in Poland as of 1990! It's not unusual to find that a name died out in Poland after people by that name emigrated, I've run into that fairly often; but I certainly would have expected to see at least a few hundred people by this name. But then this field is full of surprises!

As for Shmegelski, its form proves it has been modified since the family left Poland, because Poles don't use the letter combination sh. In Polish either sz or ś (s with an accent over it) is used to represent this basic sound, so we would expect either Szmegelski or Śmegelski. However, two other spelling points arise. In proper Polish, the combination ge is not normally allowed, it must be gie, so that gives us Szmegielski or Śmegielski. Finally, the combination Śme- is rare, that accent over the s represents palatalization, which affects the whole sound cluster, and predisposes the vowel to be either i or ie: so in proper Polish spelling, one would expect either Śmigielski or Śmiegielski, with Szmegelski a possible alternative because ś and sz are sounds easily confused.

Going by name frequency, I would expect Śmigielski to be the original form; it is easy to see and hear this (pronounced "shmeeg-YELL-skee") could become modified to Shmegelski in English, and that name is fairly common in Poland. Actually the root of this name, Śmigiel is also common, with 1,940 Polish citizens by that name in 1990; but the adjectival form Śmigielski is much more common, with 5,925 Poles by that name in 1990 (there were only 30 Poles named Śmiegielski, which suggests that is just a rare spelling variant of the standard form). The Śmigielskis lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers (> 250) in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (448), Ciechanow (251), Katowice (326), Konin (436), Poznan (518), Torun (265), Warsaw (285), and Wloclawek (272). I don't see any really useful pattern to that distribution, it seems the name has the largest numbers in the provinces with the most people, which suggests the name is evenly distributed and therefore probably originated in many different places and at different times. So it's a good bet all the Śmigielskis are not related to each other!

The root of the name, the noun śmigiel, means "rail in a ladder." It requires a bit of imagination to figure out how this name came to be applied to so many people. Polish names ending in -ski often derive from a place name, and there is at least one village called Śmigiel in Poland, in Leszno province, about 10 km. southwest of the town of Kościan; but there may be many more places by that name too small to show up on the map, or perhaps the name was only used by the locals and never made it into any gazetteers or atlases. So a family Śmigielski might have gotten that name because they came from a place named Śmigiel or something similar. Or a prominent member may have made rails, or was thin as a rail -- who knows? People are very ingenious with names, and it is often impossible to figure out exactly how they got started -- folks are still arguing whether Groucho Marx got that name because he was a grouch, or because he carried what was called a "grouch bag." If we can't settle that question, imagine trying to settle the derivation of a name that started in Poland several centuries ago!

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


 

Kiszkiel

...Could you please give me some insight into the origins of my family's surname, Kiszkiel? According to your database of surnames, is it a relatively rare name and from what part of the country does it stem from, if any? ...

As of 1990 there were 390 Polish citizens named Kiszkiel. Here is a listing of where they lived by province, i. e., Warsaw 18 means there were 18 Polish citizens by that name living in the province (not just the city) of Warsaw. I'm afraid more details, such as first names and addresses, are not available; what I give here is all I have:

KISZKIEL: 390; Warsaw 18, Białystok 183, Elblag 4, Gdansk 14, Gorzow 24, Jelenia Gora 13, Koszalin 36, Krakow 3, Legnica 12, Łomża 2, Lodz 9, Ostrołęka 4, Slupsk 7, Suwałki 4, Szczecin 24, Walbrzych 5, Wroclaw 4, Zielona Gora 24

If the name is Polish in origin, it almost certainly derives from the word kiszka, which has a basic meaning of gut, bowel, but is also a term used for a kind of pork pudding or liver sausage, also a term (archaic?) for sour milk. There are many Polish names derived from terms for food, indicating perhaps that a person got that name because he produced or dealt in that kind of food was always eating it, or somehow had a shape or smell that reminded people of it.

I note, however, that the largest concentration of Kiszkiel's is in the province of Białystok, which is in northeastern Poland and borders on Belarus. This is an area where Lithuania has long had influence, and a Polish name in -iel often -- not always, but often -- turns out to be Lithuanian in origin. My Lithuanian dictionary gives kiŝka (upside-down caret over the s, giving it the sound of sh, which Poles spell as sz), meaning thigh, haunch, also kiŝkis, hare. Both the Polish and Lithuanian terms probably come from the same root, originally, but you can see that that root has come to have different meanings in each language, so it does make a difference which language the name came from.

I am sending a copy of this to Dave Zincavage, who is very interested in Lithuanian names and has some sources that may let him give you some additional info.

Based on what I see, I would think names like Kiszka, Kiszko, Kiszczak are definitely from the Polish word kiszka. But with your name the Lithuanian words must be taken into account, because as a rule Poles don't add the suffix -iel to roots, whereas -iel is often seen in Polonized forms of Lithuanian names. So I would think your name is more likely Lithuanian rather than Polish. However, Dave may be able to add some facts that will shed more light on this.

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


 

Klucznik - Rydzewski

...If you have time, perhaps you can provide me with some data on the surnames of Klucznik and Rydzewski. These are the families of my mother and father, respectively. Somewhere along the line, Rydzewski was mangled into Ryder.

According to Polish surname expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut, Klucznik comes from the noun klucznik, which means "steward, doorkeeper, caretaker." The basic root is the term klucz, key. He adds that this name appears in documents as far back as 1489. It is a moderately common surname these days -- as of 1990 there were 1,108 Poles by this name, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Katowice (79), Suwałki (128), Tarnow (127), Torun (82), and Wroclaw (98), and smaller numbers in many other provinces. I don't see any particular pattern to that distribution, which is not too surprising; the meaning of the name is such that it could have arisen independently in many different places.

The ultimate root of Rydzewski is apparently the term rydz, a species of edible agaric according to the dictionary (?!) -- I believe that means it's a kind of mushroom or fungus. But more directly, the name almost certain started as referring to a family's connection with a place by the name of Rydzew or Rydzewo, something like that; the family might have owned the estate, if they were noble, or might have come there or often traveled there, if they were not. Looking over the map, I see there are at least 6 villages named Rydzewo, 4 of them in Łomża province, so it's not surprising that of the 4,054 Rydzewskis in Poland as of 1990, the name shows up in largest numbers in provinces near Łomża: Warsaw (309), Białystok (340), Łomża (405), Suwałki (639). There are smaller numbers (less than 300) living in many other provinces.

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


 

Kołos - Wcisło

... Since everyone has been asking for the origins of their surnames, I thought I would add two to the list... My great grandfather's parents were Joanna Kolos and Lukasz Wcislo. They were farmers (agricola) in the village of Szczytniki which was less than 20 km east of Krakow. The parish is located in Brzezie, which in turn belonged to the deanery of Niegowic. This is in the Diocese of Krakow.

Kołos was the name of 415 Polish citizens as of 1990. The largest numbers of people by that name lived in the provinces of Białystok (104) and Krakow (131), with smaller numbers in many other provinces. It's tough to say exactly what the name comes from: it could derive from a variant of kłos, an ear of corn, but Kołosz is a known nickname from Mikołaj (= Nicholas). It could even come from the root kol-, round, circular. Of all these, I'd say it's most likely from Mikołaj, kind of like "Nick" in English.

Wcisło is pretty common, as of 1990 there were 4,252 Polish citizens by that name. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (238), Czestochowa (305), Katowice (443), Kielce (286), Karakow (1,218), Rzeszow (151), Tarnobrzeg (187), and Tarnow (200) -- thus it's most common in southcentral and southeastern Poland. It comes from the verb root wcis- as in wcisnąć, "to press, cram, squeeze." Wcisło comes from a participial form, so I'm guessing the name generally started as referring to a small, compact, squat person, one who looked as if he'd been squeezed or compressed. I'm not certain about that, but it seems a likely explanation.

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


 

Krutzel

...I came across your address while visiting a Polish genealogy site. I am trying to ascertain the origin of the name Krutzel. I know that it is Slavic and most likely Polish. A simple explanation of its meaning would help me immeasurably.

You say Krutzel is Slavic, and that may be right, but we can't assume that. Actually, the spelling tz is German -- Polish uses c for that same sound, so a Polish spelling would be Krucel. Another possible Polish spelling is Kruzel. Also, -l and -el are Germanic diminutives, not Slavic; Slavic uses -k as in suffixes -ek, -ka, -ko, etc. So at first glance the most likely derivation for Krutzel is as "little Krutz," where Krutz may be a first name. I can't find a German name Krutzel, however, which doesn't rule this theory out but also means it's less automatically right than I would have thought -- on first glance I'd have bet good money this name had to be German! And it still might be, I'm just a little less certain now. If it is Germanic in origin, it may have started perhaps as a nickname or variant meaning "son of Kurt" or "little cross" (Kreuz is often used as a name in German with several different meanings, including "crusader, one on a pilgrimage").

If the name is Slavic, it's interesting that there is a Polish word kruciel, a term for a peasant dance like a polka but a little fancer, common in Lithuania and Belarus and coming from the Belarusian word kruciel. Other Polish words that show kruc- come from German Kreutz, cross, so we're back to that again. There are many Polish names from the root kruk- or krucz-.

I should add that it's not strange that I keep talking about Germans and Lithuanians and Belarusians in reference to a name you think is Polish. Names of foreign origin are extremely common in Poland, due to its history. You run into thousands of Hoffmanns in Poland, for instance! Since Poland has at various times ruled much of what is now part of Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine, and since Germans have long ruled much of what is now western Poland, and since German farmers and craftsmen were often invited in the Middle Ages to come settle in Poland -- well, these are a few of the reasons you find so many "Polish" names that are actually of non-Polish origin. So you can be a good Pole and still have a name that isn't of Polish linguistic derivation.

According to the best data available, there were no Polish citizens named Krutzel or Krucel or Kruciel as of 1990. The only name that does show up is Kruzel, which might be related because in German -tz- and -z- have the same sound, so under German influence the name could be spelled either way. As of 1990 there were 800 Polish citizens named Kruzel, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (189), Katowice (131), Tarnobrzeg (108). In general the places where there are lots of folks by this name are places where a great many ethnic Germans settled, so it makes some sense that the name may be of German origin.

So unless your ancestors came from northeastern Poland or Lithuania or Belarus -- in which case the word for a kind of dance might be relevant -- I would still think German origin is most likely. It might mean little Krutz or son of Kurt or son of Krutz, which might be just a first name or might be a form of the word for "cross."

I wish I could have given you a nice, simple answer, but that's often impossible, especially if foreign influence comes into play. I do hope this is some help to you, however. If you'd really like to get an expert opinion and don't mind spending $20 or so, contact the
Anthroponymic Workshop in Krakow.

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


 

Kumor - Witkowski

You asked about Witkowski and Kumor. Kumor is a reasonably common name in Poland, borne by 2,283 Polish citizens as of 1990. It comes from a variant form of the word komar, which means "mosquito, gnat, midge." The name appears all over Poland, but the largest numbers live in the provinces of Ciechanow (126), Katowice (347), Kielce (527), Nowy Sacz (104), Tarnow (158), and Wroclaw (108). These are all in southern central Poland, but other than that I see no real pattern to the distribution.

As for Witkowski, it is very common -- there were at least 42,173 Witkowskis in Poland as of 1990. This name generally originated as a way of indicating a person or family came from a village named Witkow, Witkowo, Witkowa, etc., and there are a great many such places in Poland. All those names basically mean Witek's place, usually suggesting the villages or estates were founded or owned by somebody named Witek (that's a short form or nickname of several first names such as Wit, Witold, Witoslaw, etc.). This name is found in large numbers all over Poland, with no discernible pattern to the distribution.

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


 

Kuzniar

...Found your information very interesting. My daughter is trying to define what her name means: Kuzniar. Today is spelled Kuznar, but I remember my father sometimes added the i. Found what Kuz- means with your help but not -niar. Not really sure if it might have been spelled differently when they landed from Europe.

You have to be careful -- Kuz- is one thing, but Kuzniar- can be, and is, something entirely different! That's one of the tough things about Polish names; you have to figure out when you're dealing with a root that's had suffixes added and when those suffixes are an integral part of the root. It can be tricky!

Kuzniar comes from the root kuznia, forge, smithy; the term kuzniarski means "having to do with a forge or blacksmith," so I must assume at some time kuzniar was a term for a blacksmith or one who worked at a forge, though that term doesn't appear in dictionaries. Kuzniar is a pretty common name in Poland -- as of 1990 there were 2,404 Poles by this name. They lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice (113), Krakow (133), Legnica (135), Przemysl (321), and Rzeszow (783) -- so the name is most common in southern Poland and especially southeastern Poland.

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


 

Łachut - Łahut

...Would you be interested in doing a lookup for another surname: Lachut pronounced Wahoot or Wahut? I am at a brick wall again. All the Lachut people I have contacted said we are not related. Not sure what nationality it is, though on marriage license all names listed Austria/Poland as birthplace 1850 forward. HELP.....

The name Łachut (pronounced just as you said) is apparently Polish. Or at least, as of 1990 there were 659 Polish citizens with this name, which is kind of high if it isn't Polish! They were scattered all over, with the only sizable numbers living in the provinces of Katowice (49), and TARNOW (321)! Gee, Tarnow was in Galicia, i.e., the partition ruled by Austria. You don't suppose Tarnow province is where your people came from, do you? ... That's interesting; I don't often get such a decisive majority in one spot. I know it doesn't help a whole lot, Tarnow province is still a lot of ground to cover, but maybe it's a little help.

I'm not quite positive what the word meant, because Łachut is not in any of my sources. However, I see firm evidence that łach is a rag, a clout, and łacheta and łachota were kind of slang words for a guy in rags, a beggar or ragamuffin. I think chances are pretty good łachut is just another way of saying the same thing.

So your ancestor was a lousy dresser who came from Tarnow! Aren't you glad you asked?

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


 

Laskowski

...I just checked out your page...it is interesting...but I had hoped to find something on Laskowski. However you did explain about the -owski part.

Unfortunately I don't have room in the book or on the Web page for every Polish surname, much as I'd like to be able to do so. But you've got to realize, as of 1990 there were over 800,000 Polish surnames -- so I have to take them a little at a time! I should add that I'm cheating a little when I cite that number, a great many of those names were variants, misspellings, extremely rare, etc. But even if you count only those names borne by more than 25 Poles, that's still over 40,000 names. So I realized some time ago I'm never going to be able to say I've analyzed every Polish surname!

...My father said that his family did come from the Kielce region. Someone had once said that Lask had something to do with the forest, perhaps combining the two would mean that my father's family came from the forest? Whether this has anything to do with family history and name origin, until my grandfather was taken away by the Nazis, my grandfather and his brother worked in the woods cutting trees for lumber. Perhaps this was always a family trade?

Laskowski is an extremely common name -- as of 1990 there were some 25,425 Poles named Laskowski; 812 of them lived in modern-day Kielce province, but you find them all over Poland. There are several ways the name could get started, but in most cases it surely started out referring to some connection between a family and a place named Laskow, Laskowo, Laskowka, something like that; it might have meant the family came from there, or (if noble) had once owned one of those places, or often went there on business, hard to say exactly what the connection was (although in most cases it probably just mean the family came from there).

Unfortunately, as you might have guessed, there's about a jillion places named Laskow, Laskowo, etc., from which Laskowski might have been formed. That's usually the case when a surname can derive from several very common place names.

The next question, then, is what did those place names derive from? Here's where what you said about the connection with woods may very well hold true! The place names Laskow, Laskowo, etc. probably came either from lasek, a small forest or grove, or from laska, which these days means "walking stick" or "cane" but in older Polish could also mean "hazel-grove." Obviously a place would get such a name because it was located near a forest or grove -- so odds were good anyone who ended up being called Laskowski might well have found their livelihood working in the forest. It wouldn't be at all odd if your family's name did turn out to have some link with the meaning of forest, even if by way of a village name.

For that matter, it's also possible the Laskow- didn't come into the name indirectly, by way of a village or estate by that name, but rather came directly in reference to people who worked in a small forest (lasek). That kind of thing did apparently happen sometimes. Usually, however, names ending in -owski do turn out to refer to a place name ending in something like -ow(o/a).

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


 

Lewandowski - Marciewicz - Nalaskowski - Pawlak - Tamulewicz

...I've seen you on the GenPol list ... and I would like to request such help.

1. The name that has appeared as Pavlock, Pavalak, etc., almost certainly originated in Poland as Pawlak; all the other forms make sense as English phonetic representations of that name. Unfortunately, there are several places named Komorow in the area formerly ruled by Germany, so I can't pin down which one your ancestor came from. Even before the partitions there were parts of Poland where so many Germans lived that the Poles who did live in the area spoke German more than Polish. And after the partitions, due to the German government's policies toward the Poles, there were many Poles in the German partition who grew up speaking virtually no Polish (it was not allowed to be taught in schools or spoken in any public place). So what you said about your grandfather is not surprising or hard to believe ... Pawlak comes from the first name Paweł (Paul), and probably started as meaning son of Paul. As is usually the case with patronymics from common first names, Pawlak is a very common surname -- as of 1990 there were 43,556 Polish citizens by that name, living in huge numbers all over the country.

2. Nalaskowski is a puzzle. As of 1990 there were 340 Polish citizens by this name, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (64), Gdansk (43), and Torun (158). So the name exists, but I can find no origin for it. -owski names usually point to association with a toponym (place name); in this case I'd expect it to refer to a place named Nalaski or Nalaskow(o), something like that. But I can find no toponym that's a viable candidate. I looked in the 15-volume gazetteer
Slownik Geograficzny Krolestwa Polskiego, and even there I found nothing. The odd thing is that in terms of structure and phonetics, it's a perfectly reasonable Polish name -- I just can't find any place by that name! However, there are jillions of tiny communities or subdivisions of villages that have names, are too insignificant to show up in any gazetteer or on a map, yet could spawn surnames. That may be the case here.

3. As for Marciewicz or Marcewicz (Marizewicz is most likely a misreading of Marczewicz, a plausible variant of the other two names; Marizewicz seems really unlikely, but Marcz- in Polish script could easily be misread as Mariz-): the -ewicz ending means "son of," and Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut lists Marcewicz among names deriving from the first name Marcin, Martin. So it's almost certain this name originated as meaning "son of Martin." There are a couple of other names that might come into play once in a while (e. g., Marta [Martha], Marek [Mark], Marzec [March]), but the link with Marcin is the most plausible. As of 1990 there were 110 Poles named Marcewicz, living in the provinces of Warsaw (8), Białystok (9), Elblag (7), Gdansk (4), Jelenia Gora (3), Koszalin (9), Legnica (5), Lublin (37), Lodz (20), Szczecin (7), and Wroclaw (1). There were listings for Marciewicz and Marczewicz, but the frequency was given as 0, which meant there was at least 1 person by that name but the data in the file was incomplete. So Marcewicz is probably the standard form. The data does not allow us to draw conclusions on where it originated -- it probably originated independently in several different places.

As for the place name Orkielniki or Olkielniki, the best match I can find there is with Olkielniki in what is now Lithuania (currently called Valkininkai). This region is in Lithuania now, but before that it was in Russian-ruled territory, and before that it was part of the Poland-Lithuanian nation. It's not unusual to find Poles living in this area -- my wife's relatives live not that far away. So personally, I think this is quite plausible.

4. Rymut says Tamulewicz comes from the noun tama, dike, dam, wier, or the adverb tam, there. I think it might also come from the name Tomasz (Thomas) -- the o and a in Polish sound very similar, Tomulewicz is a known derivative from Tomasz, and I find son of Tom easier to swallow than son of there or son of the dike. However, I'm sure you could make a case for the others, too -- sometimes the origins of names prove to be quite imaginative! Tamulewicz is not a very common name. As of 1990 there were 169 Poles with this name, living in the provinces of Elblag (12), Gdansk (17), Koszalin (39), Legnica (11), Warsaw (12), and Zielona Gora (10), with a few other provinces having fewer than 10.

5. You listed Lewandowka, I wonder if you meant Lewandowski? That is an extremely common surname in Poland, with 89,366 Polish Lewandowskis as of 1990, living all over -- the largest numbers were in the provinces of Warsaw (7,336), Bydgoszcz (9,032), Pila (5,640), Torun (7,490) and Wloclawek (7,809). According to the best data, on the other hand, there was no one named Lewandowka. The root of either name (Lewandowski or Lewandowka) would be lawenda, the lavender bush, especially in toponyms such as Lewandów, a section of Warsaw.

6. As regards your ancestor Eulenburg, I couldn't find any place that seemed to match Ludowen, Russia. But I can say this -- much of what is now Lithuania was part of East Prussia for a long time, and many of the inhabitants, especially in the towns, spoke German. It is also true that over the centuries many Germans fled trouble in their homeland and settled in Poland, Ukraine, and Russia, so what you were told by the non-family sources about Germans ending up in Russia is true. But I don't think that's relevant here. The key is that East Prussia had large numbers of Germans, Poles, and Lithuanians living in it, but much of the surrounding territory was ruled by Russia, and later the Soviet Union grabbed it all. So German-speaking people from Lithuania born in Russia actually is not be that big a puzzle -- people from the areas in or near East Prussia up until World War I could fit that description, especially if they were even the tiniest bit less than precise when it came to geographical designations!

...Other family lore, unable to validate but stated by relative someone met in Germany years ago, indicates that there could be a relationship to the German aristocrats by this name: We had a Graf in the family...

Could be. I'll warn you that virtually every family you talk to has a family legend about how they used to be nobility -- an awful lot of the time it proves fallacious. But Poland and Lithuania did have unusually high percentages of nobility vs. peasants; the key was that most of the nobility were so-called petty nobility, not really much better off than the peasants, except they had a sword and a name. And since Germany used to include much of Poland, the same statement can sometimes be made about noble Germans, too. I wouldn't pay too much attention to this family lore unless and until you get proof -- but it's not a ridiculous notion, by any means!

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


 

Tylinski - Zielinski

I am trying to research the surnames "Tylinski" and "Zielinski" - I believe that my Tylinski Grandfather came from the Wielkopolska region - I believe from a town called "Kolo". I think the spelling is reasonably true, as he came to the U.S. sometime after 1900. I am unable to find anything on the Tylinski name (except for a few references, but nothing of substance). I have just begun searching on"Zielinski", but I know even less about my grandmother's history.

Well, ZIELINSKI is spelled with an accent over the N and pronounced roughly "zheh-LEEN-skee." It's one of many Polish names that are so common and so widespread that there is no one derivation. As of 1990 there were 85,988 Polish citizens named Zielinski, living in large numbers all over Poland. There isn't one big Zielinski family that got the name one way, there are many families who all got the name independently in different ways; if you were in a big room full of Zielinskis, you would probably find this Zielinski family got their name one way, that one another, and that one yet another. The most we can say is that the basic root of the name is ziel-, which means "green," as seen in words such as ziolo, "herb" (a "green"), zielen, "the color green," and so on. So ZIELINSKI may have started in some cases as referring to the kin of a fellow who raised or sold herbs, or a fellow who always wore green, or some other perceived association between a person or family and something green.

In most cases, however, it probably started as a reference to the name of a place the person or family came from. There are many towns, villages, estates, etc. with names like Zielen or Zielin or Zielina, all from the root meaning "green," and Zielinski could refer to any of them; it can just as easily mean "one from Zielen," "one from Zielin," "one from Zielina," etc. So there's no way to learn from the name itself anything about a given Zielinski family. Only successful genealogical research may uncover facts about which particular place the name refers to, if it refers to a place, or what the family's connection to "green" originally was, if it doesn't.

TYLINSKI is spelled with an accent over the N also, and is pronounced roughly "till-EEN-skee." Theoretically it can refer to a place name, something like Tyla or Tylin or Tylina or Tylno; but I can't find any places with names that fit. That doesn't necessarily mean much -- surnames developed centuries ago, and often the places they referred to have since disappeared, changed names, become too small to show up on most maps, etc. Often surnames came from the names locals used for a particular field or hill or other feature of the land, names that would never show up on any but the most detailed maps, or in local guides. So it is quite plausible the name means "one from Tyla" or any of the other possibilities I mentioned.

But TYLINSKI literally means "of, from, connected with the of Tyl," so it might also mean "kin of Tyl." That is a name that can come from a number of different roots, including tyl, "rear, back, behind," or tyle, "how much," or the German first name Thill, or even from a nickname from "Bartlomiej," the Polish form of "Bartholomew." So without detailed information on a specific family's background there's no way even to make a reasonable guess exactly which meaning is relevant. All I can do is list the possibilities, in hopes that one day your research will uncover some fact that will shed light on exactly how the name developed.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 739 Polish citizens named Tylinski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 103, Leszno 111, Lodz 82, and Poznan 116. So there is no one area with which this name is particularly associated; a Tylinski could come from almost anywhere in Poland, especially western Poland. I'm afraid the place name Kolo isn't necessarily much help because there are at least 3 places by that name in Poland. The one you want is probably the one east of Konin and northwest of Lodz, since as of 1999 that is in the far eastern part of modern Wielkopolska province; but it's unwise to rule out the others until you're certain. In 1990 Kolo was in Konin province, and the Slownik nazwisk directory shows no Polish citizens named Tylinski living in Konin province.

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


 

Zatorski

I found your site, and perhaps you can help me. I am attempting to find a section of my mother's family that did not manage to escape Poland before the Nazi occupation. The family name is Zatorski or Zatorsky. I am curious as to the origins of this name.

ZATORSKI is adjectival in form, and comes from the noun zator, "blockage, especially of a river's course; ice jam," or from place names derived from that noun. There are at least three villages or settlements called Zator (at least 2, one near Bielsko-Biala and one near Skierniewice) and Zatory (near Ostrołęka). As of 1990 there were 4,287 Polish citizens named Zatorski, living all over Poland. So like the vast majority of Polish surnames, this one doesn't provide a researcher a whole lot to work with.

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


 

Mądrowski - Mondrowski - Szudarek

...I was wondering if you could look in your dictionary for the names Szudarek and Mondrowski. These are my husband's grandmother's maiden name and her mother's maiden name.

There were 45 Poles named Mondrowski, in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 28, Pila 3, Piotrkow 1, Szczecin 1, Wloclawek 8, Zielona Gora 4. However, this is just another way of spelling Mądrowski (the Polish nasal a, written as an a with a tail and pronounced much like on, so that many names are often spelled either way). Mądrowski is a more common name, borne by 516 Poles in 1990. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (99), Pila (77), Poznan (49), and Szczecin (66) -- so it seems most common in northwestern and western Poland in the area, formerly ruled by the Germans.

The root is the word mądry, wise, although in many cases Mądrowski probably started out meaning "person from Mądre or Mądrowo." There is at least one place on the map I can find that qualifies, Mądre, a village in Poznan province, southeast of the city, but there may be other, smaller places that don't show up on my maps yet could be connected to this name.

As of 1990 there were 88 Poles named Szudarek. They lived in the following provinces: Gorzow 4, Katowice 8, Pila 54, Poznan 13, Szczecin 9. So the largest numbers are in northwestern Poland. According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut, the name comes from the root szudrać, meaning "to scrape, scratch."

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

 

Lichorobiec

... Hello, I am a bride to be of a Polish man with the surname Lichorobiec. I didn't see it on the surname list and wondered if you had any information on this name.

Lichorobiec, that's an interesting name, I've never run into it before. As of 1990 there were 164 Polish citizens with this name, living in the following provinces: Warsaw (1), Biala Podlaska (1), Bielsko-Biala (4), Gorzow (9), Katowice (2), Kielce (1), Krakow (7), Krosno (1), Lublin (2), Opole (3), Slupsk (1), Tarnow (120), Walbrzych (6), Zamosc (6). (I'm afraid I have no details, such as first names or addresses). Obviously the area around the city of Tarnow in southeastern Poland is where this name is most common, one would suspect it originated there and shows up in other areas because people moved from the Tarnow region. However, that's a guess, and could be wrong.

The meaning of the name is perhaps not too flattering. The root licho in Polish means "bad, miserable," and robi- comes from a root meaning "to make, do." Just looking at the name, it would appear to mean "one who makes lousy things" or "one who does not do well." But maybe it's not such a bad name: in Ukrainian the same root seems connected more with "misfortune, trouble," and since Radom is not far from Ukraine, there might be a Ukrainian influence on the name. In other words, instead of "ne'er-do-well, guy who always messes up," it may mean something more like "poor devil, one things just don't go right for."

Frankly, I'm guessing here, and it's entirely possible Lichorobiec has a specific meaning that I can't find (although it's not in my 8-volumePolish language dictionary, so that would make it a pretty rare word). But just going by what the word appears to say, that's what it would mean.

If you'd like more info, I recommend contacting the
Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow.

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

 

 

Ludwiczak

...I think I have a very rare last name. It is Ludwiczak. On My grandfather pass port He put down Karaze Poland. I have tried other people with the same name and all say the same thing. They just know that their families came here from Poland. Could you help Me to know more about the Ludwiczak name?

Ludwiczak may be rare in this country, but in Poland it's quite common. As of 1990 there were 4,579 Polish citizens by this name, living all over the country but with the largest numbers (over 200) in the provinces of Kalisz (479), Leszno (241), Lodz (383), Płock (303), Poznan (964). This is basically a strip running from Poznan and Leszno and Kalisz provinces in west central Poland up to Płock and Lodz provinces in central Poland. That's where the name is most common -- but you find decent numbers of Ludwiczaks living in every province.

The reason for this is the meaning of the name: "son of Ludwik." So this name could start anywhere they spoke Polish and had guys named Ludwik, that is, anywhere in Poland. Surnames formed from popular first names usually are common all over the country -- which makes sense, but is unfortunate in that it provides no helpful clues for those trying to find out where their family came from.

The form Karaze is suspect, it doesn't sound Polish and I can find no place by that name. I wonder if it might be Karcze? Very often these names did get misread or misspelled when immigrants filled out papers, and for that matter a c can look very much like an a. There are a several villages this might refer to, but the most likely one is Karcze in Siedlce province -- it was served by the parish church in Zbuczyn, which is where vital records would have been kept. There was another Karcze in Lithuania, near Dzisna, but the one in Siedlce province is the one I'd start with. You might do a little investigating and see if that place works out as correct. I can't guarantee it is, but from what you've told me that seems the best guess.

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

 

Miazga

...I travelled to the city of Debica, studied the history of the word Miazga in Polish, and done a great deal of genealogical information. If you would be interested in corresponding or mentioning if you have even stumbled upon the name, please e-mail me.

Miazga is not a name I could find any expert comment on. In my book on Polish surnames I noted a possible derivation, from the noun miazga, meaning "pulp, chyle." It's a little tough figuring exactly how such a name came to be applied to a person, but we see so many examples of this in Polish that we have to accept it: sometimes a surname comes from a nickname, and it's tough to know how nicknames get started (people are still arguing over the exact origin of Groucho Marx's name!).

This is a pretty common name, as of 1990 there were 2,905 Poles named Miazga. The largest numbers lived in these provinces: Warsaw 232, Lublin 356, Radom 138, Rzeszow 324, Tarnobrzeg 147, Tarnow 125, Zamosc 191. Clearly it's most common in southeastern Poland, although there are smaller numbers living in virtually every province.

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

 

Mojsiewicz - Onychimowicz

...I am trying to find the origins of my family name Mojsiewicz [from the region of Nowogrodek] and to determine whether the Jewish connotations of this name would indicate that the family converted at some time to Catholicism. It has been suggested to me that the name has its roots further eastwards towards Armenia but I'm not sure of the thinking behind this.

Mojsiewicz is probably from Ukraine or Belarus, since "Mojsiej" is the form of the name "Moses" in the East Slavic languages, while "Mojzesz" is the Polish form. So it's probably of Russian, Ukrainian, or Belarusian origin. What's most likely is that the family came from one of the East Slavic countries, and the name was probably written in Cyrillic, but at some point it came to be written by Poles and thus the Polish spelling -ewicz added to the not-so-Polish first part ... Mojsiewicz was the name of some 281 Poles as of 1990, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Gdansk (25), Koszalin (31), Olsztyn (25), Slupsk (33), Szczecin and (48). That's a long way from Ukraine, but we can probably thank World War II and all the forced relocations after it for that -- I'll bet before the war these names showed up mostly in eastern Poland... In the last century or two names from forms of "Moses" tend to be associated primarily with Jews, so one would expect the family to have been Jewish at one point, although from what you say it sounds as if your family must have converted to Christianity. But since Jews in Eastern Europe generally did not take surnames until the 1800's, this would suggest the family must have converted within the last 150 years.

As for place of origin, Armenia seems unlikely. The suffix -ewicz (Polish spelling) or -evich (Russian, Belarusian spelling) or -evych (Ukrainian spelling) is Slavic, and the Armenians aren't Slavs. That doesn't mean a family by that name might not have been in Armenia for a while; but I think we're fairly safe saying the name is not of Armenian linguistic origin.

...Secondly I am interested in the name Onychimowicz [from the same region] - some genpollers thought the origins may be Greek Orthodox.

Onychimowicz and Onichimowicz don't appear in the surname directory, but we do see Onichimiuk (that -iuk ending is very much East Slavic!) borne by 183 Poles, and Onichimowski (142), and numerous names from the Onisk- root, e. g. Onisk (393), Oniszczuk (1,222), Oniszko (204), Onyszczuk (259), Onyszko (473), etc. So this particular form is rare in Poland these days, but you can probably find something very similar in Ukraine.

This name means "son of Onychim" (for our purposes -owicz and -ewicz may be regarded as identical) and the Greek Orthodox theory is probably right. There's a Ukrainian name Onysim (from a Greek term meaning "useful, advantageous"), and I'm fairly certain Onychim is a variant of it (the guttural sound of ch often gets switched around with other sounds). So this is almost certainly a name of Ukrainian origin (if it were Belarusian the o would probably have become an a, Anychim). I can't seem to find any source that confirms this, but I've run into this name often enough to feel fairly certain I'm right.

... I have read in Rymut that the surnames Mojsiewicz and Mosiewicz are of a different root - do you think this is absolute or are there any circumstances under which the two names may have been confused or amalgamated [i.e. by Russian officials]?

You never say "never" with surnames, and certainly names with Mos- sometimes derive from various forms of the name "Moses," just as they can come from other sources. I will say this: it's dangerous placing too much emphasis on a single letter in any name, but that j in Mojsiewicz really does increase the odds that that name is from "Moses." It's not absolute, and certainly the names could have been confused.

The problem is, however, that you can only put so much weight on linguistic analysis before it snaps. One solid fact is enough to topple the most sophisticated analysis, and accidents happen -- one tired clerk writing a J when he didn't mean to can confuse even the best onomastics expert! If you trace the family back by the difficult and tiresome process of genealogical research, analysis of the name can often help confirm ideas about its origin; but analysis of the name seldom gives you anything solid enough to take you where you want to go without research.

Having said all that, however, in most cases I've found that if a letter like that J persists, it usually is a reliable indicator.

In a later note Kristin gave some additional info:

...as we have a photo of a document from 1680 naming a Danilo Mojsiewicz Onychimowicz, but the crest of arms on this document have been identified as the Mosiewicz emblem (Topacz herbu). Which leads me to all this confusion....

This additional info definitely changes things! It is very hard for me to imagine that this Danilo (a Ukrainian form of the name "Daniel") could have been a noble in 1680 if he were a Jew! Jews were ennobled sometimes, mainly if they provided major financial support for kings or other big-wigs in money trouble -- but such cases were rare. Also, I can't imagine Onychimowicz as a Jewish name -- it almost certainly means he was Greek Catholic or Orthodox. So Mojsiewicz, there, is highly unlikely to be Jewish; it may still mean "son of Moses" but dating from a time before the name Mojsiej became so strongly associated with Jews. I found one source that says before the 18th century Mojzesz (or Mojsiej) was a name used by Christians and Jews, only after then did it come to be almost exclusively associated with Jews. I also found a source that cites legal records from 1437, 1472, and 1493 which mention farmers named Mojsiej living in Ukraine and Lithuania. In that time and place it would be pretty unusual to find a Jew who owned land in Ukraine and farmed it -- it's not impossible, but it would be rare!!!

So if we're talking that kind of time frame, Mojsiewicz could mean "son of Moses" and refer to a Christian. "Danilo" could be Christian or Jewish, but Onychimowicz is almost certainly Ukrainian Christian, perhaps Orthodox, perhaps Greek Catholic. (I don't often deal with people who have records back to 1680, which is why I generally view things from a time-frame of 18th century on unless something tells me otherwise.)

But that still leaves the question of the Mosiewicz emblem and the Mojsiewicz name. There just isn't enough info to justify a conclusion. There are other, non-Jewish names Mojsiewicz or Mosiewicz could come from, including the old pagan compound name Mojslaw (literally "my fame") -- as I believe you noted, Rymut specifically mentions that names in Mosi- and Mosz- could have arisen as short forms or nicknames from that name, and if so Mojsiewicz and Mosiewicz may merely be variant of the same name, "son of Mojslaw." It is not all uncommon to see different spellings of the same name, in that context the presence or absence of that J would not necessarily mean much. So that theory is tenable; but so is the "Mojsiej" = Moses theory.

In any case, I think the added info you cited makes it extremely unlikely that Danilo was Jewish. That info strongly suggests the name derived either from one of those ancient Slavic compound names, such as Mojmir or Mojslaw, or from the East Slavic form of "Moses" dating from a time when that name was still widely used by Christians.

Thanks for telling me more, it certainly made a difference!

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

 

Nowakowski - Sanocki

...I thought I would inquire about these names. Sanocki I can find nowhere. The Nowakowski name was changed to Novak. Could you tell me a little something about these names.

Nowakowski is an extremely common name, as of 1990 there were 54,178 Polish citizens by that name. It comes from several places with names such as Nowaki, Nowakowo; those place names come from the word nowak, new fellow, new guy in town, from the root now-, new. Nowak also sometimes was applied to converts to Christianity, who were new men, so to speak. The same name is very common in other Slavic languages, especially Czech, where it is spelled Novak (but is pronounced virtually the same as Polish Nowak, NO-vahk).

Sanocki would have originated as meaning coming from or otherwise connected with Sanok -- Sanok is the name of a good-sized town in Krosno province in far southeastern Poland ("Sanok" in turn comes from the name of the San River). This is a fairly common name, as of 1990 there were 1,006 Polish citizens named Sanocki. They lived all over Poland, but the largest numbers were in the provinces of Gorzow (80), Katowice (71), Krosno (172), Pila (94), and Przemysl (118) -- the highest concentrations are, as one would expect, in southeast Poland, near Sanok.

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


 

Okrzyński

...I have just recently read a text version of chapter one of your book Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings. I found this information very interesting and found myself wanting to find out more seeing as I am in the process of researching my roots... Through my investigative process I have found that my maiden surname, Okrzynski, is not very common, but should prove to be very interesting in its source, and it is that reason that I am writing to you today.

Okrzyński is, indeed, a pretty rare name. As of 1990 there were only 95 Polish citizens by this name, living in the provinces of Jelenia Gora (31), Katowice (2), Legnica (2), Lodz (1), Opole (7), Rzeszow (1), Szczecin (16), Tarnobrzeg (10), Walbrzych (8), and Wroclaw (16). (I'm afraid I have no further data, no first names or addresses, just this). It's hard to see much of a pattern to that distribution, except the name is mainly to be found in western Poland.

Surnames ending in -yński are usually from toponyms (place names), and in this case I would expect the place to be named something like Okra -- but I could find only two in my sources. One is the name of a river, the Okra, a tributary of the Dniepr in Ukraine. The other was the Polish name of a village near what is now Daugavpils, Latvia -- which means it might now be in Latvia, in Lithuania, or in Belarus, and God only knows what its name is, if it still exists. (The village was served by the Catholic parish in Birzagol and was in the rural district of Kapino, just in case you care to look into this more). There may be a place or places in Poland named Okra that are too small to show up on the maps or in gazetteers, or have changed names, or vanished, yet gave rise to the surname centuries ago. But I was unable to find any of them.

[Note: Alice later wrote me as follows:]

...During my research I came across a national park named Swietokrzyski, as well as a plant name Okrzyn jeleni (Laserpitium archangelica). The plant is found only in the Babiogorski Park. Could this possibly be connected in any way??

[I congratulated her on her research, and agreed that it might very well come from the name of this or a similar plant. But the following advice is still good:]

If you'd like to learn more, I recommend contacting the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow.

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


 

Orlicki

...Have ordered your book but my surname, Orlicki, may not be in it since my paternal forebears were/are in Galicia (sort of a grey area now, methinks).

Anyone who orders my book is welcome to whatever help I can give. I will tell you that Orlicki is in the book because it's a fairly common surname in Poland -- so even though the eastern half of Galicia is now in the independent country of Ukraine, there were enough Orlickis left within Poland's current boundaries that the name obviously needed to be in my book. But here I can go into a little more detail than I did in the book (although obviously the book gives a whole lot more background -- I hope you won't regret buying it, and if reaction from others is any guide, I believe you won't).

...Dad and one of his brothers came to the US about 1905 and the surname somehow came out as Orlitzky. When he applied for Soc. Sec. the records had to reflect the Orlitzky name. I think probably that was the phonetic spelling of Orlicki. At that time of course he spoke no English so the mistake was not corrected. The phonetic spelling of immigrant names was not uncommon as I understand.

Yes, Orlitzky is a German or English phonetic spelling of Orlicki, which is pronounced sort of like oar-LEET-skee. And phonetic spelling of immigrant names was exceedingly common. You're kind of lucky the name wasn't mangled a lot worse than this!

...I have no documented family history, but oral history has the family origin at the time of one of the Mongol invasions during the 13th century and that the surname Orlicki derives from the Polish root word for eagle. Dad was not one to live in the past, so what little family history I can recall came from my mother's recollection of what he told her. (Dad was not one to exaggerate either). As you know each generation rewrites history and oral history probably has little resemblance to the facts.

This could well be true. You're right, of course, family oral history can be notoriously unreliable -- and yet every so often it turns out to be right on the button. Obviously I have no resources to say anything about your family at the time of the Mongol invasions, but it is absolutely true that Orlicki derives from the Polish word orzeł, eagle (when endings are added the z and e both drop out, leaving the root orl-). The surname might have been formed from a nickname like Orlicz (son of the eagle) or Orlik (little eagle), or it may derive from a place name such as Orlik or Orlicze, referring to a family connection to a place with such a name (if they were noble, they may once have owned an estate with such a name; if they were peasants, they may have worked on or come from such a place). There are several ways one could end up with the name -- but the bottom line is, somewhere along the line eagle had something to do with it. A person's bravery may have reminded folks of an eagle, he might have followed the standard of the eagle in battle, etc.

As of 1990 there were 1,085 Polish citizens named Orlicki. They lived all over the country, with the highest numbers in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (226), Katowice (100), Krakow (77), Olsztyn (65), Poznan (78), and Radom (83). I don't see any particular pattern in that distribution, except that the highest concentration appears in provinces in southcentral Poland (Bielsko-Biala, Katowice, and Krakow). I don't see any useful conclusion to be drawn from that, but it's worth remarking on -- you never know what fact might prove relevant down the line.

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


 

Pankevych - Pankiewicz

...I am wondering what my name means, I am in the process of writing a simple family history. I have family in Canada, U.S.A., Poland, and Ukraine. In Poland the spelling is Pankiewicz, in Canada there are variations, like Pankewycz (which is my name). I don't have a font that will do Ukrainian lettering. My father was born in Dobra Sljachetska, and my Grandfather was from Bryzawa and Lypa. I have been told that the family was originally from Tarnopol.

As I think you realize, the different spellings are all of the same name, but there are slight phonetic differences between Polish and Ukrainian, and the Cyrillic and Roman alphabets have different ways of rendering them. So basically Pankiewicz and Pankevych are the spellings a Pole and a Ukrainian, respectively, would write the name down when they heard it spoken; Pankewycz would be a kind of hybrid form, and such forms are very common.

As of 1990 there were some 3,157 Poles with the name Pankiewicz. They lived pretty much all over Poland, with no apparent pattern to the distribution -- the name could and did arise in many different places. This makes sense, it means "son of panek," a name that could get started almost anywhere Polish or Ukrainian (perhaps also Belarusian) are spoken -- I'm sure there are plenty of Pankevych's in Ukraine, though I have no way of checking... In any case, the real question is, what does panek mean in this case?

It could have several derivations. The most obvious is as a diminutive of pan, "lord, master," also "bridegroom"; as best I can tell, this term was and still is used much the same way in Ukrainian as well as Polish. So panek could mean "little master, little lord," but could also mean "son of the master, son of the lord" -- often -ek used as a diminutive did have a patronymic sense to it. Panek was also used in its own right as a term meaning "minor noble," one who owned some land but not enough to be considered a real big-wig. So in Pankiewicz/Pankevych we might possibly have a name that was meant to be insulting, applied to the son of a fellow who acted like he was a lord; or it might come from an affectionate way of referring to a popular lord, "little master's son"; or it might be a straightforward name meaning simply "son of the minor noble."

The other very real possibility is that Pankiewicz might be patronymic for the son of a fellow named Panek or Panko, nicknames derived from such first names as Pankrac, Pantelejmon, Opanas, etc. -- this is especially likely in view of the Ukrainian connection, since those last two names were more common in Ukraine than in Poland. This is not unlike the way English-speakers took the name "Edward," chopped off the last syllable, and added the diminutive suffix to make "Eddie" -- the same process could produce Panek or Panko from one of those longer names. Then the son of such a fellow would be called Pankiewicz. This could certainly happen with a Polish family, but I suspect it would be even more likely with a Ukrainian family.

We don't have enough data to determine which of these plausible derivations is right in your family's case. Probably the only way to find that out would be to do detailed research on your family, and you'd be rather lucky if documents still exist that go back far enough to settle the matter. But it seems pretty certain the name either means basically "son of the little lord" or "son of Panek," with Panek being a nickname for a fellow with one of those other names I mentioned. The connection with Dobra Szlachecka (literally "noble's estate") might add just a little more weight on the side of the "lord's son" theory.

By the way, since this name could get started several different ways, it's not surprising it is so common. And the fact it is common suggests it did get started several different ways; some Pankiewiczes are "little lord's sons" and some are "Panek's/Panko's sons." That is circular reasoning, I know, but things often do seem to work that way in the world of name derivations.

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


 

Pettkus - Tomaschewski - Tomaszewski

...Do you have any info on the origin or meaning of Tomaschewski or Pettkus? These were my grandparents' last names. Their birth records show that they were born in Sonnenborn and Tawelleningken, Germany, in 1888. Supposedly these were parts of Prussia..... I have traced Sonnenborn to now being Stoneczik, Poland...any help with the names would be appreciated.........thank you

Pettkus is an interesting name, because I would expect it to show up in Poland, yet a 1990 Polish government database shows no one by that name in the country! I looked under all the spelling variants I could think of, especially Petkus (Polish rarely uses double letters), and none of them showed up. The closest I got was Pettke, of which there were 372, living in the provinces of Elblag (19), Gdansk (342!), Slupsk (7), and Torun (4) -- all in northwestern Poland, in the areas ruled by the Germans. I have run into many cases before where a name undoubtedly existed in Poland at one time but has since died out, and this may be another such case. The linguistic origin of the name is almost certainly a German-influenced form of a Polish nickname for Piotr, Peter -- the original Polish nickname may have been something like Pietka, Pietko, Pietek, and under German influence it was modified to Pettke or Pettkus. I have no sources that document this, so I'm not 100% certain about it, but this explanation is very plausible and I'm confident it is, in fact, correct.

Tomaschewski is simply a spelling by German phonetic values of the common Polish surname Tomaszewski (the sh sound is spelled sch by Germans and sz by Poles). This name comes ultimately from the first name Tomasz, Thomas. The -ewski ending usually indicates an origin with a place that has a name ending in -ew or -ewo or -ewa or -ow or -owo or -owa (also sometimes -e or -y). You'd expect Tomaszewski to mean person coming from or formerly owning or somehow connected with a place called Tomaszew, Tomaszewo, Tomaszow. Unfortunately, there are quite a few places with these names, so without further information you can't tell which of those places is the one your ancestors got their name from.

Since there are several places with names that could yield Tomaszewski, you'd expect the surname to be pretty common and spread all over the country -- and that is the case. As of 1990 there were 38,139 Polish citizens with this name, and there's no real pattern to their distribution -- the largest numbers of them tend to show up in the provinces with the largest populations.

A gazetteer of German place names says Tawellningken was also called Tawellenbruch, and was in Kreis Niederung in East Prussia; a separate source says that there were two places by this name, apparently very close to each other; one had civil and Protestant records kept in Seckenburg, the other had Protestant records kept in Seckenburg, Catholic records kept in Schillgallen, civil records in Inse. Trying to find what these places are now called is not easy. I found Seckenburg -- it used to be in East Prussia, but now it's called Zapovednoye, and it's 69 km. northeast of Kaliningrad, in that little separate section of Russia that sits on the Baltic, just north of Poland and west of Lithuania. I was not able to find anything on the other places, but at least this will give you a notion where to look for more info.

By the way, the Polish name for Sonnenborn is Słonecznik, with a slashed l, not Stonecznik. This is an easy mistake to make, the l with a slash through it looks like a t, but it's not -- it's what the Poles consider a hard l and is pronounced like our w. Anyway, Słonecznik is a few km. south of Morag in the northern part of Elblag province in modern Poland. This area, too, was part of East Prussia back when the region was under German rule. If you look on a map you'll see that Elblag province is just south of the area where Seckenburg/Zapovednoye is located. So far northern Elblag province, that little separate section of Russia around Kaliningrad, and perhaps some of the adjacent portions of Lithuania are where you need to look for your ancestors.

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


 

Pilarski - Sytek

... I was wondering if you have any information regarding the surnames of Pilarski and Sytek. I believe the Sytek name came from the area of Posen, Poland.

Pilarski comes from the word pilarz, "sawyer," that is, one who saws. Actually pilarski is the adjectival form, meaning "of, belonging to, relating to a sawyer"; when used as a surname, it would mean little more than "kin of the sawyer." Often these -ski names also derive from place names which in turn derive from other names or terms, but I can find no places that seem to qualify. So I think basically you could just say it's the equivalent of the name Sawyer in English. It is a very common name, as of 1990 there were 8,544 Poles by this name. They lived all over the country, in every province, with especially large numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (954), Katowice (737), and Poznan (610) -- I see no real pattern to the distribution, just that the most Pilarskis live in the provinces that have the largest populations.

Sytek is much less common, as of 1990 there were only 251 Poles by this name, spread out all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (68), Kielce (24), and Poznan (55). The derivation, according to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut, is from the adjective syty, meaning "well fed, sated." The -ek suffix is a diminutive, meaning "little ..." and often used to mean "son of," so this name would mean either "a little guy who's well fed" or "son of the well-fed guy." I should mention that the dictionary also shows syta as mead or syrup for feeding bees, which might be relevant -- in both cases we see the common meaning of "food, nourishment." But it seems to me most likely the surname started out as a nickname for the son of a fellow who obviously hadn't missed too many meals!

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


 

Pochopień

...I would appreciate any information you may have on the name Pochopien (my father's) or Litko (my mother's). Both are of Polish ancestry having grown up in Chicago.

Pochopień is a name I'm not positive about. In Polish this root appears in the adjective pochopny, hasty, inconsiderate (i.e., a fellow who's quick to grab whatever he wants and slow to let go), and in the verb pochopić, to catch, grasp, to understand. This is a reasonable interpretation, and grammatically Pochopień makes sense coming from pochopny, so this explanation is probably correct; but I couldn't find any source in which Polish scholars confirmed this, so I like to let folks know there's a question mark beside it.

I note that in Czech there's a term pochopeni that means "understanding," and citove pochopeni means "sympathy." I guess in Czech that same meaning of "grasp" is associated more with "ability to grasp the situation and understand it," whereas in Polish it sometimes means that but can also refer to someone who's grasping, hasty, inconsiderate.

I've also wondered in the past if this name might be a variant of some other names that sound kind of similar, based on the root półchłop-, literally "half man, half peasant." This term was sometimes applied to a man who'd been castrated, but more often to a peasant who owned half a full-sized farm. The ł is pronounced like our w and is often barely pronounced, so it's not stretching things to note that "Półchłop-" could often sound like "Pochop-," and thus there might be a connection. I doubt it, but it's worth mentioning as a possibility, I guess. But I'd need really good evidence before I'd take this for Gospel -- the other explanations seem quite a bit more likely.

As of 1990 there were 1,095 Polish citizens by this name, so it's not a rare name. It shows up all over Poland, but the largest numbers were in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (497), Katowice (254), Krakow (107); in other words the name is most common in far south-central Poland, very near the border with the Czech Republic. That's why I wonder whether the first Polish meaning (grasping) or the Czech meaning (understanding) is more relevant -- if a given family with this name came from the southern part, near the Czech border, it might have started more as a compliment, Pochopień = "fellow quick to grasp the situation" as opposed to "guy hastily grabbing everything in sight." I'm really not sure which is relevant in this case, so I thought I'd mention both.

Litko is a little easier. The -ko is a diminutive suffix ("little ..."), which strongly suggests this started as a nickname for a fellow with a name like Lutobor, Lutogniew, Lutoslaw, etc. Those are all ancient pagan compound names with the root lut-, "strong, ferocious," so that Lutogniew was a name of good omen meaning "may his anger be ferocious," Lutoslaw meant "may his fame be strong," etc. The same root shows up in modern Polish in such terms as litować się, "to have mercy." Poles loved to take names, chop off all but the first few sounds, then add suffixes, sort of the same way we turned "Edward" into "Eddie." So basically Litko started out as a nickname of a man with such a name, or perhaps a name for his son ("little Lutobor" -> Litko).

The funny thing is, many names from this root are rather common -- there were 468 Poles named Litka in 1990, 474 named Litke, 586 named Litkowski - but only 27 named Litko! That surprised me a little, I would have expected the name to be more common. The 27 Litko's lived in the provinces of Gdansk (2), Katowice (8), Konin (12), Lublin (2), and Walbrzych (3). I'm afraid I don't have addresses or any more info on them, what I've given is all I have.

If you'd like to get more expert input on the Pochopień name, you could write the
Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow.

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


 

Jarmulowicz - Rutkowski

...We're going to Poland in April - unable to learn where my ancestors where born, but would love to know anything about my mother's maiden name Jarmulowicz and my father's name Rutkowski.

As regards the name Jarmułowicz (the ł stands for the Polish slashed l, pronounced like our w), the -owicz suffix means "son of," so it means "son of Jarmul(a/o)." Jarmul/Jarmula/Jarmulo could come from the root jarm- meaning "yoke" or "noise," but I strongly suspect in this case it comes from an Eastern Slavic (Ukrainian, Russian, or Belarusian) name we'd spell as "Yermolai" or "Yarmolai" (from a Greek name meaning "clan of Hermes"). The one thing we're sure of is that the name started as a patronymic, a name formed from one's father's name, and the father was called something like Jarmul, Jarmula, Jarmulo; that may have been a Polish name from the root meaning "yoke" or "noise," or it may have been the fairly common Eastern Slavic first name Yermolai. As of 1990 there were 281 Polish citizens with this name, scattered all over Poland but with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (34), Katowice (23), Łomża (20), Suwałki (52), and Wroclaw (26) -- I see no useful pattern there, the Jarmułowiczes basically live all over Poland. (Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names, addresses, etc.).

The one thing I do see that might be a little helpful is that if Jarmulowicz does come from that East Slavic name, it probably is from the Belarusian form, rather than Ukrainian or Russian -- in those languages it's usually Yermolai, in Belarusian it is Yarmolai. In other words, that Jar- beginning (which is pronounced like Yar- anyway) suggests the name more likely originated in Belarus than in Russia or Ukraine. And I notice a lot of the Jarmułowiczes live in Suwałki and Łomża provinces, up in northeastern Poland, near the border with Belarus. So while it isn't certain, there is some evidence to suggest your family probably came from northeastern Poland or western Belarus.

Rutkowski is a much more common name, as of 1990 there were 41,363 Poles by this name. They lived all over the country, here are the provinces with more than 1,500: Warsaw (4123), Białystok (2048), Gdansk (1841), Katowice (1815), Lodz (1622), Płock (1596), Torun (1928), and Wloclawek (1567). Names ending in -owski usually originated as references to a place name, and we would expect Rutkowski to refer to villages name Rutka, Rutki, Rutkowo, etc. There are at least 9 such places in Poland, so without a lot more detailed info there's no way to make an informed guess as to which one your ancestors came from. Sadly, that's the way it is with most Polish surnames based on place names: the only way to know which place your people came from is if you have so much info on them that you probably already know exactly where they came from! Once in a while a surname will give you a useful clue, but not often.

Anyway, I hope this info is a little help to you, and I hope your trip to Poland is wonderful!

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

Surname 5 Combined File

LUTY

… If you could help me with a quick note on the origin of the Luty name. I have run into a stonewall, my Luty side of the family has been deceased for over twenty years, and all the info I have sent away for has not been very helpful. I truly appreciate this, and will contact you again when I have further my geneologic research.

Polish name experts agree that Luty can come from the Polish word luty, which is the Polish name for the month of February. It's not unusual to see names of months used as surnames; perhaps such names began as a way to commemorate when a person was born, or a time of year when he performed some special service... Luty can also come from the root that gives February its Polish name, luty, "severe, bleak" (in other words, it's the "bleak" month); this root also appears in ancient Slavic pagan names such as Lutobor ("one severe in battle"), and sometimes the surname could have begun as a short form or nickname for such names beginning with the root Lut-. So it's hard to pin down exactly what the meaning of the name was originally; but since this form matches that of the month's name exactly, I lean toward thinking the name Luty (as opposed to others beginning with Lut-) probably did start as a reference to the month.

It is not an uncommon name in Poland; as of 1990 there were 2,033 Polish citizens named Luty. They were not concentrated in any one part of the country, you run into the name pretty much everywhere.


GORZKIEWICZ

… Im hoping you can help me. My wife and I have been trying to research her family but cant seem to get any where with her family name. Can you tell me anything about the name " Gorzkiewicz"

Names starting with Gor- are a challenge in Polish, because that root has several different meanings, and it can be terribly difficult to straighten the tangle out and figure which one is applicable to a particular name. The root can refer to góra, "mountain, elevation," or it can refer to gorzeć, "to burn," or it can refer to gorzki, "bitter"; it can also appear in old Slavic pagan compound names such as Gorzysław ("one who burns for glory," or "one of burning glory"), because such names were often abbreviated, so that Gorzek or Gorzko could easily have started as a short form or nickname for a fellow with one of those names. So about the best I can do is make an educated guess.

The suffix -ewicz is easy, at least, it means "son of." So we're dealing with a name "son of Gorzk-." I would think this would be the first name Gorzko (or possibly Gorzek), so the name was probably first applied to sons or kin of a man named Gorzko. He might have gotten that name because he had a bitter disposition, but I think it's more likely he had one of those names from the ancient pagan names such as Gorzysław; that's usually the way it works out in these cases, according to the experts. So I believe the surname means "son of Gorzko," with Gorzko being a kind of nickname for Gorzysław or a similar name. If so, the surname is probably pretty old -- a 1394 entry in a legal record mentions a fellow named either Gorzek or Gorzko (the name is Latinized, so it's hard to say for sure which form was meant in Polish).

As of 1990 there were 1,173 Polish citizens named Gorzkiewicz; they lived all over the country, but the largest numbers were in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (81), Kalisz (138), Lodz (351), which are all roughly in central and west central Poland. However, significant numbers people by this name appeared in the other provinces, so we can't really point with any certainty to any particular area and say "Here's where the Gorzkiewicz'es come from." Most likely the name developed independently in many different parts of the country.


DEPUT

… Have you any record of the surname Deput in your listings?

The 10-volume set of surnames used by Polish citizens as of 1990 does have a listing for Deput. There were 125 Poles by that name, living in the following provinces: Warsaw 70, Elblag 7, Gdansk 4, Lublin 1, Olsztyn 28, Pila 2, Przemysl 4, Rzeszow 4, Torun 4, Wroclaw 1. Unfortunately I do not have access to any further data such as first names or addresses.

The name presumably comes from a shortening of the term deputat, "envoy, delegate," which is of Latin origin.


WĄDOŁOWSKI

[This is a response to some materials he sent in Polish that shed light on the origin of the surname Wądołowski in the case of his particular family. I’m including it here because others with this name may find the information useful, or at least interesting. – WFH]

The material Lucjan Wądołowski sent you consists of excerpts from a Polish armorial by Ignacy Kapica Milewski, citations from old records that mention Wądołowskis of Odrowąż arms and of Grabiec arms. The Polish is archaic and would take me quite a while to translate, and I am on deadline right now for several publications, so I can't translate the whole thing. But I can spare a few minutes to summarize some of the entries.

The first section is on Wądołowski's of Odrowąż arms. The first notation comes from an entry in 1421, the records of Opoczynsko in Sandomierz district, mentioning a Jan Koniecki, squire of Konskie, who was apparently an ancestor of the next fellow mentioned. The second entry is from 1470 and quotes entries in legal records for the Commonwealth Chancellory, saying a Maciej Koniecki acquired 20 wlokas of the forest called "Wandały" and later called "Wądoły," in Wizna district, and founded the village Koniecki Wądołowo, from which his heirs took the name Wądołowski, of Odrowąż arms. The 1577 entry is from Łomża city records, and the 1580 from Wizna city records, etc., telling of routine matters where so and so "signed off" [pisze sie] on something.

The second section is a text entry telling some of the history of the Wądołowski's of Odrowąż arms, who appear to be the same family, in the same areas, as mentioned above. The last entry -- the one most likely to tell you whether these people are any connection to you -- comes from 1792, and mentions Stanisław z Koniecki-Wądołowa Wądołowski, the son of the married couple Wojciech Wądołowski and his wife Jean nee Karwowski, grandson of Mateusz Wądołowski, City Burgrave of Wizna, swore loyalty to the Wizna district regency.

The final section cites mentions of another Wądołowski group, bearing Grabiec arms. It mentions that in 1413 the Prince of Mazovia confirms a charter whereby Scibor of Sanchocin, whose lands included a section of 10 wloka's lying below Strumkowska Gora [the name of a góra, a hill or mountain] near Łomża called Wandałowo or Wądołowo, transferred those lands and others to Michal, Andrzej, Stanisław and Chlewietka Drażewski, and they settled there and founded the village of Wądołowo, from which they took the name Wądołowski. The subsequent entries mention these people and the heirs of Chlewietka in 1423, 1479, and 1503.

This tells you there were apparently two different noble families named Wądołowski, one named for land near Opoczno in what is now Piotrkow province in central Poland, the other for lands near Łomża in northeastern Poland. You'll have to determine whether either is likely to be any relation to you. If not, this information won't do you any good. But if you find traces of your family near Łomża or Opoczno, this just might help you.

There is a gentleman named David Zincavage <jdz@inr.net > who has a pretty good armorial library, he might be able to tell you more about this family -- if you haven't talked to him (I may have referred you to him earlier). He usually answers questions fairly quickly, so it might be worth your while to get in touch with him and see if he can add anything to this from other armorials.

I hope this is some use to you, and have a great time in Poland!


POLEK

… I found out that there were 1227 people as of 1990 in Poland with the name Polek, and was referred to you to inquire where in Poland they live according to their region.

As of 1990 people by this name lived in virtually every province of Poland, so there is no way to point to any specific area and say "That's where your Polek's came from." The distribution does show a definite concentration in southcentral and southeastern Poland, however, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice (105), Krakow (129), Rzeszow (71), Tarnobrzeg (224), and Tarnow (301).

That's about the only conclusion we can draw from the data available: Polek's live all over the country, but the largest numbers live in southcentral and especially southeastern Poland (the last three provinces mentioned).


SPYCHALSKI

… I was wondering if you have ever came across the surname of Spychalski. I not been able to find any information on this surname except that the Head of State of Poland the late 60s was Marion Spychalski. Hopefully knowing the origins of the name can help.

Probably not, because it's a rather common name. As of 1990 there were 3,511 Poles with this name, living all over the country. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of: Bydgoszcz 559, Gdansk 264, Kalisz 243, Lodz 224, Pila 223, Poznan 241, and Wloclawek 358, with smaller numbers in virtually every province. From that data about the most you can say is that the name tends to be more common in central and western Poland, in the areas formerly ruled by the Germans. Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut says it derives from the term spychać, "to push, thrust, drive"; the name Spychala is very common (4,747 Poles as of 1990) -- it would mean "one always pushing, driving," and Spychalski would be an adjectival form of that name. This would suggest the surname Spychalski started out meaning something like "kin of Spychala," with that presumably originating as a nickname for someone who was always pushing or trying to get people moving.

I'm sorry I can't give you more detailed information, but for what it's worth, I'd say at least 90% of Polish surnames don't provide any useful clue as to exactly where they originated. Once in a while I can dig up something that proves helpful, but usually the names are too common, or too ambiguous, to really tell us anything useful.


ZAKRZEWSKI

Zakrzewski is my maternal grandfathers name. I know he immigrated the the US alone at the age of 15 and was later joined by other family members. I know he was born in Poland prior to 1900 unfortunately my mother cannot remember a town or city. My mother pronounces her maiden name Zachevski. Any help on the origin/translation would be helpful.

This is a very common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 26,210 Poles named Zakrzewski, living all over the country. In Polish it is pronounced roughly "zok-SHEF-skee," and it comes from the roots za-, "past, beyond, on the other side of," + krzew, "bush." So you could interpret it as "the one who lived past the bushes," but in practice it usually refers to a specific village or town named Zakrzew or Zakrzewo, which, in turn, got those names because they were located in a bushy area. The problem is, there's a whole bunch of those, all over Poland -- way too many to allow us to point at any one and say "That's where you came from."

I'm sorry I can't give you more detailed information, but for what it's worth, I'd say at least 90% of Polish surnames don't provide any useful clue as to exactly where they originated. Once in a while I can dig up something that proves helpful, but usually the names are too common, or too ambiguous, to really tell us anything useful.


STYPA -- WOLCZEWSKI

… I was looking for information on the Polish surnames of Stypa and Wolcheski. I am sure the spelling has changed greatly over the years. If there is any information you can pass on to me i would appreciate it.

According to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut, Stypa comes from the noun stypa, "funeral banquet," the term for the banquet usually given for mourners after a funeral. Offhand it's unclear exactly how that would come to be a surname -- perhaps it originally was a nickname for someone who always seemed to be giving such banquets, or who gave particularly good ones, or maybe even someone who was always showing up for them (kind of like a professional mourner, or someone always looking to mooch a free meal?). Those are just guesses -- all these centuries after the name started, about all we can be sure of is that it referred to some connection between a person or family and funeral banquets.

As of 1990 there 1,058 Polish citizens named Stypa; they lived all over Poland, but nearly half lived in the province of Katowice (420) in south central Poland -- the rest were scattered all over, with no other province having even 100. I can't imagine why they would be so concentrated in Katowice province, and of course there's no guarantee that's where the family you're interested in came from. But the numbers suggest that might be an area to look at more closely.

Wolcheski is harder because it's unlikely that was the original spelling -- it doesn't look or sound right, and there was no one by that name in Poland as of 1990. Most likely the spelling has been changed to fit English phonetics. If so, I'd guess the original spelling was Wolczewski, except that name is also virtually unheard of in Poland; there were 4 Wolczewski's, all living in Krakow province, and 5 who spelled it with the L with a slash through it, living in the provinces of Gdansk (2), Gorzow (1), Olsztyn (1), and Ostrołęka (1). It's possible those are the people you're looking for (unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses). However, it's also possible the original form of the name was something else, not obvious. So if your research turns up any other spellings -- perhaps Wloczewski or Wlochowski, there are several possibilities -- get back to me and I'll see if I can tell you anything about them.


DRAŻBA

… I am looking for information on the name Drazba. I would appreciate any information you could give me.

I've never run into this name before, but it's not all that rare: as of 1990 there were 386 Polish citizens named Drażba (I'm using ż to stand for the Polish z with a dot over it, pronounced like the "s" in "pleasure"). The vast majority, 267, lived in the province of Suwałki in northeastern Poland, with tiny numbers scattered in numerous other provinces. That makes me wonder if the name might be of either Lithuanian or Belarusian origin -- but I have a pretty good source on Lithuanian names, and while it says there are a few people by this name in Lithuania, it offers no meaning. So this suggests the name may be Belarusian, and unfortunately I have very little on names in that language.

A massive 8-volume Polish-language dictionary does mention drażba as a dialect variant of the word draszka, "threshing, payment for threshing" (ultimately from German dreschen, "to thresh"). So this probably started as a name for an agricultural laborer who did threshing for a living. I can't be positive, because none of my name sources specifically mentions this; but it does seem pretty likely, and it makes sense.

So I think we're on fairly safe ground if we say this name comes from northeastern Poland, possibly also Lithuania and what is now Belarus (all of which used to be part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth), and was an occupational name for a thresher.


GÓRALEWICZ

… My problem is that I cannot find any history on my surname (my grandfather, Alexander (Alexius on his Baptismal Certificate) Goralewicz, may have been an only child and an orphan. His Birth Certificate says he was born on March 28, 1877 in Zalczoiwie, District of Rohetyn, in Galicia, and was baptized at St. Michael Greek Catholic Church. His father's name was Onaphren Goralewicz, and his mother was Maria Langorski

The Polish form of your surname would be Góralewicz, pronounced roughly "goo-raw-LAY-vich." The -ewicz suffix means "son of," and góral is a Polish word meaning "mountain men," so the surname means "son of the mountain man." Specifically, the góral usually refers to people living in the Carpathian mountains in southeastern Poland, western Ukraine, and eastern Slovakia -- they are thought of as colorful people with their own customs, dances, clothes, and dialect. So your grandfather's name suggests origins somewhere in that area, much as you thought. There are various sources of info on the górale -- you might find some at the Website www.infoukes.com, and I remember seeing mention of a book on góral customs somewhere, though I can't find it right now -- maybe a Web search would find it for you. You might also want to look for info at the Culture/Customs on this site.... In any case, the name Góralewicz is not all that common in Poland these days, as of 1990 there were only 185, scattered all over the country but with a slight concentration in the provinces of Przemysl (57) in southeastern Poland and Wroclaw (30) in southwestern Poland. The numbers in Przemysl and Wroclaw provinces make sense geographically, as both areas are rather mountainous; also, the Wroclaw numbers might be influenced by post-World War II forced relocations of millions of Ukrainians from southeastern Poland and western Ukraine to the territories taken from Germany and incorporated into Western Poland... I don't have data for Ukraine, it may be that Góralewicz'es are fairly common there; also, I don't have access to further details on where the Góralewicz'es lived in Poland, such as first names and addresses, I only have a breakdown by province.

By the way, to be strictly accurate, your grandfather's original name was not Alexander but Alexy = Alexius in Latin. The names come from the same Greek root, and are often confused, but they aren't really the same name. I don't know what "Zalczoiwie" is, that's clearly misspelled, but the district name was Rohatyn. His father's name was probably Onufry (in Latin Onuphrius), a first name more common in Galicia than in Poland proper.

Langorski is a problem -- as of 1990 there was no one in Poland by that name, I have never run across it before, and it's in none of my sources. It might be a name more common among Ukrainians than Poles, but I can't help wondering if it's been misspelled. For instance, in some records r and w can be hard to distinguish, and Langowski is a common name. Or we might be dealing with Polish nasal vowels that can end up being spelled several ways. The bottom line is, I don't have anything on it -- but if you ever run across records where it's spelled differently, let me know and I'll see if I can find anything on it.

… My grandfather married Maria Ilcewicz (or Milewicz) in NYC in 1906, and it was supposedly a family joke that they were from two different "classes", and could never have married in Poland. I think her family was wealthy landowners and lived in an area that today is part of Russia, while my grandfather lived in the far south (near the Goral Mountains?), and had served in Franz Joseph's army before coming to the US in 1902.

All that is plausible enough, but it's tough analyzing names if you're not sure what the correct form was. Milewicz is a moderately common name (1,334 Poles by that name in 1990), meaning "son of Mil-," where the latter is probably a short form of a longer first name in which the first part is the root mil-, "dear, loved, nice." As of 1990 there were 223 Poles named Ilcewicz (no particular concentration in any one part of Poland), and 157 named Ilewicz. Both would mean "son of" something, but again, the question is, was the name Ilcewicz or Ilewicz? In either case, the name probably means "son of Ilya" -- that's a Ukrainian form of the name Elijah or Elias.

I hope you can find further records that will clear up the spellings of some of these names of people and places, because some of them are clearly distorted (Zalczoiwie, for instance, is definitely not correct for Polish or Ukrainian). It will help a lot if you have correct spellings to deal with. Unfortunately, with Eastern European research, getting the right spelling can be half the battle! These names were often mutilated unintentionally when folks emigrated.

I only charge for name analysis if I do the most thorough job I can, checking every source I can think of. When I do a "quick and dirty" analysis, as in this case, the research only takes a few minutes and I don't see any need to charge for it. In most cases I wouldn't come up with more even if I spent several hours on it, and I think this is such a case. So there's no charge for this info.


CZERNIEJEWSKI -- LAMCZYK

… My father's full name was Raymond C. Lamczyk, and he lived his life in the town of Radom, in the southern part of Illinois. . . my mother's maiden name is Czerniejewski, her full name being Florence L. Czerniejewski. . .Ii know absolutely nothing about if and when the Lamczyk name was shortened, changed, etc.

This name is hard to pin down, none of my sources mention it specifically, and there are a couple of different ways it could have developed, theoretically. I will say this, there is no reason to assume it was changed or shortened -- the name Lamczyk was borne by 508 Polish citizens as of the year 1990, so it's a perfectly good name. The Lamczyk's lived all over Poland, with larger numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (87), Gdansk (59), Katowice (81), Kielce (98), and smaller numbers scattered in numerous other provinces (unfortunately, I have no access to further details such as first names or addresses). It's interesting that the name is more common in areas once ruled by the Germans, where German language and names tend to show up often, so we can't rule out some German connection.

The suffix -czyk in surnames usually means "son of," so the question is, what does Lam- or Lamc- mean? There are several possibilities. The name Lamm exists among Germans, from the German word for "lamb," and we can't rule out the possibility that this meant "son of Lamm," perhaps referring to a shepherd or a man who had that name because he reminded people of a lamb or was somehow associated with lambs. It could also derive from a shortened version of a first name, perhaps Lambert; Poles often formed short names or nicknames from first names by taking the first few sounds, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes, so that "son of Lam[bert]" is plausible. The root lam- also shows up in a verb lamować, "to trim," that is, "edge, pipe, add a border"; it seems somewhat unlikely that this surname might refer to the son of a fellow who added borders or piping to clothes, etc., but it's not out of the question.

If the name was originally Łamczyk -- I'm using ł to stand for the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w, but often left simply as l when Poles emigrated -- it could mean "son of a łamacz," a person who broke or crushed stone for a living. The problem with that is, the named Łamczyk is virtually unknown in Poland these days, so the odds are we're dealing with Lamczyk, which is a moderately common name.

On the whole, with no firm data to base my analysis on, I would tend to think either "son of Lamm" or "son of Lambert" is the most likely derivation. But I can't be certain.

If you'd really like to know, you might contact the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow. They don't do genealogical research, only research on the origins of names. They charge US$10-20 for analysis of a name, and they can correspond in English. If you're interested, read more and get the address from this Webpage: http://www.polishroots.org/surnames_index.htm

Czerniejewski is a name meaning "person from Czerniejew or Czerniejewo or Czerniejow," and there are several Polish villages by those names, so without further info on the family we can't say which of those villages the name originally referred to in your family's case. It's a fairly common surname, as of 1990 there were 1,616 Poles named Czerniejewski, living all over the country.


BOGDAŃSKI

… I was wondering if you could give me any information on my surname, it is "Bogdanski"? I know some history behind the name, but not much any help would be appreciated.

I'm afraid I can't give you much detailed information, because this is one of many Polish surnames that derive from popular first names, and such surnames tend to be very common and distributed all over Poland, since by their very nature they could develop almost anywhere. Thus in 1990 there were 5,543 Polish citizens named Bogdański (ń stands for the accented n). The surname comes from the first name Bogdan, which is a Slavic compound name meaning literally "God-given" (a Slavic equivalent to Hebrew Nathaniel, Greek Theodoros, etc.). Bogdański means literally "of, pertaining to Bogdan," and thus might have originated as a term for "kin of Bogdan," or "person from Bogdanka or Bogdanki [Bogdan's place]," etc. There are several villages by those names, so even if we assume the surname referred to a place rather than just meaning "Bogdan's kin" -- and that's probably not a justifiable assumption, in most cases "Bogdan's kin" probably was the original meaning -- it still doesn't narrow things down much.

With that many Bogdański's, it seems likely the name developed independently in many different places at different times, so there isn't one big Bogdański family, but rather many different ones, and they could have come from anywhere in Poland.

I'm sorry I couldn't be more help, but if it's any help, that's the way it is with, oh, at least 90% of Polish surnames. They just aren't unique enough to offer any really useful leads. Folks often hope I can give them some info based on the name that will help lead them to the place of origin in Poland; I wish it worked that way, but it seldom does.


BAZIŃSKI -- HEJZA -- KOŁTON

… I am the only person in my family that knows how to use the Internet. I am the first generation that was born in the United States. I am 17 years old from troy michigan and want to desperately find my ancestors and family tree. I cannot use a program from the store since my mom and Dad are born in Poland and I am afraid that a lot of the records were lost in the War.

First off, I don't do research; I have all I can do translating records and editing and typesetting various publications. But I can suggest some organizations that might be able to help you quite a bit with your questions.

I would strongly advise you to visit the Website of the Polish Genealogical Society of America at . There's a lot of free info on there that can help beginners. The PGSA also has a handout on genealogy software -- I'm not sure whether it's on the Website, but you could look. If it's not, I'm sure you could buy a copy for a few dollars; I believe it's also included in the packet of info people get for free when they join the PGSA.

Another organization that might be able to help you a lot is the Polish Genealogical Society of Michigan. They're not really on the Internet yet, but you can write them at this address:

PGS-MI
c/o Burton Historical Collection
Detroit Public Library
5201 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, MI 48202-4007

With your family's Michigan roots, PGS-MI might really be able to help you find some excellent leads; you might want to consider joining -- I think their dues are either $15 or $20 a year -- and since they specialize in Poles who settled in Michigan, they're probably your best bet for making valuable connections.

There is also a book you might want to look for at a library or bookstore. It's by Rosemary Chorzempa, and it's called "Polish Roots," 1993, Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore MD, ISBN 0-8063-1378-1. Many, many people have told me it helped them enormously when they were getting started, and it's relatively easy to find -- the Barnes & Noble just up the road from my house sells it. I believe it's $20 or less, and lots of folks swear by it.

The reason I'm giving you this info is because surnames, in themselves, very rarely offer any real help with tracing a family. They're just too common. Thus as of 1990 there were 1,012 Polish citizens named Kołton, and another 2,689 used the variant Kołtun. It comes from a root kołton meaning "twisted hair, shaggy hair." Obviously this is a name that could develop independently in many different places all over Poland. Knowing what it means is nice, but doesn't do a thing in terms of helping you find your ancestors.

Other names, such as Baziński, are not so common, but don't really help a lot either. As of 1990 there were 113 Polish citizens named Baziński, but they were scattered all over the country, with larger numbers in the provinces of Bielsk-Biala (25) in southcentral Poland, and Tarnobrzeg (37) in southeastern Poland, and a few here and there in many other provinces. (I don't have access to further data such as first names and addresses, what I've given here is all I have). Polish name experts believe the name comes from the first name Bazyli = English Basil; Poles often formed names by taking the first part of a popular first name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes, thus Baz- + -in- + -ski. This means nothing more than "kin of Basil," or "person from Basil's place."

Hejza is not listed in any of my sources, so I don't know what it comes from. As of 1990 there were 123 Polish citizens by that name, again scattered all over, with larger numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (32), Slupsk (20), and Wloclawek (23) -- which means it appears mainly in northcentral and northwestern Poland. That suggests it might be of German origin, since a great many Germans have lived in that part of Poland, and if so, it probably comes from German Heise, which originated as a nickname for "Heinrich" = English "Henry."

As I say, this is how it goes with the vast majority of Polish surnames -- it's nice to know what they mean, but they don't provide much in the way of real help. And that's why I think the information you can get from the sources I mentioned is your best bet. Or, if you can afford it, you might hire a researcher who specializes in Poland; but that gets expensive, and you can do a lot of that yourself, with a little assistance from the PGSA, the PGS-MI, and Chorzempa's book.


SKARPIAK -- SZKARPIAK

… After reading your response & explanation of "Jankowski", I am hopful that you will be kind & help me with my maternal surnames. In searching Skarpiak I have come to a dead end. The brothers Skarpiak appeared to all have daughters & I am only aware of two decendants still living (which again are females), Would you be able to provide additional info re family name(s)?

Skarpiak appears to be a very rare name. None of my sources mention it, and as of 1990 there was no one in Poland by that name, or named Szkarpiak (Polish names beginning with S- often have variants beginning with Sz-, and vice versa). It might possibly come from the term skarpa, "buttress, escarpment" -- if so, it probably means something like "one who lived near the buttress, one who worked on the buttress," or else the son of such a person.

The only mention I could find of such a name anywhere was in the Index to Obituaries in the Polish-language Chicago daily Dziennik Chicagoski. There was an obit for a Walenty (Valentine) Szkarpiak who died 30 Apr 1928 in the Chicago area, in the 3 May 1928 issue of that paper. Also, a Franciszek (Francis or Frank) Szkarpiak was mentioned in two other obits for people named Szymanska. If this sounds like a possible lead, I'd suggest going to the Website of the Polish Genealogical Society of America, www.pgsa.org, and searching their Chicagoski and other databases for Skarpiak or Szkarpiak. If the name is all that rare, there is a chance these folks might be related to you, and searching those databases might turn up some leads (if these aren't people you already know about).

If you don't mind spending $10-20 to learn more, you might try writing the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Insitute in Krakow -- they don't do genealogical research, only research on name origins, and they can correspond in English. For more details, see the introduction to Polish surnames at http://www.polishroots.org/surnames/surnames_index.htm.


KREJPCIO

… As far as I know, it was Boleslaw Krcipczio, altho his immigration papers showed it as Krejpcio, The latter is what I used when I was in grade school. It is now spelled Krepshaw. The passenger list indicates he was from Biala Wala, Russia. I guess that is/was a Polish province taken over by Russia. He immigrated to Phila., PA.

Well, there are so many Polish surnames that it's tough to say anything definitive about them if you don't have a correct spelling -- and Krcipczio makes no sense phonetically or linguistically, it's surely a misreading or misspelling somewhere along the line. However, there is a name Krejpcio which might fit -- it's close to some of the variant spellings you gave, and would be pronounced roughly "CRAPE-cho" (rhymes with "scrape-snow"), which could easily become Krepshaw in America. I can't be certain that's the right name, but it's close enough to be worth mentioning.

As of 1990 there were 172 Polish citizens by that name, of whom the vast majority (141) lived in the province of Suwałki, in northeastern Poland, on the border with Lithuania. And Krejpcio is almost certainly Lithuanian in terms of linguistic origin. It appears to come from the Lithuanian word kreipti, "to turn, make crooked." I would suppose the name might have referred originally to someone who had something crooked about him -- not meaning he was a crook, but rather that he had a crooked leg or back or something like that. We see a lot of Polonized forms of Lithuanian names near the border, so that makes sense in terms of what you said. The area was originally Polish, but was taken over by Russia in the 1800's. And vast numbers of Polish-Lithuanian immigrants settled in Pennsylvania, so that fits too.

… His papers also had last spelled as ....Krepcio, Krepshio. I cannot find Biala, Wala anywhere on a map that I have. Can you help me??? This info. is necessary, as I want to find his birth certificate so I can find out who his parents were.

Place names with bial- in them are very common -- the root just means "white." Biala Wala doesn't seem right, but Biala Wola could well work. There could be quite a few little villages or communities by that name, but I notice there is at least one on the map, a little village called Biała Wola (the ł stands for the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w) in the extreme northern part of what is now the province of Olsztyn. This is some distance west of Suwałki province, but not so far as to be implausible -- and it is still quite near the border with Lithuania. So geographically speaking, it fits -- it was in the Russian partition, and it's close to Lithuania. I can't guarantee it's right, but I think the chances are good enough to make it worth a look... If it doesn't pan out, I'd try "Biala Woda" (literally "white water"), but I'd try Biala Wola, Olsztyn province, first. The only problem is, my sources list no Krejpcio's in Olsztyn province, so if they did live there once, they seem to have moved or died out. But some of the Krejpcio's in Suwałki province may well be relatives.

To find birth certificates, you need the parish church that served the community in question. I can't find anything that says for sure which parish serves Biała Wola, but on the map it appears Lubomino is the closest -- it's only a few kilometers away, that probably is where folks in Biała Wola would go to register births, deaths, and marriages. I don't know if the LDS Family History Library has microfilmed the records for Lubomino parish, but I'd suggest going to the nearest Mormon Family History Center and seeing if those records are on file. If they are, you can have them loaned from Salt Lake City to your FHC and can look through them there -- much faster and cheaper than writing to Poland. If it turns out the records you need aren't available through the FHL, then you may have to write the parish in Poland, or the Polish National Archives.

As I say, there are too many variables here for me to be sure I'm right. But if I were you, I'd try looking for a family named Krejpcio living in or near Biała Wola, Olsztyn province, probably served by Lubomino Catholic parish.

[Addendum: Mr. Krepshaw later wrote back to ... inform us that these suggestions turned out to be exactly right! Hurray! That's one for the good guys!]


BRYK

… is the name Bryk covered in your book? I'm interested in its etymology. In your opinion, is it common for a surname, such as Bryk, to be found in Jewish as well as Catholic families (predominantly the latter, I think)?

Bryk is mentioned in the book, although with 30,000 names in 400 pages, you can imagine I don't have room to give a whole lot of detail on any one them... Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut says Bryk can come from two roots: from the old Latin first name Brictius, which was used more often in Poland centuries ago (it's almost unheard of today) in forms such as Brykcy and Brykcjusz; or from the verb root brykać, "to frisk, gambol." The form Bryka shows up in documents as early as 1397. Personally, I suspect Bryk derives in most cases from the first name -- surnames derived from first names are very common in Polish, and the Poles often took the first part of a name, dropped the rest, and used that first part as a new name or nickname, often adding suffixes.

Now what I just said applies mainly to Polish Christians. Alexander Beider's book on surnames of Jews in the Kingdom of Poland (the part under Russian rule roughly 1772-1918) does mention Bryk as a surname borne by Jews, especially in the areas of Makow, Zamosc, Bilgoraj, Stopnica, and Warsaw. He says this name, when used by Jews, usually comes either from Yiddish brik, "bridge" (compare German Bruecke) or from an acronym of Ben Rabiy Yaqoyv Qopl, "the son of Rabbi Jacob Koppel"... By the way, it is not at all unusual to find that Christians and Jews have names that look exactly the same but had different derivations. So among Christians the derivation would probably be from the first name Brykcy/Brictius or the verb meaning "frisk, gambol." But for Jews it would come from the usages I just described.

As of 1990 there were 3,278 Polish citizens named Bryk, so it's a moderately common surname. The bryk's were distributed fairly evenly over the country, with a slight concentration in southeastern Poland.

I imagine most of those Bryk's are Christians, simply because the Jewish community was utterly devastated by the Nazis, and you find very tiny numbers for most distinctively Jewish names. But when dealing with families who emigrated before World War II, the name could easily be either Christian or Jewish.


RADZISZEWSKI

… I have long wondered on the meaning of my family name: Radziszewski. Would you have any information on its origins & meaning ?

Names ending in -owski and -ewski usually began as a reference to a connection between a person or family and a place with a similar name, generally ending in -ow/-owo or -ew/ewo. So we'd expect Radziszewski to have started out meaning simply "one from Radiszew/o or Radiszow/o." There are at least two places this surname could have derived from, and perhaps more, too small to show up in my sources (or they may have changed their names over the centuries since the surname was established). There is a Radziszow in Krakow province, maybe about 20 km. south-southeast of Krakow; and there are villages named Radziszewo-Krole and Radziszewo-Sienczuch in southeastern Łomża province. People from any of these places (and, as I say, possibly more) could have ended up with the name Radziszewski... The names of these places mean, in effect, "the [place] of Radzisz" -- Radzisz is an old Polish first name appearing in documents as early as 1414, coming either from a root meaning "joy" or from a root meaning "advise." Most likely it started as a nickname or short form for a longer compound name such as Radomir ("glad of peace") or Radosław "glad of fame"), or it could have meant "the adviser" or "the joyful one." At any rate, somewhere along the line a little settlement or village founded or owned by a guy named Radzisz could easily end up being called Radziszów or Radziszewo, both meaning "Radzisz's place"; then later a person connected to that place could be called Radziszewski = "one from Radziszewo" = "one from the place of Radzisz."

This is a fairly common surname, as of 1990 there were 4,982 Polish citizens named Radziszewski. They lived all over the country, with especially large numbers in the provinces of Białystok (1,087) in the northeast; Katowice (228) in southcentral Poland; Łomża (208) in northeastern Poland; and Warsaw (462) in east central Poland. It's conceivable all these Radziszewski's might have gotten their names from the three villages I mentioned above, but it seems just a little far-fetched, which is why I think there may once have been more places with names that could generate this surname.

For what it's worth, this is how it goes with the vast majority of Polish surnames -- very few offer really helpful clues with exactly where a given family came from. Usually about the most you can hope for is a reasonable idea of what the name meant when it originated; I'd say about 90-95% there is no link with any specific area, at least nothing precise enough to give you a good lead.


TOŁODZIECKI – TUŁODZIECKI

… My new cousin and i are looking for surname of Tolodziecki, or Tulodziecki. She found it on the wall of honor. my name has changed from what my dad's was on birth and his father's birth. so we are having fun looking to see how it all comes together

The first question is the original form of the name. I have a 10-volume set that lists all the surnames of Polish citizens as of 1990 and tells how many lived in each province (but unfortunately does not give further data such as first names or addresses), so I looked up both spellings and got these results (ł stands for the Polish l; with a slash through it, pronounced like our w):

Tołodziecki, total 121; provinces with 10 or more: Koszalin 18, Legnica 10, Torun 48; there were a few other provinces with fewer than 10.

Tułodziecki, total 747; provinces with 50+: Warsaw 57, Bydgoszcz 57, Ciechanow 101, Olsztyn 71, Torun 141, Wloclawek 108; numerous other provinces with smaller numbers.

So this suggests both forms are "correct," but Tułodziecki is probably the standard form, and Tołodziecki a variant spelling of that, based perhaps on regional variation in pronunciation. Also, the names are most common in northern and northwestern Poland, in areas formerly ruled by the Germans, mainly East and West Prussia.

Names ending in -cki or -ski, more often than not, referred originally to a connection between a person or family and the name of a place -- we'd expect the place or places to be something like Tułodziad. And in fact there is a village and former estate by that exact name, Tułodziad, called "Taulensee" by the Germans, in what used to be Ostróda county, but now in Olsztyn province; it's located roughly 20 km. east of Lubawa and 25 km. south of Ostróda. It is a few km. west of Grunwald, the site of a very important battle in 1410 between Polish and Lithuanian forces and the Teutonic Knights; the Knights were defeated, a major turning point in Polish history.

The name of the village is a puzzle, it appears to be a combination of roots tul- meaning "wander, be exiled" or "hug" + dziad, "old man, grandfather"; I have no more information on the name's meaning, but it looks as if it might originally have been named for some old man who was exiled (?), or perhaps for a man with a compound name meaning "affectionate grandfather." Those are just guesses, until Polish scholars finish a large 10-volume dictionary of Polish place names they're working on (they've only gotten up to the D's so far), I'll have no way of knowing for sure, but that's what the name appears to mean.

None of my sources mention the surname Tułodziecki directly, but odds are it originally meant just "one from Tułodziad." If the family was noble, this may mean they owned it; if non-noble, they were probably peasants who worked on the estate there, or came from there and moved elsewhere.


DZIURA -- JAROCH -- KIEŁTYKA -- KOCHANOWICZ

… You printed a letter and your reply, to someone re: the name "Kielton", and your response included reference to the name "Kieltyka". That is my mother's maiden name... If I understand correctly, that you are able to provide the derivation of the name, and location where it originated, I would be very interested.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions Kiełtyka in his book on Polish surname (on-line we use ł to stand for the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w but usually just rendered as plain old l in other languages). He says it comes from the root kiełtać, "to cut with a dull knife." I'm not sure how this got to be a person's name, and apparently that root is either quite archaic or else used only in dialect, because it doesn't appear in any of my other sources -- but I've found Rymut usually knows his stuff, so I'm inclined to believe him on this one... This name shows up in Krakow legal records as far back as 1382. It's odd that this root kiełt- generated only this one, rather ancient surname, and otherwise has left no trace in the language; but that's the kind of odd quirk that makes name origins so interesting!

As of 1990 there were 1,518 Polish citizens named Kiełtyka, living in virtually every province of Poland (there may well be more by that name living in Ukraine, but I have no data on that). The provinces with the largest numbers were: Katowice 233, Krakow 155, Krosno 133, and Tarnow 118 -- all in southcentral or southeastern Poland. Przemysl province, which is where Wyszatyce is located, had 46. However, the database from which this info was compiled was lacking complete data for some provinces, including Przemysl, so the actual number might be somewhat higher... The source of this data is a government database, but the book I got it from only has totals for all of Poland, then for each province. In other words, I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses; the Polish government agency that runs that database won't allow researchers access to such info. So what I've given you here is all I can get.

… Other names in the tree that I would like to know more about, if you have the information are: "Kochonowicz" or "Kochonowich"; "Jaroch"; "Dzuira."

Kochonowicz is probably a misreading of Kochanowicz; the -owicz means "son of," and the root kochan- means "beloved," so the name means roughly "son of the beloved one"; or it may have started more often as just meaning "son of Kochan" where that was a first name in itself, deriving from the root meaning "beloved." As of 1990 there were 1,106 Poles named Kochanowicz, none named Kochonowicz, which is why I think the first form is probably right. The Kochanowicz'es lived all over Poland, but the largest single number for any province was Przemysl, with 208. "Kochonowich" is surely a spelling affected by English phonetic values, since the -cz is pronounced like our "ch." The name would be pronounced by Poles something like "ko-hah-NO-vich."

Jaroch may have started as a nickname of older pagan compound names such as Jaromir, where the first part is an ancient root meaning "harsh, severe," or in some cases "robust, young." But some scholars think the specific names Jaroch and Jarosz came from a variant of the Slavic version of "Jerome." So the name probably meant originally something like "kin of Jerome." As of 1990 there were 1,092 Poles by this surname, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (250) in northwestern Poland and Przemysl (137) in southeastern Poland. The name is pronounced roughly "YAH-rok."

Dziura is probably the right spelling of "Dzuira." This is a very common name, with 6,017 Poles named Dziura as of 1990. It comes from the term dziura, meaning "hole." Perhaps it referred to a person with holes in their clothes, or a person who lived in a hole -- after all these centuries it's hard to say. But that's the basic meaning of the name, there must have been some kind of connection between the person and holes. The name is pronounced something like "jura" (like English "jury" with an -uh sound on the end, instead of an -ee).


ORTHNER

… Recently, I have been making genealogical links to the Germanic family Orthner. Would you happen to known the meaning and origin of this surname?

Hans Bahlow's Deutsches Namenlexikon (available in English translation as Dictionary of German Names) mentions Ortner as coming from a root meaning "end," so that names such as Orthmann, Orth, Ohrt, and Ortner usually referred to where a family lived, i. e., "at the end of the village, end of the street." (Orth- and Ort- are the same, older German spelling often put a silent H after T, as in the name of the writer Goethe, more modern spelling drops the H). I'm afraid I don't have any data on how common the name is in Germany (although I'm sure some book must exist that gives that info), but as of 1990 there were 8 Ortner's in Poland, 1 living in Gdansk province, and 7 living in Opole province, which is in southwestern Poland, in that part of Silesia included in Polish territory after World War II.


SIDOROWICZ

… If time allows please respond. father’s surname: Sidorowicz

Ah, an easy one! I love easy ones!

In Sidorowicz the suffix -owicz means "son of," and Sidor started as a short form or nickname of the first name Izydor, in English "Isidore." That's a fairly rare name in this country, but over the centuries it's been moderately popular in Poland -- as of 1994 there were 4,054 Poles named Izydor, and a century or two ago it was probably more common. It comes from a Greek name meaning "gift of Isis."

As for Sidorowicz, in 1990 there were some 2,343 Poles with that surname, so it's a moderately common name. Sidorowicz'es lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers (100+) in the provinces of Warsaw (173), Białystok (345), Gdansk (136), Gorzow (122), Suwałki (173), and Wroclaw (108). This means there's a particular concentration of people by this name in northeastern Poland (Suwałki and Białystok provinces) -- but you can't really assume that's where a given Sidorowicz family came from, as there's practically no part of Poland that doesn't have at least a few.

By the way, there are several other common surnames that also mean "son of Isidore," including Sidorczuk (1,128) and Sidoruk (1,208). I haven't yet discovered any particular rule or pattern as to why some folks would say the same thing with -owicz, some with -czuk, some with -uk. Maybe one day I'll find out if there is any pattern to it, or if it's just a matter of what people liked the sound of.


BIEDROŃ

… Can you tell me about the surname of Biedron?

According to Polish name experts, names beginning with Biedr- can come from the noun biedroń, which means "ox with mottled coloring, of many colors" (I'm using ń to stand for the Polish n with an accent over it), or from the noun biedro (also spelled biodro), "hip, haunch." Since Biedroń is an exact match with the word for ox, it seems likely that's what that particular name derives from, rather than from the "hip" root. It's difficult to say exactly how such names got started, because they originated centuries ago, often from nicknames, and it can be very difficult to figure out exactly what the original connection was. A Biedroń might have gotten that nickname because he wore clothes that reminded people of the coloring of a certain ox; or maybe he owned such an ox. About all we can know for sure is that there was something about the first person to bear this name that people somehow connected with an ox.

As of 1990 there were 1,636 Polish citizens named Biedroń. The name could be found all over the country, but was particularly common in the provinces of Czestochowa (277), Katowice (171), Krakow (102), Nowy Sacz (203), and Tarnow (189) -- all in southcentral or southeastern Poland. Unfortunately, there's nothing about the name that helps us pin it down to a more specific area.


LUDWA

… Earlier this year you provided me information about my surname. I was wondering, if you have the time, could you please provide information concerning the name Ludwa.

As of 1990 there were 340 Polish citizens with this name, of whom by far the largest number (181) lived in the province of Tarnow in southeastern Poland; there were much smaller numbers scattered all over the rest of the country.

None of my sources mention this name, but it seems most likely this started as a short form or nickname of Ludwik, the Polish form of the name Louis (in German, Ludwig). I can find no native Polish root with ludw-, and the connection with Ludwik seems too obvious to ignore. There is a basic Slavic root lud- meaning "entice, allure, deceive," and ludwa or ludva could possibly have derived from that. But it seems much more likely to me it's just a short form or nickname for Ludwik. Poles often took the first part of popular first names, dropped the rest, and added suffixes, so Ludwik -> Ludwa is not at all implausible.


KRÓL -- ŚNIEŻEK

… I am trying to find the orgins of two surnames listed as Austria/Pol on documents. Krol and Sniezek.

Król comes from the Polish word for "king," which is król (the Polish ó is pronounced like the "oo" in "good"). It could have started as a nickname, perhaps calling somebody the king of a little group; it also sometimes was applied to someone who was a servant of the king. It's a very common surname, as of 1990 there were 46,458 Poles named Król, living all over the country in huge numbers.

Śnieżek would be spelled in Polish with an accent over the S and a dot over the Z, pronounced something like "SHNYEH-zek." That doesn't sound very pretty to our ears, yet it's actually kind of a pretty name, because it comes from śnieg, "snow." The -ek is a diminutive, so śnieżek (as we write it on-line, trying to compensate for not being able to reproduce the Polish characters) means something like "little snow." As of 1990 there were 1,315 Poles with this name; it is found all over the country, but the largest numbers are in the provinces of Katowice (136), Krakow (94), Krosno (282), Opole (110), Rzeszow (86), and Wroclaw (91) -- all in southcentral to southeastern Poland, and therefore mainly in Galicia, that part of Poland ruled by Austria from the late 1700's till after World War I.


KORNASIEWICZ

… The surname that I am interested in is Kornasiewicz. My grandfather was born in the town of Besko in Austrian Galitzia around 1880. I have located a town of this name about 20 miles west of the city of Sanok in southeastern Poland...

The suffix -ewicz or -owicz means "son of" (making the name a so-called "patronymic," a name derived from one's father's name), so Kornasiewicz means "son of Kornaś," where ś stands for the Polish accented s, written si when followed by a vowel. So the real question is, what does the name Kornaś or Kornas come from? Polish scholars have come up with a couple of different possible derivations, but no way to be certain which one is right in a given instance. The name can come from the root korn-, "humble, submissive, obedient," or from kórnik, "bark beetle," or from the first name Kornel (the Polish version of Latin Cornelius). The bark beetle connection seems least likely in this case, because the -ik suffix is integral to that meaning and that suffix does not appear in this name. So we're left with Kornaś as either a nickname for "Cornelius" -- which is quite plausible -- or perhaps as an old first name in its own right, given to someone in hope that he will be humble... By the way, among Slavs this basic notion of korn- is not an insult, Poles and Russians etc. admire someone who's simple, honest, and humble; so whereas "humble, submissive, obedient" may not sound like virtues to us, a name from the root korn- could be thought of as having a positive connotation, the perfect name for a fellow who's good-hearted and not too full of himself.

It's interesting that as of 1990 there were 1,266 Polish citizens named Kornas (no accent over the s), another 1,631 named Kornaś (with the accent) -- but only 100 named Kornasiewicz. That's kind of unusual, as surnames patronymics are generally as common as the names they came from, if not more so. But there are exceptions, and this is one. The 100 Kornasiewicz'es lived in the provinces of: Warsaw (22), Bielsko-Biala (3), Katowice (5), Kielce (3), Krosno (56), Opole (1), Rzeszow (1), Skierniewice (3), Szczecin (1), and Wroclaw (5) -- unfortunately I have no access to further details, such as first names or addresses. This data fits well with your information, since Besko is in the province of Krosno in southeastern Poland, and that area has the largest concentration of Kornasiewicz'es in Poland. Southeastern Poland and western Ukraine comprised the "crownland" of Galicia in the Austrian Empire, and Krosno was right in the heart of it. So this data suggests you are looking in exactly the right place.


DULĘBA -- DULEMBA

… If I may bother you for just one more surname origin - it was my grandmother's maiden name: Dulemba.

This name can be spelled either Dulemba or Dulęba (with ę standing for the Polish nasal vowel written as E with a tail under it and pronounced like en, but before b or p like em) because both spellings sound like "doo-LEM-bah." There are many Polish surnames ultimately from the root dul-, "swelling, thickening," and this may be one of them. But although I can't find any confirmation of this in works by the experts, I suspect the name derives more directly from dulęba, a dialect term for an awkward, uncouth fellow. As of 1990 there were 2,199 Polish citizens who spelled the name Dulęba and another 618 who spelled it Dulemba, so it's a pretty common name (I don't know why it is, but there seem to be jillions of common Polish names from insulting terms, and only a few from complimentary ones!?). You can find Dulęba's or Dulemba's all over Poland, but the largest numbers of Dulęba's are in the provinces of Kielce (780) and Bydgoszcz (136), whereas Dulemba's are most common in the provinces of Katowice (136), Kielce (96), and Rzeszow (71).


BALKIEWICZ -- BOBROWSKI -- GRUNWALSKI

… Thank you for posting your interesting, informative information on Polish surnames. I'm trying to find more about mine--Balkiewicz, and also those of my maternal grandparents--Grunwalski and Bobrowski.

The suffix -ewicz means "son of," so Balkiewicz means "son of Balek, Balka, or Balko." This first name could develop in several ways, as a short form of Baltazar (by tradition the name of one of the Three Kings or Magi), from the Hungarian first name Bal, or from the Polish root bal- meaning "to tell tales." As of 1990 there were some 270 Polish citizens named Balkiewicz, scattered in many different provinces, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Elblag (60), Gdansk (25), Lodz (20), Olsztyn (20), and Ostrołęka (26) -- all in northern Poland, in what used to be Prussia. (I'm afraid I have no access to further details such as first names and addresses).

Names ending in -owski usually refer to a connection between a person or family and a place with a similar name; we'd expect Bobrowski to have started out meaning "person from Bobrow, Bobrowo, Bobry," etc. Those places, in tern, got their names from the root bóbr, "beaver." In effect, Bobrowski means "one from the place of the beavers." There are quite a few villages named Bobra, Bobry, Bobrowo, etc., so the name itself doesn't tell us which a given Bobrowski family was connected with. As of 1990 there were 5,874 Polish citizens named Bobrowski, so it's a pretty common name and probably developed independently in many different areas.

Grunwalski is surely an adjective meaning "of, from Grunwald." This is a German name meaning "green forest," and there are several places in Poland that are or have been called by that name (especially when western and northern Poland was ruled by Germany). The most famous Grunwald was the site of a battle in 1410 in which Polish and Lithuanian forces defeated the Teutonic Knights, a major event in the history of Poland. As of 1990 there were only 7 Grunwalski's in Poland, 6 in Katowice province and 1 in Opole province, so it's a pretty rare name -- but 1,269 Poles were named Grunwald! 

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


SOSZKA

… I was hoping that you could help understand the meaning of the last name of Soszka.

This name could develop two ways. It can be a diminutive form of socha, a forked branch, also a kind of primitive plow; so if a fellow used such a branch, or his shape reminded him of one, he might get the nickname "Soszka," "the little forked branch." The name can also derive as a short form of old pagan compound names beginning with So- such as Sobiesław -- these names were ancient, and as time went on the Poles liked to take the first part, drop the rest, and add suffixes. It's sort of like what we did with "Theodore" to get "Teddy." And just as "Teddy" doesn't really mean anything -- it's just a short form of Theodore, which originally meant "gift of the gods" -- so Soszka wouldn't really mean anything, but is just a short form of various older names that did originally mean something. At this point, centuries after names such as Soszka developed, it's difficult to say which of these two roots the name came from in the case of an individual family.

As of 1990 there were 1,167 Polish citizens named Soszka, living all over the country; the largest number of Soszka's lived in the provinces of Lublin (127), Siedlce (315), and Warsaw (154), so there is no one area the name is particularly associated with. (I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses).


GARDOLIŃSKI

… I have just moved from Brazil to the US, and I am living in Atlanta. My grandfather was the only Gardolinski who migrated to Brazil, and the rest of the family is still in Poland... I had Mr. Jan Pizczor research on the Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland, and he found only 18 occurrences in Poland, mainly in the Warsaw area... I already saw the origin of Garwolinski (which looks pretty close), and the prefix Gard- in your book. But I still feel that we may be able to get closer to the actual origin...

As Mr. Piszczor told you, this is a very rare name in Poland these days; only 18 Polish citizens had that name, and all but 4 lived in Warsaw province. And unfortunately, due to its rarety, it hasn't come in for any attention in any of the sources I have -- none of them mention it. I do feel the similarity to Garwoliński is deceptive, in that Gardoliński probably does not have anything to do with that name.

Most likely Gardoliński began as a reference to a connection between a person or family and a place named something like Gardolin, Gardolino, Gardola, etc. There are villages named Gardlin in both Białystok and Łomża provinces, and the surname might be connected with one or both of them. I'd expect a surname meaning "coming from Gardlin" to be Gardliński, but it's not out of the question that an -o- might slip in there. Other than that, none of my gazetteers or atlases mention a place with an appropriate name. Of course, this is not rare -- surnames typically formed several centuries ago, and since then many of the places that generated surnames have disappeared, been absorbed into other communities, changed their names, etc. So often we find a surname that clearly came from a place name, but can no longer find any trace of that place.

I note in a Polish encyclopedia mention of an Edmund Gardolinski, born 1914, a Polonian activist, engineer, and historian of the Polish community in Brazil, and a representative of Rio Grande do Sul in the legislature. Surely it's not assuming too much to suppose this was/is your grandfather? ... Unfortunately, that's the only prominent Gardolinski I can find any mention of.

The only way I know of to get a better answer on the name's derivation would be for you to spend $10-20 and contact the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow; they can correspond in English, and they do research into name origins, not genealogical research. If anyone can pin down the exact origin and derivation of this name, it would be the scholars of that Workshop. The address is given on page 177 (assuming you have the second edition of my book). I strongly suggest you write them and see if they can tell you anything.

And by the way, if you do write the Workshop and they give you a good answer, I'd be very interested in hearing what they say. I would gladly add Gardoliński to the next edition of my book, if I just had some info on the name's origin. So if you do write and get an answer, I'd appreciate very much getting a copy!


BRODZKI

… If you please, could you see if you have any info for the surname Brodzki. I believe we originated from the southlands of Poland, (Probably Russia Now). I haven't been able to turn up a single clue as of yet, any info you may have would be greatly appreciated.

As of 1990 there were 444 Brodzki's living in Poland proper -- but I have no data for the areas that used to be part of the Polish Commonwealth but now are in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine. The name can derive from many different roots, including broda, "beard," bro'd, "ford, wading-place," from short forms of ancient pagan Slavic names such as Brodzisław, etc. But from what you say, it seems in your case the most likely derivation is from the name of the town of Brody, a county seat in what used to be Galicia (the territory ruled by Austria after the partitions) and now in Ukraine. If that's so, the name would mean basically just "one from Brody." As I say, I have no data for anywhere but Poland in its modern boundaries, so I can't tell you how common a name Brodzki is in Ukraine (of course, it would be spelled in Cyrillic, and would be written in English phonetic values more like Brodsky).


HODYL

… I have been trying to find some information on the surname Hodyl. This was my grandfather's name (Rafal Hodyl) and all we know is that he came from Naliboki, somewhere in Belarus. He was born in 1904, immigrated to US and died 1989 in NY. He married Josefa Adamciewicz, also from that area. I think the area was Poland at the time, since my family claims Polish ancestry. I cannot find any information on this name. Someone once told me that Hodyl may have been the name of a river? or stream? in that area, but it also may have been a Dutch surname...

As of 1990 there were 135 Poles named Hodyl, scattered in numerous provinces all over Poland, with no concentration in any one area; I'm afraid I only have data for Poland in its current boundaries, so anyone living by this name still living in Belarus would not show up. And there have been sizable numbers of Poles living in Belarus for centuries now -- Belarus was long part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, so it's quite credible that people living there could be of Polish ancestry.

None of my sources mention anything about this specific name's derivation. A number of names beginning with Hod- and Chod- (in Polish h and ch are pronounced exactly the same, kind of like the guttural ch in German "Bach") are given as deriving from the root chod-, "to walk, go," and this same root is used in Russian and Ukrainian (in Belarusian it appears with an a sound rather than an o); among these names are Chodyła, which would mean something like "the guy who likes to walk, who's always walking." It is quite plausible that Hodyl is more or less the same thing, although as I say, none of my sources say so specifically.

If Hodyl is the name of a river or stream, I can't find it on any of my maps. But often surnames did come from names of little streams -- sort of a verbal shorthand meaning the family lived near the stream -- and there certainly could be such a stream that wouldn't show up on my maps (which are not too detailed). Naliboki (now Nalibaki in Belarus) is on a river named Lebiezada, about 110 km. from Oszmiana (now Asmiany in Belarus) and 160 km. from Wilno (now Vilnius in Lithuania).

It's interesting that there is a village called Hadzilivichy in Belarus, also called Hadzilowicze and Hodzilowicze by the Poles, about which a late 19th-century Polish gazetteer says this:

"Hadzilowiczevillage, Rohaczew county, on the Warsaw-Moscow highway, not far from Rohaczew and Dowsk, 300 Orthodox males. School, brick Orthodox church."

I mention this because the Hadzilov- form is Belarusian, but Poles would call it Hodzilowicze and Ukrainians would call it Hodylowicze -- and the name means "[place of] the sons of Hodyl." In other words, if you factor in each language's phonetic tendencies, this village name comes from more or less the same root as your surname. That doesn't mean the two are related in any way, but it's at least interesting. This village is just a few km. east of Rohaczew, as the Poles call it, or Ragachev, as the Belarusians call it.

As for a Dutch connection -- well, it's possible. A lot of Dutch and Germans were invited to come settle in sparsely-populated areas of the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, as farmers and skilled craftsmen they were highly desirable colonists. So I can't rule out a Dutch origin. But let's just say this: the name makes perfect sense in a Slavic context, there's certainly no reason to assume there had to be a Dutch connection. But we can't rule it out.


ZAPOLSKI

… My grandfather came to America from Poland at the age of 14. His parents remained in Poland and he never saw them again. I really know very little about the Poland side of the family. Only his birth city (Barglow, Suwałki in 1984). I am trying to do research on his and my last name (Zapolski). Can you give me information on it and his mothers maiden name which is Pucrsztowskich?

The surname Zapolski comes from the term zapole, "corn bin," or from the place name Zapole, which may come from that word or from za, "past, beyond" + pole, "field" -- unfortunately, there are over 70 villages in Poland called Zapole, so it's very hard to say with any certainty which one a given Zapolski family might have been connected with back when surnames were originating, several centuries ago.

As of 1990 there were 1,066 Polish citizens named Zapolski, of whom the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Białystok (143), Olsztyn (89), and Suwałki (201) in northeast Poland; so yur grandfather came from the general area where the name is most common, although you see it all over the country... With the link to northeastern Poland, I suggest you investigate joining the Polish Genealogical Society of the Northeast, 8 Lyle Rd., New Britain CT 06053. A lot of their members come from the Białystok-Łomża region, so they've specialized in that area and just might be able to offer you some good leads. I think it's worth a try.

I'm afraid I can't help you with Pucrsztowskich, because it's not the correct form of the name -- just as one can tell that Anderqswn is not the right spelling of an English name, certain letter combinations just don't occur in given languages, and "Pucrsz-" is not Polish (or any other language I know of). I can say that the -ch ending is almost certainly a grammatical ending that should be dropped. Maiden names are often given in Polish records as, for instance, Anna z Grabowskich, which means literally "Anna of the Grabowski's"; to get the standard form of the name you drop the -ch. But as I say, Pucrsztowski still doesn't work.

Sometimes I can look at a mangled name and figure out what the original form was, but I can't get this one -- there are too many possibilities. If you find some record that gives you another form, let me know and I'll see if I can tell you anything about it.


ZACHARZEWSKI

… I saw your piece on the PGSA pages, and was wondering whether you had any information on the surname Zacharzewski (my original surname).

Like all names ending in -ski, this one is adjectival, meaning basically "of, pertaining to the __ of Zachary," and you fill in the blank with an appropriate word, such as "family," "place," "estate," etc. It could have been applied in some instances to people who were kin of a man named Zachary, but I'd think more often it would mean "person from Zacharzów, Zacharzew, Zacharzewo," etc., where those are all place names meaning "Zachary's place." Presumably at some point a Zachary owned or founded such a village, or was prominent there. I notice on the map there are at least four places that could generate this surname, Zacharz in Piotrkow province, Zacharzów in Radom province, Zacharzew in Kalisz province, and Zacharzowice in Katowice province. There could well be more, places too small to show up on my maps, or ones that have changed their names or disappeared in the centuries since the surname was established. Zacharzew is the best fit, followed by Zacharzów, but the truth is, the surname Zacharzewski could very well have started as a reference to any of those places.

As of 1990 there were 888 Polish citizens named Zacharzewski; the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Gdansk (56), Łomża (87), and Warsaw (63), with smaller numbers scattered in numerous other provinces. (I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses). So unfortunately neither the name nor its distribution gives us any firm clues that would let us point to a specific place and say "That's where the name comes from." Different families with this name could have come from different places.


POZORSKI

… I wonder whether you have come across Pozorski as a surname in the course of your studies? I have been unable to find out much about it, other than that we are the only Pozorski family in the United Kingdom, which may indicate that it is relatively rare.

In Poland Pozorski is not an extremely common name, as such things go, but neither is it rare -- as of 1990 there were 1,409 Polish citizens named Pozorski. They lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers (40+) in the provinces of: Bydgoszcz (484), Elblag (47), Gdansk (365), Pila (60), Slupsk (57), Szczecin (53), and Torun (44). The name is thought to have derived from the archaic term pozor, "semblance, appearance."

With that distribution pattern, it is at least possible this name is associated with the ethnic group known as the Kaszubs; they are closely related to the Poles, but have their own language and customs, and represent a fascinating subject in their own right. If you would like to learn a little more, you might benefit by visiting the Webpage of the Kashubian Association of North America: http://feefhs.org/kana/frg-kana.html  

I'm not positive Pozorski is a Kaszub name, but that distribution pattern of greatest frequency in the provinces of Gdansk and Bydgoszcz is typically Kaszubian -- those are their ancestral lands. So there is at least a decent chance your family may have some Kaszub connections, and if so the Website of KANA may offer some valuable leads. I hope so, and I hope this information proves helpful to you!


AUGUSTYN -- AUGUSTYNIAK -- KĘSEK

… I am trying to find out information on the family surname of Kensek. Apparently we spell it "kensek". My uncle spells it "kesek". And my grandfather who came to the US told the census taker of 1920 that it was "kiesek".

It's tough to give anything reliable on a name if you don't have a reliable spelling -- change one letter, and it can make all the difference in the world. Still, it sounds to me as if we're probably dealing with the name Kęsek (ę is how we represent on-line the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under it and pronounced most of the time like en); we often see ę spelled en in names, so that Kęsek would often show up as Kensek. As for Kiesek, that's not too hard to explain; in proper Polish the combination Ke- is not supposed to happen, there should always be an I between them, thus Kie-. That rule doesn't apply to nasal ę, but many Poles would stick an i in there anyway, by force of habit. So Kesek, Kensek, and Kiesek would all make sense if the original name was Kęsek.

This name comes from the root seen in kęs, "piece, bit," and kęsy, "short, scanty"; the suffix -ek is a diminutive, meaning either "little" or in names "son of." My best guess is that this name would be applied to a short fellow or his son. As of 1990 there were 674 Polish citizens named Kęsek, with by far the largest numbers in the provinces of Krakow (448) and Nowy Sacz (49) in southcentral Poland. There are smaller numbers of Kęsek's living in other provinces, but the Krakow-Nowy Sacz area is the site of the main concentration.

… My grandmother's maiden name was something like "agustyn" or "agustynick".

It's pretty certain this would be a surname formed from the first name Augustyn, in English "Augustine." The most likely candidates are Augustyn (7,143 Poles had that surname as of 1990), Augustyniak (14,211, meaning "son of Augustine"), or perhaps Agustyniak (13, a variant of Augustyniak, meaning the same thing). The variant Agustyniak is quite rare, but is possible; the other forms are extremely common. The Chicago-area Polish-language newspaper Dziennik Chicagoski had an obit in its 28 Dec 1927 issue for a Jan Agustyniak, and as best I can determine that was how he spelled his name, it wasn't a misprint for Augustyniak... Those are the surnames that seem most likely to be relevant in your case.

If you want to see if you can find more Agustyniak's, you might visit the Website of the Polish Genealogical Society of America at www.pgsa.org and use their searchable databases for the Chicagoski obits, and also for Haller's Army volunteers, to look up the name. Who knows, you might find some relatives?


PILARCZYK

… I have been thoroughly enjoying reading your responses on the PGSA web site. I'm researching the Pilarczyk side of my family (from Krempa, but the parish church is in Tuliszkow). From responses that you have posted, it looks like my ancestors are "sons of sawyers" - is that correct

Yes, it is, and it's a pleasure to talk to someone who actually bothers to read what I write and understand it! So often I have to bite my tongue to keep myself from screaming "I've already answered that, it's right there in black and white!" I know that's overreacting, but repeating the same thing gets frustrating after a while -- so it's gratifying to deal with someone who has read and comprehended!

… There are only about 100 people with the surname of Pilarczyk scattered across America. I haven't found the name in telephone directories for the larger cities in Poland. Is it uncommon?

I'm afraid not, as of 1990 there were 4,267 Polish citizens named Pilarczyk, and by Polish standards anything over 1,000 has to be considered moderately common. The Pilarczyk's lived all over the country -- which makes sense in view of the meaning of the name, it obviously could develop anywhere they spoke Polish and had sawyers who had sons. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of: Kalisz 586, Katowice 409, Konin 379, Lodz 228, Poznan 393, but there was no part of the country that didn't have at least some Pilarczyk's living there. Some of the 379 in Konin province probably live near the Krempa/Tuliszków area and may be related, but obviously with numbers of this sort it's dangerous to jump to conclusions... Unfortunately, the source from which I got this data does not include first names or addresses, and I don't have access to those details.


DRANKA – DYNDA – IMBOR -- IWASZKO – JAPOLA – KOJDER – KUCZUN – ŁACHMAN – MOSOŃ -- OSIKOWICZ – RZESZUTEK – SOKOLOW – TRYNDA -- WATARZ

[Here are brief notes on a number of names. Please note, these days I don’t have time to answer queries on more than three names – if you send me a note asking about more, I’ll just ignore it. – WFH]

Dranka appears to come from dranka, "batten, board." As of 1990 there were 338 Poles by this name, with a clump in Krosno province (153) and a few scattered here and there all over.

Dynda comes from the verb dyndać, "to dangle, swing," or dynda, "something dangling, swinging." As of 1990 there were 293 Poles by this name, concentrated mainly in Nowy Sacz province (109) and Rzeszow province (70) in southcentral and southeastern Poland.

Iwaszko would be an East Slavic name from Iwan, the Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian version of "John"; Iwaszko would be sort of like "Johnny" in English. As of 1990 there were 1,651 Polish citizens named Iwaszko, scattered all over.

Imbor, pronounced sort of like "EEM-bore," almost certainly comes from the root imbir, "ginger"; I imagine it refers to the spice or to ginger-colored hair or something similar, not to Ginger on "Gilligan's Island." As of 1990 there were 129 Poles named Imbor (with the largest numbers in Katowice province, 28, and Kielce province 52), as well as 395 named Imbierowicz ("son of ginger") and 118 named Imbiorski ("of, from, pertaining to ginger").

Japola is a mystery, I could find nothing on it. However, as of 1990 there were 6 Japola's (5 in Lublin province, 1 in Przemysl province), and 28 Poles named Japoł (12 in Nowy Sacz province, 9 in Szczecin province), also 8 named Japołł, all in Krakow province.

As of 1990 there were 858 Kojder's in Poland. This was a name I could find nothing on -- it sounds to me as if it might be German, perhaps Keuder or something like that, but I came up empty trying to pin this one down. The Kojder's were most common in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (150), Jelenia Gora (122), Przemysl (128), and Rzeszow (105), thus in southern Poland.

Kuczun is a tough one, there are three roots it could come from: 1) kuczyć, "to tease, annoy"; 2) kucza, "hut, tent," or kuczka, "small heap." As of 1990 there were 33 Poles by that name, living in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 4, Jelenia Gora 4, Kielce 6, Slupsk 13, Tarnow 3, Walbrzych 3 -- in other words, they were scattered all over the country.

Łachman is either a variant of łach, "rag, clout, clothes," or a Polonized form of German Lachmann, "one dwelling by a pool." As of 1990 there were 476 Lachman's in Poland (most common in Krakow province, 145, and Katowice province, 50), 74 Lachmann's. There were 249 Łachman's, 100 in Krakow province and 76 in Tarnobrzeg province and a few scattered in other provinces.

Mosoń (the ~ signifies an accent over n) is one of numerous names thought to have derived from abbreviations or nicknames of first names beginning with Mo-, such as Mojsław or Mojżesz (Moses). Poles often took the first part of such names, dropped the rest, and added suffixes, so Mosoń would mean no more than "Teddy" does in English -- it started as a nickname for a longer name that did originally mean something (like Teddy from Theodore, from a Greek name meaning "gift of the gods"). As of 1990 there were 405 Poles named Mosoń, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Krosno (82) and Tarnow (82) in southeastern Poland.

Osikowicz means "son of the aspen"; the -owicz suffix means "son of," and osika is "the aspen tree." It may have referred to the son of a fellow who lived near aspens, or worked with them, or something of that sort. As of 1990 there were 170 Osikowicz'es in Poland, with something of a concentration in southcentral Poland (22 in Krakow province, 38 in Nowy Sacz province, 30 in Katowice province).

Rzeszutek is a moderately common name (1,763 as of 1990) from the term rzeszoto, "sieve, grain measurement."

Sokołów comes from the root sokół, "falcon." Surnames from this root are very common, as comparisons to the falcon made for a complimentary name, and there were also numerous places named Sokoly or something similar because there were lots of falcons there. Sokołów is one of the rarer surnames from this root, as of 1990 there were only 131 Sokołów's, scattered all over the country, with the only large number in Warsaw province (47).

Trynda is thought to come from the verb tryndać się, "to shuffle one's feet, squirm." As of 1990 there were 218 Poles named Trynda, with the largest numbers in the southcentral provinces of Czestochowa (81) and Katowice (37) and the southeastern province of Zamosc (35).

Watarz appears to come from wata, which can mean "cotton wadding" or "large drag-net" -- my guess is a watarz would be someone who used a large drag-net, but I can't be sure. As of 1990 there was only 1 Watarz in Poland.


BARNISZKE -- KRAWIECKI -- SIEKIERKA -- S^NARPUNAS

… I am interested in the names of: Siekierka (Anastasia- b.May 1829 ) in Ksiestwo Poznanskie, Poland…

Siekierka comes from the term siekiera, "ax, hatchet"; the -ka suffix is diminutive, so that the name means "little ax," possibly a name given the son of a man known for a connection with this weapon (perhaps he made them, was especially handy at using them, etc.). As of 1990 there were 1,026 Siekierka's in Poland; they lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (136), Katowice (130), and Opole (140), all in southcentral and soutwestern Poland. There were only 17 in the modern-day province of Poznan; unfortunately, I don't have access to first names or addresses or any other details beyond what I've given here... By the way, "Wielkie Księstwo Poznańskie" means "Grand Duchy of Poznan," it was the name of a political entity that existed 1815-1918, of which the city of Poznan (German "Posen") was the capital.

… Sznarpunas or Sznapunas, Sznaspunas ( Joseph- b.Feb 1864) Littan, Poland…

There was no one by any of these names in Poland as of 1990 -- we are almost certainly dealing with a Lithuanian name here. I wonder if "Littan" might not be Littau, German for "Lithuania," or Litwa, the Polish name for that country? This surname and Barniszke are almost certainly Lithuanian, or at least influenced by Lithuanian. Lithuania was an integral part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth for centuries, and many Poles lived there. It's possible the records are saying these people came from Lithuania, Poland, which makes sense because Lithuania was long considered part of Poland (although Lithuanians would disagree!), and you often see Lithuanian names referred to as "Polish" by those who didn't know any better.

There is a known surname in Lithuania, S^narpunas (with a little caret over the first S, giving it the sound of "sh" in English, which is spelled sz in Polish); it is apparently found mainly in the area of Vilkavis^kis (Polish name Wilkowyszki). According to Lith. experts, it comes from a verb s^narpti, meaning "to gulp soup, make a rather unpleasant sound clearing one's nose." A person might have gotten this as a nickname because of a habit, and it stuck -- there are many, many names in Polish and Lithuanian that are uncomplimentary, even insulting; compared to some, this is mild!

… Barniszke- Litan, Poland…

There was no one by this name, or anything like it, in Poland as of 1990. As I said, this name, too, sounds Lithuanian; it could be a Polonized form of Lithuanian Barnis^kis, from Lithuanian forms of the first name "Bernard."

…Kraiviecka- also from Littan, Poland…

Well, if this is a Polish name, it's misspelled -- Polish doesn't use the letter V. It may well be a misreading of Krawiecka, the feminine form of Krawiecki, or it could be a Lithuanian-influenced spelling. Krawiecki is a moderately common surname, borne by 1,090 Polish citizens as of 1990. It comes from the word krawiec, "tailor," and is literally an adjective meaning simply "of, from, pertaining to a tailor."

You might wish to learn more about this possible Lithuanian connection by going to this address: http://www.lithuaniangenealogy.org


KWIATEK

… Here's a request that has been challenged by a friend that does not believe in the power, potential and capabilities of the internet. Her Polish last name is Kwiatek, and she wants to know what it means. Can you help?

This one's not even a challenge. Kwiatek comes from the Polish root kwiat, "flower." The suffix -ek is a diminutive, so the name means literally "little flower." Surnames from this root are very common in Poland, and this is no exception; as of 1990 there were 5,448 Polish citizens named Kwiatek. I would give you a breakdown of where they lived by province, but it would be kind of pointless; there's no particular pattern to the distribution, it's just a fairly common name all over the country... This name appears in Polish records as far back as 1136 – a papal Bull in Latin from that date mentions "Ponat, Quatec, Targossa," where "Quatec" is a Latin phonetic spelling of Kwiatek (quoted in Najdawniejsze zabytki jezyka polskiego [The Most Ancient Relics of the Polish Language], ed. W. Taszycki, Biblioteka Narodowa, seria I, nr. 104, 3rd edition, Wroclaw 1951, p. 70) -- so it has been around a long time!


GARCZYŃSKI

… Could you provide any information on the Surname Garczynski. I did some research from his Naturalization Form and it says that he came from (I'm not sure of the first letter but it looks like an L) Leullmaini, Germany,Poland.

Garczyński is a moderately common name in Poland; as of 1990 there were 2,366 Polish citizens by that name, living all over the country but with particularly large numbers (200+) in the provinces of Warsaw (217), Lodz (238), Poznan (314). The derivation of the name is not clear; it could come from the dialect term garczyna, "pot, broken pot," also used in a symbolic sense to mean "poor or sickly person." But it may also refer to origin in a place named Garcz or Garczyn; my guess is that in a lot of cases the name started as a way of calling someone who came from the village of Garczyn in Gdansk province, or Garczyn Duzy in Siedlce province. But it's likely there isn't just one Garczyński family, but the name developed independently in different places, perhaps in most cases from these two places I've mentioned (or others with similar names too small to show up on my maps), maybe in a few cases also from that term garczyna.

That "Leullmaini" doesn't look or sound right for either German or Polish -- I'm afraid it's been misread. It's probably a town or village in that part of northern or western Poland ruled for a long time by Germany. If you could be sure what it says, that would help you a lot. If there's any way you could get a copy of that form to me (scan it and attach it as a graphics file to an E-mail note, or mail it to me), I'd be willing to look at it and see if I can figure out what it says.


ROZMARYNO[W]SKI

… Hi, I am interested in finding out about the surname, Rosemarynoski.

The standard form of this name in Polish is Rozmarynowski, but it makes perfect sense that it could come to be spelled the way you write it in English. The -owski is properly pronounced "off-skee" in Polish, but in many parts of the country they barely pronounce that "ff" sound, so that it comes out more like "-ah-skee." Thus Rosemarynoski is a pretty good way of writing how Rozmarynowski sounds to those of us used to English phonetic values.

The root of the name is rozmaryn, the Polish word for the herb "rosemary" (both English and Polish get this word from Latin rosmarinus). The surname, like all names ending in -ski, is an adjective, meaning literally "of, from, pertaining to the __ of rosemary," where you fill in the blank with something implied and understood, something that doesn't need to be said. It could be "kin," it could be "place." So the surname could mean "of, from, pertaining to the kin of Rosmaryn," with that used as a first name. This seems possible because there is also a surname Rozmarynowicz, "son of Rozmaryn," so this may have been used as a first name.

But more likely in most cases is that the surname means "person from Rozmarynowo," where that is the name of a village, literally "the place of rosemary," i. e., a place where there was a lot of rosemary around. One of my gazetteers mentions a Rozmarynowo in the county of Wrzesnia in or near Poznan province; I can't find it on any of my maps, it may be too small to show up, or it may have disappeared, or it may have changed its name. After all, most surnames are at least a couple of centuries old, and many, many surnames refer to places that have since changed names or disappeared, etc. But it makes sense that a person or family who came from this place (and possibly others too small to show up in my sources) known for its rosemary might come to be called Rozmarynowski, i. e., "one from Rozmarynowo" = "one from the place of rosemary."

As of 1990 there were 1,055 Polish citizens named Rozmarynowski; they lived all over the country, with the largest numbers (50+) in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (98), Gdansk (54), Katowice (62), Pila (135), Poznan (79), Sieradz (124), and Warsaw (54). There was no one who spelled the name Rozmarynoski, without the w, but that's not odd -- the spelling of names has been somewhat standardized over the last century, so people have gotten used to writing names as -owski even if they don't pronounce them that way. Rosemarynoski is a purely English spelling, so it's not surprising no one in Poland spelled the name that way.


KUBISIAK

… My husband's family name is Kubisiak. We have very little information about the family except that they came from Posnine, Poland (which I can't locate). His great grandfather's name was Michael John Kubisiak born at Posnine. Michael fathers name was Stahley and mother was Kathan. We think Kathan was from Germany and her fathers name was Michal Novich and her mothers last name was Morski. I do not have any dates of births, deaths, etc. My husband is 39 years old.

Well, there is a limit to how much I can tell anyone about specific families -- I just don't have the data. I can, however, suggest that "Posnine, Poland" is probably "Poznan," one of the major cities of Poland. If an American asked a Pole where he came from and the Pole answered "Poznan," the American would probably write what he heard as "Posnine." So I think it's very likely Poznan (called Posen by the Germans when they ruled the area) is what you're looking for... The bad news is that in Poland such administrative subdivisions as provinces (wojewodztwa) and counties (powiaty) and districts (gminy) are named for the town in which their administrative centers were located; Poznan has been the center of various such subdivisions, and often when people said where they came from, they were referring to the province or county of Poznan, not the city. In other words, "I come from Poznan" might have meant not the city but the whole region of which Poznan was the capital, which historically was larger than the modern-day province of Poznan. So you want to start by assuming your husband's family came from the city of Poznan -- it's a big place, lots of people did -- but there's no guarantee that assumption will prove correct.

"Michael John Kubisiak" would appear in Polish records as "Michał Jan Kubisiak" (I'm using ł to stand for the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w). "Stahley" and "Kathan" make no sense, those aren't Polish names; I'm guessing "Stahley" should be "Stanley," which is an English name often used as an equivalent to Polish "Stanisław." As for "Kathan," I have to guess here -- it seems most likely to be a misreading or misspelling of "Katarzyna," the Polish form of "Catherine."

Now, as for the surname Kubisiak, it breaks down as Kubis + -iak. Kubis is a nickname derived from the last part of the first name Jakub (Jacob); for some reason English-speakers never formed a nickname from that part, but Poles and Germans formed several, and Kubis is one -- it would be kind of like "Jake" or "Jakey" in English. The -iak suffix usually means "son of" in surnames, so the surname started out meaning "Kubis's son," referring to some member of the family named Kubis who was fairly prominent in his community at the time surnames were becoming established.

Surnames formed from first names are pretty common in Poland, and Kubisiak is no exception -- as of 1990 there were 1,405 Polish citizens named Kubisiak. They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Kalisz (142), Lodz (126), Poznan (192). The significant number of Kubisiaks living in the Poznan province suggests that could well be where your husband's ancestors came from. Unfortunately, this still doesn't narrow the search down enough to do you much good.

I hate to say it, but to have any realistic chance of tracing the family in Poland, you're going to have to have more info from some source -- naturalization papers, ship passenger lists, records at a church (often marriage or baptismal records give info on family origins). Even if the family came from the city of Poznan rather than the surrounding area, Poznan is too big to track down one family with a name as common as Kubisiak. To make any progress tracing the family in Poland, you absolutely have to have the correct name, birthdate, and birthplace of the ancestor who emigrated. Until you have those, your chances of getting anywhere are pretty slim. I realize you were probably hoping the surname would provide a clue or a lead, but the truth is I have to disappoint people who hope for that about 95% of the time. Most Polish names just don't offer any information that helps significantly with research.


TOMAKA

… I would appreciate any information on the Polish name of "Tomaka". I was told my Grandfather named "Wojciech Tomaka" came from Oswiencima, Poland, but I think the spelling should be Oswiecim, Poland.

As of 1990 there were 527 Polish citizens named Tomaka, living in small numbers in numerous provinces but with by far the largest concentration, 306, living in the province of Rzeszow, in southeastern Poland. There were only 8 in Krakow province, which is where Oswiecim is located -- actually there are 2 Oswiecim's, there's another one in Kalisz province, but the one near Krakow is the famous one, known in German as Auschwitz. The spelling Oswiencima does not contradict origin in Oswiecim. In Polish, Oswiecim is spelled with an accent over the s, giving it a slight "sh" sound, and a tail under the e, giving it the sound of en; so it's not at all unusual to see Polish names with that nasal e spelled also with en instead, Oswiecim = Oswiencim. As for the final -a, that is probably just an ending dictated by Polish grammar, for instance "from Oswiecim" is z Oswiecima, and in such cases the case ending should be dropped to arrive at the standard form of the name... I should add that the data given above is all I have access to; in other words, I cannot get further details such as first names or addresses of any of those Tomaka's in this province or that.

Actually, it's possible the surname in question is Tomak, and that final -a there, too, is a case ending dictated by grammar. But I notice as of 1990 there were only 63 Tomak's, as opposed to 527 Tomaka's, so the numbers suggest the latter is indeed the name you're interested in. The names mean much the same thing, so it's not a major issue which is meant, but Tomaka seems correct.

This name comes from the first name Tomasz, "Thomas." Poles often formed nicknames (which could later become established as surnames in their own right) by taking the first few sounds of a popular first name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes (not unlike "Tommy" in English). Tomaka probably should be broken down as Tom- + -ak- + -a, where Tom- is from Tomasz, -ak is a suffix meaning "little, son of," and -a is an ending meaning "of," so that the name began as meaning "[kin] of Tom's son." Tomak, by contrast, would be simply "Tom's son" or "little Tom." Tomak appears in records as far back as 1369, I can't explain why it is now rare and Tomaka is much more common; sometimes these things just happen with names, perhaps because Poles just liked the sound of one more than the other.


DUBIEL -- DZIEDZIAK -- STEMPIEŃ -- STĘPIEŃ

… I am just beginning to research my Polish genealogy and was wondering if you have any information on the following names: My maiden name is Stempien. The other names I am interested in are Dziedziak and Dubiel (two grandparents with that name).

Dziedziak comes from the root dziad, "old man, grandfather." The suffix -iak, in names, usually means "son of" -- the vowel -a- in dziad often changes to -e- when suffixes are added -- so the basic meaning of this name is "son of the old man, grandfather's son," something like that. Another possible source is a short form of ancient Slavic names with this root _dziad- such as Dziadumil ("dear to grandfather"), so in some cases the name may have started as "son of Dziad" or some other nickname formed from one of those old names. The bottom line in either case, however, is derivation from that root dziad, one way or another. As of 1990 there were 501 Poles by this name; they lived all over the country, but with a particular concentration (208) in Nowy Sacz province, in southcentral Poland. In Polish the name is pronounced roughly "JED-jock."

I'm afraid Dubiel, pronounced roughly "DOOB-yell," is one of many names that are not very complimentary: it comes from dubiel, "stupid person, simpleton" according to Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut and others. I guess there were a lot of stupid people in Poland, as this is a pretty common name: there were 8,722 Poles named Dubiel as of 1990, living all over the country but especially common in southcentral and southeastern Poland.

[Subsequent analysis by Polish name experts has established that dubiel is also a term referring to a specific kind of small fish, Carpio collari. A connection is also possible with dub, which means "oak tree" in Belarusian, Russian, and Ukrainian. So it is quite possible that, in a given instance, the surname referred to some connection between an ancestor and this fish, or to oaks, and not to any lack of mental acuity. Without more information on a specific Dubiel family's history, it's impossible to say for sure which derivation applies in a given case.]

Stempien is even more common, as of 1990 there were 1,163 Poles by that name and another 42,062 who spelled it Stępień. I'm using ę to stand for the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under it, pronounced like en or, before b or p, like em; the ń stands for n with an accent over it. So the name is pronounced roughly "STEMP-yen," and since that em sound can be written either ę or em, you see it spelled either way; but the "correct" or standard spelling is Stępień. Rymut says it probably comes from the archaic term stępień or wstępień, "newcomer to a group, next in line for a position of authority," from the basic root stęp- meaning "step, pace." Some names beginning with Stęp- come from stępnik, "worker who prepares material for processing in a mill [stępa]," so that might also be relevant -- but since this particular name matches the term stępień exactly, I think that's probably what it comes from. It, too, is common all over the country, but especially in south central and southeastern Poland.


OSIEWAŁA -- OSIWAŁA

… My grandfather was from Lodz, Poland and his last name was Osiwala. Born in Lodz, 20/Oct/1890, given name: Ignatius. Other spellings are Osiewala and Osiwalla.

Ignatius is the Latin form of the name Poles call Ignacy -- I just wanted to mention that so that if you run across that form, you will recognize it and have no doubt that the names are, indeed, equivalent.

Osiwala is a little tricky, because Osiwała could possibly be a variant of another name, or it could be an independent surname with its own meaning -- it could come from the verb osiwieć, meaning "to turn grey." (By the way, I'm using ł to stand for the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w). The -ała suffix (also often seen as -ala or -alla) usually implies continual or repeated performance of the action, or manifestation of the trait, denoted by the first part of the name. Osiwała, in effect, would be a name given a person whose hair had turned grey, probably prematurely and due to worry and care. This is plausible. The only thing against this explanation is that we'd expect the form to be Osiwiała, not Osiwała, that is, there really should be an extra -i- stuck in after the w. Also, it might be more likely to see the ending -y, not -a, on the name as borne by a man.

The other possibility is that it's a variant of Osiewała -- which, in fact, you mention as a form you've encountered -- and that comes from the verb osiewać, "to sow, sift." Thus Osiewała would mean "the sifter, the sower."

As of 1990 there were 52 Poles with the name Osiwała, living in the following provinces: Warsaw 8, Jelenia Gora 6, Kalisz 5, Katowice 5, Konin 3, Lodz 18, Opole 2, Piotrkow 2, Zielona Gora 3. (Unfortunately I have no access to further details, such as first names or addresses; what I've given here is all I have.) There were 423 Osiewała's, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Kalisz (127), Lodz (81), and Sieradz (96), and less than 30 in several other provinces.

Since Osiewała is the more common name, it seems likely that Osiwała is just a variant form of it. The pronunciation of both is very similar, "oh-shee-VAH-wah" (Osiwała) vs. "oh-sheh-VAH-wah" (Osiewała), in other words the only difference is that in Osiwała that i is pronounced like our long e, in Osiewała the ie is pronounced like our short e. So that's the most likely derivation. But I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the possibility that, at least in some cases, Osiwała might be a name in its own right, meaning "one whose hair has turned grey."

Even if you wrote Polish name experts, I'm not sure they could answer this question for you without detailed information on your specific family. So what I suggest is that you continue your research -- obviously concentrating on the region of Lodz, since your facts and the data above suggest that's one of the main places this name is found -- and see which form predominates in the records. If you see it spelled Osiwała or Osiwiała more often than not, it may refer to a grey-haired person. But if Osiewała is the form you encounter more often, that "sow, sift" root is probably the right derivation. All things being equal, that's the one I'd put my money on... If you would like to write name experts in Poland and get their opinion, see the Introduction to my page on Polish surnames, specifically the paragraph on the Pracownia Antroponimiczna in Krakow.


DŁUTOWSKI

Dłutowski (the ł standing for the Polish l with a slash through it) is not all that common in Poland, but as of 1990 there were 297 Poles by that name; the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (81), Ciechanow (70), and Wroclaw (36) smaller numbers in several other provinces. The name probably comes in most cases from villages named Dłutów, Dłutowo, Dłutowek, etc. There are at least 8 places by thos names, all of which could yield Dłutowski as a name for a person from there. The place names are thought to come from the term dłuto, "chisel, engraver's tool." In some cases the surname Dłutowski might also have started as meaning something like "kin of the engraver." Hope this is some help!


PYSZ

… Can you give me any information about the meaning or origin of the name Pysz. I believe this is a Russian/Polish name from the Polish provinces of Galicia

According to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut, the name Pysz shows up in records as early as 1389, and comes from the root seen in the words pycha, "pride, conceit," pyszny, "proud, haughty," and pysznić się, "to strut, put on airs." As of 1990 there were 1,033 Polish citizens named Pysz, living all over the country, but with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (395), Katowice (161), in southcentral Poland, and Przemysl (43), Rzeszow (78), and Tarnobrzeg (39) in southeastern Poland. (Unfortunately, I don't have access to more details such as first names and addresses). The area of main concentration does coincide pretty well with western Galicia, as you expected.


LICHNIAK

… My grandfather Lichniak came from Nowominsk, Poland, Russia. My mother thought he made up this name. Apparently, he was the black sheep of the family. Is Lichniak a surname - or could it have been made up. Since I am attempting to do my genealogy, I think I need this cleared up.

Lichniak is a real name, although not a particularly common one -- as of 1990 there were only 81 Polish citizens named Lichniak. They lived in the provinces of Warsaw (52), Jelenia Gora (1), Siedlce (20), Skierniewice (2), and Suwałki (6) -- unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses... If I'm not mistaken, Nowominsk would be the town now called Minsk Mazowiecki, in Warsaw province -- this area was under Russian rule for most of the 19th century until about 1918. So the facts fit together pretty well, and it seems likely some or most of the 52 Lichniak's in Warsaw province are relatives.

I wouldn't think Lichniak is a name most people would make up or voluntarily adopt, because the root lich- means "bad, evil" in Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, etc.; in Polish it means "bad" less in the sense of "evil" than in the sense of "miserable, shoddy, lousy." The -iak suffix usually means "son of" in names, so Lichniak would seem to mean "son of the miserable one." I guess a black sheep might take a name like that, just to spite people or be different. But it's not a name most people would go out of their way to adopt, so I'd be inclined to think it's real and treat it as such until you have good reason to think it's made up.


ŁUC

… I am looking for information on my last name. Father grew up in Detroit, Michigan near Hamtramck(sp.); my grandparents (Stanislaw and Anna Łuc) were from Poland/Austria died when I was very small and never learned to speak English, but the whole family used Luc as their last name. My father did not speak English until he was 9. The history of my last name that I had been told was that it was really spelled Łuc and pronounced Wootz.

Yes, Łuc would indeed be pronounced "wootz."

… I spoke to someone online once who told me that my last name was not Polish, nor was my name located in any surname books. I am aware that there are many surnames, but since my father's death and my inability to locate any of my relatives, I am feeling a little detached. I always felt I knew where I came from, etc. Now, I'm not so sure. Maybe I should embrace my other ethnic background, Irish. I definitely have been able to trace back that heritage.

I'm starting to get a little angry -- I hear fairly often from people whom some "expert" has misled with information that is completely wrong. I don't who these experts are, but they should shut the hell up!

To start with, as of 1990 there were 1,030 Polish citizens named Łuc -- I'd like to see these experts go tell those 1,030 folks they're not Poles! The largest concentration by far was in the province of Przemysl (349) in southeastern Poland, but there were much smaller numbers scattered all over the country -- the more significant numbers were in the provinces of Katowice (66), Legnica (73), Poznan (48), Wroclaw (57), all the rest were much smaller numbers.

As for Łuc not being in any surname book, that's also a load of crap -- the book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles] by Kazimierz Rymut, who's probably the foremost Polish name expert, lists it. While I can't blame someone for not knowing of this book, anyone not familiar with Rymut's work has no business pretending he/she knows anything about Polish names! It's like pretending to be an expert on physics without ever having bothered to read Einstein.

According to Rymut, Łuc could have come from several different roots. Probably the most likely derivation is as a short form of such popular first names as Łukasz (Luke, Lucas), Łucja (Lucy), and Łucjan (Lucian); it might also, in some cases, derive from the root łuk, "bow, arch," seen also in the verb łuczyć, "to aim at." I would also mention the German name Lutz, which derives from the first name Ludwig (Louis); Poles might turn that into Łuc.

All in all, I'd expect the name Łuc would usually have started as a shortened form of a first name; we see this all the time in surname origins, and it seems likely here. If the family was pretty much Polish in ethnic origin, the most likely name involved would be Łukasz; Łucjan is less common, but is a viable candidate; surnames were less often formed from women's names, so I think Łucja is a bit of a long-shot. If the family had some German blood or lived in areas where German had some influence, it might be a Polonized form of Lutz from Ludwig. But derivation from a first name seems more likely than from the root for "bow, arch."


MRÓZ

… I was wondering if you have any info on my surname, which happens to be Mroz..I understand that this is not a uncommon name, and was awarded a Coat Of Arms almost a milennium ago…

Mróz is pronounced roughly "m’rooz" in Polish, and it is indeed a common surname -- as of 1990 there were 24,134 Polish citizens named Mróz, living in large numbers all over the country. The name is seen in documents as far back as 1377, so it is quite old. I don't know much about coats of arms, so I can't tell you whether there is a Mróz coat of arms, and I tend to doubt it's 1,000 years old -- that seems pushing it a little. But no question the name has been around a long, long time.

In most cases this name would come from the Polish word mróz, "frost." Some names beginning with Mroz- can also come from a short form or nickname of the first name Ambroży (= Ambrose), so we can't rule out the possibility the Mróz might also have originated that way in some cases. But obviously there is no one Mróz family, there are many families with the name that developed independently; in some cases the "Ambrose" connection may account for the name, but I suspect in most cases it is the "frost" connection that is relevant.

If you'd like to learn more about whether there is a Mróz coat of arms, and how old it is, you might want to contact Leonard Suligowski, the Director of Heraldry for the Polish Nobility Association Foundation and editor of their Journal, "White Eagle." Leonard doesn't do genealogical research, he's a heraldic artist, but he has an extensive library on the subject of European and especially Polish heraldry. For a very reasonable fee he will see what info he can extract from all his armorials and pass it on to you -- some folks even engage him to paint their arms. If you're interested, his address is: Leonard Suligowski, 218A N. Henry St., Brooklyn, NY 11222.

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


WALENTOWICZ

… I am attempting to determine the meaning of the name Walentowicz? And also, if the name denotes a reference to any particular region in Poland. I've been told by relatives that we are Prussian Poles. I have already read that the suffix -owicz means son of, so I guess the key would be to determine what walent means. My humble guess is that is is a patronmic name of St. Valentine, or possibly some reference to Walter. I'm sure my limited knowledge will be apparent.

Don't sell your "limited knowledge" short, because you're on target; some Polish names are not so tough, and this is one of them. As you say, -owicz means "son of," and the Walent- part comes from the first name Walenty, which is the Polish version of "Valentine" (originally from Latin Valentinus from valens, "strong, mighty"). So the name means "son of Valentine."

Unfortunately, by the nature of things, patronymics formed from popular names are quite common, and are seldom concentrated in any one area. As of 1990 there were 504 Polish citizens named Walentowicz (compare 994 Walentynowicz's); the largest numbers (more than 20) lived in the provinces of Białystok (31), Bydgoszcz (135), Ostrołęka (35), Szczecin (24), Torun (62), and Warsaw (40), with much smaller numbers scattered in most other provinces all over the country. It's fair to say there is some concentration of Walentowicz's in the areas formerly part of Prussia and Pomerania of the German Empire -- Bydgoszcz, Szczecin, and Torun provinces fall roughly into that area, and they have a pretty good share of the people by this name, 221 of 504. But that's still not half of the total, so I don't think we can say the name is all that closely identified with Prussia. Still, if you have family information that your folks were Prussian Poles, I'd say the numbers I've quoted do nothing to discredit the idea... I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses, I'm afraid what I've given is all I have.


WIELGOPOLSKI -- WIELKOPOLSKI -- WIELOPOLSKI

… Could you please give me any information on the name "Wielgopolski" or "Wielopolski"? Any information you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

There are two separate names that might be involved here, Wielkopolski (sometimes also seen as Wielgopolski, because both forms sound similar) and Wielopolski. The name Wielkopolski comes from a combination of the root wielki (also sometimes wielgi) meaning "great" and the root pol-, "field," or polski, "Polish," which ultimately comes from that root. In most cases this name probably refers to Wielkopolska, "Great Poland," a division of the country running basically from northwestern Poland down toward Krakow in the south, covering perhaps a quarter of Poland (there's also a Malopolska, a "Little Poland," which is basically the southeastern part of the country). The surname Wielkopolski probably started in most cases as a name for a person from that area or somehow identified with that area. Unfortunately, it's a rather large area, so the name itself doesn't provide anything very helpful in terms of tracing ancestors. As of 1990 there were only 4 Poles named Wielgopolski, all living in the province of Konin; and there were 120 Wielkopolski, scattered all over the country.

Wielopolski is different, it derives from places named Wielopole or something similar -- that's all it means, "one from Wielopole." There are several places by that name, so this surname, too, offers nothing very helpful in terms of tracing ancestors. As of 1990 there were 252 Polish citizens by this name, and they, too, were not concentrated in any one place -- you find small numbers of folks by that name all over the country.


PINCOSKI -- PINCZEWSKI -- PIŃCZOWSKI

… I read your invitation and hereby submit the surname Pincoski.

As of 1990 there was no one in Poland with the name Pincoski. It's possible this is a misreading or misspelling of some other name, or it may be a dialect form of a name that appears in standard Polish as Pinczewski (there were 301 Poles by that name as of 1990). When we see -oski it's almost always a dialect form of -owski, so spelled because in some areas the w isn't pronounced; and in some areas of Poland the -cz- (pronounced like our "ch") is pronounced, and therefore often spelled, as -ts-, which Poles spell with the letter -c-. So Pincoski probably = Pińczowski (ń stands for the Polish accented n). Names ending in -ewski or -owski usually started as references to a connection between a person or family and a place with a similar name, so Pińczowski meant "one from Pińczów" -- there's a village called Pińczów in Kielce province and another in Nowy Sacz province. The surname Pińczowski appears to have died out these days in Poland -- but as I say, Pinczewski might be the standard form these days. In any case, we know Pińczowski it used to exist, and it meant "one from Pińczów." I'm often surprised at how many surnames have died out after families emigrated, so that you have an odd situation where a good old Polish surname is no longer to be found in Poland, but only in other countries such as the U.S.A.!

So to sum up, I can't be positive about any of this, but from a linguistic point of view, Pincoski is probably a dialect version or misreading of Pińczowski, "one from Pińczów." The name appears to have died out in Poland, or else has been standardized as Pinczewski.


WITWICKI

… My surname is Witwicki, which I took from my family from Poland... He was born in a village called "Rawa" that is now not in Poland.

A surname ending in -icki usually got started as a reference to a connection between a person or family and a place with a similar name ending in -ica, -ice, -iki, something like that. In this case I can find only one likely match, and that is Witwica, which is now Vytvytsa in Ukraine. The Rawa you're referring to may be Rava Ruska, which is in Ukraine, just across the border from Tomaszow Lubelski in Zamosc province, Poland -- although there may well be other places named Rava that don't show up in my sources, this is probably the "Rawa" you're referring to (in Polish the v sound is spelled with a w). Witwica and Rawa are some distance apart, but they are both in far western Ukraine, not too far from the current borders of Poland; for centuries this area was ruled by Poland, and many Poles lived there (and still do).

The probable root of the place name and surname is witwa, the basket willow (Salex viminalis), so that Witwica was "the place of the basket willow," and the Witwicki was "the one from Witwica." Here is some information on Witwica I got from a late 19th-century gazetteer:

"Witwica, village in Dolina county, 14 km. NW of Dolina, 10 km. south of the county court and post office in Bolechów. Greek Catholic church in Witwica, Roman Catholic church in Bolechów... This village is the ancestral home of the Witwicki's. From there came Stanisław, Bishop of Kiev and later of Poznań (died 1697); also from this family was the poet Stefan Witwicki, born in Janów in Podolia…"

Dolina is now Dolyna, and Bolechów is now Bolekhiv; my maps confirm that Witwica/Vytvytsa is about 14 km. northwest of Dolyna. Most of the inhabitants of this village were Greek Catholics, and would have gone to the church in the village to register births, deaths, and marriages, whereas the Roman Catholic minority would have gone to the church in Bolechów/Bolekhiv.

As of 1990 there were 955 Polish citizens named Witwicki, living all over the country, but with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (89), Katowice (97), Wloclawek (72), Wroclaw (138). There may well be many more in Ukraine, but I have no access to such data; nor do I have access to further details such as first names or addresses for the Witwicki's in Poland.


FIGLEWSKI -- GALUS

I am researching my family tree. I need information, on the names Figlewski and Galus, if available.

Figlewski is not a very common name, as of 1990 there were only 173 Polish citizens with this name. The largest numbers (10 or more) lived in the provinces of Jelenia Gora 12, Poznan 15, Torun 57, Warsaw 11, Wloclawek 15, so the people by this name are scattered all over the country, but with some concentration in central to northwest-central Poland. Usually names ending in -ewski originated as references to a place; in this case we'd expect the name to mean something like "person from Figlewo," except I can't find any mention in any of my sources of any place with a name remotely similar. It could be there was such a place centuries ago, when the surname originated, but it has since disappeared, been renamed, been absorbed into another community, etc. The probable root of the name is figiel, "trick, prank," and Figlewski appears to mean "of, from, pertaining to the __ of the tricks"; most often that blank is filled in with "place," so that "Figlewo" would be "the place of the tricks," but sometimes "kin" is the understood word that fills in that blank. So it could be this name could be an exception and never referred to a place at all, but to the kin of a prankster. That, at least, is the best guess I can make on the basis of the information available to me.

Galus is easier, it's a moderately common name -- there were 2,665 Poles named Galus as of 1990, living all over the country but significantly more common in southcentral and southeastern Poland. It comes from the Latin first name Gallus, which is thought to derive either from Latin gallus, "cock," or from Celtic ghas-los, "foreigner, newcomer." A 7th-century Irish hermit, St. Gall (in Latin Gallus) settled at St. Gallen, Switzerland, and after his death his cell grew into the nucleus of a major monastery of the Benedictine Order. The Order spread this name throughout Europe (although it's not very well known among English-speakers), and among Poles it also developed the form Gaweł, just as in Czech it became Havel (the surname of the president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel). Galus developed from the original Latin form.


GRABOWICZ

… I'd like to know if the name Grabowicz is listed in your book.

It is. However, I think it's silly to make a person buy the whole book if all he wants is one name. Let me tell you a bit about this name, and you can buy the book only if you want info on more names, or background info on how such names developed. -- By the way, the book doesn't go into much detail on individual names; it deals with some 30,000 surnames, so there wasn't room. Instead, the index of names gives brief indications of what roots specific ones came from, and the 12 chapters of text that precede the index provide background on how names of that sort originated. The book is long on general info, short on details for specific names; on-line I have to be short on general info, but can give more details on a specific name. So I think the book and my Website complement each other.

The suffix -owicz means "son of," so Grabowicz means "son of Grab." It appears that in ancient times Grab was sometimes used as a first name, though it's unheard of these days. There are several roots it might come from: grab, "the hornbeam tree," grabie, "rake," or grabić, "to rob." So a name like Grabowicz might refer to a person who lived near a grove of hornbeams, or who somehow reminded people of a rake -- but in most cases it probably referred to the son of a man named Grab, and that name was given to someone in hopes he would be quick to "grab" and hold onto property, wealth, whatever (I'm not sure, but I don't think it's totally coincidence that English "grab" and this Polish root are similar; they may well both trace back to some Indo-European root). Other names beginning with Grab- such as Grabowski would more likely refer to a place named for hornbeams, but I think "son of the hornbeam" or "son of the rake" doesn't make that much sense for this name.

As of 1990 there were 1,193 Polish citizens named Grabowicz. They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (106), Lodz (177), and Skierniewice (349). So the name is most common in central Poland, but I don't have access to any details that would let me get more specific than that. The name itself is little help in tracking down a particular Grabowicz family -- you'd have to have data from some other source. Incidentally, this is true of probably 95% of Polish names; comparatively few offer any real lead as to where the families bearing them came from.


KWACZENIUK

… Maybe you can help me with another name, when you have a chance, that's not a '-ski' or a '-wicz', or anything common like that? The name is Kwaczeniuk.

The suffix -uk or -iuk is a diminutive generally used to form patronymics, and it tends to appear more often in eastern Poland, Belarus and Ukraine. So usually you can take off -uk or -iuk and render the name "son of _," and usually the first part of the surname is clearly a first name or occupation, e. g., Martyniuk = son of Martyn, Tkaczuk = son of the weaver. Kwaczen-, however, is a bit unusual because it doesn't appear to be a first name or an occupation.

Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut says names beginning with Kwacz- come from the root kwacz-, "to emit a sound like a duck," that is, "to quack"! So this surname would appear to mean "son of the quacker." (You see, you can't make this stuff up; reality is always stranger than fiction!).

Since this name is likely to have originated in eastern Poland, I was curious to see if my Ukrainian dictionary suggested any possible roots. I should mention that Poles use w for the sound we write v and cz for the sound we write ch; Kwaczeniuk is pronounced roughly "kvah-CHEN-yook" -- so what I was looking for was a Ukrainian root (written in Cyrillic) which we'd write phonetically as kvach. All I could find was the noun kvach, "clout; brush for greasing wheels; shaving brush; weak-willed (yielding) person." I don't normally disagree with Rymut, he's damned good, but since this particular name seems likely to originate from the eastern areas where Ukrainian has a lot of influence on names, I'd consider it at least possible Kwaczeniuk means "son of the kvach," perhaps referring to a person who was a bit of a push-over or wimp.

Hard to tell for sure which derivation is correct. I could imagine a person ending up with a nickname because he made a quacking sound; but the "weak-willed" connection also seems plausible. So objectively I can't be sure which one you should go with. If you find your Kwaczeniuk ancestors seem to have come from the eastern parts of the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, I'd think the "son of a wimp" derivation is more likely. But if they seem to be ethnic Poles, "quacker's son" is more likely.

As of 1990 there were only 29 Polish citizens named Kwaczeniuk, living in the provinces of Warsaw (3), Białystok (5), Gdansk (1), Gorzow (15), Legnica (4), and Poznan (1). Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses, what I give here is all I have... It's odd that the largest number live in Gorzow province in western Poland, but I strongly suspect that's due to post-World War II forced relocations; I'd bet almost anything if we had pre-1945 data we'd find most of the Kwaczeniuk's living in eastern Poland or what is now Belarus and Ukraine.

If you'd like to see if Polish name experts can come up with anything more definitive, you should go to the introduction to my Surname and read in the introduction about the Anthroponymic Workshop in Krakow. They can correspond in English, they seldom charge more than $10-20 per name, and they're the best experts I know of regarding Polish and Slavic names; they might be able to tell you more. If so, I'd be very interested in hearing what they have to say...


KAROŚCIK -- TRACZEWSKI

… Hello Fred, do you have any information on the origin and meaning of my Grandparents surnames: Grandfather: Karoscik, Grandmother: Traczewska.

The name Karościk is quite rare; as of 1990 there were only 6 Polish citizens by that name, 4 living in the provinces of Gdansk and 2 in Lodz province; unfortunately I don't have access to first names or addresses, but perhaps you can contact the Polish Genealogical Society of America at www.pgsa.org or the PGS-Northeast http://members.aol.com/pgsne2/ to see if they could search Polish provincial phone directories for people by this name... I'm not sure what the name comes from, it might be from a diminutive of karaś, "crucian carp," or it might come from the root kar-, "punishment; the color black when referring to horses." None of my sources mention this surname, so I don't have any Polish experts' research to rely on, but I'd say one of those is the probable origin.

Traczewska is easier. First of all, names ending in -ska are feminine forms of names given in standard form with the ending -ski, so we're looking for Traczewski. Literally the name breaks down as "of, from, pertaining to the __ of the tracz," where you fill in with the blank with some understood word, usually either "place" or "kin." In names Tracz- usually comes from the noun tracz, "sawyer, one who cuts wood" (although I wonder if sometimes it might also refer to tracz, "the merganser duck"?), so Traczewski probably started either meaning "kin of the sawyer" or "one from Traczew or Traczewo or Traczewa = the place of the sawyer." I can't find any mention in my sources of a place named Traczew/o/a, but that isn't conclusive because such a place may have existed centuries ago when the surname developed but has since disappeared, been renamed, etc. So I can't say for certain whether the surname means "sawyer's kin" or "one from Traczew/a/o," but one of those two is probably right. In either case, there's some sort of connection to a guy who sawed wood for a living (or, just possibly, to mergansers?).

As of 1990 there were 458 Polish citizens named Traczewski, and they were scattered all over the country, with no real concentration. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Warsaw (81), Ostrołęka (53), and Radom (57), thus in east central Poland, but that's not a lot of help, I know.

If you'd like to see if Polish name experts can come up with anything more definitive on Karościk, you might visit the introduction to my Surname page and read in the introduction about the Anthroponymic Workshop in Krakow. They can correspond in English, they seldom charge more than $10-20 per name, and they're the best experts I know of regarding Polish and Slavic names; they might be able to tell you more. If so, I'd be very interested in hearing what they have to say.


KONOPKA

… Having recently found, and greatly enjoyed enjoyed your website(s) on Polish history and genealogy I am writing to inquire as to the roots and significance of the surname Konopka. Any assistance would be appreciated.

According to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut and others, Konopka comes from the root konopie, "hemp," and this name appears in Polish legal records as early as 1393. It is quite common in Poland, as of 1990 there were 11,121 Polish citizens by this name, living all over the country, with particularly large numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (1,278), Katowice (935), and Łomża (1,622)... When giving people nicknames based on the names of animals or objects, Poles often added a diminutive suffix such as -ek or -ka to help distinguish the person from the animal or object; and that's probably how the name Konopka, literally "little hemp," got started, as a nickname that eventually stuck as a surname. It might have referred to a person who grew hemp, sold it, used it a lot, etc. -- now, centuries after surnames were established, it's sometimes difficult to recreate exactly what the link was. But something about a person named Konopka seemed associated with hemp, we can be fairly sure of that.

I'm going strictly by memory here, and thus might be wrong, but I believe Władysław Konopka was the original name of actor Ted Knight, who played "Ted Baxter" on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. He is perhaps the best-known person named Konopka, although the name is common enough that there probably have been other prominent figures by that name.


HODAS -- MAJCZYK

… I ran across your book information on the PGSA web page. If possible, could you find any information on two names: Hodas and Majczyk. Through my limited reseach found nothing about these names.

I'm not surprised you could find nothing on Hodas; none of my sources mention it, and as of 1990 there were only 8 Poles by that name, all living in Krakow prov. Unfortunately I don't have access to first names or addresses, but the PGSA can often search telephone directories for specific parts of Poland; perhaps you could contact them and see if they have the one for Krakow. Phones in private homes are rarer in Poland than here, there are no guarantees, but maybe one of those Hodas's will be listed... As for the origins of the name, the H and Ch are pronounced the same in Polish, so we might be dealing with a variant spelling of Chodas (as of 1990 there were 33 of them, with 28 living in Warsaw province), which presumably comes from the root chod-, "go, walk." But if the family's roots lie in southern or southeastern Poland, the name could come from Ukrainian hoda, "difficult, hard," or from Czech hod, "feast, festival," or hodit, "to throw, cast." Or if the family was Jewish, it's possible the name comes from Hebrew hadas, "holy" (cmp. the original name of the Biblical figure Esther, Esther 2:7).

I know that's a lot of if's, but without more info it's hard to say anything with much confidence. If the family has no Jewish blood and comes from an area where Czech or Ukrainian aren't likely to have much influence, then the link with chod-, "walk, go," seems the most likely derivation. But you can see how the place of origin could affect which source is the most likely.

If you'd like to ask the best experts and don't mind spending $10-20 for an answer, look at the Introduction to the Surname webpage and get the address of the Anthroponymic Workshop in Krakow. They have the best sources, if there's anyone who can give you a reliable answer, it's them. (If you do write them and they give you a good reply, I'd love to hear what they have to say!).

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut includes Majczyk with a number of other names from the root maj, "May." In names -czyk usually means "son of," so the name literally means "son of May." A name like this might originate because a child was born in May, or something about that time of year was associated with him. All these centuries later it can be tough trying to figure out exactly what the connection was, the most we can do is say there was a connection. As of 1990 there were 258 Poles named Majczyk, scattered all over the country, with larger numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (25), Kalisz (38), Lodz (33), Sieradz (33). These provinces are all in central Poland, so the name seems to be most common in that region; unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses, and I'm afraid this probably isn't specific enough to help you much.


SEBZDA

… The name I am looking for is Sebzda. Both my grandparents came from Galicia, Austria, I think. My grandmother could not write so she phonetically spelled her name. It is Anna Puktah.

I'm afraid I can't help you much with these names. I've been trying for some time to figure out what Sebzda comes from, because the name intrigues me -- at times I wonder if it might be a mangled name from Sebastian, but I haven't found any info on this anywhere. It's not all that rare a name: as of 1990 there were 381 Poles named Sebzda, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Katowice (29), Przemysl (68), Rzeszow (29), and Wroclaw (107). Przemysl and Rzeszow are in that part of southeastern Poland seized by Austria and ruled as "Galicia," Wroclaw and Katowice are just a little west of there, so the name is most common in southcentral and southeastern Poland. But as I said, none of my books mention it, and I haven't been able to come up with even an intelligent guess, other than that very tenuous notion about "Sebastian." Such a connection is not outrageous, given the changes names can undergo; but such guesses are also worthless without some evidence, and I have none.

As for Puktah, I'm afraid I've come up empty there, too. There was one Pole named Pukto in Katowice province in 1990 (I'm afraid I have no access to further details such as names and addresses), and I could find no mention of any other name remotely like this. Neither Puktah nor Sebzda really sounds Polish, and it's not rare to see names of many other origins in Galicia -- Hungarian, Romanian, Ukrainian, Slovak, etc. I strongly suspect these names originated elsewhere and came to Poland with people who immigrated there over the centuries.

If you'd like to ask the best experts and don't mind spending $10-20 for an answer, look at my Introduction to the Surname webpage and get the address of the Anthroponymic Workshop in Krakow. They have the best sources, if there's anyone who can give you a reliable answer, it's them... If you do write them and they give you a good reply, I'd love to hear what they have to say, especially about Sebzda!


KORDALEWSKI

… Trying to find the roots of the Kordalewski family please, can you try to guide me in the right direction.

Generally names with the pattern X-ewski can be interpreted literally as "of, from, pertaining to the kin/place of X," so that we'd expect this to mean either "one from Kordalew/Kordalewo/Kordalewa" [which means "place of Kordal"] or "one of the kin of Kordal." I can't find mention in any of my sources of any place with a name beginning Kordal-, but that doesn't necessarily mean much -- surnames developed centuries ago, and sometimes the place they referred to has since disappeared, changed its name, etc. So it's still kind of up in the air whether this name referred originally to a village or settlement named something like Kordalew or Kordali, or whether it simply meant "kin of Kordal or Kordala." Those are names known to have been used in the past, coming either from the roots kord, "saber," or korda, the cord used by monks or nuns instead of belts, or (just maybe) from the Latin name Cordula.

As of 1990 there were 259 Polish citizens named Kordalewski, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Warsaw (57), Ciechanow (23), Lodz (35), Płock (75), and Skierniewice (18), with only a few others scattered in various other provinces. So the name seems to be most common in central Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to first names or addresses for any of those people, and "central Poland" is still too large an area to help you very much. I'm afraid that's the way it is with most Polish surnames -- they just don't offer much in the way of helpful clues.


PISZCZOR

… My surname, Piszczor, traces from the Zakopane/NowyTarg region back before 1620 (based on reports of a baptismal certificate supposedly in the civil Nowy Targ records). Now the root of our name piszcz I have found to be difined as either a large rodent/high-pitched voice; or as being a claimant, making a claim. (What type of claim has always been a item of wonderment for me. Just a big whiner?)

Since I last revised my book on Polish surnames, I've got hold of a couple of books on names in that general area, especially Cieszyn and Nowy Sacz, and they shed a little more light on this name (and since as of 1990 fully 45 of the 75 Piszczor's lived in Nowy Sacz province, this seems relevant). Apparently most of the names beginning with piszcz- are thought to have referred to piszczeć, "to play a pipe, flute, pan-pipe"; so while the link with the basic root's meaning of "squeal, high-pitched sound" is clear, Wladyslaw Milerski's Nazwiszka Cieszyńskie specifically mentions Piszczor, Piszczór, and Piszczur among the names that probably began as meaning "piper." I know I'd prefer that to being a whiner or rodent!

… Anyway, I have found that region was not begun to be settled until the years 1590-1610. Now I have found on some old 1943 U.S. Army maps a village about 2km or so east of Zakopane by the name of Piszczora! Guess what I'm asking here is, can we begin to draw some conclusions from this?

Out of curiosity I looked in the Slownik Geograficzny gazetteer -- it mentions a "Piszczory, a wólka belonging to Skrzypne, Nowy Targ county, on the stream Rogoznik, in the northern part of Skrzypne, with 7 houses and 35 inhabitants." [A wólka was a "new" agricultural settlement (probably less than 500 years old, as opposed to a really old place like Gdańsk or Poznań) established with settlers from some older village; it was typically established with a 10 or 20-year exemption from rents and taxes, so the settlement could get on its feet before it started paying its noble landowner dividends.] I doubt this is the same place you're talking about, as this one would be maybe 10-20 km. north of Zakopane; but it's not unusual to see two or more places with similar names in the same general region. What I found interesting about this is that Piszczory was a subdivision of Skrzypne, and that name comes from the root skrzyp-, "creak, grind, squeak," used especially in skrzypki, "fiddle," and skrzypce, "violin." Apparently they had a kind of musical theme going in that area, with lots of pipers and fiddlers!

Anyway, I would think a place called Piszczora would have come from the genitive-case form piszczora, "[place] of the piper." In other words, the place probably took its name from people, rather than the other way around. It's risky making general statements like this, there are so many exceptions. But I think the places named Piszczora and Piszczory got those names because there were a lot of pipers around, or else from a person whose name was Piszczor because he or an ancestor had been a piper. That's how I see it, anyway.


ŁOZIŃSKI

… Laskowski was my maternal grandmothers' maiden name, and when I showed my mother your (very NICE, thank you very much) e-mail and your web site, she also became interested. Her maiden name was Lozinski, and again, is one of those names that I couldn't find any info on on your site.

Well, the 1990 compilation I quote for data on name frequency lists some 800,000+ Polish surnames (only 44,723 of which are borne by more than 100 Poles), so there are one or two I haven't gotten to yet on my Website. Even my book only had room for 30,000 of the most common ones...

As of 1990 there were 3,095 Łoziński's in Poland -- I'm using ł to stand for the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w, and ń for the accented n; the name is pronounced roughly "woe-ZHEEN-skee." The provinces with the largest numbers were: Gorzow 169, Katowice 163, Krakow 183, Warsaw 258, Wroclaw 366, Zielona Gora 179. Those are the provinces with the most people, so basically that just means the name is rather evenly distributed all over Poland.

A name ending in -iński usually (not always) refers to a similar place name. I'd expect Łoziński to have started as meaning "one from Łozin, one from Łozy," something like that. There are several villages with names that qualify, including Łozina in Wroclaw province, Łoza in Elblag province, and at least three Łozy's (in Przemysl, Siedlce, and Zielona Gora provinces); a Łoziński could come from any of those places. The root of all these place names is probably the term łoza, "osier, wicker," so that these place names all meant basically "place with lots of wicker" and the surname meant "one from Łozina, Łozy, etc." = "one from the wicker place." Viewed this way, it's not surprising the name is moderately common, that's a name that could (and surely did) get started independently in many different places.


DOMARACKI -- DOMARADZKI -- DOMARECKI -- DOMERACKI -- DOMERADZKI

… I found your web page through a search. I have been trying to find even just basic info. on the Polish surname, Domeracki. I've visited a lot of Polish genealogy sites but no info. Was wondering, if it is at all possibly, for you to send me any info., such as etymology etc., that you might have on this surname.

The probable origin of Domeracki is from an old Slavic pagan first name, Domarad, literally "glad at home." The ancient Poles and other Slavs gave their children names that were meant to be good omens, so giving a child a name like that was to express hope he would have a happy home. There are several villages in Poland with names that come from this name, probably because someone named Domarad founded them or owned them at some point; they include a village called Domarady in Olsztyn province, and villages called Domaradz in Krosno, Opole, and Slupsk provinces. There may be others that don't show up on my maps, but this shows there are at least four different places this surname could come from.

There are several reasonably common surnames formed either directly from the name Domarad, or else from places such as those I just mentioned, which in turn got their name from Domarad.

As of 1990 there were 1,129 Polish citizens named Domeracki, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (302), Olsztyn (117), and Torun (139), and smaller numbers scattered all over the country. There were another 755 who spelled it Domeradzki, which would be pronounced exactly the same, roughly as "dome-air-OTT-skee," and for all practical purposes they could be considered the same name; the Domeradzki's were most common in the provinces of Warsaw 107, Płock 91, Radom 98, and Wloclawek 74. However, neither name is associated with any one area to such a degree that we can say "Here's where the name came from" ... Besides Domeracki and Domeradzki we also have the "standard" or most common form Domaradzki (there were 3,409 Poles by that name as of 1990), as well as Domaracki (317) and Domarecki (603). All of these are just variants of the same basic name with slight differences due to regional pronunciations, errors, etc. The data strongly suggests there isn't just one big family that shares this name, but rather the name got started independently in different places at different times.


CHORĄŻEWICZ -- SZABLAK

Horonzevicz (or Horonzewicz) and Szablak are the names I'm interested in

Szablak comes from the word szabla, "saber, sword." The -ak is a diminutive ending, so the name means literally "little sword." Often when Poles formed a name for a person from the name of an object they added a suffix to help distinguish the two; that may be the case here, so that the name means "swordsman." Or the -ak may imply "son of the swordsman," either interpretation is plausible. As of 1990 there were 408 Polish citizens with this name, with the largest numbers in the northeastern provinces of Ostrołęka (138) and Łomża (73) and smaller numbers scattered all over the country. The name is pronounced much like "SHAW-block" would be in English.

Horonzewicz is a variant of the name which appears as Chorążewicz in standard form; the ch and h are pronounced exactly the same in Polish, and ą stands for a a nasal vowel written like a normal a with a tail under it and pronounced much like "own."N. Ż stands for Z with a dot over it, so that it sounds like zh in "Zhivago." Both spellings sound the same -- much like "hoe-ron-ZHE-vich" -- and it's not unusual in such cases to see more than one spelling, especially in past centuries. As of 1990 there were 740 Poles named Chorążewicz, with particularly large numbers living in the provinces of Olsztyn (203) and Ostrołęka (215), both in northeastern Poland, and smaller numbers in many other provinces. There was no one in Poland who spelled it Horonzewicz, probably because with the advent of mass literacy in this century the spellings of many names have been standardized. The name means comes from the term chorąży, "standard-bearer" (tail under the a, dot over the z) plus the suffix -ewicz, "son of," so it means "son of the standard-bearer."


ORSZAK

… Hello, I've already ordered your book, but in the meantime I was wondering if you could provide any information on the subject surname (Orszak) which was my mothers maiden name.

I'm glad you contacted me -- I don't want people who order the book to be disappointed, and Orszak is not in there! I was a little surprised to see I hadn't included it, but generally I didn't include names borne by fewer than 300 Poles as of 1990, and as of that year there were only 183 Poles named Orszak. About half lived in the provinces of Rzeszow (58) and Tarnobrzeg (38) in southeastern Poland, the rest were scattered in small numbers all over the country; so this tells us that at least these days the name is most common in southeastern Poland, sometimes called Malopolska or "Little Poland," and "Galicia" after the Austrians took it over during the partitions. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses of those Orszak's, the info comes from a Polish government agency database, and they won't allow us access to anything other than info on how many people have a particular name and where they live by province. But it might be a little helpful to know the Orszak's are most common in that region.

Polish names can fool us, but it certainly appears that this name comes from the term orszak, "retinue, staff, group of persons accompanying someone or something," in archaic times meaning "a mass of people." My 8-volume dictionary of Polish says it comes from Turkish urszak, "group of people assembled for a specific purpose." It used to be pretty much mandatory for any important noble or clergymen to be attended by a retinue (kind of like the way people use the term "posse" in modern slang), and I suppose this name could come to be associated with a person who had or served in such a retinue. One source, Alexander Beider's Dictionary of Jewish Surnames in the Kingdom of Poland, says this term is what the name probably comes from, and speculates perhaps it referred to a rabbi's train or retinue"; so I'm not the only one who thinks that's the derivation of it the name. However, there is no reason to assume this name was borne only by Jews; I'm sure it's one of many names used by people of any religion; the only difference is, among Jews it might refer to a rabbi's retinue, among Christians it would probably refer to the retinue of a noble or high clergyman.


KURZYNA – NIEDBALSKI -- WALIŃSKI -- WOLIŃSKI

…Is Kurzin a Polish name and if so, what does it mean? I have an ancestor with that name who came from Poznan.

The spelling Kurzin is not used these days -- as of 1990 there was no one in Poland by that name. But there were 16 named Kurzyn and 892 named Kurzyna, and Kurzin could very well be a variant dating back to the days when spelling rules weren't quite so strict or well-known. The 892 Kurzyna's lived all over Poland, with larger numbers in the provinces of Białystok (112), Łomża (150), Lublin (162), and Tarnobrzeg (180); the 16 Kurzyn's lived in the provinces of Warsaw (1), Lodz (1), Suwałki (8), and Zamosc (8). Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses... The root of either name is kur, "chicken"; kurzyna can mean "chicken meat," or "a bad hen, one of poor quality," plus several other things.

2. What is the difference between Walinski and Wolinski, or are they the same name with the same meaning?

They can be the same name -- in Polish a and o sound very similar, and we often see them confused in spelling. But in a perfect world, the two names are distinct, referring usually to the names of places the families came from, such as Wola, Wolin, Wolina vs. Waliny. The basic root of wola has to do with "(free) will," but people named Woliński were connected with agricultural settlements called Wola's, because they were settled by people from other villages who were given 10-20 years of exemption from taxes and rents while they got the new settlements on their feet. Names beginning with Wal- typically came from short forms of first names such as Walenty (Valentine) or Walerian (Valerian), or from the verb root walić, "to overturn, overthrow, upset." Poles typically form nicknames or new names by taking the first syllable of a name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes (sort of like English "Teddy" from "Theodore"), and that explains how names like Walin came from Walenty or Walerian. Then -ski is an adjective ending, so that Waliński means literally "of, from, pertaining to Walin." So in practice Waliński would end up meaning something like "kin of Val, one from the place of Val." As of 1990 there were 874 Walinski's in Poland, as opposed to 6,584 Wolinski's.

3. What does the name Niedbalski mean?

This comes from the term niedbala, "negligent, sloppy fellow." The -ski is adjectival, so that the name means literally "of, from, pertaining to the sloppy guy" -- most often in names it would mean basically "kin of the sloppy guy, son of the sloppy guy," something like that. As of 1990 there were 1,446 Poles named Niedbalski.


LEWKOWICZ

… I am beginning to look into my heritage. I don't even really know where to start. My father's name is Stephan Lewkowicz......his father is Bronislav Lewkowicz....I was told that my grandparents came from Poland. Do you have any information on Lewkowicz?

The -owicz suffix means "son of," so this surname means "son of Lewko." Lewko is a name used by Christians and Jews, and the origin can be different, depending on religion. But the names you cite, Stephan and Bronislav, are Christian, so I will assume the family was Christian and not Jewish. In that case the name can come either from the term lewy, "left," or the first name Lew, which comes from the common Slavic root for "lion" and is basically the Slavic equivalent of our names Leon and Leo. So Lewkowicz is basically a Slavic name meaning "son of Leo." As of 1990 there were 2,943 Polish citizens named Lewkowicz, living all over the country. So I'm afraid -- like most Polish surnames -- this one doesn't provide us with any useful clues about where the family might have come from. I would think it more likely to have originated in eastern Poland or Belarus or Ukraine than western Poland, but even then it's more a matter of probability -- there are and have been plenty of people named Lewkowicz in western Poland.


PANIKOWSKI -- PANKOWSKI

… looking for the Polish surname closest to Panikowski can't seem to find one.

Well, how about Panikowski? As of 1990 there were 139 Poles by this name, scattered all over Poland -- the largest single numbers live in the provinces of Gdansk (27) and Krakow (24), with much smaller numbers living in many other provinces, so there's no one part of the country where this name is concentrated... If you want a common name close to Panikowski, I'd suggest Pankowski, there were 3,696 Polish citizens by that name in 1990. But if Panikowski is the form you have, I see no reason to look for anything else -- Panikowski is a perfetly good Polish name.

Both Panikowski and Pankowski probably derive ultimately from the root pan, "master, lord," or from short forms of several first names, such as Pankrac, Pantelejmon, Opanas, etc. Pankowski probably comes in most cases from a name of a village such as Panków or Panki, and would mean basically "one coming from Panków, Panki, etc," and those place names mean basically "place of the pan" or "place of Pan-." There are several villages in Poland named Panki and Panków, so I can't tell you which one the name would refer to in a specific family's case.

Panikowski would probably originated as meaning "one from Paników, Panikowo, Paniki, " or some other place with a similar name. I can't find any such place on my maps, but that doesn't mean anything -- these surnames typically developed centuries ago, and the places they referred to have often disappeared, changed their names, etc. Here again, the name of the place, if there was such a place, would mean something like "place of panik," where panik might be a diminutive of pan, meaning "little master," or might be a nickname from one of those first names I mentioned earlier.


OLISZEWSKI

… I have read your renderings of Polish surnames online and wonder if you might be able to assist me...I have only one name for you to look at! My great-great-grandmother's maiden name is Olishefskie, and I have been unable to find anything which divulges its meaning.

Well, this is probably just a phonetic spelling of Polish Oliszewski -- pronounced out loud, that name does sound very much to us like "oh-li-SHEF-skee," so that spelling makes sense. As of 1990 there were 331 Polish citizens named Oliszewski, with the largest concentration (128) in the province of Warsaw and much smaller numbers scattered in many other provinces all over the country. The name probably comes from Olisz, a sort of nickname of Aleksander -- in many parts of Poland this name takes the form Oleksander, with O instead of A, and Poles formed many nicknames from it. Oliszewski literally breaks down as "of, from, pertaining to the __ of Olisz," where the blank is filled in with something not expressed because it was obvious -- usually either "kin" or "place." So this surname probably meant something like "Al's kin," or else "one from Al's place." I can find only one place on my maps with a name that qualifies, Oliszki in Białystok province, and a family from there could have ended up with a name like Oliszewski. Or there may once have been a place somewhere called Oliszew or Oliszewo, but it has changed names or disappeared in the centuries since the surname was established. Or it may still exist and is just too small to show up in my sources.

Oliszewski is a perfectly good Polish name, but there is one other possibility I really should mention. There is a very common Polish name Olszewski (44,638 Poles bore that name as of 1990), meaning basically "one from the place of the alder trees" (thus "one from Olszewo/Olszewa/Olszew, etc."). This name is so common, and so close to what you mention, that I figured I'd better point it out, just in case it turns out that was the original form, and the first -I- in Olishefskie was inserted by mistake.


MAKOMASKI -- OCHYLSKI -- PRACKI -- STRZELECKI

… Would you please give me info on the names Strzelecki, Pracki, Makomaski, and Ochylski? My grandfather wrote a book on our family, and I am completing his research.

I'm afraid Strzelecki is the only name I can find much on -- it generally meant a family came from one of numerous villages called Strzelce. That name, in turn, comes from strzelec, "shooter, marksman." As of 1990 there were 11,467 Poles named Strzelecki, and the name is common all over the country.

I could find no info on the derivations of the other names. I do have a source that gives the total number of Poles by specific names as of 1990, with a breakdown of where they lived by province (but I have no access to further details, such as first names or addresses). Here's what that source shows

Makomaski: 95, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (30), Płock (12), less than 10 in 11 other provinces.

Ochylski: 12, living in the provinces of Koszalin (3), Lodz (5), Poznan (4)

Pracki: 428, scattered all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Płock (76), Wloclawek (69), and smaller numbers in many other provinces.

If you would like more information and don't spending $30 or so, I recommend contacting the Anthroponymic Workshop I mentioned on the introductory page.


KAPCZYŃSKI -- PŁOTKOWSKI -- ZAWORSKI

… I have searched for possible root words of the 3 names in which I am interested, in my Polish/English dictionary, but, probably because I have only the slightest understanding of the language, I have had no luck in figuring out whether my names have ANY meaning at all. They are: Plotkowski (with a crossbar on the l), Zaworski, and Kapczynski. (The 1st & 3rd families are from the rural area northwest of Warsaw, if this helps any.)

Kapczyński is a moderately common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 1,552 Poles named Kapczyński (by the way, I'm using ~ to mark Polish diacriticals, so that ń is the n with an accent over it, ł is the slashed l, etc.). The largest numbers were in the provinces of Warsaw (205), Bydgsozcz (169), Ciechanow (148), Lodz (106), and Pila (126), with smaller numbers scattered in many other provinces. The root of this name would seem to be kapać, to drip, but I can't seem to find Kapczyński listed in any of my sources; I would expect this surname to be connected with a place name, something like Kapcza or Kapczyn. I can't find any such places listed in my sources, but that doesn't necessarily mean much -- surnames developed centuries ago, and it's not unusual for the places they referred to then to have since disappeared, changed names, etc. Still, I can't help wondering if this is a variant of the name Kopczyński, which was borne by 8,474 Poles in 1990. In Polish the a and o are pronounced very similarly, and we often see them switch back and forth in names -- I can't help but wonder if that's happened here? The name Kopczyński appears to come from the root kopczyna, "pile, mound," especially a pile of harvest grain gathered by landless farmers.

Płotkowski was the name of 314 Poles in 1990, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (51), Gdansk (28), Szczecin (60), Torun (55), and Wloclawek (26); there were only 11 in the province of Warsaw. The name almost certainly derives from the roots seen in płot "fence, enclosure," or płotka, płoć, "roach (a kind of fish)." I would expect this name to have started in most cases as a connection with a village or place named something like Płotki, Płotkowo, so that the name would mean basically "person from Płotki, Płotkowo, etc." Those places, in turn, probably got their names because of some association with either enclosures or the kind of fish we call (rather disgustingly) "roach." As with Kapczyński, however, I couldn't find mention of any places with names that qualify, so I can't be positive.

1,884 Poles bore the name Zaworski in 1990, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Gdansk (222) and Poznan (317). It appears to derive from the term zawora, "bolt, latch," or from places named Zawory in Gdansk and Poznan provinces. I would think the link with the villages would be likely for a surname, thus meaning "one from Zawory"; the large numbers of Zaworski's in Gdansk and Poznan provinces tends to support that notion, since that's where we actually find villages named Zawory.


REDISCH -- REDISZ

… My grandfather, Peter Redisch, left Poland and his parents in 1864.All I know is from his death certificate that the family lived in Galicia at that time.

REDISCH is hard to pin down, because that spelling of the name is clearly influenced by German -- Polish seldom uses the combination -sch, that's a German way of spelling the sound we write as -sh, which the Poles write -sz. So the question arises whether this name is actually German or Polish in origin. None of my sources mentions this name, and a look at surnames used in modern Poland shows no one named Redisch; if we look for the Polish way of spelling this name, there were 11 Poles named Redisz as of 1990, living in the provinces of Katowice (5), Krakow (4), Ostrołęka (2). I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so about all we can say is that these days the name appears mainly in southcentral Poland, which before 1918 was roughly the extreme western edge of Galicia.

If the name is German in origin, it might come from the root red-, "swamp," or from Reddich, an old variant meaning "radish." These seem unlikely, though, the suffix -isch or -isz in surnames is usually Slavic rather than German. So it's more likely this is Polish. Polish names beginning with Red- are usually northern Polish (Pomeranian) variants of names with Rad- in standard Polish. That root means either "joy" or "advise." Generally names with Rad- started as a nicknames or short forms for a longer compound name such as Radomir ("glad of peace") or Radoslaw "glad of fame"), or it could have meant "the adviser" or "the joyful one." The name Radzisz shows up as a first name in old records, and Redisz could be a variant of that. But without more information it's really very hard to say. Of course the problem with this is that the name is showing up in southcentral Poland, rather far from where Red- variants of Rad- would be expected to originate. Still, people did move around in the old days, it's hardly impossible that a family might have come from northwestern Poland and moved to Galicia. We do know from records that some people with German-influenced names settled in Galicia, often as colonists settling new communities or as prisoners of war.

So I can't be certain, but the most likely explanation, from the info I have, is that this is a German-influenced variant of an old Polish first name such as Radzisz, which started as a short form or nickname for someone named Radolf or Radomir or Radoslaw, and later came to be used as a surname. And at some point in, say, the 15th or 16th century, the family came to live in Galicia. This is, at least, consistent with the facts as we know them, and is fairly plausible.


AUFSCHAUER

… Any info on my last name Aufschauer. My Father grew up in Lvov (Lemberg) Galicia.

This name is pure German, and almost certainly comes from the verb aufschauen, "to look up" -- Aufschauer would mean literally "one who looks up." It might seem odd that such a German name shows up in Lvov, but there were large numbers of Germans, as well as German- or Yiddish-speaking Jews, who lived in that area, so it used to be quite common to run across Germanic names there. There is no one in Poland today with this name, but that's hardly surprising, since I only have data for Poland in its modern boundaries, and Lvov is now in Ukraine, so names appearing in the Lvov area would not be included in my sources. It's questionable whether anyone with this name would still live in the Lvov region -- after World War II many of the people with German names and blood left what used to be Poland and resettled in Eastern Germany, sometimes voluntarily, sometimes not.


JASTRZĘBSKI – JESTRIMSKI -- YASTRZEMSKI

… I have spent some time searching for information on my family name & was wondering if you per chance had any references to Jestrimski or maybe Jestrimsky

The problem with this name is that Jestrimski or Jestrimsky is almost certainly an Anglicized form of the name, not the original Polish form; and without the original Polish form, there's not much I can do. I'm pretty sure this isn't the original form because 1) there was no one in Poland with this name as of 1990, 2) I've never seen this before, and 3) the spelling is inconsistent with Polish linguistic preferences. So until we know what the name was before it was changed, it's hard to analyze it.

I'll say this, I suspect this is a phonetic spelling of the Polish name Jastrzębski -- the ę is a way of indicating on-line the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under it, pronounced normally like en but before a b or p like em, so that the name would sound to us like "yahs-CHEMP-skee." This is a very common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 19,156 Polish citizens by that name, living all over the country. It comes from the root jastrząb, "goshawk" (ą is another nasal vowel, written as an a with a tail under it, pronounced like om before b or p); the surname typically originated either as a nickname for an individual whose manner or voice or clothes reminded people of a goshawk, or from a place name, "person from Jastrzębie [the place of the goshawks]" or other places with similar names and meanings. There are quite a few places by that name in Poland, so it's difficult to tell which one a given family might have come from.

I have seen this name Jastrzębski mangled into many different forms in English – there was a famous American baseball player named Carl Yastrzemski, for instance -- and Jestrimski could very well be a rather inaccurate phonetic spelling of it. I can't be sure, but that would be my guess.

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


CHUCHRO -- HUCHRO -- PIETRYŁKA

… Thank you again for the information on the name Drazba. There are 2 more names I would like some information on. Chuchro/Huchro and Pietrylka/Petrylka.

The standard form of the name is Chuchro, but since Polish ch and h are pronounced the same, Huchro is a perfectly understandable variant spelling; both are pronounced roughly "khookh-row," where kh stands for the guttural sound of ch in German Bach. It appears to come from the term chuchro, "weakling, frail person." As of 1990 there were 563 Poles by this name (vs. 14 who spelled it Huchro). The largest numbers of Chuchro's lived in the provinces of Katowice (132) and Krakow (90) in southcentral Poland, with much smaller numbers scattered in many other provinces.

Pietryłka (where I'm using ł to stand for the l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w) is a very rare name today in Poland; as of 1990 there were only 4 Poles by that name, all living in Krosno province in the southeastern corner of the country. The form Petryłka was borne by 17 Poles, in the provinces of Jelenia Gora (4), Krosno (11), Zielona Gora (2). None of my sources mention it, but it seems likely to derive from a nickname from Piotr, "Peter." Judging by where it appears in post-war Poland and the Piet-/Pet- spelling variation, I strongly suspect it is of Ukrainian origin rather than Polish, and might be a bit more common in Ukraine -- however, I have no data for that country and thus cannot be sure.


BENTKOWSKI -- BĘTKOWSKI -- CEBULA -- CHLEBEK -- CZUBSKI -- KASPRZAK -- LIGAS – NOWOROLNIK -- ZABRZESKI

… If you discuss any of the names listed below in your book, please let me know and I will be happy to purchase a copy. Any direction you can provide is greatly appreciated.

Well, I hate to disappoint you, but in at least 90% of cases there is nothing about a surname that indicates anything useful in tracing the family. Thus Cebula comes from the word for "onion," and as of 1990 there were 9,868 Poles with this name, living all over the country. Presumably it originated as a nickname for a person who grew onions, or liked to eat them, or was shaped like them, something like that, then later it stuck as a surname. Clearly this isn't going to help you discover where any particular family named Cebula lived.

Similarly, Noworolnik comes from noworola, literally "new field," often used for "field plowed just before spring sowing," or in some cases from nowy + rolnik," literally a "new farmer." A Noworolnik got that name because he was farming a "new field," and as of 1990 there were 486 Poles by that name; the largest numbers were in the provinces of Lublin (122), and Nowy Sacz (163), but that doesn't really tell you anything you didn't already know. (I'm afraid I don't have access to details such as first names and addresses, what I give here is all I have)... The info that your maternal grandparents' family came from Tylmanowa, near Nowy Targ in the province of Nowy Sacz in southcentral Poland (it's 20-30 km. WSW of Nowy Sacz), is far more helpful than anything I can tell you about any of the surnames. Tylmanowa is big enough to have its own Catholic parish church, which is where people living in the vicinity would have gone to register births, deaths, and marriages; if the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah has microfilmed its records, that's the place to start trying to trace them.

Bentkoski is a variant of the name Bentkowski (1,426 in 1990) or Bętkowski (1,501) -- these are the same name spelled differently, because the vowel I'm writing here as ę is a nasal vowel, an e with a tail under it, pronounced like en, so that either spelling is phonetically correct, although the spelling with ę is usually standard these days. Names ending in -owski usually refer to a place, so that this one refers to a family's origin in any of several places named Będkowice, Będkowo, or Będków. Będkowice in Krakow province might be a good bet, since this is in southcentral Poland, which seems to be the area your roots might lie in; this village has its own Catholic parish church, so with any luck the records might have been microfilmed by the LDS.

Chlebek means literally "little bread," and as of 1990 there were 963 Poles by that name, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice 220, Nowy Sacz 198, Rzeszow 108 in southcentral and southeastern Poland.

Czubski comes either from czub, "hair on top of the head," or from czubić się, "to quarrel." It might also refer to origin in a place with a name beginning in Czub-, e. g., Czuby in Lublin province, and a place with such a name derives from the roots given above. As of 1990 there were 209 Poles with this name, and the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Katowice 112 and Walbrzych 36, with much smaller numbers scattered in many other provinces.

Kasprzak means "little Casper, son of Casper," and there were 16,744 Poles by that name in 1990. As with most surnames from popular first names, this one is common all over the country; there isn't one big Kasprzak family, but dozens or hundreds of individual ones that all came by the name independently, because around the time surnames were being established, a Kasper or Kacper was prominent enough that his kin were referred to by his name.

Ligas probably comes from the verb ligać, "to kick or lie down," compare the term ligęza, "one who loves to lie around," so Ligas too may have started as a nickname for a rather easy-going fellow. As of 1990 there were 687 Poles by this name, with the largest number by far, 290, in the province Nowy Sacz.

In Zabreskiego the -ego is just an ending dictated by grammar in certain circumstances, so you drop it when looking for the standard form. This is almost certainly a simplified spelling of Zabrzeski, "one from Zabrzeż"; in this case the probable reference is to the village Zabrzeż (dot over the final z) in Nowy Sacz province, maybe 5 km. north of Tylmanowa. There are other places with names that could produce this surname, but with the info on your family's roots this is the most likely. Notice again, the surname by itself is useless, but if you have reason to believe the family came from a clearly defined area, you can look for places in that area that match up, with reasonable chances of success.


STĘPKOWSKI

… Please send me any remarks on the surname I hold, i.e.: Stêpkowski (the third letter of it may be correctly seen using Central European Windows fonts).

Usually those of us whose machines are not configured for Polish characters use ę to stand for the nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under it and pronounced like en in most cases, but like em before a b or p. But in this note I’ll use ê so it will show up correctly on your computer.

According to onomastics expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut, the name Stêpkowski comes ultimately from the Old Polish root stêpka, "a small stêpa"; he defines stêpa as "urzadzenie do tluczenia, ubijania." In English I rendered this as a "mill for crushing grain, ore, etc." It often happens that names ending in -owski refer to place of origin in a village with a similar name, such as Stêpki, Stêpkowo, etc., and those places got their names because of some association with such mills. I can find no places by such names on the maps I have, but that is not unusual. Surnames generally developed at least two centuries ago, often much earlier, and the places they referred could be quite small, unlikely to appear on maps, or may have disappeared or changed names in the centuries since then.

This is a moderately common surname in Poland: as of 1990 there were 2,142 Polish citizens named Stêpkowski. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Warszawa (353), Ciechanow (270), Krakow (104), and Wloclawek (102), but there were smaller numbers in virtually every province (for instance there were 57 in Lodz province). Unfortunately, my source for this information, Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, does not give further information such as first names and addresses, so this is all the data I have access to.


ROMAN

Roman is the name of my Grandfather and Anthony is his first name, they came to the USA from Poland around late 1890's and settled in Pennsylvania. My Grandmother came from a small provence near Warsaw, but there is no one alive to tell me the name or even her maiden name, I am trying to establish a family history...Thank you for your help...

I wish I could help you, but I'm afraid Roman is too common a surname to offer much help. As of 1990 there were 5,730 Polish citizens named Roman, living all over the country -- there is no one particular area where this name is concentrated. It comes from the first name Roman, from Latin Romanus, "Roman, citizen of Rome," and also from the Roman coat of arms. The name appears in records as far back as the 1400's.


NADANER

… I'm very actively researching my maternal grandfathers family, the Nadaners, and have recently connected with two separate Nadaner families... The first translation of Nadaner yielded 'Talented', the second was 'nice, pretty'.

Linguistically speaking, Nadaner is a distinctively Yiddish form, created by adding the Yiddish-German suffix -er to the archaic Polish adjective nadany, in form a participle from the verb nadać. The translations "talented" and "nice, pretty" come from efforts to render the meaning of nadany in English: the word means literally "on-given, to-given," in the sense of "one to whom [desirable qualities] have been given." The English words "talented, nice, pretty" correspond fairly well to the meanings this word had in Polish (as I say, it's archaic now). In some ways nadany is best defined in terms of its antonym, nienadany, where nie- is the negative particle meaning "not, non-"; the term nienadany was used to mean "barbaric, wild, uncivilized." This suggests nadany was used as a positive description for someone comely, attractive, desirable.

I can't add much more; my main source of information for Jewish names is Alexander Beider's Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland, and from the info you gave I'm fairly certain you've consulted this work at some point. About the only thing I can add is that as of 1990 there was no longer anyone named Nadaner living in Poland; there were still some who bore the native Polish forms Nadany and Nadana, but no Nadaner, at least not within the limits of accuracy of the database maintained by the PESEL Government Information Center.


WOJCZYŃSKI

… I would appreciate any information on the meaning or origin of my grandmother's maiden name [Woyczynski].

The Polish spelling of the name is Wojczyński, where ń is how we represent on-line the Polish n with an accent over it; the name is pronounced roughly "voy-CHIN-skee." As of 1990 there were 268 Polish citizens by this name, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Kalisz (221), Pila (103), and Poznan (52) and smaller numbers (fewer than 20) in many other provinces. So this name is most common in west central Poland -- but the data does not allow us to narrow the focus to any particular area.

Names ending in -ski are adjectives, and Wojczyński literally means "of, from, pertaining to wojczyn," so the question is what that means. The ultimate root of is probably woj, "warrior," with wojczyn either as meaning "son of the warrior" or a nickname from old Polish first names such as Wojciech, Wojslaw, etc. Actually, I would expect Wojczyński, like most names ending in -iński and -yński, to have referred to a place named for a warrior or a Wojciech, Wojslaw, etc., thus meaning something like "one from Wojczyn or Wojcza"; there is a village Wójcza in Kielce province, at least some Wojczyński's probably got their name because they came from this place.

There are also at least 5 villages called Wójcin, and since the letter combinations -cin and -czyn in Polish sound similar ("cheen" vs. "chin"), it is possible Wojczyński might also have referred to those places, "one from Wójcin." This place name could come from that first name Wojciech, but could also come from the word wó~jt, a kind of village mayor; so Wójcin can mean "the place of the wójt" and Wójciński "one from Wójcin = one from the place of the wójt." It's a bit of a reach from Wójciński to Wojczyński, but I can't rule it out; there probably are at least a few cases where the two names were confused.


FUJARA -- SZWAJA

… I have come across these two names in my family. They seem unusual. Does anyone know if Fujara is actually Polish? That is the exact spelling on a good number of clear records.

Fujara can be Polish, there were 85 Polish citizens by that name as of 1990, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice (32) and Przemysl (16). It almost certainly comes from the word fujara, "pipe," the sinple musical instrument, with a secondary meaning of "nincompoop, goof-off." I think the connection is a fujara is "the kind of fellow who sits around tootling while all us poor slobs are working our butts off, damn him (and how come I don't get to do that?)." My big dictionary says the ultimate source of the word is Romanian fluera, and I'm rather proud of the fact that when I first read your note I thought, "Hmm, sounds Romanian." (If I'm so smart, why ain't I rich?)

Does Szwaia fall into Polish names? It is written exceptionally well on one record so the spelling cannot be denied.

This is in the book, but not in that spelling. As the notes on p. 11 of the book indicate, J and I and Y were often interchangeable in older Polish spelling; these days the standard spelling of this name would be Szwaja. I couldn't find discussion of this name by any Polish expert, but there is a word szwaja, a contemptuous term for "seamstress, neadlewoman," and I strongly suspect that's the source of the surname. As of 1990 there were 1,096 Szwaja's in Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Czestochowa (155), Katowice (136), Kielce (129), Krakow (93); so it's found most often in southcentral Poland.

Don't be bothered that neither of these terms is particularly complimentary. Compared to a lot of Polish names, ones meaning "nincompoop" and "seamstress" are mild!


DYTRYCH

… Since the birth of my son I've developed an interest in trying to trace our family tree, but I must admit I am not getting very far as records are very thin on the ground. My father was born in Poland but lived out his years in England after the war. I would be grateful if you could offer me any advice on the origins of our surname.

Dytrych is a Polish version of the German first name Dietrich; the German name is pronounced roughly "DEET-rick," whereas this Polish version (there are others) sounds more like "DITT-rick," with that first vowel a short i rather than a long e. This name is of ancient origin, from back in the days before Germans and Poles etc. were Christianized -- parents would give their children names of good omen, based on what they hoped the child would grow up to be (or naming them after a famous person who bore that name). The ancient Germanic roots in this name mean "people" and "rule," so that we might interpret the name as "ruler of the people" = "may he grow up to rule the people" (the second element is also seen in "Friedrich" [Frederick], "peaceful ruler," "may he rule in peace").

There were a great many ethnic Germans who came to live in Poland, often invited by land-owning nobles who wanted skilled farmers and craftsmen to help repopulate areas devastated by the Black Death and other catastrophes. So it's not at all rare to see names of German origin in Poland. The family bearing this name, after a while, probably thought of themselves as Poles and didn't even think about how their ancestors were actually Germans. Millions those who did continue to identify themselves as German, or who had distinctively German names, moved out of Poland after World War II, afraid to go on living there after what the Nazis did to the Poles during the war.

Dytrych is still a moderately common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 588 Polish citizens by this name, scattered in small numbers all over the country. I'm afraid there's nothing about its frequency or distribution that offers any really helpful clues as to what part of Poland families by this name might have come from; they could have lived anywhere in the old Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania. I know this may be disappointing, perhaps you were hoping the name would give a clue; but in all honesty I'd estimate some 90% of Polish names don't provide any kind of useful lead. I'm afraid usually the only thing that helps is digging in naturalization records, ship passenger lists, church records, etc.


SIEDLECKI

… I would appreciate it if you could search my last name, Siedlecki.

Siedlecki is one of many Polish surnames coming from place names, generally indicating that the family in question came from or was otherwise connected to a place with a name like Siedlce or Siedlec. If the family was noble, it meaned at one time they owned a village or estate by those names; if the family was not noble, they probably worked the fields at such a place, or at one time lived there and later moved elsewhere, so that it made sense to distinguish them by calling them "the ones from Siedlce/Siedlec." That's really all Siedlecki means, it's an adjectival form meaning "of, from, pertaining to Siedlce or Siedlec." It's pronounced in Polish something like "shed-LET-skee."

There at least a dozen places in Poland with those names. The largest and best known is Siedlce in east central Poland, big enough to be the capital of its own province; but there are several other Siedlce's and quite a few Siedlec's. All of these place names derive ultimately from a Polish root siedl- meaning "settle" (it's not an accident the Polish and English roots sound similar, if you go back far enough they came from the same original root in Indo-European). Usually what happened is that back in the old days before Poles accepted Christianity, they named their children with names formed by sticking two roots together to express a good omen or hoped-for success, much as German Friedrich means "peace+rule" = "peaceful ruler." For instance, there was an old Polish name Siedlewit, and the roots in question are siedl-, "settle, seat" + wit, "master, lord," thus "lord of the settlement," expressing a hope that the child would be the master of the place where he lived. Then later Poles abbreviated the name and added suffixes (much as we turned "Theodore" into "Teddy"). Siedlec and Siedlce both would mean something like "the place of Siedl," and Siedlecki just means "one from the place of Siedl."

As of 1990 there were 7,786 Polish citizens named Siedlecki, living all over the country, so it's a pretty common name. And it's so widely distributed that you can't trace it back to any one place and say "That's where it came from." The only way to figure out which particular Siedlec or Siedlce your family came from would be to trace the family's roots back to Poland, pinpoint exactly what area they came from, and then look for a Siedlec or Siedlce nearby. Even that's not foolproof, because these names originated centuries ago, and a lot has changed over the ages. But that would be the only way to even hazard a good guess on which particular place a given family came from.


WICHEREK

… Hello. My name is Czeslaw Wicherek and my family come from the Polish part of Silesia and are fiercely Polish. However, I can find no reference to the name anywhere and now not in your list… Do you know if my name is a form of any other name or anything about it, or could you advise me where to look. Any assistance you could give would be much appreciated.

Well, according to the series Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, a 10-volume set edited by Prof. Kazimierz Rymut of the Instytut Jezyka Polskiego PAN in Krakow, as of 1990 there were some 800,000+ surnames used by Poles! Obviously many of these were very rare or were closely related variants of others -- e. g. Kamieński vs. Kamiński, or Wicher vs. Wicherek vs. Wicherski -- but there were still more than 40,000 borne by 100 or more Poles. So neither my book nor my Webpage can begin to cover them all! That's why there are a great many names that don't appear in that list.

According to Prof. Rymut's book Nazwiska Polaków, the name Wicherek comes from the term wicher, "wind," or especially wicherek, "little wind, breeze," and appears in Polish documents as early as 1401. He does not discuss exactly how a family might come to get such a name, and in fact even the best experts can't always say how such a thing happened; humans are very ingenious in the names they give each other, and most of these names are many centuries old, so it can be difficult to analyze the exact origin. A name like this might have once been given someone because he was born on a breezy day and got the name to commemorate that; or perhaps he lived in an area that was always breezy. About the most we can say is that the name originally was given because of some connection to wind or breeze, and may have started as a nickname that later became established as a surname.

As of the year 1990 there were 552 Polish citizens named Wicherek. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (189), Katowice (103), and Poznan (88), with much smaller numbers in many other provinces. So the name is most common in southcentral Poland, in or just east of Silesia, depending on exactly how you define "Silesia." Unfortunately I have no access to further details such as first names and addresses.


GIERASIK

… Could someone help me to explain the meaning if any of the surname Gierasik.

This is a diminutive form of the name first name Gieras or Gierasz, so that it would mean something like "little Gieras" or "son of Gieras." That first name arose as a short form or nickname of the Polish forms of such first names such as Gerard or Gerald, possibly even Gertrude. These names generally started as Germanic names from pagan days, when instead of naming children after Christian saints, parents gave them native names of good omen; thus Gerard comes from Germanic roots ger, "spear" + hart, "strong" = "may he be strong in use of the spear," in other words, "may he be a valiant warrior." Or Gerald is from ger + walt-, "rule," "spear ruler," "may he rule with the spear." In Polish the combination Ge- tends to become Gie-, so we see such forms as Gieralt and Gierard; most scholars seem to think Gerard is the one Gieras came from. The process of forming a new name or nickame by taking the first part of a popular name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes is seen in English, too, e. g., "Teddy" from "Theodore." So Gierasik would be a sort of Polish equivalent to "son of Jerry" in English.

That's what Polish scholars mention. To me it also seems possible the name might occasionally come from Gierasym, a Polish form of the Ukrainian name Harasym, from Greek gerasimos, from a root meaning "prize, award." Probably among ethnic Poles, however, the connection with "Gerard" or "Gerald" would hold true more often.

As of 1990 there were only 37 Polish citizens named Gierasik, living in the provinces of Warsaw (17), Białystok (2), Bydgoszcz (6, Gdansk (7), and Skierniewice (5). Unfortunately I don't have access to further data such as first names, addresses, etc. What I've given here is all I have.


BRUDNICKI

… I am searching for information on the Polish name Brudnicki.

This name is one of many Polish surnames that indicate a family's connection with a place of similar name; we would expect Brudnicki to mean something like "one from Brudnice or Brudnica." There are at least three places in Poland that could generate this surname, Brudnice in Ciechanow province, Brudnice in Płock province, and a village that no longer exists, Dramino Brudnycze in Goleszyn parish of Sierpc county. There may have been more that have since been renamed or disappeared, but persons connected with these three villages could easily have ended up with the name Brudnicki, "one from Brudnice." The ultimate root of the place names is brud, "dirt, filth," but the surname would probably not mean "dirty one, filthy one" but rather "one from Brudnice," and that place, in turn, got its name from that root. It's worth noting that the Brudnice in Ciechanow province is thought to have been called Brodnica originally, so it's possible in some cases this surname might be a variant of Brodnicki ("one from Brodnica," and there are at least 8 towns and villages by that name); but it would be stretching things to assume that line in regard to a particular Brudicki family without a lot more evidence.

As of 1990 there were 1,123 Polish citizens named Brudnicki, of whom the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Konin (91), Lodz (62), Pila (222), Radom (79), Szczecin (76), Warsaw (69), and Wloclawek (99), with smaller numbers in a great many other provinces. So there's nothing really helpful about the frequency and distribution pattern of the name; it's seen all over the country. But generally you'd expect it started out as referring to a place named Brudnica, Brodnica, or Brudnice, with the latter as the most likely connection.


CICHOWSKI -- MIKULSKI -- NAPIERKOWSKI -- TOBACZEWSKI

… I started this for my niece, but I've found myself wanting to learn more. Is there any way you can help me find any information on my grandparents' names. All four came from Poland. We'd like to know their history, if any. Names are as follows: Cichowski, Tobaczewski, Napierkowski, Mikulski.

Names ending in -owski and -ewski usually started as references to a connection between a family and a place with a similar name. Thus Cichowski probably means "one from Cichów or Cichowo or Cichy"; there are at least two villages named Cichów, a couple named Cichowo, as well as the village of Cichy in Suwałki province. These place names in turn come from the adjective cichy, "quiet, still, calm." As of 1990 there were 3,435 Polish citizens named Cichowski, and there is no way to know which particular place a given Cichowski family came from without detailed research establishing exactly which part of Poland they came from.

Mikulski is the most common of the names you mentioned, as of 1990 there were 9,693 Poles named Mikulski, living all over the country. It comes from a variant form of the first name Mikołaj = Nicholas. The name may have started meaning "kin of Nicholas," or it may have referred to a place named for a Nicholas, for instance, there are at least two villages named Mikulice, and the surname might also refer to them. So obviously there isn't one Mikulski family, there are lots of different families that ended up with this name because they were named for a prominent member named Mikula or came from a place named for such a person. One of the U. S. Senators from Maryland is Barbara Mikulski, and she played a major role in Poland’s acceptance into NATO.

As of 1990 there were 218 Poles named Napierkowski, scattered all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Leszno (43), Ostrołęka (63), and Poznan (49). This surname might refer to is Napierki in Olsztyn province, and that place name derives from the root napierać, to press, urge, advance.

Tobaczewski presumably refers to a place named something like Tobaczewo or Tobaczew. I can't find any places by those names, but these surnames typically developed centuries ago, and since then the places they referred to may have disappeared, been absorbed by other communities, or changed their name. The name probably comes from a short form or nickname of the Biblical first name Tobias, so that Tobaczewski may have meant "kin of Tobias" or "one from the place of Tobias." The surname is pretty rare, as of 1990 there were only 21 Poles by this name, living in the provinces of Szczecin (12) and Zielona Gora (9). I'm afraid I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses.


PADVAISKAS -- PODVAISKAS -- PODWOJSKI

… My maternal grandmother, Helena Olszewska (1894-1964), came from a town called "Ruda" according to the naturalization papers of her husband Frank Podwoiski (1894-1954). She allegedly arrived in the U.S. in 1909, but I have not been able to find her on any passenger list. I did find his name for 1912, and he was Lithuanian descent{Pudvolskas??}. Any ideas where "Ruda" is/was???? "A small town near the border; close by there was a forest with many mushrooms", is the family legend of her origins.

I am afraid I can't help you much. Olszewska is simply a feminine form of Olszewski, that's considered the standard form of the name, and it is an extremely common one, borne by 44,638 Poles as of 1990. It just means "one from Olszew or Olszewa or Olszewo," and those place names mean "place of the alder trees." As for Ruda, there are at least 50 villages by that name on my maps, and probably more too small to show up on my maps, so I'm afraid that's no help either; the word ruda means "ore," and this name was often given to any little community that originated as a place for mining ore or working with metal.

Podwoiski is probably Podwojski in standard spelling. As of 1990 there were 156 Poles by that name, scattered all over Poland; it comes from the word podwojski, "court crier, beadle," according to Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut. According to the best work available on Lithuanian surnames, Podvaiskas or Padvaiskas is the Lithuanian form, and it comes from that Polish word podwojski. There are and long have been a great many Poles living in Lithuania -- that's where my wife's Polish relatives live. So even though her husband came from Lithuania, he may have been a Pole by blood, or else was a Lithuanian who took a Polish name; for a long time the Lithuanian nobility considered it more fashionable to go by Polish names, and that preference filtered on down to the peasant as well, so this is feasible.

I'm sorry I couldn't help more, but the truth is 95% of Polish names don't offer any real help with tracing the family. If you know a lot about where the family lived, sometimes a surname will give you a clue to some background; but if all you have is the surname, very seldom does it lead you to a specific place or time.


GĄGOROWSKI

… Recently, after I had sent in to GenPol a probably too long post about a recent bit of information I'd received, concerning in part, the name Gagorwoski" I received a message suggesting that I write you. Can you tell me anything about this name?

Well, none of my sources say anything about this name, but as of 1990 there were 473 Polish citizens named Gągorowski, using ą to stand for the Polish nasal vowel written as an a with a tail under it and pronounced much like on in French bon. They were scattered all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice (51), Kielce (110), and Wroclaw (70). So this is a legitimate, established name.

The probable derivation is from the Polish word gągor, a variant or dialect word meaning "gander" (comparable to the standard terms gęga, "goose," and gąsior, "gander"). The name presumably started out meaning "of, from, pertaining to the [place/kin] of the gander(s)," either in the sense "one from Gągorów or Gągorowo" or "kin of the gander" (referring to a goose-herder?). I can't find any mention of a village by these names, but surnames typically developed centuries ago, and often the places they referred to have since disappeared, changed names, been absorbed by other communities, or something of the sort.


MAJKOWSKI -- SZCZEPAŃSKI

… In both cases - my wife's and mine - these belong to grandparents from Przasnysz. Any background and meanings would be appreciated.

Szczepański (in Polish spelled with an accent over the n and pronounced roughly "shcheh-PINE-skee") is an adjective in form, meaning "of, from, related to Szczepan," which is one of the Polish forms of the name "Stephen." So in many cases this name means simply "kin of Szczepan," in some other cases it might mean "one from the place of Szczepan" where that place was once owned or founded by a prominent Szczepan and bears a name such as Szczepanki or Szczepanowo, something like that. It's a very common name, as of 1990 there were 31,208 Polish citizens named Szczepański, living all over the country.

Majkowski is less common, but still pretty common -- as of 1990 there were 5,085 Majkowski's in Poland. This name is also adjectival in origin, meaning roughly "of, from, pertaining to the __ of Majek," where you fill in the blank with word so obvious it doesn't need to be spelled out, usually either "place" or "kin." So Majkowski could mean "kin of Majek," but especially "one from Majk, Majki, Majków." There are several places in Poland that have these names, and the surname is common all over the country, so I'm afraid this name doesn't give much in the way of clues as to where a family came from. However, since you have information leading to the Przasnysz area, it makes sense to suggest the surname referred to one of two villages in Ostrołęka province, not far from Przasnysz. Majki-Tykiewki is the name of a village about 25 km. due east of Przasnysz, and Majk is about the same distance northeast of Przasnysz. It's not certain the surname refers to one of these places, but it seems a pretty decent bet... The Majk- root comes from an old first name derived from maj, "May," probably given a child in memory of the month he was born in.


BIERFASS -- LAUBERFELD – LÖWENTHAL -- ORLING -- TEPPER

… I was wondering if you could tell me anything about the following names I am searching in South-Eastern Poland: Lo"wenthal, Tepper (or any related names, such as Toepfer, Topper), Lauberfeld, Orling, and Bierfass.

As I'm sure you realize, all these names are of Germanic origin, which is not unusual -- large numbers of Germans, and of Jews who spoke German or Yiddish, settled all over Poland, including the southeastern part of the country. I have sources such as Alexander Beider's Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland and his similar work for the Russian Empire, plus books on German names, and they give some insights into the meanings of these names. But the only data I have on frequency and distribution of names in Poland comes from 1990 data, and I'm afraid the Holocaust and post-World War II relocation of Germans from Poland to East Germany greatly distort that data. Thus Teper is the only one of these names borne by any Polish citizens as of 1990; there were 1,038 Teper's, living all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice (247), Kielce (68), Krakow (55), Lublin (91), Nowy Sacz (74), and Warsaw (56), and smaller numbers in virtually every other province. Before 1939 there may well have been people with the other names living in Poland, but I have no way of determining how many there were or where they might have lived.

Here's what I came up with on the meanings of the names:

Bierfass: comes from the German words for "beer" and "barrel," thus might refer to someone who made barrels or was otherwise connected with brewing and storing or selling beer. The name could also be used, presumably, as a kind of insulting nickname for a person who drank a lot of beer or was rather fat, shaped like a beer barrel.

Lauberfeld: probably comes from Laub, "leaf, foliage, arbor" + Feld, "field," and thus referred to a place the family lived, literally "leaf field."

Löwenthal: comes from the German words for "lion" and "valley," and presumably referred originally to a place the family came from or lived. As of 1990 there were 9 Poles who used the Polish phonetic spelling of Lewental, living in the provinces of Krakow (6) and Walbrzych (3) -- I'm afraid I have no access to further details such as first names or addresses.

Orling: I could find nothing on this name. The root Orl- appears in Jewish names sometimes as a form derived from the first name "Aaron," and this might be relevant here. The root Orl- also appears in names of Polish origin as a form of the word for "eagle," but that usage is inconsistent with the form of this name.

Tepper: this and the other variants of the name you mention all come either from German Töpfer or the Yiddish equivalent teper, "potter."


JANICZEK

… If you have the time, I'm curious about my maiden name, Janiczek.

Janiczek means basically "son of little John." Jan is the Polish form of the name "John," and if you add the patronymic suffix -icz to it you have Janicz, "son of John." But Poles love to add suffixes, and once the name Janicz existed it was only a matter of time before we had Janiczek, formed by adding a diminutive suffix, -ek, to that name. So it's Jan + -icz- + -ek = Janiczek, "son of the son of John," or "little John's son." This surname appears in Polish legal records as far back as 1567. As of 1990 there were 1,520 Polish citizens by this name, living all over the country -- after all, the name could get started anywhere they spoke Polish and there were guy's name "Jan" who had sons.


JABŁOŃSKI -- MUDRY

… I would like to find out more about the orgins of my last name (Mudry). [removed] My mother's maiden name is Jablonska and I've been told that my grandfather Stanislaw Jablonski might have had noble roots.

In the Slavic languages the root mudr- means "wise, clever, intelligent"; we see the adjective mudry with that meaning in Russian and Ukrainian. The vowel changes slightly in some of the Slavic languages, thus it is moudry in Czech, and in Polish it takes the form of the nasal vowel written as an a with a tail under it, pronounced much like "own" -- on-line we write is as mądry to represent the nasal vowel. So in all the Slavic languages the name means pretty much the same thing. Furthermore, the actual form of the name gives a general hint where it originated. If your ancestors had been ethnic Poles, or had lived in a predominantly Polish linguistic environment, we would expect the name to be Mądry. The fact that it is Mudry suggests a Russian or Belarusian or Ukrainian influence -- possibly also Czech with modification. There are several places called Brzeg in Poland, so I don't know which area your family came from, but it's not at all rare to see non-Polish versions of Slavic names in Poland. To a Pole Mudry sounds a little foreign, but still Slavic and thus not hard to understand or requiring change.

As of 1990 there were 146 Polish citizens named Mudry, and 44 more with the feminine form of the name Mudra. Of the Mudry's, the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Katowice (13), Opole (35), Wroclaw (21), and Zieona Gora (13). I'm afraid I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses, this is all I have.

Jabłoński is an exceedingly common name from the root jabłoń, "apple-tree" (the ł stands for the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w, and the ń stands for the Polish accented n); the name is pronounced roughly "yah-BWOIN-skee" in Polish. As of 1990 there were 46,728 Poles by that name, living in large numbers all over the country. There probably were Jabłoński's of noble blood, but I'm afraid I have no information on that.


KINIC -- RUTKOWSKI

(referring to a previous disagreement on Rutkowski):

… Thanks. OK, but still think that both explanations are correct and claiming that only one is valid is an oversimplification.

Ah, I think I understand better now what you wrote. (In case it is easier for you to read Polish, I repeat my comments below in Polish. I read Polish better than I write, but Poles tell me my Polish is not bad, so I hope you will understand it.)

On the Web-page I have to discuss names in general, I don't have enough time or space to discuss them in detail. I did not mean to exclude derivation of Rutkowski from rutka (according to Mr. Rutkowski, a term for a maiden gathering rue). I meant only that in most cases the surname probably comes from names of places such as Rutki or Rutkowo. However sometimes Rutkowski surely can come directly from rutka, but more often the surname comes from the place names. But what do the place names come from? Probably from rutka! Surely these places were called that because there were rutki there. So yes, Rutkowski can come from rutka, directly or indirectly. Most often, the surname indicates derivation from the place name, and the place name can come from rutka. (I cannot exclude possible derivation from the first name Rut, and even sometimes from Rudkowski). Or sometimes Rutkowski can come directly from rutka. The one thing that’s certain is that it refers to some kind of connection with rue -- perhaps with the place where it grew or was gathered, or perhaps with the girls who gathered it.

… Apart from them do you know something about my mother's name "Kinic" ???

In his book Nazwiska Polaków Prof. Kazimierz Rymut says names with Kin-, including Kinic, come from the old Polish verb kinąć, "grow, boil, seethe" (rosnać, kipieć). Other Polish onomastics experts mention that it might also come sometimes from "Kin" as a short form of the first name Konrad. So Kinic could mean "son of Konrad," or it can mean "son of one who grows, boils, seethes." In 1990 there were 34 Poles named Kinic, living in the following provinces: Bielsko-Biala 4, Gdansk 3, Kalisz 2, Katowice 3, Koszalin 4, Lodz 2, Poznan 12, Sieradz 1, Szczecin 2, Wloclawek 1.

[PO POLSKU]

Ah, ja wierze, ze teraz rozumiem lepiej to, co Pan napisal. (Powtarzam swoje notatki tu po polsku, jesli to jest latwiej. Czytam po polsku lepiej, niz pisze, ale Polacy powiedziaja, ze moja polszczyzna nie jest najgorsza, wiec mam nadzieje, ze Pan to rozumie).

Nie mam czasu i miejsca na Web-stronie dla szczegolowego omowienia nazwisk. Nie chcialem wykluczyc derywacji nazwiska Rutkowski z wyrazu rutka. Chcialem tylko powiedziec, ze w wiekszosci przypadkow to nazwiska prawdopodobnie pochodzi od nazw miejscowosci jak n. p. Rutki, Rutkowo. Czasami Rutkowski zapewne moze pochodzic od rutka, ale ja wierze, ze czesciej to nazwisko pochodzi od nazw miejscowosci. A skad pochodza te nazwy miejscowosci? Prawdopodobnie od rutka! Zapewne te wsi tak sie nazywaly, gdyz tam byly rutki. Wiec mozemy powiedzic, ze Rutkowski moze pochodzic od rutka, posrednio lub bezposrednio. Naczesciej nazwiska odnosi sie do nazw miejscowosci, i nazwy miejscowosci pochodza od wyrazu rutka. (Takze nie moge wykluczyc derywacji z zenskiego imiona Rut, a nawet z nazwiska Rudkowski). Ale czasami jest mozliwe, ze Rutkowski pochodzi bezposrednio od rutka. Tylko to pewne, ze nazwisko to odnosi sie do jakiegos zwiazku z ruta – do miejsca, gdzie ruta rosnala, lub gdzie dziewczyny rute zbierali, lub do dziewczyn, zbierajacych rute.

W swej ksiazce Nazwiskach Polakow prof. Kazimierz Rymut daje zbior nazwisk od postawy Kin-, w tych Kinic, a kin- pochodzi od staropolskiego wyrazu kinąć, "rosnąć, kipieć." Inni polscy onomasci daja takze mozliwa derywacje od imiona Kin- jako skroconej formy imiona Konrad. Wiec Kinic moze znaczyc "syn Konrada," ale takze moze znaczyc "syn rosnacego, kipiacego, kiwnacego." W r. 1990 Polacy nazwiska Kinic liczyli 34, w wojewodztwach: bielskim 4, gdanskim 3, kaliskim 2, katowickim 3, koszalinskim 4, lodzkim 2, poznanskim 12, sieradzkim 1, szczecinskim 2, wloclawskim 1.

Man nadzieje, ze te notatki pomagaja Panu, i zycze Panu najlepszego szczescia w badaniach.


KASPARAVICIUS -- KASPERAVICIUS -- KASPEROWICZ

… As stated above I would appreciate if you could provide me with any information on this surname (Kasperowicz). The name originates I believe from the area Wilno which was once part of Poland.

This is a pretty easy one. The suffix -owicz means "son of" (the same suffix is also used in Russian and other Slavic languages, only the spelling changes -- most often by our phonetic values it is rendered -ovich), and Kasper is the first name we write as "Casper." This is not that common a name in English-speaking countries, but it is reasonably common in Europe, because by tradition Casper was the name of one of the Three Magi or Wise Men who visited the baby Jesus shortly after his birth (tradition says the other two were named Melchior and Baltazar). So the surname just means "son of Casper."

This surname is moderately common in Poland -- as of 1990 there were 1,759 Polish citizens by this name, living all over the country, but especially common in northeastern Poland, near the border with Lithuania. My data only covers Poland in its current boundaries, so I don't have exact figures on people by this name in Lithuania -- but many ethnic Poles did live, and still live, in Lithuania, especially near the area of Wilno (now Vilnius). This surname is also reasonably common in Lithuania, but in the forms Kasparavicius and Kasperavicius, which are just Lithuanian renderings of Kasperowicz. If you have relatives still in Lithuania, chances are that's how the spell the name -- "Kasperowicz" is a little too obviously Polish and therefore foreign, Lithuanians prefer to spell the name their way.


TRZASKOMA

… Curious to know if you've got any information on the surname Trzaskoma.

This is a rather unusual name in that it appears to come from the root trzaska, "wood chip," or the related verb trzaskać, "to whack, whip, smack," but you don't often see -oma added as a suffix to Polish roots. Still, the name appears in old Polish legal documents as far back as 1436, and Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut lists it under names coming from the roots mentioned above, so apparently there's good reason to think that's what it derives from. As of 1990 there were 504 Polish citizens named Trzaskoma, with the majority living in the province of Warsaw (361) and smaller numbers (22 or fewer) in a number of other provinces.


JEZIORKOWSKI

… My surname is Jeziorkowski. I was wondering if you could tell me more about it.

The basic root of this name is jezioro, "lake." It breaks down as Jezior- + -k- + -owski, with -k- representing a diminutive suffix ("little lake") and -owski an adjectival suffix meaning "of, from, pertaining to the place of," so that the name as a whole parses as meaning "one from the place of the little lakes." In most cases, however, -owski names refer to a connection between a person or family and a specific place or places with similar names. In this case, we'd expect Jeziorkowski to mean, practically speaking, "one from Jeziorko or Jeziorki," with those place names meaning essentially "little lakes." There are at least a dozen villages named Jeziorki and at least seven more named Jeziorko, and the surname could refer to any or all of them, so I'm afraid the name by itself doesn't do much to clarify exactly where the family came from. If, however, you have a little luck with your research and find your family came from a specific area of Poland, and then you discover a Jeziorko or Jeziorki somewhere nearby, chances are reasonably good that's the place the name originally referred to. The surname is pronounced roughly "yeah-zhore-KOFF-skee" in Polish -- the "zhore" sounds like English "shore," but with the initial sound much like "s" in "pleasure."

As of 1990 there were 264 Polish citizens by this name, scattered all over Poland but with larger numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (54), Poznan (59), and Zamosc (32). I'm afraid I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses.


WARZYŃSKI

… Your book gives the meaning "to prepare (food)" for the surname Warzynski and I would like to know if you can give me any more information on the source of the name. Is it prevalent in Poland today? My ancestor came from Zerniki/Oborniki.

Well, the point is that names beginning with War- or Warz- usually trace back to the root war, "something hot," or warzyć, "to cook, prepare food." However, along the way suffixes were added to produce various names of people and places, so that we'd expect Warzyński to come from such names (here I'm using ń to stand for the Polish accented n; the name is pronounced something like "wah-ZHIN-skee," where "ZHIN" rhymes with English "shin" but the first sound is like the "s" in "pleasure"). In general the name Warzyński probably meant "person from Warzyn, Warzyny," and those place names in turn derived from that root -- perhaps these were places known for their cooking, or were founded or owned by a fellow with a name from that root. Some places that might produce this surname are the villages of Warzyn in Kielce province and Warzyń-Kmiecy and Warzyń-Skóry in Płock province, and Warzno in Gdansk province. People from those places could very well end up being called Warzyński.

I don't have data on exactly how those places ended up with these names, what the connection with the root warz- was. The Polish Language Institute is putting out a 10-volume series on the origins of place names, but so far they've only gotten up to the D's, so it'll be a while before they get to the volume that discusses places beginning with Warz-.

This is a moderately common surname in Poland, as of 1990 there were 1,007 Poles named Warzyński. They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (87), Bydgoszcz (50), Katowice (108), Kielce (118), Piotrkow (83), Pila (89), and Radom (74), and smaller numbers in many other provinces. There were only 2 in Poznan province, which is where Oborniki and Zerniki are located (there are lots of Zerniki's, but that's the only area where I find an Oborniki and a Zerniki near each other). So if your ancestors came from that area, there don't seem to be too many left there now.


DOBRZYŃSKI

… In your spare time could you tell me about the Dobrzynski surname?

This is one of those surnames on which there's really not a lot to tell. It generally refers to origin in a town or village called Dobrzyn, meaning something like "one from Dobrzyn," and there are at least 9 places by that name in Poland. The surname is pretty common, as of 1990 there were 8,215 Poles named Dobrzyński (I use ń to stand for the Polish n with an accent over it). So unfortunately the name is too common, and there are too many places it could derive from, to give much in the way of details; a Dobrzyński could come from almost anywhere in Poland, and there are undoubtedly many separate Dobrzyński families that all acquired the name independently. Your best bet is to see if you can turn up info on the area in Poland your ancestors came from, then look to see if there's a Dobrzyn anywhere near by -- if so, chances are that's the place the name originally referred to.


KIEWRA

… Hi, I found your web page & was wondering if you had any quick thoughts on our surname of Kiewra

I'm sorry I couldn't answer your note sooner. I've been horribly busy lately, and haven't had much time for answering name inquiries. But I did look through my sources some time ago for information, and found that none of them mentioned this name. I was waiting for another book to come in, which, I hoped, might shed some light. But unfortunately, it didn't. So I simply have to admit I don't have a clue what this name comes from. My gut feeling is that it might be Ukrainian, but even my Ukrainian sources don't mention it.

The one thing I can tell you is that the name, while not common, is not unknown in Poland. As of 1990 there were 196 Polish citizens named Kiewra, and another 94 named Kiewro. Neither name showed any particular concentration in one place, although both seem more common in western Poland, in the areas formerly ruled by Germany but returned to Poland after World War II. This is not inconsistent with Ukrainian origin, because after World War II huge numbers of ethnic Ukrainians were forced to relocate from southeastern Poland (which used to include much of western Ukraine) to those "recovered lands" (as the Poles call them) in western Poland. If we had data from before World War II (but unfortunately we don't), I would make a pretty sizable bet the name would show up almost exclusively in eastern Poland and western Ukraine.

I'm sorry I couldn't help more -- you might visit www.infoukes.com, investigate their resources, and see if anyone there can at least confirm or refute my suspicion that the name is Ukrainian. If it is, who knows, maybe someone there can tell you something useful... You might also try writing the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute -- there's more info in the introduction to this Webpage.


ADAMOWICZ – PERKOWSKI

… I was wondering if you could tell me the origins and/or meanings of the surnames Adamowicz and Perkowski?

Adamowicz is a simple one, it means "son of Adam" -- that suffix -owicz shows up in most Slavic languages, although in the others it's usually spelled -ovich or something similar; -owicz is a distinctively Polish spelling. As of 1990 there were 7,583 Poles named Adamowicz, so it's a pretty common name, found all over the country.

Perkowski is probably like most other names ending in -owski, usually they refer to a connection between a person or family and a particular place with a similar name; we'd expect Perkowski to have started as meaning "one from Perki or Perkowo or Perkowice." Unfortunately, there are several villages in Poland that could yield this surname, including a Perki in Płock province, several settlements in Łomża province with two names of which the first is Perki (e. g., Perki-Lachy), Perkowice in Biala Podlaska province, and Perkowo in Leszno province. People coming from any of these places could easily end up with the surname Perkowski, and without detailed information on where a given Perkowski family came from in Poland, it's impossible to match them up with any one of those places.

As of 1990 there were 5,264 Poles named Perkowski, so this, too, is a fairly common name. The name was most common in the provinces of Białystok (1,235), Łomża (951), and Suwałki (272), so it is somewhat concentrated in the northeastern part of Poland, near the borders with Lithuania and Belarus. However, it is not exclusive to those areas, you do run into the name in decent numbers almost anywhere in Poland.

 

 

 

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


KRECZMER -- KRETSCHMER

… I would be most grateful if you could give me any information on the polish surname Kreczmer. My father is originally from Poland Poznan and I am trying find out more about this surname. I.e its meaning and if this is a common or unusal name!I am also tring to locate other Kreczmers on the net, so any information you have as to how I could go about this would be gratefully appreciated.

Kreczmer is a variant form of the name Karczmarz, which comes from karczmarz, "innkeeper." This is the source of a number of very common Polish surnames, including Kaczmarz, Kaczmarek, Kaczmarczyk, etc. The form Kreczmer is especially likely to be associated with Jews, by connection with the Yiddish word krechmer, which obviously comes from karczmarz. The name also appears in the more German spelling Kretschmer. I don't think either form is exclusively Jewish; non-Jewish Germans could bear this name. However, in Poland at least, it was often true that tavern-owners and innkeepers were Jewish, so that the name is identified with Jews more than anyone else.

As of 1990 there were 826 Kreczmer's in Poland (68 of them living in the province of Poznan), as opposed to 180 Kretschmer's; by comparison, there were 23,521 Kaczmarczyks, 59,403 Kaczmarek's, 2,297 Karczmarczyks, etc. So among Poles, names from the native form of the word are extremely common; names from the German or Yiddish forms are less so, but still far from rare.


JURGELIONIS

… I wanted to see if you had any information on the surname Jurgelionus (or maybe Jurgelionis). The name was "Americanized" to Yurgeles during the Ellis Island experience occuring approximately 1914-1918. Due to the fear of ethnicity that pervaded that time period I have no records, oral or written, as to family history.

Actually this is a Lithuanian name, originally Jurgelionis. It comes from the first name Jurga, which is the Lithuanian form of "George," and the suffixes just mean "son of," so the name means "son of George" or "son of little George." This may seem odd, but actually it's not at all rare to see Polish and Lithuanian names confused, because for a long time Poland and Lithuania were united as one country, the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania, and the people and languages mixed to some extent. You have ethnic Poles living in what is now Lithuania (my wife's relatives, for instance, live near Alytus), and you have ethnic Lithuanians living in what is now Poland. People from western Europe and America are generally not aware that there is even a difference between Poles and Lithuanians (but for God's sake never tell a Pole or a Lithuanian that! despite their past history together, they don't always get along too well).

As of 1990 there was no one in Poland named Jurgelionus or Jurgeliois, but there were 21 Polish citizens named Jurgielanis, all living in the province of Suwałki in northeast Poland, near the border with Lithuania; and there were 491 Poles named Jurgiel, which is just a Polish rendering of Lithuanian Jurgelis.


RADWAŃSKI

… I am just beginning to explore a long time interest in family heraldry. I would appreciate any info you might have on the surname of Radwanski. Thank you.

Radwański comes from the ancient Polish first name Radwan, which is also the name of a coat of arms. This is thought to come from the old Polish verb radować, "to make glad, cause to rejoice." As of 1990 there were 3,832 Radwański's in Poland, living in large numbers all over the country, so I'm afraid without specific data on a given family it's impossible to tell from the name alone where they came from.

Since this is the name of a Polish coat of arms, and at least some Radwanski's probably got their surname because they bore those arms, it might be worth your while to contact Leonard J. Suligowski, 218A N. Henry St. Brooklyn, NY 11222. He doesn't do genealogical research -- he's a heraldic artist, Director of Heraldry for the Polish Nobility Association Foundation, and editor of the PNAF Journal "White Eagle." He has an extensive library of armorials and other books on Polish heraldry, and he charges very reasonable fees to search his library for info on noble families. If he finds material, it would probably be more detailed than anything I have at my disposal. So I really think your best bet would be to contact him and see if there's any way to connect your family with any noble Radwański's.


KORNASZEWSKI

… If I can impose on you to do the same for my mothers maiden name I would doubly appreciate it. Her maiden name was Kornaszewski.

Structurally speaking, this name is an adjective (like all names ending in -ewski or -owski), meaning literally "of, from, related to the __ of Kornasz," where that blank is filled in with a term obvious enough that it didn't need to be expressed -- usually either "kin" or "place." So in practice the name started as meaning either "kin of Kornasz" or "one from Kornaszew or Kornaszewo or Kornaszewice," and those place names, in turn, mean "the place of Kornasz." We see the name Kornasz used in records at least as far back as 1558, and its origin is unclear. It may derive either from the root korn-, "humble, obedient, submissive," or from the word kornik, "bark beetle"; but it might also come from the old word kornel, a kind of chalcedony, or a nickname for someone with the name Korneliusz, "Cornelius." The Polish experts feel there isn't enough data available to say for sure which of these origins applies; my gut feeling is that it probably was a first name meaning "the humble one," or else the nickname for Cornelius.

I can't find any place named Kornaszew (or Kornaszewo, etc.), but that seems the most likely origin of this surname. Surnames developed centuries ago, and since then the places they referred to could have disappeared, changed names, and so on; so quite often we can't find the places they referred to, unless we get lucky and dig up mention of them in old records. So I think the surname probably meant "person from Kornaszew/o," but possibly also it just meant "Kornasz's kin."

As of 1990 there were 548 Polish citizens named Kornaszewski, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (197) and Radom (62), and smaller numbers in many other provinces. There doesn't appear to be any one area the name's associated with, although obviously there is a concentration of people by this name in the area near Warsaw.


FURLIT -- RYDZIŃSKI -- SMOLAK -- ZDROJOWY

… Could you tell me if you have anything for the following surnames: Rydzinski, Smolak, Furlit, Zdrojowy.

I'm afraid my sources come up empty on Furlit -- there was no one by that name in Poland as of 1990 (there were 9 Furlik's, all in Krosno province), and none of my books mention it. The only thing that comes to mind is the similarity in sound to an Italian name I've heard, Forlitti -- some Italians did settle in Poland, so it's not out of the question that the name is Italian. But that's strictly a guess, and the question arises whether the name has been mangled and was originally spelled some other way.

Rydziński probably comes from the root rydz, "agaric, a kind of edible mushroom," or perhaps from rydzy, "reddish-gold color." One of those is surely the ultimate root, but this particular surname probably referred to a place with a name from those roots, such as Rydzyna in Leszno province, Rydzynki in Piotrkow province, Rydzyno in Płock province, Rydzyny in Lodz province, etc. As you can see, there are several villages with names that could generate this surname, meaning "one from Rydzyn, Rydzyno, etc." I note that as of 1990 there were 388 Polish citizens named Rydziński; the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (49) and Torun (200), with a few scattered in other provinces. That distribution pattern makes me wonder if this name is primarily associated with the Kashubs, a Slavic ethnic group related to the Poles but with their own culture and language who live in northwestern Poland. You might wish to investigate this possible link by visiting the Webpage http://feefhs.org/kana.

Smolak comes from the root smola, "tar, pitch," or from smolić, "to dirty"; presumably a smolak was a fellow who worked with tar or pitch, or else a rather dirty fellow. This is a common name, as of 1990 there were 2,295 Smolak's in Poland. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Gdansk 100, Katowice 130, Lublin 453, Wroclaw 150, and Warsaw 347, with smaller numbers all over the country.

Zdrojowy surely comes from the root zdrój, "spring, spa," or from numerous places named Zdrój or Zdroje from that root, presumably because they were near springs. This particular name is rather rare, as of 1990 there were only 118 Zdrojowy's in Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Kalisz (45) and Poznan (30) and a few scattered in other provinces. Other names from the same root are more common, e. g. Zdrojewski (3,825).

By the way, I don't have further details on where people by these names live, such as first names and addresses -- the source I use has only a breakdown by province for each name, nothing else.


IKALEWICZ -- SYTNIK

… I would like to find the family history of Ikalewicz and Sytnik.

Someone appears to be misleading people about what I can do -- I'm getting more and more notes like this. I can't tell anyone anything about their family history. I can only address the question of what a name means and where in Poland it is most common. Sometimes that information provides people with a clue or lead they can follow in tracing their roots, sometimes it doesn't.

As of 1990 there was no one in Poland named Ikalewicz, but it's not unusual to find that a name that did once exist has since died out, possibly because the whole family emigrated. The sufix -ewicz means "son of," so the name means "son of Ikała or Ikało." As of 1990 there were 14 Polish citizens named Ikała, all living in the province of Pila in northwestern Poland; there were also 4 named Ikało, all living in the province of Koszalin, in the same general area. I have no access to further details such as first names and addresses, I'm afraid this data is all I have. Names ending in –ała or –ało usually mean one who constantly exhibited the action or feature denoted by the root that starts the name, in this case ik-. This appears to come from the rather rare verb ikać, "to hiccup," so Ikala or Ikalo probably started as a name for someone who hiccuped often, and Ikalewicz would refer to his son.

Sytnik appears to come from the root syty, "well-fed, sated," or the related word sytny, "nourishing, satiating." Presumably the name referred to one who appeared well-fed, perhaps a bit on the chubby side. As of 1990 there were 172 Sytnik's in Poland; larger numbers lived in the provinces of Katowice (17), Krakow (10), Legnica (18), Leszno (13), Opole (20), Szczecin (20), Wroclaw (31), and there were fewer than 10 in several other provinces. Those provinces with the largest numbers are all in western Poland, in the area formerly ruled by Germany, and especially in southwestern Poland, the region known as Silesia.


SZACH

… I would appreciate any info you could provide on Szach. I noticed on your website that you have a similar name, Szoch. Anyway, the word means "check" in Polish (from chess). The story I hear from my relatives is that it was changed to "Shark" when my grandfather entered the army in the U.S., and the recruiter couldn't pronounce his name, so he changed it.

Well, that sort of change did happen all the time, so it's certainly plausible that's how the name changed form.

None of my sources discuss the origin of this name, at least as used by Christians -- Jews used it partly because of the connection with Polish szachy and German Schach, "chess," and partly because it was short for a Hebrew expression meaning "from the lips of the priest," and was the pen name of a prominent Vilnius rabbi. When used by Christians, it probably comes from Persian shah, either directly or by way of the term for chess, which originated from the Persian expression shah mat, "the king is dead."

But I don't think we can rule out another possible derivation: a Polish nickname for first names beginning with Sa- or Sza-. Poles loved to take the first couple of sounds of popular names, drop the rest, and add suffixes (sort of like English "Teddy" from "Theodore"). There are some Polish or Ukrainian names such as Szawel ("Saul") and Sawa that could, theoretically, undergo this treatment and come out as Szach. I don't have any proof this happened, but it happened to so many other names (Jan -> Jach, Stanislaw -> Stach) that I think it has to be considered possible. And to be honest, the Polish a and o sound so much alike that they often switch, so Szach could sometimes be a variant of Szoch... Still, the sound of the expression szach is so connected with "shah" or "chess" that I think that's the association most likely to be relevant in the majority of cases.

As of 1990 there were 218 Polish citizens named Szach, scattered in small numbers all over Poland, so there's no one area we can point to and say, "Ah, that's where all the Szach's came from."


PRZYBYŁKO

… I'm wondering if I could ask you about a Polish spelling. Our grandfather's sister supposedly married someone with the last name: Pryzybylko(taken from a personal phone book, not official documents). However, no such spelled name is listed in the US phone directories, etc. Some people, not relatives, have suggested the correct name could be Przybylko.(without the 3rd letter Y). There about about 30 instances of this name in the US. However, my husband cautions me that this could be a different family. What do you think? We are trying to find this missing sister.

I applaud your husband for not jumping to conclusions -- it's always best to start by assuming the form of the name as given is right until you obtain convincing evidence to the contrary. But I think in this case it is justifiable to conclude the name was originally Przybyłko (using ł to stand for the Polish l with a slash through it). In Polish the combination Pryzy- is very unusual, whereas Przy- is extremely common. As of 1990 there were 547 Polish citizens named Przybyłko, but not a one named Pryzybyłko. And I have seen exactly this sort of thing happen before, where an extra -y- sneaks in. So I really think you can assume the name was Przybyłko before non-Poles got confused and added one y too many... The name, by the way, comes from a root meaning "arrive," and usually was given to a family that had recently arrived in the village, that is, a newcomer. You find it all over Poland, but it's more common in southcentral and southeastern Poland, especially Tarnow province, where 113 Przybyłko's lived as of 1990.


BENINDA – BIENIENDA

… My family name is Beninda, My grandfather, Stanley, arrived in America approx. 1912. My father was not sure, but he thought the name might of had an extra I in it. I am trying to research my roots and could any suggestions on the correct spelling.

This is a pretty rare name, no matter how you spell it. As of 1990 there was no on in Poland with the spelling Beninda. There were 23 named Bienienda, all living in Olsztyn province in northcentral Poland; there were 21 named Bienięda (ę is how we represent on-line the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under it and pronounced much like en), living in the provinces of Gorzow (1), Lublin (2), Radom (9), Tarnobrzeg (9); and 3 named Bienięnda, all in Tarnobrzeg province in southeastern Poland. All these names are pronounced more or less the same way, like "ben-YEN-dah" or "byen-YEN-dah," and we often see variation in spelling with Ben- vs. Bien- and -ęda vs. -enda. In other words, it is perfectly correct to regard all these as mere spelling variants of the same name.

This name is thought by Polish experts to derive from the first name Benedykt, in English "Benedict." Bienięda is regarded as the "standard" spelling, and the name appears in Polish legal records (in archaic spellings) as far back as 1222, so it's an old name. The Poles often formed nicknames or short forms of names by taking the first 2 or 3 letters, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes (somewhat like "Teddy" from "Theodore" in English), so the progression is Benedkyt -> Ben- or Bien- + -ęda = Bienięda or Benięda. It started as a sort of nickname or short name like "Benny" in English, and "Benny" or "son of Ben" is about the closest we can come to a translation. It is very common to see such first names or nicknames become established as surnames.


JASZCZ

… I was interested in getting information about the surname Jaszcz.

It could have developed two different ways. It could derive from the term jaszcz, which is a name for a kind of fish, the ruff (Acerina cernua). It can also have developed as a short form or nickname from first names beginning with Ja-, such as Jan (John), Jakub (Jacob), etc., kind of like "Jack" in English. In the case of any individual family, it's difficult to say for sure which of these two derivations applies, whether from the fish or the first name. As of 1990 there were 748 Polish citizens named Jaszcz, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (113) in northwestern Poland, and Lublin (139) and Tarnow (118) provinces in southeastern Poland.


DOLEŻEK -- FURDAL

… My grandfather's last name is Dolezek, the "z" accented with a dot over it. I would love to find some insight as to the origin of this name. I vaguely remember hearing the mention that my great-grandparent(s) came from either Czechoslowakia or one of the countries bordering Poland in a similar fashion. Also, the surname Furdal appears in my family tree.

The key question here is whether the name is Polish or Czech. The name Doleżek (I use ż to stand for the z with a dot over it) is a legitimate Polish name, coming from the verb doleżeć meaning "to lie in bed for quite a while, especially while recovering from illness." So if the name appears among ethnic Poles, that's the likely origin. But there's no question we see such names as Dolezal and Dolezek among Czechs. They could come from that same root -- many roots are similar in Czech and Polish -- but I note there is also a term in Czech dolezat', "to fawn on someone." I don't have enough info on Czech names to say for sure which is applicable here, or whether the ż vs. z is a key factor in the meaning. I can say Doleżek is not a very common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were only 126 Polish citizens by that name. They lived scattered all over the country, with no real concentration in any one part of Poland.

I couldn't find anything definitive on the derivation of Furdal in my sources, but it seems likely it comes from the terms furda and furdal, both meaning essentially "trifle, bagatelle, thing of little value or weight" and seen in both Polish and Ukrainian. As of 1990 there were 317 Polish citizens named Furdal, living scattered all over Poland but with the largest number by far, 171, living in the province of Lublin in southeastern Poland.


SOLAK

… As a school project I have been asked to research the meaning and geographic origin of my surname Solak. Through much research I have only been able to determine that the name possibly originated in western Poland due to the -ak suffix. Also, that sol in Latin means "sun". I also have found the city of Nowa Sol located in western Poland and wondered if it had any significance. I would appreciate any assistance you can give. Not only for the purpose of school, but now my personal interest to know the meaning of my surname has been peaked.

Well, the -ak suffix appears in names all over Poland, not just the western part. Some Polish names come from Latin roots, but generally they derive from Slavic roots, and the root sol has to do with "salt" in the Slavic languages, so that's the root to concentrate on.

Basically Solak isn't a very specific name, it means something like "the salt guy," and just indicates that people gave someone this name because of a perceived connection with salt. Perhaps he helped mine salt -- this was a major occupation in medieval Poland -- or he may have sold salt, or he may have used a lot of salt in his food. The name just isn't specific enough to let us define the connection more precisely. The term solarz was used more often for a salt dealer, and Solarz is a common Polish surname (there used to be a congressman by that name, I'm not sure if he's still in office), so I tend to doubt solak would be used in that sense. I think we have to be satisfied with "salt guy, someone connected with salt."

One other possible kind of derivation should be mentioned: from names of places. There is a river Sola in Poland (its name appears to refer to the fact that its water was salty), and Solak could have developed in some cases as indicating that a person or family lived near or on that river. The surname might also have referred to people who came from villages such as Sól in Bielsko-Biala province or Sól in Zamosc province. The village you found, Nowa Sól ("new salt") in Zielona Gora province, might also have some Solak's who came from there.

It's frustrating that we can't pin down one derivation and say with certainty "This it it." But with many names we find that there isn't just one derivation, a specific name could have developed several different ways; and without detailed information on an individual family's past there's no way to know which derivation applies to it. In other words, we can't assume all the Solak's in Poland got that name the same way, or even that they're all part of the same family; there could easily be numerous separate families that ended up with this name independently. And since surnames typically were established during the 15th-18th centuries, in many cases there are no records that go back far enough to settle the matter.

Solak is a moderately common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 1,718 Polish citizens by that name. They lived all over the country, but the largest concentration is in the provinces of Tarnow (598) and Zamosc (208) in southeastern Poland. So the name can be found anywhere in Poland, but is particularly common in the southeastern part.

A final note: the root sol- means "salt" in most Slavic languages, and the suffix -ak is not used only by Poles, so we can't say this name has to be exclusively Polish. You could run into it among Czechs and Russians and Ukrainians, too, and possibly others. I have no data on that. But I do think it probably is Polish in most cases.


CYMBAL -- HAJDER -- KONIECZNY -- SYMBAL -- SZCZECH

… I have read with interest the facts you have provided on many polish surnames, and wonder if you have any information on some from my family, all of which I find to be fairly rare: Konieczny, Szczech, Symbal (or symbol), and Haider.

Haider is probably a variant of Hajder (since they're pronounced the same), and derives from the German name Heider, one who lived on a Heide (heath, moor). A great many ethnic Germans have always lived in Poland, so it's not unusual to come across names from German borne by people living in Poland. As of 1990 there were 576 Poles who used the spelling Hajder, and it is most common in western Poland, long ruled by the Germans, especially in the provinces of Katowice (104), Poznan (82), and Rzeszow (52), with smaller numbers in many other provinces. The spelling Haider is rare in modern Poland, only 24 Poles used that form, living in the provinces of Białystok (2), Katowice (15), and Opole (7). In older spellings i and j were often switched, so it seems likely more folks used to spell the name Haider but have since come to use the standard spelling Hajder, which is more in line with modern Polish phonetics. Unfortunately I don't have access to more data such as the first names and addresses of any of those Haider's and Hajder's, what I've given here is all I have.

According to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut, Konieczny comes from an archaic word konieczny meaning "final, last," from the root koniec, "end." Now, centuries after names were established, it can be difficult to determine exactly why a particular name got linked with a particular family; often the most we can do is explain what the basic root meant, and speculate on the reason that root became a name. Perhaps Konieczny referred to someone who lived at the end of a road or on the outskirts of a village, something like that. It is a fairly common name in Poland, where as of 1990 there were 14,126 Polish citizens by this name.

As of 1990 there was no one in Poland with the name Symbal or Symbol, and none of my sources mention this name. An educated guess is that it is a variant of Cymbal (pronounced TSYIM-ball); it is not unusual to see the ts sound of Polish c symplified to an a sound in some areas. Cymbal appears to come from the word cymbal, "dulcimer; also (referring to people) a dolt." So the name may have started as a nickname for someone who played the dulcimer, or else someone who got the slang nickname meaning "dolt, blockhead."

Szczech is thought to come from the archaic word szczesny, "happy, fortunate," which was also sometimes used as a first name, a Polish equivalent of Latin Felix, which meant the same thing. Poles often formed nicknames or short forms of first names by taking the first few sounds of the name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes such as -ch; so the closest we can come to a "translation" of this name is "Felix, son of Felix," or "the happy one, the fortunate one." As of 1990 there were 1,571 Poles by this name.


EWERTOWSKI -- KŁOSOWSKI

… It would be most helpful if you could supply me with any information on Ewertowski and Klosowski.

Names ending in -owski usually refer to a connection between a person or family and a place with a similar name, or sometimes a person with a similar name. Thus Kłosowski, for instance -- ł stands for the Polish slashed l, pronounced like our w -- means literally "of, from, pertaining to the __ of Kłos(es)," where that blank can be filled in with some word that was obvious enough it didn't need to be spelled out. Usually the missing word is "kin" or "place," so that the surname would mean, in effect, "kin of Kłos(es)" or "one from the place of Kłos(es)." Kłos could be a first name, but in this case I doubt it is (unless it's Kloss, a German variant of Klaus from Niklaus, "Nicholas") -- the basic root involved here is probably kłos, "ear of corn."

Thus Kłosowski probably referred to a family's coming from of several villages named Kłosy or Kłosów or Kłosowo. As I say, there are several villages with those names, so without further data on a specific family it's impossible to say which of them the surname refers to in a given instance. The surname breaks down as meaning "one from Kłosów or Kłosy or Kłosowo," and that in turn breaks down as "place of the corn." Kłosowski is a pretty common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 6,697 Polish citizens by that name, living all over the country.

Similarly, Ewertowski might mean "one from Ewertów or Ewertowo," but I can find no mention of any such places in my sources. It's possible there have been places named Ewertów or Ewertowo and they've since been renamed or disappeared, but in this case "kin of Ewert" makes as much sense as "one from the place of Ewert." Ewert is an old German personal name, which also appears in such forms as Evert and Evers. There have always been large numbers of Germans living in Poland, so it's not unusual to see surnames derived from German names. As of 1990 there were 1,229 Ewertowski's living in Poland. They could be found all over the country, but the largest numbers were in the provinces of Olsztyn (317), Pila (109) and Torun (279), in north central and northwestern Poland.


MAZIARSKI -- MAZIARZ -- MAZIERZ -- MAZIERSKI

… If you should have the time, would you please tell me anything you can find related to the surname Mazierski.

Mazierski is almost certainly from the noun mazierz, which is a variant of maziarz, "tar-burner." As such it is one of many surnames derived from terms for occupations. I must admit I don't know that much about this occupation, which was somehow involved with burning wood to distill pitch or tar -- but I see mention of it all the time in old sources, so up until a century or two ago it was clearly a pretty common way to earn a living. The standard form, as I say, is maziarz, and the adjectival form is maziarski, which means literally "of, from, pertaining to the tar-burner"; as a surname it would mean basically "kin of the tar-burner." We also see the surname Mazierz and the associated adjectival form Mazierski, and these would be the same name, it's just pronounced and spelled slightly differently in some areas, perhaps much as Americans write "color" and Brits write "colour."

In some cases the surname might also refer to origin in a place named something like Maziarze (for instance, there is a village by that name in Radom province). In other words, Maziarski or Mazierski might also have started as meaning "one from Maziarze" -- and obviously a place by that name was so called because of a connection with tar-burners. So either way the surname refers to that occupation -- in one case it would mean "kin of the tar-burner," in the other case "one from the place of the tar-burner."

As of 1990 there were 146 Polish citizens named Mazierski, scattered in numerous provinces; the largest single concentration, 55, was in the province of Wloclawek in central Poland. Just for contrast, there were 4 Poles named Mazierz, as opposed to 349 named Maziarski, 4,691 named Maziarz, and 656 named Maziarczyk ("son of the tar-burner").


BISKUPIAK

… Any thoughts on the surname Biskupiak? Would it relate to a particular area of Poland?

The name comes from biskup, "bishop," and just means a person in some way connected with a bishop. It might refer to kin of a bishop, a bishop's servant, or people who worked on lands belonging to a bishop -- until a few centuries ago, bishops and higher clergy owned large estates, so this isn't as far-fetched or unusual as it might sound. Often the -iak suffix means "son of," but it seems rather unlikely, in a devoutly Catholic country like Poland, that anyone would go around with a name meaning "son of a bishop" (although Lord knows there probably were a few of those around!). But the name doesn't really allow us to define the relationship more precisely -- it just means "bishop's person" in one way or another.

As of 1990 there were 215 Polish citizens named Biskupiak; they were scattered all over the country. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (53) in northwestern Poland, Lodz (28) in central Poland, and Wroclaw (23) in south central Poland. So you can't really say there's any one part of the country with which this name is generally associated.


FINK -- HONIGMAN

… My father’s mother's name was Fink, but that probably is too common to pursue. My mother's last name was Honigman, her family came from Lodz. Any hints on that?

Fink is indeed a very common name. Despite the relocation of millions of ethnic Germans from Poland at the end of World War II, there are still 373 Fink's and 210 Finke's in Poland. The name comes from the German word for "finch," and I would imagine there are thousands of people by that name in Germany. It is borne by Christians and Jews, and probably was applied originally either to a bird-catcher, someone who lived in an area with many finches, or someone with a bright, cheerful disposition that reminded people of a finch.

Honigman is also German, obviously, and means literally "honey man." It might have referred to a person who kept bees or produced or sold honey, or even symbolically to a person with a sweet personality. In some parts of Germany "Honig" can also come from variants of the name Heinrich, "Henry," according to German name experts. As of 1990 there was no one named Honigman in Germany, but there were 8 named Honikman, which is just a Polish phonetic rendering (Honigman actually is pronounced in German as if it were written Honikman); they lived in the provinces of Gorzow (7) and Lodz (1).


GURGUL

… I realized that I do not know the origin of my surname Gurgul. All I know that it is not uncommon in the province of Tarnow, and that there is an area in Austria called Ober-gurgle. If you have any other info regarding this name it would be greatly appreciated.

When I did my book on Polish surnames, this one gave me a lot of trouble. I couldn't ignore it -- as of 1990 there were 1,980 Polish citizens named Gurgul, so it's rather common. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Katowice (165), Krakow (333), Nowy Sacz (180), and Tarnów (750) -- plus smaller numbers in many other provinces -- so it is most common in south central and southeastern Poland. But I could find no clear info on the name's derivation.

I noted in my book that there is a Polish term gurgole meaning "women's clothing," and that might be connected; but that strikes me as weak and far-fetched, although it is possible a person who made or sold women's clothes might end up with such a name. The name does sound rather similar to German Görgel, which is a sort of nickname from Georg, "George" -- thus it might have started as a nickname for a fellow named George or his son. German-derived names are not at all uncommon among Poles, because many Germans have lived in Poland over the centuries.

A book I recently acquired on names in southcentral Poland may shed some light. It discusses the name Gorgol, saying it comes from gorgolić, "to grumble, mumble, complain," and adds "compare Gurgol," a name found in a Polish legal record from 1415. It is not far-fetched to say Gurgul could very well come from that root.

I suspect we may be talking about two different names here: a German name from Georg and a Polish name from the word for "mumble, complain." There were and are a lot of Germans in the areas where Gurgul is common in Poland, including Tarnow province, so I can't really say one is more likely than the other. But the Polish author who wrote the book I just mentioned feels the connection with gorgolić is relevant for Poles, and I am inclined to agree. And either "George" or "mumble" strikes me as more likely than a connection with gurgole, "women's clothing" (although with surnames you never say "never").


MOSZCZYŃSKI

… A long time ago I was able to look through a copy of your Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings book and got totally lost on one family name. I have found out a bit about most of my husband’s Polish ancestors, but his great-grandfathers surname Moszczynski sure is a tough one to figure out.

I know what you mean. Some names are nice and clear-cut, like Kowalski from kowal, "smith," or Jankowski from Janków or Jankowo, "the place of Janek." Other names are a lot harder, and Moszczynski is one of them. In Polish it is Moszczyński (accent over the n), pronounced roughly like "mosh-CHIN-skee."

There is no short, sweet answer, but I can say that in most cases it comes from the name of a place, such as Mosty or Moszczenica or Moszczenno, and (naturally) there are several villages with those names. So this is a surname that you really can't get anywhere with until you have pretty good info on exactly where the family comes from. Then if you look at that area and find a place with a name like Moszczenica or Moszcze, chances are that's the place... In most cases these place names came from nicknames of first names, especially Moszko, which can from Mojżesz (Moses) or from some very old pagan first names such as Mojsław. Often what happened is a person named Moszko (or something similar) founded a village or owned an estate, and it came to be named after him, then people who came from there were named after it, and that's how you go from Mojsław or Mojżesz -> Moszko -> Moszczenica -> Moszczyński. As you can see, it's not exactly an obvious progression, but that's one way this name could get started.

… Also....you mention another book which has a breakdown of where people are living in Poland based on their surname. I would appreciate if you would be willing to share that data with me on the Moszczynski surname. It might aid me in my research if I actually knew where any lived. Unfortunately my husbands grandfather is old and no longer remembers where his father comes from.

As of 1990 there were 3,253 Polish citizens named Moszczyński. There are people by that name in virtually every province of Poland, but here is a list of the provinces with larger numbers (more than 100): Warsaw (383), Ciechanow (178), Gdansk (162), Katowice (118), Lodz (342), Olsztyn (458), Płock (125), Torun (130), Wloclawek (119), and Wroclaw (105). So the name is most common in north central and central Poland, but not to the extent that it really gives much in the way of solid leads. I know that may be disappointing, but it's typical -- I'd estimate no more than 10% of Polish surnames, and maybe only 5%, give any kind of clue to their origin that's even minimally helpful. Most of the time they mean either "son of Joe" or "kin of the carpenter" or "guy from X" where there are 25 places named X.

I realize this probably isn't a lot of help, but maybe somewhere along the line it will do you some good. I hope so, and I wish you the best of luck with your research.


HAŁAS

… I would like any information on the Halas surname. I have encountered a brick wall with this polish family of mine. any information would be appreciated.

The name is spelled Hałas in Polish -- the ł is how we represent on-line the Polish l with a line through it, which is pronounced like our w, so that this name sounds like "HAH-wass." It comes from the Polish word hałas, which means "noise, outcry." It's a fairly common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 3,853 Polish citizens named Hałas, another 1,242 named Hałasa, and even 348 named Chałas (the ch is pronounced the same as h in Polish, so you could see the name spelled either way). Poles named Hałas lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (342), Katowice (344), Lublin (315), Poznan (49), and Zamosc (274). Unfortunately, that just means there's no one part of the country the name is associated with, a Hałas could come from anywhere in Poland.

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


KOCHNIARCZYK

… I am interested in researching my family name, Kochniarczyk, specifically in the year 1910 when my grandfather, Marek, immigrated to the US, to be followed by my grandmother Regina Kochniarczyk, nee Pajdzik, and my father Stanley who was 2 years old in 1912....

This is a difficult name, because I can't find any mention of it in my sources. I can tell you that as of 1990 there were 55 Polish citizens named Kochniarczyk; they lived in the provinces of Kielce (6), Krakow (9), Krosno (5), Legnica (1), Lodz (1), Nowy Sacz (8), Poznan (8), Sieradz (2), Tarnów (9), Walbrzych (6). This means it is a fairly rare name, and is not limited to just one area -- Poznan province is in western Poland, Nowy Sacz and Krakow in south central Poland, Tarnów and Krosno in southeastern Poland. (I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses, all I have is this breakdown of where they lived by province).

As for the meaning, one part is clear -- the suffix -czyk means "son of," so it is a patronymic name, "son of X." The question is, what does that X, Kochniar-, mean? I suspect it is an unusual word meaning "cook"; kuchnia means "kitchen" in Polish, Koch means "cook" in German, and the suffix -iarz in Polish is a lot like -er in English, and that suggests kochniarz could be a dialect or rare word meaning "cooker" = "one who cooks." So my gut feeling is that this surname means "son of the cook." But I can't find any sources that confirm this, and unless I come across something more definite, it will have to remain an educated guess.

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


TAŃSKI

… Are you familiar with the name Tansky. We believe it's from Warsaw.

In Polish this would be spelled Tański, with ń representing the Polish n with an accent over it, which modifies the a to where it sounds almost like "TINE-skee." As of 1990 there were 2,553 Polish citizens by this name, including 237 living in the province of Warsaw; other provinces with large numbers of Tański's were Ciechanow (359), Olsztyn (376), and Ostrołęka (359). It seems to be most common in the northeastern part of Poland, although you find people by this name all over the country.

The derivation of this name is hard to pin down, because there are several possibilities. Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut lists a number of names beginning with Tan- in his book, saying they generally come from either tani, "cheap, inexpensive," or taniec, "dance." But another source mentions that it can come from an old first name Tan, seen in old compound names such as Tanard and Tancar. Another expert mentions it as possibly coming from a short form or nickname of Kajetan, a rare first name in this country but not so rare in Europe -- compare French Gaetan, Italian Gaetano, etc.

And, to be honest, we can't rule out origin from nicknames for Antoni (Anthony) and Atanazy (Athanasius) -- it's not rare at all for Poles to take just one syllable of a popular first name, drop the rest, and make a new name or nickname by adding suffixes (sort of like "Teddy" in English from "Edward" or "Theodore"). I think the link with "Anthony" is especially worth considering, even though none of my sources mention it, because northeastern Poland often has a tendency to use the sound of a instead of o -- partly due to Belarusian and Lithuanian influence -- and in Lithuanian Tanas is a nickname for Antanas, the Lith. form of "Anthony." With all the Tański's in northeastern Poland, it's quite possible some of them got the name by way of Tanas or something simiar.

So we can't really say it comes only from this word or that word -- it's quite possible the surname Tański developed from all of these sources. In one family's case, it might come from the root meaning "cheap," in another's from a nickname (kind of like "Tony" in English), and so on.

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


BURDZEL -- STRZAŁKOWSKI

… My ggrandfather's surname was Burdzel. I am assured he was Polish but I can find nothing about this name at all. Do you have any information on this name?

As of 1990 there were 225 Polish citizens named Burdzel, of whom by far the greatest number, 148, lived in the province of Tarnobrzeg in southeastern Poland. There were smaller numbers scattered in other provinces, including 23 more in Rzeszów province (also in SE Poland), but Tarnobrzeg is definitely the area where the name seems to be concentrated. There were also 14 named Burdziel in Rzeszów province, and that is probably a variant form of the same name. Unfortunately I don't have access to further info on the Burdzel's and Burdziel's, such as first names or addresses.

As for the derivation, well, often these are a bit embarrassing -- the most obvious link here is with burdel, "brothel." However, that doesn't have to be the origin of this name. Although the primary meaning of burdel (from Latin borda or bordelum, compare Italian bordello) is "brothel," the term also came to be used for any old, decrepit building, so the name might have started as a nickname for someone who lived in or owned such a building. According to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut, names like this can also come from the root burda, "brawl, disturbance of the peace." As such, Burdel or Burdzel may well have originated as a nickname for someone who raised hell from time to time. Not necessary a complimentary name, but better than "brothel"!

My grandmother's maiden name was Strzalkowski. I can find nothing on this name either. Can you help?

Names ending in X-owski usually break down as meaning "of, from, pertaining to the _ of X," where that blank is filled in with an understood word, usually "kin" or "place." In this case the X is the root strzałka, "arrow," or strzel-, "to shoot." So while this surname might refer to the kin of a person who made or used arrows, or who had a nickname Strzałka or Strzałek because he was a great archer or was straight and thin as an arrow, the probable origin in most cases was "one who comes from Strzałki or Strzałków or Strzałkowo," and those place names, in turn, would mean "place of the arrows." Perhaps these places were known for producing or using arrows -- all we can really be sure of is that a name like this got started because of some connection with arrows. In most cases, I would think it simply meant "person from Strzałki/Strzałków/Strzałkowo." Unfortunately there are several places by those names, so without further information there's no way to know which one this surname referred to in any one family's case. There probably isn't one big Strzałkowski family, but rather numerous ones who got the name independently because they came from a community with one of the names mentioned.

This is a fairly common surname, as of 1990 there were 4,455 Strzałkowski's in Poland. The name is found all over the country, with particularly large numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (758), Białystok (162), Bydgoszcz (171), Lodz (162), Płock (233), and Radom (342). The inescapable conclusion is that the name is not concentrated in any one area, a Strzałkowski family could come from almost anywhere in Poland. (By the way, I'd estimate this is true in at least 90% of all cases -- most Polish surnames just don't offer much in the way of specific clues. Burdzel is an exception in that it is primarily associated with one province.)

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


BUBCZYK

… I was looking for the name Bubczyk and the meaning. It was my grandfathers surname. He came from Plevnik Russia/Poland County of Przasnysz now in the Province of Ostrołęka, Poland. Thank you very much. Christian Bubczyk chef3@juno.com.

The suffix -czyk usually means "son of," and the root bub-, according to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut, is buba, "something that frightens," also used in the meaning "idiot." So I'm afraid the choices are "son of the scary guy, son of the scared guy," or else "son of the idiot." I know these aren't very complimentary, but I can assure you, compared to some names I've seen, they're not bad. I just had to tell a lady her great-grandfather's name appears to come from a word for "brothel"!

Bubczyk is not a very common name, as of 1990 there were 73 Polish citizens by that name. They lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 9, Chelm 38, Gdansk 1, Katowice 4, Lublin 18, Zamosc 3. While it's a bit surprising none show up in Ostrołęka province, this is not unusual -- I often find a particular name doesn't show up in the area where you'd expect it, perhaps because the name died out in Poland after a lot of the family emigrated, or due to subsequent wars and other hardships. I'm afraid I don't have access to further details such as the first names and addresses of those Bubczyk's, what I've given here is all I have.

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


BRZESZCZAK -- LERYCH

… First, my father's family name is Lerych, and in the family tradition it originated somewhere in Germany. The odd thing is that apparently my great-grandfather used (or had a document issued in) the name Relich (which, I believe, is actually not an uncommon German name). I suppose that the two names could have been reversed phonetically, but I can't tell which is the original one since I do not have any documents predating the Lerych version. (Could it be French: Le Riche?).

I agree that in terms of linguistic and ethnic origin, Lerych is probably German -- it doesn't really "sound" Polish, if you know what I mean. By phonetics, we would expect this to come from something like Lerich or Lehrich in German. Looking through my sources to see if any of them mention this name, I find that Hans Bahlow's Deutsches Namenlexikon mentions Lerich under the entry for Lerch, "lark," a name typically applied to catchers and sellers of birds (but names from birds' names were also given to people whose clothes reminded them of a lark's coloring, or whose voices or movements somehow reminded them of a lark). Alexander Beider's book on Surnames of Jews in the Kingdom of Poland also cites this derivation, lerych from German Lerch, Lerche. (That does not mean the name is necessarily Jewish, many such names were used by both Christians and Jews.)

But I note that Bahlow also mentions in regard to the family name Lerich a possible connection with the German root ler, "swamp." If that is applicable, Lerich/Lerych might refer not to the lark but to the place where a family lived, somewhere near swamplands -- there are many, many names with this meaning, in German and Polish. I think the "lark" derivation is the more likely in most cases, but we cannot rule out the possibility that in some cases it originated as a name for someone living in or near swampy land.

As I'm sure you know, it is not at all unusual to find German-derived names among Poles (there are thousands of Hoffman's in Poland today). Large numbers of Germans have always lived in Poland; in the Middle Ages, many Germans fleeing war and economic distress in their homeland were invited to come settle in Poland as skilled farmers and craftsmen. And of course after Poland was partitioned many Germans came uninvited to what is now northern western Poland, to take over the best land and promote the German vision of finding living space [Lebensraum] in land east of Germany (often referred to as the Drang nach Osten, "drive to the east"]).

As for Relich vs. Lerich, it is not uncommon to see the switch from L-R to R-L in names. A recent issue of Rodziny, the Journal of the Polish Genealogical Society of America, has an article in which a member discusses the names Rolbiecki vs. Lorbiecki, a name found mostly among the Kaszubs, and concludes they are the same name, with Lorbiecki being the preferred form among Kaszubs and Rolbiecki more commonly used by Poles. So the variation between Lerich and Relich is not such an odd phenomenon; it still seems to me Lerich/Lerych is the original form, with Relich a later, dialectal variant.

As of 1990 there were only 13 Poles with the name Lerych, living in the provinces of Warsaw (10) and Skierniewice (3). There were also 6 Leryk's, which is surely a variant of the same name, all living in Skierniewice province. (Unfortunately I do not have access to further data such as first names and addresses, what I have given here is all I have.) This compares with 417 Lerka's, 81 Lerek's, and 489 Lerch's. The amazing thing is that there are 234 Relich's, living in many different provinces but with larger numbers in those of Gorzow (25), Jelenia Gora (20), Katowice (34), Opole (25), and Zielona Gora (44) -- all provinces in western Poland or Silesia. Without much more extensive research I cannot say how many of them bear that name as a variant of the name Lerych and how many derive Relich from something like religa, "old horse, ungainly fellow."

This is a very interesting subject, and if you would like to learn more, perhaps it would be worthwhile to contact the Pracownia Antroponimiczna, Instytut Jezyka Polskiego, ul. Straszewskiego 27, 31-113 KRAKOW. They generally charge no more than $10-20 to check their sources and see if they have information on the origin of a specific name. These are the best experts I know of on such matters, and while they can correspond in English, with you that will not be necessary! I think there's a very good chance they would be able to add to what I've said and give you some good insights on the origin of this name and the exact relationship between it and Relich.

Second, my mother's family name is Brzeszczak. Again, the family tradition maintains the first Brzeszczak was a knight who came to Poland from Hungary with king Louis and settled down there. The family, as far as I can tell, has always lived in the general vicinity of Warsaw. I suppose "Brzeszczak" could be derived from brzeszczot or the city of Brzesc (Brest), as well as any Hungarian name like Berescaky (?) or something.

As of 1990 there were 260 Brzeszczak's in Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (113), Czestochowa (80), and Radom (22), and a few in several other provinces. According to Prof. Kazimierz Rymut's Nazwiska Polaków, Brzeszczak comes ultimately from the root brzost, "birch tree," but we would usually expect it to have started as meaning "one from Brześć or Brzesko" or some similar place name, and there are quite a few places with names that qualify (all eventually deriving from brzost), so that the surname would mean "one from the place of birches."

I don't have any information on specific families, so I cannot comment on your family tradition, except to say it is certainly feasible. There are many such cases documented. It might be the knight came from Hungary, where he had a name that sounded similar and was modified by Poles to Brzeszczak, or he might have borne another name entirely and later took the name Brzeszcak because he owned an estate or town or village named Brześć or Brzesko. But it would take someone with sources on Polish heraldry to tell you that. You might contact Leonard Suligowski, 218A N. Henry St., Brooklyn, NY 11222, a heraldic artist with an extensive library on Polish nobility. He might be able to find in his sources some information that would shed light on the family's origin.

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


PIEKARCZYK

… I was wondering if you have any information on the name Piekarczyk... That was my Grandfather's name before it was changed to Baker. I was told that Piekarczyk translates to "little baker", but I don't know if that is true.

Yes, that is the literal meaning of Piekarczyk. The word piekarz is Polish for "baker," and the suffix -czyk can mean "little one," and in surnames it often means "son of." There is a term piekarczyk, "boy working at a bakery," according to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut. So "little baker" is a fairly literal translation, and as a surname Piekarczyk probably was applied to a baker's son or assistant -- to a considerable extent the two meanings would overlap, since you'd generally expect the baker's son to help his father in the family business.

This is a moderately common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 2,876 Polish citizens named Piekarczyk. When you think about the meaning of the name, it could be used anywhere they spoke Polish and bakers had sons, i.e., anywhere in Poland, and in fact there are Piekarczyk's living all over the country. However the largest numbers of people by this name lived in southcentral and southeastern Poland, in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (148), Katowice (572), Krakow (278), Lublin (275), Nowy Sacz (195), and Tarnów (260). I wish the data would let us be more specific, because that's a lot of area to search, but that's what the numbers say, and I pass it on in case it might prove useful. (I don't have any further details such as first names and addresses, just a total of how many there were by any specific name and a breakdown of how many lived in each province).

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


KRAKOWSKI

… In using some of the information you provide your viewers, I noticed that no record of my last name - Krakowski - could be found. Originally, the name was Krakovski or Krakovsky but it apparently changed over time. What can you tell me about it?

Well, as of 1990 there were over 800,000 surnames borne by Poles, to say nothing of those that have died out in Poland after families emigrated. Now granted, a lot of those names are minor variants -- kind of like "Johnson" vs. "Jonsson" in English -- and most of them are very rare. But the sheer numbers may explain why there are still a few (a few thousand, in fact) I haven't gotten to yet! That's why I post my E-mail address there, so folks can contact me for info on the many that aren't listed.

The original spelling of your name would be Krakowski -- Poles don't use the letter v, they use w for that sound, but obviously when emigrants left Poland the spelling could easily change to Krakovski or Krakovsky to better fit English phonetic values and make the name easier to pronounce. This is one of the more common names, as of 1990 there were 6,062 Polish citizens named Krakowski. They lived all over the country, with larger numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (285), Bydgoszcz (260), Kalisz (315), Katowice (309), Konin (218), Lodz (281), Poznan (317), Sieradz (254), Suwałki (252), and Tarnow (556). It's interesting that the name is connected with the city of Krakow, yet Krakow province only has 124 Krakowski's -- this is the kind of little twist you run into all the time with names.

Names ending in -ski are adjectival in origin, they mean "of, from, pertaining to, connected with X" where X is the first part of the name. In this case, the surname would mean little more than "person from Kraków or Krakowo or Krakowek" -- in other words, more than one place name could generate this surname. However, in the overwhelming majority of cases we'd expect Krakowski to mean "one from Kraków," referring to the major city in southcentral Poland. But some Krakowski's might come not from that Kraków, but from the one in Sieradz province, or even possibly from Krakowek in Bydgoszcz province. That's one of the big problems with surnames derived from place names -- in Poland very few place names are unique. If there's one, there's usually at least 3 or 4, sometimes 30 or 40! So as I say, you'd expect most Krakowski's got that name because they came from the famous Kraków -- but there are probably exceptions, a few who go back to those other places.

Kraków/Krakowo/Krakowek actually all mean more or less the same thing, "the [place] of Krak." Krak was the name of the legendary founder of Kraków, but there were probably other folks named Krak, he's just the only one we ever heard of. The root of the name is krak, "crow." So Krakowski literally breaks down to "one from Kraków/Krakowo/Krakowek" = "one from the place of Krak" or "one from the place of the crow."

Unfortunately, this name is so common and is found in so many parts of Poland that it doesn't offer you too much in the way of solid leads or clues to help trace the family. This is actually true of probably 90-95% of Polish surnames -- they just don't tell you enough to help much. I know folks are sometimes disappointed I can't offer them more assistance, but that's just the way it is.

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


Surname 7 Combined File

OLENDER - OLĘDER

...My maiden surname is Olander, formerly Olender. I know nothing about my heritage except that my Great-Grandparents immigrated from Poland years ago. I am interested to learn as much as I can about this name. 

In Polish there is a letter written as an E with a tail under it; this letter is pronounced much line "en" in most cases. Almost any time you see a Polish name with an "EN" preceding a consonant, it will usually turn out that it can also be spelled in Polish with this letter Ę. So the name you're asking about is Olender or Olęder, pronounced roughly "oh-LEND-air." 

This name comes from German Holländer, "Dutchman," and is a term used by Poles to refer to the German and Dutch colonists who came to settle in Poland over the centuries, often at the express invitation of nobles who valued their skills in crafts and farming and wanted them to settle on their land and increase their revenues. If you pronounce German Holländer (roughly "HOLE-end-air") you can hear the similarity in sound; Olender or Olęder is just a slightly Polonized version of this term. In fact, there are a number of places in Poland called "Olędry" because they started out as settlements founded by these Germans and Dutch immigrants. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 3,961 Polish citizens named Olender. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 227, Katowice 279, Lublin 262, Olsztyn 303, Ostrołęka 486, and Suwałki 244. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. This data just shows that the name is found all over Poland, but is particularly common in northeastern and eastern Poland. 

There were also 80 Poles named Olęder, with the largest number living in the provinces of Chelm (14), Gdansk (12), Radom (16), and Siedlce (21). This is a bit unusual in that when you have names that can be spelled with either Ę or EN, the form with Ę is usually the more common or standard form. I was actually a little surprised to see that Olender is so much more common than Olęder; I would have expected it to be the other way around. But with surnames, you always have surprises!

If you'd like to learn a little more about these Holländers, there is a translation of an article on the subject at this Web address:

../../history/dutch_populace.htm 


DZIATKOWICZ

... please see if you can find information on the name dziatkowicz.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 65 Polish citizens named Dziatkowicz. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 22, Nowy Sacz 26, Zamosc 10. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. This data indicates the name is scattered in small numbers all over Poland, since Bydgoszcz is in the northwest, Nowy Sacz is in southcentral Poland, and Zamosc is in southeastern Poland.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it is a variant of the name Dziadkowicz; that name is actually pronounced as if the second D were a T, so that it can easily be spelled phonetically Dziatkowicz; both names sound like "jot-KO-vich," so that Dziadkowicz and Dziatkowicz are essentially just different ways of spelling the same name. 

The suffix -owicz means "son of," so the name means literally "son of Dziatko or Dziadko." That, in turn, is an old first name (which has also come to be used as a surname) coming from the root dziadek, "grandfather, old man"; it may have been used in its literal meaning, but it may also have come from nicknames or short forms of ancient Polish pagan names such as Dziadumil, "dear to grandfather," or Milodziad, "dear grandfather." The suffix -ek or -ko is diminutive, meaning "little" or "son of." 

So Dziatkowicz can be interpreted two ways: 1) as "son of the little grandfather" or "son of grandfather's son," or 2) as "son of Dziatko," which in turn can be a name meaning "little grandfather, son of grandfather," but can also be a nickname from those ancient names I referred to earlier, Dziadumil, Milodziad, or something similar.


PONIEWAZ

... I would like to have information on the Poniewaz surname as what it may mean and where in Poland that it was found.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 417 Polish citizens named Ponieważ. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Ciechanow 36, Lublin 198, Olsztyn 32; the rest were scattered in small numbers all over the country. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. This data indicates the name is found all over Poland but is concentrated in two areas, one near Lublin in east central Poland, the other in the area north of Warsaw.

In Polish this name is pronounced roughly "pon-YEAH-vosh." None of my sources discuss its origin, and it's a little perplexing. There is a word in Polish ponieważ, and it seems likely a surname that matches it so closely must be connected with it. But the word is a conjunction, meaning "inasmuch as, although." I suppose it's possible the surname began as a kind of nickname making fun of someone who was always using that word, but that seems pretty tenuous. 

It's also possible the surname comes from the archaic verb ponieważyc', "to hold in contempt," and referred to a person with a snotty attitude, or one who was regarded with contempt. I also cannot rule out some connection with the Lithuanian city of Panevezys, which is called Poniewież in Polish. So I have several possibilities, but none of them is obviously correct; and without more facts, I can't establish which is right.

Since I don't have the time or resources to do more detailed research on names, all I can give is "quick and dirty" analysis. If you would like to get an opinion from the real experts and don't mind spending about $20, you can write the
Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow. The staff consists of Polish scholars specializing in name origins, with access to large collections of material on the subject; there is surely no one else in the world better qualified to answer questions on Polish names. They can correspond in English, and the charge for researching a single name is seldom more than $20-30. You write to them with your request, and the individual who does the research will reply, and will tell you how much he/she is charging and how best to send payment. It is usually quite painless, and most people I hear from are very satisfied with the results; but the staff has been a bit slow lately in answering letters -- they have lots of other work to do, after all -- so patience is advisable.

If you do write the Instytut, I would be very interested in hearing what they have to say, so I can include the information in the next edition of my book on Polish surnames, and thus pass it on to others interested in this name.


WEYNA

... Hello, My name is Dianne Weyna and this is supposed to be a polish last name. I have heard my name means "war" in polish and have also met a person named Wojna in which he also said his name meant "war". I am wondering if you have ever heard of this name before in Poland, or any ideas as to what it derivation is. I did not find this name on your list. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 277 Polish citizens named Weyna. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 175, and Gdansk 24; the rest were scattered in much smaller numbers all over the country. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. There were also 26 Poles who spelled the name Wejna, all living somewhere in the province of Bydgoszcz. This data tells us the name is found primarily in northwestern Poland, especially in the area around Bydgoszcz.

This name is a hard one to figure, because there are too many possibilities. The Polish word for "war" is wojna, pronounced "VOY-nah," whereas Weyna is pronounced "VAY-nah." Could it be a variant from that word for "war"? Yes, it's possible. But it seems a little too much of a stretch to accept without some sort of corroboration.

It might also come from the Polish word wejna, which means roughly "Look at that!" It could have started as a nickname for one who was always going around saying that. Also possible is derivation from German Wein, "wine," or Weiner, "waggoner, carter." All these are possible, but I have no information that would let me pin it down and say "This is the right one in your case." Only extensive detail on the family's background would shed light on the historical, linguistic, social, and geographic context in which the name developed and came to be associated with your family.

That's all I can tell you with resources at hand. If you would like to get an opinion from the real experts and don't mind spending about $20, you can write the
Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow. The staff consists of Polish scholars specializing in name origins, with access to large collections of material on the subject; there is surely no one else in the world better qualified to answer questions on Polish names. They can correspond in English, and the charge for researching a single name is seldom more than $20-30. You write to them with your request, and the individual who does the research will reply, and will tell you how much he/she is charging and how best to send payment. It is usually quite painless, and most people I hear from are very satisfied with the results; but the staff has been a bit slow lately in answering letters -- they have lots of other work to do, after all -- so patience is advisable.


BUDA

... The family name is Buda. my parents both came from the town of Scherps (sp). any information on family name would be appreciated.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as far back as 1424. It can come from several sources. Names beginning Bud- can be short forms of ancient pagan names such as Budzislaw, where the first part comes from the root budz-, "to build." Or such names can come from that root, meaning something along the lines of "one who builds." 

But most likely this name comes directly from the noun buda, "stall, shed." It might refer to a worker who went into the forest, set up a small shed to work from, and proceeded to clear land or cut down trees for other uses, or some other kind of laborer who worked out of a shed. It can also refer to one who set up a small stall in a marketplace and sold goods out of it. I can't be sure, but that's probably what the name refers to here, an ancestor who sold inexpensive goods from a stall in the marketplace.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 4,444 Polish citizens named Buda. They lived all over Poland, with no really helpful concentration in any one area. 

"Scherps" may be a phonetic spelling of the Polish town Sierpc, which sounds like "sherpts." Sierpc is perhaps 30 km. or so north of the city of Płock, a little north of the center of the country. If so, this name is unusually rare in that area -- as of 1990 there were only 10 Polish citizens by that name living in the province of Płock. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find them. 


KORZEŃSKI - KORZYŃSKI

... I would greatly appreciate any help with my family name: Korzynski. Apparently, it is rather rare, there are only a few of us here in America, and I can't get any of the remaining older family members to give me any information about our origins except that they think we are from Białystok. Thank you for your help in this matter. Paul.

In Polish the name would be spelled Korzyński. It would be pronounced roughly "ko-ZHIN-skee." Two of my sources give this name as a variant of Korzeński, which comes from the basic root korzeń, "root." The name might just mean "of the root," referring perhaps to one who dealt in roots as a source of food or materials, or to one who lived in an area where roots were especially easy to find. 

But I think more often it would refer to the name of a place, and the place, in turn, got its name because of a perceived connection with roots. Thus my sources mention Korzeński/Korzyński as referring to such places as Korzenna in Grybow district, Korzeń in Gąbin district, and Korzeniec in Warka district. So there isn't just one place the surname might refer to. Only successful genealogical research might enable one to find exactly where in Poland a family by this name came from, and then would shed light on which of the possible places it originally referred to in their particular case.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 287 Polish citizens named Korzyński. They were scattered all over the provinces of Poland, although the largest number, 37, lived in the province of Białystok. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. This data tells us the name can come from anywhere in Poland, but if your info suggests a link with Białystok, that is quite plausible. (By the way, the number of Korzeński's in Poland was 188, also widely scattered.)


ARĘDARSKI - ARENDARSKI - HARENDARSKI

... I was wondering if you would be able to help me out with any information on the name Arendarski. I haven't been able to find anything even near it and I am really interested in find out the history of my name.

Polish scholars say this name comes from the noun arendarz, "lease-holder, publican." That term started out meaning "one who leases a property," but since the kind of property most often held in that kind of lease was either a tavern or a mill, the term gradually came to be more closely associated with those properties, especially taverns. So it could refer to one who leased any property, but was especially likely to refer to one who leased a tavern from a nobleman who actually held the title to it (the nobles actually owned most property).

The -ski is adjectival, so that the name means literally "of, from, connected with, pertaining to the lease-holder." In practice it would usually mean either "kin of the lease-holder" or "one from the place of the leaseholder." I can't find any places offhand with names that would fit (such as Arendarz, Arendarze, etc.), so I suspect most of the time, practically speaking, the name would boil down to "kin of the tavern-keeper." 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 924 Polish citizens named Arendarski. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Katowice (136) and Kielce (326). Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

One last thing I should mention. The noun arendarz has been used in other, slightly different forms, and those forms are reflected in surnames that can be regarded as variants of the basic name Arendarski. Sometimes you see the -en- replaced by the Polish nasal vowel written as an -e- with a tail under it, because that vowel is pronounced much like "en." Sometimes the name also has an initial H stuck onto it. So don't be surprised if you happen to run into variant forms of the name such as Arędarski or Harędarski or Harendarski. Consistent spelling of surnames is a comparatively recent development, and in records you often see names spelled a number of different ways. 


MURDZA

... Would you have any information as to the meaning and origin of the surname Murdza.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 516 Polish citizens named Murdza. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 48, Kielce 40, Krakow 39, Tarnobrzeg 100, and Tarnów 31. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. This data tells us the name is found all over Poland but is most common in the southeastern and south-central part of the country, in the region Poles call Malopolska, "Little Poland," which used to be ruled by Austria as the western half of the crown land of Galicia.

None of my name sources mention this one, so all I can do is make an educated guess on the meaning. But I notice that murdza is mentioned in an extensive Polish-language dictionary as a variation of murza, a dialect term meaning "dirty, disheveled fellow." Also of interest as possibly relevant are the Ukrainian terms murga, "dirty fellow, black ox, churlish person"; murda, "sheep with black circles around its eyes"; and murza, "dirty-faced child." The common thread in all these cases is some association with blackness or dirt, and that's why I think the Polish dialect term murdza/murza may be relevant -- it would suggest the name started as a nickname for one whose appearance was rather dirty. Not the most complimentary name in the world, I admit; but compared to some Polish names I've seen, it's really not that insulting.


CURYŁO - CZURYŁO - SYRYŁO

... Mr. Hoffman I am running down my Family Line and I seen your Area, maybe you can help? The name is Curylo, father was John Stanley, don't know Granddad or Great-Granddad. Also some of the nom de plumes, I have come across are: Czurylo - Cyrylo - Crylo - Syrylo's. I have been in touch with the only KNOWN Family in Poland, Michalska from Mogilno, e. of Posen. Any info you can get me would be Greatly Appreciated. 

The short answer is, this name means "Cyril," deriving from various forms of that name, from Greek Kyrillos, from a word meaning "of the lord, belonging to the lord" (if you're Catholic and old enough, you may remember the prayer "Kyrie eleison" in the old Latin Mass -- that phrase is actually Greek, and kyrios is Greek for "lord"). This name came into different languages in different forms. In English it's Cyril, in modern Polish it's Cyryl, in modern Ukrainian it's Kyrylo. But in earlier times, before it became standardized in Polish as Cyryl, it also appeared sometimes as Curylo, Czurylo, Kiryl, etc. These forms existed in the Middle Ages, about the time surnames were starting to develop, and came to be used as surnames as well. So the name means basically "kin of Cyril." The various spellings are not unusual, this name has several sounds that are subject to variation in spelling.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,463 Polish citizens named Curyło (the Polish L with a slash through it, pronounced like our W). There were 162 named Cyrul, 92 named Cyryl, 2 named Cyryło, and 6783 named Czuryło. They lived all over Poland, so one cannot just look at the name and say, "Oh, a family by that name must have come from this place right here." People by these names could come from almost anywhere, although they're somewhat more likely to come from southeastern Poland and western Ukraine.

You might find interesting the note I've pasted in below, which I recently sent to another researcher looking into the same basic name.


... Working on my mother's ancestry for 6 years now, I found more information and living relatives through the internet, which is still very new to me, than I've found through writing letters etc. Any information you can give me about the name Syrylo or possibly Cyrylo will be a great help to me. It is my mother's maiden name and for years all my leads never amounted to anything.

Without an absolutely certain form of the name, there are limits to the information I can give, and how sure I can be that it's accurate. Syrylo and Cyrylo could be two very different names, of different origins. However, I think it likely Syrylo and Cyrylo are variants of the same basic name, from Cyryl, which is a form of the first name "Cyril." Cyrylo would be pronounced roughly "tsi-RILL-oh," and that initial TS sound can easily be simplified to a plain S. So the most likely derivation of the surname is that it originally was a kind of short way of saying "Cyril's kin." Cyril is an honored name among Slavs because it was Sts. Cyril and his brother Methodius who originally brought Christianity to the Slavs; we see his name used a great deal as a first name among Poles and other Slavs, and any first name could easily give rise to a surname in the way I mentioned, as a kind of short way of referring to a family as "Cyril's kin."

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 92 Polish citizens with the surname Cyryl, and 2 named Cyryło (the Polish L with a slash through it, pronounced like our W), one living somewhere in Wroclaw province, the other in Tarnów province. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

There were 55 named Syryło, living in the following provinces: Katowice 4, Krakow 2, Przemysl 46, Rzeszow 3. This shows the name is found mainly in southeastern Poland, near the border with Ukraine. This is interesting because Syryło or Cyryło is kind of a hybrid between the Polish form of that first name, Cyryl, and the Ukrainian form, Kyryllo.

As I say, it's possible the name could derive from something else, including the noun syr, "cheese." Without detailed research into the family' past, there's no way to know for sure. But I feel pretty confident the name does in fact come from the first name "Cyril," and most likely indicates origin somewhere in southeastern Poland, or possibly Ukraine.


STASIEŃKO

... Very, very interesting site, I enjoy reading it. Could you tell me how and where the name Stasienko was developed or derived from

Stasieńko, pronounced roughly "stah-SHENK-o," comes from a nickname for the first name Stanisław, which is usually rendered Stanislaus in Latin and English. It comes from ancient Slavic roots (used not just by Poles but also Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, etc.) meaning "be, become" and "fame, glory," so that giving a child this name expressed the parents' hope it would grow up to be famous and glorious. 

Poles and Ukrainians often formed nicknames by taking first names, keeping the first few sounds, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes. So from Stanislaw they took Sta-, added the suffix -s (with an accent over it), to give the nickname Staś (sounds like "stosh" to English-speakers), which is still a very common nickname for males named Stanisław. Once the name Staś existed, it could have suffixes added to it, and -enko is basically a diminutive, so that Stasienko means something like "little Staś, son of Staś." 

The suffix -enko is used by Poles, but is more often associated with Ukrainians; this surname may have originated among Ukrainians rather than Poles, although that's not absolutely certain. Because Poles ruled Ukraine for a long time, it was often regarded as Polish territory and people from there were called "Poles." That explains why it might be regarded as a Polish surname even if the people bearing it had roots in Ukraine rather than Poland.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 234 Polish citizens named Stasieńko (with an accent over the n). The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Przemysl 67, and Wroclaw 64. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data shows us the name is found primarily in southern Poland. It's very possible those 64 Stasienkos in Wroclaw province lived farther east, nearer the Ukrainian border, before World War II, because after that war millions were forced to relocate from east to west. If we had data from before 1939, I strongly suspect you'd see this name mainly in southeastern Poland. But we don't have data from then, and I have no data on how common the name is in Ukraine these days.


CZAPSKI

... I have been directed to address through a relative that is working on a family tree with me. I am trying to located information on my mother's side of the family. Could you please check out for me information and meaning for the name Czapski. It was my mother's maiden name. I'm not sure what area of Poland they originated from. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 4,577 Polish citizens named Czapski. The name is found all over Poland, with no particular concentration in any one area, so that a family named Czapski could have come from anywhere.

Generally you'd expect this name derives ultimately from the term czapa or czapka, "cap." Czapski just means "of, from, connected with, pertaining to the cap," and thus might have started as a name for one who wore or made caps, or his kin. It might also come from the name of a place where the family lived centuries ago, when surnames were developing, a place with a name beginning Czap-. 

I should add, however, that some sources say the name can refer to places named Czapla and Czaple, which actually come from the noun czapla, "heron." If all went according to the rules, the surname referring to these places should be Czaplski or Czapelski; but apparently sometimes the L got dropped, so that it could sometimes end up as Czapski. In any case, there are too many possibilities to know which place the name refers to in a given instance without detailed research into a given family's background. (This is the case with most Polish surnames referring to the names of places.)


MROZIŃSKI - RADZIŃSKI

... My name is Patricia Sweeney. My maiden name was Radzinsky (Radzinski). My mother's name was Mrozinski. The Mrozinski's came from Warsaw, Poland. Do you have any other information? 

In Polish Radzinski is spelled with an accent over the N; so the name is spelled Radziński and pronounced roughly "raw-JEEN-skee." It refers to the name of a place where the family lived at some point several centuries ago. Unfortunately, due to changes in spelling and pronunciation over the years, the surname could refer to any of several places with different names, such as Radzie and Radzyn and Radzyny. Without detailed info on the family, there is no way to know which place the name refers to in a given instance. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 830 Polish citizens named Radziński. They lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area.

Mroziński, pronounced roughly "m'raw-ZHEEN-skee," also refers to the name of a place beginning with Mroz-, from the root meaning "frost." The place name would mean something like "the frosty place" or "place of the frosty one," and Mroziński would mean "one from the frosty place or the place of the frosty one." As of 1990 there were 4,083 Poles named Mroziński, and they, too, lived all over Poland, with no concentration in any one area that's any help in tracing a family.


KOLBA, KOŁBA, KOLBE

... My last name is 'Kolba', myself and my family are from Poland. I've heard that this surname is of Austrian origin, though I've been unable to confirm this as there are many Polish people who have this name. However, I've yet to find anyone who is Austrian with this name. Basically, I just want to know whether my name is Polish, Austrian, or whatever. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 251 Polish citizens named Kolba. There was no significant concentration in any one part of Poland, a Kolba could come from anywhere. 

There were 326 more Poles who spelled the name with a slash through the L, and which is pronounced like our "w," so that Kołba would sound like "KO-bah" with a distinct W sound at the end of the first syllable. The largest number, 140, lived in the province of Kielce, with the rest scattered all over. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. There were also 127 Polish citizens by the name Kolbe, scattered all over Poland.

Unfortunately, with many names there is no way to determine the meaning, or even the language of origin, without detailed genealogical research. That's because the same words and names can develop in different languages independently. Thus if Kolba or Kołba is of Polish origin, it would probably come from the noun kolba, which means "anything roughly round in shape, such as a butt end, cob, spadix, flask (used in chemistry, for instance)." But the same word, of completely different origin, was also used an archaic term for "quarrel, fight, tourney, tournament" -- it came from the Czech word kolba. 

Kolba could just as easily be a Polonized spelling of the German name Kolbe, which German name expert Hans Bahlow's Deutsches Namenlexikon defines as "a club used in battle, cudgel"; he adds that in East German and Silesian dialect it can mean "head of hair." Many, many ethnic Germans came to live in Poland over the centuries, so we find names of clear Germanic origin all over Poland, often borne by people who'd punch you out if you suggested they were German!

So this is the problem -- without detailed info on a family's background, there's no way to know if their name came from the word for something rounded, or from the archaic word for "fight, tourney," or from the German word for "cudgel" or "head of hair." The only way to find out is to dig through the oldest records one can find, in hopes of noticing some note somewhere that sheds light on the derivation. If, for instance, the early family members bore German first names or were Protestant, that would tend to support the German derivation. If their names were purely Polish and they themselves were Roman Catholic, that would argue against a connection with the German word and point toward one of the other meanings. 

I should add that there was a Polish saint named Rev. Maksymilian Kolbe (born Rajmund Kolbe), who was martyred at Auschwitz during World War II. He was canonized in 1982 by Pope John Paul II. If you say the name Kolba or Kolbe to most Poles, he is the one they would probably think of immediately. I'm not sure where he was born, but he attended the seminary in Lvov, which is now in Ukraine, and I believe this territory was included in Galicia, the part of the old Polish Commonwealth seized and ruled by Austria from the late 1700's to World War I. He was born in 1894, so one could say with perfect accuracy that he was Austrian, even though he considered himself, and is considered by others, a Pole.

I'm sorry I can't answer your question about the ethnic or linguistic identity of the name, but there's no point pretending to you that the answer's clear when it isn't. It could be of German or Czech or Polish linguistic origin, and there are probably other possibilities I haven't even thought of. As for national identity, in view of the partitioning of Poland and the fact that it was ruled for a long time by Germany, Russia, and Austria, determining even that becomes a challenge.


OLEJNICZAK

Any information about the name Olejniczak?

It is pronounced roughly "oh-lay-NEE-chock," and comes from the archaic term olejnik, "oil container; one who makes or sells or works with oil" (referring to olive oil, sunflower seed oil, etc., rather than petroleum). The -czak suffix means "son of," so the surname means more or less "son of the oilman." As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 17,327 Polish citizens by this name. They lived all over Poland, with no real concentration in any one region.

 

  

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

MIELAK

… My name is Jason Mielak, and I am inquiring whether you have any information about the meaning or history of the name Mielak. I had ancestors who came over to America at the end of the 19th century from Tarnow, Poland.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 28 Polish citizens named Mielak. They lived in the following provinces: Czestochowa 2, Radom 9, Tarnow 17. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. But this data does indicate the name is found most often in southeastern Poland, especially near Tarnow. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as far back as 1425, and comes from the root seen in the verb mleć, "to mill," and the noun mielnik, "miller." The suffix -ak is used as a diminutive to show some close connection with the word it is attached to, so Mielak would probably mean something like "little miller, son of the mill guy." It would be pronounced roughly "M'YELL-ock." 


GRZYB - POPIOŁCZAK

… I am interested in finding out more information about two surnames. The first one is Popolchak.  This was my mother's maiden name. Her mother's maiden name was something like Gryzp, or Gribbe. I've seen it those two ways on two documents: the first (1953), on my mother's Certificate of Age from her church, required for marriage, and the second way (1967), on the death certificate for her brother.  

It's almost certain both of these spellings are mangled forms of the original names, if the names were Polish. Popolchak makes no sense as a Polish name, but is probably a phonetic spelling of Popiołczak, which would be pronounced roughly "pope-YO-chock," with a distinct W sound at the end of the second syllable. (The slashed L pronounced like our W). As for Gryzp or Gribbe, my best guess is that it would be a mangled form of Polish Grzyb, pronounced roughly "g'zhipp" (using "zh" to stand for the sound of "zh" in Zhivago, or the "s" in "measure"). I could be wrong in both cases, but those are the forms that strike me as most likely -- and in cases where folks don't supply me with firm, verified, correct name forms, educated guesses are all I can offer. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 9 Polish citizens named Popiołczak. They lived in the provinces of Katowice, 5, and Legnica, 4, in what is now southwestern Poland, an area long ruled by Germany. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 

This name would come from the noun popioł, "ash, cinder." The -czak suffix means "son of, kin of," so the surname probably started out meaning "son of the cinder guy." 

As for Grzyb, it's very simple: it comes from the noun grzyb, meaning "mushroom." As of 1990 there were 11,045 Poles by that name, with large numbers all over Poland. A family by that name could come from anywhere. (There were entries for Gryzp or Gribbe). 


GWIZDOWSKI - ZECMAN

… My paternal grandfather Gwizdowski was born in Gwizdow, Galicia in 1880. I have located two towns of this name in southern Poland that are within 50km of each other. I am guessing that the southern most of these is the one most likely to be within the Galician district at the time.

I have found only a few scattered occurrences of the Gwizdowski surname.  Perhaps a small handful in Poland, another small handful in Germany, Austria and France, and my own family in America along with another Gwizdowski "tribe" in a different state. I wonder if the town of Gwizdow would have derived it's name from the family, or would the family have taken it's name from the town?  Perhaps it is impossible to say? My maternal grandfather Zecman remains the most enigmatic of my ancestors.  All I know is that he claimed to be Russian-Polish on his 1910 Census and 1918 Draft registration.  I believe his wife - my grandmother - was from the area of Pyzdry, about 100km west of Warsaw, and assume that he must be from that area as well.

Generally surnames ending in -owski refer to place names. There are at least four places the surname Gwizdowski could refer to. One no longer insists, a Gwizdów in Miedzno district of Czestochowa province; but it did presumably exist back when surnames were developing, and thus Gwizdowski could have started as a way of referring to one from there. Also there's a Gwizdów in Lezajsk district of Rzeszów province, and also one in Modliborzyce district of Tarnobrzeg province -- I imagine these are the two you found. There was also a Pogwizdów that apparently was once called Gwizdów, but the multi-volume set from which I'm taking this info hasn't gotten up to the P's yet, so I can't tell you more about that. 

As a rule you'd expect the surname Gwizdowski to come from the name of the place. The basic root gwizd- means "to whistle," and one source explains that a place might come to be named Gwizdów because it was located in an area open and bare, so that all you heard there was the whistling of the wind. But apparently some records do show Gwizd as a personal name -- perhaps originally a nickname for one who whistled -- and it's conceivable Gwizdowski could have started as a way of saying "kin of the Whistler." 

I'm afraid only very successful, detailed research into a specific family's history might uncover facts that would establish the exact origin of the surname. As a rule we'd expect names in the form X-owski to mean "one from X," and thus from places with names like X-ów or X-owo or X-y or X-owice. So I would normally figure the surname just referred to a family from one of those places named Gwizdów. But there could be exceptions. Only solid research would settle the matter, one way or the other. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 162 Polish citizens named Gwizdowski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 13, Bielsko-Biala 10, Kielce 16, Krakow 30, Legnica 16, Tarnobrzeg 18. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 

As of 1990 there was only 1 Pole listed in the Surname Directory named Zecman, living somewhere in Warsaw province -- again, I have no info on exactly where. Names ending in -man are usually of German origin, and I feel fairly certain this is a Polonized spelling of a German name; it certainly sounds German. Exactly what the German name was is hard to say. German Setzmann would be the most likely phonetic equivalent, because that initial S is pronounced like Z, and German TZ is spelled C by Poles; so German Setzmann would be spelled Zecman by Poles. But I can't find any info on that name, and it's not the only possibility. The German name could conceivably have been Sitzmann or Saetzmann or Zetzmann or Zitzmann, etc. There are so many possibilities that the only really good way to find out the original name is in an old record. 

If Setzmann was the original, the root setz- means "set, place, put." A similar Yiddish name, Zetzer, can mean "typesetter, compositor," also "one who puts bread into the oven." So the name might have meant "man who sets or places or puts something." But as I say, there are other possibilities. 


STRĄK - STRONK

… My mother's maiden name is Stronk.  She was told by her mother that the last name was changed here in America, but she didn't know what it was changed from.  All the relatives from my mother's side of the family are deceased.  I can't seem to get any info anywhere on what the previous name could have been.  I am also uncertain as to when the change happened.  I am under the impression that the change happened here in Illinois, US before my grandfather was born, which was about 1900. Can you give me any help?

Without detailed research into the specific family's history, I can't say anything for sure. And I don't do genealogical research, just observations on the origins of names. 

I can say this. If you have reason to believe the family was Polish, the name may originally have been Strąk. The Polish nasal vowel A with a tail under it is pronounced somewhat like "own." Thus Strąk is pronounced roughly like Stronk, and we often see names with Ą also spelled with ON. So it is perfectly plausible Stronk is a phonetic spelling of Polish Strąk

That name is thought to come from the noun strąk, "pea, pod, hull." As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 1,922 Polish citizens named Strąk. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 281, Czestochowa 155, Katowice 182, and Kielce 108. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data indicates the name is found all over Poland, with no real concentration in any one area; a Strąk family could come from anywhere. 

There were also 122 Poles who spelled it Stronk; the largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 19, Czestochowa 20, Katowice 54, and Kielce 13. 


GLISZCZYŃSKI

… What a wonderful thing that you might do this!  I would appreciate any information about my family name:  Currently we use Glisczinski, however, it seems as though my great-grandparents used Gliszczynski or a variation.  From what I have read, does it make sense that the name implies we came from a town named something like Glesno?

There are a couple possible original forms in Polish. One is Hliszczyński, pronounced roughly "glish-CHIN-skee." But Gliściński (accent over the first S and the N) is also quite possible; that name is pronounced roughly "gleesh-CHEEN-skee." Either of these could have been Anglicized into the form you're using; but it seems more likely Gliszczyński is the relevant form in your case. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions both names in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says Gliszczyński comes from the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago, a place with a name such as Gliszcz. He mentions in particular a village Gliszcz, Sicienko district, Bydgoszcz province. Gliszczyński makes perfect sense as meaning "one from Gliszcz." 

He says Gliściński, however, comes from the noun glista, which is a term for a kind of worm, the nema. Thus Gliściński would mean literally "of a glista"; it can also indicate origin in a place called Glista or Gliscin or something similar. 

Without detailed research into a specific family, there's no way to know for sure which derivation is appropriate, or which place the name refers to. I can only supply "quick and dirty" analysis, and leave it to you to do research which will fill in the blanks. With a little luck you'll uncover facts which will establish the correct origin. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 84 Polish citizens named Gliściński. They lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers in the following provinces: Lodz 29, Olsztyn 13, and Piotrkow 14. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 

As for Gliszczyński, there were 1,986 Poles by that name. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 306, Gdansk 208, Lodz 108, Piotrkow 137, Slupsk 258, and Wroclaw 216. So this name is found all over Poland, especially western Poland. 

I should add that the names Gliszczyński and Gliściński sound similar, and it is entirely possible they have been confused in some cases. In other words, you may very well find the same family called Gliszczyński in one record, Gliściński in another. Ideally, this shouldn't happen -- they are two distinct names with different pronunciations. But in an imperfect world names are sometimes confused, and it wouldn't surprise me if these were sometimes. 


DZIEWULSKI

 

… Curious if you have any information on Dziewulski surname

The name is pronounced roughly "jeh-VOOL-skee." As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,524 Polish citizens named Dziewulski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 478, Chelm 123, Lublin 186, Ostrołęka 151, and Siedlce 482. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it refers to the name of a place where a family so named lived at some point centuries ago. One good candidate is Dziewule near Zbuczyn Poduchowny in former Siedlce province; there may be others, but that's the one Rymut specifically mentions. Certainly "one from Dziewule" makes perfect sense as the original meaning of Dziewulski


KUBIACZYK

… Let me know something about surname Kubiaczyk. How many people live in Poland with that surname? Where? What's origin of it?

It comes ultimately from Kuba, a short form or nickname of the first name Jakub (in English "Jacob"). Most likely this particular surname developed by adding the suffix -yk to Kubiak = Kubiaczyk, meaning "kin of Kubiak, son of Kubiak." That name Kubiak, in turn, meant "son of Kuba (=Jakub), kin of Kuba." So Kubiaczyk means basically "son of Kuba's son" or "kin of Kuba's sons." In other words, all it tells us is that this family had an ancestor named Kuba. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 860 Polish citizens named Kubiaczyk. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Kalisz 86, Katowice 44, Konin 43, Lodz 56, Poznan 214, Sieradz 90, Wroclaw 45. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is found all over Poland but tends to be most common in the western part of the country. 


FUJARCZUK - PRYPUTNICKI

… I wonder if you could tell me what these two names mean. I hope they are spelled right because they have been translated by English-speaking Canadians. The names are Fujarchuk and Pryputnicki.  These people were originally from Galicia.

Actually, these names are probably Ukrainian, which makes sense -- the eastern half of Galicia was what is now western Ukraine.

The -chuk suffix (spelled -czuk by Poles) means "son of," and typically appears on names of Eastern Slavic origin (i. e., Belarusian, Russian, or Ukrainian). The term fujara means "piper, one who plays a shepherd's pipe or fife" or, in a transferred sense, "a useless, helpless, ne'er-do-well." So the surname Fujarchuk (or Fujarczuk if spelled by Poles) would mean "son of the piper" or "son of the ne'er-do-well." 

Pryputnicki is definitely Ukrainian, and would refer to the name of a place the family came from at some point centuries ago. It means roughly "one from X" where X is a place name beginning Pryputni-. Only research into a specific family would establish exactly which place this is, as there may be many little villages with names that qualify. 


GLEBA - GŁĘBA - KRYCKA - ANKIEWICZ

… The first is Gleba. At first it seems to be an exact translation of the Polish word for "earth" or "land", but after reading a few entries on your page about "Glembin" it may have originally referred to "cabbage" and could have been twisted to get away from the connotation to "cabbage head". Also, in the English dictionary "gleba" referrs to the soft, fleshy part under a mushroom where the spores grow.  So regardless it seems to either refer to a profession or looks and not a village name. . .would you comment on this further?

There are two different Polish names that must be distinguished. Gleb or Gleba with normal L and normal E and pronounced roughly "GLEH-bah," may come from the term "soil," from Latin glaeba. The root meaning "stalk" or "depths" has a slash through the L and a tail under the E , which means Głęba is pronounced roughly "G'WEM-bah." In some forms it has the nasal A instead, which I indicate as Ą, so that gląb is pronounced roughly "g'womp." 

These are totally different words in Polish, and the difference is crucial. You have to establish which root your name comes from. If your name was originally Gleba with normal L and E, it probably comes from the word for "soil" and the cabbage head and fleshy part of the mushroom has nothing to do with it. 

I consider it likely your name was Gleba, not Głęba, because Głęba is a much, much rarer name. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 774 Polish citizens named Gleba. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Łomża 92, Olsztyn 174, Ostrołęka 179, and Suwałki 95. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data indicates that name is found primarily in northeastern Poland. There were 3 Polish citizens named Głęb, and no data on any named Głęba. So I believe you can concentrate on the "soil" derivation. The exact nature of the connection between a given family and this word is something that could be determined only through detailed genealogical research into that particular family's past. 

… The second is Krycka.  This is a lot less common in the US than Gleba and may have been twisted for easier pronunciation or to get away from bad connotations. It seems to have Ukrainian origin and reading your entries the root "Kriv" means "crooked" and Krzykwa refers to "storm". Is this name related in any way?  I have not discounted that it could refer to a village name. . .would you comment on this?

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it can come from several different roots. It can come from the participle kryty, "covered" (which also means "covered" and "secret" in Ukrainian) or from dialect kryca, "wrought iron," or from the Ukrainian first name Hryts (derived ultimately from the same name we use as "Gregory"), or from the German name Kritz, or even the noun kryczka, a term for "cabbage." I would add that in Ukrainian kritsya means "steel"; and krytka can mean "unmarried woman." So there are a lot of possibilities. Genealogical research into a specific family would be the only hope of finding information that would establish which derivation was applicable in that particular family's case. It's not likely the name would be connected with the roots meaning "crooked" or "storm," however. 

As of 1990 there were 630 Poles named Krycki (pronounced roughly "KRIT-skee"), of which Krycka can be the feminine form. They were scattered all over Poland, with no concentration in any one area. There were also 2,283 Poles named Kryczka, which in some areas could be pronounced and therefore sometimes spelled Krycka ("KRITCH-kah"); they, too, were scattered all over. There were also 16 Poles who spelled the name Kryćka, using the accented C; they lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 2, Katowice 1, Piortkow 8, Radom 5. 

… The last is Ankiewicz. This seems to be the least common of the three in the US and I could find no similar references on your web page.

The suffix -ewicz means "son of," and the first part of the name can come from diminutives of Anna or Jan. So the name means "son of little Anna" or "son of little John." Polish surnames generally come from male rather than female names, so the more likely derivation is "son of John," but we can't rule the other one out completely. As of 1990 there were 707 Polish citizens named Ankiewicz (pronounced roughly "onk-YEAH-vich"). The largest numbers were in the following provinces: Warsaw 41, Ciechanow 121, Gdansk 65, Olsztyn 139, and Torun 58.


MIKOŁAJEWSKI

… I wish to know any Info on the name Mikolajewski. My heritage wasn't taught to me and I wish to build it again for my future children since my brother and I are the only males left to carry the name on.  Thank you for your time.

In Polish the name we call "Nicholas" takes the form Mikołaj. The Polish L with a slash through it, is pronounced like our W, and Mikołaj sounds like "mee-KO-why." 

The suffix -ski is adjectival, meaning "of, from, connected with, pertaining to." The suffix -ew- is possessive. So Mikołajewski, pronounced roughly "mee-ko-why-YEFF-skee," means literally "of, from, connected with, pertaining to the _ of Nicholas." In practice that blank is filled in with something so obvious it doesn't need to be spelled out, usually either "family, kin" or "place." So most times you see Mikołajewski it started out meaning either "kin of Nicholas" or "one from the place of Nicholas." Surnames ending in -owski and -ewski are especially likely to refer to names or places, such as Mikołajew, Mikołajewo, Mikołajewice, sometimes also Mikołajki, Mikołajow, etc. There are a lot of place names this surname can come from, and there are a lot of villages in Poland by those names. 

So all we know from the surname itself is that it means either "kin of Nicholas" or "one from Nicholas's place," and the latter could be any of a large number of places in Poland with names beginning Mikołaj- because of some historical association with a fellow by that name. Only genealogical research into the history of a specific family might uncover facts that would help establish exactly what place the surname refers to in their particular case. This Mikołajewski family might come from here, that one might come from there, and so on. There is no way to tell without tracing each family. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 4,189 Polish citizens named Mikołajewski. They lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one place -- which is to be expected, since there are places by those names all over Poland.

 

  

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


SZWEDA - WASIKOWSKI - WĄSIKOWSKI 

… Origin and meaning of my name Szweda and the name of Wasikowski. My granddaughter is doing a genealogy  of her name in school.  

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 4,554 Polish citizens named Szweda. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 421, Gdansk 838, and Katowice 1,737. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. This data tells us the name is found all over Poland, but is particularly common in southcentral Poland, with another sizable concentration in the northcentral to northwestern part of the country. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the noun Szwed, "Swede." People from virtually all European countries resettled in Poland over the centuries (and vice versa), and there was a particularly big influx of Swedes in the mid 1600's, when Sweden invaded Poland. So this is not a particularly rare name. It might have originally applied to an actual Swedish immigrant, but I suppose it might also have been used as a nickname for one who looked Swedish, i. e., tall, blond, with a ruddy complexion. The name is pronounced roughly "SHVADE-ah." 

As for Wasikowski, in Polish it is pronounced "vah-she-KOFF-skee." As of 1990, according to the Slownik nazwisk, there were 180 Polish citizens by that name. They lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw, 76, and Szczecin, 39. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it, along with many other surnames beginning Was-, derives from nicknames of first names beginning with Wa-, such as Wawrzyniec (Lawrence), Iwan (John), Wasyl (Basil), etc. Poles often formed nicknames from popular first names by taking the first few sounds of the name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes. So they would take Wa- from those first names, drop the rest, add -s, and that gave the nickname Was. Add the suffix -ik and you have a name meaning basically "kin of Was, son of Was, one connected to Was." 

The -owski means "of, from," so this surname just indicates that an ancestor was kin of, or came from a place owned or founded by, a man with a nickname from a first name beginning Wa-. Without detailed research into a specific family's history there's no way to know any more about it. Generally, though, surnames in the form X-owski come from a place name beginning X, so we'd expect this to mean "one from Wasiki or Wasikow or Wasikowo" or some place with a similar name. 

I should add that there is another name in Polish spelled Wąsikowski with a tail under the A. When people by that name came to English-speaking countries, the tail was often just dropped, leaving the name spelled Wasikowski. This name is pronounced roughly "von-shee-KOFF-skee." As of 1990 there were 867 Poles by that name; the largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 169, Bydgoszcz, 152, Krakow 79, Torun 68. It comes from the word wąs, "moustache," and means something like "kin of the guy with the moustache" or "one from the place of the guy with the moustache," i. e., Wąsiki or Wąsików or Wąsikowo, etc. 


GĄGOLA - GĄGOLEWICZ - GONGOLA - GONGOLEWICZ

… I am interested in my mother's maiden name: Gongolewicz. I have "met" online someone who is interested in his family name: Gongola. I understand that -ewicz means "son of".  I hope you can help both of us.

The names in question are usually spelled in Polish Gągola and Gągolewicz, using the nasal vowel written as an A with a tail under it. This letter is usually pronounced much like “own,” or as in French bon, and thus names with that letter are often spelled phonetically with on. But in most cases the standard or "correct" spelling is with the nasal vowel I'm representing as Ą. Thus Gągola is pronounced roughly "gone-GO-lah," and Gągolewicz is "gone-go-LAY-vich." 

The -ewicz suffix does mean "son of," and Gągol- comes from the noun gęga (another nasal vowel, an E with a tail under it, pronounced roughly "en"). That noun means "goose," and a related noun is gągor, a dialect term meaning "gander." So Gągola probably started as a nickname meaning something like "Goosey," and Gągolewicz would have originally referred to the son or kin of one who bore that nickname. "Goosey" sounds rather silly in English, but in Polish it's not necessarily ridiculous. It could be an affectionate nickname for one who tended geese, bred and raised them, lived in an area where there were a lot of geese, sold them, or somehow made a noise or had a way of walking that reminded people of a goose. Nicknames are often very ingenious, and these names developed a long time ago, so there's no way to say exactly what the name signified in a given instance. The most we can do is note what it means and then make plausible suggestions on the nature of the association that caused people to start calling someone by that name. 

I should add, however, that in Polish there are two L's, one normal and one with a slash through it, pronounced like our W. There is also a term gągoł that means "a kind of duck or duck-like bird," Latin name clangula glaucion (apparently the duck called the "golden-eye" in English is a member of this family). So in some instances the surname might refer to a perceived connection between a person and this duck. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), here's how many Polish citizens bore the names Gągol, Gągola, Gągolewicz, Gągoł, Gągoła, Gongola, and Gongolewicz

Gągol: 300; largest numbers in the following provinces: Krakow 50, Lublin 33, Siedlce 33, Slupsk 51
Gągola: 225; largest numbers in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 26, Nowy Sacz 30, Tarnobrzeg 21, Tarnow 42
Gągolewicz: 39, living in the following provinces: Warsaw 3, Elblag 1, Gdansk 13, Lodz 7, Piotrkow 9, Szczecin 6
Gągoł: 302; largest numbers in the provinces of Lublin, 187, and Torun, 22
Gągoła: 0 [this means the name was in the database but data was incomplete, so we don't know how many there were or where they lived -- presumably there was only 1, and the form may well be a misspelling of one of the other forms]
Gongola: 18, living in the following provinces: Krakow 1, Rzeszow 5, Szczecin 1, Tarnobrzeg 11
Gongolewicz: 6, in the following provinces: Białystok 1, Gdansk 4, Lodz 1 

Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 

As you can see, it's of some importance to determine the original spelling of the name in Polish. It was probably Gągola, if the numbers are any indication, and thus came from the word for "goose." But it could be a form of Gągoł, in which case the meaning and distribution are different. 


KOZŁOWSKI - ZAWACKI - ZAWADZKI - ZAWASKI

….. Hello I am a 19 year old college student inquiring about the history of my name.  I was the queen of the Polish American Cultural Club last year and have since been looking for information about the origin of my name.  My family name is Zawaski. Any info on this name would be appreciated.  My mother's maiden name was Kozlowski - any info on this name would also be great.

In Polish the name Kozlowski is written with a slash through the L. The surname is pronounced roughly "koz-WOFF-skee." It is one of the most common Polish surnames; as of 1990 there were 72,368 Poles by this name, living in large numbers all over Poland. So we can't point to any one area and say "That's where a Kozłowski family came from"; people by this name could come from anywhere in Poland. 

The name means "one from Kozłowo" or other, similar place names from the root kozioł, "he-goat." In other words, it means literally "of the he-goat," but usually referred to places with names from that root, places named Kozłowo or Kozłów or something similar. The problem is there are a great many places in Poland by those names, so without the kind of detailed background information produced by successful genealogical research, there is no way to know which place the surname refers to in a given instance. 

Zawaski is almost certainly a variant of the name more often spelled Zawadzki or Zawacki. Both those names are pronounced roughly "zah-VOTT-skee." They come from the noun zawada that means "obstacle, impediment," and in archaic usage "fortress," because soldiers often set up fortified positions in places where some natural feature of the land would block the way for enemy armies and make them vulnerable to attack. The surname Zawadzki or Zawacki means "of the zawada," and thus could refer to a person somehow connected with such an obstacle or fortress. 

More likely, however, the name refers to a family's coming from any of a number of places named Zawada or Zawady because of a connection with such an obstacle or fortress. There are literally dozens of places by those names, and the surname could refer to any of them. Only genealogical research into the history of a specific family might enable one to determine which of those places the name refers to in their particular case. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were no Polish citizens named Zawaski, but there were 35,225 named Zawadzki and another 751 named Zawacki. They lived all over Poland, with no real concentration in any one area. So a family by these names could come from almost anywhere in Poland.


BARYCZ - OWCZARZAK 

... I am looking for any information on the surnames Owczarzak or Barycz. Thank You. 

Owczarzak is pronounced roughly "off-CHAH-zhock," and consists of the noun owczarz, "shepherd," plus the diminutive suffix -ak. So it would mean literally "little shepherd," but more often as a surname would be used in the sense of "shepherd's son, shepherd's kin." 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,340 Polish citizens named Owczarzak. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 476, Konin 93, Pila 105, Piotrkow 105, Płock 125, and Poznan 861. So this name tends to be most common in central to western Poland. 

As for Barycz, pronounced roughly "BAR-itch," Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1412 and can come from the noun barycz, "marketplace, trading center," or from any of several places named Barycz, or from the personal name Barycz (which would mean basically "son of Bar"), or from a Proto-Slavic root barych that mean "bog, marsh." So there isn't just one possible derivation, but several; it would take detailed research into a specific family' history to find any clues as to which one was applicable in their particular case. 

As of 1990 there were 92 Polish citizens named Barycz, scattered all over Poland but with some concentration in the southcentral provinces of Bielsko-Biala (12) and Krakow (26). Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 


BLICHARZ 

... Could you tell me what the name Blicharz might mean? 

According to Rymut's book on Polish surnames, Blicharz and Blecharz are both names coming from the noun blicharz or blecharz. It is a term for an occupation, a "bleacher." A Blicharz family presumably got that name because it had an ancestor who bleached or whitened cloth or clothes. Rymut says it appears in records as early as 1561. By English phonetic values Blicharz would sound kind of like "BLEE-hosh," but the "ch" sound is a bit more guttural than English H, yet less guttural than German "ch" in "Bach." 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,446 Polish citizens named Blicharz. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Biala Podlask 136, Lublin 198, Rzeszow 135, Tarnow 170, and Zamosc, 560. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is found all over Poland, but is particularly common in the southeastern quarter of the country. 

Blecharz, by contrast, was the name of only 251 Polish citizens, with the largest number, 128, in the province of Krakow, and the rest scattered in small numbers all over Poland, especially southwestern Poland. I'm not positive, but this distribution suggests the word for "bleacher" was pronounced one way (with a short E sound) in southcentral to southwestern Poland, and another way (with the longer EE sound written in Polish as I) in eastern and southeastern Poland. 

Incidentally, "bleacher" is an example of an English word that has come to mean something entirely different from what it once meant. At one time it was used primarily to mean "one who bleaches clothes." These days you never hear this word, but the plural form "bleachers" is common. It means "an often unroofed outdoor grandstand for seating spectators" -- rows of seating, sometimes outside, sometimes in a gymnasium, for people to sit on as they watch a sports event or other activity. Apparently it came to mean that by comparison to the bleaching effect the sun has on linens hanging outside to dry. 


BRONICKI 

... I am trying to learn anything about the name: Bronicki. Do you know anything about its origin or anything else?  

In Polish Bronicki is pronounced roughly "bron-EET-skee." This name would usually refer to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago, a place with a name beginning Bronic-. If they were noble, they owned an estate there; if they were peasants, they lived and worked there, or had occasion to do business there frequently. This name can also be a variant form of the very similar surnames Broniecki or Bronecki -- names that close were often confused -- in which case places with names beginning Broniec- or Bronec- or even Bronka or Bronki could also be involved. 

There are several places in Poland and the neighboring countries this surname could refer to. Genealogical research is the only way to pin down which one your particular Bronickis came from. If you can locate the area they came from, you can search in that specific area instead of all over eastern Europe. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 758 Polish citizens named Bronicki. There was no one area in which they were concentrated; a Bronicki family could come from practically anywhere. 

I'm afraid the vast majority of Polish surnames just don't give you much in the way of useful clues as to exactly where a given family came from. I estimate fewer than 5% are concentrated in any one area, or have some aspect of their meaning that helps you trace them. 


BROZIŃSKI - BROŻYŃSKI - PIETRAS 

... I am looking for information on the following surnames: Pietras & Brozinska. Any information you could provide on the origins and meanings would be greatly appreciated. These are the names of my paternal grandparents who immigrated to Canada in the early part of the last century. I am attempting to do a family genealogy. Unfortunately, their personal paper were thrown away years ago and I am starting from scratch. 

Pietras, pronounced roughly "P'YET-ross," is a moderately common surname by Polish standards. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 9,007 Polish citizens by that name, as well as another 806 named Pietraś (using the tilde ~ to indicate the accent over the S) and another 1,022 with the similar form Pietrasz (both those names sound roughly like "P'YET-rosh"). All three names come from the first name Piotr, the Polish version of the first name "Peter." They would mean little more than "Peter's kin," indicating that somewhere along the line there was an ancestor named Piotr or Pietr (Peter). As with most surnames derived from popular first names, this one is common all over the country; the name itself gives no clue where a specific family named Pietras would have come from. 

Brozińska is a feminine form of Broziński (accent over the N) -- most Polish names ending in -ski change the ending to -ska when referring to a female. That name is pronounced roughly "bro-ZHEEN-skee." As of 1990 there were 92 Polish citizens by that name. They were scattered all over Poland, with the largest concentration, 43, in the southeastern province of Tarnobrzeg. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 

A very similar name, Brożyński (with a dot over the Z and an accent over the N) is pronounced "bro-ZHIN-skee," and is therefore very, very similar in pronunciation. Considering how variable spelling used to be, it is entirely possible you might see the same family called Broziński one time, Brożyński the next. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions both names in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. Broziński most likely comes from a short form of the first name Ambroży, the Polish form of "Ambrose." Brożyński can come from the same origin, or it can come from the noun bróg, "stack, rick, haystack." So the name could mean "kin of Ambrose" or "one from Ambrose's place," or it could mean "one from the place of the haystacks." Only detailed research into a specific family's background might uncover information that would let one establish more; the name itself just doesn't tell us more than that. 


CHWALKIEWICZ - FALK[E] - FALKIEWICZ 

[Posted to Herbarz-L in response to erroneous comments about the origin of the name Falkiewicz] 

In his book Nazwiska Polakow, volume 1 (Instytut Jezyka Polskiego PAN, Krakow, 1999) Kazimierz Rymut lists a number of Polish surnames from the root Chwal-, then comments "z dawnym malopolsko-mazowieckim przejsciem chw- w f-" and proceeds to list a number of surnames beginning Falk-, including Falkiewicz. Thus in Malopolska and in Mazowsze there was long ago a tendency to simplify the consonant cluster chw- in names to f-. Chwalkiewicz/Falkiewicz may be the best known example of this phenomenon, but there are others: Chwailbog vs. Falibog, Chwast vs. Fast, Chwiała vs. Fiała, etc. (Incidentally, a number of different Polish onomasts have noted this tendency of Chw- to simplify to F-, not just Rymut. From what I can tell, it is generally accepted as a proven hypothesis among Polish name scholars.) 

The patronymic Chwalkiewicz would have meant "son of Chwalek or Chwalka or Chwalko." Those names, in  turn, began in most cases as affectionate diminutives of ancient Slavic dithematic names which, in Polish, took the forms Chwalisław (praise-renown), Chwalimir (praise-peace), Chwalibog (praise-god), etc. A name such as Chwalek or Chwalko could also develop directly from the noun chwala, "praise," or the root of the verb chwalić, "to praise," so that Chwalek or Chwalko could have originally meant something like "little praiseworthy one, son of the praiseworthy one" or "little one who praises, son of the one who praises." But in most cases it is thought they began as nicknames or short forms of those ancient names Chwalisław, Chwalimir, etc., just as "Eddie" developed from "Edward" in English by truncation of the original name and addition of a diminutive suffix. 

So it is perfectly appropriate to interpret Falkiewicz as "son of Falek/Falka/Falko = Chwalek/Chwalka/Chwalko." In such cases the name would indicate origin in Malopolska or Mazowsze... Of course it's true a name ending in -ewicz can refer to a place name; that is not out of the question, by any means. But the prime hypothesis in such a case is that the name means what it appears to mean, "son of Falek or Falka or Falko." One should turn to toponyms only if the patronymic derivation proves inapplicable. 

Names origins are seldom as simple as they appear, however, and as wrote in his original question, Falkiewicz could indeed come from a German root. Rymut has an entry for Falk, "od niem[ieckiej] nazw[ej] os[obowej]

Falk(e), ta od śrwniem. [średnio-wysoko-niemieckiego (Middle High German)] falche, 'sokół,' lub od im[ion] słowiańskich na Chwal-." Thus in addition to the link with Chwal-, Falk or Falke can exist as a name of German origin meaning "falcon," much as Sokół can exist as a Slavic name meaning "falcon." Falkiewicz could be an instance where that Germanic name came into use among Slavs, and the patronymic suffix -ewicz was later added to indicate "son of the falcon." While one must be careful about postulating the addition of Slavic suffixes to German roots, there is no question that did happen at times, when people of German descent lived and worked in a Polish linguistic environment. If a German was named Falke and lived among Poles who grew accustomed to his name, his descendants might well come to be called Falkiewicz by his neighbors. 

I don't know on what basis the original questioner says Falkiewicz is of German origin. If he did so on the basis of sound genealogical research, and thus had good reason to make this assumption, we can only accept what he says and proceed from there. But it would be wise to remind ourselves that Falkiewicz cannot be ASSUMED to come from the German name unless one has evidence to that effect. All things being equal, we'd normally expect Falkiewicz to be Polish, a variant of Chwalkiewicz. But if the evidence is there that the name does derive from German Falk- and not Polish Chwalk-, that is certainly a tenable position to take.


DEREŃ - DEREŃSKI 

... I have a question regarding the origin of my maternal grandfather's name.  He traveled with his parents from Poland to the United States around 1896.  The surname he used as an adult was Deren (Daren on a SS form).  One of my aunts said that he may have changed his name as a young man and that the family name was something such as Derensky. Can you shed any light on the origin of this name?

 In Polish the basic name is Dereń, with an accent over the N, pronounced roughly "DARE-rain." As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,974 Polish citizens named Dereń. They lived all over Poland, but with the largest numbers in the southern part of the country, especially the provinces of Krosno (191), Opole (313), Rzeszow (156), Tarnobrzeg (281), Tarnow (180), and Walbrzych (331). I'm afraid this doesn't shed too much light, however, on where a specific family by this name might have come from. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the noun dereń, "dogwood (Cornus mas), dogberry." Thus the name probably started as a nickname for an ancestor whom people associated with the dogwood for some reason. Perhaps he lived in an area where there were a lot of dogwoods. In any case, we can feel sure there was some link that was obvious enough to make the name seem appropriate. 

Dereński is a pretty rare name these days -- as of 1990 there were only 17 Polish citizens by that name. The numbers suggest Dereń should be treated as the main form of the name. But I'd add that you should keep your eyes open for either form. Poles instinctively recognize Dereń and Dereński as closely related names -- one means "dogwood," the other means "of the dogwood." So if a person or family was called Dereń, it would be pretty common to refer to them or their kin also as Dereński, or even Dereniewicz (son of Dereń) or Dereniowski (of the Dereńs). Of all those names only Dereń is very common today. But until the last century or two there wasn't any great emphasis on using the same form of a surname consistently, and in most Polish villages everybody knew everybody else, so there wasn't all that much attention paid to surnames. 

In other words, odd as it seems to us, you might see the same family called Dereń in one record, Dereński in another, Dereniewicz in another, and so on. The Poles all recognized the people involved, and the names were all so closely related that they saw no reason to act like some Prussian screaming "You vill use ze same name every time or ve vill punish you!" That frame of mind was foreign to Poles. They didn't make a big deal out of surname consistency. Thus your Dereń might well have been  called Dereński sometimes. But at least in modern usage Dereń is the main form of the name.

   

  

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


DĄBROWSKI - DOBROWSKI - DOMBROWSKI - MARUD - MARUDA - MARUT

... My name is Donna Campbell (nee:  Marud).  I'm curious to know about the last names Marud and Dobrowski.

None of my sources mention the derivation of Marud, but I think there's a pretty good chance it comes from the term maruda, seen in both Polish and Ukrainian and meaning "procrastinator, dawdler, dull (irresolute or tedious) person, grumbler." 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 224 Polish citizens named Marud, plus another 233 named Maruda. They lived all over Poland, with no really significant concentration in any one area, although the largest number of both names lived in the southeastern province of Radom (42 Maruds and 37 Marudas). 

The name Marut, borne by 1,754 Polish citizens, may sometimes come from this same word, although it can also have developed from other roots. Marud would be pronounced roughly "MAH-root" (which is why Marut is a plausible alternative spelling), and Maruda would sound more like "mah-ROO-dah." 

Dobrowski, pronounced roughly "dob-ROFF-skee," is a rare name; as of 1990 there were only 18 Polish citizens by that name, scattered all over the country. Dobrowski could come from the names of villages such as Dobrow, Dobrowo, etc., of which there are several. The only way to determine which one a given family was connected with at some point centuries ago would be through genealogical research that focused on exactly what part of the country that particular family came from. 

I should add that Dobrowski could also be a simplified form of the name usually seen as Dombrowski or Dąbrowski, using the Polish nasal vowel written as an A with a tail under it and pronounced usually like "on," but before B or P like "om." In other words, Dąbrowski and Dombrowski are two slightly different ways of spelling the same name, pronounced roughly "dome-BROFF-skee." That could sometimes be simplified by dropping the nasal "om" sound, leaving Dobrowski. So while this name certainly could mean "one from Dobrow or Dobrowo," I can't overlook the possibility that it's a variant of Dąbrowski. That is a very common name, just meaning "one from the place of the oak grove," and both forms of the name are common all over Poland, as are places named Dąbrowa ("oak grove"). 


DOMIN - NIEWIADOMSKI

... Before his immigration from Poland, my great-great-great grandfather's last name was that of Niewiadomski, or Niewiaduemski, (something of that nature), which was changed to "Nevadomski." My grandmother's maiden name is Domin, however I do not know the original variation: she is Polish as well. I haven't the slightest idea what either name means or the family history behind them. If you could make inquiries regarding their meanings, I'd be eternally grateful.

It's highly likely the name was Niewiadomski, which is pronounced roughly "n'yev-yah-DOM-skee," and comes from the adjective niewiadomy, "unknown." Niewiadomski means literally "of the unknown one." It's hard to say exactly what this would mean in a given case, but the name could, for instance, refer to the kin of one about whom his neighbors knew very little. In most villages everyone knew everyone else, so a mystery man who moved into the area might be called the "unknown one," and his descendants might bear this name. Or the name might be given to the kin of a man whose father was unknown, i. e., an illegitimate child, or to the kin of a foundling of unknown parentage. It's hard to say precisely how the name got started, since in different cases it might have gotten started different ways. All we can say for sure is that it means "[kin] of the unknown." 

However, if one did detailed and successful genealogical research on a given Niewiadomski family, one MIGHT find documents that give a clue what the name originally meant. There are no guarantees, but that would be just about the only way to establish exactly how and why this name came to be associated with a given family. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 13,220 Polish citizens named Niewiadomski. They lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area. Very few Polish surnames give us any useful clue as to exactly where a given family by that name came from, and this is no exception. Families by this name could come from practically anywhere in Poland. 

As for Domin, it is pronounced roughly "DOUGH-meen" (first syllable rhymes with "go"). As of 1990 there were 3,145 Polish citizens by that name, and they, too, lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area. This shows that Domin could be the original name; that is, at least, a legitimate Polish surname. Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1403, and began as a short form of the first name Dominik, which comes from Latin dominicus, "of the lord." So all this surname indicates is that an ancestor was named Dominik, or Domin for short. 

The name may have been changed after the family came to America. But if it was, I'm not psychic and I have no way of knowing what it was originally; there are many, many possibilities, including Dominski, Dominiak, Dominiec, Dominik, Dominikowski, Dominiuk, Dumin, Duminski, etc. Only successful genealogical research might uncover documents that would establish what the name originally was. 


DRAZDAUSKAS - DROZDOWSKI

... I am interested in only one document at this point and that is the one of Antonina Drazdauskaite (perfect Lithuanian spelling today_, however I feel perhaps on records then, where she was born, her name is corrupted by Russian or more likely, Polish. The information I know is:

Antonina Deazdauskaite
Father: Juozas Drazdauskas

Actually the name is probably Polish or Belarusian in origin and has been modified to suit Lithuanian linguistic preferences. In other words, it was probably Drozdowski, and Lithuanians changed that to Drazdauskas. The ending -aite simply means that was her maiden name; surnames ending in -us in Lithuanian change to -aite when referring to unmarried females.

Drozdowski is a fairly common name, borne by some 9,476 Polish citizens as of 1990, living all over Poland. It means basically "one from the place of the thrush," referring to any of a number of places named Drozdów, Drozdowo, etc. It is pronounced roughly "droz-DOFF-skee" in Polish. 

Since Polish and Russian have been the languages of record in Lithuania for most of the last three centuries, the name probably would appear in records in either Russian or Polish form. So I would expect it to appear as Drozdowski or, in feminine form, Drozdowska or Drozdowszczanka. I'm afraid I have no idea how to convey the Cyrillic spelling that would be used in Russian. But the good news is that workers in the Archives are used to dealing with name forms like these. They would almost certainly recognize Drazdauskas as a Lithuanian form of Drozdowski, and would recognize the Russian spelling of the name, as well, if they see it. So I'm hopeful that they will be able to give you real assistance in your search. 


GAŁKOWSKI - SZCZEPKOWSKI - SOKOLIŃSKI

... I am trying to help my husband find out about his heritage and family. I would like any info on: Galkowski, Szczepkowski, Sokolinska. Any info appreciated.

Regarding Szczepkowski, Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut it in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surname of Poles]. He says it can come from two different roots: 1) that seen in the noun szczep, "tribe, sowing, seedling, log" and szczepa, "chip, sliver"; or 2) the first name Szczepan, "Stephen." Either way, it breaks down as Szczep + -k- + -owski. The -k- is from the diminutive suffix -ek or -ko, and -owski is a suffix meaning "of, from." So the name means either "of, from the X of the little tribe/sowing, etc." or "of, from the X of little Stephen." Usually that X is a word obvious enough it didn't have to be mentioned, either "kin" or "place." 

That's as to the literal meaning and derivation. In practice, most of the time you'd expect Szczepkowski started out meaning "one from Szczepki or Szczepkowo." There are several villages in Poland by those names, which come in turn from the roots mentioned above, and this surname could refer to origin in any of them. If the family was noble, they owned the villages or estates by these names; if they weren't noble, they probably worked the land there. There was a time centuries ago when -ski names were the exclusive property of the nobility, formed from the names of their estates. But since the 1600's such names have come to mean little more than "of, from such-and-such a place." 

As of 1990 there were 2,381 Polish citizens named Szczepkowski. There was no one place or area with which the name is particularly associated, a family named Szczepkowski could have come from virtually anywhere in Poland. 

The surname Galkowski is usually spelled in Polish with a slash through the L. Gałkowski is pronounced roughly "gaw-KOFF-skee." As of 1990 there were 2,529 Polish citizens named by that name. 

As I said, surnames in the form X-owski usually refer to the name of a place with which the family was connected at one time; if they were noble, they owned it, and if not, they lived and worked there. So we'd expect this surname to mean "one from Gałki, or Gałkow, or Gałkowo" -- something like that. There are a number of villages by those names in Poland, and without detailed research into a specific family's past there is no possible way to tell which one they came from. Your research, however, might enable you to do so. 

Sokolińska is simply the feminine form of Sokoliński (accent over the N) and is pronounced roughly "so-ko-LEEN-skee." As of 1990 there were 664 Polish citizens named by that name, living all over Poland with no concentration in any one area. (Incidentally, that's the norm -- I estimate fewer than 5% of all Polish surnames are concentrated in any one area, to the point that a researcher can afford to focus on that area.) 


GOMOKE - GOMOLKA - GOMÓŁKA - GOMUŁKA - GUMUŁKA

... I am doing some genealogy research for my aunt.  She is of Polish decent, and the last name that she is inquiring about is: Gomolka (apparently the "L" within the name had a slash or squiggle through it).  Her family used the spelling Gomoke since they have been in the United States.  I was wondering if you had any information on these names so that I could let her know if I have found anything. 

In Polish this name is spelled with the slashed L and with an accent over the second O. Thus when I spell it Gomółka, that means you'd write it with an accent over the 2nd O and a slash through the L. The accented o sounds like "oo" in "book," and the Ł sounds like our W, so Gomółka  sounds like "go-MOOW-kah." 

You can see how "Gomoke" would be a plausible phonetic spelling of this name for people speaking English, and that probably explains why the spelling was changed. Immigrants often simplified or changed their names to make them easier for Americans to deal with, or to help them "fit in" better and seem less "foreign." 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the basic root seen in the word gomoła, "without corners or edges," but more particularly from the noun gomółka, which can mean "a roundish lump of something soft" but is especially used as a term for a kind of homemade round cheese. Presumably the name began as a nickname for an ancestor whom people associated with this kind of cheese for one reason or another -- perhaps he made this cheese, or was very fond of it, or his shape somehow reminded people of it (I suppose a chubby, round-bodied fellow could conceivably be called this as a humorous nickname). 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 1,750 Polish citizens named Gomółka. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Biala Podlaska 250, Kalisz 233, Katowice 285, and Nowy Sacz 106. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data indicates that the name is most common in southcentral to southwestern Poland, with another significant concentration in the area near the border of Poland with Belarus and Ukraine. But the name is not concentrated anywhere to the point we can assume a family by that name came from such-and-such a place. Only genealogical research might turn up info that would enable one to say that with certainty. 

One last point: this name also appears sometimes spelled as Gomułka or Gumułka. That's because the Polish accented O is pronounced the same as U, and this sometimes causes names to be spelled phonetically with O or U. So you might see the same family referred to in one record as Gomółka, in another as Gomułka, and in another as Gumułka. Spellings in older records are often very inconsistent, so that almost any phonetically possible spelling may show up. It can be helpful to know this so you don't automatically assume those other spellings are necessarily different families; sometimes they are, but not necessarily always. 


GRUŹLEWSKI

... Does anyone know the meaning of the surname Gruzlewski?

In Polish this name is normally spelled with an accent over the Z, and is pronounced roughly "groozh-LEFF-skee." Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the archaic noun gruzla, which mean "ulcer, growth, blister." Gruźlewski means literally "of the ulcer, growth, blister," and presumably began as a name for the kin of someone who had a disfiguring ulcer or growth or blister. 

Names ending in -ewski often come from place names, so that Gruźlewski could also mean "one from Gruźle, Gruźlew, Gruźlewo," etc. But I can't find any places by those names. It's possible they were or are too small to show up on most maps; or the name may have changed over the centuries; or they may have disappeared, or have been swallowed up by other communities. It's impossible to say without knowing exactly where a given family came from and studying the history of that area in detail. So this surname could mean "one from Gruźle/Gruźlew/Gruźlewo," but it may have simply meant "kin of the guy with the big blister." 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 358 Polish citizens named Gruźlewski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Ciechanow 29, Gdansk 25, Olsztyn 37, Torun 178; the rest were scattered in tiny numbers all over Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. But this data indicates the name is found most often in northcentral Poland. 


JASIEŃSKI - JASIŃSKI - JASHINSKI

... I'm hoping you can help me with the meaning of my surname:  Jashinski.  I've found almost nothing on this or any other spelling of the name.  Would you be so kind as to e-mail me back with whatever you can find?

Since Polish doesn't use the letter combination -sh-, it's immediately clear we're dealing either with a non-Polish name or a name that is Polish but has been Anglicized. Without a lot more info there's no way I can say for sure, but it's reasonable to believe this probably is a slightly modified version of the Polish name JASIŃSKI (an N with an accent over it). It is pronounced roughly "yah-SHEEN-skee." 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of  Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 35,545 Polish citizens named Jasiński, living all over the country. The name is not associated with any one part of Poland, a Jasinski could come from practically anywhere. It's also pretty clear there isn't just one huge Jasinski family, but rather a number of separate families that came by the name independently. 

In his book on Polish surnames Prof. Kazimierz Rymut says Jasiński is connected in many cases with the first name Jan (John), or with other first names beginning with Ja- (such as Jakub, Jaromir, etc.). The Jas- comes from nicknames or short forms of Jan, Jakub, etc.; the -in- is a possessive suffix; and -ski is an adjectival ending, meaning "of, from, connected with, pertaining to." So Jasiński breaks down as meaning "one of, belonging to, connected with Jas." It might refer to kin of a fellow with that name, or to people coming from a place owned by such a fellow. 

However, we can't rule out a connection in some cases with the old Polish term jasin, in more modern Polish jasion or jesion, "ash tree," or any of the numerous villages named Jasien, Jasiona, etc. These places could generate the surname Jasieński which could then be simplified to Jasiński. So this connection is also one that must be considered when dealing with this surname. 

Only genealogical research might uncover information that would shed light on exactly how the name came to be associated with a specific family. With one Jasiński family the surname might refer to an ancestor who was a relative of a guy named Jas; with another it might refer to origin in a place named Jasin or Jasien. The name could develop in different ways, so all I can do is give general info on its most basic meaning, and leave it to individual researchers to fill in the details as they discover them. 


KOTŁOWSKI - RODE - TREPPA

...Almost exactly one year ago, on 06-May-2000, you replied to my questions about our great-grandparents names Trepski or Trepki, and Katlowski... Anyhow, these new records still give variations, but not quite so widely different. Our great-grandmother was apparently a Trepp, or Treppa, or Treppe. And very oddly, on three of the birth-baptism records, her last name was consistently shown as Rode! ... Inspection of the LDS films showed many Rode (and some "Rhode") in that area through the years of the films contents, about 1830-1880.  In her records, she was shown first as Trepp etc, then Rode, then I think for the last one or two kids she was again shown with the name Treppe or such.  What is that all about?  Our knowledge of her age, marriage and Kotlowski kids' birthdates strongly indicates that she had never been married before, and that Kotlowski was her only husband.  Although I suppose it would be possible for her to have been married for a year or maybe 2, when she was quite young (under age 18 or 20). 

Actually, it'd be a miracle if there weren't some variation in the records. What you describe is definitely par for the course. 

There's just no way I can tell you what significance that has. People run into this sort of thing all the time, and the explanations can be many and varied. What they have in common is, if you ever do discover what it's all about, you realize there was no way to have predicted it reliably. You might have had a good notion what the explanation was, but the only way to be sure is by finding evidence in the records. And I'm sorry to say in many cases people never do figure out what the heck was going on. 

... Our great-grandfather, as you had suspected was a Kotlowski, although the church also spelled it as Kottlowski (with two "t") and  Kotlewski (with an "e"). Would I be asking too much to ask for your definitions and origins for these (3?) names, as high-lighted above?  Your previous email had touched on Kotlowski, but you had replied mostly in regard to the name Katlowski, with an "a".

Kotłowski (the slashed L is pronounced like our W) is pronounced roughly "cot-WOFF-skee." Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], and adds that Kotlewski and Katlewski are both forms also seen of the same name; Poles don't normally double letters, so Kottlowski is probably a German-influenced spelling. All these spellings are well within the bounds of normal variation of name forms. 

According to Rymut this surname, like most ending in -owski and -ewski, refers to the name of a place with which the family was associated at some point centuries ago. One good candidate is Kotlewy, Dobryszyce district of Piotrkow province; but there certainly could be others. The surname could come from almost any place with a name beginning Kotlow- or Kotlew-. Those names, in turn, probably come from the noun kocioł, "boiler, kettle," so that Kotlowski would mean "one from the place of the kettle." 

But that's really a secondary issue; the main point is that this surname probably refers to the name of a place where the family lived long ago. If you'd like to see maps of some of the possible candidates, go to this Website: 

    http://www.jewishgen.org/shtetlseeker/loctown.htm  

Enter "Kotl" as the place you're looking for, select "Poland" as the country to be searched, and select "All towns starting with this precise spelling." Click on "Start the search," and after a moment you'll see a list of various places in Poland with names starting Kotl-. You can skip the ones that don't begin Kotle- or Kotlo- or Kotly-, as those three forms are the only ones likely to generate a name Kotłowski. For each place, click on the blue numbers (latitude and longitude) and you'll get a map showing that location. You can print the map, save it, zoom in and out, etc. 

This will show you there are several possible places the surname might refer to. All things being equal, we'd expect the one nearest to Gdansk and Oliwa to be the best candidate, but that's making assumptions that prove unjustified. Unfortunately, unless your family was noble and owned an estate at Kotlowo or Kotlewy or whatever, it's unlikely any surviving records go back far enough to let you make a positive connection. Still, it may give you something to go on. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,269 Polish citizens named Kotłowski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Gdansk 1,059, Slupsk 261, Lublin 187, and Torun 98. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. But this data suggests your Kotłowskis come from the area where the name is most common. 

Trepp, Treppa, and Treppe are all variants of the same basic name. It might be from Polish trepa, "stairstep," or trepy, "clogs." But those spellings suggest German influence, and I'm sure Polish trepa comes from the German noun Treppe anyway -- it means "step, stair." And trepy surely comes from German Trippen, which are clogs, a kind of wooden shoe. So the most likely interpretation is that the family was of German origin -- hardly rare in western Poland! -- and an ancestor was associated with clogs. Perhaps he made them, perhaps he wore them, perhaps there was some other connection less obvious to us today. 

Rode is also a German spelling, sometimes seen as Rhode; in Polish it would be spelled phonetically Roda, and that makes me think this name, too, should be interpreted as German. In German Rode is usually a variation of standard German rot, "red," and thus a Rode was one with red hair. If the name were Polish it would have something to do with the root rod- meaning "birth, family." But if it's consistently spelled Rode, that's a pretty good hint that it was German, and suggests an ancestor was red-haired. 

As of 1990 there were 222 Polish citizens named Trepa (15 in Gdansk province), and 114 named Treppa (104 of whom lived in Gdansk province); there was one named Treppe, also somewhere in Gdansk province. There were 634 named Rode; they lived all over Poland, but the larger numbers were in the provinces of Bydgoszcz, 95; Gdansk, 85; and Katowice, 81. I should add that some 4 million people of German descent fled Poland after World War II to resettle in what was then East Germany, so the stats from 1990 on distribution and frequency of names of German origin are not really all that representative of the situation before World War II.

   

  

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

 


WLAZŁOWSKI

... Please help! I have been wondering about the origin of my surname Wlazlowski and would appreciate any information at all. 

In Polish Wlazlowski would normally be spelled with a slash through the second L. That letter is pronounced like our W, while Polish W is pronounced like our V. So the name sounds like "vloz-WOFF-skee." As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 502 Polish citizens named Wlazłowski. There was no one area in which the name was concentrated; a family by this name could live almost anywhere in Poland. 

The basic root of this name is probably the noun wlazło, which Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut defines as "ubiquitous person, meddler, uninvited guest." So it's possible the surname might mean "kin of the meddler." But most of the time the suffix -owski refers to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago. In other words, it means "one from Wlazłowo" or some similar name beginning Wlazł-. Thus the surname could be interpreted as "one from the place of the meddler."

I can't find any places with names beginning Wlazł- on modern maps, but that's not unusual. Polish surnames often came from the name of a field or hill or little settlement, names used only by locals, that would be unlikely to appear on any map or in any gazetteer. So the place this name refers to may be quite obscure, or may even have disappeared or renamed or absorbed into another community centuries ago.


KOCIENIEWSKI - KOCINIEWSKI - KUBISIAK - KUBISZAK

Last time we analyzed the surname Kocieniewski you thought it might be from the root Kot or even a reference to kitten. However, you also thought it could have been derived from a place name. Since then I have done my homework and found references to a couple of places that start with Kocie nearby. One is a village to the west called Kocien Wielke and another to the north called Kociewie.

The longer I study Polish names, the clearer it becomes that names ending in -ewski usually -- not always, but usually -- derive from names of places. The name Kocieniewski would therefore mean in most cases "one from X" where X is a name something like Kocien or Kocieniew or Kocieniewo. One source that discusses the name Kocieński says Kociński is a spelling variation of that name, so I think you're right -- Kocien- or Kocin- is the same thing, possibly developing because of a spelling error, or even because of a slight difference in the way people pronounced the name. Thus the surname could also refer to places with names beginning Kocin-.

None of my sources discuss this specific name, so I can't pin its derivation down with certainty. But you know the region your ancestors came from, which simplifies things -- we can pay more attention to places somewhere near there, as odds are the family name refers to a place fairly nearby. Kocien Wielki seems to me a very good candidate. As a rule we'd expect that name to yield the surnames Kocienski or Kocinski, but it wouldn't be unusual for Kocieniewski to come from it as well. Literally, Kocieniewski would translate more or less as "of, from the _ of the Kociens." That fits pretty well with Kocien Wielki. But I suggest you keep looking: often if there's a place named X, one finds other places nearby with names in the form X-ewo or X-y, and then surnames such as X-ewski can easily develop from those names. So Kocien might be the right place, or it might point to a smaller place nearby with a name like Kocienie or Kocieniewo.

I wish I could tell you what those place names mean, but I have no information on that. The Polish Language Institute is publishing a series that gives lots of info on the meanings and origins of place names, but so far they've only got as far as the letter I. So it may be another year or two before they get to the K's and I can see what their research indicates about the basic meaning of place names beginning Kocien- or Kocin-.

In addition I read an article in the PGSA Journal that referenced a group of people from centuries ago known as the Kociewacs or something on that order. I can't find anything on the internet about them however. I think you may have even been involved with that article. It even included a map with that name located just to the northwest of my ancestral towns. I have not been able to find that article again. It was from a couple of years ago. 

That's not likely to be relevant. The root of the name would be either Kocien- or Kocin-, and that -n- is an integral part of the name. The other name (I think it was Kociewacy) would have nothing to do with it, except in that it may have come ultimately from the same linguistic root.

I know your book includes Kociniewski but not Kocieniewski. My spelling, Kocieniewski is the older of the two names from my research. I can trace it back to the early to mid 1700's. It seemed like the Kociniewski spelling developed around the early 1800's in an adjacent town. My guess is that it was an error that just stuck, so as to differentiate two distinct branches of the family. I tend to think the two names are related and may try and prove it some day through my research.

As I said, I think you're right. We often see such spelling variants, forms with -in- and -ien-. That's very common, and can have a lot to do with the way people pronounced the names.

Let me know if you have any new opinions on my surname. Also how can I check if there is a coat of arms for my family? As you can see I enjoy doing the research so just point me in the right direction when you get a chance. I am not in any hurry. Just looking for some ideas and hoping to borrow some of your expertise. Thank You.

I can't tell you a thing about coats of arms. But you might be able to learn more if you post a question to the mailing list Herbarz-L. It is frequented by gentlemen with access to various armorials and libraries, and very often they are able to provide some information on specific noble families and their coats of arms.

To subscribe (which costs nothing), send an E-mail message with just the word SUBSCRIBE to this address:

HERBARZ-L-request@rootsweb.com

No one reads this note -- a computer will process it automatically, add you to the mailing list, and send you a brief note explaining procedures. Then you can post a note to the list itself, where it will be read by the members, at this address:

HERBARZ-L@rootsweb.com

I also have another family name not covered in your book, Kubiszak. This was my great grandmother's maiden name. 

That is basically the same name as Kubisiak, and is pronounced almost the same, much like "koo-BEE-shock." The "sh" sound of SZ is a little chunkier than the sound of SI, which is lighter, more hissing, with the tongue arched higher in the mouth. The -ak here is almost certainly a suffix meaning "little, son of," and Kubiś and Kubisz are both nicknames from Jakub. So Kubisiak or Kubiszak would both mean something like "Jake's son, Jake's kin."

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 4 Polish citizens named Kubiszak, living somewhere in the provinces of Torun. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. But this suggests Kubiszak is just a rare variant, found in the Torun area, of the more common name Kubisiak.


GOTFRYD

... I am interested in more information than it seems is readily available from here. My grandfather, Joseph Gotfryd, came from the area somewhere around Jaslo in the province of Galicia somewhere around the turn of the century. At that time, of course, the area was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  I have been contacted by Gotfryds in Belgium and in New york, each seeking to know if we are related. The Gotfryds in Belgium seem to be ethnic Poles, while the Gotfryds in New York are jewish, having come from Spain during the Inquisition. They changed their names to Gotfryd. Why? What is the derivation of Gotfryd, which seems Scandinavian/Germanic, and then is a given name?  My parents and I believe that we are ethnically Slavic/Polish and are Roman Catholic.

Gotfryd is a Polish phonetic spelling of a name of Germanic origin, seen in modern German as Gottfried, and in English as Godfrey and Jeffrey. It comes from ancient Germanic roots meaning "god" and "peace," modeled after pagan names that combined two basic words as a kind of prophecy or name of good omen for a child; naming a child Gottfried expressed the parents' hope it would grow up to live in God's peace, or something like that. 

Some of these two-part names, such as Alexander (from Greek, "defender of men") and Polish Stanisław ("may he become famous/glorious) date back to pagan times, and thus have no hint of Christianity about them. I'm not sure if Gottfried is that ancient; if it is, it originally referred to the peace of the gods or peace in the gods. What's certain is that its use in the last thousand years or so would be colored by Christian beliefs, expressing a hope that one would have peace in God. 

However, the basic sentiment expressed is compatible with Jewish beliefs -- Jews have many names that use the Hebrew roots for "God" or "peace," so that Jewish parents might feel this was a suitable vernacular name for their child. I would expect it in most cases to be associated with Christians, but as I say, some Jews might find it appropriate as well -- particularly Jews who did not want to compromise their faith but were willing to use a name that didn't sound so foreign or alien to Christians. Such a name helped them fit in a little better, but was acceptable because the basic idea behind the name's meaning is one Jews would find proper and decent. Many Jews spoke German or Yiddish, which is based on an old dialect of German, so it wasn't unusual for them to use German-sounding names or names similar to those borne by German Christians, so long as the meaning of the name was not offensive to their beliefs.

I cannot tell you why any particular family would change its name to Gotfryd; that requires research into the individual family's background. There could be a thousand reasons for taking this name, and I don't have the time or resources to do the kind of detailed study necessary to shed light on the change.

It's not at all unusual for surnames to come from first names; consider English names like "Edwards" or "Davidson" or "Peters." Usually they started out as a way of saying "kin of so-and-so," and thus Gotfryd might originally have been a way of referring to a family as "Gotfryd's kin." There are a great many names of Polish origin that were formed from first names.

Over the centuries Germans and Poles interacted to a great extent -- millions of Germans settled in Poland to escape war and trouble in Germany, or because they were invited to come settle unused land. So we see German names among Poles and Polish names among Germans; German names are particularly common in western Poland, in the areas seized by Germany during the partitions, and also in southeastern Poland, where many Germans settled over the centuries. Initially German names would feel "foreign" to Poles and we'd see them used only by immigrants from the lands west of Poland; but as time went on many German names were Polonized and came to be used by Poles, such as Henryk (German Heinrich, English Henry). 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 583 Polish citizens named Gotfryd. The largest numbers lived in the southeastern provinces of Tarnów, 165, and Krosno, 79 (which is the province Jaslo was in as of 1990); the rest were scattered in much smaller numbers all over Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 

So the bottom line is, Gotfryd is of Germanic origin, and that particular form is probably most common among descendants of German Christians living among Poles. But it wouldn't be strange to find it among native Poles as well, especially in southeastern Poland, due to the large numbers of Germans who settled there over the centuries. Some German-speaking Jews might also find it an acceptable name because its meaning was compatible with their beliefs and heritage (although many would refuse to use it because it wasn't Jewish enough). It began as a first name, but came to be used as a surname much as many other first names came to be used that way, as a kind of verbal shorthand for "kin of X." There would not be one big Gotfryd family, but rather a number of separate ones that came to use the name independently under different circumstances.


ANIOŁOWSKI

... Hello! I was looking at your website and didn't see any of the names of my relatives from Poland on there. My grandmother's maiden name was Pawłowska, and my last name is Aniołowski. I know Pawłowski is a fairly common name (at least in the Chicago area), but I have not been able to find many other Aniołowskis besides the ones I am related to in Chicago. Do you know what areas of Poland these names are common in, and what they could mean? 

Pawłowski (pronounced roughly "pahv-WOFF-skee") is a very common name. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 52,744 Polish citizens named Pawłowski, living in large numbers all over Poland. So I'm afraid we can't point to any one area and say the name is more common there than elsewhere; families by this name could come from anywhere in Poland.

The name refers to the name of a place the family came from at some point centuries ago, places with names like Pawłów and Pawłowo, which just mean "Paul's place" and were usually named after someone who owned or founded them. The problem is there are a great many places in Poland with names that fit, so the surname doesn't provide any useful clue whatsoever as to where a particular Pawłowski family came from. Only genealogical research might allow one to determine which particular Pawłów or Pawłowo or Pawłowice (etc.) a given family took its name from.

Aniołowski ("on-yo-WOFF-skee") is a little different. As you say, it's much less common. As of 1990 there were 257 Polish citizens named Aniołowski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 35, Elblag 37, Gdansk 23, Suwałki 49, and Torun 73. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is found mainly in the northcentral and northeastern quarter of Poland. 

This, too, would come from the name of a place, but there are fewer candidates than with Pawłowski. I can find only three places in modern Poland that make sense as possible sources of this name. One is called Aniołów and was in Lodz province (according to the provincial arrangement in force 1975-1998). Another Aniołów is just north of the city of Czestochowa and is apparently part of that city now. There is also a Aniołowo that was in Elblag province. Both these names mean "[place] of the angels" or perhaps "of Angel" if that was used as a first name for one who owned or founded the settlements. 

I should add these aren't necessarily the only candidates. Polish surnames developed centuries ago, and often the places they referred to have since disappeared, changed names, become too small to show up on most maps, etc. So in a given case the surname might refer to some other "Angel's place" besides the two I've mentioned. But the geographic distribution suggests chances are very good many, if not most Aniołowskis derive their name from one of these places.

If you'd like to see a map of where Aniołowo is located, go to this Website:

http://www.jewishgen.org/shtetlseeker/loctown.htm 

Enter "Aniol" as the place you're looking for, select "Poland" as the country to be searched, and select "All towns starting with this precise spelling." Click on "Start the search," and after a moment you'll see a list showing one place in Poland with a name starting Aniol-, ANIOLOWO, 5408 1936, 142.3 miles NNW of Warsaw. Click on the blue numbers (latitude and longitude) and you'll get a map showing that location. You can print the map, save it, zoom in and out, etc.

I don't know why that site doesn't show either Aniolow. The one in Lodz province is 5 km. west of Zgierz, and you can see a map of that area by using the same procedure described above to find Zgierz. It will work for Czestochowa, too, although as I say, apparently they don't show the places with names beginning Aniol- on those maps. (You might also use this site to check out how many places there are with names beginning Pawlow-, and you'll understand why Pawłowski is a much more difficult name to deal with!).


BUCZKO - WIELOCH - WIERZCHOWSKI

... Can you translate the following names? I found some similarities in your site, but don't know if the translations are the same: Wierzchowski, Buczko, Wielock.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 4,263 Polish citizens named Wierzchowski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 314, Biala Podlaska 401, Ciechanow 222, Lublin 404, Siedlce 240, Torun 394. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is found all over Poland, especially in the east and southeast, but not to the point one can be sure a given family with this name must have come from there -- it could come from anywhere in Poland.

Names in the form X-owski almost always come from the names of places where the family lived centuries ago. We'd expect Wierzchowski (pronounced roughly "v'yezh-HOFF-skee") to come from places names beginning Wierzch-, from the noun wierzch, "top, summit, peak." The surname could refer to places named Wierzchy or Wierzchów or Wierzchowo, all meaning more or less "place of the peak, place of the summit." There are quite a few places in Poland with these names, so there's no way to tell just from the surname which place it refers to in a given family's case. Only detailed genealogical research might narrow the focus down to a specific area, at which point one might be able to point to a specific settlement near one's ancestors' home and say "This is probably the place they were named after."

As of 1990 there were 1,076 Polish citizens named Buczko ("BOOCH-ko"), with the largest numbers living in the following provinces: Przemysl 108, Suwałki 72, Zamosc 233. So while the name is found all over Poland, it is particularly common in the northeastern and southeastern parts of the country. Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles], saying it appears in records as far back as 1349 and can derive from the noun buk, "beech tree" -- so that it could mean something like "little beech," perhaps referring to one who worked with beech wood or lived near an impressive stand of beech trees. But it can also come from the verb buczeć, "to hum, drone, buzz," and especially from the dialect noun buczek, "crybaby, one always crying about something." Either basic root could apply, and only the most detailed research might determine exactly which one is relevant in a given family's case.

Wielock is not a name found in Poland today, and is probably a misspelling or variation of Wieloch ("V'YELL-okh," with the final sound a guttural as in German "Bach"). As of 1990 there were 1,387 Polish citizens named Wieloch, living all over the country, with no concentration in any one area. 

This name can come from the root wiel- meaning "much, many," but exactly how it derives from it is not so easy to say. It might also have begun as a kind of nickname for various ancient Polish pagan names beginning with the archaic root wiel- meaning "to order," such as Wielimir or Wielisław; if so, it's just a nickname and doesn't mean much more than "kin of Wielimir or Wielisław." If it comes from the root meaning "much," it might mean something like "one who has a lot." There is a noun wieloch that means "very high, very great person," and it's possible the name started out with that meaning, either used directly or ironically ("Oh, here comes the big shot!"). Again, hard to say without extensive research into a family's history. Rymut says this name appears in records as far back as 1497, so it's been around a long time.


KUSZEWSKI

I have checked the Polishroots surname web site and I can't find any information about the name Kuszewska, if you can get any information about my family name I would be very grateful. 

The -ska in this case is a feminine ending, so the standard form of the name would be Kuszewski. A male would be called Kuszewski, a female Kuszewska. So Kuszewski is the form we need to look at.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 985 Polish citizens named Kuszewski. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Warsaw, 115, and Kielce, 253; the rest were scattered in smaller numbers all over the country. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

Names in the form X-ewski almost always come from the names of places where the family lived centuries ago. We'd expect Kuszewski (pronounced roughly "koo-SHEFF-skee") to come from places names beginning Kusz-, which can come from the noun kusza, "crossbow," or from a short form of the first name Jakusz, which is in turn a nickname for Jakub (Jacob). The surname could refer to places named Kuszy or Kuszew or Kuszewo, all meaning more or less "place of the crossbow" or "place of Jakusz." There are several places in Poland with these names, so there's no way to tell just from the surname which place it refers to in a given family's case. Only detailed genealogical research might narrow the focus down to a specific area, at which point one might be able to point to a specific settlement near one's ancestors' home and say "This is probably the place they were named after."


KACZANEK - KACZENIAK - KATZANEK

Hello! I just completed a family tree project of both my husband's side of the family and mine. His can be traced back about 500 years to England, Ireland and Scotland ... and mine fizzles out after about 100 years. I know that my grandfather came from Poland, the town of Brest-Litovsk, and emigrated to the US around the turn of the century. His name was changed at Ellis Island.
But here is my question to you: In the few documents I have that have his name on them, his surname is spelled differently each time. If I were to give you the spellings I have, are you able to just look at them and tell me which is a correct Polish spelling? Then at least I can have a definite surname to work with!
Here are the choices:
Katzenek
Katzanik
Katzonik
Katzenak
........and other combinations!
Which do you think is a Polish spelling? Thanks for your time!


I'd like to help you, but none of these is a correct Polish spelling. Poles don't use the letter combination TZ; they write that sound with the letter C. Usually names with TZ are German or English modifications of the original Polish name. My experience with such changes suggests the original name might have been Kacanek, Kacanik, Kacenik, Kaconik, or something similar. Also very possible are Kaczanek, Kaczanik, Kaczenik, Kaczonik; Germans in particular were prone to turn Polish C and CZ into TZ. Since most Poles emigrated by way of German ports, usually Bremen or Hamburg, it was not unusual for this contact with German officials to be reflected in the way the surname was spelled.

The problem is, none of those names is very common. I looked in the 10-volume Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland" -- which uses data from a 1990 government database on 94% of the population of Poland to list surnames, tell how many people bore those names, and how many lived in each province -- and the only one I found was Kaczanek. As of 1990 there were 18 Poles named Kaczanek, living in the following provinces: Czestochowa 1, Katowice 4, and Opole 13. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

There were 30 Poles named Kaczeniak, so that's a possibility too. They lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 4, Koszalin 3, Legnica 7, Slupsk 2, Tarnobrzeg 14.

Historically, similar names such as Kacanik and Kocanek and Koczonek appear in the records, but they seem to have died out in modern Poland. At least Kaczanek and Kaczeniak still exist, albeit in small numbers.

As I say, these names are pretty rare, so I have to wonder if the original name was something else that I haven't been able to reconstruct. That is a very real possibility. But numbers don't necessarily mean much, and Kaczanek and Kaczeniak do, at least, make sense in terms of phonetics and spelling; so you might try looking for those forms. According to Polish name experts, both would derive from the term kaczan, "cabbage stump, cob," presumably used at first as a nickname.


CEMPA - CĘPA - CIEMPA - CIĘPA - CZEMPA - CZĘPA

... I am attempting to locate any information while tracing my family history. My rather recently passed away, as has my grandfather, and I have no one left to provide me with any useful information on the surname "Ciempa". If there is any information you can provide that would assist me in my search, I would be most grateful. 

With this name it's important to realize there are several sounds in it that can be spelled two ways, so the name might be spelled different ways. The sound combination "emp" in Polish may be spelled that way, but the "em" can also be spelled with the nasal vowel written as an E with a tail under it. So Ciempa and Ciępa are both possible spellings. Also, the CI in Polish is a soft "ch" sound, whereas CZ is how they spell a harder, chunkier "ch." Ideally the two sounds should never be confused -- Poles distinguish them easily -- but in fact they sometimes are, because they sound similar. Thus with dialect influence, or simply misspelling or mishearing a name, Cz- instead of Ci- is also possible. So Czępa and Czempa could come into play as well. All these names would be pronounced roughly "CHEM-pah."

Also, in some dialects of Polish we sometimes see the "ch" sound of CZ alternate with the "ts" sound spelled C. So we can't rule out Cempa and Cępa (pronounced "TSEM-pah").

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 74 Polish citizens named Ciempa. They lived in the following provinces: Gdansk 2, Katowice 7, Krakow 9, Krosno 18, Rzeszow 5, Tarnów 9, Walbrzych 15, Wroclaw 9. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data shows that the name was most common in southern Poland. It may be before World War II it was found primarily in southeastern Poland, but after that war millions were forced to relocate from eastern Poland to the western part of the country. So it may be the name was originally found mostly in the southeast; but we don't have data to let us say that for sure.

There were 14 Poles named Ciępa, living in the following provinces: Kielce 6, Legnica 2, Rzeszow 4, Walbrzych 2. 

There were no Poles named Czępa, and 73 named Czempa, living in the following provinces: Gdansk 3, Katowice 63, Opole 7.

As of 1990 there were 561 Poles named Cempa, with the largest number, 303, living in Nowy Sacz province, in southcentral Poland; the rest were scattered all over in much smaller numbers. There were 25 named Cępa, in the provinces of Krakow (3), Rzeszow (7), Tarnow (15).

The common thread here is that all these names are most common in southcentral and southeastern Poland. This region was ruled by Austria from roughly 1795-1918, along with the western half of Ukraine, and was called Galicia. It seems to me pretty likely this name is associated mainly with the territory of former Galicia. I would make note of all these spellings, because it is entirely possible you might see any of them during the course of your research.

I have only one source that mentions any of these forms. It's a book specializing in names of southcentral Poland, and it suggests Czępa and Cępa both come from a verb cępieć or czępieć, which means "to squat, to labor over something, to doze off while sitting down." I can't find anything on cięp- or ciemp-, except one source that mentions another name beginning Cięp- that is a variation of a name beginning Częp-. 

With all this, I think it's at least plausible to say these are all variations of the same basic name, and probably began as a nickname for one who often squatted, or dozed while sitting. This is by no means certain, but it hangs together, and is consistent with the information I was able to find. 


BIEGOŃ - BIEGUN

... I was wondering if you could shed some light my last name and its possible variations: Biegun or Biegon. The name on the Wall of Honor at Ellis Island is Biegun but I've seen the name spelled Biegon on my grandparents' steamer trunk and also my father's birth certificate and marriage certificate. I ran into a Society for Bieguns, et al for Canada that had these and other variations. I don't speak or read French or Polish, so I couldn't read the history behind all the names or the function of the society. 
The Wall of Honor says my grandfather was from Warsaw, but I realize that might have been were he left from to come to the States. My father said his father was Austrian but my grandparents spoke Polish. They're buried in a Polish cemetery in outlying Niles, Illinois. 
Another interesting fact is that my grandparents are the only two Bieguns on the Ellis Island listing, but there's gobs of Bieguns in the U.S. and I also discovered, Canada. 


As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 1,874 Polish citizens named Biegun. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bielsko-Biala 1,155; Katowice 162; Krakow 129. The rest lived in much smaller numbers scattered all over the country. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 

What this data tells us is that this name is highly concentrated in southcentral Poland, which was on the western edge of the territory seized by Austria during the partitions. It comprised part of the Austrian province of Galicia, which ran from a little west of Krakow east to cover much of Ukraine. Most persons who came from this area were ethnic Poles or Ukrainians, but for official purposes they were classified as citizens of Austria or Austria-Hungary.

The name is pronounced something like "B'YEGG-oon." There is also a name Biegoń with an accent over the N, pronounced roughly "B'YEGG-oin." It was found mainly in the same areas as Biegun, and can be regarded as meaning virtually the same thing. These names sound similar enough that they could easily be confused, so that the same family might easily show up in records as Biegun one time and Biegon another. Technically they can be distinct names, but they mean the same basic thing and, as I said, could well be variations of the same name.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions Biegun in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. It comes from a verb meaning "to run," and biegun means more or less "the runner." In modern Polish it is also used in the meanings of "(North or South) Pole," also "rocker"; but in names, which developed centuries ago, "runner" is probably the relevant definition. We'd expect the name started as a kind of nickname for one who was noted for his ability to run, or perhaps one who ran away at some crucial moment. More than that we can't say.


STRAŻ

My name is Scott Straz and I saw your site on the internet. I was wondering if you could tell me anything about the Polish name Straz. 

In Polish this name is generally spelled with a dot over the Z. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 132 Polish citizens named Stra
ż
. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 38, Krakow 23, Rzeszow 13. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is not very common, and is found all over Poland, mainly in the south.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the noun stra
ż, "guard, sentry," related to the archaic noun straża, "vigil, alert." So the name probably began as a way of referring to one who stood guard in case of enemy attack, fire, and other dangers. In modern Polish the word straż is still used to mean "guard," and the fire department is called the straż pożarna, the municipal police are the straż miejska, and so forth. So the meaning hasn't changed a great deal, except that the noun these days is used as a collective term for the members of a group who guard against fires, crime, etc., whereas when used as a name it would refer to an individual who performed such duties.

 

  

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

FILIPKOWSKI - TYSZKA

... I've just begun to search for my origins. Paternally -- Tyszka and maternally Filipkowski. Any information would be helpful. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,805 Polish citizens named Tyszka. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Gdansk 148, Łomża 533, Ostrołęka 840, Suwałki 135, and Warsaw 374. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is most common in northcentral and especially northeastern Poland.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1427 and came from a kind of nickname for first names beginning with Ty-, especially Tymoteusz (Timothy). Poles often formed nicknames from popular first names by taking the first few sounds of the name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes. So they would take the Ty- from Tymoteusz, drop the rest, add -sz- to give a basic nickname, then add a diminutive such as -ek or -ka or -ko; the process is kind of like the one that gave us "Teddy" from Theodore. So to the extent you can say Tyszka means anything, it would mean "little Tim, Timmy," or something like that. It is pronounced roughly "TISH-kah."

As for Filipkowski ("fee-leep-KOFF-skee"), as of 1990 there were 2,656 Poles by that name. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of: Białystok 104, Gdansk 165, Katowice 109, Łomża 819, Olsztyn 193, Ostrołęka 103, Suwałki 478, and Warsaw 128. So the name is found all over the country but is most common in the northcentral part.

Surnames ending in -owski usually refer to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago. We'd expect Filipkowski to mean "one from Filipki or Filipków or Filipkowo" or some similar place name, all of which mean more or less the same thing, "[place] of Phil (little Philip)." Rymut notes that the place this name is most likely to refer to is Filipki in Łomża province, Kolno gmina, and in view of the name's distribution pattern, I think he's right. But it's worth mentioning that the surname just means literally "of the _ of little Philip," and thus in some cases it could conceivably mean "kin of Phil" or "one from Phil's place." In some cases the surname could refer to some other little farm or settlement known locally as Filipki or Filipków or Filipkowo, too small to show up on maps. Still, that Filipki is the most likely candidate, especially if you find your ancestors came from that general region.


KALĘBA - KALEMBA

...I was just curious if you could dig up any info on the name Kalemba Anything would be appreciated.

In Polish when you see -EM- before a consonant, it is usually a variation of the same name spelled not with -EM- but with the nasal vowel written as an E with a tail under it. So we would expect the name to be spelled Kalęba. That nasal vowel is pronounced like "em" when it comes before a B, so that Kalęba is pronounced "kah-LEM-bah." Thus Kalęba and Kalemba both make sense as reasonable ways of spelling this name.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 145 Polish citizens named Kalęba. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bielsko-Biala 29, Krakow 75. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. But this data tells us the name is found mainly in southcentral Poland.

What's odd is that usually the standard spelling is more common than the phonetic one, but as of 1990 there were 2,640 Poles who spelled the name Kalemba! The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice, 495, Krakow 330, Poznan 418. So this form of the name is also common in southcentral Poland, but also in the western part of the country. But in fact, the name is found in smaller numbers all over Poland; so a Kalemba could come from almost anywhere. There's nothing about the name itself that points toward any particular region of the country as a place of origin.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as far back as 1494, and comes from a dialect word kalęba that meant "thin old cow," and was also used colloquially to mean "fat woman." I'm not sure exactly how such a name got started as a surname, but it was probably by way of a nickname. In studying names I've come to realize humans can be very inventive when it comes to giving nicknames. And often a particular name makes perfect sense if you knew the guy or were there when it started, but otherwise it makes no sense. So with names given centuries ago we often have no way of figuring out exactly what they meant. About all we can say is what the word meant that the name came from, and then make plausible suggestions as to what the connection was that caused that name to "stick" to a particular guy and his family.


CZERMAK - PĘKALSKI - PENKALSKI

I saw the question and your response to the name Peczkowski - Penczkowski. My first question: is my name (Penkalski) a derivative , or is it from a different root? My second question regards my grandmother's maiden name, Czermak. Can you give any insight into the origin of this surname? 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 598 Polish citizens named Czermak. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bielsko-Biala 112, Katowice 48, Tarnow 116, Wroclaw 71. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is found all over Poland but is most common in the southcentral to southeastern part of the country.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1417 and comes from an archaic Polish word czermak, a red-winged bird. Another source mentions a possible link with the archaic word czerm, "worm, grub," and yet another points out the link to the Czech word ĉermak, meaning "redstart, a common European songbird," a term also used sometimes to refer to the devil (because of the association with the color red). There are many Polish names derived from words for birds, and I think that's the most likely connection with this name. It may have originated as a nickname because a person lived in a place where there were many of these birds, or he could imitate their singing, or his clothes reminded people of the birds' coloring -- almost any perceived similarity or connection could lead to such a nickname, which could then "stick" as a surname.

The name Penkalski would more often be spelled in Polish not with -en- but with the nasal vowel written as an E with a tail under it; it is pronounced much like EN, and thus names with Ę were often spelled phonetically with EN. So the standard Polish spelling of this name would be Pękalski, with Penkalski a less common but still reasonable spelling. Both would sound more or less like "pen-CALL-skee."

As of 1990 there were 350 Polish citizens named Penkalski, as opposed to 1,799 Pękalski's. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 180, Kielce 378, Przemysl 125, Tarnobrzeg 111, Wroclaw 250. So this name is found all over Poland but is also seen mostly in the southeastern part of the country.

This name comes from the same basic root as Pęczkowski, but that doesn't mean much; one root can generate a great many different names with different meanings, without implying anything more than a linguistic connection that is almost incidental. I think the most likely derivation for Pękalski is as an adjective from the noun pękal, "squat fellow, one with a big belly"; thus it would mean "kin of the squat fellow, kin of the paunchy fellow." It's also possible it comes from nicknames for ancient Polish names beginning with the root Pęk-, such as Pękosław; Pękal or Pękała could come from such names, in which case the surname just means "kin of Pękal" or "one from the place of Pękal." Only detailed research into a specific family's past might uncover enough info to establish exactly when the name developed and exactly what it meant. But I think "kin of the squat fellow, fellow with a big gut" is most likely how it got started.


DUNAJSKI - GADZAŁA - GADŻAŁA - ODACHOWSKI

Hello, I have been working on my family genealogy for some time now, I was hoping you may have some information concerning the following surnames: Dunajski, Odachowski, Kodsidak and Gadzala or Godzado. Any information would be extremely appreciated.

Dunaj (pronounced roughly like a combination of the English words "do" and "nigh") is the Polish name for the Danube river, from a Slavic root meaning "deep water." DUNAJSKI "doo-NIGH-skee") just means "of the Danube." It probably began as a name for someone who lived near the Danube or some other large river referred to as a dunaj, perhaps by way of comparison with the Danube. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 1,526 Polish citizens named Dunajski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Gdansk 488, Olsztyn 120, and Torun 154 (odd, since none of those cities are anywhere near the Danube!). Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

As of 1990 there were 415 Polish citizens named Odachowski (pronounced roughly "oh-dah-HOFF-skee"). The largest numbers lived in the northeastern provinces of Białystok, 140, and Łomża, 101; the rest were scattered in smaller numbers all over Poland. Names in the form X-owski usually refer to the name of a place beginning with the X part, with which the family was connected at one time; if they were noble, they owned it, and if not, they lived and worked there. We'd expect Odachowski to mean "one from Odachów or Odachowo" or some similar name. 

I can't find any places by those names on modern maps, but that's not unusual. The thing is, Polish surnames developed centuries ago, and often came from the name of a field or hill or little settlement, names used only by locals, that would be unlikely to appear on any map or in any gazetteer. So the place this name refers to may now be quite obscure, or may even have disappeared or renamed or absorbed into another community centuries ago. It's also very possible a slight vowel change is involved and the surname refers to any of several places now called Odechów or Odechowo, such as two villages named Odechów, in Konin and in Radom provinces (according to the 1975-1998 provincial setup).

As for Gadzala or Godzada, the latter looks and sounds odd, and no one by that name lived in Poland as of 1990, so I think Gadzala is more likely correct. In Polish it is usually spelled with a slash through the L. Gadzała is pronounced roughly "god-ZAH-wah." Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles], saying it appears in records as far back as 1440. He says named beginning Gad- usually come either from the verb gadac', "to talk," or from the noun gad, "reptile," also used colloquially to mean "worthless fellow." Gadzała might come from the latter meaning, but the suffix -ała often is added to verb roots to mean "one always doing _." So I think Gadzała most likely started out meaning "one who talks a lot," though that is just a guess (and it might also mean "one always acting like a reptile" -- I can't rule that out).

As of 1990 there were 678 Polish citizens named Gadzała, with the largest numbers living in the following provinces: Chelm 86, Krosno 71, and Lublin 158. So while the name is found all over Poland, it is most common in the southeastern part of the country. 

I should add that Rymut also mentions a name Gadżała (the dotted Z is pronounced like "zh" in "Zhivago"), from a Ukrainian dialect term that means "ankle." There were 90 Polish citizens named Gadżała in 1990, scattered all over (probably because of post-World War II forced relocations). This might be applicable in your case, since the dot over the Z and the slash through the L would be lost when the family immigrated to an English-speaking country. So the name probably means either "one who talks a lot" or "ankle," perhaps referring to one who had nice-looking ankles.

Kodsidak is a problem. None of my sources mention it, it doesn't look or sound right, and as of 1990 no one in Poland bore this name. That usually means either the name was very rare and died out after the family emigrated, or the spelling has been distorted somewhere along the line. I can't think of any name that could end up as Kodsidak. The only thing I can suggest is to keep doing research until you find a document with a reliable spelling and a name of the place of origin. If you find that, let me know and I'll see if I have anything on that name. 


CZARNECKI

Please provide some information on my Mother's maiden name: Czarnecki. Thanks for your help. I've been reading all the material you have put up on the internet and it is a greatly appreciated service. 

Czarnecki is pronounced roughly "char-NET-skee" in Polish. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 32,525 Polish citizens by that name. They lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one part of the country; a family named Czarnecki could come from anywhere.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it would usually refer to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago, a place with a name beginning Czarn-, from the root czarny, "black." The name is especially likely to refer to the village of Czarnca in Kielce province, Wloszczowa district, but you can't really count on that -- there are too many other cases where it referred to any of a number of villages named Czarne, Czarne, etc. 

I'm afraid that, as with most Polish surnames, the name itself just doesn't provide much in the way of useful leads for tracing a family, even though it refers to the name of a specific place. There are usually just too many places the name might refer to. The only way to determine anything with certainty is by way of genealogical research. Once you trace your ancestors to the specific area they came from, then you may be able to make a plausible connection with some nearby place with a name beginning Czarn-. But you have to narrow the search area down; as long as it could cover anywhere in Poland, you don't have much hope of success.


GRZYMAŁOWSKI

I am searching for the name Grzymalowski. Do you have any record of that name? 

In Polish this name is spelled with a slash through the L. Grzymałowski is pronounced roughly "g'zhih-mah-WOFF-skee."

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 88 Polish citizens by this name. They lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 8, Ciechanow 18, Gorzow 19, Ostrołęka 10, Radom 7, Skierniewice 2, Suwałki 22, Wroclaw 2. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says names beginning Grzym- usually come either from nicknames for the old Polish first name Pielgrzym ("pilgrim") or from the root seen in the verb grzmieć, "to thunder," used either as a verb root or as a name component in ancient pagan names such as Grzymisław, which means literally "thunder-fame." 

But in most cases we'd expect Grzymałowski to come from the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago, a place with a name along the lines of Grzymały or Grzymałowo. Such place names, in turn, would derive from the roots mention above, so that the names originally meant something like "place of Pilgrim" or "place of thunder, place of Grzymała (the one of thundering renown)." There are a number of places in Poland with names that fit, including several Grzymałys and at least one Grzymałów, all of which could generate this surname. Without detailed info on a specific family, there's no way to know which place the surname refers to in their particular case. Fortunately, if you do some research and have a little luck, you may uncover info that will shed light on this question. 


SCHULIST - SZULIST

... I am doing research into my family whose name has been misspelled for generations. It has three current spelling in North America including: Shulist, Schulist, and what may be more original Szulist. I have been unable to find your book in our library network and Chapters (Canada's equivalent to Amazon.com) is now tracking it down. In the event that the name is not covered in the book what could you tell me about it?

You're right that the original Polish spelling was probably Szulist. The other spellings are phonetic, in that people speaking other languages (English for Shulist and German for Schulist) attempted to spell the name the way it sounded to them, using the phonetic values they were used to. Polish SZ is pronounced much like our "sh" and German "sch," so all three spellings are pronounced the same, much like "SHOE-list."

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 714 Polish citizens named Szulist. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Gdansk 513, Slupsk 107. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. This data indicates the name is highly concentrated in north-central to northwestern Poland, in the area west and south of Gdansk.

There were also 23 Poles who spelled this name the German way, Schulist. They lived in the provinces of Elblag (8), Gdansk (11), and Szczecin (8) -- all in north-central to northwestern Poland, in the area that formerly comprised the German Empire's provinces of Pomerania, West Prussia, and East Prussia.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it is one of the many names that developed from nicknames or short forms of ancient Polish pagan names beginning with the root Sul-, from an archaic verb meaning "promise." Thus ancient Poles created names such as Sulislaw, literally "promise-glory," and Sulimir, "promise-peace." Like most Indo-European peoples, the ancient Poles tended to give their children names of good omen, so that calling a child Sulislaw meant something like "may he fulfill the promise of glory," i. e., "may he turn out to be glorious and renowned." The Poles often made nicknames of those ancient names, much as we turned "Edward" into "Eddie," by taking the first part of the name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes. Thus Sulislaw or Sulimir gives Suli-, and the suffix -st was added to give Sulist or Sulista. 

In Polish we often see names beginning with S often have variant forms beginning with Sz-, as the plain S sound turned into an "sh" sound; similarly names beginning with Sz- often have variants with S-. What's interesting is that in this case the form with Sz- seems to predominate; Sulist or Sulista is very rare.

The geographical distribution of this name suggests it may be associated primarily with the Kaszubs, a Slavic people who are closely related to the Poles but have their own customs and language (very similar to Polish in most respects). I could be wrong about this, but from what I've seen in the past I believe this name is found primarily among the Kaszubs, who live in the area near Gdansk, Slupsk, and north of Bydgoszcz -- which is where this name is most common. So you might want to learn more about the Kaszubs and see if this offers any leads. This Website has some information:

http://feefhs.org/kana/frg-kana.html 


PRAWDZIŃSKI

... Do you have a meaning or origin for the name Prawdzienski? I understand relatives in Poland do not use the -ski extension.

To get to your name ... , the basic root prawda means "truth," the stem of which is prawd-. The suffix usually added to this name is -iński, with accompanying softening of the root's final -d to -dzi-. So Prawdzin means literally "of truth," possibly used as a name for "a man of truth, a truthful man," or possibly referring to a place with a name derived from prawda. Prawdziński means literally "of the _ of truth." Prawdziński might refer to the kin of a man named Prawdzin, or to people coming from a place named Prawda, Prawdzin, Prawdziny, etc. As I said earlier, Prawdzieński is just a variant of Prawdziński. I would not ascribe any particular significance to the alternate spelling without evidence of such significance; dialect or regional differences in pronunciation can easily account for it.

When I can find a place with a name that fits, I tend to go with that simply because surnames tend to come from something concrete rather than abstract; there are exceptions, but my experience suggests Prawdziński is more likely to mean "one from the place called Prawda" than "kin of the truthful man." The only way to know for sure which rendering is appropriate is to do thorough genealogical research, which might uncover some record that sheds light on the exact derivation. In other words, Prawdziński could mean "kin of the truthful one," but it can also mean "one from Prawda, Prawdzin, Prawdziny," etc.; and the odds are that the latter is more likely to be the right rendering. Still, one can't be positive without genealogical research.

In any case, I found two places in Poland with a name that fits. It may be there were or are others that qualify. Surnames originated centuries ago, often referring to names that were used by the locals for a hill or field or settlement, names that are highly unlikely to appear on any map or in any gazetteer; sometimes these places have been absorbed by other communities, or have disappeared, or have been renamed. So these two Prawda's may not be the only candidates; but they're the only ones I could find.

If you'd like to see maps of these places, go to this Website:

http://www.jewishgen.org/ShtetlSeeker/loctown.htm