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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Pajączkowski

I should have thanked you sooner for looking up the frequency and distribution of the names I am currently researching. The information was indeed helpful! I am putting together an order from PGSA and will be getting your book. All my genealogy "stuff" has grown into quite a stack and one of my projects before the end of the year is to get another bookcase!

Each surname I am working on has taken on kind of a unique personality or identity and each has its own mystery or $64,000 question that I hope to resolve in my lifetime.

When I first posted my father's name on GenPol and said that he always told me he was from Piotrkow Trybunalski but that I had found legal documents showing the place of birth as Bugaj, GenPals (to borrow a lovely title from Tom Milke) gave me all kinds of suggestions. One member has come across a Bugaj in Galicia with the Pajaczkowski name turning up in parish records - which really blows my mind because my father always put the heat on my grandmother (his mother-in-law) for coming from "Galicia."

As I have mentioned before, I know that the name Pajaczkowski means or has to do with "spiders." Somewhere at the back of my mind I have been aware that Polish names could also reflect where a person came from: from the village of spiders, from the woods with bears, etc. I just never took a map and looked for a village named Pajaczkowo - that is until you gave me the "frequency and distribution information." Lo and behold, just a short distance WSW from Piotrkow Trybunalski is just such a place! I have spent hours and hours looking at the map of Poland over the years and never, never, never did I see this until now.

The FHC here has odd hours for working people so I don't get there very often, and when I do I don't get much more than 1-1.5 hours of research, which is next to nothing. There are so many things I want to look into and tend to feel discouraged. Thanks to GenPol and the wonderful people in it I have not given up!

Dziekuje bardzo za pomoc!

Benigne Pajaczkowski Dohms

Wojtasik

I'm searching for information about my ancestors whose family's name is : Wojtasik. They were born in Poland in 1906 and 1915, and I have no information left about their ancestors there.

I'm afraid I have no access to information on your ancestors. All I can tell you is what the name Wojtasik means. The ending -ik means "son of, kin of," so Wojtasik would mean "son of Wojtas, kin of Wojtas."

According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut's book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles], names beginning Wojt- can come either from the noun wójt, "local official, executive officer of a gmina," or from short forms of the first name Wojciech. Thus Wojtas could mean "kin of the wójt" or it could mean "kin of Wojciech."

So your ancestors may have been related to the local administrative official, or they may have been related to a man named Wojciech. There is no way to tell which is true -- only research into the family history might shed light on that.

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 and is now online as a searchable database), there were 6,267 Polish citizens named Wojtasik. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Kielce 625, Katowice 562, Czestochowa 461, Kalisz 429, Warszawa 428, Lodz 337, Wroclaw 304, and Bydgoszcz 300. 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 the country. It is particularly common in southcentral to southeastern Poland, but not to the extent that one can conclude a given Wojtasik family came from there. The truth is, a Wojtasik family could come from just about anywhere in Poland. Again, only by tracing the family's history in records might one determine where a particular Wojtasik family came from.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

 

Nowak

Nowak surname. Any info?

It's pronounced roughly "NO-vock," and it's the most common name in Poland, borne by over 220,000 Polish citizens as of 1990. It comes from the root seen in the adjective nowy, "new." Names in the form X-ak usually mean "the X guy, son of X." In this case Nowak is the Polish equivalent of the English surname Newman -- it just means "new guy." It could have referred to a person who had recently moved into the area, one who had begun a new life by converting to Christianity, one who had set up on a new farm, or something like that. One of the reasons it's so common may be that it can mean so many things. (It's also extremely common among Czechs, although they spell it with a v instead of a w).

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Pepliński

Yes, there is one more to add to the confusion. There is a town of Peplin in the Lesno parish in Bydgoszcz. The story goes that in 1665 Queen Maria Ludwika gave a grant of land to Micolaj Peplinski where this town of Peplin now is. Lesno is adjacent to the parish of Lipusz in Gdansk. Many Peplinski s in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan come from these two parishes as well as some nearby ones.

The only information in the gazeteer (entry #3) is that this town exists in the Lesno parish and that in 1693 Erasmus Janowski charged Wojciech Peplinski of Lendy and Skoszewo (villages in the parish of Lesno, my family is from Skoszewo) with letting his (Wojciech) cattle graze on his (Erasmus) land. Now I wonder if Wojciech is a rogue son of honorable Micolaj!

Blanche

Note: Blanche and I had been discussing how the surname Pepliński, borne by 3,151 Poles as of 1990, can come from Peplin, an alternate form of the name of the town of Pelplin in Gdansk province, or from the name of the village Pęplino in Słupsk province. Blanche's point is that there is yet another possible source for this name!

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



 

Pieritz

... Does anyone out there know what nationality the name PIERITZ is?

I can't find anything on that exact spelling, but to me it looks and sounds like a Germanized version of a Slavic name originally ending in -icz or -ice, something similar. Unfortunately, there are quite a few possible derivations, and I can't say which is most likely to be right. I think it is worth mentioning that the German name for the Polish town of Pyrzyce, in Szczecin province, is Pyritz -- and in terms of pronunciation that sounds awfully close to Pieritz. If I had to make an educated guess, I'd say this may be a Germanized name deriving ultimately from the name of the town Pyrzyce, or from the same linguistic root as that name.

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

Pliszka

Writing about the surname Plishka, my mothre's maiden name. [PS, Paul Plishka, the opera singer, is my 2nd, 3rd? cousin....same gr,gr,gndfather.]

On page 390 of the second edition you have Pliszka (a wagtail.)

My grandpa told us that Plishka (transliteration of the cyrillic) meant a pickax. I looked in my Uke-Eng. dictionary (by Andrusyshen) and sure enough that is what it has. Also means a wedge, apparently that used in splitting wood. Then I noticed that plish means baldness. Maybe a long time ago the kozaks used pickaxes to shave their head!

Would any of these concepts for the meaning of Plishka (Ukr. way) or Pliszka (Polish and German way) be useful in your next edition?

Somebody told my Mother a long time ago that they said a Plishka was a guy who made barrels or was the guy who strapped the metal around a barrel? I can't find a reliable documentation about this.

Unfortunately, none of my sources give anything very firm about this. It's not unusual, however, to find that Polish or Ukrainian words have more than one meaning. Consider "nut" in English. It can be a delicious edible item (full of fat, damn it!), a piece of metal with a particular shape and function, a person with a screw loose, etc. The same thing happens in other languages, and many Polish words have multiple meanings, some of which are slang or regional usages. The best we can do is note the standard meanings and, when possible, any other meanings we can learn about that might be relevant.

In any case, thanks for these notes! I have saved them and hope to incorporate them into the next revision of my book.

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

Wojda

Just wanted to see if you have any information on the origin or meaning of my ancestry surnames: Wojda and Lapinski [Lapinski is covered in a separate note.]

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 and is now online as a searchable database), there were 5,923 Polish citizens named Wojda, pronounced roughly "VOY-dah." They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the following provinces: Warsaw 1,559, Kielce 352, Siedlce 351, and Skierniewice 595. 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 most often in the central to east-central part of the country.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions Wojda in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as far back as 1478. As with many names, there are several possible derivations. One is from Hungarian wojda, which derives from Polish wojewoda," literally "war-leader," a term used for the ruler of a large area, also sometimes used as a Slavic equivalent of the Latin-based term "palatine" -- in Polish the term województwo, "province," originally meant "territory of a wojewoda." In fact we have the English term voivode from that word, although it's not used very often. In any case, a number of Polish surnames actually turn out to have been influenced by Hungarian, since there was a lot of contact between Hungary and Poland over the centuries. Wojda can come from the Hungarian adaptation of the Polish term for a palatine or war-leader.

But Rymut says Wojda can also come from first names beginning Woj-, such as Wojciech or Wojsław, which ultimately come from the noun woj, "warrior." Thus Wojda could have developed as a nickname or affectionate short form of Wojciech or Wojsław, much as Eddie developed from Edward in English.

Both derivations, from Hungarian wojda and from old given names beginning Woj-, are plausible. The only way to determine whether that derivation, or the one from place names, is more correct would be by tracing the family history as far back as possible. At some point you might uncover information that sheds light on the matter. Without more details of that sort, it is impossible to tell from the name alone which derivation applies in a given case.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Poling - Polink - Szczurowski - Żurowski

... I am trying to determine whether the following surnames are variants of each other or are unrelated common. ... 1) Żurowski (possibly from Lestowitza, [spelling], western Galicia), Szczurowski (Nowy Śacz), Zierowsky (Baronial family in Galicia), and Żurek Żurowski (it occurs in Radautz, Bukovina)

Names beginning with żur- are so common that I'd hesitate linking them without good evidence. For instance, in 1990 there were 2,572 Polish citizens named Żurowski, and 12,623 named Żurek. While they probably come from the same linguistic root, and in isolated cases a Żurek and a Żurowski family might have actually been linked at one time, in most cases the names probably rose independently in different times and places. As I say, without evidence that they're linked, I would normally expect them to be independent.

I would be a little surprised if Szczurowski fits in there - although you never know with Polish names, especially once non-Poles have messed with them. But the root of the name is szczur, "rat." There are places with names like Szczurowa, which would mean, essentially, "rat village," "rat town," and that's probably where the surname comes from, meaning "person from rat town." I wouldn't think people would be in a hurry to accept such a name, and I would expect any Żurek or Żrowski to object strenuously to any confusion of the names!

... Polinkiewicz (Sarny, Volhynia) and Polingewicz (Czerniowce, Bukovina) ...

Now these two could well be linked. From a linguistic standpoint, it would not be at all surprising if they were connected. Subtract the suffix "-[i]ewicz," meaning "son of," and you have Polink and Poling. In Polish, German, and many other languages a final g tends to devoice and be pronounced as k, so that Poling would sound much like Polink. So it is entirely credible that these two names could be different forms of the same name.

However, surname analysis seldom digs up anything definitive and incontrovertible. Once in a while a name will have some aspect that lets you make statements about it with certainty -- but not too often. The most I can do is make general statements based on the probability as my experience leads me to assess it. But in almost all cases, names don't carry enough information to let you draw definitive conclusions. At best, they confirm conclusions drawn on the basis of other, less ambiguous evidence and data.

Now that I've followed proper scholarly procedure by covering my butt, I hope this information is some use to you anyway!

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


 

Kawka

Do you have any information on my surname. I would be very interested to know.

In Polish Kawka is pronounced roughly "KOFF-kah." 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 and can be searched online), there were 5,831 Polish citizens by this name. They lived all over the country with largest numbers in the following provinces: Warsaw 685, Bydgoszcz 381, Konin 215, Lublin 540, Lodz 200, and Zamosc 621. 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 basically tells us a family by this name could come from anywhere in Poland; the name is not associated with any one region of the country.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], saying it appears in records as early as 1371. He says it comes from the noun kawka, which can be a diminutive of kawa, "coffee," but can also mean "the jackdaw," a kind of bird. I suppose an ancestor might have gotten a nickname meaning "little coffee," but surnames from words for birds are very common in Polish, and I think the jackdaw connection would prove true in most cases. It might mean an ancestor lived in an area where jackdaws were common, or could imitate their singing, or wore clothes that reminded people of their coloring -- some perceived association along those lines would probably account for the name.

Copyright © 2003 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Pastuła - Postuła

... I am a member of both the PGS of America, and PGS of Michigan. Yesterday a colleague of mine from PGSMI allowed me to use a copy of your most recent edition of Polish Surnames. Though I had seen it for sale at our meetings, I only flipped through the pages, and placed the book back on the table. However, having the book in hand to read, I find it most interesting, and thank you for the many Poles who have, and will read the material, which must have taken much labor to create.

I appreciate your kind words. I put a lot of work into the book, in hopes that it would prove helpful to many people for years to come. It's gratifying to hear from folks who think I did a good job!

... I now get to the point. My name is Bob Postula. My dad was Walter Postula. His brother was Stanley Pastula (note the Po... vs. the Pa.... I have identified that my true Polish name is Pastuła. I have previously had information regarding the distribution of Pastuła (which I have temporarily misplaced), and was very suprised in Polish Surnames to see that Postuła is in fact a valid name in Poland.

Yes, I think Postuła and Pastuła are both valid surnames. Rymut's book Nazwiska Polakow mentions Pastuła as coming from the basic root past-, having to do with animals' feeding (same root in English "pasture"). He does not, however, mention Postuła under the root post-, "to fast." I'm not sure if that's because the name is not all that common, or if because in many cases, as in yours, Postuła is just a variant of Pastuła. But personally I consider it likely there are at least some instances where Postuła developed as an independent name, not just a variation of Pastuła.

It is worth stressing that very often po- and pa- are just spelling variations of each other. The Polish o is not pronounced like the o in English "go," it is not as deep in the throat, and in fact often sounds very close to Polish "a" (as in English "father"). In fact, there are some words where pa- is a variant of the common Polish prefix po-, often with a diminutive or contemptuous connotation, e.g., pagórek, hillock, comes from the root gór-, "mountain," or pachołek, "page, farmhand," from the same root as chłop, "peasant." I doubt that's particularly relevant in this case because in Pastuła and Postuła the Pa-/Po- is not a prefix -- it's an integral part of the root, past-/post- + a suffix -uła, as opposed to po-/pa- prefixed to stuła.

Still, it is instructive that Poles recognize pa- and po- as closely related. It tends to confirm what I said earlier, that Postuła is, in many cases, a variation of Pastuła. But not necessarily in all cases!

... The purpose of this request is to impose upon you to please look up Postuła in Rymut's work and advise me of the distribution of the 81 Postułas. Thank you for your time, and effort.

The province breakdown for Postuła is as follows:

POSTUŁA: 81; Warsaw 3, Ciechanow 1, Jelenia Gora 1, Katowice 8, Kielce 26, Krakow 3, Legnica 5, Opole 1, Radom 30, Rzeszow 1, Wroclaw 2.

This distribution is interesting -- the numbers may not be large enough to constitute a valid statistical universe, but it does appear that the name hails primarily from the area of Kielce and Radom provinces, a little southeast of central Poland.

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

Ślizewski

... Can anyone tell me what the origin and meaning of the surname Slizewski is ?

Names ending in -ewski and -owski usually -- not always, but usually -- derive from place names ending in -ew[o/a] or -ow[a/o]. There are other possibilities, too, as suffixes often were dropped when -ski was added to a place name, so places with names ending in -owice or -owica or -ówka, etc., also must be considered. But the rule of thumb is, first look for a likely place with the endings -ew, -ewa, -ewo, -ow, -owa, -owo.

My maps show only one place that seems a likely candidate for this name: a village Ślizów in modern-day Kalisz province, about 5 km. south of the town of Syców, northeast of Wrocław; I would guess the records for this village were probably kept at the church in Syców, although I can't be sure.

There may well be other places this name came from, too small to show up on maps, or now bearing other names, or absorbed into other communities. But this is the only place I can find that seems the likely source of the surname Slizewski. By the way, the ultimate source of names beginning with Sliz- is the root śliz, a thick liquid, also (?) the loach.

As of 1990 there were 137 Polish citizens named Ślizewski, scattered in various provinces, with the largest concentration by far in the province of Gdansk (95). This suggests in most cases the surname may have come from some other source than the Ślizów I mentioned above, since the provinces of Gdansk and Kalisz are a fairly good distance apart.

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

Łapiński

Just wanted to see if you have any information on the origin or meaning of my ancestry surnames: Wojda and Lapinski [Wojda is covered in a separate note.]

Lapinski in Polish is usually spelled with a slash through the L and an accent over the N, so it should look this this when typed - Łapiński.

Łapiński is pronounced roughly "wah-PEEN-skee." As of 1990 there were 8,410 Polish citizens by this name. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 899, Białystok 2,731, Łomża 505, and Suwałki 460. This data indicates the name is found all over the country but is concentrated to a significant extent in northeastern Poland.

Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions this surname in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles], saying it can have two derivations. It can refer to the name of a village or settlement or other place the family was connected with at some point centuries ago, with a name beginning Łapin- or something similar. He specifically mentions Łapino in Kolbudy district of former Gdansk province as one place that some Łapińskis are known to have come from. But there are other places with similar names that this surname could refer to.

Also this surname can come directly from the root seen in the noun łapa, "paw," and in the verb łapać, "to grab, paw." Łapiński could be interpreted literally as "[kin] of the paw" or "[kin] of the one who grabs." So there are at least two possible derivations.

I would add this: since this surname is especially common in northeastern Poland, it is worthwhile checking to see if there is a specific place it might refer to in that area. There are several villages with the name Łapy plus a second part near Białystok -- Łapy-Dębowizna, Łapy-Pluśniaki, Łapy-Szołajdy -- as well as a village with the simple name Łapy. Since they're very close to each other, chances are at one time they were all part of one big settlement or estate, but later were subdivided and distinguished by adding a second part to the name.

I must say that if a given Łapiński family does turn out to have roots in northeastern Poland, "one from Łapy" is a very plausible origin for this surname. But if a family turned out to come from the Gdansk area, a connection with that village of Łapino becomes more likely. And you never know when the name may simply have referred to the kin of a guy with big hands, or one who tended to grab for everything. As I said, only research into a specific family's history might clear that up... But if your research leads you back to northeastern Poland, I'd say "one from Łapy" is a very good possibility.

If you'd like to see a map of where Łapy is, go to www.pilot.pl and enter LAPINO and then click on "Pokaz miasto." It will show links to Łapy and Łapy-Kołpaki, another nearby village. They all are right together, so just click on the first one. You'll get a map showing the Łapy area, as well as a smaller map showing where it is located in terms of Poland as a whole. You can print the map, save it, zoom in, etc.

If the Łapino near Gdansk turns out to be relevant to your name, you can get a map of it, too, at www.pilot.pl, by searching for LAPINO. It actually shows up as both LAPINO and LAPINO KARTUSKIE ("the Lapino near Kartuzy"). Click on either one and you'll get a map.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Sroka - Sroki - Szeroki

... Does someone have access to Rymut's book? If so, could you look up the name Szeroki / Seroki / or Sroki and tell all info. listed for those name(s)? I am trying to find the areas where they lived.

Szeroki is far less common than I would have expected. The book lists both Szeroki and Szeroka, and it's reasonable to assume they are simple masculine and feminine forms, respectively, and should be combined. Here is the data if you combine them:

SZEROKI: total 74; breakdown by province: Białystok 10, Katowice 10, Legnice, 10, Leszno 9, Opole 7, Rzeszow 1, Tarnow 1, Torun 3, Wroclaw 20, Zielone Gora 3

Seroka is listed (but no entry for Seroki!); there were 1,452, living all over the country. The provinces with the largest numbers were: Warsaw 127, Ciechanow 52, Elblag 64, Gdansk 217, Lublin 158, Olsztyn 57, Ostrołęka 110, Torun 61, Zamosc 129. But as I say, there were smaller numbers in virtually every other province.

There was no listing for Sroki. Sroka is listed, and is quite common, with 13,678 bearers, again living all over the country. The largest numbers were in the provinces of: Czestochowa 496, Katowice 1,625, Kielce 743, Krakow 1,886, Nowy Sacz 402, Poznan 728, Rzeszow 529, Tranow 980, Wroclaw 523.

The question here is whether we're dealing with a name from the adjective szeroki, "wide, broad," or from the root sroka, "magpie." The fact that there is no Seroki makes me wonder if Seroka is simply a variant of the noun sroka, not a feminine form of a variant of the adjective meaning "wide." Szeroki/Szeroka, on the other hand, are probably from the adjective. Rymut's book on Polish surname derivations doesn't say, and I could be dead wrong, but that's my best guess.

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

Bondel - Wiciński

... Within the past year I've become acquainted with some distant relatives from Poland... He insists that the Wicinski family is Polish nobility...originally coming from an area near Lithuania and then fleeing, while wounded from some war around 1840 or so, to the area near Tarnobrzeg. Do you have any information about Wicinski? ...

Wiciński probably derives ultimately from a short form of a first name such as Witold or Wincenty; most likely it comes directly from a place named Wicin, Wicina, or Wicie (there are several), meaning a person who came from that place, and the place in turn got that name because it was owned or founded by a fellow named Witold, Wincenty, etc. It is a pretty common name in Poland. As of 1990 there were 1,936 Poles with this name; they lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (172), Bydgoszcz (148), Lodz (110), Lublin (144), Płock (202), Radom (103), and Tarnobrzeg (122). I don't see any real pattern to that distribution. Most likely the name arose in several different areas independently, and as I said, you'd expect it originally indicated some association of a person with a place named Wicin, Wicina, Wicie, etc.

Your particular Wicinski family may well have been noble, but I have no way of knowing. When anyone shows interest in Polish nobility, about which I know little. The editor of White Eagle, the Journal of the Polish Nobility Association Foundation, has an extensive library on European and especially Polish nobility. He does not do genealogical research, he is a heraldic artist by avocation. But he will look in his library to see if he can find anything that might be applicable. If he spends any significant amount of time researching for you, it would be only right to offer him some monetary compensation (from what I hear, his rates are quite reasonable).

... Also, my one grandfather's surname was Bondel. He was from the village of Kepice near Radom. (I understand there is more than one Kepice) He was 1/8th French. I've met other people of Polish descent with French surnames, is this common? ...

As of 1990 there were some 176 Poles named Bondel. The list of provinces they lived in is fairly short, so I will repeat it: Warsaw 17, Gdansk 1, Gorzow 1, Katowice 16, Kielce 2, Koszalin 3, Legnica 1, Lublin 66, Opole 4, Radom 24, Siedlce 14, Skierniewice 4, Suwałki 9, Szczecin 1, Walbrzych 4, Wroclaw 9.

It is not extremely common to find Poles with French surnames, but it happens often enough that scholars are not surprised when they run into it. Often French names have changed spelling to fit the way they sound according to Polish phonetic values, rather than French (e. g., Descourt -> Deskur). Poland has always been a country willing and eager to maintain ties with the West, so it's not too unusual to find Poles with names of French or Italian origin (though, as I say, sometimes you'd never know by the spelling!).

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

Parajewski - Waselenczuk - Zerde - Zherdya

... My research into my paternal Polish ancestors is going well however, I have run into some problems with my maternal Grandfather who was Ukrainian. He had listed on his petition for naturalization that he was born in Zerde. He had also mentioned to the family that when he was a boy he often crossed into Poland on family business (giving the impression that he lived rather close to what would be considered the Polish border). He spoke Ukrainian, Polish and Russian. I have not had any luck in finding a village, town or city named Zerde. Can anyone be of assistance on this?

I looked at a map of Ukraine and found only one place that seemed a likely candidate from a linguistic point of view: Zherdya, a little village a few km. northwest of Kam'anets'-Podil's'kiy, which the Poles called Kamieniec Podolski. This name could easily be modified into Zerde. The problem was, this place is nowhere near the Polish border.

But then the 3rd cup of coffee kicked in and my brain started to function. I said to myself, "You idiot, if she's talking about her maternal grandfather living there when he was a boy, it's not the current Polish border that matters. Where was the border earlier this century?" I looked at a historical map, and BINGO! Up until 1939 the Polish border extended east into western Ukraine, to within a few kilometers of Kamieniec Podolski (earlier in history, the border was even farther east, but by this century this land was no longer part of Polish territory). So if your grandfather lived near Zherdya from, say 1918-1939, the Polish border would, indeed, have been only a good walk away, maybe no more than an hour, if that much. So if I were a betting man, I'd bet good money Zherdya is the place you're looking for.

... Also, my Grandfather entered the U.S. through Canada in 1916. He settled in Cleveland, Ohio where he married and had a family. However, he was an illegal until 1945. On his petition he stated that he entered the U.S. under the name Vasil Parajevski but that his true name was Walter (Sava) Waselenchuk. I know that Waselenchuk is a Western Ukraine surname however, Parajevski sounds more Polish than Ukrainian to me. Does anyone have any insight into the surname Parajevski?

Waselenchuk is indeed a Ukrainian name, meaning basically "little Vasily's son." Parajewski could be Polish, linguistically it makes sense, but as of 1990 there was only one Parajewski in Poland, living in the province of Lodz. But the question is, how reliable is that spelling? We could very well be talking about Porajewski, the a and o are often confused. Just for the heck of it, I looked in the Slownik geograficzny, and found there was a village called either Parajówka or Porajówka in Kamieniec Podolski district -- in other words, not far from Zherdya -- served by both Catholic and Orthodox parishes in Czarnokozince, with some 420 inhabitants as of the turn of the century; the village took its name from its founder, Bishop Kobielski, who was of the Poraj clan and bore the Poraj coat of arms.

Linguistically speaking, Parajewski could very well have started as meaning "person from Parajówka or Porajówka." In Polish we often see names from -ówka ending up with adjectival forms in -ewski in Polish, even if -owski might technically be more correct, so that's not a major problem. I strongly suspect that's the origin of this surname, "person from Porajówka." It could be regarded as either Polish or Ukrainian, because in this particular case there would not be a major difference in how the name sounded, regardless of which language it came from. Most likely a more accurate rendering, however, would be a Ukrainian form, Porayevs'kiy or Parayevs'kiy (which would be spelled Porajewski or Parajewski by Poles), simply because the place from which the name derived is now in Ukraine and presumably ethnic Ukrainians were more numerous there than Poles. But as I said, in this case it doesn't make a dime's worth of difference, there would be very little difference in sound no matter which language the name started in.

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

gazetteer

Jaworski

JAWORSKI is pronounced roughly "yah-VORE-skee," and it is a common name among Poles. 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 44,104 Polish citizens by that name. They lived all over the country, with no particular concentration in any one area; a Jaworski family could come from anywhere. .

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He explains that it appears in records as early as 1386, and comes from the Polish noun jawor, "sycamore." Jaworski is actually an adjective meaning "of the sycamore." Thus it might have begun as a way of referring to an ancestor who lived in or near a particularly prominent stand of sycamores; or he may have sold or worked with sycamore wood, or something along those lines. Almost any connection with sycamores could allow this name to get started.

But in most cases it probably refers to a family's connection with any of a number of villages, settlements, etc. named Jawor, Jawory, Jaworze, etc. -- which, in turn, meant something like "place of the sycamores." There are places by those names all over Poland, which explains why the surname Jaworski appears all over Poland. The only way to tell which particular Jawor or Jawory or Jaworze your family came from would be through genealogical research, which would help you pinpoint exactly where in Poland your family came from, and thus would let you focus on finding a place with a name beginning Jawor- in that specific area, rather than having to search all over the country.

I should add that the same basic word for "sycamore" appears in other Slavic languages, so that this surname could also appear among, oh, Czechs or Slovaks or Ukrainians. Normally we'd find the name spelled JAVORSKY in those cases -- as a rule, the spelling JAWORSKI would generally be associated with Poles. But spellings are not always consistent, and if a Czech named Javorsky had papers filled out by a German or Polish official, that official might spell the name the way he was used to, JAWORSKI (Polish) or JAWORSKY (German). In other words, without more info it's impossible to be certain this name is Polish in a given case. But usually it would be.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bartodziejski

Have you any info relating to the name Bartodejski - later changed to Bardodej and then to Bartodej (after my ancestors came to the US)?

It's virtually certain Bartodejski is a variation of the name usually spelled Bartodziejski. That name is pronounced roughly "bar-toe-JAY-skee." Without detailed research into the family history I can't say why or how it came to be spelled Bartodejski (which would sound more like "bar-toe-DAY-skee"). It could be simply a misspelling or misreading; or maybe the name was simplified to make it easier for English-speakers; or maybe the family came from an area in Poland where the local dialect avoided the Polish tendency to turn simple D into the j-sound spelled DZI. Any of these could be a factor. But however you slice it, I feel 99.9% confident the name we're talking about is Bartodziejski.

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 96 Polish citizens named Bartodziejski (and none named Bartodejski). The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Gdansk 10, Lodz 14, Sieradz 13, Slupsk 13, and Wroclaw 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. This data tells us the name is found all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1488, and refers to any of a number of villages named Bartodzieje (which in turn comes from the noun bartodziej, "beekeeper"). So Bartodziejski started out meaning "one from Bartodzieje," which in turn means "[place of] the beekeepers." The only way to establish which Bartodzieje your ancestors came from would be through detailed genealogical research; the surname alone gives us no clue.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bednarz - Bednorz

I've been doing my family's research for many years, but no one here knows enough to know nor remembers what certain names may represent.

The name I would like to submit is Bednorz. If this helps any, the Bednorz's came in 1854/5 to Panna Maria, Texas, and so most likely came with the Schleisen's (sorry on the spelling).


Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. Bednorz is pronounced roughly "BED-nosh," and is a distinctively Silesian variation of standard Polish Bednarz, which means "cooper." Many names in Silesia (or Schlesien in German, Śląsk in Polish) take -a- in standard Polish and turn it into -o-, so it's quite normal to find Bednarz become Bednorz in that part of the country. The name just means the same as Cooper in English.

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 1,556 Polish citizens named Bednorz, with the largest numbers in the southwestern provinces of Katowice, 1,159, and Opole, 229. 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. (By comparison, there were 13,140 Polish citizens who spelled the name Bednarz).

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Duszyński

Any information [about Duszynski] welcome. Thank you...

In Polish Duszynski is spelled with an accent over the N, and is pronounced roughly "doo-SHIN-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 6,436 Polish citizens by that name. They lived all over the country, with no significant concentration in any particular area..

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says that the name generally would refer to the name of a place with which the family was associated at some point centuries ago, a place with a name beginning Dusz-. He specifically mentions Duszno, in Trzemeszno district of Bydgoszcz province, in northwestern Poland. When he mentions a specific place, it's because research done by scholars has conclusively linked the name with that place; it does not rule out possible connections with other places with similar names.

So Duszyński would generally mean "one from Duszno," or possibly some other place with a similar name. Offhand, however, I could find no other place with a name that fits. So I suspect "one from Duszno" would turn out to be applicable in most cases. At one time the name may have been associated with a noble family that owned an estate at Duszno; but as the centuries passed it came to be used as well by peasants living in that area, or working for the original noble Duszyńskis. I have no sources that conclusively prove that's what happened; but it is what usually happened with surnames derived from place names.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Gołąbek - Gołombek

I am interested in knowing the meaning of the surname- Golombek.

This is an Anglicized spelling of a name that in Polish is written Golabek, with a tail under the A and a slash through the L. Gołąbek is pronounced roughly "go-WOME-beck." The Ł is pronounced like our W, and the Ą, when it comes before B or P, sounds like "om." So even though it seems odd to us, Gołąbek is pronounced that way.

Names in Poland were often spelled more than one way because some sounds can be written more than one way. It's not at all unusual to see Ą spelled -ON- or -OM-, so that even in Poland you sometimes see this name spelled Gołombek. Then when Poles came to English-speaking countries the slash through the L was often just dropped, since English-speakers had no clue what to make of it. That's how Gołąbek can logically and sensibly come to be modified to Golombek.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1399 and comes from the noun gołąbek, which means literally "little pigeon." It may not sound complimentary in English, but in Polish it probably began as an affectionate nickname, with no slight or hint of mockery intended. Poles would think that's a sweet thing to call a nice person, one they were fond of.

Incidentally, the plural of that noun is gołąbki~, which is the name of a dish Poles are very fond of, a stuffed cabbage leaf. You often see the name spelled a jillion different ways, all pronounced roughly "go-WOMP-kee." It means "little pigeons," probably because there was something about the shape originally that reminded people of little pigeons (?). Whenever Polish food is served at a restaurant or dinner somewhere, you can be sure gołąbki will be on the menu. But it's unlikely the surname and the food have any connection -- it's probably just coincidence the same term ended up applied in such different ways.

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 5,060 Polish citizens named Gołąbek. They lived all over the country, with no significant concentration in any one area. There were also 333 Poles who spelled it Gołombek. If I were you I'd keep my eyes open for either spelling, as a given family might appear as Gołąbek in one record, Gołombek in another; spelling was often inconsistent. But for all intents and purposes, these are just spelling variations of the same basic name.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Harasim - Harasym - Harazim

My last name is Harasim, the only place I’ve seen my name is on a list of awards for Virtuti Militari, no other place. I would greatly appreciate any help.

Harasim is pronounced roughly "hah-RAH-sheem," and it developed as one of several different forms from a first name more common among Ukrainians (possibly also Belarusians) than Poles. Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], and says it comes ultimately from Greek Gerasimos, from a term meaning "honor, privilege."

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 1,765 Polish citizens named Harasim, another 144 who bore the spelling Harasym, 511 who spelled it Harazim, and so forth. The largest numbers of those who spelled it Harasim lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 112, Białystok 99, Lublin 165, Siedlce 205, Suwałki 293, and Zamosc 256. 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, as we'd expect from its origin, the surname tends to be most common in eastern Poland, near the border with Ukraine and Belarus.

So about all this name tells us is that you had an ancestor named Harasim, who was probably of Ukrainian descent. Since Poles and Ukrainians have mixed a great deal over the years, it's not at all odd that this name is found in Poland; but I strongly suspect it's also fairly common in Ukraine. However, I have no sources of data for that country.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Jałowiec

My surname is Jalowiec, and I wasn't able to find anything about it on your Website (which is excellently done, by the way). I've come to the conclusion (though it may be wrong) that the -owiec was at one point -owicz. I was wondering if you had any information regarding the name.

This is a perfect example of how tricky name origins can be. The suffixes -owiec and -owicz can often mean more or less the same thing, or the meanings of words X-owicz and X-owiec will generally prove to be related in some obvious way. So your reasoning is perfectly logical -- and the conclusion is probably wrong, defeated by a simple fact you could not have foreseen!

Jalowiec in Polish is usually spelled with a slash through the L and which is pronounced much like our W. So it's Jałowiec, pronounced roughly "yah-WOVE-yets" (the second syllable rhymes more or less with the English words "trove" and "grove," although the Polish O isn't quite as long and deep as in those English words).

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], and explains that the basic root is seen in the verb jałowieć (accent over the c), which means "to become barren, sterile," and in the adjective jałowy, "barren, sterile." So it would be perfectly natural to conclude Jałowiec would mean "son of the barren one, kin of the barren one." And in fact I suppose in isolated cases that is what the name meant (especially if it was meant ironically, as in "son of the supposedly barren one").

But it happens there is a noun jałowiec that somehow came to be used as the name for the juniper tree (perhaps because the juniper can grow on ground otherwise seemingly barren?). Since there is that specific noun that sounds just like the name, we'd have to figure in most cases the surname did point to some association with that tree. That's the conclusion Rymut comes to.

So a Jałowiec ancestor presumably lived near a prominent juniper, or did something with juniper berries -- something of the sort. Clearly it made sense to those who knew him to call him "Juniper," and the name came to be applied to his kin as well, until it became established as their surname. We cannot absolutely rule out the interpretation "son/kin of the barren one," but it's not likely to be right in most cases. After all, how often would a barren one have a son? And besides, saying Jałowiec has nothing to do with "juniper" is like saying the English surname Baker has nothing to do with bakers! When the name and the common noun match exactly, there will usually be a connection.

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 722 Polish citizens named Jałowiec. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Czestochowa 48, Katowice 139, and Tarnow 196. 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 tends to be most common in southcentral to southeastern Poland, although not exclusively.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Kelijan - Kieljan - Kilian - Killian

Have you any information on the meaning or origin of the surname Kilian? Alternate spellings with which I am familiar would include Killian, Kieljan, Kelijan.

I have been unable to locate any information on the name but I have been told that it is an old Polish name. I know that there are Kilians living in Krakow and my family came from southern Poland.


In Polish the name is pronounced much as it is in English, roughly "KEEL-yahn" or "kee-LEE-yahn." 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 3,232 Polish citizens by this name. They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the following provinces: Gdansk 147, Katowice 249, Kielce 181, Lublin 145, Opole 206, Rzeszow 141, and Tarnow 558. 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 does indicate that the name tends to be more common in the south than in the north, but there are Kilians living all over the country. The Directory says there were 55 living in Krakow province.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the first name Kilian, which is thought to be of Celtic origin. It appears in Poland as early as the 13th century, and its variants include Kilijan and Kielijan. So all the name signifies is that an ancestor went by this name.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Kondratowicz

My great-grandmother came from Poland with my grandfather and his sister. Their surname was Kondratowitcz. That is the spelling on my great-grandmothers holy card from her death. I have heard it spelled Kondratowicz. They shortened it to Conrad in the US.

Any help you can give me with this would be great.


The standard spelling of this name in Polish would be Kondratowicz, pronounced roughly "con-drah-TOE-veech." The -owicz part means "son of," so it means "son of Kondrat." Name experts argue over that name; some say it comes from ancient Greek Kodratos, later adapted into Latin as Codratus and Condratus. It may actually have started out originally as Latin Quadratus, "square." Other experts dismiss that, saying it is a variation of the Germanic name we know as Conrad (which appears historically in a variety of forms, including Kondrad, Kondrat, Kindrat, Kunrat, etc.).

Whichever origin is technically correct, I think there's no question at some point people began to associate this name with German Konrad and English Conrad. When your ancestors changed it to Conrad in the U.S., they were picking the English name that most closely corresponded with their Polish name. Kondratowicz means "son of Conrad," just as Conrad does in English. So there was a good reason for them to change it to what they did.

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 2,086 Polish citizens by this name. They lived all over the country, with some concentration in the nrotheastern provinces of Białystok, 163, Olsztyn 232, and Suwałki 248. 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 a family by this name could come from anywhere in Poland, although northeastern Poland is just a little more likely than anywhere else in the country.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Kowalewicz

I recently married a man whose last name is Kowalewicz. I did not see it in your list of polish names. Can you tell me anything about it or where I can look?

Kowalewicz, pronounced roughly "ko-vah-LEH-veech," is one of about a jillion Polish surnames from the noun kowal, "smith." The -ewicz part means "son of," so Kowalewicz means "son of the smith" -- much like the English surname Smithson.

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 1,297 Polish citizens by this name. They lived all over the country, with no particular concentration in any one area. A Kowalewicz family could come from practically anywhere.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Lasowski

I am hoping you can give me any information on the last name of Lasowski. This is my mothers maiden name and I am trying to gather as much information as I can on it. I would also appreciate any information you could give me as who to go to in researching the history or genealogy of this particular name. My grandfather says we are of noble lineage, my grandmother would just roll her eyes at him.

In Polish Lasowski is pronounced roughly "lah-SOFF-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 71 Polish citizens by that name. They were scattered in small numbers all over the country, with no significant concentration in any one area.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the root in the noun las, "forest, woods." It would mean basically "of the woods," and as such probably began as a reference to a place where the family lived. It might very well refer to a specific village or settlement named Lasy or Lasow or Lasowo or Lasowice, but the only way to establish that is through detailed research into the history of the specific family in question. From the name alone there's no way to tell.

Surnames in the form X-owski mean literally "of the X's _," where the blank is to be filled in with something so obvious it didn't need to be spelled out -- usually "kin" or "place." So in some cases X-owski can mean "kin of [the] X." But most often it refers to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago, a place name beginning with the X part, which may have various suffixes that were detached before the -owski was added. If the family was noble, they owned an estate there; if not, they lived and worked there. So while X-owski can just mean "kin of X," it generally means "one from the place of X." That's why I say the name probably means "one from Lasy or Lasow or Lasowo or Lasowice." There are quite a few places with names that qualify, which is why it's impossible to say which one your particular Lasowskis came from.

At one time centuries ago anyone with a surname ending in -owski was noble. In fact, anyone with any kind of surname was noble. But by the 17th century peasants were beginning to use surnames, too, and from then on the form of the name tells us nothing about the social status of the people bearing it. So if you have records from the 1500s, say, mentioning your Lasowskis, it's virtually certain they were nobles who took their name from the name of their estate, which had a name beginning Lasow-. But by the 1700s Lasowski could mean nothing more than "one from Lasy or Lasow, etc."

I'm afraid genealogical research is almost always a do-it-yourself project, unless you're pretty wealthy and are willing to pay a professional to do it for you. I don't know anyone who does that, and don't know the names of any researchers; but you can find some online if you search. For instance, there's a list of pros on Cyndi's List at http://www.cyndislist.com/poland.htm#Professional.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Marszałek

I was wondering if you could help me out with the surname Marszalek.

Marszalek in Polish is written with a slash through the L, which sounds like our W, so Marszałek sounds like "mar-SHAH-weck." It comes from the noun marszałek, "marshal, medieval administrator of the royal court; also a military rank." So the surname started out indicating an ancestor was a marshal, or had some close connection to one.

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 13,584 Polish citizens by this name MARSZAŁEK, living in large numbers all over the country. A family by this name could come from practically anywhere in Poland.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Pijarski

It [Pijarski] seems to be a famous name but not much history on it.

In Polish this name is pronounced roughly "pee-YAR-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 141 Polish citizens named Pijarski. The largest number, 91, lived in the southeastern province of Radom; 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, so I can't tell you how to find that info. But this information does suggest the Radom area is where one is most likely to find this name.

None of my sources discuss the origin of this name, but I think it pretty clearly comes from the Polish adjective pijarski, which means "of the Piarists," referring to a Catholic religious order that founded and maintained schools in Europe. I don't think they're much heard of in America, though apparently they have at least one school in Kentucky (http://www.geocities.com/piarist/). In Polish the surname Pijarski surely meant something like "[kin] of the Piarist" or perhaps "[student] of the Piarists," referring to one who studied at a Piarist school. In other words, it refers to some association of an ancestor with the Piarists, either with an individual or an institution connected with the order. Only detailed research into the history of the individual family might uncover more information on the exact nature of the connection.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Pisarski

If you have any information on the Pisarski family name then you can e-mail the information to me. My great-grandfather was born in Poland and I would love to know where the name comes from.

In Polish Pisarski is pronounced roughly "pee-SAR-skee," with the second syllable rhyming more or less with "car." 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 4,310 Polish citizens by this name. They lived all over the country, with no significant concentration in any one area.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it's simply an adjective from the noun pisarz, "scribe, clerk," and thus would mean literally "of the scribe." It can mean "kin of the scribe, kin of the clerk." It can also refer to family origins in any of a number of places with names beginning Pisar-, which would mean "[place] of the scribe." In other words, it could mean "one from Pisary" or "one from Pisarki" and so on.

So it indicates a connection of the family with either a scribe or clerk or a place named for a connection with a scribe or clerk. Only detailed genealogical research into the background of a specific family might clarify which meaning applies in their particular case, and indicate w

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Pyzik

My Grandfather 's Last name was Pyzik. I appreciate any insight you can provide.

Pyzik is pronounced roughly "PIZH-eek," with the vowel in the first syllable as in "ship" or "fizz." 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 pyza, "chubby-faced person." So Pyza would have started as a nickname for one with a chubby face, and Pyzik would have developed as a way of referring to his kin; in most cases we'd interpret it as "son of the guy with the chubby face."

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 2,149 Polish citizens with this name, with the largest numbers in the following provinces: Katowice 221, Krakow 318, Lublin 298, and Tarnow 372. So the name is found all over Poland, but tends to be particularly common in the area from southcentral to southeastern Poland.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Rybak

I would very much appreciate knowing the meaning and origin,of the name Rybak, and the province that Rybak is most likely from.

I'm afraid there's no way to say what province Rybak comes from, because the name simply means "fisherman," and is found all over Poland. As of 1990 there were 14,194 Polish citizens named Rybak (pronounced roughly "RIB-ock"), living all over the country, with no particular concentration in any one area. So a family by that name could come from anywhere in Poland; and the name simply indicates that about the time surnames were becoming established, an ancestor was a fisherman.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Smoliński - Smolinsky

Thank you so much ! This is amazingly helpful. I'm sorry to trouble you again, but another name has come up: Smolinski. I'd be ever so grateful to find out anything about this name.

Smolinski in Polish is spelled with an acute accent over the N and is pronounced roughly "smo-LEEN-skee."

This name comes from ultimately from the noun smoła (that it is not plain l, but rather the Polish hard l with a slash or crossbar through it). That noun means "tar, pitch," and Smoliński is adjectival and could be interpreted as meaning "of the one of tar." The same noun in virtually the same form exists in other Slavic languages such as Russian, so we cannot be absolutely certain the name is of Polish origin. This spelling, however, would generally be associated with Poles; Russians, for instance, would be more likely to show up as Smolinsky.

Usually names ending in -iński or -yński turn out to refer to place names ending in -in or -ino or -no or -na. So while this name could mean nothing more than "kin of the tar fellow" -- perhaps referring to an ancestor who worked or dealt with tar professionally, or looked as if he did (i. e., was quite dirty) -- in most cases we would expect this name to mean "one from Smolino" or "one from Smolna" or any of a number of places in Poland and the nearby countries with names beginning Smol-. They in turn would have gotten those names due to some association with tar. So Smoliński would in most cases mean "one from Smolino/Smolna etc." = "one from the place of tar."

Given the variability of vowels, it's even conceivable the name could refer to a family connection with Smolensk, Russia. The names Smoleński and Smoliński would often be used interchangeably, even though in theory they should be distinct and refer to a different set of places with distinguishable, albeit similar, names. But if you search Eastern Europe you will see there are many, many places with names that qualify, Smolen- or Smolin- or Smoln- in Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, etc. Go, for instance, to this Website: http://www.jewishgen.org/ShtetlSeeker/loctown.htm

Specify a search for SMOL in all the countries of Eastern Europe, and specify "Search using All Towns using this Precise Spelling." Click on "Start the search." Shortly you will have a list of places in Central and Eastern Europe with names beginning Smol-. They aren't all places that could produce the name Smoliński, but many of them are.

In such instances, the only way to determine for sure which place the surname refers to in a given family's case is through detailed research into that family's history. These Smolińskis might have come from here, those from there, and so on. Only detailed research might uncover facts that would make clear which particular place the name refers to in that family's case. Without such details, all we can say for sure is that the name refers to some connection with tar, and most likely to a place with a name formed from that root, a name beginning Smolen- or Smolin- or Smoln-.

As of 1990 there were 13,483 Polish citizens named Smoliński, living all over the country. So it's a moderately common surname among Poles.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Sowiżdrzał - Sowizdżał - Sowiżrał

My name is Pat Heck and I live in Roscoe Illinois. I have been looking for my Grandfathers parents names with no success at all! This is the spelling that I was given by my Uncle. Sowizdzal I would appreciate any information you could provide.

This is a name that appears in Polish in a bewildering variety of spellings, including Sowiżrał, Sowiźrał, Sowizdrzał, Sowizdżał and Sowiżdżał and so on-- Z with a dot over it, pronounced like "zh" in "Zhivago" or "s" in "measure"; Z with an accent over it, pronounced much the same but somewhat softer and more hissing; and L with a slash through it, pronounced much like English "w." So Sowiżrał is pronounced roughly "so-VEEZH-raw," and Sowiżdżał sounds like "so-VEEZH-jaw."

They all come from the noun sowiżrał or sowiźrał, which is a variant form of the noun more often seen as sowizdrzał ("so-VEEZ-jaw"), which means "scamp, scatterbrain, frivolous-minded trouble-maker"; this probably reflects regional pronunciation tendencies, that is, in some areas they pronounced it one way, in others another way. I know the meaning of the name is not very complimentary, but believe me, by Polish standards it's almost flattering! Many Polish names are downright insulting. I can see this originating as a nickname used almost affectionately, as a mother might call her mischievous son a "scamp" or a "scoundrel." It's not nearly so harsh as some names that can only be translated with four-letter words!

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 254 Poles who spelled the name Sowizdrzał; it's a bit more common in the provinces of Kalisz (58) and Sieradz (63), farther north and west from Tarnow.

There were 174 Polish citizens named Sowiźrał, with an accent over the Z. The largest number by far, 124, lived in the southeastern province of Tarnow, i. e., the same area your grandfather came from. The rest were scattered in small numbers in various provinces, mostly in southern Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

The spelling Sowiżrał was less common, borne by 61 Poles, with no concentration in any one province. The difference between Ż and Ź is so subtle and often ignored that one can regard these as two slightly different forms of the same name.

There were also 28 Poles who spelled it Sowizdżał and 38 who spelled it Sowiżdżał. They were scattered all over, with no particular concentration in any one area.

Names were often spelled phonetically in old records, so you basically have to have your eyes open for any and all of these spellings. The same person might appear in one record as Sowizdżał, and as Sowiźrał in the next. This happens all the time. That's why I mentioned all those different forms -- any of them might show up in your research. And if you haven't had any luck finding one form, it may help to have these others to look for.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.



 

Szymankiewicz

I was wondering if you could help me out with the surname, Szymankiewicz.

Szymankiewicz is pronounced roughly "shim-onk-YEAH-veech." The -ewicz part means "son of," and the Szymank- part is from Szymanek or Szymanko, both of which mean "little Simon" or "son of Simon." So this surname means literally either "son of little Simon" or "son of Simon's son." That sounds a little odd to us, but once a name such as Szymanek or Szymanko existed, Poles wouldn't find it odd to add an -ewicz to it, even if that "son of the son of" bit seems a bit redundant. Besides, as I said, Szymanek or Szymanko could have been a nickname, kind of like "little Simon" or "good old Si."

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 2,004 Polish citizens by this name. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 281, Ciechanow 160, Kalisz 206, Leszno 135, and Poznan 388. 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 the Poland, with some concentration in the west central area, and another in the area just northeast of the center of the country. I'm afraid that's about as much as I can say from the available data.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Tokarski

I have just been on your web page and i would like to request some information on the name Tokarski.

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 11,175 Polish citizens by this name. They lived all over the country, with no significant concentration in any one region.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes ultimately from the noun tokarz, "operator of a lathe." It could have developed as meaning simply "kin of the lathe operator," or it could indicate family origin in a place named Tokary or something similar, which in turn surely got its name from some association with lathe operators.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Aviza

... I was given your name recently as the "expert" in Polish surnames. Would you know if the name Aviza is Polish, Lithuanian, etc.?

I'm pretty sure Aviza can't be regarded as a Polish name -- as of 1990 there were no Polish citizens by that name, and I can find no Polish root that fits. There is a root in the Latin-derived languages, e.g., aviso in Spanish, "notice, advice, announcement," but that seems unlikely to be relevant here. However, I see that there is a word in Lithuanian, aviža (upside down caret over the Z), which means "oat," and that is entirely plausible as the source of a surname. In Lithuanian (and those other languages as well) we often see names based on plants or edible items. In this case, perhaps an ancestor dealt in oats, grew them, loved to eat them, etc. -- there are several ways such a name could get started.

Interestingly, there were in 1990 some 144 Polish citizens named Awiżeń (dot over the Z, accent over the N), with the largest numbers in the provinces of Gorzow (18), Olsztyn (30), and Szczecin (15). A. Beider's Dictionary of Jewish Surnames From the Kingdom of Poland mentions Awizański, saying it derived from the village of Awiżańce near Sejny. I cannot find that village on the map, but in Lithuania there are several villages named Avižieniai and one named Avižonys. Most likely all these names took their origin from the Lithuanian word aviža, presumably because they were somehow associated with the growing and dealing of oats. This may not be directly relevant to your research, since it appears the name you're interested in is simple Aviža, with no suffixes. But I thought I'd mention this other info, just in case it proves interesting.

I have no data on how common a name Aviža is, but I know someone who may be able to provide that info. Dave Zincavage is interested in Lith. names, and has a dictionary with info on them. I suggest you e-mail him to ask what he can add to what I've told you. I'll be very surprised, however, if the word for oat doesn't turn out to be the source of this name.

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

 

 

Buchkowski - Buczkowski

Do you have any information on either of the name Buchkowski?

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 was no one in Poland named Buchkowski, and that name, while theoretically possible, doesn't look or sound right. I strongly suspect it's been modified under English phonetic influence. In Polish they use cz to write the sound we spell as ch, and I suspect the original spelling was Buczkowski, pronounced roughly "booch-KOFF-skee," and the spelling was modified to make it easier for Americans to pronounce. As of 1990 there were 6,819 Polish citizens named Buczkowski, living all over the country.

This surname refers to the name of a place the family came from, a place named Buczek or Buczki or Buczkow or Buczkowo. There are quite a few places by those names, and with this surname, too, there's no way to know which one it refers to in a given family's case without researching their background in detail.

The good news is, if you have any luck with your research, you may find the specific region in Poland your ancestors came from. At that point you can look for a nearby place with a name beginning Buczk-. If you find one, chances are decent that's the place the surname referred to originally. You might even find records that spell it out and make it clear. But that's the only way to determine for sure which particular places these surnames originally referred to.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bujewicz

Can you please enlighten me on the origin of my surname Buewicz.

The suffix -ewicz means "son of," and appears not only in Polish but also in Russian, Ukrainian, Czech, Serbo-Croatian, etc. Of course in those other languages it is spelled differently, but it is the same Slavic ending meaning "son of." So the obvious answer is that this name means "son of Bu."

However, I can find no Slavic name Bu. Names exist beginning Bud-, Buj- Bug-, Buk-, etc., but no Bu.

But since Russian may be involved here, let me suggest one possibility. In Russian, of course, this name would be spelled in the Cyrillic alphabet, in which the letter E usually begins with the sound Poles spell as J. In other words, a Polish name Bujewicz would be written in Russian with the Cyrillic letters that look like Буев.

Thus I wonder if the name in question would be spelled BUJEWICZ in Polish, but its Russian form might be mistakenly rendered in the Roman alphabet as BUEWICZ, ignoring the J sound? The root Buj- appears in names often, meaning "rapidly growing, full of energy and strength," often with the added sense of "violent, turbulent, wild."

If my analysis is correct, the name you're asking about probably began as a reference to the son of one who was large and strong, or received a name beginning Buj- in hopes he would be large and strong. Vladimir Dahl's Dictionary of the Great Russian Language mentions a term we'd spell buyevo in the Roman alphabet (more like Буево in Cyrillic) that means "violently, wildly, with great energy." In this instance the Russian and Polish meanings of the root are very similar -- both refer to one bursting with great energy and strength, and often using that energy to cause an uproar.

That appears to me the most likely explanation of the name: that it meant "son of the brawler, son of the wildly energetic one." Perhaps you can determine whether it makes sense or not.

In case the data is any help to you, 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 Bujewicz. They were scattered all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bujewski

... we are seeking information about our family name Bujewski. The Bujewski family originates in Pozen, as far as we know.They have been farmers in Bnin and Lodzia, Pozen. We found the first entries in 1808/9 ( Stanislaus Bujewski). On the other hand we found the Bujewski name in the Ucraine (Taras Bujewski, still alive a welknown composer). Although we do not take an information we got from different Polish nationals very serious, we wonder whether there is some truth in it. We as well as American family members were told that Bujewski is a name of royalty. Can that be true? We would appreciate any information about the origin and meaning of our 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 Bujewski. The majority, 102, lived in the province of Bydgoszcz, in northwestern 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.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it derives ultimately from the root buj-, as seen in the verb bujeć, "to grow quickly," the adjective bujny, "strong, growing thick and strong," and the noun bujak, "bull, brawler" (i. e., a powerful man who was prone to use his strength in fights." Thus Bujewski could have started as a name meaning something like "of the kin of the strong one."

Very often, however, names in the form X-ewski refer to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago. Bujewski could mean "one from Buje or Bujew or Bujewo." 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 quite possible the place name or surname, or both, have changed somewhat over the centuries. I'm afraid only genealogical research might uncover facts that would clear up exactly what place the surname originally referred to.

It is not unusual to find the same name among Poles and Ukrainians. The languages are similar, and similar names can develop in both. Also, a great many Polish noble families settled on estates in the Ukraine, and thus we often find a particular name appears among descendants in both Poland and Ukraine. Thus it tells us nothing to know that a Ukrainian was named Bujewski. He might or might not have been related to your family; only genealogical research can establish or refute this.

I can find no information on a royal or noble family named Bujewski. My sources do not, however, concentrate on Polish nobility, so it is quite possible there was such a family and I simply don't know about it.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Burkat

we are trying to trace our roots. my grandfather came to america in 1907. according to ship manifests, ethnicity was austria, galicy,polish. place of residence was dolnawicz, galicy. his full name was wojciech Burkat age 37 at that time.

I'm afraid someone may have misled you. The information to which I have access is seldom much use in tracing individual persons or families. But here's what I can tell you.

Burkat is pronounced roughly "BOOR-cot," that Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], saying it appears in records as early as 1431 and is a Polish variation of the German name Burghart, from roots meaning "defend" and "mighty, bold," so that it originally meant something like "bold defender."

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 506 Polish citizens named Burkat. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 53, Krakow 277, and Nowy Sacz 39. 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. Krakow and Nowy Sacz were in Galicia; I don't believe Katowice ever was. (Galicia was the part of Poland seized by the Austrian Empire during the partitions in the late 18th century; it consisted of what are now southeastern Poland and western Ukraine. There's no guarantee the place you're looking for was in the territory now ruled by Poland; it could be in what is now Ukraine.)

I looked in the Genealogical Gazetteer of Galicia and found no place named Dolnawicz; I can't be sure, but I suspect the name is wrong. There was a Dolna Wies (literally "lower village") near Myslenice, south of Krakow. At one time it was a separate village, but now it's part of the town of Myslenice, and is called Dolne Przedmiescie ("lower suburb"). This might be worth a look, since in Poland the name Burkat is most common in the Krakow area. So "Dolnawicz" may turn out to be Dolna Wies; I don't know, but I think it's worth a look.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Burkot - Ignaszak

In Polish Burkot would be pronounced roughly "BURR-kott." 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 384 Polish citizens by this name. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 88, Katowice 53, Nowy Sacz 58, and Tarnow 82. 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 Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from one of many forms of the German name Burghard that Poles adapted to their linguistic preferences and used as first names and surnames. Burghard is an old Germanic personal name from the roots burg, "fortress, stronghold," and -hard or -hart, "brave, strong." It would have meant something like "[may he be like] a mighty fortress."

Over the centuries many Germans resettled all over in Poland, and it's not rare to see names of Germanic origin used by Poles. In this case Burghard came to be used by Poles in forms such as Burgart, Burkart, Burkat, and Burkot. As time went on these forms came to be used also as surnames, meaning more or less "kin of Burghard."

Ignaszak would be pronounced roughly "eeg-NOSH-ock." As of 1990 there were 1,353 Polish citizens by this name. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 110, Kalisz 295, Konin 161, and Poznan 357. So this name is found all over the country but is most common in west central Poland.

This surname also comes from a first name, Ignacy (= English and Latin Ignatius). Ignaszak would mean "kin of Ignatius, son of Ignatius." So all it really tells us is that at some point an ancestor was named Ignacy.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Burzyński

I am working on a project for my high school english class and am looking for any information available on my family name Burzynski. Any information you can supply, I would appreciate greatly. Thank you very much!

In Polish this name is spelled with an accent over the N and is pronounced roughly "boo-ZHIN-skee" (where "zh" is the sound heard in "Zhivago" or "rouge"). 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 9,583 Polish citizens named Burzyński. They lived in large numbers all over the country; there was no one area with which the name was associated to the point that we can say "There's where a Burzyński family came from" without doing detailed genealogical research.

The basic root of this name is seen in the noun burza, "storm, brawl, disturbance," of which Burzyński is an adjectival form. So in some cases the name probably started out meaning "kin of Burza," referring to one who was called that because he was always causing a disturbance or looking for a fight. But in many cases it probably refers to the name of a place, which in turn got its name from an owner or founder named Burza. Thus the name can mean "one from Burzyn." There are at least two places by that name, one in the general area of Łomża in northeastern Poland, another not far from Tarnow in southeastern Poland.

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 be quite obscure, or may even have disappeared or renamed or absorbed into another community centuries ago. The surname may refer to either of the two Burzyns on modern maps, but it may refer to some other place that no longer shows up on maps because it was renamed or it disappeared long ago.

To summarize, this is a moderately common name found all over Poland, and it comes ultimately from some connection with the root burz- meaning "brawl, disturbance, storm." It could have begun as a name for the kin of one with a stormy temperament, but it also could have started as a reference to a place the family came from, which in turn took its name from that root (probably by way of a fellow who owned or founded it who was called Burza). Only successful genealogical research might enable one to establish the exact social, historical, and linguistic context in which the name came to be associated with a given family. But in general it's fair to say it usually means "kin of the stormy guy" or "one from the stormy guy's place."

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bycio

Bicio is my current last name. Bycio was the original spelling in Poland. If you have time, I am interested in hearing anything about my name. Supposedly I am 100% Polish.

In Polish Bycio would be pronounced roughly "BITCH-oh" (I don't mean to be insulting, but "bitch" is the English word that comes closest to the sound of the first syllable of the Polish 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 8 Polish citizens named Bycio. They lived in the following provinces: Jelenia Gora 7, Legnica 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. But I can say that in the July 2000 issue of the Polish-American Journal, the PAJ Answerman suggested one can find individuals or families "by contacting the one office in Poland that has on file the addresses of all people currently living in Poland: Centralne Biuro Adresowe, ul. Kazimierzowska 60, 02-543 Warsaw, POLAND." I have no idea whether this works or not, I've never tried it. But I thought it worth passing on, in case it might help you find some relatives.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it derives from the noun byk, "bull." Thus Bycio would be kind of a nickname, perhaps something like "Bull" in English. Presumably an ancestor was a strong man, perhaps rather bull-headed; that would seem the most likely reason for the development of a name of this sort.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Cegła

Can you give me some information about the name Cegla. Someone told me that my name is polish and that the name Cegla means brick in Polish?

It's possible this name could develop in other languages besides Polish -- I can't say no. But Cegla definitely is a name used by Poles. In Polish it is spelled with a slash through the L. The Polish letter is pronounced like English W, so by English phonetic values the name Cegła would be pronounced roughly "TSEGG-wah."

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as far back as 1369, and does indeed come from the Polish noun cegła, "brick." That noun came into Polish from German Ziegel, which in turn came from the Latin noun tegula. Presumably it began as a nickname for an ancestor who made bricks, or sold them, or worked with them, or was somehow associated by others with bricks. Eventually people began calling the kin of this ancestor by the name, and it developed into a 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 849 Polish citizens named Cegła. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Kalisz 346, Katowice 96, Kielce 89, Poznan 44, Radom 59, and Wroclaw, 49. 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 most common in the area southeast to southwest of the center of the country.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Chałupczak - Chałupczok

I had found your email on the Polishroots website and was wondering if you could give me some insight to my last name. I have been researching my family tree and traced it back to Szczedrzyk Poland, to my 5th grandfather born around 1808. The way he signed his name on his naturalization paper spelt Halupczok,i have also found it spelt Chalupczok. Any info or direction would be of much help.

In Polish the H and CH are pronounced the same, kind of like the guttural German "ch" in "Bach," except not quite so harsh. Thus it is quite normal to see names spelled H or CH, and the variation in spelling in your ancestor's name is not unusual. The standard form would be Chałupczok, using Ł to stand for the Polish L with a slash through it, pronounced like our W. The surname is pronounced roughly "hah-WOOP-chock." The spelling you use now makes sense as an Anglicized or Germanized form of the original Polish name -- which is quite normal, eastern European names have often been extensively Anglicized, sometimes past all recognition. Yours is still, at least, recognizable.

The suffix -czok is a Silesian variation of the standard Polish suffix -czak, and if I'm not mistaken, Szczedrzyk is near Opole, and thus in the region of Silesia. So it is reasonable to assume Chałupczok is the Silesian version of the name that appears in standard Polish as Chałupczak. It means literally "son of the hut," but obviously was meant more along the lines of "son of the one who lived in a hut."

That is the probable meaning of the name, referring to one who dwelt in a chałupa, a rather modest (not to say "ramshackle") cabin or hut. There is also a noun in Polish, chałupnik, that we see quite often, it referred to a fairly poor individual who didn't own any land, just a small hut and -- if he was lucky -- maybe also a garden. I would think in most cases the surname Chałupczak probably referred to the kin of someone in that category, although it certainly might also be used for someone who built huts, was shaped like a hut, etc. The most we can say for sure is that, at the time the name developed, there was some association perceived between an individual or family and huts that made this name seem appropriate to those who knew him/them. All these centuries later it is difficult to say exactly what the association was, but there must have been one and it must have made sense to the people at the time, so we can venture some plausible guesses as to the probable nature of the association. (Usually the obvious answer is correct).

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 431 Polish citizens named Chałupczak, living all over Poland but especially in southcentral and southeastern Poland. There were only 5 named Chałupczok, with an O, however, all living in the province of Katowice (in Silesia). I should explain that as literacy became practically universal among Poles, there also arose a tendency to standardize and normalize names, so that dialect forms and variant spellings are gradually disappearing, as people say "Oh, only hicks use that name," and thus change the name to the version recognized as normal among Poles. So it's quite possible some of those people now going by Chałupczak used to be called Chałupczok -- if they lived in Silesia -- but have since standardized the name.

So in summary, the form of the name is distinctively Silesian -- and it sounds as if you've traced it to its native region -- and means something like "kin of the cottager, kin of the one who lived in a hut, kin of the hut guy." That's about as precise as we can get without the kind of really detailed info genealogical research might eventually produce on the context in which the name first developed.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

 

Sitarski

Now I want to ask you about my mum's surname. It's Sitarski, but it seems to be originally Sitarskij, and it was modified here in Argentina. My grandfather was born at some town at Galicia region when it was part of the Austrian Imperium (I think around 1888). Could you tell me about the origiins of Sitarskij? Is it polish? Is it ukranian?

The spelling with -skij suggests it may be Ukrainian rather than Polish. A few letters may not provide sufficient evidence to justify a conclusion, however. The truth is, it could easily by Polish or Ukrainian, especially since the spelling may have been modified due to the influence of Russian. The Ukrainian form, as spelled in Ukrainian Cyrillic, would be something like Sytarskyi, and the Polish spelling would be Sitarski. Either of these could be rendered in Russian Cyrillic as Sitarskiy (as we'd spell it in English) or Sitarskij (as Poles or Germans would render it). But I think there is just a little more likelihood it is Ukrainian.

The root of the name is sitarz in Polish and sytar in Ukrainian, and means "sieve-maker." Sitarski/Sytarskyj would mean "of the sieve-maker," and probably referred to the kin of one whose occupation was making or selling sieves. In Polish the spelling of the name would, as I said, be Sitarski -- the final -z drops off when the ending is added. In Ukrainian the name is spelled in Cyrillic roughly CNTAPCKNN -- the second letter looks like a backwards N, and the final backwards N has a little curve over it, which is the sound of "y" as in "yacht," but spelled with J by Poles and Germans. In Ukrainian the backwards N is pronounced somewhat like the short I in English "ship," and that's why we often see it rendered as Y in our alphabet, rather than as I.

The confusing thing is that in Russian the backwards N sounds like "ee," not a short i. So Russians and Ukrainians use the same letter for two different sounds. Remember, all official papers in areas ruled by the Russian Empire had to be in Russian during the last few decades of the 19th century. So a Ukrainian name spelled CNTAPCKNN, though pronounced roughly "sit-ar-sky" by Ukrainians, would tend to be spelled the same way by Russians, even though they would pronounce it more like "see-tar-skee." Similarly, Russians would tend to turn Polish Sitarski into CNTAPCKNN (or CNTAPCKIN), pronounced the same way.

The bottom line is, by the time you factor in Russian influence on spelling, it's impossible to say for sure whether Sitarskij represents a phonetic rendering in the Roman alphabet of Polish Sitarski or Ukrainian Sytarskyj. But based on what I've seen in actual documents, I think the presence of that -ij on the end of the name might indicate Ukrainian origin. This is by no means, certain, but that final -J is just a bit less likely to get tacked onto the end of a Polish name, when it is spelled in our alphabet.

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 and can be searched here), there were 2,293 Polish citizens named Sitarski (none spelled it Sitarskij). The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 252, Kielce 449, Lublin 179, and Tarnobrzeg 215. 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 with some concentration in the southeastern regions, which were, of course, formerly part of the Austrian Empire's province of Galicia, along with what is now western Ukraine. I have no data on frequency and distribution for Ukraine, unfortunately.

To summarize, the name means "kin of the sieve-maker," and could be Polish or Ukrainian -- but if I had to make a guess, I'd say Ukrainian is a little more likely. In all honesty, however, the Poles and Ukrainians mixed so much, and there are so many similarities of words and names in their languages, that the difference may be academic. The first name may tell us more -- some names were used far more by Ukranians than Poles, and often the first name makes clear what the surname leaves in doubt.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.



 

Strzelczyk

My name is ... Strzelczyk and I am looking for information on the name Strzelczyk. Thank-you in advance for any formation you can provide me.

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 and can be searched here), there were 7,984 Polish citizens named Strzelczyk. The name was common all over the country; there's no one area with which it is particularly associated. It's pronounced roughly "S'CHELL-chick."

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. It comes from the basic root seen in the noun strzelec, "shooter, marksman." The term strzelczyk means "young shooter, one being trained to shoot," and as a surname it might also just mean "son of the marksman." Originally terms beginning strzel- referred to marksmen using bows and arrows, but as guns became more common the term expanded to mean "expert shot with a gun" as well. I think "son of the marksman" or "youth being trained as a marksman" would be the most likely interpretations of what the name originally meant, before it came into use as a surname.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Duda

I am looking for the meaning of Duda. This was my grandmother's maiden name and she was born in Poland and came to this country in 1902.

In Polish DUDA is pronounced roughly "DOO-dah." 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, available online), there were 38,290 Polish citizens by this name. They lived all over the country, so that a family by this name could come from anywhere.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1392 and comes from the noun duda, which means "bagpipes," also "a bad musician" (i. e., one who plays the pipes but isn't very good at it). The name could have begun as a nickname for an ancestor who played the bagpipes, or for one who was a bad musician. It could also have been used in a transferred sense, with the meaning "one who goes around making a lot of pointless noise." There's no way to tell exactly how this name came to be associated with an individual family, unless detailed research into that family's history turns up some old document that sheds light on the matter. Absent such info, all we can say is that the name surely began as a nickname for one who played the pipes (probably not too well), or for one who made a lot of needless noise. At some point the name came to be applied to that person's descendants, and eventually "stuck" as a surname.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Sulewski

My last name is Sulewski and i would like to find out where it come from and history behind it.

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 and can be searched here), there were 2,245 Polish citizens named Sulewski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 154, Białystok 109, Gdansk 558, Łomża 561, and Suwałki 274. Thus the name is found all over Poland but is most common in the northcentral to northeastern part of 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.

According to Polish experts, Sulewski, pronounced roughly "soo-LEFF-skee," simply refers to the name of a place where a given family lived at some point centuries ago. It would mean "one from Sulew or Sulewo" or some similar place name; it could also refer to places named Sulejow or Sulejewo. There are a number of places by these names, and there's no way to know which one the surname refers to in a given family's case, except through detailed genealogical research that establishes the exact social, geographic, linguistic, and historical context in which the name came to be associated with that particular family. That is beyond the scope of what I can do.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Światopełk

I am looking for any family - distant or close of my father who died three years ago. Pls can you give me a little information about our surname Swiatopelk - Mirski

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 and can be searched here), there were 13 Polish citizens named ŚWIATOPEŁK-MIRSKI. The name is pronounced roughly "shvyah-TOPE-ewk MEER-skee" (the last syllable of the first name sounds like "elk" but with a W sound instead of an L). These 13 Poles lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 1, Lodz 3, Pila 4, Szczecin 4, Wroclaw 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.

Światopełk is a name of ancient Slavic origin, spelled many different ways, including Russified Svyatopelk, Svyatopulk, Svyatopluk, etc. It comes from ancient Slavic terms meaning "mighty, powerful" (in modern Slavic languages that root has come to mean "holy, sacred," but back centuries ago it meant "mighty, powerful") and "regiment, division of the army." The ancient Slavs were very warlike, and often gave their children names of good omen meant to make them glorious in battle. This one presumably was meant to help a child grow up to be a valued member of the division of fighters in which he fought.

Mirski would generally come from the name of a place beginning Mir- or Mier-. There are several places it could refer to, and without detailed info on a specific family there is no way to know which one is relevant in their particular case. With any luck your research may unearth facts that will help you determine exactly which place the name refers to in your family's case.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Świtała

[Referring to data on Świtała online:]

But I have some questions about that info: What says the number 4,753? Is that the number of families, the number of persons or the number of entries in the telephone directory?

It means that 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 and can be searched here), there were 4,753 Polish citizens named Switala. This data was compiled from a Polish government agency database, not from telephone directories. Data was incomplete for some provinces of Poland, but the compilation drew on data for approximately 94% of the population as of 1990. So the data is not perfectly accurate, but it is better than what we had before the Slownik was published (namely, nothing).

Do you know if the name is concentrated in a specific region of Poland or don't you know anything about the distribution of the name?

There was not enough room in my book to give details on the distribution of any name; I would have liked to, but the book was already over 600 pages and to include such data would have made the book so large it could not have been printed and sold for a reasonable price. Also, with the majority of Polish names, the distribution data is useless; the majority of names are too widespread to offer any help whatever in tracing a particular name. Every day people write me in the hope that I can tell them "Your surname proves your family came from one and only one place, namely X, and therefore you don't have to waste time researching, that's where the family came from." Every day I have to disappoint them. I estimate fewer than 5% of Polish names offer any useful clue whatsoever as to where a family by that name originated.

Looking in the Slownik, I find that the largest numbers of Switala's lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 533; Czestochowa 693; Kalisz 239; Katowice 875; Leszno 205; Opole 268; Poznan 354; Zielona Gora 224. So the name is most common in southcentral and western Poland; more than that I cannot say.

There are also several forms of writing in Germany (where I am from) of that name, such as Switala, Switalla, Schwitala, Schwitalla, Schwittalla... As I am just starting with genealogy and collecting information about these names I don't know if all these families are from places which now belong to Poland. So if you can send me additional information it would be great.

Those are all simply spelling variations, attempts to represent the name phonetically. In Polish the first letter, the S, has an accent over it which gives it a sound similar to German SCH (although Polish SZ sounds more like SCH, the Polish accented S has a soft, hissing sound perceptibly different from SZ or German SCH). In that name the L is not the standard L but rather an L with a slash through it, which sounds like the English letter W. Even in Polish this name has been spelled various ways, including Switala, Switalla, etc.

In records it is quite common to see names spelled inconsistently, even without complications due to the influence of different languages. Only happened in the last century or so have people begun to emphasize spelling a name the same way consistently, and only during that time that literacy has become so widespread that it became possible to standardize spellings. Whether one studies American records or English or French or German, one need only go back a few decades and one begins to see names spelled many different ways. So all those forms you cite are simply variations in spelling of Świtała, which is the standard Polish spelling of the name.

By the way, I did lookups in several German surname books, almost all tried to derive Switala from names like Schwindt, Schwind. But maybe they did not really think about the fact where the name comes from...

I've found as a rule it is best to consult Polish authorities on Polish names, Germans on German names, Lithuanians on Lithuanian names, etc. It is too easy to make a mistake about name origins if one does not possess a truly deep, comprehensive knowledge of a language, its history, and its ways of forming names.

This name Świtała comes from a Slavic root meaning "light, dawn, daybreak," which appears in Russian svet, Ukrainian svit, Polish świt, etc. In Polish names the suffix -ała added to a root X usually means "one always doing X, one always exhibiting the quality or characteristic of X." So Switala meant literally "one associated with dawn, light; one always shining; one who typifies brightness." There is no connection with any German word, except perhaps a remote one with words coming from the same original Indo-European root.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Stuligrosz - Taube

My grandparents immigrated to America around 1880-1893. I know all of the people in this country with the name "Stuligross".

Our name was legally revised from "Stuligrosz" to "Stuligross" in Detroit, Michigan around 1935-1945.

My Mother's Maiden name was "Taube", which is fairly common, and difficult to trace.

Both of my parents referred to themselves as "Kashubs", which I understand is the area bordering Germany and Poland, with control of the area frequently changing from one to the other.

Do you have any suggestions?


In Polish the original form of the name was surely Stuligrosz, which would be pronounced roughly "stoo-LEE-grosh." 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 and can be searched here), there were 62 Polish citizens named Stuligrosz. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Bydgoszcz 17, and Poznan 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.

That distribution is not typical of Kashub surnames, which are usually concentrated in the northcentral to northwestern provinces of Bydgoszcz, Gdansk, Pila, and Slupsk. That does not mean, however, that your parents were wrong. People did move around, and it's not at all strange that some folks of Kashub descent might end up in Poznan province, farther south of the ancestral regions of the Kashubs. It only means that from my sources I can't really confirm Kashub origin -- but I see no reason to dispute it, either.

It's pretty clear this name comes from a combination of the root in the verb stulić, "to squeeze together," and the noun grosz, "penny, small coin." In other words, this almost certainly started as a kind of nickname meaning much the same as "Pinchpenny" in English. Without verification by scholars or researchers who have studied the name's origin in detail, I can't be absolutely certain that's correct. But it's a good educated guess, and I feel pretty confident the name did, indeed, begin as a nickname meaning "one who squeezes his pennies together," i. e., one who was pretty tight with his money. Considering how parsimonious most Poles and Kashubs are, you'd have to be pretty darn tight with money to qualify for this name!

Taube comes from the German word for "dove," and I imagine it would be fairly hard to research because the name offers little in the way of insights or leads (which, frankly, is true of the vast majority of surnames). Since Germany long ruled much of western and northern Poland, we often see German names in those areas; in fact Germans immigrated to Poland in large numbers over the years, so we find German names all over Poland. As of 1990 there were 324 Polish citizens named Taube, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Gdansk, 139, and Pila, 42. So while it does not appear to be associated exclusively with Kashubs, that distribution suggests it probably is most often Kashubian, at least when it appears in Poland.

I have a couple of recommendations for you. With your Detroit roots you may benefit from joining the Polish Genealogical Society of Michigan, if you haven't already. It's a good group, which has developed some pretty impressive resources for helping researchers with roots in Michigan. They've been undergoing some problems lately, as key members have had to cut back on their activity due to illness and similar difficulties. But I feel sure the Society will endure and continue to offer its members a lot of assistance. If you want more info, visit their Website at:

http://www.pgsm.org

The Kashubs, in Polish Kaszubi, are a Slavic people closely related to the Poles, but they have their own customs and language (very similar to Polish in many respects). They were pressured by the German rulers of that region to drop their culture and language and associate themselves with Germans, but resisted to a considerable degree. If you'd like to know more about them, these Websites have some information:

http://www.pgsa.org/kashnam2.htm

http://www.pgsa.org/kashname.htm

http://www.pgsa.org/kashub.htm

http://feefhs.org/kana/frg-kana.html

http://www.Kashuba.Org/

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Wojtkowicz

could you please help me with my surname, I am trying to find the roots of Wojtkowicz family.

In Polish this name is pronounced roughly "voit-KO-veech." 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 and can be searched here), there were 103 Polish citizens by that name. They were scattered in small numbers all over the country, with no significant concentration in any one area.

The suffix -owicz means "son of," so Wojtkowicz means "son of Wojtek or Wojtko," something like that. The first part of the name could come from two sources: it can be a nickname for a person named Wojciech, meaning basically "son of Wojciech"; or it can come from the term wójt, an official who was a sort of village headman. So the name means either "Wojciech's son" or "the wójt's son." I think it's especially likely to come from the first name, however, because Wojtek is a common and popular Polish nickname or affectionate short form of Wojciech.

There is no linguistic equivalent of that name in English -- it comes from ancient Slavic roots meaning literally "war-joy," probably given as a name by parents hoping their child would grow up to take joy in battle and thus be a fierce and successful fighter. But due to a historical accident, the Slavic name Wojciech (or in Czech Vojtech) has long been closely associated with the Germanic first name Albrecht or Adalbert or Albert. So a Pole bearing the first name Wojciech usually came to be known as Alebrt in English-speaking countries. That's probably not directly relevant to the discussion of this surname, but it may be a useful fact worth knowing if you dig into the family history. People trying to learn something about the name Wojciech are often puzzled to find it treated as if it were the same as Albert, when it's obviously not! But centuries ago the Slavic saint Wojciech took the name Albert at confirmation in honor of his sponsor, the Bishop of Magdeburg, Albert; and since then the two names have been connected culturally, even though linguistically they are completely unrelated.

I should add that in Polish you often have two forms of the same basic surname, differing only in ending, -owicz or -ewicz. So it's not surprising that the surname Wojtkiewicz also exists, pronounced roughly "voit-K-YEAH-veech." As of 1990 there were some 2,624 Polish citizens by that name, so it tends to be the more common form. Wojtkowicz and Wojtkiewicz mean exactly the same thing; the only difference is that in some areas there's a tendency to add -owicz rather than -ewicz to certain name forms. For some reason the form of this particular name with -ewicz is more common than the one with -owicz. Hard to say why, however; sometimes there is no readily apparent rhyme or reason to surname usage and popularity.

I mention all this only because it is possible you will see both forms in family records. To Poles Wojtkiewicz and Wojtkowicz are obviously different forms of the same name, and they didn't also worry too much about consistency of name forms in old records. So if you do some research into your family history, you might want to keep an eye out for Wojtkiewicz as well.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Wojtowicz

...What might be the meaning of the name Wojtowicz? I am grateful for any knowledge you might contribute.

The suffix -owicz means son of, so the key is what wojt- means. There are two possibilities. In most cases it would come from the root wójt, which is a term for a kind of village official or headman, one who was in charge of a village or group of villages. The exact duties varied in different times and places, but I suppose you could say he was the "go to guy" in rural communities, one who took care of implementing local rules and policies. So the surname was probably applied originally to the sons or kin of the local wójt.

The root can also come from the first name Wojciech (pronounced roughly VOJ- chek) which is usually rendered as "Albert" in English because the names were historically linked. Thus Wojtowicz could also mean son of Wojciech/Albert. I would think this particular surname would more often refer to the official, but we can't rule that in some instances it might refer to the first name.

This is a very common name in Poland -- as of 1990 there were 5,319 Polish citizens named Wojtowicz, spread all over the country.

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

 

Stuliglowa

The encoding of your message mangled the 7th letter, but I assume the name is Stuliglowa, pronounced roughly "stoo-lee-G'WOE-vah." I will proceed on that assumption, because I can find no other name in Polish that fits the pattern STULIG_OWA.

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, available online), there were 63 Polish citizens by this name. They lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 5, Czestochowa 4, Katowice 3, Koszalin 8, Przemysl 1, Radom 1, Rzeszow 14, Szczecin 24, Tarnow 3. 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.

Of course I have no way of knowing whether any of these people would be related to you. Only research into the family history could establish that; it would involve trying to trace the family back in records, generation by generation -- which may be quite difficult in your case. But without detailed knowledge of the family history, the most one can do is analyze what a name means literally and then speculate on how it was probably understood when it first developed.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. Obviously the -glowa part comes from the noun glowa, "head." Rymut says the Stuli- part comes from the verb stulic, "press together, squeeze together, close up." So the name probably began as a nickname meaning something like "close your head" or "put your heads together." I don't speak colloquial Polish, so I'm not certain how Poles would understand this name. I suspect it may have been another way of saying "Shut your mouth!" In other words, "Press your head together" makes sense only if you imagine it to mean pressing one's lips together to close the mouth. I imagine this began as a nickname for an ancestor who had a habit of using this phrase, or perhaps one whom people somehow associated with this action.

That is how I interpret it, but 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 hear from them and they give you a really good reply, I'd love to hear what they say. I will be revising my book on Polish surnames in the near future, and would love to be able to repeat this information, for the benefit of any other Stuliglowas who may read it.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Szarwark

I am writing because I would like to know more about "Szarwark". Where the word came from, what it means to Polish people, and how someone would get that as a family name. Any help that you can provide me will be very much appreciated.

In Polish this name is pronounced roughly "SHAR-vark." In both cases the -ar- would rhyme with "car" or "far." 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% ofthe population of Poland and is now online as a searchable database), there were 229 Polish citizensnamed SZARWARK. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces:Bydgoszcz 50, Pila 30, Poznan 31, and Tarnow 61. Unfortunately I don't haveaccess to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tellyou how to find that info.

This data indicates the name is found all over Poland, with some concentration in the areas near the northwestern town of Bydgoszcz and the southeastern town of Tarnow.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], saying it comes from the common noun szarwark. That term referred to compulsory labor service peasants performed for their lords. Peasants were required to do various kinds of labor service for the use of the land their lord let them farm, and it was not unusual for those labor obligations to include a day or two of szarwark a week. I suppose peasants who did not inherit land might also do szarwark for a living. The term in Polish comes from German Scharwerk, meaning "compulsory labor," and could theoretically refer to any of the various kinds of labor services peasants were required to do by their lords. But over time this particular term came to be associated most of all with road maintainance work, and the surname suggests you had an ancestor who did this work.

I should add that it's also possible in a given case the surname might refer to the name of a place where an ancestor came from. There's a Szarwark in the general area of Tarnow; so if a given Szarwark family came from that area, it's possible the name might have started in their case as a way of saying "one from Szarwark." Only genealogical research might clarify for sure how this surname came to be associated with your family, by establishing where they came from and thus indicating whether the name more likely referred to the labor service or to the village name (which, in turn, must have come from that term for labor service).

That's about all I can tell you. I hope it's some help, and wish you the best of luck with your research.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Karasiewicz - Karaskiewicz

my name is tony karasiewicz, can you help me ? what does it mean ? karasiewicz = karaskiewicz ?

The ending -ewicz means "son of," so KARASIEWICZ means "son of Karas." That name comes from the noun karas, "crucian carp" (a kind of fish). Most likely Karas was a nickname for an ancestor one who liked to fish for carp, or sell them, or eat them, or somehow reminded people of a carp.

So the name means essentially the same as KARASKIEWICZ, except the added -k- in that name gives the meaning of "little." Karasiewicz is "son of the carp," and Karaskiewicz is "son of the little carp." That's the only difference.

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 and is now online as a searchable database), there were 2,600 Polish citizens named Karasiewicz. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 304, Poznan 266, Płock 261, Elblag 161, and Bydgoszcz 110. 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. It's particularly common in the areas near the cities mentioned, Warsaw, Poznan, Płock, Elblag, and Bydgoszcz. But this really tells us nothing about where a specific Karasiewicz family came from. Only research into the history of that family might shed light on that question.

That's about all I can tell you. I hope it's some help, and wish you the best of luck with your research.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Parada

I would like to know if my Polish last name Parada is Jewish.

It could be, but it is not necessarily Jewish. 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 974 Polish citizens by that name. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 50, Chelm 128, Katowice 70, Kielce 141, Lublin 63. 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, with no significant concentration in any one area.

The point is, after the Holocaust, there are no exclusively Jewish surnames borne by more than a few dozen people, at most. If a name is borne by more than 900 people in modern Poland, it's certain the vast majority are Christians. If it were a Jewish name, you might find 9 or 90 people still living with that name in Poland today -- but not 900!

In Polish PARADA is pronounced roughly "pah-RAH-dah" -- or much the same way as if it were a Spanish name. 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 parada, "show, exhibition, ceremony, pomp" -- in other words from the same origin as our word "parade." It is thought to have come from Old French parade, "exhibition," from parer, "to embellish," from Latin parare, to "prepare."

There is no reason a specific Jewish family couldn't have gone by this name. It's one of the many that Christians or Jews could bear -- there's no particular reason it has to be associated with one religion or another. So you can't tell the religion from the name. You'd have to research the family history to find information establishing that. (And, of course, PARADA doesn't have to be Polish; this particular name can exist in many different languages. But I assume you have reason to believe it is Polish in your case.)

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Adamczewski

My maiden name is Adams. I am 3rd generation born in the United States. My great grandfather Joseph Adams, moved his wife and two kids from Poland to Minnesota and there had 4 more children. When he moved here, he realized that his last name might be too hard for his children to say and spell, so he shortened it. There are two of the 6 children still alive and neither one of them know how to spell the last name my great grandfather shortened. I was hoping you might be able to help. This is how we think it might be spelled based off of how we know it to be said. "Adamachevski"

The most likely form is Adamczewski, which would be pronounced roughly "ah-dahm-CHEFF-skee." According to Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut's book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles], that name generally means "one from Adamczewice," a village now called Adamki in Blaszki district of Lodz province. It is also possible it might refer in some cases to Adamczowice, in Klimontow district of Swietokrzyskie province. Surnames ending in -ewski can come from place names with -ew- or -ow-, as that vowel can change very easily, especially when further suffixes are added.

So this surname refers to the name of a place with which the family was connected at some point centuries ago. As often happens, there's more than one place this surname could refer to. The only way to find out which one your particular Adamczewskis came from is through detailed research into the family history. Such research might establish whether the family came from near Lodz, in which case the connection with Adamki is more likely, or from the Swietokrzyskie area, in which case Adamczowice is the more likely connection. There might even be some other place I haven't found -- because the Adamczew- or Adamczow- part basically means "[places] of little Adam," and thus could potentially refer to any village or settlement owned or founded by an Adam.

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 and is now online as a searchable database), there were 5,955 Polish citizens named Adamczewski. They lived all over the country, with particularly large numbers in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 312, Konin 411, Lodz 1,177, and Poznan 467. 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.

That's what I consider the best match with the name you mentioned. If you'd like to see other possibilities and evaluate them for yourself, go to this site:

http://www.herby.com.pl/herby/indexslo.html  

In the box type ADAM*WSKI and press
. That will bring up all surnames borne by Polish citizens as of 1990 that begin with Adam- and end with -wski, with any combination of letters in between. That should allow you to see the most likely matches and check if any of the others make more sense.

If you need help understanding the data and what the abbreviations mean, I wrote an article on the subject in the latest issue of Gen Dobry!, the free e-zine of PolishRoots.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Dzięgiel - Dziengiel - Gengle - Jingle

I am looking for information on only 1 name. Dziegiel is how it was written on the baptismal records held in Tarnow. My great-grandfather was born in Iwkowa, immigrated in 1903 and changed our name to Gengle in 1920.

In Polish this name is usually spelled Dzięgiel -- using the Polish nasal vowel written as an E with a tail under it and pronounced much like "en." Since that nasal E sounds a lot like "en," and since spelling of surnames has always been inconsistent, it is not unusual to see the name spelled Dziengiel sometimes, even in Poland. Either spelling, Dzięgiel or Dziengiel, is pronounced roughly "JENG-yell."

I should add that in English-speaking countries this name Dzięgiel has often been spelled phonetically as Jingle. If you hear a Pole say it, it does sound quite a bit like our word "jingle." So don't be too surprised if you find relatives who spell it something like Jingle. But that would happen only in English-speaking countries, never in Poland.

Gengle is obviously a slightly different phonetic spelling. Pronounce the Polish word and it's easy to see why an immigrant might say, "Well, these Americans can't seem to spell or pronounce Dzięgiel right, so I'll spell it a way they can handle." Or sometimes they pronounced their names and an official wrote it down the way it sounded to him. That's how these alternate spellings got started.

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 and is now available online as a searchable database), there were 1,565 Polish citizens named Dzięgiel. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 119, Kraków 306, and Tarnów 305. The name is found all over Poland, but is most common in the southcentral to southeastern part of the country. Your ancestors come from the area where it is most common, therefore. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

If you'd like to see the various spellings of this name still found in Poland (though the variants are quite rare), go to http://www.herby.com.pl/herby/indexslo.html and type in DZI*GIEL in the box, then hit
. The list that comes up shows all names beginning DZI-, followed by any combination of letters, followed by -GIEL and any endings. It's an interesting list. If you need help reading the data, I wrote an article on the subject in the latest issue of Gen Dobry!, the free e-zine of PolishRoots.

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 1570 and comes from the noun dzięgiel, the name of a plant in the parsley family, which is called "angelica" in English.

This name suggests an ancestor was somehow connected with that plant. Perhaps he lived in an area where it was very common, or he/she liked to eat it or use it in cooking, or smelled like it, or wore a bouquet of it -- there must have been some kind of connection that was obvious to people at the time, or the name would never have "stuck." But centuries later it can be difficult to figure out exactly what the connection was. We just know there must have been some reason why it made sense to nickname a guy after this plant.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

 

Ciesielski

Would you please give me the meaning of my surname Ciesielski. How long has this name existed in Poland and are there still Ciesielski's in Poland as there are many here in Michigan U.S.A

In Polish this name is pronounced roughly "cheh-SHELL-skee." It's a fairly common name in 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 and is now online as a searchable database), there were 24,422 Polish citizens named Ciesielski. They lived all over the country, with no particular concentration in any one area.

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 1393. It comes from the noun cieśla, "carpenter," or from place names derived from that noun, especially Cieśle, of which there are a number in Poland. So the name can be interpreted either "of the carpenter's kin" or "one from Cieśle," which in turn got that name because of a connection with carpenters.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 


 

Dzięgielewski - Dziengielewski

My name is ... Dziengelewski, and I have a great deal of curiosity about the origins of my name. I am the absolute last person of my known family, so I have no relatives to ask.

In Polish this name is usually spelled Dzięgielewski -- using the Polish nasal vowel written as an E with a tail under it and pronounced much like "en." Since that nasal E sounds a lot like "en," and since spelling of surnames has always been inconsistent, it is not unusual to see the name spelled Dziengielewski sometimes, even in Poland. Either spelling, Dzięgielewski or Dziengielewski, is pronounced roughly "jeng-yell-EFF-skee."

(Polish spelling rules say -ge- is wrong, it must always be -gie-, so that's why I'm spelling the name that way. But even in Poland you sometimes see Dziengelewski and Dzięgelewski. These days, however, it's almost always spelled with the I because most of the population is literate and has learned the rules of "correct" spelling.)

I should add that in this country the names beginning Dzięgiel- have often been spelled phonetically as Jingle-. So don't be too surprised if you find relatives who spell it something like Jinglewski. But that would happen only in English-speaking countries, never in 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 and is now available online as a searchable database), there were 4,099 Polish citizens named Dzięgielewski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 441, Białystok 219, Lodz 300, Płock 455, Wloclawek 165. The name is found all over Poland, but is more common in the central part of 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.

If you'd like to see the various spellings of this name still found in Poland (though the variants are quite rare), go to http://www.herby.com.pl/herby/indexslo.html and type in DZI*GIELEWSKI in the box, then hit
. The list that comes up shows all names beginning Dzi- and ending in -gielewski, whatever letters come between. It's an interesting list. If you need help reading the data, I wrote an article on the subject in the latest issue of Gen Dobry!, the free e-zine of PolishRoots.

Names in the form X-ewski 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. The place name would begin with whatever the X is, so that in this case the surname would mean "one from Dzięgielewo or Dzięgiele" or some similar name. Unfortunately there are quite a few places in Poland and the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with names this surname could refer to. Without further details on a specific family's history there's no way to know which one is relevant.

This is often the case with Polish surnames. Many refer to the name of a place the family came from, but there are many places with names that fit. It's pointless saying "I'm Dzięgielewski, where is my family from?" You have to do the research that indicates they came from a specific area, and at that point it may become possible to hook them up with a place nearby with a name beginning Dzięgiel-.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.


 

Górniak

Been doing some research on family - not sure if Gorniak is Polish - the website you reference only list 54 or so with that name in Poland - of course, I can't read Polish, so I am assuming that's what it was telling me. Is that website available in English?? Appreciate it!!

No, it's not available in English. If you need help using it, I wrote an article on the subject in the latest issue of
Gen Dobry!, the free e-zine of PolishRoots.

The name Górniak is Polish, spelled with an accent over the O, pronounced roughly "GOORN-yock." As of 1990 there were 8,205 Polish citizens by that name (the 54 you found were with plain O, which was probably a misspelling -- the name would usually be spelled with the accented Ó). The Górniaks lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw, 751; Czestochowa, 555; Katowice, 556; Konin 477; Lublin, 542; and Wroclaw, 454. This just tells us the name is common all over the country, so one cannot tell from the name what part of Poland a given Górniak might have come from.

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 górniak, a dialect term that can mean "mountain men" or "miner." The root górn- means "of the mountain," but names beginning with that root often refer to mines. So a Górniak ancestor was probably either a miner or a person who lived in the hills or mountains.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Gorzałkowski

Our family names are Gorzalkowski, Borkowski and Korzenewski [Borkowski and Korzeniewski are dealt with in separate notes.]

Gorzalkowski in Polish is spelled with a slash through the L, which means it is pronounced like our W. Gorzałkowski is pronounced roughly "go-zhaw-KOFF-skee."

Surnames in the form X-owski mean literally "of the X's _," where the blank is to be filled in with something so obvious it didn't need to be spelled out -- usually "kin" or "place." So in some cases X-owski can mean "kin of [the] X." But most often it refers to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago, a place name beginning with the X part, which may have various suffixes that were detached before the -owski was added. If the family was noble, they owned an estate there; if not, they lived and worked there. So while X-owski can just mean "kin of X," it generally means "one from the place of X." There are, however, exceptions.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions Gorzałkowski in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles], Vol. 1, Institut Jezyka Polskiego PAN, Kraków 1999, ISBN 83-87623-18-0. It comes from the noun gorzałka, "booze, hard liquor, vodka." So this surname could mean "of the kin of the liquor guys," or it could mean "from the place of liquor."

I cannot find any place in Poland with a name such as Gorzałki or Gorzałkowo, however; so I suspect this particular name probably indicates that the family was involved in distilling hard liquor -- "of the kin of the vodka guys," rather than "of the place of vodka." It suggests ancestors were related to people who distilled hard liquor, especially vodka.

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 and is now online as a searchable database), there were 48 Polish citizens named Gorzałkowski. They lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 11, Jelenia Gora 4, Opole 5, Pila 1, Piotrkow 19, Poznan 2, Szczecin 5, and Wloclawek 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.

If you wish to look at the data for yourself, it is at this site:

http://www.herby.com.pl/herby/indexslo.html

If you need help using it, I wrote an article on the subject in the latest issue of Gen Dobry!, the free e-zine of PolishRoots.

This data indicates that the name is scattered in small numbers all over the country. You can't look at the name and say, "Oh, the Gorzałkowskis came from this area right here." They could have come from anywhere. Incidentally, that's how it is with most Polish surnames; very few point you to a specific place of family origin. Even if the name refers to a place, there's usually more than one place with a name that fits. The only way to determine exactly where a family came from is to trace their history as far back as possible, in hopes of uncovering info that sheds light on the matter. The surname, by itself, usually won't tell you.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Grzęda - Grzenda

In the subject field is my last name [Grzenda]. My relatives have always believed it meant something akin to farmer. A recent immigrant, however, stated a grzenda is the ramp leading to and from a hen house. Do you know the correct meaning?

Grzenda is a variation of the name Poles spell Grzęda, using the Polish nasal vowel written as an E with a tail under it and pronounced usually like "en." The name can be spelled Grzenda as well as Grzęda because that's what it sounds like -- roughly like "G'ZHEN-dah."

In Poland these days the spelling Grzęda is much more common; as of 1990 there were 2,509 Poles by that name, with the largest numbers in the following provinces: Warsaw 375, Kalisz 360, Kielce 234, and Lublin 259. There were only 299 who spelled it Grzenda, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (97) and Suwałki (49).

Surnames originated centuries ago, and the modern meanings of the words they came from are not necessarily relevant. Many words mean the same thing now that they meant centuries ago; but you can never assume the modern meaning applies until you've looked into the matter a little more closely.

The name Grzęda/Grzenda is mentioned in the book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles] by Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut. He says it appears in records as early as 1439, and come an archaic noun grzęda, "bed (as for flowers); a bar for hanging something on (compare a chicken's roost); a patch for chickens." Presumably it started as a nickname, perhaps for one who had and was always tending a flower-bed, or one somehow associated with a bar or lever, or one always working in the area where chickens were kept (the diminutive noun grządka can mean "hen-house").

People are sometimes puzzled by names that can have several meanings, but if you think about it, English does the same thing. Was the ancestor of a family named Woods known for working with lumber, or did he live near woods, or was this a nickname that referred to his wooden personality, or what? Many words have several meanings, and thus names coming from them can have several meanings.

So there's no way to say what the "correct" meaning was. A Grzenda could have been associated with a flower bed, the area where chickens were kept, or a rod for hanging things on (perhaps because he was long and thin). The only way one might be able to say more is by tracing a specific family back in the records as far as possible. Sometimes that will uncover documents that shed light on exactly how and why a specific name came to be associated with a specific family. Of course, I cannot do that kind of research; but perhaps you can. If so, you will become far more of an expert on what Grzenda means (at least for your family) than I can ever hope to be.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Kapral

I am searching for any information on my late mother's maiden name Her name was Kapral and she came from Katowice.

Kapral is pronounced in Polish much as one might expect: roughly "KAH-prall," with the vowel in both syllables much like the "a" in "father."

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 and is now online as a searchable database at http://www.herby.com.pl/herby/indexslo.html), there were 967 Polish citizens named Kapral. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Czestochowa 163, Katowice 149, Kielce 91, and Legnica 86. 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 found all over the country but is most common in southcentral Poland, especially near the towns of Czestochowa and Katowice. So your mother came from the area where this name appears most often.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says the name comes from the noun kapral, which is Polish for "corporal." The word is thought to have come into Polish from Italian caporale, which came -- depending on which expert you check -- either from Latin caput, "head," or from Latin corporalis, "leader, head man," which is, of course, the source of the English word "corporal." Presumably it began as a nickname for an ancestor who was a corporal in the military at some point.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Korzeniewski

Our family names are Gorzalkowski, Borkowski and Korzenewski [Gorzalkowski and Borkowski are dealt with in separate notes]

Korzeniewski is pronounced roughly "ko-zhen-YEFF-skee." As of 1990 there were 5,638 Polish citizens by this name, as well as another 6,553 who bore the similar name Korzeniowski. These are essentially the same name, except in some areas they preferred the ending -ewski, in others -owski. Both names are common all over the country, but Korzeniewski is more common in the north, Korzeniowski in the south.

Names in the form X-ewski usually mean "one from X." In his book on Polish surnames Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles] Kazimierz Rymut says Korzeniewski would mean "one from Korzeniew or Korzeniów," and again, there are quite a few places with names that fit. They come from the noun korzeń, "root," so that you could interpret the surname as "one from the place of roots." But basically, it just means "one from Korzeniew, Korzeniewo, Korzeniów, etc." Only research into the family history might establish which of those places that particular family came from.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Mazur

I am just interested in what the name Mazur means for my child's project at school.

Mazur (pronounced roughly "MAH-zoor") is a very old and common Polish surname. Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles], saying that it appears in records as far back as 1425 and comes from the noun Mazur, which means "one from Mazovia" (also sometimes spelled "Masovia"). This region, which Poles call "Mazowsze," is in northeastern Poland. Mazur is especially likely to refer to someone from Masuria (in Polish Mazury), which is a subdivision of northern Mazovia. Strictly speaking, we'd expect Mazur to mean "one from Masuria," in the far northeastern corner of Poland. But the noun Mazur was originally a kind of nickname for one from Mazovia in general, and only later did it come to be associated with the specific area now called Masuria.

This name is not a whole lot of help to family researchers because it's too common. 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 59,069 Polish citizens named Mazur, and these days they have spread all over the country. So even though the name indicates origin centuries ago in northeastern Poland, for some time now Mazurs have lived all over Poland.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Chętkiewicz

I am interested in learning more about my father's surname: Chetkiewicz as I am trying to piece together a family tree for his family.

In Polish this name would usually be spelled with the first E being the nasal vowel written as an E with a tail under it. This vowel is usually pronounced somewhat like "en," so that Chętkiewicz sounds roughly like "hent-K'YEAH-veech." The initial CH is not quite the H sound of English, it's closer to the guttural "ch" in German "Bach." But that phonetic pronunciation I indicated is pretty close.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. The suffix -ewicz means "son of," so we would figure this name started out meaning "son of Chętko/Chętki/Chętka." Any of those names would produce Chętkiewicz once the ending was added, so we can't tell which one is relevant in a given instance.

These names all come from the root seen in the old term chętki, which in modern Polish is chętny, "willing" (especially in the sense "ready, willing, and able"). The same basic root appears in the noun chętka, "wish, caprice, whim," and in the noun chęć, "wish, desire." So this surname indicates that an ancestor was the son of one named Chętka or Chętki or Chętko, who presumably got that name either because he was always ready and willing to do what needed to be done, or possibly because he tended to be willful and capricious.

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 39 Polish citizens named Chętkiewicz. They lived in the following provinces: Katowice 1, Radom 31, Slupsk 2, Torun 5. 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.

The data indicates this name is usually found in the area of Radom in southeastern Poland, and perhaps was even at one time exclusively found there, so that those Chętkiewiczes in other areas had their roots originally near Radom. I'd hesitate to jump to that conclusion: there's nothing about the name that leads me to think it could only develop in one area. I suppose it's possible it was once more widespread, and for some reason these days it is mostly found near Radom. Still, that concentration certainly suggests a Radom connection is probable in most cases.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Wierzejewski

I have searched and searched to find some info on my mother’s family name...her name is Lydia Wierzejewski...she was born in Hindenburg in 1931 (Hindenburg OS is now called Zabrze) and moved into Northern Germany doing the Blitzkrieg.

In Polish Wierzejewski is pronounced roughly "v'yeah-zhay-EFF-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 and is now online as a searchable database), there were 219 Polish citizens by that name. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Leszno 44, Poznan 53, and Zielona Gora 50. 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 shows up most often in western Poland, in the region formerly ruled by Germany. However you don't need that information, since you know where your mother came from.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says that, like most names in the form X-ewski, this one generally refers to a family connection at some point centuries ago with a place beginning with the X part. In other words, we'd expect this name to mean "one from Wierzeje or Wierzejewo" or some place with a similar name.

Rymut specifically mentions Wierzeja, in Duszniki district of Wielkopolskie province, not too far from the city of Poznan (called Posen by Germans). I don't think we can conclude the name Wierzejewski always must mean "one from Wierzeja"; it means there is research that indicates some Wierzejewskis came from there. Perhaps all of them did, but only detailed research into the history of all Wierzejewskis could prove that.

If you'd like to see a map showing where Wierzeja is, go to www.pilot.pl and key in WIERZEJA in the box; then click on "Pokaz miasto." You'll get a map with a red circle showing where Wierzeja is, as well as a smaller map showing where that area is in relation to Poland as a whole.

To sum up, this surname is not particularly common, and appears mostly in west-central Poland. It probably refers to the name of a village or settlement the family was connected with; if noble, they owned an estate there, and if peasant, they lived and worked there. The name is especially likely to refer to the village of Wierzeja, not too far from Poznan; but in a given instance it might refer to some other place with a name beginning Wierzej-. The only way to prove the matter for sure is through tracing the family history as far back as possible, which may uncover information that sheds light on exactly when and how this name came to be associated with that family.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Chlebowski

I wonder whether you are able to give me any information about the surname Chlebowski.

In Polish the "ch" and "h" are pronounced the same, as a guttural somewhat like the "ch" in German "Bach." Keeping that in mind, Chlebowski is pronounced roughly "chleh-BOFF-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 3,271 Polish citizens by this name. They lived all over the country, with no significant concentration in any one area.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in documents as early as 1399, and refers to a family connection with any of a number of villages, settlements, etc. named Chlebów or Chlebowo or Chlebówka. There are quite a few of these, and the only way to tell which one a given family was connected with would be through genealogical research. The surname itself just doesn't tell us anything about that.

The basic root of the name is chleb, "bread." Chlebowo etc. would mean "[place] of bread." Thus Chlebowski would mean "[one] of the place of bread." But as I say, normally it should be interpreted as simply "one from Chlebowo/Chlebów, etc." In isolated instances it might mean "kin of the bread guy," but usually with surnames in the form X-owski the reference is to a place with a name beginning with the X part. It generally means the family lived or was otherwise connected with such a place at some point centuries ago. If they were noble, they owned an estate there; if they were peasants, they lived and worked there.

To sum up, there is probably not one big Chlebowski family, but rather a number of separate ones that came by the name independently, due to an association centuries ago with any of a number of places named Chlebów or Chlebowo or something similar, meaning "[place] of bread." Only genealogical research might help you pin down which one your particular family came from. I have no sources of info on individual families, so there's nothing I can tell you about your Chlebowskis beyond this.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Chmiel

Hello, my name is Carly and I was wondering if you had any information on the name of Chmiel or Chmill. I would really appreciate.

In Polish this name is usually spelled Chmiel, pronounced roughly "h'm'yell." The first sound isn't quite like English H, it's more like the guttural "ch" in German "Bach." But if you can manage to make an h- sound followed by an -m- sound followed by "yell," you'll be very close. Chmill doesn't look Polish, and I'd have to guess it's a misreading or misspelling of the original 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 13,030 Polish citizens named Chmiel. They lived all over the country, with no particular concentration in any one area.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appeared in records as early as 1369, and it comes from the noun chmiel, "hops." So it simply began as a name for an ancestor whom people associated with hops. Perhaps he grew them, or sold them, or lived in an area where they grew in profusion -- or he may have been a maltster. All the name tells us is that there was something about him that made "Hops" seem like an appropriate name, and it stuck, being applied to his descendants.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Chmielecki

... can you give me any information on the name Chmielecki. I would be very grateful.

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 3,223 Polish citizens named Chmielecki. The name is found all over Poland, but is most common in an area from the center of the country northward, in areas near the cities of Lodz, Płock, Warsaw, Gdansk, and so on. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

The name is pronounced roughly "h'myel-ET-skee," and comes ultimately from the noun chmiel, which means "hops," the grain. This surname might refer either to the kin of one called Chmielek, "little hops," possibly as a nickname of a reference to his father's occupation. But most likely it refers to a family's connection with a place named something like Chmielec, Chmielce, Chmielek, etc., meaning "place of the hops." One candidate is the village of Chmielek near Bilgoraj and Zamosc in southeastern Poland; one of my sources mentions that there were records that connected a noble family named Chmielecki with the estate at this place. But there may be, or may have been, other places with suitable names that I can't find in my sources. 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 be quite obscure, or may even have disappeared or renamed or absorbed into another community centuries ago.

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

Chmielecki - Chmieleski - Chmielewski - Malaske

My ancestors from Peplin, Poland, had the name Malaske in the U.S. I just recently found an alternate spelling on a naturalization paper of Chmielecki. On another document, Chmieleski. Are any of these common Polish surnames?

As for Chmieleski, the standard form is Chmielewski. It is properly pronounced "h'myell-EFF-skee," but in everyday speech that ending is often pronounced "ess-kee," as if the name were spelled Chmieleski. Spellings in records were often phonetic, so it wouldn't be at all unusual to see the name spelled with -eski. But the standard form is Chmielewski.

It obviously comes from the same basic root as Chmielecki: the noun chmiel, "hops." Like Chmielecki, it would refer in most cases to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago. But whereas Chmielecki would usually refer to places with names such as Chmielek, Chmielik, Chmielnik, and so forth, Chmielewski would refer to places named Chmielew and Chmielewo. The distinction is that Chmielewski means literally "of the _ of the hops," and the unstated word that fills in the blank would be "place," so that Chmielewski means "one from Chmielew or Chmielewo," which in turn means "one from the place of hops." Chmielecki, however, has a diminutive suffix -ek or -ec added to the root, so that it means "one from the place of the little hops guy." A subtle distinction, perhaps, but the point is that the two names would usually refer to different place names.

However, the surnames are close enough that it would not be strange to see them confused sometimes. Unfortunately, in older records surnames often varied (even in English), so that you might see the same family called Chmielecki in one record, Chmielewski in another, perhaps Chmielewicz in a third, and so on. You have to keep in mind the possibility of such variation.

There are numerous places in Poland these names can refer to. So it's impossible to say which place either surname referred to in a given family's case. The only way to discover that would be through genealogical research, tracing your specific family back generation to generation, until you trace them to their ancestral village in Poland. At that point it might become possible to establish a connection between them and some nearby place with a name that fits.

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 33,578 Polish citizens named Chmielewski, so that name is more common than Chmielecki. But it, too, is found all over Poland; the name itself gives no leads as to what part of the country a specific family came from.

Malaske can be a variation of a name in its own right, Mala[w]ski. But in this case it seems likely to be an Anglicized version of Chmiele[w]ski. Eastern European surnames were often mangled badly when immigrants came to the U. S., past the point of easy recognition. You often have no clue what the real name was until you do some research and find documents closer to the point of actual immigration. In this case, it's highly likely Malaske is the Americanized form, Chmielewski the Polish form, and Chmielecki a similar name with which Chmielewski was sometimes confused.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Chrzan

… I would like to know meaning of the name Chrzan. Also if you know of any in Poland.

This name comes from the Polish word chrzan, which means "horse radish." Since these names are hundreds of years old, it can be tough to figure out now why a particular name seemed relevant to people who lived centuries ago on a different continent; but it might have started as a nickname referring to someone's favorite food, or the fact that they grew horse radish, or even because their smell or coloring someone reminded people of horse radish. This is a moderately common surname in Poland today; as of 1990 there were 2,805 Polish citizens named Chrzan, plus another 773 who used a variant form, Krzan. Chrzan is pretty common all over Poland; it seems to be a bit more common in southcentral and southeastern Poland (the region Poles call "Malopolska," "Little Poland") than elsewhere, but not to an extent that would offer any practical help with tracing a particular Chrzan family.

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

Żółtek

… If you could provide any information on the meaning of this surname [Zoltek], I could greatly appreciate it.

This is one of those names whose basic origin is pretty easy to determine, but it's tough saying exactly how or why it ended up as a surname. The basic root is clear, from Polish żółty, "yellow" -- I'm using ż to stand for the Polish z with a dot over it, pronounced much like "s" in English "pleasure"; ó is the o with an accent over it, pronounced like "oo" in "book"; and ł is for the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w. The name would be pronounced something like "zhoow'-tek."

Anyway, the name means something like "yellow guy," and there is a Polish word żółtek, a kind of contemptuous term for "colored fellow." Most likely a name like this started as a nickname for a person who looked yellowish -- perhaps he had jaundice, or some other characteristic that people associated with the color yellow, or with bile. (I don't think it would be used like English "yellow" in the slang meaning of "cowardly," I don't think Polish makes that particular association). It's conceivable a person might get this name, also, because he had an Asiatic look to him. It's hard to say exactly why this name would "stick," all we can say for sure is that there was some sort of connection with "yellow" that was so obvious to people around him that they started calling him this, and the name stuck.

This is a moderately common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 755 Poles named Żółtek. They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Gdansk (41), Krakow (54), Nowy Sacz (187), and Warsaw (80). This tells us there's no one part of the country a Żółtek must have come from, although the name is a bit more common in the southcentral part of Poland (the provinces of Nowy Sacz and Krakow). I realize this may not be a lot of practical help in finding where your ancestors came from, but I'm afraid that's the rule with Polish surnames -- I'd estimate fewer than 10% offer any useful clue in that regard.

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

 

Trafidło

… I've looked everywhere....can you possibly help? Looking for the meaning of the Polish surname: Trafidlo

There are two possibilities here. The basic root of this name could be the verb trafić, "to hit the mark, be on target." But I can find no term trafidło. This might be a variant of the term trawidło, which is the name of an animal, "maw, abomasum, rennet (abomasum vitulinum)." Many Poles bear names derived from those of animals, sometimes because they raised them, hunted them, or something about a person reminded people of an animal (his movements, the color of his skin or clothes), or else he lived in an area where these animals was common. Such a name might start as a nickname and end up "sticking" as a surname. I suspect strongly that this surname Trafidło began as a variant of trawidło, since they are pronounced very similarly, "trah-FEED-woe" vs. "trah-VEED-woe."

Trafidło is a fairly rare name, as of 1990 there were only 156 Poles by that name; they were scattered all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Ciechanow (22), Rzeszow (35), Tarnobrzeg (34), and Wroclaw (23). Unfortunately there is no one area of the country we can say this name came from, although there is a bit of a concentration in the southeastern provinces of Rzeszow and Tarnobrzeg. Interestingly enough, as of 1990 there no Trawidło's, so if Trafidło is a variant of that name, it appears it's the form that's survived. That happens sometimes, but it is a bit odd.

Those are my best guesses as to the origin of the name. I hope this information is some help to you, and wish you the best of luck with your research.

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

Włóka

… I appreciate your offer to give me whatever you might know about my surname which is "Wloka". I am told it is indeed Polish and supposedly is the name of an ancient land measure in Polish.

There was indeed an old land measure (still used till the metric system took over), the włóka -- I'm using ł to stand for the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w, and ó to stand for the Polish accented o, pronounced like "oo" in "book," so that the name is pronounced something like "V’WOOK-uh." The amount of land this unit designated varied from place to place and time to time, but as a rule it was more or less equivalent to 30 acres. A włóka was basically a full-sized farm, so the name might apply to a peasant who was fortunate enough to own a farm big enough to live on, as opposed to those who owned small pieces of land that wouldn't support them, so they had to hire out as laborers for others to make ends meet. Granted, there might be other ways a name like this got started, perhaps in reference to a fellow's size -- if he was a big man, he might be called this, sort of a nickname meaning "Big as a włóka." The verb from the same root means "to trail, drag along, shuffle feet," so the name might have some connection with those meanings. But I tend to think this particular name would most likely be a reference of some sort to the land measure and specifically to an ancestor’s owning that land.

As of 1990 there were 433 Włóka's in Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Czestochowa (104), Piotrkow (119), and Poznan (45). Unfortunately the name appears in too many parts of the country to let us point at one specific place and say "Here's where a family by that name came from"; the most we can say is that a large chunk of the Włóka's live in southcentral Poland, in the provinces of Czestochowa and Piotrkow. But that's still a pretty big area to search. I'm afraid this is true of at least 90% of Polish surnames -- relatively few offer a really helpful clue in terms of tracing a family's origin.

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

Wojewódzki

… My sister and I have been trying for some time to glean more information about my paternal grandmother's ancestry. She died when my dad was quite young (somewhere between 1925 and 1935). The spelling of her maiden name on my dad's birth certificate is: Woiewodsky. Her given name is Lydia. Perhaps I have been barking under the wrong tree? Perhaps I need to begin with ascertaining the origin of this name. I thought it was Polish, but perhaps she was of some other descent....Polish-Russian-Jewish.....?

This name probably is Polish -- you might see it among other Slavs, but it is most likely to be associated with Poles. It is an adjectival form, and in modern Polish the standard spelling is Wojewódzki, pronounced roughly "vo-yeh-VOOT-skee." It comes from the word wojewoda, literally "war-leader, leader of warriors"; the word has even come into English as "voivode." This was a term used for officials in charge of large sections of Poland, and these subsequently became known as województwa, usually translated "provinces." The surname Wojewódzki would typically be applied to kin of a voivode or someone who worked for him, worked on land belonging to him, etc. -- the name really doesn't imply more specific than some sort of connection, close or distant, with a voivode. As of 1990 there were 1,775 Poles by this name; they lived all over the country, there is no one part of Poland with which this name is particularly identified. That makes sense, really, by its nature this name could get started almost anywhere under Polish rule, including lands east of Poland (Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine).

There are a lot of alternate spellings one might have to check in English, including: Voyevodski, Voyevodzky, Vojevodsky, Vojevodzki, Voievodski, Wojewodzki, Wojevotski, etc. So I'm not surprised you're having trouble pinning down any one. But Wojewódzki is the correct Polish form, if that helps.

By the way, Lydia is not an overly common first name among Poles. It is possible her name might originally have been Leokadia -- this name is unfamiliar to most Americans, so often Polish women named Leokadia decided to go by Lydia in English-speaking countries. This isn't a sure thing, by any means, but that link shows up often enough I thought it was worth mentioning.

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

 

Leśny - Wiatrak

… I am working on a family tree searching for any information about my grandparents who came from Posna in the year 1890. His name was John Wiatrak and his wife's name was Mary Lesna or Lesney.

Wiatrak is a reasonably common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 1,129 Poles by that name. It comes from the root wiatr, "wind," and especially from the term wiatrak, "windmill." A person might have originally gotten such a name because he made windmills, worked at one, lived near one, etc. The name doesn't give us enough clues to be any more specific, we can only figure there was some association with wind and especially windmills that was obvious enough at the time to lead people to call a person by this name, and eventually it stuck as a surname. Some 17 of the Wiatrak's living in Poland in 1990 lived in the modern-day province of Poznan. The name is more common in the provinces of Kalisz (234), Krakow (128) and Radom (174). Kalisz province is southeast of Poznan, and it may at one time have been in the older, larger province of Poznan, so it's possible some of those Wiatrak's in Kalisz province were relatives of yours. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses, so this is about all I can tell you.

Lesney is probably an Anglicized form of Polish Leśny (ś , pronounced like a soft "sh") -- Leśna would be the form used when referring to a female by the same name. The word leśny means "of the forest, woods," and might refer to a woodsman or a person who lived in the woods. It, too, is moderately common, as of 1990 there were 1,489 Poles named either Leśny or Leśna; 291 of them lived in the modern-day province of Poznan, and that general area seems to be where the name is most common, although you find people named Leśny all over the country.

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

Barys - Cieślik - Kieca - Niedojadło

… 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 come across the names of Niedojadlo, Pocica, Kieca, Cieslik or Barys?

Barys could come from German Bär, "bear," especially used as a first name, or from nicknames of first names beginning with Bar- such as Bartłomiej (Bartholomew); there are numerous other possibilities, but these seem the most likely sources of the name. As of 1990 there were 295 Poles named Barys and another 244 named Baryś (with the accent over the s). There's no one area in which the name is most common, you find Barys'es and Baryś'es all over Poland. Tarnow province had 72 inhabitants named Barys (none named Baryś), whereas the largest single group of Poles named Baryś (77) were in Czestochowa province in southcentral Poland.

Cieslik in Polish is Cieślik, using the Polish s with an accent over it, pronounced like a soft "sh," so that the name sounds like "CHESH-leek." It means "carpenter's son, carpenter's kin," and is quite common -- as of 1990 there were 15,022 Cieślik's in Poland, living all over the country.

Kieca can come from kiec, "skirt," or from kiec, "the corncrake" (a kind of bird). As of 1990 there were 573 Poles by this name, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice (116), Krakow (97), and Tarnow (77), all in southcentral or southeastern Poland.

Niedojadło comes from the same root as niedojad, "insatiable fellow." It means literally "one who can't eat enough, one who can't get his fill." Presumably it referred to a fellow who looked like he hadn't missed any meals, or perhaps to someone who ate and ate and never got fat. It's a moderately common name, as of 1990 there were 577 Niedojadło's in Poland. (The ł represents the Polish slashed l, which is pronounced like our w, so that the name sounds like "nyeh-do-YAD-woe.")

I can't find any source that gives a clue what Pocica might come from. As of 1990 there were 229 Poles by that name, with the main concentration, 179, in the province of Tarnow in southeastern Poland.

I think my family is from Southern Poland. I have the towns listed as Grudna Gorna, Malo and Pilzno. I also have info from the Parish Church of Siedliska Bogusz. I'm sure that I probably spelled all of those wrong!

Actually, they all look right to me!

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

Ziąbkowski - Ziombkowski - Ziomkowski

… I am trying to find the orgin of our last name - Ziomkowski/Ziombkowski.

The problem here is, which form of the name is right? Sometimes you can change three or four letters and it makes no difference, other times a single letter can make all the difference in the world. For what it's worth, in either case the name most likely started as a reference to the name of a village or settlement the family lived at one time -- most -owski names started that way. So for instance Ziombkowski is probably a variant of Ziąbkowski -- the Polish nasal vowel written as an a with a tail under it and pronounced usually much like on in French bon, but before b or p like "om." So the name could be spelled either Ziąbkowski or Ziombkowski. One possible candidate could be the village of Ziąbki in Skierniewice province; people from there might very well end up with the name Ziąbkowski, meaning nothing more than "one from Ziąbki." The basic root is either zięba, "chaffinch," or ziębić, "to chill." Thus Ziąbki probably started out meaning "the place of the chaffinches," and Ziąbkowski was "one from the place of the chaffinches."

If the name is properly Ziomkowski, the basic root is ziemia, "land, earth," but again, the surname probably means just "one from Ziomek/Ziomki/Ziomkowo" or some other similar name. One candidate is Ziomek in Ostrołęka province, but I'm sure there are others, that's the only one big enough to show up on my maps. In the centuries since surnames were established, many of the little villages or settlements they originally referred to have since disappeared, changed names, merged with other communities, etc. so often it's hard to find the particular one a family's surname refers to in a specific case. The best advice is to use your research to find the specific area in Poland where the family lived, then see if you can find some village or community nearby that started with a similar name, such as Ziomek or Ziomki or Ziomkowo or Ziąbki. If you do, chances are good that's the place the surname came from.

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

Surname 6 Combined File
 
 
 

CICHEWSKI -- CICHOWSKI

… My last name is Cicheskie, This is the exact spelling of my grandfather and greatgrandfather (both of whom were born in Poland). They came to this country (settling in PA) in approx. 1903. Can you help with the orig. and also why the ending in -skie instead of -ski?

This name, in this form, does not exist in Poland any more -- at least there was no one named Cicheski or Cicheskie as of 1990. Most likely this is a variant form of a name that has since been standardized. The basic root is clearly cichy, "quiet, calm, peaceful," and the surname probably started as a reference to origin in a town or village named Ciche, Cichewo, Cichowo, something like that (all of which would mean basically "quiet place, or place of the quiet one"). In many parts of Poland the w in the ending -ewski is pronounced very softly or even dropped, so we are probably dealing with a name that was Cichewski but came to be spelled as it was pronounced.

There were 3,435 Poles named Cichowski as of 1990, and this may be relevant because the suffixes -owski and -ewski are basically the same thing; whether the vowel is e or o depends on Polish linguistics. There has been a bit of standardization going on in Poland since literacy became more or less universal, so a lot of variant forms of names have disappeared as people started going by the "standard" form. That may be what happened here -- some folks who used to go by Cichewski or Cicheski may have changed it to Cichowski, but this happened after some of the family had emigrated. That may explain why Cicheski is no longer seen in Poland.

In any case, it's a pretty sure bet the surname means "one from Ciche, Cichy, Cichowo," etc., and there are quite a few places in Poland that bear names that qualify. If you can find out what specific part of Poland the family came from, search that area for places with names starting Cich-, and if you find one nearby, chances are good that's the place the name originally referred to. It's doubtful any records go back far enough to prove it, but you never know!

As for -skie vs. -ski, I doubt it's significant. That may just be an Anglicized form, meant to help people pronounce the -ski correctly. It is true that, grammatically speaking, Cicheskie can be a form of the name Cicheski, referring to more than one female; thus if you saw a Polish-language document referring to, say, "Marta and Anna and Agata Cicheski," the Polish would be "Marta i Anna i Agata Cicheskie." That could account for the spelling -- or as I said, it may just be a spelling variant. I doubt it really makes any difference.

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


JURGIEL

… I'm interested in finding any information on the name Jurgiel. It's my last name. I know it's Polish. But I've never heard of anyone else with it. If you could help I would be grateful. I'm trying to look up my heritage.

Jurgiel is one of many surnames that come from first names, in this case from a form of the name that appears in Polish as Jerzy, in English as George, in Czech as Jiri, in German as Georg, etc. The particular form Jurg- is thought to have been influenced by German (that -rg- toward the end is the tip-off). That doesn't mean the family bearing the name wasn't Polish -- over the centuries many, many ethnic groups have interacted with Poles and left some trace on the forms of names in particular areas. It's also worth mentioning that the name "George" shows up in Lithuanian as Jurgis (again, at some point in the distant past they may have gotten the name from Germans living in the area), and Jurgelis is a moderately common surname among Lithuanians -- it would mean basically "little George, son of George." Jurgiel might come into Polish by way of contact with Lithuanians or Germans, but that would not make it any less a Polish name. (After all, many saints' names appear in many European languages, yet are originally of Greek, Hebrew, or Latin origin -- but Pierre is no less French for having come from Latin Petrus). Whatever the exact origin, the name probably began as meaning "son of George."

As of 1990 there were 491 Polish citizens named Jurgiel. They lived in small numbers in many provinces, but the largest numbers show up in the provinces of Białystok (154), Pila (44), and Szczecin (39). Białystok is in northeastern Poland, right by the border with Lithuania and Belarus, and Pila and Szczecin are in northwestern Poland, where there were and are a lot of people of German ethnic origin -- so again we see a possible link with Lithuanian and German. But as I say, that doesn't make the Jurgiel's any less Polish... Interestingly, the surname Jurgielewicz, literally "son of Jurgiel," is more common than Jurgiel itself; as of 1990 there were 1,213 Poles named Jurgielewicz, and again, the name is most common in northern Poland, in areas near where Poles had constant contact with Germans and Lithuanians.

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


ADAMCZAK -- TIPINSKI -- CIPINSKI

My maternal grandfather's name was Stanley Vincent Adamczak. Is this a variant of Adamczyk that existed in Poland? Or is it a misspelling made upon arrival in the USA?

ADAMCZAK is very likely correct. The suffixes -czak and -czyk both mean "son of," and many names exist in both forms. So ADAMCZAK, pronounced "ah-DOM-chock," is just as good a name as ADAMCZYK ("ah-DOM-chick"). As of 1990 there were 7,872 Polish citizens named Adamczak, as opposed to 49,599
named Adamczyk; both names are found all over Poland, with no useful concentration in any one area. I don't know why the form with -czyk is so much more common than the one with -czak, but we sometimes see these puzzling phenomena with names.

My second major questions is: My maternal gransmother's name was Belle Marie Tipinski, and her father, Boleslaw Tipinski, came from Poland circa 1900. Is the name Tipinski in your book? And is it a common name in 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 no Polish citizens named TIPINSKI. This is not surprising: while the combination TI is not totally unknown in Polish, it doesn't usually occur in native Polish names and words. Poles prefer instinctively to use either
TY-, which sounds sort of like the "ti" in English "tip," or else CI-,
which sounds kind of like "ch" in "cheese." But the combination of T with I just doesn't usually happen in Polish except with words and names borrowed from other languages.

So the question is, what was the name originally? Or what is the standard form of the name today? It's tricky trying to figure something like this out, because there are literally hundreds of thousands of Polish names, and a change of one letter can sometimes involve enormous differences. But following the logic of what I just said, I see three likely possibilities: 1) TYPINSKI; 2) CIPINSKI; 3) the name originated as TIPINSKI in some other
Slavic language, possibly Russian or Ukrainian, and was brought into Polish as is.

As of 1990 there were 74 Polish citizens named TYPINSKI (accent over the N, pronounced roughly "tip-EEN-skee"). They were scattered in small numbers all over Poland, with by far the largest number 29, living in the province of Zamosc, on the Ukrainian border. 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 90 Poles named CIPINSKI (accent over the N, pronounced roughly "chee-PEEN-skee"). The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Katowice, 33; Skierniewice, 21; and Wroclaw, 11.

As I said, there were no TIPINSKI's in Poland as of 1990, and I have no other data for other countries. None of my sources on other languages discuss this name.

In any event, the name probably refers to a place name, meaning "one from Tipin/Cipin/Typin" or some similar name. Without being sure of the surname's form, it's hard to say what the name of the place might have been. There's a place named Ciepien, that's a possibility, but there are others. If you'd like to investigate some of the possibilities, you could go to this Website:

http://www.jewishgen.org/ShtetlSeeker/loctown.htm

Enter "Cipin" or "Typin" or "Tipin" as the place you're looking for (they all code the same in Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex anyway) and hit "Start Search." It will provide a long list of places in Eastern Europe with names that could be a phonetic match for this name. Most of them you can ignore; concentrate mainly on places in Belarus, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine that are reasonably close to the spellings I gave. Who knows, this might give you something to work with.

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


WASELEWICZ

I have never seen my given surname posted anywhere, nor have I any knowledge of it's origins. In college, a German professor asked if I knew the etymology of my name. He indicated that he thought it had some religious significance. Possibly you could help id some way. The name is Waselewicz. Thank you.

In Polish the suffix -ewicz means "son of," and Wasel- is a variant of the Eastern Slavic first name Poles spell Wasilij; we would spell it Vasily. It developed as a first name from the Greek word basileus, "king." Via the Orthodox Church this name came into usage among Eastern Slavs (Belarusians, Russians, and Ukrainians) as Vasily or Vasyl or Vasylko; in Polish it became Bazyli, and in English it became Basil. Note that languages influenced primarily by Latin retained the initial B sound, whereas the Greek-influenced Eastern Slavs turned it into a V sound, which Poles spell with the letter W.

It's not unusual for Slavs in general to have used a great many different forms of the name before one or two finally came to be regarded as standard, and this often shows up in surnames, which developed centuries ago. So even though the standard form of the first name these days is Vasily, it's not odd that it might appear as Vasel, especially when a suffix was added. The name probably originated among Belarusians or Ukrainians as Vaselevich, but Polish was the standard language of record for a long time in those regions, and thus the Polish spelling Waselewicz came into existence.

The bottom line, therefore, is that the name means "son of Basil." It almost certainly originated among Belarusians, or Ukrainians (or perhaps Russians, but that's less likely). Later it came to be written in Polish form because Polish was the language of record for the entire Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which included Lithuania, Belarus, and most of Ukraine. Various different forms of this same basic name appear among Poles, including Wasilewicz, borne by 765 Polish citizens as of 1990, and Wasylewicz, borne by 240. As of 1990, according to the best data available, there were no Polish citizens who spelled the name WASELEWICZ -- probably because over the last century there has been a tendency to standardize name spellings, influenced by the greater degree of literacy. If you looked in older records for some of those families with the names Wasilewicz and Wasylewicz, chances are quite good you would see those names occasionally spelled Waselewicz. Wasielewicz is also a plausible spelling variation.

Unfortunately I have no data on the frequency of the name in Belarus or Ukraine, and of course it would be spelled in Cyrillic, not the Roman alphabet, looking kind of like this:

B A C E JI E B N 4

The N is backwards, the JI is joined at the top with a horizontal stroke, and 4 is a pretty weak approximation of the letter in question -- but if you ever see the name in Cyrillic, this may be close enough to help you recognize it.

That's about all I can tell you. I hope it's some help, and wish you the best of luck with your research.

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


MAJORSZKY -- MAJORSKI

I saw your site on the internet and thought I would write you. I have a Polish name in our family background and was wondering if you have any information on it. The name has been in Hungary since before 1840 and the spelling is probably a bit Hungarianized too, but family history says that it came from Poland and was lower royalty. The name is MAJORSZKY. Do you have anything on that?

I don't have anything specifically on this name, but I can venture an educated guess and feel fairly confident it's right. I've run into a lot of Hungarian names borne by Poles, with spellings modified so that they're written the way Poles expect a name pronounced that way to be spelled. And I've seen at least some Polish names borne by Hungarians, similarly modified. In Hungarian the sound Poles spell as S, a simple "s" sound as in "so," is written SZ. And just to make things really confusing, Hungarians use the letter S to stand for the "sh" sound Poles write as SZ! Hungarian is exactly backwards from Polish in that respect.

So we're not assuming too much if we figure a Pole named MAJORSKI (or possibly someone from another Slavic group, a Czech or Slovak, etc.) could very well have come to live in Hungary, and gradually the spelling was changed to reflect Hungarian norms. Polish MAJORSKI and Hungarian MAJORSZKY are pronounced so similarly that this hypothesis is quite plausible.

MAJORSKI is not a common name at all in Poland these days -- as of 1990 the best data available shows only 2 Poles by that name, both living somewhere in the province of Bydgoszcz. There are other names, however, from the same root that are more common, including MAJOR (1,779), MAJORCZYK (868), MAJOREK (932), MAJOROWSKI (223), etc. I'm not sure why Majorski isn't more common -- perhaps most of the folks by that name moved to Hungary!? There may be more to this, but none of my sources go into it.

MAJORSKI comes from the Latin word _major_ or _maior_, "greater, bigger," and especially in a sense of rank or position, such as "major" in the military and even "mayor" as head of a town's government. So the name MAJORSKI certainly could be connected with a degree of rank and authority. I don't have specifics on noble families, so there's not a lot more I can tell you. 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

That's about all I can tell you. I hope it's some help, and wish you the best of luck with your research.

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


MISIOROWSKI

Do you have any information on the above family name? From Ulcie Solna, east of Kraków. Still have family in Poland with this name. Was told at one point that it meant butcher or meat cutter.

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 245 Polish citizens by this name. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 33, Katowice 31, Kielce 53, and Krakow 35; the rest lived 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.

With some Polish names it's fairly easy to tell what they come from without detailed info on a given family; with others there just is no way to say anything firm without research into the family's background. MISIOROWSKI is one of the latter. 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. So you'd expect this name to mean "one from Misiory or Misiorowo" or some similar name. But offhand I can't find any places with names that qualify. 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 be quite obscure, or may even have disappeared or renamed or absorbed into another community centuries ago.

If the form of the surname is reliable, it would seem to mean "one from Misiory or Misiorowo," and that name in turn comes from the noun misiora, "sorrel, mousetail (Myosurus)"; so the surname could be interpreted as "one from the place of sorrel." But I hesitate to accept that because there is, in fact, a noun misiarz that means "one who gelds animals." That -rz would simplify to -r- when suffixes were added, and the -a- could easily change to -o-; we see that happen all the time with Polish names. So even though the name appears to refer to a connection with a place name derived from misiora, it would be foolish not to recognize the real possibility that the name has changed slightly over the centuries and originally meant "kin of the animal gelder, one from the place of the animal gelders." 

As far as that goes, the Polish word for "meat" is mięso (the e has a tail under it and is pronounced roughly like "en"). Given a little change in the pronunciation and spelling of the name, Misiorowski might originally have referred to a butcher or meat dealer. The form of the name as we have it now suggests otherwise; but the name certainly might have changed somewhere along the way, even before the family ever left Poland.

As I say, without detailed research into your particular family, there's no way I can know which one meaning is relevant. It's one thing to say misiarz or mięso could yield a name in the form Misior-; it's another thing to prove it actually happened. So all I can do is offer these plausible explanations. With any luck your research may help you uncover some fact that will settle the matter one way or the other. 

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


GREGORCZYK -- GRZEGORCZYK

I was wondering if you could tell me anything about the surname
Gregorczyk. My grandmother was Polish, but her family anglicized the name to Gregor after they arrived in Canada. I believe that the original Polish name was Gregorczyk.  They lived in what was then Austrian Poland (Galicia). I wonder if this name  was common in that part of Poland.


The standard spelling of this name in Polish is GRZEGORCZYK. It is possible that your ancestors bore this name with Gregor- instead of Grzegor-, because there are regional differences in pronunciation that can affect spelling. A German linguistic influence, for instance, might affect this name and make it Gregor- instead of Grzegor-. But more often than not, Poles would spell this name Grzegorczyk, and pronounce it sort of like "g'zheh-GORE-chick" (whereas Gregorczyk would be more like "greh-GORE-chick").

It comes from the first name Grzegorz, the Polish form of the name we call "Gregory." The -czyk suffix is quite common in Polish, and in surnames usually translates as "son of." So this is one of several
surnames in Polish that translate as "son of Gregory." As such, it is a name that could develop independently almost anywhere people spoke Polish and there were guys named Grzegorz. So we'd expect it to be moderately common and widespread, with no concentration in any one part of the country.

That is what modern distribution and frequency data shows. 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 10,123 Polish citizens named GRZEGORCZYK, living all over Poland. As for the non-standard spelling GREGORCZYK, it, too, is reasonably common; there were 3,999 Poles who used that form of the name. It's interesting, though, that there was a definite concentration of Poles by that name in the southeastern province of Radom -- 1,218. The other provinces with large numbers were Ciechanow, 115; Katowice 380; Kielce, 113; Kraków 165; Lublin 130; Olsztyn 124; Szczecin 119; and Warsaw, 348.

This data doesn't allow one to focus too precisely on any one area; but it does suggest that the name is especially common in that part of former Galicia near the city of Radom. Perhaps this will be some help to you.

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


 

 

SZRPARSKI -- TRZENZALSKI -- TRZEMZALSKI

 

I have two surnames that I am stumped on. They are: Tekla SZRPARSKI and Stanislawa TRZENZALSKI. I am assuming that these two women are from somewhere around the area of Strzelno, Poland, which is near Gniezno, as that is where their spouses were from. I wondered if anyone has access to the Slownik Nazwisk and could possibly do a lookup for me in that, to see where these names were concentrated at. Also, does anyone have any ideas of what these two names could possibly mean?

Unfortunately, the Slownik nazwisk says there was no one in Poland by either of those names. It's possible the names were rare and died out after the families emigrated. But more often, when I run into something like this, it turns out the forms of the names are wrong -- somewhere along the line they've been misread or distorted. Before looking I thought SZRPARSKI had to be mangled, and I strongly suspect TRZENZALSKI is too. Those don't look or sound right. And considering how many hundreds of thousands of Polish surnames there are, it can be very difficult to take a distorted or misspelled form and deduce what the original was. Sometimes you can -- it's not too tough to see that Covalsky is Kowalski, or Catcavage is Kotkiewicz -- but usually it's not possible because there are just too many variables.

I did find one possibility for Trzenzalski, however, and it looks pretty good: TRZEMZALSKI (dot over the second Z). As of 1990 there were 89 Polish citizens by this name. They were scattered all over in small numbers: the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (12), Katowice (19), and Krosno (18). 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 surname most likely refers to the name of a place with which the family was connected at some point. The only candidate I could find is TRZEMŻAL in former Bydgoszcz province. If you'd like to see where it is, go to this Website:

http://www.jewishgen.org/ShtetlSeeker/loctown.htm

Enter TRZEMZAL as the place you're looking for, and click on "Start Search." You'll get a list of places with names that COULD phonetically match up with Trzemzal. Scroll down till you find: TRZEMZAL 5233 1754 POLAND 132.2 miles W of Warsaw. Click on it, and you should get a map that shows the location. The Strzelno you mentioned is perhaps, oh, 10-15 km. ENE of Trzemzal, so it's reasonable to suppose that in your ancestors' case the surname just mean "one from Trzemzal." It could be Trzenzalski is just an misspelling, or it could possibly be a legitimate phonetic variation of the name, since the EM and EN sounds can be pretty
close. Either way, I strongly suspect this is the answer to your
question on this name.

As for Szrparski, 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 can tell you anything. Good luck!


MNICH

I would appreciate any information concerning the surname "MNICH".

According to Polish experts, this surname comes from the Polish noun mnich, "monk, friar." Presumably it originated as a nickname for the relatives of one who was a monk, or as a nickname for one who somehow reminded people of a monk, or even one who was the opposite of a monk -- the name may have been meant ironically in some cases. As of 1990 there were 2,734 Polish citizens named Mnich, living all over Poland, with no particular concentration in any one part of the country.


SADLOWSKI -- KRZYKWA -- GIZYNSKI -- JORGELEIT -- JURGELATJTIS

I just found your information on the internet for Polish surnames. Unfortunately my family names are not listed. If you could give me any information on any of the names I would appreciate it very much. SADLOWSKI, KRZYKWA, GIZYNSKI, JORGELEIT OR JURGELATJTIS

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 836 Polish citizens named GIZYNSKI. In Polish this name is spelled with a dot over the Z and an accent over the N, and pronounced roughly "gi-ZHIN-skee." It derives ultimately from the noun giza, "hind leg of a pig or ox," but it probably refers to the family's connection with any of a number of places with names somehow connected with that root, such as Gizyn and Gizyno. If you'd like to see some of the places this surname might be connected with, search for "Gizyn" at this Website:

http://www.jewishgen.org/ShtetlSeeker/loctown.htm 

JORGELEIT is a Germanized or Anglicized form of the name JURGELAITIS, which is actually Lithuanian in origin and means basically "son of little George." 

KRZYKWA was the name of 272 Polish citizens as of 1990. 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 krzykwa, "storm."

SADLOWSKI was borne by 2,879 Poles as of 1990. It is another name referring to a place name, Sadlow or Sadlowo or something similar, deriving from the noun sadlo, "fat, lard." So the surname means roughly "one from Sadlow or Sadlowo" and can further be broken down as "one from the place of fat or lard."


GLAZA

I am trying to find the origin and history of the name Glaza. I know of a Johannes Glaza (b. 1822) who lived in the city of Sliwice (Cewice) if that is any help. Thank you very much for your time!

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 928 Polish citizens named GLAZA. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (302) and Gdansk (373), with the rest scattered in much smaller numbers all over the country. 

None of my sources give any definitive information on what this name comes from. It might possibly come from the noun glaz, "glaze, silver mixed with gold," or from German Glas, "glass." There is a native Polish word głaz, "stone, boulder," but the problem is that it has the L with a slash through it (which I represent on-line as Ł, pronounced like our W ), and it is very hard to say whether and under what circumstances it would be relevant to a name with the standard L. As of 1990 there was no one in Poland named GŁAZA, but there were 2,013 named GŁAZ. So it's very much debatable as to whether that has anything to do with GLAZA.


MLECZEWSKI -- NUSZKOWSKI

A friend of mine just gave me your website and told me you do quick surname origins and meanings. I am wondering if you would be kind enough to consider a short analysis of my maiden name, which was Mleczewski. Old Bible records indicate my grandfather was born either in 1889 or 1890 in Tadejewo, Rypin, Pomarskie, POLAND. I recall, as a child, I was told he was a well-educated man, who served as a governmental interpreter. I do remember he spoke several languages. (Don't know if you want or need this last information, but for what it might be worth, I've included it.) His mother's maiden name was Nuszk'owska. >>

Literally Mleczewski means "of, from the _ of milk"; in names ending with -ewski or -owski, that blank is filled in with something so obvious it didn't need to be spelled out, either with "place" or "kin." So this name could mean "kin of the milk guy." But more likely it means "one from the place of milk," referring to a place with a name derived from Polish mleko, "milk." Such a place could be named Mleczew or Mleczewo, or almost anything beginning with Mlecz-. There is at least one good candidate, Mleczewo, a few kilometers east of Sztum, which is southeast of Gdansk and southwest of Elblag. Mleczewski makes perfect sense as meaning "one from Mleczewo." However, it is quite possible there are or were other places with names from which the surname might develop; Mleczewo's just the best one I could find offhand.

By the way, he was born in Tadejewo (or Tadajewo?), Rypin, Pomorskie. That's just an adjective referring to the region of Pomerania. There's a Tadajewo very near Rypin, east of Torun -- presumably that's the place you're referring to. It's quite a distance south of Mleczewo, so it's hard to say whether that Mleczewo is the place to which the name refers in your ancestor's case; but it is at least possible.

Mleczewski is not a very common name at all. 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 only 29 Poles by that name. They lived in the provinces of Gdansk (5), Torun (21), and Wloclawek (3). Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. As of 1990 Rypin and Tadajewo were in Wloclawek province, so that suggests those 3 Mleczewskis in that province might be relatives; for that matter, some of the 21 in Torun province might also be, that's not too far away.

It's interesting that Nuszkowski is also a rare name: there were only 22 Poles by that name, living in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (8), Gdansk (10), and Szczecin (4). It, too, probably refers to a place named something like Nuszki or Nuszkowo. I can't find any places by those names on modern maps, but that's not unusual -- 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.


MARAJDA

I ... wondered if you had ever come across the name "MARAJDA" in your investigations? My husband's grandmother was an Anna Marajda, and she married a Peter Wisniak. He spoke Russian and Polish, she only 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 23 Polish citizens named MARAJDA. Two of them lived somewhere in the province of Sieradz, the rest lived in the province of Lodz. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. But perhaps it will help you focus your research on the Lodz area, since the odds are that's the most likely area in which to find relatives.

As for the derivation or meaning of this name, I'm afraid none of my sources give any information at all. This makes me suspect the name is not Polish in origin. But I couldn't find anything on it in my German, Lithuanian, or Ukrainian sources, either. So I'm at a loss to suggest what language it came from, let alone what it means. Most Polish names beginning with Mar- come either from short forms of the first name Marek, "Mark," or from the noun mara, "phantom, nightmare." There's also a verb marac that means "to dirty, smear, soil." But I can think of no plausible way for MARAJDA to come from any of those roots.


GRYGLEWICZ -- FARON

My husband's grandparents immigrated from Poland in the very early 1900's. Their names are listed as Andrez Gryglewicz and Anna Farron. I am having trouble researching them. Could you tell me what the origin of the names are and if I am even close 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 537 Polish citizens named GRYGLEWICZ, so this is probably a correct spelling of the name. The suffix -ewicz means "son of," and Grygl- comes from Grygiel, a kind of nickname or variant from of the first name we know as "Gregory." So the surname means basically "son of Greg." That name Grygiel is found more in the eastern part of Poland or the regions just east of there, i.e., Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine; so most likely the first bearers of this name came from that general area. In the centuries since then, however, the name has been spread all over Poland -- these days there is no one region in which this name is concentrated.

As for FARRON, Poles usually don't use double letters unless you
actually pronounce the letter twice; the doubling of the R probably
happened after the family left Poland. In this case, I suspect the original form was FARON, pronounced roughly "FAR-own," a name borne by 1,701 Polish citizens as of 1990 (there was no one named FARRON). The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 194, Kraków 98, Nowy Sacz 769, and Opole 166. So it is most common in southcentral and southwestern Poland.

I found only one expert who discussed this name, but he was an expert on names in the Nowy Sacz region, which is where the name is most common -- so his insights are probably reliable. He said it derives from faron, which is a variant of the noun piorun, "lightning." Presumably it started as a nickname for one whom people somehow associated with lightning. He mentions it might also be connected with the noun fanfaron, which came from French and means "boaster, braggart, fop."

 

 

JAZWIEC - HASKIEWICZ - GLOGOWSKI

Since I have started to trace my family tree, I have discovered many family surnames that I would like to know the origin of, but I will limit myself to inquiring about only a few. I am familiar with the origin of a couple names. Among those, Gajda, which is the name of the bagpipe-type instruments from Gorny Slask (Upper Silesia), and Sieradzki, from the town of Sieradz, near Wielkopolska. However, My interest primarily lies in the names Nawrocki, Jazwiec, Has'kiewicz (accent on s) and Głogowski.

Nawrocki comes from the verb nawracać, nawrócić, "to turn, revert, convert," especially referring to a change in religion or conversion; as of 1990 there were 21,798 Poles by this name, living all over Poland.

Jazwiec, the name of 777 Poles as of 1990, comes from a Polish noun meaning "badger"; the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Kalisz (234), Katowice (97), and Krakow (111) in southcentral Poland.

Głogowski means "one from Głogów or Głogówko," and there were 6,886 Poles by that name as of 1990.

Haśkiewicz means "son of Hasiek or Haśko," and as of 1990 there were 205 Poles by that name, scattered in small numbers all over Poland.


BUDZYNSKI - KARPINSKI

I am researching a friend's family name of Budzynski and Karpinski.

I'm afraid I can't help much. Both names are fairly common, and both come from place names that can apply to a number of different villages in Poland. As of 1990 there were 7,212 BUDZYNSKI's, living all over Poland; the name just means "one from Budzyn or Budzynka," and there are several villages and towns with names that could yield this surname. There were 19,174 Poles named KARPINSKI, also living all over the country, and that name just means "one from Karpin or Karpno" or some similar place name. So as is common with Polish surnames, the names themselves provide no useful information in tracing a given family. The only way to discover anything useful is by way of detailed genealogical research that may shed light on exactly which Budzyn or Budzynka or Karpin or Karpno this particular family was once connected with.


GRABSKI

I am looking for general info on the last name of grabski. I am third generation in the united states.

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 4,738 Polish citizens named GRABSKI. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bielsko-Biala 263, Bydgoszcz 220, Gdansk 199, Katowice 298, Lodz 282, Poznan 219, Warsaw 642. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. About all this data really tells us is
that the name is found all over Poland, so that a Grabski family could come from anywhere.

This name probably refers in most cases to the name of a place the family was associated with at some point. The problem is, there are a lot of places that qualify, places named Grab, Grabie, etc. They come from the roots grab, "hornbeam tree," grabie, "rake," and grabic', "to rob." Most likely the majority of the places were named either for a local concentration of hornbeams or for a founder or owner named Grab. So Grabski literally means "of the hornbeam" or "of Grab" or "of the place of Grab or the hornbeams." Without detailed research into a specific family there's no way to know what the exact link was in their particular case.


FRENZEL

Do you have any idea what the origin of FRENZEL is?

It's German in origin, a diminutive of Franz, "Francis." Spelled Frenzel or Fra"nzel in German, it would mean something like "little Frank." It's not a very common name in Poland these days -- as of 1990 there were only 104 Polish citizens named Frenzel, scattered all over the country.  It's probably pretty common in Germany, but I have no data for that country.


KUNDE

I am interested in learning about my last name Kunde my people came from the Koslin area of Prussia.

Kunde is a German name, which is not surprising or unusual in that area. According to Hans Bahlow's Deutsches Namenlexikon, this name comes from Middle High German kunde, meaning "known person, native."

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 44 Polish citizens named KUNDE, living in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 16, Gdansk 6, Slupsk 22. The form KUNDA is much more common; there were 789 Poles by that name, including 29 in the province of Koszalin. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.


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.


FALKOWSKI, WAWAK

I am interested in two, Falkowski and Wawak and would appreciate any information on them.

FALKOWSKI just means "one from Falki or Falkow or Falkowa or Falkowo," and thus refers to a family's connection at some point with any of a number of places with names beginning Falk-. Without detailed info on a specific family there is no way to know which of these places the name refers to.

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 9,306 Polish citizens named FALKOWSKI. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 898, Białystok 1,550, Olsztyn 546, Torun 879, and Wloclawek 406. So the name is especially common in northeastern and northcentral Poland; but a Falkowski family could really come from anywhere in Poland. With any luck your research may help you focus on a particular region or area, and if you find a place with a name beginning Falk- nearby, chances are decent that is the place the name referred to originally. The name is pronounced roughly "fall-KOFF-skee," or sometimes "fall-KOSS-kee."

As of 1990 there were 748 Polish citizens named WAWAK ("VAH-vahk"), of whom by far the largest concentration, 516, lived in the south central province of Bielsko-Biala. The name is thought to have come from a kind of affectionate short form or nickname of the Polish first name
Wawrzyniec, "Lawrence." So Wawak originally meant something like "little Larry" or, more likely, "kin of Larry."


ZGONINA

I read with interest your material about names on the Polish Roots website. Could you please tell me anything you know about the name "Zgonina" which probably originated in the Slask region? Also, what does your more-detailed analysis of names involved and what is your fee?

I'm going to have to change what it says on the Website -- I just don't have time to do detailed research. All I can offer is "quick and dirty" analysis. To do anything more, you have to undertake detailed research into the geographical, historical, social, and linguistic context in which a particular family came to be associated with a specific name. I'm too committed to other projects to have any time for that kind of painstaking research in the foreseeable future.

What I can tell you is that the name Zgonina probably comes from the noun zgonina, "chaff." 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 only 64 Polish citizens by this name. They lived in the following provinces: Czestochowa 7, Katowice 22, Opole 31, Zielona Gora 4. This distribution tends to support your belief that the name originated in the region of Slask or Silesia -- Katowice and Opole are major cities of Silesia. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.


PRZYBYLO

I came upon your name through the internet. Recently, my father passed away. He was remarkably closed mouthed, and revealed little about himself or his family. The little I do know is his father immigrated to the US just prior to 1900 supposedly from Krakow. His name was Michael Przybylo and his new home was Chicago. The only other facts I know are that my father's birth certificate listed Michael's place of birth as Pilsen and he had a brother, Joseph. We always considered the tracing of our name and heritage futile due to two wars we thought would destroy any records. Any comments you might have would be greatly appreciated.

The name PRZYBYLO is spelled in Polish with a slash through the L, and is pronounced roughly "p'shih-BI-woe," where the middle syllable has the short I sound in "bit." It comes from a noun meaning "new arrival, newcomer," and is widespread all over 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 2,744 Polish citizens by this name; 418 lived in the province of Krakow alone. The origin and meaning of the name itself offer nothing useful in the way of tracing ancestry.

Tracing your heritage in Poland is not the futile effort you might think. You'd be amazed at how many records survive in Poland; I routinely hear from people who've traced their families back to the 1700's. If you'd like to try doing some research in earnest, I recommend buying a copy of Rosemary Chorzempa's "Polish Roots." It's widely available, it's less than $20, and countless people have told me they found it priceless in terms of the help it gave them in getting started.


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.


SKIKIEWICZ

...this is intriguing and it has me thinking if it's associated with something that the person is/was doing than I wonder what 'Skikiewicz' can mean(surely it can't be a skiing instructor) there was some mention that my g/grandfather had some dealings/trading in horses could that be part of it in a Slavic language

Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions Skikiewicz in his book Nazwiska Polakow. Obviously it means "son of Skik," and he derives that name from the dialect noun skik, a variant of standard Polish skok, which means "jump." The so-called Slownik warszawski adds that in addition to its use as a noun, skik is a dialect term used as an interjection meaning "hop! hush!" Neither source identifies what dialect this term is used in, but I suspect it would originate in the Kresy, the eastern regions of the Commonwealth, and especially in Ukraine. One reason I say so is that the term skik is used in exactly this way in Ukrainian; and Ukrainian has a tendency to change O in most Slavic languages into I. Even without any information from Rymut or the dictionary, one could reasonably suggest Skik might be a Ukrainian form of Polish Skok.

So it appears safe to say SKIKIEWICZ means "son of Skik," and that name began as a sort of nickname, much as if you called a person "Hop" or "Jumpy" in English. It's impossible to say any more than that without detailed research into the family's history. Considering that such names are typically several centuries old, it's questionable whether any records survive that will establish exactly how a fellow came to be called this. Perhaps the most we can do is propose reasonable and plausible suggestions based on the core meaning of the word.

You probably know this is a fairly rare name in modern 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 only 64 Polish citizens named Skikiewicz. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Gorzow 15, Lublin 11, and Wroclaw 16. The rest were scattered all over the country in tiny numbers. That distribution may seem inconsistent with Ukrainian derivation until you factor in the effects of the post-World War II forced relocation of millions from eastern Poland to the western territories recovered from Germany. These days we often see distinctively Ukrainian surnames concentrated in western Poland, far away from where we'd expect to see them. If we had data from before 1939, I suspect the name Skikiewicz would be found primarily in the east. However, I can't prove it.


BRUDZISZ, PIERZ

I'm currently working with a Family Tree Maker to log my family tree. Some data I have obtained from other family research are the surnames PIERZ , GORSKI, both from Mosczcenica, Poland. Also any inofrmation on the surname Brudzisz, which is either Polish or Austrian? Thanks for your help. Brudzisz became Bridges around 1910 in USA with the birth of my granfather and the spelling that was reported by the midwife, so the story goes.

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 122 Polish citizens named BRUDZISZ. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Gorzow 19, Katowice 13, Krosno 17, Nowy Sacz 12, Tarnow 32. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. In Poland there are at least 9 places called Moszczenica -- which is almost certainly the correct spelling of the place name in question -- so I can't tell you which one your family came from. Many of them are in the south central and southeastern part of the country, which from roughly 1772 to 1918 was called Galicia and was ruled by the Austrian Empire. That explains how a name can be Polish and Austrian -- Poland was divided up by Germany, Russia, and Austria, and for a long time "Poland" ceased to exist as a nation, so people from there were officially classified as Germans, Russians, and Austrians by citizenship, but Polish by ethnicity.

The root of this name is seen in the noun brud, "dirt, filth," and the verb brudzic', "to dirty," so Brudzisz was probably a nickname for one who was usually pretty dirty, perhaps because of his work. The name is pronounced "BREW-jish," and if you say it out loud it's not hard to hear how it could be Americanized as "Bridges." We run into this all the time, as Polish names that sounded strange to Americans were modified to something a little less "foreign."

GORSKI is an extremely common Polish surname, borne by 41,790 Poles as of 1990. It comes from the noun góra, "hill, mountain," or from a place name derived from that noun such as Góra or Góry. It can be regarded as a kind of Polish equivalent to the English surname Hill, both in meaning and popularity.

PIERZ was the name of 602 Polish citizens as of 1990. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 23, Czestochowa 101, Katowice 46, Koszalin 33, Krakow 31, Nowy Sacz 33, Tarnow 105, Wroclaw 92. So it's found all throughout southern Poland, especially the south central and southeastern parts of the country. It appears to derive from the noun pierze, meaning "feathers, plumage," and may have started as a nickname for one whose hair or clothes somehow reminded people of a bird's plumage. The name is pronounced roughly "p'yesh."


CZERWINSKI, PETKA

I would appreciate any information you may have on the name PETKA (my fathers) or CZERWINSKI (my mothers).

With a lot of Polish names there is no one sure derivation. PETKA could come from several different roots. Perhaps the most likely is that it started as a kind of affectionate short form or nickname for Piotr or Pietr, Polish forms of the first name Peter; thus it may have originally
meant "son of Pete" or "kin of Pete." But it might also come from a variant of the term pestka, "stone in a fruit." Without more detailed information on the family's background, there is simply no way to say which is relevant.

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 564 Polish citizens named PETKA. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Gdansk 258, Katowice 42, and Rzeszow 55. So the name is found all over the country, but is particularly common in the area around Gdansk, on the Baltic in northcentral Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

As for CZERWINSKI, I recently responded to another researcher asking about that name. I can add nothing to what I told him, so I have quoted that note below.


I am starting to research my family's roots. As I was searching different sites , I came upon yours. I noticed that my last name ,Czerwinski, was not on your list. I was wondering if you had gotten any new information on the origins and meaning of my last name. Any information would be greatly appriciated. 

CZERWINSKI in Polish is written with an accent over the N and is pronounced roughly "chair-VEEN-skee." Another spelling of the same basic name is Czerwienski. Both are thought to come either from the root seen in the noun czerw, "maggot, grub," or from the root seen in czerwien, "red." More directly, the surname probably refers to a family's connection with the name of a place where they once lived or worked, or -- if they were noble -- an estate they once owned; there are numerous mentions in the records of nobles named Czerwinski, so some Czerwinskis (though by no means all) descend from noble families. One source links this surname with a village called Czerwienne, today known as Miedzyczerwienne, near Nowy Targ in Nowy Sacz province. But that's only one of a number of places the surname might refer to, including places with the names Czerwieniec, Czerwiensk, Czerwin, Czerwinsk, etc. Without more information on a specific family's history, there is no way to know which of these places the name refers to in a given instance. Those place names, in turn, would derive from either czerw, "maggot, grub," or from czerwien, "red."

So basically Czerwinski means "one from Czerwin (or any of the other places with similar names," and thus could be interpreted as "one from the place of grubs," "kin of the maggot" (in some cases Czerw appears to have been a nickname for a person who had something to do with the village's history), or "one from the red place," so called because of something reddish in the vicinity, such as soil, a mountain, etc.

Czerwinski is a pretty common name. As of 1990 there were 27,088 Polish citizens by this name, living in large numbers all over Poland. So a Czerwinski family could have come from anywhere in Poland; and it's a good bet there are a number of distinct families that came to bear this name independently, rather than one great big Czerwinski family.


DRAPINSKI, DROPINSKI

Could you please tell me what you know on the name Drapinski or Dropinski.

DRAPINSKI is probably from the root drap- seen in the verb drapac', "to scrape." As of 1990 there were 576 Polish citizens by this name, living all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area. DROPINSKI is probably from the noun drop, "bustard" (a kind of bird), or the archaic noun dropa, "scratch, mark." As of 1990 there were 350 Polish citizens named Dropinski, living all over Poland with some concentration in the western part of the country.

In either case a connection with the name of a place beginning Drap- or Drop- is quite possible. I can't find any places by those names on modern maps, but that's not unusual -- 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.


SZYGENDA

do you have the meaning of the surname "Szygenda"? or is there one? thank you.

I'm sorry, none of my sources have anything on the origin of this name. All I can tell you is that 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 501 Polish citizens named SZYGENDA, with the largest number by far, 232, living in the province of Konin. There were also larger numbers in the provinces of Koszalin, 51, and Poznan, 55. So the name is found mainly in western Poland,
especially the area just west of the center of the country. But I'm afraid that's all I can tell you.

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.

I'd be very interested in hearing what they have to tell you, because this one has me baffled. I can't find anything that sheds any light on it at all.


PIETROWIAK, NIEDZIELA

My husband was told by his family that Pietrowiak means "House of Peter" but I'm not sure how correct it is. Could you be so kind as to tell me the true meaning of this surname and how it differs from Pietrowski or Piotrowski surnames I've seen in the Polish military books?

Polish has a great variety of suffixes it adds to the roots of names in order to express different relationships; some of them don't really mean anything very specific, they just refer to a general connection. The -ski names you mention all refer to some kind of connection with a man named Piotr (Peter), which can also appear as Pietr and in various other forms. Pietrowski and Piotrowski both mean more or less "of, from the place of Peter," referring to a family's connection with any of a number of places with names like Pietrow or Piotrow or Pietrowo or Piotrowo, etc. PIETROWIAK (pronounced roughly "p'yet-ROVE-yock") is a little more general; it could mean "one from Peter's place," but it could also just mean "kin of Peter." The suffix -iak is all-purpose; it can mean "kin of" or "little" or just vaguely "one connected with." The Pietrow- consists of the name Pietr plus a general possessive suffix -ow, and thus means little more than "of Peter." So "kin of Peter" or "son of Peter's kin" is about as accurate as you can get. Your husband's family's rendering of "House of Peter" is really not bad; let's say it could be interpreted that way, but could also be rendered a little less specifically.

The name is not as common as I would have expected. 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 only 278 Polish citizens named Pietrowiak. I would have expected more; compare 2,031 Pietrowski's, 851 Piotrowiak's (which for all intents and purposes means the same thing as Pietrowiak), and 57,934 Piotrowski's. 

The largest numbers of those Pietrowiaks lived in the following provinces: Kalisz 37, Leszno 70, and Poznan 62. So while the name is found all over Poland, it is most common in an area just a little west of the center of 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.

My mother-in-law's maiden name is Niedziela. Could you please explain its origin and meaning?

NIEDZIELA ("nye-JELL-ah") means literally "not do," and is the standard Polish word for "Sunday," because that is the day when Christians were not supposed to work. I suppose the name could be applied to a person in the sense of "do-nothing, lazy," but most of the time it probably was a reference to the day of the week -- perhaps the person to whom the name was first applied was born on a Sunday, or had some special work or duty he performed on Sunday. Names like these derived from nicknames originated centuries ago, and in most cases we can't determine the exact reason for which they were originally given. About all we can do is note associations and make plausible suggestions. In this case a Niedziela was probably one for whom the nickname "Sunday" somehow seemed appropriate.

It's a moderately common name. As of 1990 there were 6,543 Polish citizens named Niedziela, living all over Poland. About all one can say about the distribution is that the name is more common in southern Poland than in the north.


STRYSZYK, SWIĄTKOWSKI

I found your homepage and thank you so much for posting all that information! I am researching two Polish names that did not appear on your list and am wondering if you have seen them before: Swiatkowski (known variants: Swiontkowski, Swontkowski, Swietkowski)
--
immigrated to the US from Monkowarsk, Kriese Bromberg, Posen Stryszyk -- immigrated to the US from Grossluto, Prussia (I've not yet found  where this was exactly) Do you have any history on these names at all?


The first name is generally spelled Świątkowski in Polish; I'm using Ś to stand for the S with an accent over it, and Ą to stand for the Polish nasal vowel written as an A with a tail under it, pronounced much like "own". The nasal vowel Ą sounds like "on" and thus is often written that way, so Świątkowski is also often spelled phonetically as Świontkowski. Both versions are pronounced the same, something like "shvyont-KOFF-skee." 

There is another nasal vowel written as an E with a tail under it, and I use Ę to stand for it; it is pronounced more or less like "en," but we often see names with one nasal vowel have variants with the other. So Świątkowski is the standard form, with Świontkowski a variant
spelling. We also see the form Świętkowski, which sounds more like "shvyent-KOFF-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 5,793 Poles who spelled the name Świątkowski, as opposed to only 48 who spelled it Świontkowski. These names are scattered all over Poland, with no useful or significant concentration in any one area. The form Świętkowski was borne by 163, with the largest single number, 52, living in the northeastern province of Białystok, and the rest scattered all over.

All these names refer to a family's connection with a place named something like Świątki or Świątkowo; so the name just means "one from Świątki" (or Świątkowo or whatever). There are quite a few places with names that qualify, so without more detailed info on a specific family's background, there's no way to know which one the surname refers to in a given case. I will say this, however; there is a Świątkowo southwest of Bydgoszcz (which the Germans called Bromberg) and more or less south of Mąkowarsk, which is surely the Monkowarsk you mention. I can't say for sure this is the place the name refers to in your family's case. But it seems plausible, because it's the closest candidate and it seems to match up fairly well.

Names beginning with Świątk- come ultimately from the root swięty, "holy, sacred," which in archaic Polish meant "mighty." In most cases the place names either mean something like "sanctuary, holy place," or else "place of Świątek or Świątko," referring to men who bore names derived from that root. Thus Świątkowski can be interpreted either as "of the holy place" or "of the place of Świątek or Świątko." But usually the meaning, for all practical purposes, is "one from Świątki" or "one from Świątkowo."

STRYSZYK was the name of 192 Polish citizens as of 1990, of whom the majority, 146, lived in Bydgoszcz province. So it sounds as if this family came from the main settlement of people by this name in Poland, and perhaps there are a number of relatives still living there. Unfortunately I have no access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't offer you any further help in that regard.

This name, pronounced roughly "STRISH-ick," appears to come from the noun strych, "attic, loft," also used to mean "beggar, pauper." The -yk ending is a diminutive, so the name may mean "little attic, loft," or perhaps "son of the beggar." It could refer to a person who lived in
a small loft or attic, perhaps one too poor to live anywhere else. But people can be quite imaginative when it comes to giving nicknames that might later become surnames, so all we can do is suggest reasonable interpretations. Typically these names developed centuries ago, and frequently records survive that let us determine the exact meaning; so as I say, all we can do is suggest interpretations that make sense.


DYCZKOWSKI, WLODYGA

My cousin and I have been tracing our Polish roots but we've run into a brick wall getting back beyond my maternal grandparents who emigrated to Canada in the early 1900's. They, or at least he, was born in Kety, Biala, Poland which is a short drive from Krakow.

Can you help us with the origin of those names?


Unfortunately, Polish surnames seldom offer any real help with tracing a family's roots, because the vast majority of them are too common, rare, widespread, ambiguous, etc. I doubt anything I can tell you will be that much assistance, but I'll be glad to tell you what little I can.

DYCZKOWSKI, pronounced roughly "ditch-KOFF-skee," just means "one from Dyczki or Dyczkow or Dyczkowo" or some similar place name. This might refer to Dyczkow, now Dychkiv, near Ternopil in Ukraine; or it could refer to Dziczki, now Dychky, near Rohatyn, Ukraine; or it might refer to some other place not mentioned in my sources. Both the places I mentioned are in Ukraine now but before 1918 were in the crownland of Galicia, a subdivision of the Austrian Empire, seized from the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania during the partitions in the late 18th century. This area, which includes what are now southeastern Poland and western Ukraine, is where most Polish and Ukrainian emigrants came from who immigrated to 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 753 Polish citizens named Dyczkowski, living all over the country, with no significant concentration in any one region. Of course that may be a moot point, since your Dyczkowskis may well have come from what is now Ukraine, and I have no data for that country. 

ORLICKI ("oar-LEET-skee") breaks down as meaning "of the sons of the eagle," from Orlicz, "son of the eagle," from orzel, "eagle." It probably refers to a family's connection with any of a number of places with names like Orlica or Orlice or Orlik, in Poland or Ukraine; but it might also have been used to refer to the kin of one nicknamed "the Eagle." As of 1990 there were 1,085 Polish citizens by that name; the largest single number, 226, lived in the province of Bielsko-Biala, a fact that may be relevant to your research. The rest were scattered all over Poland. I have no access to further details such as first names or addresses, so that's all I can tell you on that one.

WLODYGA is spelled in Polish with a slash through the L; so the name is pronounced roughly "v'woe-DIG-ah." It appears to come from a variant form of the noun włodyka, a term or title for one in authority, with such meanings as "headman" and "bishop of the Greek rite." This form is Polish, in Ukrainian it would be more like vladyka, so it seems likely this family came from Poland; they might have been Greek Catholic rather than Roman Catholic, but there's not enough evidence to say this with any certainty. As of 1990 there were 184 Polish citizens named Włodyga, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (51), Bielsko-Biala (26), and Katowice (43). As I said before, I can't help you get names or addresses for them.


DOMARECKI, MODLISZEWSKI

I am looking for the meaning or origin of these two Polish surnames, Modliszewski and Domarecka. Thank you for any help that you can give. 

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 216 Polish citizens named MODLISZEWSKI. They lived scattered in small numbers all over Poland, so there is no one area we can point to and say "That's where Modliszewskis came from."

The name refers to the name of a place with which the family was associated at some point, but unfortunately there are several different names and places the name might refer to, places with names like Modliszewo, Modliszewice, Modliszow, Modliszewko, etc. The last two are near Gniezno, in former Poznan province, whereas Modliszewo is near Kielce and Modliszewice is near Walbrzych. Thus without detailed research into a given family's background, there is no way to which place the name refers to in that instance; Modliszewski could refer to any of them.

DOMARECKA is the feminine form of DOMARECKI; that is, a male would be called Domarecki, a female Domarecka. This is a variant of a name that is spelled several ways, because as names were developing the vowels A and E were sometimes used interchangeably, depending on slight regional variations in pronunciation. Here is what I wrote another researcher who asked about another form of the name, DOMERACKI. The info is equally applicable to Domarecki.


The probable origin of this name 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.

=====

I'm sorry none of this provides helpful clues as to precisely where either name originated in your family's cases. But from my experience that's true of about 95% of Polish surnames. Only occasionally do I run into one that has some aspect of its form or frequency or geographic distribution that provides a really solid clue as to just where a given family by that name came from. Usually the only way to get a good fix on where and how a name developed is by way of successful genealogical research, which can uncover info that sheds light on the historical, geographical, social, and linguistic context in which a specific name came to be associated with a specific family.
 

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


FERFECKI

Appreciate any information you can give me on the origin and meaning of my surname. All I know is that my grandfather Joseph Ferfecki came to the U.S from Poland in the early 1900's and settled in Chicago.

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 776 Polish citizens named FERFECKI (pronounced roughly "fair-FETT-skee"). The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bielsko-Biala 384, Katowice 107, and Rzeszow 98. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. But this data allows us to say the name is most common in southern Poland, and especially southcentral Poland.

A scholar who did a book on names in that area mentions FERFECKI and says it's not certain what the name derives from, but it probably comes from the German name Ferfert. This may sound odd, but there are and have been large numbers of Germans living in Poland, and it's not at all rare to find Polonized names that started out as German. So the best educated guess scholars have made is that this name means "kin of Ferfert" or "one from Ferfert's place." 


ORYNIAK, SUSZKO

I found your list of meanings of Polish names and didn't find these two [SUSZKO and ORYNIAK] on it. Would you know what they mean? Many thanks in advance.

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 82 Polish citizens named ORYNIAK. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Warsaw (15) and Radom (45), with the rest scattered in small numbers all over Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

The most likely derivation of Oryniak (pronounced roughly "oh-RINN-yock") is from the Ukrainian feminine first name Oryna, a Ukrainian version of "Irene." The -iak suffix is one that usually shows a general connection with the first part of the name, so that Oryniak probably meant "son of Irene" or "kin of Irene." Surnames derived from women's names are somewhat rare in Polish, but more common among Eastern Slavs (i. e., Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Russians). So this name has a kind of eastern flavor to it -- we'd expect it to have originated more often among Ukrainians, say, then Poles. This is not at all unusual; we see a lot of mixing in names between Poles and Ukrainians, and the history of these countries makes it clear that this is to be expected.

As of 1990 there were 1,024 Poles named SUSZKO. The largest numbers lived in the province of Białystok (167), with the rest scattered in smaller numbers all over Poland. For comparison, there were 3,134 with the similar name SUSZEK, and 801 named SUSZKA. None of these names is concentrated in any one area to the point we can say "People by that name came from here"; families by these names could come from anywhere in Poland.

The basic root here is such-, "dry"; the noun susz means "dried fruit or vegetables," and a suszka is, among other things, a tree that has dried up after pruning. The suffixes -ek and -ka and -ko are diminutives, so that the name might mean something like "little dry one," referring perhaps to a person who was thin and leathery or his kin. Or it might refer to that noun suszka and began as a nickname for one who dried fruits and vegetables, or liked to eat them -- some connection of that sort. Without detailed info on the family's background it's impossible to be more specific on the exact meaning of a name that developed centuries ago, but it's pretty clear it referred to some perceived association between a person or family and something dried out.


MIROWSKI

could u tell me what the surname MIROWSKI MEANS

It really just means at some point the family was connected with any of a number of villages named Mirów, Mirowo, Mirowice, etc. There are a number of different places the surname could refer to, so this Mirowski might come from one, that Mirowski from another. 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 3,946 Polish citizens named Mirowski, living all over the country, with no particular concentration in any one area.


HORODYNSKI, HORODENSKI, GWOZDEK

aloha, wondering if you could help me discern the root of a friends last name? She is in the process of changing her name from the Ellis Islandized Horski to the original Polish Horodynski. A relative of her's mentioned over the holidays that the name was hyphenated after the n. Assuming, after perusing the your surname listings, the origins lie in the area her relatives were from I was hoping you could shed some insight on the meaning/locale of Horod(?). If you could also find the roots of my grandmothers maiden name, Gwozdek, it would be much appreciated.

The relative got it a little wrong. In Polish this name would be spelled with an accent over the N; since I can't reproduce that letter without a certain amount of aggravation, I just use Ń to stand for it, thus spelling this name HORODYŃSKI. The name is pronounced roughly "ho-row-DINN-skee." It's actually a Polish spelling of a Ukrainian name, which would be written in Cyrillic -- but if you write it out phonetically, Horodynski is a pretty close match.

It comes ultimately from Ukrainian horod, "town, city," but most likely refers to the name of a specific town or village the family came from at some point. There are a number of places with names that could yield this surname, places with names like Horodno and Horodenka. Without detailed research into the family's background, there's no way to know which one the surname refers to in their particular case. But they would be located in eastern Poland or in Ukraine, because of the form of the name. In Polish it would be Grodynski or Grodzinski because Ukrainian horod matches up with Polish gród (the Polish word, however, does not mean "city, town," but refers to the ancient military fortifications around which medieval towns first sprang up); the same root appears in Russian gorod, "city," and in seen in place names such as "Leningrad" and "Stalingrad." It's related to the same Indo-European root that shows up in English "yard" and "garden," referring to an area enclosed and tended or secured.

Thus if the name were Polish in origin it would be more like Grodzinski or Grodynski. The fact that it begins Horod- proves it must be Ukrainian. This isn't odd; Poles and Ukrainians have interacted extensively over the centuries, so that you see lots of distinctively Polish names in Ukraine and distinctively Ukrainian names in Poland. Poland ruled Ukraine for a long time, and many people of Ukrainian ethnic descent were identified by others, and even identified themselves, as Polish citizens. Thus "Polish" can be a misleading term; you often find that Polish names are not of Polish linguistic 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 370 Polish citizens named HORODYŃSKI. They were scattered all over Poland, with no really significant concentration in any one area of the country. There were also 281 Poles named HORODEŃSKI, which is a very similar name meaning much the same thing; Horodyński and Horodeński came be regarded as variants of the same name, except Horodeński is found mainly in the area of Białystok (214) in northeastern Poland. That's because in that region there is a dialect tendency to change a Y sound into an E, so they'd pronounce "Horodyński" as "Horodeński," and eventually the spelling would reflect that fact.

As of 1990 there were 117 Polish citizens named GWOZDEK (pronounced roughly "g'voz-deck"); the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Katowice, 65, and Opole, 23; so the name is most common in southcentral and southwestern Poland, roughly in the region known as Silesia. 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 name can derive from two different roots: gwozd, an archaic word meaning "forest, woods," or from gwozdz (accents over the o and both z's), meaning "nail." The suffix -ek is diminutive, so the name Gwozdek can mean either "little forest" or "little nail." It presumably began as a nickname, possibly for one who lived in or near a small forest, or for one who reminded people of a little nail, or for the son of one who made or sold or used nails. These surnames developed centuries ago, and we often cannot say with any precision exactly what the original meaning was; the best we can do is note what they appear to mean and make
plausible suggestions on why that name came to be associated with this family.


OLCHOWY, OLCHAWA, LIERMANN, STOIBER

I am interested in these Polish/German surnames. Liermann (Prussia area) Olchowa (Kracow area) Stoiber (southern Poland area)

OLCHOWA is the feminine form of OLCHOWY, which comes from an adjective meaning "of the alder tree." Presumably someone by this name lived near a grove of alders, or worked with or sold alder wood -- some sort of connection like that.

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 359 Polish citizens named OLCHOWY or OLCHOWA. They lived all over Poland, with more living in southern Poland than in the north; 7 people by that name lived in the province of Krakow. 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 is also a similar name OLCHAWA, meaning much the same thing, except it might also refer to a place named Olchawa, which in turn was surely named for some connection with alders. Olchawa is a somewhat more common name; it was borne by 912 Poles as of 1990, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice (114), Krakow (70), Nowy Sacz (207), and Tarnow (183). I mention this because A and O can easily be misread for each other, and they also are known to switch in names sometimes because of regional pronunciation tendencies. Thus it is entirely possible at some point you'll find the name in question is Olchawa instead of Olchowa, and this info may be relevant.

As of 1990 there were 4 Polish citizens named LIERMANN, living in the provinces of Gdansk (1) and Kalisz (3). There was no one named STOIBER. After World War II millions of ethnic Germans fled Poland for East Germany, so German names are much rarer now than they used to be.

In Hans Bahlow's Deutsches Namenlexikon it says STOIBER is a variant of STEUBER, from a verb meaning "to scatter, stir up dust, run away." In standard Hochdeutsch STEUBER is pronounced "shtoy-ber," so among Poles it could easily be spelled phonetically as Stoiber or Stojber or Sztojber. Bahlow says LIERMANN comes from Liermann, Low German for a term meaning "organ grinder, street player." LIERMANN is a German spelling, unaffected by Polish phonetics and orthography.


DULKA

I saw your notice on the internet and wondered if you could help me with any information as to the origins of my husbands surname, Dulka, as he is now deceased and my young son appears to be the only male left in this area to carry this name it would be really nice to be able to tell him the background of his 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 245 Polish citizens named DULKA. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 34, Gdansk 26, Katowice 22, and Torun 116. So the name is most common in the area just north and northwest of the center of 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.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as far back as 1414 and comes from the root dul-, "swelling, thickening." While it's hard to be sure with names that began so long ago, it seems likely this began as a nickname for one who had a conspicuous swelling on his body -- perhaps a swollen nose or a large bump or something like that. The suffix -ka is diminutive, so that the name means literally "little swelling."


PANASEWICZ

... Would appreciate if you could advise on the name: Panasewicz (Last), Marek (First)

Well, Marek is simply the Polish form of the first name "Mark." As for Panasewicz, the -ewicz ending means "son of," so the surname means "son of Panas." That name is a little harder to interpret, because it could come from a couple of different roots, and without detailed information on a given family it's impossible to say which one the name actually came from. It could come from the noun pan, "lord, mister, gentleman," in which case the surname could conceivably have meant something like "son of the lord, son of the gentleman."

But if the family originally came from the eastern part of Poland or from Belarus or Ukraine, the more likely source is from the first name Panas, a short form of Opanas or Apanas, which is in turn an Eastern Slavic version of the first name seen in Polish as Atanazy and in Latin as Athanasius, from a Greek word meaning "immortality." This name never caught on in western Europe, but is not so rare among followers of the Orthodox church, and that includes Belarusians and Ukrainians. So "son of Panas" is a perfectly plausible and even probably derivation, if the family has any connection with eastern Poland, Belarus, or Ukraine.

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 611 Polish citizens named Panasewicz (pronounced roughly "pah-nah-SAVE-itch"). The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Białystok (254) and Suwałki (87), both in northeastern Poland, near the border with Belarus; the rest lived scattered all over the country. If we had data from several centuries ago, it's likely most of the Panasewiczes would be found living in the eastern part of the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. But in the centuries since the name was established, it has spread all over Poland.

There is also a variant of this name, Panasiewicz (pronounced roughly "pah-nah-SHAVE-itch"), borne by 702 Poles as of 1990; and it, too, is found in the largest numbers in provinces on the eastern border, e. g., Biala Podlaska 47, Lublin 42, Suwałki 120, Zamosc 188.


SZYJANOWSKI

I'd like to get some information about name - "SHIYANOVSKIY" (it's English spelling). What's name origins and meanings.

In Polish this name would be spelled SZYJANOWSKI. 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 5 Polish citizens named Szyjanowski, all living in the province of Szczecin, in far northwestern Poland near the German border. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I cannot tell you how to contact them.

Names ending in -owski usually refer to the name of a place with which the family was connected. We would expect Szyjanowski to mean "one from Szyjan, Szyjany, Szyjanow, Szyjanowo," and so forth -- any of these names could produce this surname. I can't find any places by those names on modern maps, but that's not unusual -- 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. Without more information, I cannot say exactly what the surname comes from; but it probably does refer to the name of a place where the family once lived, a place with a name beginning Szyjan- (Polish spelling; in English it would be Shiyan-).


CHAZEN, CHAZON

Can you please check out the name "Chazen"

According to Alexander Beider's Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland, CHAZEN is a variant of CHAZON, which comes from a Hebrew word meaning "cantor in a synagogue." Beider says in the last century this name was found among Jews living in the districts of Płock, Sierpc, Konskie, Gostynin, and Warsaw.

As of 1990 there was no listing of anyone named Chazen or Chazon in Poland. If we had data from before the Holocaust I'm sure this name would show up, but names that were fairly common in Poland before 1939 now either don't appear or appear in very tiny numbers. In any case, the only data I have access to is from 1990.


DRAB, ZJAWIN, ZUKOWSKI

I recently discovered your work on the internet and wonder if you can shed any light on the following names:Zjawin, Drab, and Zukowski. I am assuming the last is Polish and understand that Zuk translates into beetle, however, I am not even certain if Zjawin or Drab are Polish names. I have never found any reference at all for Zjawin and have found Drab once on a list of Slovak names. ANY information you might have would be so much appreciated.

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 3,360 Polish citizens named DRAB. Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], saying that it comes from the noun drab, which means "mercenary" or "uncouth fellow," and is also a term for a kind of ladder; as a surname, however, it probably refers to the "mercenary" or "uncouth fellow" meanings. The name is pronounced more or less like the English word "drop."

Similarly, ŻUKOWSKI (the name is pronounced roughly "zhoo-KOFF-skee") is another surname referring to place names such as Żuki and Żuków and Żukowo. So the name means basically "one from the place of the żuk." That noun can mean "dung beetle" and also "black ox." As of 1990 there were 14,508 Poles named Żukowski, and this name, too, is fairly common and widespread, because there are a lot of villages named Żuki, Żuków, etc.

ZJAWIN ("Z'YAH-veen") is rarer; as of 1990 there were only 358 Poles by that name. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Jelenia Gora 63, Legnica 42, Wroclaw 48, Zielona Gora 108; so this name is most common in the southwestern corner of Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've
given here is all I have. Prof. Rymut mentions Zjawin in his book, saying it comes from the root seen in the verb zjawic', "to appear," and the noun zjawa, "apparition." Zjawin would mean literally "one of the apparition." Perhaps it began as a nickname for one who was thought to have seen apparitions, or one who people thought looked like an apparition.


SZEWC

... I am doing a family search on the surname Szewc. The family came from Krakow, Poland around 1938. If you have any information could you please inform us or point us to a direction which we could search.

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 3,330 Polish citizens named Szewc. The name was found all over the country, although it is more common in southern Poland than in the north, especially in the province of Tarnobrzeg, with 892 Szewc's. There were 88 living in the province of Krakow. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

The origin of some Polish surnames is difficult to establish, but this one is simple. It comes from the noun szewc, "shoemaker." So it's one of the many surnames that began as a reference to a man's occupation, and came to be applied to his family, and thus became a hereditary surname -- much like the English name Shoemaker. By the way, this name is pronounced roughly "shefts."


POREDA

... Any info you can share on the surname Poreda would be greatly appreciated.

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 779 Polish citizens named Poreda. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 99, Łomża 159, Lodz 65, Siedlce 50, and Suwałki 122. 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 suggests the name is most common in the area north and east of the center of the country, but that's about the most we can say.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He believes it is a dialect variation of Porada, which comes from the noun porada, "advice." He adds, however, that this would be found mainly in Pomerania; it is a trait of northern dialects to turn standard Polish A into E, but I'm not sure that applies to this name when it is found in northeastern Poland. It's a little odd that a Pomeranian name variant would show up primarily in Łomza and Suwałki provinces! Still, it's possible; and none of my sources suggest any other derivation. So for now I would say it probably started as a nickname for one who gave good advice, is found primarily in northeastern Poland.


MAJEWSKI

... I am a college student at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. For one of my classes, Intro to Global Studies, I was told to find a project to work on for the entire semester. The project I chose was of my genealogy. I found your web page quite useful, however, I did not find the meaning of my surname. My last name is Majewski, which was very similar to Maciejewski. I was wondering if they had anything in common as faw as ancestory and meaning go, like perhaps my family dropped the "Cie" to make it shorter??? 

Well, with Polish names we never say never, because Polish names were often mangled badly during and after immigration, especially when the immigrants tried to adapt to life in this country and found that Americans had trouble with their names. So it would be irresponsible to say Majewski can't be from another name such as Maciejewski. In fact, it's usually impossible to say anything very definitive about most names without detailed research into the family's history. 

But it's unlikely this name has been changed. Majewski, pronounced roughly "mah-YEFF-skee," is a very common name in Poland; and if a Polish name like Maciejewski ("mah-chay-EFF-skee") were going to be Americanized, it would surely be changed to something more "American-sounding" than Majewski. So it's highly likely Majewski is the correct and original form of the name.

Names ending in -ewski usually derive from the name of a place with which the family was associated at some point; if they were noble, they owned estates there, and if they were peasants, they lived and worked there. A name like Majewski would refer to places with names beginning Maj-, and especially Majew or Majewo. Unfortunately, there are several places in Poland called Majewo, including ones in the pre-1999 provinces of Białystok, Elblag, and Gdansk. So again, without detailed info on a specific family's history, there's no way to tell which place they came from. But it is probable the name simply means "one from Majewo." 

That name comes from the noun maj, the Polish word for "May." Majewski means literally "of, from the _ of May," where the blank is usually filled in with something so obvious it didn't need to be spelled out -- usually "family" or "place." It's known that the name Maj has been borne by Poles, usually referring to some connection between a person and that month; a person by that name might have been born in May, or might have some special duty or job he did every May. About all we can say is that there would be some perceived association with the month of May. So the name might mean "kin of May." But in most cases it would be correctly interpreted as "one from the place of May" = "one from Majewo."

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 46,379 Polish citizens named Majewski. They lived all over the country, and there is no one part of the country with which the name is associated. So a family named Majewski could come from anywhere in Poland.


KOMANSKI

... Martin Komanski was my Grandfather. I think he lived in Lodz,Poland. My father was Frank Komanski, Born 1895-in Poland, Died 1931 in Stamford,CT, USA. My mother was Ksenia Mageira Komanski, Born 1895 in the Ukraine, Died 1966 in Stamford,CT, USA. My name is K. Dorothy Komanski Wood & you can post this were ever you wish to,if you think it will help with our search.

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 191 Polish citizens named Komanski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 25, Czestochowa 23, Krosno 40, and Tarnobrzeg 27, with smaller numbers scattered all over Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

None of my sources discuss this name, so I can't say with any certainty what it comes from. Most likely, however, is that it refers to the name of a place where the family once lived. Thus, for instance, there is a mountain Koman in the Carpathians, and there is a village Komanino in Sierpc district. The surname might refer to these places, or some others that are too small to show up in my sources. The thing is, Polish (and Ukrainian) 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 be quite obscure, or may even have disappeared or renamed or absorbed into another community centuries ago.


DAWIEC

... surname Dawiec

As of 1990 there were 739 Polish citizens named Dawiec. The largest number, 243, lived in the province of Nowy Sacz, with the rest scattered in much smaller numbers all over Poland. None of my sources discuss the origin of the name, so I can't say much on that. It appears to come from the verb dawac', "to give," and thus might mean "giver, one who gives." But that's just a guess.


PATRYLO

... My maternal grandmother's maiden name was Tessie Patryolo. I've seen it spelled Patrylo, also, which I believe is a misspelling. Do you have any information on the name? Thank you for your assistance. 

Actually Patrylo is more likely to be right. We rarely see native Polish or Belarusian or Ukrainian names with the ending -yolo -- that would seem more likely to be of Italian origin -- whereas -ylo is not unusual. So the name probably is Patrylo, or rather Patryło. I'm using Ł to stand for the Polish L with a slash through it, pronounced like our W; the Polish pronunciation of this name would be "pot-RI-woe," where the middle syllable has a short i sound as in "ship." 

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 59 Polish citizens named Patryło (and none named Patryolo). They were scattered all over, mainly in the southern part of 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.

None of my sources discuss the origin of this name, and it's kind of hard to say what it comes from. I can find no native Polish or Ukrainian roots that seem relevant, although it's possible it comes from the root seen in the Polish verb patrzyc', "to look at." If so, the name would mean "one always looking on, one always watching or looking." This is possible, but it's not really convincing.

Maybe a little more likely is derivation from a first name, and if that's so, the name could be a variation of Piotr, "Peter," or just maybe "Patrick." That last name, however, has never caught on among Slavs, so it would be very surprising if Patryło meant "kin of Patrick" -- it's not impossible, I suppose, but it's very far-fetched. "Kin of Peter" is a little easier to swallow. We see the name Peter show up in many different forms among Poles and Ukrainians, including Petr, Pietr, Piotr, Petro, etc. And Belarusians sometimes use it in the form Pyatr. So it's not too outrageous to suggest this surname means "kin of Peter" and originated somewhere east of Warsaw, most likely in Belarus or Ukraine.


SADLOWSKI

... Hi I have been looking through your website and I was wondering if you could help me. Through your web site I learned that a name ending in -owski usually means the name was taken from a city. Then I remembered that my grandfather told me that our last name was taken after a city. Since I can not ask him any more I thought maybe you can help. I went to a Polish map to look but I found nothing. Maybe you can at least tell me where to find maps to look at. Right now all I know is that my grandfather was the first one in his family born in America around 1923. I guess I would need a map from the teens to the 20's if it even exists. Our Surname is Sadlowski. I have looked it up in the phone book in many cities and besides my aunt in Jersey city I have never seen the same name. 

Names in the form X-owski usually refer to the names of places where the family once lived; that is, they mean more or less "one from X," but the X can take different forms. In this case Sadlowski could theoretically refer to places called Sadly or Sadlow or Sadlowo or Sadlowice, etc. 

There are at least three places in Poland with names that would fit, and chances are one of them is the one for which your particular Sadlowskis were named. Without detailed research into the family's past, there's no way for me to know which one it would be. But you can see maps of them, and maybe find details that will help, if you go to this Website:

http://www.jewishgen.org/ShtetlSeeker/loctown.htm 

Enter "Sadlow" as the place you're looking for, and click on "Start the Search." It will return a long list of places in central and eastern Europe with names that could possibly be phonetic matches for Sadlow or Sadlowo, etc. Scroll down till you get to the part of the list with places in Poland, and look for Sadlowo. There are three of them. Click on their coordinates (printed in blue and underlined) and you'll see a Mapquest map of the area in which they are located. You can print the map, zoom in, zoom out, etc. I find this a very useful tool for locating places.

There are two points I should mention. One is that in Polish all three places are spelled with an L with a slash through it. So the real place name is Sadłowo, and the Polish spelling of the surname is Sadłowski. This can matter, because in Polish-language reference works the Ł follows L in alphabetical listings. So Sadłowo would come after Sadly, for instance, if that L in Sadly is the normal L without a slash. (The Ł is pronounced much like our W, so Sadłowski is usually pronounced "sod-WOFF-skee.")

Also, with most Polish place names -- and this is no exception -- there are several possible matches. The only way to know which one is relevant to your family is to do some research and dig up papers -- naturalization papers, passports, ship passenger lists, parish records, something -- that gives more info. It could be the name of the nearest large town, the county seat, the province, something along those lines. I know that's easier said than done, especially if you don't have much to work with. But it's the only way I know of to proceed (short of finding a bona fide psychic!).

As of 1990 there were 2,879 Polish citizens named Sadłowski, scattered all over Poland, with no real concentration in any one area. So the frequency and distribution data on the name doesn't give us much to work with either. 


CHACHUŁA — HAHUŁA

...I was about to do some pruning of my accumulated eMail (452 I'm afraid) and I found your contribution. It reminded me that Anita Camplese just told me that my surname Chachula means "snout" in Polish. Now, I don't have a really good command of Polish, but I can comprehend quite a few words and this surprised me. I think the name may have been spelled Hahula in some places also. What do you think?

Well, Anita most likely got that info from me or my book, and I got it from a book by Dr. Kazimierz Rymut, widely regarded as the prime expert on Polish surnames. I'm afraid that is what Chachuła means (the ł stands for the Polish slashed l, pronounced like our w). In Polish the ch and h are pronounced exactly the same, so Hahuła would be merely a variant spelling of Chachuła -- both would be pronounced roughly "hah-WHO-wah," and both come from an archaic or dialect term chachuła meaning "snout, muzzle, mug" (I confirmed this in my 8-volume Polish dictionary, so it's not just Rymut saying so. This is not a word used much in modern standard Polish, probably only students of archaic or dialect Polish would ever have heard of it.)

When people ask me to tell them what their name means, I often have to ask back "Are you sure you want to know?" It's amazing how many Polish names mean something comic or downright insulting, and believe me, by comparison yours is not one of the more unpleasant ones! Presumably a name like Chachuła got started as a nickname for someone with a large or prominent mouth, perhaps like our slang expression "big-mouth." It's not very flattering, but as I say, I've seen much, much worse!

At least you have company -- as of 1990 there were 1,056 Polish citizens named Chachuła; they were scattered all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Kalisz (100), Katowice (70), and Lodz (249), in a kind of line runing roughly from central to southcentral Poland.


CICHOCKI — CIECHOCKI

...My surname is Cichocki.. Unfortunately my father has passed on and left me with very little knowlege of my history. I would like to let my kids know more about their heritage. Any info you can supply would be gratefully received.

It is possible Cichocki might in some cases might be a variant of Ciechocki, a name from the basic root ciech-, "joy, consolation." But in the vast majority of cases it surely comes ultimately from the root cich-, "quiet, calm." The name is pronounced roughly "chee-HOT-skee," and is probably connected with the noun cichota, "quiet, calmness." The personal name Cichot appears in 16th-century documents, and Cichocki is probably just an adjectival form of that name; you'd expect such a name would be given to someone who was calm and quiet, didn't make a fuss -- really kind of complimentary, as Poles have a certain respect for people who are modest and unassuming and take care of business without making a big fuss out of it. Cichocki most likely started out with the basic adjectival meaning of either "[someone or something] connected with or related to Cichot" or "one who is quiet." It's also conceivable it might derive from a place name, except I can't find any place with a name that fits (something like Cichota, Cichota), so the connection is probably with a person rather than a place.

This is a pretty common name, as of 1990 there were 13,228 Poles named Cichocki. They lived all over Poland, with no one area standing out as the place to find Cichocki's -- so we have to assume there isn't just one big Cichocki family, but rather numerous families in different areas that all got the name independently.


BRISCH — BRYŚ — BRYSZ

...Could you please the meaning of the surname of Brisch?

I'm afraid none of my sources mention it, at least not in that spelling, which is German. Spelling it phonetically by Polish values, it would be either Bryś or Brysz in Polish. These names do appear in Poland -- as of 1990 there were 2,248 Poles named Bryś and 319 named Brysz. This surname comes from the Latin first name Brictius, which was originally of Celtic origin. So it doesn't really mean anything, it's just a nickname for someone named Brictius, or for his son.


CEROCKI

... I need anything you have on the following surname of my Polish Chicago area family: Cerotsky, Cerotzky, Cerozky, Cerotski...

I wish I could help, but there was no one in Poland by any of those names as of 1990, and the problem is that the form of the name is questionable. None of those spellings looks right, it's almost certain the name was originally something else -- but there are too many possibilities to figure out what. It could be Ceracki, Seracki, or Cieracki, or Czeracki, on and on. Without a better idea of the original form of the name, I'd just be spinning my wheels trying to speculate on the name's origin or meaning.

I do note that obituaries appeared in the Dziennik Chicagoski (a Polish-language Chicago-area newspaper published 1890-1972) for a Anna Helena Cerocka on 17 December 1924, and for an Augustyna Cerocka on 12 January 1923. Cerocki is a credible spelling of the name, judging by the forms you gave, and Cerocka is just the feminine form of that surname -- so there may be info on a Chicago-area fmaily named Cerocki available through these obits. You might visit the Webpage of the Polish Genealogical Society of America http://www.pgsa.org and search their databases for more people by the name Cerocki/Cerocka and the other spellings. You just might find some relatives! And there are explanations on the Web page as to how you can get hold of copies of the obits or other records involved.


OLESZAK

... I would like to know the origin and meaning of the name Oleszak.

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 436 Polish citizens named Oleszak. The largest number, 165, lived in the province of Poznan, with the rest 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.

Oleszak is pronounced roughly "oh-LESH-ock." Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. It comes from the name Olesz plus the suffix -ak, which is a kind of general suffix meaning "of, from, connected with." So Oleszak means more or less "son of Olesz, kin of Olesz." That name, in turn, comes from a nickname for either Aleksander (Alexander) or Aleksy (Alexy). Among Poles and Ukrainians both names -- which come from the same Greek root meaning "protect, defend" -- were often pronounced and spelled with an initial O rather than A, so almost any name deriving from Alexander or Alexy will have its counterparts spelled with O-. In the process of making nicknames, Poles and Ukrainians tended to take the first few sounds of a name, drop the rest, and add suffixes (kind of like our "Eddy" from "Edward"); so Olesz could come from either of those names. If we wanted to give an English approximation of Oleszak, therefore, it would be kind of like "Al's kin, Al's son." 

Obviously a name like this could get started almost anywhere, and thus it gives no useful clues as to exactly where a family by that name might come from. The only clue is that it starts with O- rather than A-, but that doesn't really narrow it down any. So the only way to nail down exactly where a family named Oleszak came from is by successful genealogical research. Your Oleszaks might come from here, someone else's Oleszaks might come from a completely different place. The only thing they'd have in common is that both families, somewhere along the line, had an ancestor who was often called by the nickname Olesz.

 

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

LIPINSKI, SZACHNITOWSKI

... Would you have any information as to the names Lipinski or Szachnitowski? I would appreciate any info you could tell me.

In Polish the name Lipinski is spelled with an accent over the N, and is pronounced "lee-PEEN-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 23,390 Polish citizens named Lipinski, living all over the country; there is no concentration in any one area, a Lipinski family could come from anywhere in Poland. 

The surname refers to the name of a place where the family lived or worked at some point. The problem is, Lipinski could come from a number of different place names, including Lipno, Lipie, Lipina, Lipiny, etc. There are a great many places by these names in Poland. They all come from lipa, "linden tree," so that you can interpret Lipinski as "one from the place of the lindens." So without detailed info on a family's history, there's no possible way to tell which of these places a given Lipinski family might have been named for.

Szachnitowski (pronounced roughly "shokh-nee-TOFF-skee," with kh representing a guttural like the "ch" in German "Bach") is a fairly rare name. As of 1990 there were only 71 Polish citizens by that name. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Katowice (17), Szczecin (11), and Torun (30), with the rest scattered in small numbers all over Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

Usually -owski names also refer to names of places, so we'd expect this to mean "one from Szachnitowo" or some similar name. I can't find any place by this name or anything similar on modern maps, but that's not unusual. 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 be quite obscure, or may even have disappeared or renamed or absorbed into another community centuries ago.


MLEKODAJ

... I am in search of any info on the name Mlekodaj. My husband's grandparents came to Chicago from Poland in the early 1900s, I am guessing. Their names were Albert and Josephine Mlekodaj. At some point they moved to northern Indiana. Can you enlighten me any further?

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 83 Polish citizens named Mlekodaj. Most surnames are scattered all over Poland, but this one is unusually concentrated: 67 of those 83 lived in one province, that of Nowy Sacz in southcentral Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. But at least you have some reason to believe the family probably came from the area near the city of Nowy Sacz.

The name comes from the roots mleko, "milk," and daj-, "give." So it means "milk-give," literally. The term mlekodajny is used to refer to cows who give milk, and presumably Mlekodaj was given originally as a nickname to one somehow connected with dairy cows, or one who gave or sold milk, or one who loved milk. Surnames developed centuries ago and it's hard for us, all these centuries later, to know for sure exactly why they seemed appropriate. We can, however, interpret the basic meaning of the words and make plausible suggestions, and that's what I've tried to do.


WINSZMAN

... If you have time please tell me what Winshman or in Polish Vinchman'means. Also, if you have any idea what the name Milka means I would love to know. It is my great grandmother's name and my middle name. 

I hope I'm correct in assuming these names are of Jewish families -- if I'm wrong, that could change things a lot. When asking any question related to genealogy, it's good to mention whether the families were Jewish or not, because there are many practical research considerations different for Christians and Jews.

Polish doesn't use the letter V, and the sound CH is used as a guttural, so it's virtually certain Vinchman is not the Polish spelling. But "Winshman" or "Vinchman" would probably equate to Polish Winszman in Polish. Alexander Beider mentions this name in his Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland. He says it was borne by Jews living in the areas of Bedzin and Nowo-Radomsk (there may have been Jews with this name in other parts of Poland, his data covers only the part ruled by Russia). Beider says it comes from German Wunsch, central Yiddish vinsh, "wish, desire," thus meaning "wish-man." That suggests it was originally given to one known for being wishful or having strong desires. 

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 Winszman. Unfortunately, this is not surprising, in view of the Holocaust; names of Yiddish origin, common before 1939, are now very rare in Poland.

Milka is tricky because it can come from the Slavic root mil-, "dear, beloved," and thus would mean "little beloved one, darling." But Beider says it comes from a Hebrew name Milkah found in Genesis 11:29. Normally we'd expect Jewish females bearing this name to bear it in reference to the Biblical reference, but we can't entirely rule out a Slavic influence. It's possible Jews might have liked it because it was an ancient Hebrew name that also meant something nice in Polish, Russian, etc.


FABISZAK

... My great-grandparents, Stanislaw(1869-1942) and Adamina(1871-1935) FABISAK, were from Weglew, Golina, Konin, 120 miles west of Warsaw. They came over in 1890 and settled in Northampton, Mass. Some of my recently located cousins think that the original surname was FABISZAK. but no one is really sure. Do you, by chance, have any information about the meaning of this particular surname? 

It is likely the name was originally either Fabisiak or Fabiszak, because as of 1990 there was no listing of anyone in Poland named Fabisak, whereas there were 4,422 named Fabisiak and 891 named Fabiszak. It seems likely Fabisak is a slight modification of one of these two names. 

Fabisiak and Fabiszak are closely related and sound similar; in effect, they're slightly different versions of the same basic name. They both sound roughly like "fah-BEESH-ock," and names that sound the same but are spelled differently are easily confused. Both come from the Latin name Fabianus, or in English "Fabian." 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 Fabi- from "Fabian," drop the rest, add -s to make a kind of nickname "Fabis," and later the suffix -iak could be added to that to make Fabisiak; or if they added -sz instead of plain -s, the addition of -ak would give Fabiszak. They all mean pretty much the same thing, "son of Fabian" or "kin of Fabian."

As I said, 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 4,422 Polish citizens named Fabisiak, living all over Poland, with especially large numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (1,170), Kalisz (235), Konin (206), Płock (310), and Szczecin (202). The 891 named Fabiszak lived all over Poland, but with larger numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (163) and Konin (277). 


REMIAN or REMIJAN

... If you have time, I would appreciate any information you may be able to find on the last name Remijan. The only information that we have is that it may possibly mean Son of Remi (as in Johnson). My father is an only child, my grandfather has already passed on, and my grandmother has severe alzheimer's, so it is difficult to get any family history to pass on other than the fact that my grandfather's family first immigrated to Pennsylvania.

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 was no one in Poland named Remijan. There were 162 named Remian, and it is quite plausible that Remijan was a spelling variation of that name. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 16, Tarnow 53, and Wroclaw 32. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

Polish name scholar Jozef Bubak mentions Remijan in a book he did on surnames found in the area of Nowy Sacz and Stary Sacz, in southcentral Poland; it was the only source I found that mentioned it. Sources from 1664 mention a Hipolit Remijan who was the wójt (village headman, local authority) for Maszkowice, west of Nowy Sacz. So this establishes that the name did once exist in that area (although no Remians lived in the province of Nowy Sacz as of 1990). Bubak speculates it may come either from the first name Jeremi or Jeremiasz (Jeremiah, Jeremy) or the first name Remigiusz, which came from Latin Remigius, the source of the French and English name Remi or Remy. So "son of Remi" or "kin of Remi" is a plausible interpretation, as is "son of Jeremy." But neither one is certain; they're just the best suggestions one expert was able to make.

I don't know if there's anything to it, but an Armenian connection is possible. Armenian names usually end in -ian, meaning "son of," so Remian or Remijan might work as an Armenian name meaning "son of Remi," also. We find Armenian names among people living in Poland, so the idea is not as outrageous as it sounds. Still, one does not have to conclude that that suffix -ian indicates Armenian descent; it can and does exist in native Polish names as well. But since we can't be positive about any of this anyway, I thought it wouldn't hurt to mention this possibility, for what it's worth.

To conclude, the name is found in Poland, but these days is spelled Remian. It is scattered throughout the country, with larger numbers found near Warsaw, Tarnow, and Wroclaw; and in the 1600's there were obviously people by this name living in the area west of Nowy Sacz, in southcentral Poland. The derivation is uncertain, but it's plausible to suggest a connection with the Polish versions of the names Jeremy or Jeremiah and Remy or Remi.


ADAMCZYK, ADAMSKI

... I have searched for family ties from Poland for 5 years now, and always come to a dead end. Death certificates, marriage licensees are of no real help. The 1910-1920 census have no official record of my grandmother, Marya Adamczyk, (Adamski) under either spelling. It is VERY important to me to find some thread to follow. Primarily, I am interested in finding any Jewish ties. Can you give me any information about the name derivatives of Adamski? I know that it is a common name, but any light on the subject is better than none. 

I wish I could help you, but with some names there's nothing you can do. Adamski just means "of Adam," and Adamczyk means "son of Adam." As of 1990 there were 49,599 Polish citizens named Adamczyk, and 28,406 named Adamski; they lived all over Poland, with no concentration in any one part of the country. So neither name tells you anything helpful -- they just mean the family descends from a guy named Adam who could have lived anywhere in Poland. 

I'm sorry I couldn't tell you more, but I see no point in deceiving you; these names don't give you much to work with. Good luck with your research, I hope you finally make a breakthrough.


KOT

...interested in receiving information on the name Kot.

This one's short and simple: it comes from the Polish word kot, meaning "cat." As of 1990 there were 19,902 Polish citizens named Kot, living all over Poland, with no concentration in any one part of the country.


WOLNIK

Hi! My name is Danielle Wolnik-Tudor and I visited your site today. I have just started doing research on my father's ancestors (surname Wolnik). They came from Poland sometime in the 1800's and I am trying to find out a meaning or origin on the name. Anything you can tell me about it would be appreciated. 

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 1,773 Polish citizens named Wolnik. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 101, Czestochowa 103, Katowice 785, Krakow 96, Leszno 110, Tarnow 189, Zielona Gora 109. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. What this data tells us is that the name is most common in southern Poland, especially the southcentral part of the country.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the archaic noun wolnik, which meant "a man freed from having to labor obligations to a liege lord, a newly-arrived settler, a settler in a new colony [called a wola] exempted from taxes and duties for a certain period." The basic root is the adjective wolny, "free," but it usually refers to one who had earned his way free of the labor and services serfs were obliged to perform for their feudal masters.


KLUCZYK

Hello I am trying to figure out where my last name may have come from . I am also doing my own genealogy that's when I started finding the change of my last name. I am not asking for genealogy help I am only asking you a question if you can answer it. my last name is kluczyk .now when I went searching my family roots .I don't have any family members alive to ask this to . I found a deceased uncle in the social security death index, I sent away for iiit. when i received it I noticed the last name was keys? the g-parents were from New York, would you have any information you may be able to provide me with. 

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 927 Polish citizens named KLUCZYK. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Białystok 140, Bydgoszcz 64, Kalisz 124, Leszno 51, Warsaw 183. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. About all this data tells us is that the name is not concentrated in any one area; a family named Kluczyk could come from many different parts of Poland.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1255, and comes from the word klucz, "key." The ending -yk is diminutive, so that the noun kluczyk literally means "little key." It is also used in various other meanings, including "clavicle" (which comes from a Latin word meaning "little key") and "primrose." 

Your information about an uncle named Keys suggests that some members of the family retained the original Polish version, while others decided to change it, to fit in better in America; so they went with what amounts to a translation of the Polish word. This is not unusual. Many immigrants found that Americans had trouble with their names, so they changed them to something less foreign-sounding. If they could find an English name that meant more or less the same thing as their Polish name, that was often the name they went with. 


ŁACNY

... The surname I am searching is Łacny. I am told in Poland this name had the meaning "easy." My question is, why the little slash thru the first letter (L) of the surname? Appreciate your information. 

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 849 Polish citizens named Łacny. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Czestochowa 68, Katowice 83, Krakow 62, Nowy Sacz 58, Opole 71, Tarnow 95, Wroclaw 91, and Zielona Gora 56. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. The date shows this name is more common in southern Poland than in the north, but that's about all we can say about it.

The Ł is regarded by Poles as the "hard" L, and is pronounced in most areas much line English W. There is also the "soft" L, which looks just like ours and is pronounced more or less the same as ours. This name begins with the hard L, and since it's difficult to print that letter on-line without a certain amount of fuss and bother, we just represent it in various ways, such as Ł or L- or L/... The name Łacny is pronounced roughly "WOTT-snee."

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], and he confirms that it comes from the adjective łacny, "easy." Presumably it began as a nickname that seemed somehow appropriate for a person -- maybe one who did things easily, or had an easy way about it -- and stuck. More than that we can't say, unless detailed genealogical research uncovers some additional information on why this particular name would come to be associated with a given family.


DZIATKOWSKI, KASIEWSKI

... I am currently researching my family names as above. I have traced the family back to Ernst Kassiewski in circa 1770. In the next generation, 1817, the surname changed to Kaschewski? Why would that be? Eduard married Charlotte Dziatkowsky in the 1840s - they lived in East Prussia near Wegorzewo. I see that Dzialdowo is not that far away? Could Dziatkowsky be derived from that town? 

I'd recommend you read an encyclopedia article on the history of Poland, and especially the partitioning of Poland. It's very hard to understand much of what you find in research -- including changes in name spelling -- without that background knowledge. Basically, the reason the spelling changed is almost certainly because Kaschewski is a German phonetic spelling of Kassiewski, and at that time the Germans ruled all this area and tended to Germanize everything. Eventually it got to the point that speaking Polish was not even allowed. So through most of the 19th century we see an increasing tendency to spell things in a German way, rather than Polish, till eventually Polish disappears from records.

Kassiewski is probably an archaic spelling; in modern Polish they seldom use double letters. So Kasiewski is probably closer to the correct form. Also possibly relevant is Kaszewski. Note that all these forms are pronounced much the same, sort of like "kosh-EFF-skee." It's just a question of whether you're spelling the name according to German phonetics, older Polish phonetics, or modern Polish phonetics.

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 only 25 Polish citizens named Kasiewski; they lived in the provinces of Olsztyn (9) and Ostrołęka (16). Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. In any case, the Kasiewskis in Poland today don't live in the near vicinity of Wegorzewo, but they're not too far away.

There were 1,381 Poles named Kaszewski, living scattered all over Poland, with no concentration in any one area. There was only 1 in Suwałki province, however, and not that many in neighboring provinces, so this name may not be relevant. Still, any time you have a name with -sie- in it you want to at least take a look at names with -sze- because those combinations are pronounced very similarly and thus are easily confused. 

Names in the form X-owski or -ewski 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. So this name seems likely to mean "one from Kasiew or Kasiewo" or something similar. I can't find any places by those names on modern maps, but that's not unusual -- 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. It is also very possible the name has been changed over the centuries; in other words, other possibilities such as Kaszewski or Koszewski or Kosiewski may be involved. Without detailed research into the individual family's history, there is no way to know; I can only deal with the form of the name I have at hand.

As for the name Dziatkowski, pronounced "jot-KOFF-skee" or, more colloquially, "jot-KOSS-kee," as of 1990 there were 189 Polish citizens by that name, of whom the majority, 101, lived in Suwałki province! So it seems entirely possible some Dziatkowski relatives still live in the area of Wegorzewo. Unfortunately, as I said, I have no access to further details such as first names or addresses.

This name, too, probably refers to the name of a place, and there are several in Poland that might be relevant. One worth some attention is Dziadkowice, 14.5 km NE of Siemiatycze in Białystok province. This surname could very well have started out meaning "one from Dziadkowice," and that village is not all that far from the area where your ancestors came from. But again, without detailed genealogical research there is no way to know for sure which of the various places with names beginning Dziadk- is the one your particular family came from. Incidentally, all these place names probably derive from the noun dziadek, "grandfather," so that they originally meant "grandfather's place."


BORKOWSKI

... I can't tell you how thrilled I was to wander into your site. My father has been looking for information about our name for some time, he hasnt had much luck because it is not a common name in our area. I d appreciate any information you can give me to pass onto him. The name we re interested in is Borkowski. thanks again. 

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 32,555 Polish citizens named Borkowski, living in large numbers all over Poland. While not quite the "Smith" or "Jones" of Polish, it is a pretty common name.

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. So this surname means basically "one from Borki or Borków or Borkowo" or a number of other names beginning Bork-. One reason the surname is common is because there are a lot of places in Poland with names beginning Bork-. Some come from the root seen in the noun borek, "small forest," so that in some cases the surname might be interpreted as "one from the place of the forests." But more often it probably refers to places named for their owners or founders, who went by nicknames deriving from ancient Polish pagan first names such as Borzyslaw, Bolebor, etc., where the root bor- "means struggle, fight, battle." Thus the place names meant more or less "place of Bor" and the surname means "one from the place of Bor."

So the short answer is, the surname Borkowski means "one from Borki or Borków or Borkowo," etc., referring to a number of places with names beginning Bork-. Those places might have those names by reference to nearby forests, or to early owners or founders with first names such as Borek or Borko, which in turn derive from ancient Slavic first names based on a root meaning "fight, struggle." For practical genealogical purposes, however, the key is that the name is pretty common, is found all over Poland, and can refer to a family's connection with a number of different places. Only successful genealogical research can hope to establish which particular place an individual Borkowski family came from.


BASAIK, FAFINSKI, PIWOWARSKI

... I am in the process of doing some research on my family's lineage. Would you have any information on the following last names : Piwowarski ( I have been told that it means "Beer Maker") this was my maiden name. Basaik, which was my great grandmother's name and Fafinski which was my great grandfather's name. Any help or guidance you could lend would be greatly appreciated.

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 5,642 Polish citizens named Piwowarski. They lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area. As you say, the name comes from piwowar, "brewer" (literally "beer-brew") and just means "of the brewer," presumably "kin of the brewer." It is pronounced "pee-vo-VAHR-skee."

As of 1990 there were 536 Poles named Fafinski (with an accent over the N), pronounced "fah-FEEN-skee." The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Ciechanow 64, Gdansk 56, Olsztyn 216, and Torun 67; the rest were scattered in small numbers all over Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

None of my sources discuss the origin of this name, so I can only make an educated guess. I would expect it to refer to a place name, something like Fafin or Fafnia. I can't find any places by those names on modern maps, but that's not unusual -- 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. The name might also mean something like "kin of Fafa," referring to a first name. That might come from the verb fafac', "to say 'fe'" (an expression of disgust). So Fafinski might mean "kin of the one who says 'fe'" or "one from the place of the one who said 'fe'" (sounds almost like a Monty Python sketch!). There is a term fafula, "booby, fathead," from the same basic root. I can't be sure, but that's my best guess.

Basaik is a problem; I have to suspect that's the original correct spelling of the name, or else the name is not originally Polish. As of 1990 there was no one in Poland by that name, and -aik is not a combination normally seen in Polish. Basiak would make sense, but not Basaik. In any case, it probably comes from nicknames beginning Bas-, which can come from several names, including Basia, a nickname for "Barbara," or from Sebastian. Whichever name it referred to (and in different cases it could refer to different names), it would mean something like "kin of X."


MIECZNIKOWSKI, PAWELCZYK

... Could you please tell the origins and or meanings of the following: Miecznikowski, Pawelczyk.

Pawelczyk comes from addition of the suffix -czyk, usually meaning "son of," to the first name Paweł, "Paul" (the Polish L with a slash through it, pronounced like our W). So it's one of several Polish names meaning "son of Paul," and thus would be comparable to the English name Paulson. As of 1990 there were 2,743 Poles by named Pawelczyk, living all over the country, with no particular concentration in any one area, though this particular form seems to be more common in the northern part of Poland. There were another 3,174 named Pawełczyk, and that form seems more common in the south.

Miecznikowski comes from the noun miecznik, "master of the sword," an honorary position held by a noble who was in charge of the sword for a king or higher noble. But this surname probably means either "kin of the miecznik" or especially "one from the place of the miecznik." Thus the surname probably began as a name for one who came from a place called something like Mieczników or Miecznikowo, "place of the miecznik," referring perhaps to an estate or village owned or founded by a miecznik. I could find no places by this name in my sources, which may only suggest they have since disappeared or been renamed or been absorbed into larger communities, or may suggest the name was one used only by locals, unlikely to appear on any but the most detailed maps. As of 1990 there were 1,822 Polish citizens named Miecznikowski; the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Warsaw (517), Ciechanow (240), Olsztyn (172), and Ostrołęka (193). So the name is found all over Poland, but is most common in the northeastern part of the country.


GENDOLLA

... My dad once told me that our family name, Gendolla, has its origin in Poland. I would like to know more about it, about its meaning. Could you help me?

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 Gendolla. They lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 1, Poznan 5, Wroclaw 3. There were 26 with the name Gendoła, using Ł to stand for the Polish L with a slash through it, pronounced like our W; they lived in the provinces of Bydgoszcz, 4; Gdansk, 4; Pila, 15; and Walbrzych, 3. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

None of my sources discuss this name, but I think I can make a reasonably good guess as to its origin. In Polish there are two nasal vowels written with tails under them, which I represent on-line with tildes; so there is Ą, pronounced usually like "own," and Ę, pronounced usually like "en." Any time we see a Polish name with EN, it's reasonable to ask if it's a phonetic spelling of that nasal vowel Ę. So if we replace EN with Ę, we have Gędolla. Polish doesn't usually use double letters, that normally is a sign of some foreign influence on the spelling. So that gives us Gędola.

The root gęd- or gąd- means "to play (an instrument)," and the suffixes -ała or -oła or -yła usually mean "one always doing _, one closely connected with _," where the blank is the root preceding the suffixes. So Gędola makes sense as a name meaning "one always playing." I think it's pretty likely this name started out as a sort of nickname for one who loved to play music. I can't be certain, but this is reasonably consistent with analysis of other names beginning Gąd- or Gęd-. There are other, more common names that express more or less the same thing, but that's what I think the name means.


ZAGROBELNY

... looking for Zagrobelny. Last known of one Thadeus Zagrobelny living in Glubczyce,woj Opolskie. 

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 593 Polish citizens named Zagrobelny. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Przemysl (175) and Wroclaw (89). There were 28 living in Opole province. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

The name probably comes from the noun zagroble, "area behind or past the dam or dike," from the roots za, "behind, past, on the other side of," and grobla, "dam." Thus Zagrobelny most likely began as a reference to where a family lived or worked, "the ones on the other side of the dam."


MAJEROWICZ, SKIRZYNSKI

... Hello, I saw your information on Polish surnames on the web. My mother's side of the family has its ancestry in Poland. There are two names I would appreciate any information on that you may be able to find. If you can find any quick and dirty info, that is fine. Also, I may be interested in more detailed information and would be willing to pay the $20 per name if you can provide such info. The two names are as follows:  Majerowicz and Skirzynski

These are the names of my grandparents. Unfortunately, I do not where from Poland they came. My brother visited immigration and naturalization and search their records years ago. Zero information was found on Majerowicz, and a little bit on Skirzynski, names of my greatgrandfather and his children. The word "Czajkowsk" is written in his notes. He does not remember whether this is name or a town or something else.


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 420 Polish citizens named Majerowicz. There was no one part of the country in which the name was concentrated; a family by this name could come from anywhere in Poland.

The suffix -owicz means "son of," so Majerowicz (pronounced roughly "my-air-OH-vich") means literally "son of Majer." The derivation of this name depends on religion: if the family was Jewish, it comes from the Hebrew name Me'ir, from a root meaning "light, illumination." If the family was Christian, it probably comes from German Meier, "steward of an estate" or "dairy-farmer." Germans lived all over Poland, so it's not at all unusual to find Poles bearing names that prove to be ultimately of Germanic origin. 

As of 1990 there were 326 Polish citizens named Skirzynski (accent over the N, pronounced roughly "skee-ZHINN-skee"). The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 60, Płock 53, and Radom 61; 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. This data suggests the name is most common in an area just a little north and east of the center of Poland.

Skirzynski is a hard one to trace. Most often names ending in -ynski refer to place names, so that this could mean "one from Skira, one from Skirzyn," something like that. But I can find no places with names that qualify. That's not necessarily significant, however; 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.

If it's not from a place name, it could come from the roots skra, "spark," or skier, "ruffian, police guard," or skierowac', "to direct, send." There's also an expression skirz meaning "because, on account of," and it's possible a person might get a nickname from an expression like that, if people noticed he tended to say it a lot. Still, none of these explanations is all that persuasive, and I have nothing that says definitely one way or the other.

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.


SKONIECZNY

... I am interested in the name Skonieczny. I realize that there is a fee of $20 and would be happy to pay--or any other reasonable amount. 

I only charge a fee if I have to spend more than, say, half an hour digging up info in my sources. In most cases, as in this one, it only takes a few minutes to find everything I have on a particular name, and I don't charge for that information.

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 5,727 Polish citizens named Skonieczny (females would have the feminine form Skonieczna). The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 619, Lodz 385, Wloclawek 452, and Warsaw 669. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. What this data tells us is that the name is found all over Poland, but is particularly common in areas in the center of the country and just northeast and northwest of there.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the archaic adjective skonieczny, meaning "final, one living at the end"; that in turn derives from the preposition z, "from, of," prefixed to the noun koniec, "end." So the name originally meant something like "the last one" or "the one living at the end," say, of a street or village. 

That's about all I can tell you. By its nature this is a name that can't be defined too exactly or associated with one specific region; it just indicates that a person or family was perceived as being final or last in some context. I would think most often it would refer to where they lived, on the outskirts of a village or settlement. But many names have no great degree of precision built into them, and this is one. It just means "final, last, at the end."


OCHABSKI, KRULIKOWSKI, KRÓLIKOWSKI

... Please, if you could help me with ANY information on the last names of Ochabski and Krulikovski, I would be deeply in your debt.

In Polish Ochabski would be pronounced more or less like "oh-HOBB-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 12 Polish citizens named Ochabski. They lived in the provinces of Katowice (11) and Konin (1). 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 name may come from the name of a place. One possibility is Ochaby Wielkie, near the Czech border, which under the 1975-1998 set-up was in the province Bielsko-Biala. If you'd like to see a map of this place, go to this Website:

http://www.jewishgen.org/ShtetlSeeker/loctown.htm 

Enter "Ochaby" as the name of the place you're looking for, and make sure you specify to search using the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex. Click on "Start the Search." In a moment you'll get a list of places with names that might match Ochaby phonetically. Scroll on down to the ones in Poland and click on Ochaby at 49 degrees 51', 18 degrees 46'. This will bring up a map of the area which you can save, print, etc

It's also conceivable Ochabski could come from, say, the Ukrainian term okhab, "swamp," or from a variant of the first name Achab (Ahab). But considering that most Ochabski's lived in Katowice province, and that's near where Ochaby is, it's quite plausible the surname began as a reference to the family's connection with that place. Of course, only genealogical research would uncover enough information to establish for sure that's the connection, and I can't do that research. But the link seems pretty reasonable to me.

As of 1990 there were only 293 Poles name Krulikowski (pronounced somewhat like "crew-lick-OFF-skee"). But in Polish the vowel U and the vowel Ó are pronounced the same, and names are often spelled more than one way. In Polish this name is usually spelled Królikowski; as of 1990, there were 10,731 Polish citizens named Królikowski, scattered all over Poland. One cannot point to any one area and say "That's where a family named Królikowski came from"; a family by this name could come from anywhere in 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 would expect this surname to mean, therefore, "one from Królików or Królikowo or Królikowice," or some similar place name. Unfortunately, there are a number of places with names that fit; without much more detailed info on a specific family, there's no way to know which one the surname refers to in a given case.

The surname and the place names ultimately derive from the Polish noun królik, literally "little king" (in Polish "king" is król); in old Polish that word meant "king's viceroy," and is also a term used for a kind of rabbit, Latin name Oryctolagus cuniculus L. So the surname means "one from the place of the rabbits," or possibly "one from the place of the viceroy"; we can't rule out the possibility that in isolated instances the name might also have meant "kin of the viceroy" or "kin of the rabbit," but most of the time it would refer to the place name. 

To sum up, the immediate derivation is from królik, "viceroy, or a rabbit," and chances are the surname originally referred to the family's connection with people or a place somehow connected with a królik, especially a place with a name beginning Królikow-.


KARASZKIEWICZ

... I wonder if you would review my surname, Karaszkiewicz, and share your findings with me and any others who would be interested.

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 202 Polish citizens named Karaszkiewicz. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Warsaw (67) and Poznan (27), with the rest scattered all over Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

I should add that in Polish SZ sounds like our "sh," and there's another Polish sound that's similar, written as an accented S. In carefully pronounced, proper Polish the SZ and Ś are distinguishable sounds that, in theory, should never be confused; but in practice they are often used interchangeably. Thus a name spelled with an SZ can sometimes also be spelled with Ś. This is relevant because as of 1990 there were 742 Polish citizens named Karaśkiewicz. The largest numbers lived in those same provinces, Warsaw (112) and Poznan (136). So one can regard these as two different versions of the same basic name.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions both forms of this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says both come from the noun karaś, "crucian carp" (a kind of fish). Karaś is a moderately common surname in its own right, borne by 8,724 Poles as of 1990. The -k- is a diminutive, and -iewicz means "son of," so the name means literally "son of the little carp." Most likely Karasek/Karasko/Karaszek/Karaszko, "little carp," came to be used used as a nickname for one who liked to fish for carp, or sell them, or eat them, or somehow reminded people of a carp. Then Karaśkiewicz or Karaszkiewicz could come to be used as a name for his sons or kin, and eventually stuck as a surname.


NIZIŃSKI

... Do you have anything on Nizinski? That is my wife's maiden 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 1,528 Polish citizens named Niziński, spelled with an accent over the 2nd N. The Poles by this name were scattered all over the country; there was no one area with which the name was particularly associated.

The basic root of this name is niz-, which means "low," but in most cases this surname would almost certainly refer to the term nizina, "lowland, valley, depression," or to a specific place with a name such as Nizina or Niziny. There are several places in Poland that have these names, and it's pretty likely they were all called this because they were in a valley or a lowland. So Niziński (pronounced roughly "nee-ZHEEN-skee") would mean more or less "one from Nizina or Niziny" = "one from the place in the valley." As you can imagine, a name like this is equally applicable in many different areas of Poland, so it's not too surprising the name is found all over the country, with no particular concentration in any one area.


BŁASZCZYK

... I am looking for information on my father's family name Blaszczyk

In Polish this name is spelled with a slash through the L, and pronounced roughly "B'WASH-chick." 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 24,791 Polish citizens named Błaszczyk, living in large numbers all over the country. So there is no one area we can point to and say "That's where a Błaszczyk family must have come from"; a family by this name could have come from anywhere in Poland.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it developed by addition of suffixes to nicknames or short forms of first names beginning with Bła-, especially the name BłaŻej (slash through the L, dot over the z), the Polish form of "Blaise." This is not a very common name in the West, but St. Blaise was a bishop and martyr venerated as the patron of those with throat diseases, and BłaŻej is not an unusual name in Poland. So we run into a lot of surnames formed from it. The suffix -czyk usually means "son of." The closest English translation of Błaszczyk, therefore, is "son of Blaise, kin of Blaise."
  

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


DZIERWA

... Hi. I am just starting to research my family, and my great-grandmother's name was Sadie Bernice Dzierva. I looked on your site (which is very informative) but found nothing on Dzierva. Can you help? 

Well, a compilation of 1990 data on Poles and their surnames showed some 800,000+ distinct names borne by Poles as of that year. So there are one or two I haven't gotten to yet!

The name we're looking for is Dzierwa -- Poles don't use the letter V, they use W as we use V (and frequently in their handwriting it looks rather like a V), so it's easily confused. The name is pronounced roughly "JARE-vah."

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 918 Polish citizens named Dzierwa. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 165, Krakow 261, and Tarnow 217. So the name is most common in southcentral and southeastern Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

According to a Polish name expert who wrote a book focusing on names in southcentral Poland, Dzierwa and its companion forms Dzirwa, Dzierzwa, and Dzirzwa come from the root seen in the verb dzierać, "to tear, rip." It would apparently have started out as an old first name or nickname, perhaps not unlike "Rip" in English (e. g., actors Rip Torn, Rip Taylor), a manly, heroic sort of name for one who ripped and tore his way out of difficulties. If we accept that comparison of "Rip" and "Dzier-" as names expressing something similar in different cultures, I think Dzierwa can be interpreted as little more than "kin of Rip."


GABIS

... Hi, I am trying to find where my fathers Grandparents came from the last name is Gabis. They were supposed to have come from Poland\Russia but I have no idea where to start in Poland. Any help at all would be nice. 

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 90 Polish citizens named Gabis (pronounced roughly "GAH-bees"). They were scattered in small numbers all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area; so the name distribution data doesn't really tell us much about where your ancestors may have come from.

There were 48 more named Gabiś -- I'm using Ś to stand for the Polish S with an accent over it, pronounced kind of like a soft "sh," so that this name sounds more like "GAH-beesh." The largest number, 22, lived in the southwestern province of Leszno, with the rest scattered in small numbers all over. The ones in Leszno may not be relevant to your research because Leszno was in the German partition of Poland, whereas your ancestors lived in the Russian partition, which covered much of central and eastern Poland, as well as Lithuania, Belarus, and some of northern Ukraine. So unless the family was forced to relocate from east to west -- as happened to millions after World War II -- it seems doubtful this information is relevant.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the root seen in the verb gabać, "to provoke, torment, attack." This suggests Gabis might have started as a kind of nickname for one prone to provoke or torment others. 

I'm afraid this doesn't tell you much that's helpful in determining where your family came from, but that's the rule rather than the exception with surnames. Relatively few provide any kind of useful clue as to a family's origin. Only genealogical research may uncover enough information on a specific family's background to establish a historical and linguistic context in which it is possible to determine exactly how and why the name developed and "stuck" in a given case. 


KOPERSKI

... I've recently started worked on a family history .... I'm wondering if you have any info on Koperski ?

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 2,948 Polish citizens named Koperski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 192, Czestochowa 126, Katowice 104, Płock 172, Poznan 481, Skierniewice 103, and Warsaw 339. 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, with no real concentration in any one region.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it derives from the noun koper, "dill," or perhaps in some cases from kopr, "copper." In form it's an adjective -- the -ski just means "of, from, connected with, pertaining to" -- so the name Koperski means "one somehow connected with dill (or copper)." In practice it's likely to refer to a person or family who grew dill it, sold it, used it in cooking, something like that. It might also refer to the name of a place with which the family was connected, a name meaning, in effect, "the dill place." About all we can say for sure, all these centuries later, is that there was some perceived connection between the family and dill.


BAROWICZ, MAZURKIEWICZ

... Looking for the origin and age of the Mazurkiewicz family. Also Barowicz. 

I'm afraid there is no such thing as THE Mazurkiewicz family; there are almost certainly a number of independent families who share this name, which means "son of one from Mazovia," a region of northeastern 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 15,364 Polish citizens named Mazurkiewicz, living all over the country. So one cannot talk in general terms about Mazurkiewiczes, but only in terms of specific families bearing this name, as different families would vary in age and exact origin.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions Barowicz in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it usually comes from the German word Bär, "bear"; that was probably used as a nickname or first name for one of great size and strength. The -owicz just means "son of," so the name literally means "son of the bear." Rymut adds that in some cases, especially with less ancient names, Bar- can come from the first name Bartłomiej, "Bartholomew," so Barowicz could conceivably mean "son of Bart." Without research into individual families, there's no way to know which derivation is relevant in a given case; but Barowicz is probably an older name, and as such probably does come from the word for "bear."

As of 1990 there were 206 Polish citizens named Barowicz. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Legnica, 83, and Wroclaw, 52, in southwestern Poland, in areas long ruled by the Germans; the rest were scattered all over in much smaller numbers. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.


SIEMBAB

... I wonder if you can tell me something about my family name which is Siembab. I believe it is the proper spelling although I was told many years ago that it could also be spelled Siebab with a hook under the E and pronounced as it is presently spelled. My family came from southern 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 752 Polish citizens named Siembab. The largest number by far, 422, lived in the province of Tarnów in southeastern Poland; 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. This data indicates enough of a concentration in Tarnów province that it would make sense to regard the Tarnow area as the one in which the name originated, and it later spread to other parts of Poland.

You're right that this name could also be spelled Siębab. This Ę is usually pronounced more or less like "en," but before B or P it changes to the sound of "em." Thus Siębab and Siembab are pronounced the same, much like "SHEM-bob." And we see in Polish records that when there is more than one phonetically adequate way to write a name, you're likely to see more than one spelling. But Siembab is clearly considered the standard spelling these days, because as of 1990 there were only 14 Poles who used the form Siębab, all living in Przemysl province in southeastern Poland. (As I said before, I have no way to get more info such as names and addresses.)

This name puzzles me because I can't find anything on it in any of my sources, and it's difficult to make an educated guess on what it might mean. The root siem- in Polish can be an archaic form of the numeral siedem, "seven," and bab- is a root meaning "woman," so that Siembab could plausibly be interpreted as "seven women." But just because that is plausible doesn't mean it is right! 

The root siem- also appears in the noun siemię, "seed," and this same root appears in other Slavic languages with the basic meaning of "family"; that root is now archaic in Polish, as the word rodzina has taken over the meaning of "family," but we see ancient Polish first names such as Siemomysl and Siemoslaw with the root used in the sense of "family." Names beginning with Siem- can also come from a form of the first name "Simon." Still, "family women" or "seed women" or "Simon's women" don't strike me as convincing interpretations, either because they don't make sense or the form Siembab just isn't consistent with a construction meaning that.

So I don't have a definitive word from any scholars who have studied the name, and my gut feeling is that none of my educated guesses (which often turn out to be correct) is really quite right --or at least I can't be sure they're right. If I had to go with one of them, I'd go with "seven women," perhaps beginning as a nickname for a male born into a family composed mostly of women. Since I'm the only male in my immediate family, which consists of six people and four generations, I don't feel such an interpretation strains credulity. But I keep coming back to the same point: the fact that it's plausible doesn't mean it's right!

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 contact the Workshop, I'd be very interested in hearing what they have to say. I would like to add such info to the next edition of my surname book, so we can share it with others who have this name.


WOJDYŁO

... I was wondering what the meaning of my last name Wojdylo means....I would appreciate it if you can provide some info about it.

In Polish this name is spelled with the L with a slash through it, which is pronounced like our W; as opposed to the normal unslashed L. Polish W is pronounced like our V. So the name is pronounced roughly "voy-DIH-woe," with the middle syllable sounding almost like "dill" except that the L is more like a W.

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 1,633 Polish citizens named Wojdyło. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 126, Krakow 83, Przemysl 449, Rzeszow 72, Tarnobrzeg 61, Torun 80, and Wroclaw 62. So while this name was seen all over Poland, it was most common in the southern part, especially southeastern Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to get addresses for those Wojdyło's.

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 1385, and comes from the basic Polish root woj-, "warrior, war." It may come straight from that root in the meaning of "warrior," in which case Wojdyło would be kind of like "kin of the warrior." But it may also have originated as a kind of nickname formed from ancient pagan Polish surnames beginning with that root, such as Wojciech ("war" + "glad" ?= "joyful warrior"), Wojsław ("war" + "fame" ? = "famous warrior"), etc. So one way or the other the name Wojdyło goes back to this root meaning "war," but it's hard to say whether it began as a reference to the kin of a warrior or simply as a kind of nickname for one of those old pagan first names (sort of the same way we get "Eddie" from "Edward"). Only genealogical research may uncover enough information on a specific family's background to establish a historical and linguistic context in which it is possible to determine exactly how and why the name developed and "stuck" in a given case. 


WOJDYŁA

... I am curious to the origin of my maternal grandmother's maiden name of Wojdyla. She came from the Malopolskie district. I am also curious because of the closeness to the Pope's name of Wojtyla. How many Wojdyla's were there in Poland in 1990?

In Polish this name is spelled with the L with a slash through it, which is pronounced like our W; as opposed to the normal unslashed L. Polish W is pronounced like our V. So the name is pronounced roughly "voy-DIH-wah," with the middle syllable sounding almost like "dill" except that the L is more like a W.

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 2,680 Polish citizens named Wojdyła. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 286, Krakow 193, Krosno 244, Nowy Sacz 172, Opole 185, and Przemysl 264. So while this name was seen all over Poland, it was most common in the southern part, ranging all the way from southwestern to southeastern Poland. Clearly this includes Malopolska, so the data is consistent with the information you have. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to get addresses for those Wojdyła's.

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 1473, and comes from the basic Polish root woj-, "warrior, war." It may come straight from that root in the meaning of "warrior," in which case Wojdyła would be kind of like "kin of the warrior." But it may also have originated as a kind of nickname formed from ancient pagan Polish surnames beginning with that root, such as Wojciech ("war" + "glad" ?= "joyful warrior"), Wojsław ("war" + "fame" ? = "famous warrior"), etc. So one way or the other the name Wojdyła goes back to this root meaning "war," but it's hard to say whether it began as a reference to the kin of a warrior or simply as a kind of nickname for one of those old pagan first names (sort of the same way we get "Eddie" from "Edward"). Only genealogical research may uncover enough information on a specific family's background to establish a historical and linguistic context in which it is possible to determine exactly how and why the name developed and "stuck" in a given case. 

The name Wojdyła is indeed very close to that of the Pope, Wojtyła, but that doesn't necessarily mean much. It is, of course, possible the names might link up somewhere way back -- D and T are closely related sounds, so it wouldn't take much at all for Wojdyła and Wojtyła to be confused. Still, it seems likely in most cases they are unrelated except for a similarity in sound, occasioned by origin in a common root; but that doesn't imply a blood connection, any more than we'd expect a Jones to be related to a Johnson. Wojtyła may come from that first name Wojciech, but it may also come from the noun wójt, an official in charge of a rural district. Thus his name may come from an entirely different root.


SOBANIA

... Came across your offer of help on the web and wondered if I could take advantage of it! Its very kind of you to offer. I only need a 'quick and simple' guide, anything you may have to point me in the right direction. The family name I would like some clues for is Sobania from the Kielce region in late 1800s.

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 569 Polish citizens named Sobania. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 57, Opole 63, and Radom 254; the list said only 1 lived in Kielce province at that time. 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 suggests there are two pockets of concentration of this name, one in southwestern Poland (the region called Silesia), the other a little southeast of the center of the country (near Radom).

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1469, and comes from first names beginning with Sob-. There are several names that could apply, such as Sobestian (a variant of Sebastian), or Sobiesław or Sobiepan (ancient pagan Slavic first names, no equivalents in English). Poles often formed nicknames from popular first names by taking the first few sounds of the name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes (much as we do with names like "Eddie" from "Edward"). So they would take the Sob- part from the names I mentioned above, drop the rest, and add suffixes to come up with Sobania. There is no way to translate the name, any more than we can translate "Ted" -- they're just nicknames from longer names that did mean something long ago. The closest we could come is "kin of Sobie," noting that that is a nickname from Sobestian or Sobiesław, etc.


SIDOR

... I have been researching my family history and would like to know if you have any information on the surname Sidur or Sidor. My great grandfather was from Bren Oslechowski, Poland. Any information would be greatly appreciated. 

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 5,607 Polish citizens named Sidor, as opposed to 34 named Sidur, so odds are it was Sidor. Both names are found all over Poland, but with concentrations in the eastern and southeastern part of the country; for instance, the largest numbers of Sidors lived in the provinces of Lublin (1,210) and Zamosc (409).

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions Sidor in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], and I think it's reasonable to assume Sidur is just a misspelling or variant of that name. The surname Sidor comes from the first name Izydor, which comes from the Greek name Isidoros, meaning "gift of Isis." This name did not become common in Poland until the last couple of centuries, and the distribution data quoted above suggests it is still more common among eastern Poles and Ukrainians, due to the influence of the Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches in those regions. Some names coming from Greek are much more common among Eastern Slavs because they were connected with saints of the Orthodox Church, which tended to use Greek, rather than the Roman Catholic Church, which used Latin. 

So as the distribution data suggests, this name first came into use among Eastern Slavs and gradually spread among Poles; but it is still more common in eastern Poland than western.


CZUCZKO

... I enjoyed your web site and wondered if you can find any information on Czuczko. I have had a very difficult time finding anything, so any bit of info would be greatly appreciated.

This is not 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 101 Polish citizens named Czuczko. They lived in the following provinces: Biala Podlaska 1, Gdansk 4, Gorzow 4, Jelenia Gora 1, Katowice 7, Koszalin 3, Olsztyn 46, Przemysl 17, Slupsk 8, Szczecin 3, Zielona Gora 7. 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 somewhat concentrated in northeastern Poland, but is found scattered all over the country. It is hard to say whether this dispersion is a recent phenomenon. After World War II, large numbers of ethnic Poles, Lithuanians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians were forced to relocate from east to west; if we had data from before 1939, we might find most of the Czuczko's concentrated in the east. But we don't have such data, so all I can do is speculate.

None of my sources directly address the question of this name's origin, but I note in a 7-volume Polish dictionary that the term czuczka is a variant spelling of ciuc'ka, a diminutive of ciucia, which is a child's expression for "little dog, puppy." Thus czuczka would be kind of like "doggy" in English. It is quite plausible that the name Czuczko comes from this word. It may have begun as a kind of nickname for one who liked dogs, or who had kids who went around calling dogs by that name -- all these centuries later, it's difficult to know exactly what caused people to associate a particular person or family with a particular nickname. About the most we can say is that there was some kind of link between a person or family and this child's term for puppies.

The name is pronounced "CHOOCH-ko," and the reason it can readily be confused with words beginning ciuc- is because Poles pronounce the combinations -ci- and -cz- more or less the way we pronounce "ch." There is a distinction between the two sounds in proper Polish, but we see them confused often enough in names to know that a name with -cz- can be connected with a name with -ci-.


PILIPIEC

... My name is Peppie Pilipiec. I am searching for a long time about the meaning and origin of the name Pilipiec and found nothing about it. Short time ago I got acces to internet and I hoped to find some information but until now without success. Maybe you can help me.
I am living in Holland and (so far I know) my family is the only one with the surname Pilipiec. I don't have much detailed information about my family history. There is some relation with the Czech Republic and with Hungary. But the oldest information I have originates from Poland. From stories my father told me in the past there could also be some relation with Ukraine, but I am not sure about that. Because my name is different from most other names in my country people often ask me about the origin. Maybe you can help me. Is it a common surname or am I the last and only one with this name? Maybe you also can tell me how to pronounce it.


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 182 Polish citizens named Pilipiec. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Koszalin 27, Olsztyn 15, Zamosc 71. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have... I should add that after World War II, large numbers of people were forced to move from eastern Poland to the west, so it is quite possible most of hose people named Pilipiec who live in western or northern Poland (Koszalin and Olsztyn provinces) originally came from southeastern Poland, near Zamosc. The data we have is too recent to tell us for sure; I wish we had data from before 1939, it would settle many questions.

This name is pronounced in Polish roughly as "pee-LEEP-yets" (that's using English phonetic values; a German, for instance, would write it "pie-LIEP-jetz"). It comes from Pilip, a form of the first name known in English as "Philip," plus the suffix -iec, which means roughly "son of, kin of." So Pilipiec means "kin of Philip." 

It is entirely possible there is a Ukrainian connection here. You see, in Polish the standard form of that first name is Filip; the same form is used in Czech. But in Ukrainian it is Pylyp, where the y stands for a short i sound, somewhat like that in English "ship"; the I's in Filip, on the other hand, sound more like the ee in English "sheep." A name in the form Pilipiec might well have originated among Ukrainians rather than Poles or Czechs, with later lengthening of the vowels from y to i. (Among Hungarians the name is Fülöp, that is with umlaut over the U and O; that different form, and the -iec suffix, make it unlikely this name is Hungarian in origin).

Still, one cannot be certain of a Ukrainian connection. The Slavic languages did not originally have the F-sound, so that in older records we often see P used instead of F. Thus in older records one does see Poles using the form Pilip, and only later did Filip become standard. So those P's in Pilipiec do not prove the name originated among Ukrainians; it could also have developed in Polish or Czech centuries ago, before the more modern form "Filip" became standard. Still, the moment I saw this name I thought of the Ukrainian form Pylyp; and people did sometimes move in ancient times, so that we see Ukrainian names in Poland and Polish names in Ukraine. 

To summarize, we can say with certainty that the name means "kin of Philip" or "son of Philip," and is most often seen in modern Poland in the area of Zamosc, in the southeastern part of the country, very near the border with Ukraine. We cannot be quite so certain whether the name was originally Polish, Ukrainian, or Czech (or even Slovak). Many names are very similar in those languages, and often the form of the name itself does not provide us with enough information to be certain. In this case, genealogical research is your best hope of answering the question of the exact origin, as it may shed light on the historical, linguistic, and social background in which the name developed.


MADAJCZYK

...I have been unable to find anything about my surname, Madajczyk. Do you know anything?

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it developed by addition of the suffix -czyk, which generally means "son of," to the name Madaj. That name generally comes from a short form of the Latin first name Amadeus, rare in this country but not uncommon in Europe -- it is best known as the middle name of the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The Latin name comes from the roots ama-, "love," and Deus, "God," so it could be interpreted as "one who loves God" or perhaps "one dear to God"; there are equivalents to this name in many languages, including German Gottlieb and Polish Bogumil, meaning the same thing. So the name can be interpreted as "son of Amadeus."

Rymut mentions that in some cases Madaj- might also come from the feminine name Magdalena, and I've seen surname scholars who think there may be a connect with the name "Matthew" or "Matthias," in Polish Mateusz and Maciej. These are possibilies, but in most cases the connection probably is with that name Amadeus.

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 595 Polish citizens named Madajczyk (pronounced roughly "mah-DIE-chick"). The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Poznan 78, and Wloclawek 228. So the name is found all over Poland but is most common in the areas just west and north of the center of 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.


GACKI

... Was wondering if you would have any information on the origin and meaning of my father's last name, Gatski. I am sure it is not the original spelling.

In Polish the ts sound is spelled c, so the original spelling in Polish would be Gacki. It's pronounced more or less "GOT-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 2,236 Polish citizens named Gacki. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 149, Katowice 615, Lodz 113, Łomża 168, and Opole 238; the rest were scattered in smaller numbers all over Poland. 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 suggests the name is most common in southcentral and southwestern Poland, but not to the point that one can assume a Gacki came from there -- a family by this name could come from almost anywhere in Poland.

My sources indicate that the ultimate root of the name is most likely that seen in the noun gac' (accent over the c), "fascine, a bundle of sticks" (used generally to strengthen walls or various constructions). The direct connection, however, is probably with places with names from that root, especially various places named Gac' or Gacki, of which there are more than a dozen. So the surname probably means "one from Gac' or Gacki."

Neither the derivation nor the frequency data provides any clues that let us say which particular Gac' or Gacki a given Gacki family once came from. The only way to determine that is through genealogical research, which may allow one to focus on a particular area. Then, instead of trying to deal with a dozen Gac'es or Gacki's, one can say "It has to be one located near X" and search that area for the most likely candidate.


KAMIEŃSKI, KAMIŃSKI, KAMINSKY

... Hello! I was wondering if you by any chance had any information on the surname of Kaminski.

Yes, I've answered questions on this name before. I've quoted below my response to a girl in grade school who needed info on a paper she was writing on her name, which her family spelled Kaminsky. As I explain, slightly different versions of this name are very popular among many Slavs, but Kaminski is most likely Polish rather than Russian or Czech or Ukrainian. I think all the information I wrote to her may be helpful to you, so I'll quote the whole reply. I hope it is some help to you, and wish you the best of luck.


Kaminsky or Kaminski is a surname we find among many peoples of eastern Europe. I don't know if you've ever heard the word "Slav," it is a general term used for many related ethnic groups of eastern Europe, including the Poles, Belarusians, Bulgarians, Czechs, Russians, Ukrainians, Slovaks, Serbs, Croats, etc.

About 1,200 years ago these people were all one large group and all spoke the same language; but as time went on they split up, moved to different parts of eastern Europe, and their language changed and developed into many different languages, as the peoples themselves gradually developed into different ethnic groups. A lot of words are still similar in the various Slavic languages, however, and your name comes from one of them, a word meaning "stone, rock." 

Poles spell this word kamień. Czechs spell it kámen. When Russians write it in their alphabet, Cyrillic, it looks like KAMEHb; Ukrainians also use the Cyrillic alphabet, and they spell it a little differently, KAMIHb. So they all write the word different ways, but they all pronounce it more or less the same, sort of like saying "COMM-yen" in English (Ukrainians pronounce it more like "COMM-een"). Many surnames come from this word, and the one you bear is written in slightly different ways, too, depending on where it came from: Poles, for instance, spell the name either Kamiński or Kamieński. The spelling you now have, Kaminsky, might be Czech; it might be the Russian or Ukrainian forms spelled in English letters; or it may have been Polish but people changed the final -I of Kamiński to -Y in this country (this happened often when Poles came to America). You can't always tell just by looking at the name which country it came form, it could come from many countries where Slavs live.

Surnames like Kamiński usually started because of a link with a place. In Polish kamieński just means "of, from, pertaining to stone or rock," and sometimes it got started as a name for a person who worked with rock (like a stone-carver), or lived in a rocky place, or had some other connection with rocks. But much of the time the name started because a person lived in a place with a name like Kamień or Kamiń -- which just means it was a rocky place. So Kamiński means either "rock-person" or "one from Kamień or Kamiń" = "one from the rocky place." Looking only at Poland, there are literally dozens of places named Kamień, and this name could come from any of them; there are also many villages and towns in Ukraine, Russia, etc. where the name could also come from.

As of 1990 there were 87,935 Polish citizens named Kamiński, and another 1,514 named Kamieński. I don't have sources with data for other countries such as Ukraine, Russia, the Czech Republic, etc., but I'm pretty sure the name is just as common there. 

So in summary: 

1) the name comes from a Slavic word for "rock, stone," especially as a reference to people who lived in or came from a place with a name like Kamień or Kamiń

2) it could be Polish, Czech, Russian, Ukrainian, etc., but the spellig Kamiński is usually Polish

3) and it is a very, very common name in Eastern Europe.


WIECZOREK

... Hi!! My name is Veronica Corra de Wieczorek that why i want to know if this surname is common in Poland and what it mean may father in law tell us that is something like ligth afternoon or so...

Your father-in-law is close; this surname comes from the Polish noun wieczorek, pronounced roughly "vyeh-CHORE-ek," which means "evening" or "a small party in the evening." It comes from the noun wieczór, "evening," with the addition of the diminutive suffix -ek. So Wieczorek literally means "little evening," and might have originated as a sort of nickname for one who was most active in the late afternoon or evening, or one who often held little parties in the evening. The dividing line between late afternoon and early evening is not sharp, so it's reasonable to say the name could be understood as meaning "late afternoon" as well; but the dictionary definition, at least, is "evening."

One source also mentions that wieczorek is also a term for "bat," presumably referring to bats' habit of first coming out in the early evening; so it might also have started as a nickname for one who reminded people somehow of a bat. Another mentions that this term could be confused with another word, więciorek (the ę stands for the Polish nasal vowel written as an E with a tail under it and pronounced more or less like "en"); the pronunciation of the two words is very close, "vyeh-CHORE-ek" vs. "vyen-CHORE-ek," so it's not hard to see how they might be confused. That word means "a small fish-pot." This name could get started as a reference to a person's occupation and the gear he used in it, or it could be a nickname.

Still, it seems most likely the name started out due to some perceived connection between a person or family and something that happened in the late afternoon or early evening. These names developed centuries ago, and often we cannot hope to know exactly what led people to start calling certain folks by a specific name. The most we can do is say what the name means and make reasonable suggestions as to why it seemed applicable.

Wieczorek is a pretty common name in 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 46,920 Poles named Wieczorek, living in large numbers all over the country. So there's no one part of Poland with which the name is particularly associated; a Wieczorek could come from anywhere.

The "de Wieczorek" is interesting, you don't usually run into Polish names with de unless the family left Poland for France before coming to North America. In the Middle Ages Polish nobles used Latin de with the name of their estate, so that Jan who owned the estate at Piotrkowo might be called Johannes de Piotrkowo, "John of Piotrkowo." Later Poles quit using the de and adopted a more Polish way of saying the same thing, adding -ski to the end of the estate's name, so that this Jan would be called Jan Piotrkowski. There are similar names from Wieczorek, such as Wieczorowski and Wieczorkowski. 

I don't have any information that would shed light on why a particular family might go by "de Wieczorek." As I suggested, it's possible they lived in France for a while and called themselves by this name to indicate nobility. It's even possible they weren't noble but used this name to suggest they were. Still, all that's speculation; I don't have information on specific families, only on the origins and meanings of names from a linguistic standpoint.


NIKODEMSKI

... I'm starting to search around for info on our family name, Nikodemski. Will buy your first book, but am also interested in any other informational leads. 

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 Nikodemski. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Lodz (170) and Ostrołęka (57), with the rest scattered in much smaller numbers all over Poland. 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 shows the name is most common these days in the center of the country (around Lodz) and a little to the northeast of the center (around Ostrołęka).

The meaning of the name is simple: "of Nicodemus." Words ending in -ski originated as adjectives, so Nikodemski would mean "of, from, connected with, relating to Nicodemus." In the context of surnames, it would probably mean "kin of Nicodemus" or "one from the place of Nicodemus." That name, in turn, is Biblical, coming from Greek Nikodemos, "lord over the people." So about all the name tells us is that at some point in the past you had an ancestor named Nicodemus who was well-known enough that the locals started referring to his kin with this name, or who had a farm or settlement with which people bearing this name were associated.


WOJTYNA

... I am hoping you can help me in finding the origin and the meaning to the surname of Wojtyna. It is my great-great-grandfathers name. He was born in Lancut, Poland back in 1879. 

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 1,116 Polish citizens named Wojtyna. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 91, Kielce 199, Przemysl 115, Rzeszow 79 (which is the province Lancut was in), and Zamosc 60. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. The data shows that the name is found all over Poland but is especially common in the southeastern part of the country.

Poles pronounce this name roughly "voy-TINN-ah." Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it, like most names beginning with Wojt-, can come from either of two roots, and it can be very difficult telling which one is relevant in a given case. These names can come from the first name Wojciech, an ancient Slavic name meaning "war-joy," possibly meant in the sense of "may this child be a joyful warrior, may he find joy in battle." The other possibility is from the noun wójt, an official in charge of a district covering several villages. Wojtyna makes sense as meaning "kin of the wójt" or even "wife of the wójt"; that suffix -yna is one often added to a word or name to indicate a married female, so that "wójt's wife" is especially plausible. Still, there's no denying the name could just as easily mean "kin of Wojciech." In cases like this the only thing that would prove which derivation is correct would be genealogical research that uncovers records shedding light on the matter. But frankly, it's doubtful you'd find records that go back far enough -- a name like this developed centuries ago.


WYRZYKOWSKI

... Do you have any info on the surname Wyrzykowski ( now Wyzykowski)

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 5,523 Polish citizens named Wyrzykowski. While there was a particularly large number, 960, in the province of Warsaw, the name is found all over Poland, to the extent that one cannot really point to any one area and say "That's where Wyrzykowski's came from." They could come from anywhere in 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. In this case, we'd expect this surname to mean "one from Wyrzyki or Wyrzyków or Wyrzykowo" or some similar name beginning with Wyrzyk-. Unfortunately, there are several places in Poland with names that qualify, including Wyrzyki's in the provinces (per the 1979-1998 provincial organization) of Białystok, Ciechanow, and Łomża. Another source mentions a connection of Wyrzykowski with Wyrzyków in the district of Kamieniec in the Mazovia region; I couldn't find that on any map, it's possible it has disappeared or has been renamed in the centuries since the surname developed.

So without detailed information on a specific family's background, there's no way to know which particular place a specific Wyrzykowski family came from. With any luck, genealogical research would uncover enough facts to establish this connection. But that is beyond the scope of what I can do.


LUCIŃSKI

... Thanks for any indications about my name [Lucinski].

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 468 Polish citizens named Luciński. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Kielce 154, Płock 52, Poznan 38, and Warsaw 38; the rest lived in much smaller numbers scattered all over Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

None of my sources discuss the derivation of this name, but it seems likely it refers to the name of a place where the family once lived; if they were noble, they owned the estate there, and if they were not noble, they worked there. There are several places in Poland the name might refer to, such as Lucin in Siedlce province, Lucin in Szczecin province, and Luciny in Leszno province (these are the provinces during the period 1975-1998; last year all this changed again, but most maps available show the 1975-1998 arrangement). 

Thus as with many Polish surnames, the name itself tells you little about where the family came from. Only detailed genealogical research into a specific family's past will uncover enough information to determine which place the name refers to in that family's case (different Lucinski families might come by the name in different ways).


LEWICKI, SAKOWICZ, SITKO, SÓWKA

... Hi again: A couple of weeks ago you gave me information regarding my Grandfather's side of the family in Poland and I was delighted with your response. I have since found information relative to my Grandmother, and was wondering if you would be kind enough to give me a brief analysis of her side of the family. Her maiden name was Lewicki. She came from Teolin, Sokolka, Balostuckie (Białystok??), Poland. Her Mother's maiden name was Sitko. Also whenever your time permits, my sister-in-law, is interested in a brief analysis of her family surnames: Sowka and Sakowicz.

Lewicki (pronounced "leh-VEET-skee") is a moderately common 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 13,441 Polish citizens named Lewicki, living all over the country. There was no one area of the country in which it was concentrated; a Lewicki could come from almost anywhere. As of 1990 there were 407 Polish citizens named Lewicki living in the province of Białystok, which is most likely the province in which your grandmother's relatives resided.

In most cases Lewicki would refer to the name of a place where the family once lived, places with names like Lewice. The root of the place name could come from the first name Lew, from the Polish word for "lion" (used much like Leo or Leon in English), in which case the surname would mean "one from the place of Lew's sons." It could also come from the adjective lewy, "left," referring to one who lived in a place left of some landmark, or one who was left-handed. If there is any Jewish ancestry, it can also come from the term Lewit, "Levite," referring to the priestly tribe descending from Levi; in that case Lewicki would mean "kin of the Levite." So there are several different possible interpretations, and without detailed genealogical research into a given family's history there's no way to know which one is appropriate in their particular case.

In Sakowicz ("sah-KO-vitch") the -owicz means "son of," so the name means "son of Sak." That is a personal name derived from the noun sak, "fishing net, sack," presumably used originally as a nickname for one who made or used a sak, or who somehow reminded people of a sak in other ways. Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions the name Sakowicz in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles], saying it appears in records as far back as 1390. As of 1990 there were 2,712 Polish citizens by this name, including 854 in the province of Białystok, the largest single number for any province of Poland.

Sitko ("SHEET-ko") is thought to come from the noun sitko, "strainer, dredger," a diminutive of sito, "sieve, strainer." Rymut also mentions this name in his book, saying it appears in records as early as 1389. As of 1990 there were 4,387 Poles by this name, including 261 in Białystok province.

Sowka is spelled in Polish with an accent over the O, Sówka, and pronounced roughly "SOOF-kah." It comes from the term sówka, a kind of owl, Athene noctua, or the Noctuidae family of moths. The basic root is sowa, "owl," plus the diminutive suffix -ka, "little." According to Rymut, this name appears in records as early as 1355. As of 1990 there were 1,498 Poles named Sówka, scattered all over Poland (although none appeared to live in Białystok province).

Incidentally, Teolin is a village some 15-20 km. west of Sokolka in what was Białystok province until last year, at which time the provinces were reorganized; it is now in Podlaskie province, near the border with Belarus. 


RANOWIECKI

... I have been searching for any information on my Maiden name Ranowiecki. I know nothing about it. I know that my ggrandfather came from Warsaw , or so I have been told, but so far have no verification of this. The best lead I have right now is my name is spelled very closly to the province of Mazowieckie , I'm hoping this is a sign that he lived in this area (Warsaw) Were surnames adapted from provinces? As you might find out there are NO other Ranowiecki's to be found except my family and we are very few. No one has any information about our name. Please help :) 

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 Ranowiecki. Of course this doesn't mean the name isn't real; it could be there are a few who were missed in the data compilation, or it could mean the name was fairly rare and died out after the family emigrated. But it does make it very hard to say what part of Poland the name came from.

The similarity of the name to Mazowiecki is, I'm afraid, meaningless. It arises from the fact that Polish uses certain sounds and syllables a lot, and so some unrelated words can sound familiar. It means no more than saying that "information" and "formation" must mean the same thing because they both end in -formation.

In form the name is an adjective, like most names ending in -ski or -cki or -zki. It would seem to mean "of Ranowiec, from Ranowiec," or some similar name beginning with Ranow-. The -iec part usually means "property of, kin of," so that Ranowiec seems likely to mean "property of Ranow, kin of Ranow." Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut doesn't mention Ranowiecki in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles], but he does mention Ranow, saying it can come from several roots, including rano, "morning," or rana, "wound," or an ancient pagan name Ranimir. 

This suggests the surname Ranowiecki meant either "one from the place of Ranow" or "one of the kin of Ranow or his sons." I can't find any place in eastern Europe named with a name beginning Ranow-, but that doesn't necessarily mean much. Surnames developed centuries ago, and often referred to the name locals had for a field or hill or some small settlement; such place names may never have been used by anyone but locals, or may have been renamed or absorbed into other communities, or may have disappeared. Or, as I say, the surname may just refer to the kin of an ancestor named Ranow or something similar, which could come from any of the roots mentioned above.

All of which means surname analysis is not likely to help you much. I'm afraid the only thing that's likely to tell you anything is genealogical research -- digging out naturalization papers, census records, ship passenger lists, that sort of thing. On one of those, if you're lucky, you may find a bit more information that will help you trace the family back to where it came from in Poland. At that point you may find something that sheds light on the name's origin -- perhaps a reference to some nearby place called Ranowiec or something similar, perhaps an alternate form of the name that clarifies its original meaning.

I don't have the time or resources to do that kind of detailed research on individual families; 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.

  

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


FRONCZAK, FRĄCZAK

... Please do a "short" analysis on the name: Fronczak. I will purchase your book on Polish Surnames for my library, but my guess is that the name, Fronczk, is not included. I will be surprised if it is!

If the name is Fronczak, yes, it is in my book. If it's Fronczk, no, it's not. But I'm assuming Fronczk is a typo and the name you want is Fronczak.

First off, I need to explain that any time you see ON in a Polish word or name coming before a consonant, chances are very good the original Polish spelling was with the nasal vowel written as an A with a tail under it, which I represent on-line as Ą. This sound is generally pronounced much like "on," and since names were often spelled phonetically, a name like Frączak could be, and often was, spelled Fronczak in records. The two spellings can legitimately be regarded as variants of the same 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 2,022 Polish citizens named Fronczak, and there were 1,871 who spelled it Frączak. This is interesting, normally the Ą spelling is standard and the ON has much smaller numbers; but for some reason (which I don't pretend to know) the ON spelling is more common in Poland these days. (Another phonetic spelling is Fronciak, but it's extremely rare).

The largest numbers of Frączak's lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 556, Lodz 135, Radom 202, and Skierniewice 104; the rest were scattered all over Poland. For Fronczak the largest numbers lived in these provinces: Warsaw 668, Ciechnaow 112, and Lodz 94. 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 the area at and just east of the central part of the country (in its current borders).

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from a short form of the first name Franciszek, "Francis." While Franciszek is the standard form of the name in modern Polish, in earlier records -- which are the ones of interest when it comes to surname development, since surnames developed centuries ago -- it appears in a number of different forms. Sometimes that first part Franc- was pronounced and came to be spelled more like Frąc- or Fronc-, which helped create short forms or nicknames that could be written Franc, Frąc, or Fronc. The suffix -ak is a diminutive, but in surnames often means "kin of, son of," so that this Polish surname can be interpreted more or less as "son of Frank, kin of Frank."


KĘDRA, KENDRA

... Hi, I just found your website (through an initial SCA search), and I love it! I was wondering what you could tell me about the Polish surname Kendra. My great grandparents came to the US from Poland at the beginning of the century, and my grandfather assures me that the name was NOT changed at Ellis Island. I had a short Polish language course once, and the teacher said she had indeed heard of the name. Any help...? Thank you so much!

I'm very glad to hear you like my Website. It represents a fair amount of work, and it's gratifying to hear from folks who find it helpful and interesting.

Now, as for the name Kendra, it is quite plausible that the name wasn't changed during the immigration process; but this is not the standard Polish spelling of the name. Whenever we see a Polish name with EN before a consonant, we have to be aware that there's a nasal vowel in Polish written as an E with a tail under it. This vowel is usually pronounced much like "en," so that Kędra is pronounced more or less "KEN-drah." Until this century, when literacy became the rule rather than the exception, names were often spelled inconsistently and phonetically. So the name Kendra is almost certainly a variant of Kędra, and can be spelled either way because either spelling fits the pronunciation of the name. By standard Polish spelling rules, however, Kędra is the correct 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 2,778 Polish citizens named Kędra. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 116, Kielce 111, Krosno 361, Lublin 209, Radom 101, Tarnobrzeg 222, Tarnow 116, Zamosc 133, Warsaw 156. (Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, and can't tell you how to get such data). What this data tells us is that the name is found all over Poland, but is particularly common in the southeastern part, the region called Malopolska (Little Poland), which was included in the area seized by the Austrians in the late 1700's and called Galicia.

By contrast, only 141 Poles spelled the name Kendra. With increasing literacy, alternate spellings of names have become less common, as people come to learn the "correct" spelling and prefer it. Still, if you went back and looked at records for the families using the form Kędra, chances are good you'll occasionally see it spelled Kendra. In Polish records -- as in English or American, for that matter -- spellings have often been inconsistent. It's a comparatively recent notion that surnames should always be spelled exactly the same way; in earlier societies there was far less demand for spelling consistency, so it's not unusual to see the same name spelled several different ways.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says Kędra comes from a basic root kędr- seen in terms such as kędry, "a young bride's hair after cutting" and kędzior, "lock of hair." In many areas it was customary for young unmarried women to wear their hair long, and to cut it shorter for the first time when she married; there was even a kind of ceremony connected with this, called the oczepiny, when a bride's hair was cut and she first wore the cap reserved for married women. So you see that this root kędr- is used pretty consistently to refer to locks of hair or tresses, especially a maiden's.

Names like this typically got started as nicknames referring to some prominent trait of an individual. So Kędra presumably started as a reference to one who had long tresses or a particularly prominent lock of hair. It might even refer to a man who wore his hair long, like a maiden. All these centuries after names developed, it's hard to say just exactly what the feature was that caused people to associate certain names with certain individuals. The most we can do is note what the name means and make plausible suggestions as to why that name stuck with certain people, to the extent that it ultimately became a surname.


CUBER, GLEMBIN

... Hi I'm from Australia and have had no luck with any of my searches on Polish surnames. My grandfather's surname was Glembin and he was from Puck. My grandmother's surname was Cuber and she was from near Katowice. Do you know anything about these surnames ?

In Polish Cuber would be pronounced roughly "TSOO-bear." 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 2,032 Polish citizens by that name. The largest number by far, 1,193, lived in the province of Katowice; 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, what I've given here is all I have. But this data confirms that your grandmother came from the area where this name is most common by far.

Two different sources on surnames confirm that this name derives from the German noun Zuber, a variant of Zober, which means "two-handled tub; firkin." German Zuber is pronounced the same as Polish Cuber, so it's the same name, just spelled differently because of different phonetic and orthographic preferences. Hans Bahlow's Deutsches Namenlexikon confirms that Zuber is a surname from this word and adds that the surname generally refers to one's occupation as a tub maker. The Katowice area was and is home to many ethnic Germans, so we see a lot of mixing of German and Polish words in names from that region. It is perfectly plausible that a Zuber family, of German origin and occupied in making tubs, would come to be called Cuber by Poles; it's also possible a Pole who made tubs might end up with this name because the German term had come to be the one most used in that area for any person involved in this occupation.

Glembin is a rarer name; as of 1990 there were only 182 Poles by that name, but 155 of them lived in Gdansk province, and most of the rest lived in neighboring provinces. So again, your grandfather came from the area where this name is most common. Unfortunately, as I said, I don't have access to first names or addresses for any of those Glembins.

This name is also susceptible to spelling variation because of Polish phonetics. The L can also be the L with a slash through it, pronounced like our W. There were 6 Poles named Głembin, all living in Gdansk province. Also the -EM- might be spelled with the Polish nasal vowel written as an E with a tail under it. In most situations that vowel is pronounced much like "en," but before a B or P it sounds like "em," so that the name could also be spelled Glębin or Głębin. Those spellings are rare, however; there was only an indication of one Pole who spelled it Głębin, also living in Gdansk province. 

Even though the spelling Glembin is the most common in terms of surnames, that may be due to German influence, as there are also many Germans in the Gdansk area (including Puck). In terms of standard Polish linguistics, Głębin (pronounced roughly "GWEM-bean") is almost certainly the form to work with, and the spelling as Glembin is incidental to the actual meaning of the name.

The root of this name would most likely be głąb; Ą stands for the other Polish nasal vowel, written as an A with a tail under it and pronounced like "om" before a B or P. The nasal vowels often alternate in different forms, so it is feasible that głąb would become głęb- when suffixes are added. In fact, Polish grammar and linguistics dictate that this is what would happen. So Glembin would be a variant spelling of Głębin, which derives from the root głąb with addition of the possessive suffix -in.

Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut says in his book on Polish surnames that names beginning Głęb- (and therefore also Glemb-) derive from the noun głąb that means "stalk" or "heart, core" of cabbage or similar plants -- i. e., the core that's left when you remove the edible leaves. He mentions that there are records of an old first name Głębin that comes from this root; this name would mean something like "man of the stalk." It's not immediately apparent why this would come to be a name associated with people, but one source suggests it was a mild insult. It implied that a person was kind of dense, as worthless as a cabbage from which all the edible parts have been eaten away. The English expression "cabbage head" is something along the same lines. Many Polish names do come from such insulting terms; I have to feel in many cases they were meant affectionately rather than cruelly, much as men often call their friends by names that, at least superficially, are rather insulting. So Glembin would mean something rather like "[kin] of the cabbage-head."

I am a little puzzled as to why scholars insist these names come from that root, however. There is a noun głąb that has variants such as głębina; this root means "depth," so that głębina is a noun meaning "depth, deep place (in water, for instance)." It seems plausible to me this could just as easily produce surnames as "cabbage stalk." Perhaps this surname arose as a nickname for one who was somehow associated with depth; perhaps he lived in a place that was perceived as deep, or, who knows, maybe he was thought to be a deep person? 

Still, Rymut has a lot more experience analyzing Polish names than I do, so I'm reluctant to disagree with him. I just wanted to mention this as a possibility worth considering. The expert opinion is that names like this derive from that term for cabbage stalk; but I still wonder if it might refer, in some cases, to "depth."


ZAWADA

... I'm trying to find out about my family name history when I found your website. If you could help it would be great! My family name is Zawada and all I know is my grandfather lived in New Jersey for a while then moved to upper Michigan. His name was Joseph and was married to Violet. If you can point me in the right direction it would be great. Thank you! 

Unfortunately, Zawada is a moderately 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 11,686 Polish citizens named Zawada. They lived all over Poland, especially the southern part of the country. The name comes from a 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 name itself, therefore, isn't much help in tracing the family. Your best bet is to search for records in this country that might tell exactly where in Poland your ancestors came from, such as parish records, naturalization records, ship passenger lists, passports, etc. If you'd like a little help with genealogical research, I have two suggestions. 1) Go to the PolishRoots Web page at
http://www.polishroots.org/reference.htm and read the files there under "For Starters." 2) Look for a copy of the book Polish Roots by Rosemary Chorzempa. It's widely available at book stores and costs less than $20, and many people have told me they found it priceless for the help it gave them.

There are two Polish genealogical societies that might be able to help you. The Polish Genealogical Society of Michigan might be able to help you with the Michigan end of your research; for more info, visit their Website at
http://www.pgsm.org/

The PGS of the Northeast might be able to help you find some leads on the New Jersey end. Their Website is at this address: http://members.aol.com/pgsne2/.


KOSUB, KOZUB

... I didn't see my name, Kosub, on your list so I was wondering if you could tell me what this name means. Sometimes it is spelled Kozub. Any information would be greatly appreciated. 

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 Polish citizens named Kosub, living in the provinces of Katowice (26), Krakow (4), and Opole (2). 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 exclusively in southcentral Poland.

But Kosub is probably a variant of the name Kozub, borne by 2,968 Polish citizens as of 1990. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 725, Kielce 240, Krakow 381, and Tarnów 384. This data tells us the name is found all over Poland, but is particularly common in the southcentral and southeastern part of the country. In older records this name is sometimes seen spelled Kosub, and that spelling makes particular sense in an area with lots of Germans, such as Katowice; in German the S before vowels is pronounced like Z, so that German Kosub is pronounced the same as Polish Kozub, and thus that alternate spelling makes sense in an area where there might be a German influence on spelling and pronunciation.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions Kozub in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1369, and comes from the noun kozub, "a small bark basket," also used to mean "an obstinate fellow." One would imagine the latter usage would more often be relevant with names, although it's possible the term might also be used as a nickname for one who made bark baskets or used them in his work.

There is one other possibility worth mentioning, though it's kind of far-fetched. There is a word Kaszub which means "Kashubian, one from the area of Kashubia, near Gdansk." The Kashubians are a Slavic ethnic group closely related to Poles, but with their own language and customs. My point is that we see this name used in various forms, including Koszuba, and thus it is at least conceivable your name MIGHT come from a variant of that name. A lot would depend on where your name comes from. If it's from, say, southcentral Poland, I'd say it's almost certainly from that noun kozub. But if your research should happen to show a link with the area west and south of Gdansk, a Kashub connection just might be relevant. If you'd like to learn more about the Kaszubs, you can start at this address:
http://feefhs.org/kana/frg-kana.html 

To sum up, your name is probably from the noun kozub, "small bark basket; obstinate fellow." This is not a rare name, and is particularly common in the southcentral and southeastern part of Poland, particularly near Katowice. Much less likely is a connection with the word for "Kashub"; I would pay attention to that only if your research shows your family came from the region of Kashubia.


SOWA

...I was just wondering if you knew the meaning of the last name: Sowa. I believe it is Polish, but I am unsure

This probably is a Polish name, although many Slavic names sound very similar, so it could conceivably have developed in some other language as well. But 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 there were 17,750 Polish citizens named Sowa (pronounced roughly "SO-vah"), so it is definitely a name found among Poles. This name is not confined to any one part of the country; a family named Sowa could have come from anywhere in 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 1404 and comes from the noun sowa, which means "owl." Presumably it began as a nickname for someone who struck people as being owl-like, or who liked owls. Surnames developed centuries ago, often as nicknames, and it's usually very difficult or impossible to establish exactly what the nature of the connection was between a person given a name and the object that name represented. About all we can do in such cases is explain what the word means and make plausible suggestions as to how and why that word came to be associated with a person or family.


GŁASZCZ

... Just a quick note to ask if you have any information on my surname, Glaszcz. My father and his family came over from Poland around 1950, and I am just starting to try and learn more about my ancestry on my father's side. Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated and I'm in no rush.

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 157 Polish citizens named Głaszcz. The Ł is pronounced like our W, so that the name would sound like "g'woshch" (not too easy for non-Poles to pronounce). The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Lodz 62, Siedlce 34, Slupsk 18, Torun 22. 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 not very common, nor is it confined to any one area of Poland; it is found in the central part of the country, but also in east central and northwestern Poland. 

None of my sources discuss the origin of the name. Going strictly by Polish linguistics, it appears to come from the root seen in the verb głaska
ć, "to stroke, caress, fondle." So it makes sense that the name Głaszcz might have been given originally as a nickname for one who had a gentle touch, who stroked or caressed others. I can't be certain that's right, but it is plausible both from a linguistic point of view and in terms of common sense. Unfortunately, it doesn't tell you a whole lot that helps with tracing the family, but the truth is, very few Polish surnames do. Most are too common or rare or ambiguous; I estimate 5% or fewer have any distinctive feature that provides a useful lead in tracing the family bearing that name.


PYCZKOWSKI

... I'm looking for the translation of the family name Pyczkowski, this was my grandfather's surname which was changed sometime around 1910 to Pichcuskie, my current surname. Apparently the translation was done letter for letter that's why the final "E" at the end of the current name. My grandfathers given name was Michael. His date of death was in the mid 1950s. The family originally settled in Shamokin, PA. My grandfather, as well as my father & most of my uncles were coal miners until the late 1950s, all from Shamokin, PA.

In Polish this name is pronounced "pitch-KOFF-skee," although in every-day talk it may sound more like "pitch-KOSS-kee." 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 40 Polish citizens named Pyczkowski. They lived in the following provinces: Katowice 1, Łomża 6, Lodz 1, Suwałki 29, Szczecin 3. 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 shows that the name is fairly rare, and is found mainly in the northeastern part of Poland (in its current borders).

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. So we would expect Pyczkowski to mean "one from Pyczki, Pyczkow, Pyczkowo," or some place with a similar name. I can't find any places by those names on modern maps, but that's not unusual -- 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.

The place names, in turn, probably came from the root seen in the noun pyka, "finch," and in the verb pykac', "to puff." Thus Pyczkowski may be interpreted as meaning "one from the place of the finches." But it may prove very difficult to find the specific place to which the surname refers. Usually the only way to determine something like this is through successful genealogical research, which may establish exactly where in Poland the family came from and then provide leads as to the geographical, social, historical, and linguistic context in which the name came to be associated with a specific family.


MĘŻYDŁO

... Dear Sir, I am hoping you can help me. I have been trying to find any information about this name and always come up empty. I now am not even sure if it is Polish. I have my ggrandmother's marriage record and the name is spelt, Meyzdto, I also have her death cert. and on it the spelling is Merzydto, the family isn't sure how to pronunce the name let alone spell it. It is believed that she was from Poland but no one is sure. Please if you can supply any thing about this name it would be greatly appreciated. 

Slavic names were often badly distorted during the process of immigration, especially if they contain sounds totally foreign to English, and this is such a name. For one thing, the ending is not -TO but -ŁO; I'm using Ł to stand for the Polish L with a slash through it, pronounced like our W. Also the E is not a standard E but is written in Polish as an E with a tail under it, which I represent on-line as Ę; it is pronounced normally much like "en." Also in Polish RZ is pronounced the same as the Z with a dot over it, which I render on-line as Ż; in this case it sounds a lot like the ZH in "Zhivago." So the standard Polish spelling of this name is MęŻydło (tail under the E, dot over the Z, slash through the L), pronounced roughly "men-ZHID-woe." You can see how this name could be distorted when someone bearing it came to America!

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 209 Polish citizens named MęŻydło. The largest numbers lived in the province of Bydgoszcz, with the rest scattered in small numbers all over. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the basic root meaning "man, valiant man." The exact meaning of this name is hard to decipher; it might have meant "kin of the valiant man," or something along those lines. The suffix -ydło usually serves to indicate that a particular thing is a concrete realization of whatever the root means, or is a tool by which one accomplishes whatever the root means. So I'm inclined to think the name might mean "kin of the valiant man" or "the very model of a valiant man." But it might also have been meant ironically, sort of like "the opposite of a valiant man." It's very hard to say.

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.


GAŁAZIN, TOCZYŁOWSKI

... I was given your e-mail address tonight. I was interested in getting any information regarding my surname Galazin (with a slash thru the L) on the net tonight someone looked up my surname in your book was unable to find it. It is rare, even in the US. On ancestry.com, I found 49 Galazin's in the SSDI and 48 or 49 Galazin's in the US phone listings. I have written to 20 of them and got an answer from 5 this past summer. It seems that the Galazin's who all wrote to me, their grandparents came from the Suwałki Province in northeast Poland-Russia. When I found my grandfathers declaration of Intent at the Northumberland county courthouse in PA this summer, it said that he came from Lesanka, Russia-Poland in 1904 June 30th on the Brandenburg. I would like to find out anything in regards to my surname. I would like to find out if my grandfather had any brothers or sisters and what his parents names where and if he still has family there. There are other Galazin's in the Us, that spell their surname Galazyn, Galasyn, but as far as i know they are not related to me. I would be interested in finding out anything about my mother's surname Tocyloski sometimes spelled Toczyloski. My mother's father came from Russia-Poland. His name was Mathue Tocyloski. I have not located his Declaration of Intent or Naturalization Petition yet. He arrived in PA. I do not know the year or ship. He married at age 23 in June 1910. 

I'm afraid I can't help you locate your relatives; only genealogical research can accomplish that. All I offer is some insight on the meaning and origin of names, and, in cases where a name is found concentrated in a specific area, I can share that information and possibly draw a few conclusions based on the data. 

"Poland-Russia" would refer to that part of Poland seized by the Russian Empire in the late 1700's, when the empires of Germany, Russia, and Austria took over Poland and divided its territory among themselves. The area seized by Russia was roughly central and eastern Poland, along with what are now the independent nations of Lithuania and Belarus, plus some of northern Ukraine. So saying your ancestors came from "Poland Russia" is a little like saying they came from New England -- it's better than nothing, but it still covers a lot of area. It also means they may have lived in what is now Lithuania or Belarus, and I have no data for those countries; my data applies only to the nation of Poland in its current borders, which differ greatly from the borders of the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania before the partitions.

In Polish the name Galazin can be spelled several ways. One way is Gałazin, pronounced like our W. Another way is Gałazyn, and yet another way is Gałażyn, using the Polish Z with a dot over it, pronounced like the "zh" in "Zhivago." All these names are almost certainly related in terms of linguistic origin, but may or may not indicate a blood relationship between the families bearing them; that, again, is something only genealogical research can determine. This may be clearer when I say that there are thousands and thousands of people named Hoffman and Hoffmann and Hofmann, but very few of them are related to me. A similar surname does not necessarily indicate a blood relationship; and sometimes close relatives bear different forms of the same name. That's why analysis of the name alone does not suffice to clarify kinship or the lack thereof.

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 33 Polish citizens named Gałazin. They lived in the following provinces: Gdansk 4, Gorzow 6, Suwałki 23. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. But this data does suggest the Galazins you've corresponded with in the Suwałki area (which was in the Russian partition) might well be relatives. This name would be pronounced roughly "gah-WAH-zheen."

There were also 5 Poles who went by the name Gałazyn, living in the provinces of Białystok (1), Łomża (1), and Suwałki (3). This name sounds somewhat like "gah-WAH-zinn."

There were 194 named GałaŻyn, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Białystok (22) and Suwałki (140). This name is pronounced roughly "gah-WAH-zheen." 

All this data seems to indicate the name is found primarily in what is now northeastern Poland, not far from Suwałki, and used to be in the Russian partition. Since the pronunciations of these names are all very similar, it's quite possible they're all variants of the same basic name.

Unfortunately, none of my sources discuss the derivation of the name. It's probably not Polish, judging by its phonetic composition. It's more likely to be Belarusian, Russian, possibly even Lithuanian, especially in view of where it's concentrated; but my sources on those languages are far less extensive than for Polish.

So I can't tell you anything about the origin of the name. 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.

With Toczyłoski or Toczyłoski, we must recognize that this is a phonetic spelling. In every-day speech people in the northeastern region of Poland often change the "ch" sound of CZ to the "ts" sound spelled C, and they often drop the W entirely from the suffix -owski. So "tot-see-WOSS-kee" is how they say it, and thus it often used to be spelled that way; but the standard, "correct" written form is Toczyłowski.

As of 1990 there were 461 Polish citizens named Toczyłowski; the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Warsaw, 45; Białystok, 41; and Suwałki, 229. So this name, too, is concentrated in northeastern Poland.

Names in the form X-owski usually refer to the name of a place where the family once lived, a place with a name beginning X. Thus we'd expect Toczyłowski to refer to a village or settlement named something like Toczył-. One very plausible candidate is Toczyłowo, which was in Łomża province until they reorganized the provinces last year; it's a village just a couple of kilometers north of Grajewo. Toczyłowski makes perfect sense as meaning "one from Toczyłowo," or, if the name is old enough, it could be the name of a noble family that once owned the estate of Toczyłowo. There might be some other place with a similar name that could generate this surname, but Toczyłowo strikes me as worth a close look.

I tried to find a "Lesanka," but could not. It may be too small to show up on my maps, or the name may have been distorted or misunderstood or misspelled -- this happened all the time. All I can suggest is that you focus on the general area of Suwałki, especially near Toczyłowo, and see if you can spot a place with a name that could have been distorted into Lesanka.


KOPACZ

... i would like any information that you have on the name Kopacz. thank you 

This name is thought to come from the noun kopacz, "digger," from the verb kopać, "to dig, kick." It is pronounced roughly "KO-potch," and as of 1990 there were 5,889 Polish citizens by that name. It is found all over Poland, with no real concentration in any one area, so I'm afraid it doesn't offer much in the way of leads as to where a specific Kopacz family might have come from.


KISIEL, KISIELKA

... I was wondering if there was anything you could tell me about my last name: Kisielka. 

In Polish this name is pronounced roughly "key-SHELL-kah." 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 only 5 Polish citizens named Kisielka, living somewhere in the province of Tarnów, in southeastern Poland. 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 particular form of the name may be rare today, but it was not at all unusual in earlier times for people to go by several different names, all variants of the same basic name. You sometimes see the same person referred to by three different forms of his name in three different documents; there wasn't as much pressure then to bear one unchanging, consistent name, and many folks were illiterate anyway and couldn't tell if their name was being written down correctly. The -ka is a diminutive suffix, meaning "little," and it was also added sometimes to a surname to make a feminine form of the name. So Kisielka may have been used mainly -- in fact probably was -- as a variant or nickname of a much more common name, Kisiel ("KEY-shell), borne by 9,893 Poles as of 1990. So it's quite possible you also need to keep your eyes open for Kisiel or Kisielko or some other similar name. Kisielka could easily have been a nickname, meaning "little Kisiel," or "Mrs. Kisiel," that stuck as a surname for a few folks, but more often appeared as simply Kisiel.

The root of both names is the noun kisiel, which is a term for a jelly-type dessert made with potato starch. One scholar adds that it was sometimes used in an extended sense as a nickname for a soft fellow who was soft and didn't like war." It's hard to say exactly what the name meant in a given case, however. It may have become associated with an individual who liked kisiel, or who made particularly good kisiel -- all these centuries later it's usually very hard to determine exactly why a particular name stuck with a particular family. About all we can say is that in your family's case there was something about one of your ancestors that made this name somehow seem appropriate, and it stuck as a surname for his descendants.


JARACZESKI, JARACZEWSKI

... Sorry to bother you as I know that you are busy. My great grandfather came to America from Poland in 1874. His name was John Jaraczeski and their are several descendants with the name Jaraczeski in America. Have you run across this name before in Poland? I have been in contact with a Jaraczewski who thinks that our families are connected. I have seen the name Jaraczewski in other locations but have not run across the spelling Jaraczeski. Before coming to America they lived in Kwieciszewo near Magilno, Bydgoszcz. I would appreciate any information on the name.

It is perfectly normal to find names ending in -eski that are variants of the same name ending in -ewski. To understand this, you have to understand the pronunciation of the names. Jaraczewski is pronounced roughly "yah-rah-CHEFF-skee," but that's the "proper" or standard pronunciation. In fact, in many parts of Poland they have a tendency in every-day speech to drop the sound represented by the letter W (which in that particular case is pronounced more like an F) and pronounce the suffix "-ESS-kee" instead of "-EFF-shee." So even though the name is spelled Jaraczewski, in many areas they actually say "yah-rah-CHESS-kee," which would be spelled Jaraczeski. 

In older records, back before literacy became widespread and various social factors began pressing people to spell their names "correctly" and consistently, names were often spelled phonetically. Remember that a lot of Poles were illiterate, or at most could write their names. They really had no way of knowing whether their names were being entered correctly in the records, and to be honest, it wasn't something they lost a lot of sleep over. In most European countries, and in America as well, name spellings varied considerably. It's only in more recent times, with widespread literacy and bureaucratic concerns to spur them on, that people began to worry about spelling their names consistently and according to approved standards.

So a researcher tracing the roots of a family named Jaraczewski will often find that name spelled phonetically as Jaraczeski. In some cases the spelling without the W stuck and became the way the name was usually spelled, and that's presumably what happened with your family. That doesn't change the fact that the name is simply a variant of Jaraczewski, and for research purposes can usually be regarded as the same name. If you find old documents in Poland on your family, you may see the name spelled either way; the same is true of those who bear the form Jaraczewski. The same is true of lots of other Polish names, such as Dombroski vs. Dombrowski, Janczeski vs. Janczewski, etc. It's kind of like my name, which can be spelled Hoffman or Hoffmann without the presence or absence of that extra -n really meaning much of anything.

So the Jaraczewskis you've talked to may be right; it is quite possible you're related. The presence or absence of that W does not necessarily have any great significance. The only way I'd put much emphasis on it is if you do research and you find that your family stubbornly spelled it -eski and only -eski. But usually I'd expect to find it alternating as -eski or -ewski almost at random.

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 466 Polish citizens named Jaraczewski (and none who spelled it Jaraczeski, probably because these days most folks have gotten in the habit of using the standard forms of names). The largest numbers of Jaraczewskis lived in the following provinces: Leszno 108, Poznan 93; only 7 lived in Bydgoszcz province. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

The data suggests the name is more common in western Poland than anywhere else, with nearly half of all the Jaraczewskis living in those two provinces of Poznan and Leszno, and the rest scattered in much smaller numbers all over. 

The name means "one from Jaraczew or Jaraczewo," place names that mean basically "[place] of Horace"; Jaracz is a form of Horace used in Poland centuries ago, back when names were being established, but it's more or less gone out of common use these days. Thus we can interpret Jaraczewski as meaning "one from the place of Jaracz = Horace." 

There's a Jaraczewo just a few km. west of Pila, which in turn is west of Bydgoszcz. Most likely many of the Jaraczewskis got their name because at some point they came from this place Jaraczewo, or had some sort of connection with it. But I'm pretty sure that's not the only possibility. Polish surnames developed centuries ago, and often came from the name of a particular farm or 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. 

One book I have mentions that records from western Poland in the latter half of the 14th century refer to noble families named Jaraczewski who took their names from estates in "Jaraczewo, district of Mogilno, district of Srem." If I'm reading it right, this means there was a Jaraczewo near Mogilno and one near Srem, and each was associated with a noble Jaraczewski family. This Mogilno is almost certainly the town you refer to as "Magilno," just a few km. northwest of Kwieciszewo. 

If you'd like to see a map of this area, go to this Website:

http://www.jewishgen.org/ShtetlSeeker/loctown.htm

Enter "Kwieciszewo" as the name of the place you're looking for, and make sure you specify to search using the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex. Specify "Poland" as the country to search in. Click on "Start the Search." In a moment you'll get a list of places with names that might match Kwieciszewo phonetically. It's a short one, so find "Kwieciszewo, 5237 1803, Poland, 126.7 miles WNW of Warsaw." Click on the numbers in blue (they're latitude and longitude), and you'll get a map you can print, zoom in or out, etc. This will give you a fair idea of the area.

So the bottom line is, all Jaraczewskis didn't come from the same place. Some came from the Jaraczewo near Pila; but it seems certain some -- probably including your family -- came from a place I can no longer find in my sources, but near Mogilno. That location correlates so well with the data you have that I would be amazed if it doesn't turn out to be the place the surname refers to, in your case.

I can't tell you exactly how to proceed from here, but I hope this information gives you something to work with, so you can develop some promising leads. I wish you the best of luck with your research.

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


ŁOTROWSKI

... If you could help, I have been trying to get the meaning of my last name: Lotrowski. I have found the word lotrow us certain texts on the web, but have been unable to get the meaning. Thanks in advance.

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 Lotrowski. This surprised me, I expected to find at least a few. It's possible there were some among the 6% of the population not covered in the database from which this work was compiled. It's also possible the name was always rather rare, and it died out after your ancestors left Poland. More than that I cannot say.

The ultimate source of the name is surely the noun łotr, using the Polish L with a slash through the L, pronounced like our W, so that the name sounds roughly like "woter" (that is, English "water" with an O rather than an A). This word means "rogue, scoundrel, rascal," and was also used to refer to the thief crucified with Jesus. That doesn't necessarily mean your ancestors were scoundrels, however. Chances are the surname comes from the name of a place, something like Łotry or Łotrow or Łotrowo, and that name comes from the word meaning "scoundrel." Thus the surname could be interpreted as meaning "one from the place of the scoundrels." It's also possible the surname meant "kin of the scoundrels," but most of the time an -owski name derives from a place name.

I can't find any places by those names on modern maps, but that's not unusual -- 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. 

To summarize, the name is either very rare or has died out in Poland, but in form and meaning it is a perfectly plausible name (although one can never overlook the possibility that it has been changed somewhere along the line, and if we had the original form we might be able to say more). It almost certainly comes from a word meaning "scoundrel, rogue," but most likely refers to the name of a place the family came from, and that place name, in turn, is what comes from the word łotr. I can't find any mention of a place with a name that fits, but that's not unusual because many of the places referred to by surnames were very small, or had names used only by the locals, or have disappeared, etc.

I know that's not a lot of information, but it's all I can offer. I hope it helps a little, and wish you the best of luck with your research.

 

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

  

 

 

 

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


PRZEBENDOWSKI

I`m looking for some information about the grandmother of my grandfather "Pelagja Prebendow (or Prewendow) Przebendowski (or Przewendowski) from Poznan. Did you ever hear that 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 no Polish citizens listed with the names Prebendow or Prewendow. There were 16 named PREBENDOWSKI, all living in western Poland. There were 90 named PREWENDOWSKI, scattered all over Poland. There were none named Przebendowski or Przewendowski.

Names ending in -owski usually come from the name of a place with which the family was associated at some point. Thus I would expect Przebendowski or Przewendowski to mean "one from Przebendowo" or something similar. There are several places in Poland with names that qualify, including Przebendow in Tarnów province, and 4 places named Przebędowo (where I'm using ę to stand for the Polish nasal vowel written as an E with a tail under it and pronounced much like "en"). In most cases I would expect Przebendowski to mean "one from Przebendow" or "one from Przebędowo."

PREBENDOW may come from the noun prebenda, "prebend, benefice" (auf Deutsch "Praebende, Pfruende"), perhaps referring to one who lived on property associated with a prebend or benefice, or kin of such a person.

That is all I can tell you. If you would like to get an opinion from the real experts and don't mind spending some money, 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 probably German, too), and the charge for researching a single name is seldom more than US$20. 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'd like to give this a try, here's the
Institute address.


DONEJGIER

Do you have any information on the following name: Doneygier.

Alexander Beider mentions this name in his book "A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland." Of course he lists it in the standard Polish spelling DONEJGIER, but since Y and J were often used interchangeably, that difference is not necessarily significant. He simply says the name was found among Jews living in the Suwałki area (in northeastern Poland, near the modern border with Lithuania) and that it appears to refer to the name of a place, Donejki, in Nowoaleksandrowsk district of Kowno province of the Russian Empire.

Beider's book only deals with Jews living in the territory of the
Kingdom of Poland, whereas it sounds as if your ancestors came from Galicia, in the Austrian partition. So his book wouldn't cover the area where your ancestors lived. But the derivation of the name may well be the same. Presumably at some point your family took its name from that place and later moved southward. Unfortunately, with names it's not smart to jump to conclusions without lots and lots of detailed info on a family's background, so I can't say for sure; but it seems plausible.

By the way, I looked at the JewishGen FamilyFinder database at this address:

http://www.jewishgen.org/jgff/jgffweb.htm

There are a number of people looking for what may be variants of this name such as Donniger, Doneger, Donaiger, etc. Go to that address, scroll down to the search form, type in the surname, and under "Search type" click on D-M Soundex, then "Search." This will give you names and in some cases addresses of other folks researching similar names -- you might make a connection that will help.

It does seem likely that the name changed from Jankiel to Ankiel. Your listing of the generations of Doneygier seems plausible to me, using the -owicz forms to trace them back. Of course, as I said, it's risky drawing conclusions only from name info. The only way to be sure is to get hold of dates and other data and match them up to confirm what the name data tells you. But I could find no flaw in your logic.


LABA

Do you by chance have any general information on the surname Laba. My grandfather came from a small German village in the north mountains of Lebanon called Beit Menzer. Laba was his surname. I have had several people tell me that the surname was Polish in origin. Any information or direction that you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

Without a great deal of detailed information on a family's background, it's difficult to say for sure what nationality a particular name may be, especially a short one like LABA. Certainly this combination of sounds can occur in any number of languages. But it is true that there is a Polish name LABA, and this name seems more likely to be of Polish origin than German.

In Polish the name would be ŁABA -- I'm using Ł to stand for the
Polish L with a slash through it, which is pronounced like our W but
usually was rendered as plain L by non-Poles. ŁABA is pronounced roughly "WAH-bah." 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 1,370 Polish citizens by this name; they lived all over Poland, although the name is somewhat more common in the southern part of the country.

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 łaba, a variant of łapa, which means "paw." So it probably originated as a nickname for one who had large, paw-like hands, or one who had a dog with big paws, or some other perceived association with paws.

I have sometimes wondered if the name might be associated, in some cases, with people who lived along the Elbe River, because in Polish the name of that river is also Łaba. But the Polish experts who've done research into name origins seem pretty confident that in most cases the name did originate from the word for "paw," as explained above.


SZYPERSKI

Big breakthrough today on the Szrparski name. Although that is what
it looks like on the death certificate of the son, I found the son's
birth record in church records for Rzadkwin, Poland today, as well as the birth records for his brothers and sisters.
The spelling of the name appears as:
 SZYPERSKA
 SRYPERSKA
 SRYPIERSKA
I also found the mother's death record and her father is listed as  Antonios SRYPERSKI. Do these make a little more sense, as far as Polish spelling goes?


This is why I no longer waste time wracking my brains trying to figure out odd-looking names -- they almost always turn out to be misspelled!  SZYPERSKA is the correct spelling -- this is a feminine form of the name SZYPERSKI. The Polish lower-case script z is very easy for us to misread as an r, but it's 99.9% certain the name in question is SZYPERSKI, or, when applied to a female, SZYPERSKA.

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 szyper, "skipper, boat crewman." In other words, it comes ultimately from German and from the same basic source as our word "skipper." Certain crafts and professions were dominated by Germans, and that's how a lot of terms came from German into Polish, often changing slightly along the way. Eventually they could become surnames, and that's almost certainly what happened here. So SZYPERSKI, pronounced roughly "ship-AIR-skee," means "kin of the skipper, kin of the boatman."
The ancestor to whom this name originally referred might have been a German named something like Schiffer or Schipper, or he might have been a Pole who worked on a boat as a szyper and thus came to be referred to in terms of his profession. This is especially likely in areas where there was a strong German element to the population, which is probably true of the area your ancestors came 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 676 Polish citizens named Szyperski. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Warsaw (93) and Bydgoszcz (244) -- so it seems fairly likely at least some of those in Bydgoszcz might be related to you. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

That's about all I can tell you, but I hope it will prove useful. It
seems to me you now have a pretty decent amount of info to work with, and I hope it helps you make many breakthroughs!


NARBUT - NORBUT

My great grandfather arrived in 1873 from Russia but on checking a death certificate for one of his children, the country of birth was listed as Poland. Can you tell me anything about the name Narbutt. Thank you. 

Much of what is now central and eastern Poland was under Russian rule from the early 1800's till World War I, and for much of that period there was, officially speaking, no such place as "Poland," only "German Poland," "Austrian Poland," and "Russian Poland." Often these designations were abbreviated simply as "Germany," "Austria," and "Poland." It would be worth your while to read an encyclopedia article on the history of Poland to learn a little about all this, because it has enormous effects on research. For instance, if he was born in Russia or Poland, he may well have been born in what is now Lithuania or Belarus -- without more detail, there's no way to know.

NARBUT is a Polonized form of a Lithuanian name, NARBUTAS or NORBUTAS. It comes from two Lithuanian roots joined together to form a name, which is the way many old names were formed by Poles, Lithuanians, Germans, etc. The Lithuanian roots were nor-, "to want, desire," and but-, "to be." The interpretation of the name is debatable; literally it means "want to be," but obviously meant more than that. It probably expressed the parents' desire to give the child a name of good omen that would help him become glorious and make him want to be important, something like that. But even Lithuanian scholars have trouble deciding what these ancient two-part names actually meant.

I believe there was a noble family named Narbutas or Norbutas, and when Lithuania and Poland joined forces centuries ago to form the Commonwealth of Two Nations, many prominent Lithuanian families allowed their names to be Polonized and even spoke Polish. So we see a number of scholars and leaders named Narbut or Norbut. 

A gentleman who can tell you much more is David Zincavage, E-mail
jdz@inr.net. He had Narbuts among his ancestors, so he can fill in a lot of info I know nothing about.


SLIWINSKI

my niece is doing a school project on surnames....we have found no information on our family name...Sliwinski. 
We have very little information about our father who lost his family during WWII so we don't even know what part of Poland he comes from and whether that town still remains in Poland. We would very much like her to know more about her roots and where her grandparents came from... 


I'm afraid I can't help you much with that, because this name is too common and widespread in Poland; a Sliwinski could come from anywhere. Without specific info on a family's background, there's no way to know which particular area that family came from. This Sliwinski might come from here, that one from there, and so on.

What I can tell you is this. The name in Polish is written with accents over the first S and the N, which I render on-line as Ś and Ń; so it would be ŚLIWIŃSKI, and it's pronounced roughly "shlee-VEEN-skee." It refers to the name of a place the family was connected with at some point; if they were noble, they owned it, and if not, they lived and worked there. The problem is, there are quite a few places this surname might refer to, places named Śliwin or Śliwiny or Śliwna or Śliwno. They all come from the noun śliwa, "plum tree." So the place names mean more or less "place of the plum trees," and ŚLIWIŃSKI means "of, from the place of the plum trees." 

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 16,815 Polish citizens by this name. As I said, they lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area.


TOMPOROWSKI

I'm hitting a major stumbling block on my Tomporowskis who allegedly came from Szczytno, Mazury, Poland. Do you have a suggestion for a site that might be able to give me some insight into the meaning of the name Tomporowski? 

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 399 Polish citizens named TOMPOROWSKI. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Gdansk 28, Katowice 27, Ciechanow 63, Olsztyn 53, Szczecin 26, Tarnobrzeg 104. The rest were scattered in small numbers all over Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses. This data suggests that the name is most common in the southeastern part of the country, but is found all over Poland.

It is pronounced roughly "tome-pore-OFF-skee," and probably refers to the name of a place named something like Tomporów or Tomporowo. Names in the form X-owski usually means "one from X-owo," so we would expect the place to have a name fairly close to Tomporów or Tomporowo. However, I notice that tompor is a variant form of the noun usually seen as topór, " which means "battle-ax," and was also the name of a coat of arms. So it's possible the place from which the surname comes was once called Tomporów or Tomporowo, but the name later changed to Toporów or Toporowo. Unfortunately, there are several places by those names, in the former provinces of Białystok, Rzeszow, Sieradz, and Zielona Gora. So without much more detailed info on a specific family, it's impossible to say which of these places, or some other place with a similar name, the surname referred to originally.

Actually, TOMPOROWSKI can be interpreted "of the _ of the battle-ax," where the blank is filled in with something so obvious it didn't have to be spelled out -- usually either "kin" or "place." So the surname means either "kin of the Battle-ax," perhaps referring to one who bore Tompor/Topór as a nickname, or else "place of the battle-ax," which brings us back to Tomporowo, etc. As I say, derivation from the place names is more likely, but "kin of the battle-ax" is also possible.

As to exactly how a given family came to have this name, I'm afraid only genealogical research may provide an answer to that question, by uncovering information on the historical and linguistic context in which the name developed and "stuck" in a given case. That kind of detailed research into a single family, however, is beyond the scope of what I can do; I can only provide general, "off-the-rack" derivations, and have to leave "custom fits" to individual researchers. There are over 800,000 Polish surnames -- there's no way I'll ever live long enough to do really exhaustive, detailed studies of even a few hundred of them.


GDOWIK

I ran across your web page and was wondering if you could tell me anything you might know about my last name of Gdowik. As far as my family history goes it is from the south of Poland but I am not sure what it means nor its exact origin. Can you help me?

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 141 Polish citizens named GDOWIK. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Elblag 30, Katowice 19, and Rzeszow 46. The rest were scattered in tiny 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 suggests the name is most common in southeastern Poland, near Rzeszow. Elblag is in northcentral Poland, and Katowice is in southcentral Poland; it's hard to say whether the name really developed in places so far apart, or if it originally came from southeastern Poland but was scattered in other areas during the course of all the post-World War II forced relocations of millions. I suspect it was, and that the name originally comes from southeastern Poland. But I can't prove it.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from gdowa, which is a dialect form of the word seen in standard Polish as wdowa, "widow." So Gdowik would mean basically "son of the widow," and that's about all we can say about it.


KRZTON

Hello my name is artur krzton. im doing a project for searching the meaning of my last name. I'm not sure if it originated from Poland or not but both of my parents are 100% polish and as far back as to their grandparents. I  looked everywhere and I can't find anything. I think that krz-
means cris, but I don't know what -ton means.


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 517 Polish citizens named KRZTON. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Krakow (131) and Rzeszow (235), with the rest scattered in much smaller numbers all over the country. So this name is found mainly in southcentral and southeastern Poland, especially in the area around those two cities. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have...
With this distribution it seems likely there's not just one big Krzton family, but probably several who came to bear this name independently -- although of course it's impossible for me to say without detailed research into the history of all families involved.

In Polish the N has an accent over it; it is rather hard for non-Poles to pronounced, sounding somewhat like "ksh-TOIN." Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it derives from the noun krzta, which means "fragment, bit." The -on suffix does not have a specific meaning that can be defined in a few words; the name Krzton would mean something like "the guy with a fragment, with a little bit." It presumably began as a nickname, possibly for one who so poor that all he owned was a tiny piece of something. Like nicknames in any language, this one can be hard to make sense of unless you're there at the right time and place; but apparently at the time it struck people as a good name, because it stuck and eventually came to be used as a surname for his descendants.


JUROSZEK

I would like to know the origin of my great-grandfather's surname which is Yuroszek. Please let me know if you have any information or links to this name.

In Polish this name would begin with J, not Y -- the letter Y does not occur initially in Polish, but Polish J is pronounced the way we pronounce Y. When Poles with names beginning with J left Europe for English-speaking countries, their names were often modified by replacing the J with Y, to make it a bit easier for their new neighbors to pronounce. So within Poland the name you're looking for is JUROSZEK, pronounced roughly "your-OSH-ek."

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 732 Polish citizens named JUROSZEK. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (583) and Katowice (103), so this name is found primarily in southcentral Poland, right by where the Polish border meets the eastern border of the Czech Republic.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from a variation of the name "George." In Polish the standard form of that name is Jerzy (pronounced "YEAH-zhee"), but in many parts of Poland other
forms, influenced by other languages such as Czech and Ukrainian, were historically quite common. Thus Jura or Juri is often seen in southern and eastern Poland. JUROSZ was a kind of nickname formed from those names, and -ek is a diminutive suffix, so that Juroszek means roughly "little George" or "son of little George." As such it is one of the many, many Polish surnames that started out as a reference to the name of a family's father or prominent ancestor.


MARCHLEWICZ

My son has a homework assignment to find the meaning of his last name. I searched several websites with no luck. Hope you can help me with the last name of Marchlewicz.

In Polish the name is pronounced roughly "mark-LAY-vich," except the -ch doesn't really sound like a K but more like the
guttural sound in German "Bach." Still, "mark-LAY-vich" is pretty close.

In Polish names the suffix -ewicz or -owicz means "son of," so this name means "son of Marchel." Marchel is a variation of the first name better known as "Melchior," which comes from Hebrew melki-or, "the King [God] is my light." Catholic tradition in the Middle Ages said this was the name of one of the Three Wise Men or Magi who visited the infant Jesus (the others were called Balthazar and Casper). This legend was popular in the Middle Ages, and it helped make these three names moderately popular name in Poland at that time, although these days they are pretty rare. In Poland "Melchior" came to be used in several different forms, due to spelling variations and dialect influences; those forms included Majcher, Malcher, and Marchel, and surnames developed from all these different versions of the name. To summarize, the surname Marchlewicz means "son of Melchior," based on an old Polish variation of that 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 872 Polish citizens named Marchlewicz. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 170, Gdansk 81 and Torun 168. 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 shows that the name is found all over Poland, but it is most common today in an area just north and west of the center of the country.


SIENKOWSKI

I am interested in finding the origin of our family name. I am aware of a town from a 1923 map of Poland that shows a town east of the Polish border at the time named "Sienkowo".

It would help a lot to have some idea of where your family came from, because names in the form X-owski usually refer to the names of places beginning X with which the family was associated at one time. So SIENKOWSKI probably just means "one from Sienki, Sienków, Sienkowo," or a similar name. Unfortunately, there are a number of places in Poland and Belarus and Ukraine (which used to be part of the Polish Commonwealth) that could give rise to this name. The Sienkowo you mentioned might well be the very one from which your family took its name; without detailed info on a specific family's background, however, there is no way to say anything definitive about which of the various possible places the surname referred to originally . 

I have one source that mentions a SIENKOWSKI family (accent over the N, pronounced roughly "shen-KOFF-skee") that was apparently noble and took its name from its estate of Sienków near Belz in southeastern Poland. Again, this family might or might not be connected with you, but at least it does give a concrete example of how the surname is connected with a place name. 

The one thing I can say is that it's likely the family and place both came from the eastern part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (what are now eastern Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine), because that's where names beginning Sienk- tended to originate. Usually they both derive from Eastern Slavic nicknames for either "Simon" or "Zenon," Sienko or Zienko or something similar. Sienków or Sienkowo usually means "[place] of Sienko/Zienko," and SIENKOWSKI means "of, from [the place] of Sienko/Zienko."

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 325 Polish citizens named SIENKOWSKI, and another 1,059 who spelled it SIEŃKOWSKI (i. e., with an accent over the N). The former is scattered in small numbers all over Poland. The version with the accented N is also found all over Poland, but is somewhat concentrated in the provinces of Ciechanow (110), Ostrołęka (178), Suwałki (305) and Warsaw (133).

Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. Of course my data does not include people by this name living in what are now Belarus and Ukraine, and it's quite possible the name is moderately common in those countries, too.


BARA

Thank you for your interesting web page. I'm interested in the meaning of my surname... Bara.  I've had many people tell me it must have been shortened at Ellis Island, but my Father claims there were 4 other families with the name on his block in the "Back-of-the-Yards" neighborhood of Chicago. He has no info on meaning.

Thanks in advance for any info you can provide.


Don't listen to people who don't know what they're talking about. There's a misconception that Polish names all are 15 syllables long and end in -ski -- it's utter nonsense. There are many Polish names that are 4 or 5 letters long, and BARA is one of them. Of course, it's possible in your family's case the name was shortened somewhere along the line (probably not at Ellis Island, but that's beside the point). Only good research will prove the matter one way or the other. But BARA is a documented Polish name.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says names beginning with BAR- usually derive from German Baer, "bear." This isn't as odd as it may sound; many, many Germans came to live in Poland, and we see a lot of mixing of Polish and German names. Rymut also says in some cases BARA could have come from a short form or nickname of the first name Bartlomiej, "Bartholomew." Bartek and Bartosz are more common nicknames from Bartlomiej, but Bara is certainly a possibility. Unfortunately, without very detailed research into the family's background, there's no way to know for sure whether the name came in a given case from the German word for "bear" or from the nickname for Bartholomew. But one of the two derivations is likely to prove correct.

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 1,345 Polish citizens named Bara. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Gdansk 120, Katowice 274, Krosno 129, Lodz 95, and Tarnobrzeg 110. A look at the map will show you the name is scattered all over the country, but is more common in the southern part of the country. That's about all we can conclude from that data.


STACHOWICZ

I was wondering if you could shed any light on my last name. It is actually spelled S t a c h o w i c z.........a mistake in birth records years ago added the 'e'. Also - any idea as to where in Poland the name comes from....that is, what region or town??

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 6,251 Polish citizens named STACHOWICZ. They lived all over Poland; there is no one area with which the name is particularly associated, and
a family named Stachowicz could have come from anywhere in Poland. The name is pronounced roughly "stah-HOE-vich," except the CH doesn't really sound like our H, but more like the guttural "ch" in German "Bach."

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]; he says it first appears in records as early as 1346. The suffix -owicz means "son of," and Stach is an ancient nickname that developed from various Polish names beginning Sta-, especially the first name Stanislaw; so the name means basically "son of Stach." 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 Sta- from Stanislaw, drop the rest, and add the -ch to form Stach. Once that name existed, it was only a matter of time before people began referring to the sons or kin of a fellow named Stach as Stachowicz, and eventually that name "stuck" as a surname. 

Incidentally, Stanislaw is the name with which Stach is most likely to be connected, but there are others, especially the first name Eustachy, the Polish equivalent of "Eustace."


GROCHOLSKI

I would appreciate any information you may have about the surname Grocholski. I am told my family comes from Poznan and that my ancestors made carriages for nobility. They are referred to as "Kashub's" Their language was a mixture of Polish and German.

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 1,281 Polish citizens named GROCHOLSKI. They lived all over Poland, with no real concentration in any one province -- there was a sizable number, 118, in the province of Poznan, however. 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 name probably derives from the name of a place with which the family was connected at some point; there are several candidates, including Grocholice and Grocholin. The basic root of all these names is grochol, a kind of vetch, Vicia angustifolia, so the name may just mean "one from Grocholin or Grocholice" = roughly "one from the place of the vetch." Also relevant might be the noun grochal "churl, simpleton"; the name Grocholski might have originally meant "of the grochol or grochal," and thus "kin of the simpleton." But I'd think the connection with a place name beginning Grochol- is more likely. Without detailed research into a specific family's past, however, there's no way to say which place the name refers to in their case.

One possibility worth looking at is Grochol, at 53 degrees 19', 18 degrees 05'; it's not far from the right area. If you'd like to see a map showing where this is, go to the following Website:

http://www.jewishgen.org/ShtetlSeeker/loctown.htm 

Enter Grochol as the name of the place you're looking for, and click on "Start the Search." In a moment you'll get a list of places with names that might match "Grochol" phonetically. Scroll on down to the ones in Poland and click on the one named Grochol. A map will come up showing you where it's located; you can zoom in or out. This is one of several places the surname might refer to -- there are others, including Grocholin and Grocholice.

If you'd like more info about the Kashubs -- a fascinating people -- you might visit this Webpage:

http://feefhs.org/kana/frg-kana.html 


CHODZINSKI

I was wondering if you could interpret the surname Chodzinski? This was my Great Grandfather who Immigrated to the US. On his papers it states that he came from Germany, Poland. Go figure!

If I may give you some friendly advice, the best thing you can do is go read an encyclopedia article on the history of Poland over the last two centuries. To make any sense of Polish research you have to know about the partitioning of Poland, which basically divided Poland between Germany, Russia and Austria roughly 1772-1918. Your ancestor came from the part of Poland seized by Germany, which covered the western and northern regions of Poland in its current borders. At that time, officially speaking, no such place as Poland existed, so officials often weren't allowed to accept "Poland" as a place of origin: it had to be "Germany" or "Russia" or "Austria," or at best "German Poland" or "Russian Poland" or "Austrian Poland." It will be a lot easier for you to understand what you run across in your research if you know a little
about the history.  Another place to check is the history discussion at PolishRoots :
index.htmpolhistory.htm 

As for the surname CHODZINSKI, in Polish it is spelled with an accent over the N, and is pronounced roughly  "hod-JEEN-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 566 Polish citizens by this name. They were scattered in small numbers all over the country, so a Chodzinski could come from virtually anywhere in Poland -- there is no one region with which the name is associated.

None of my sources discuss the origin of this specific name, but Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut says in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles] that names beginning Chodz- usually come from the root seen in the verb chodzic', "to go, to walk." That is probably correct as far as the ultimate origin, and the name might have started out meaning something like "kin of the walker." But most likely the surname refers to the name of a place derived from that root, a place named something like Chodziny or Choda. I can't find any places on modern maps with names that fit, but that's not unusual -- 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.

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


 

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


SOŁTYS - SCHULTZ

... I once studied the Czechoslovak language at the Army Language school at the Presidio in California and one teacher once remarked to me that the spelling of Soltys was common in Czech and meant mayor of a small village. Any meaning for it in Polish.? For ur information, my father Andrew Sr. was born in 1893 , baptized in the Parish of Tarnogrod in Wojewodstwo Lubelskie, powiat Bilgorajski i rodzony wsi Bukowinie. I thank you in advance for your graciousness. 

I didn't know Soltys is also common in Czech, but there's certainly no reason why it couldn't be. Your teacher was basically correct. The word in Polish is spelled with a slash through the L (which I represent on-line as Ł), pronounced much like our W, so that the name, Sołtys, sounds roughly like "SOW-tiss." It comes from a Middle High German word schultheisse that later became Schultheiss; it means literally "debt caller," and referred to the official who would come and call the roll of the local peasants and collect the rent in money or produce or whatever that the villagers owed the lord who owned the village or estate. That appears to be the original meaning of the word. Eventually it came to be a more general term for a village headman or mayor. 

In German this word became a name and gradually turned into the well-known German name Schultz. In Polish it was gradually Polonized into sołtys, and the surname Sołtys developed from that. It's a moderately common name in Poland, borne by 7,735 Polish citizens as of 1990. There's no one specific part of the country where the name is concentrated, although it's more common in the south and southeast (the region called Małopolska) than anywhere else. Lublin province, which is where your father came from, is in that region.

"Wojewodstwo Lubelskie, powiat Bilgorajski i rodzony wsi Bukowinie" appears to mean your father was born in the village of Bukowina in the county of Biłgoraj, province of Lublin. There are a lot of places called Bukowina (it's also the name of a region now in Ukraine), so it's a good thing you have this additional data to specify exactly which one you need. By the way, if I'm not mistaken, this area was in Lublin province from after World War II to about 1975. Then they reorganized the provinces, and it was in Zamosc province until 1999, when they reorganized the provinces. Now it's in the new, reorganized province of Lublin. This might cause confusion in your research if you're not familiar with the organizational changes.

Whenever I see the name Sołtys I always think of American chess grandmaster Andy Soltis -- I was interested in chess before I became interested in Polish names, and it wasn't till years after I first heard of him that I realized "Hey, I know what his name comes from!" Soltis is merely an Americanized spelling of the Polish (or possibly Czech) name.


KOS[S]AKOWSKI

... My mother always had told me that my grandfather, Ludwig Kossakowski, was a Count. When I was younger, genealogy meant nothing. Now I am very interested but my mother is gone. Can you help me find out anything about Kossakowki. I did not find it on your list. Thank you very much.

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 3,671 Polish citizens named Kossakowski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Białystok 252, Łomża 902, Pila 264, Suwałki 262, Warsaw 589. 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 shows that the name is found all over Poland but is most common in the northeastern part of the country.

It's odd that the name is spelled with SS, because Polish usually prefers not to use double letters unless you actually say the letter twice. As of 1990 there were 2,834 Poles who spelled the name Kosakowski with one S; they, too, were most common in the northeastern part of the country. I'm not sure why the unusual spelling with SS is more common than that with one S, which you'd expect to be the norm.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says either spelling comes from the root seen in the nouns kos, "blackbird," and kosa, "scythe," and the verb kosic', "to mow." He suggests names beginning Kosak- are especially likely to refer to the noun kosak, "undertaker," but I don't think you can rule out a connection with one of the other meanings. In any case, Kosakowski or Kossakowski might mean "kin of the undertaker (or of the mower, or of the blackbird guy)," but most often they would refer to the names of places the family came from, and those place names, in turn, would derive from the root kos-. (Prof. Rymut knows his stuff, but I can't help wondering if there's any possible connection with "Cossack"? In Polish that's kozak, and Kozakowski was the name of 1,254 Poles as of 1990. I'd say the connection is probably with kosak, but don't rule out a possible connection with "Cossack," because kosak and kozak differ only by one letter, and Z and S often switch in names.)

In any case, Kossakowski would usually have started out meaning "one from Kosaki" or "one from Kosakowo." There are at least three places in Poland by these names; one, Kosaki, was in Łomża province as of 1990; and there were two Kosakowo's, one in Gdansk province and one in Olsztyn province. Note that all these places are in the general area where the surname is most common, which tends to support the hypothesis that the surname began as a reference to the places in question.

Without the kind of detailed info you can get only from genealogical research, I can't tell you which of the places your family might have been connected with. It could refer to any of them. But with luck you will find some facts that will clear up which one is likely to be relevant.


CZAJKOWSKI - TCHAIKOVSKY

... Awhile ago you helped us with some research for our family name Bekish, you were very helpful and I would like to thank you again. Although you could not help us with Checolska we recently discovered that spelling to be incorrect. The correct spelling is Tchaikovsky. If you would have any information at all it would be greatly appreciated.

I'm glad you got more information. I have found that if the spelling of a name doesn't look right to me, and none of my sources mention it, nine times out of ten it was misspelled somewhere along the way. That's why I have to have a fairly accurate spelling, or I can't really say much that's useful.

Having said that, I must tell you Tchaikovsky is not a Polish spelling; it makes no sense at all by Polish phonetics and orthographics. I recognize, of course, as the spelling of the name of the Russian composer Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky. That's a kind of Germanized or Frenchified rendering of the Russian form, which is written in Cyrillic. If you take the Cyrillic letters and turn them into English phonetic renderings, it comes out more like Chaikovsky. I recognize this as the name spelled Czajkowski by Poles. All these different spellings are pronounced the same, "chi-KOFF-skee," with the first syllable rhyming with "why." In other words, as different as these spellings look, they are all ways of writing the same name; they only look different because different languages write different sounds in different ways.

Czajkowski comes from the noun czajka, "lapwing" (a kind of bird), but more specifically it would refer to the name of a place, something like Czajki or Czajkow or Czajkowa or Czajkowo; and those place names, in turn, would come from the word for "lapwing." Typically a place would get a name like this either because it was "the place of the lapwings," an area where these birds were abundant, or because the place was owned or founded by someone named Czajko or something similar. So Czajkowski means "one from the place of the lapwings" or "one from the place of Czajko or Czajek, etc." In some cases names beginning Czaj- can also derive from the verb czajac', "to lie in wait for," but I think most of the time Czajkowski would refer to a place named for the lapwing. Unfortunately, there are a number of places in Poland with names this surname could derive from, so without detailed info on a specific family, there's no way to know which place the name refers to in their 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 22,131 Polish citizens named Czajkowski. They lived all over Poland, with no particular connection to any one part of the country.

I should make sure one thing is clear. This name can be Polish; but it can also be Ukrainian or Russian, because the same word exists in those languages and there are places with similar names in those countries. In Russian the word (rendered as chaika by English phonetic values) means "seagull," whereas in Polish and Ukrainian it means "lapwing." But the point is, the name is most likely to be Polish in origin, but it can also be Russian or Ukrainian, because there are places in Russia and Ukraine with names that could yield this surname. 


STACHULA

... I am writing to ask if you know anything about my maiden name. It is Stachula. Stachula seems to be a rare name, as all the ones in the Chicago area (and probably Wisc. too) are related to me. My grandparents immigrated here from Lublin, Poland. 

In Polish this name is spelled Stachula and pronounced roughly "sta-HOO-lah," except that H sound is a bit more guttural than our H, more like the ch in German "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 494 Polish citizens named Stachula. The largest number, 123, lived in the southeastern province of Tarnobrzeg, with the rest scattered in much smaller numbers all over the country; 25 lived in Lublin province. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it derives from a nickname for first names beginning with Sta-, especially the popular name Stanislaw. Poles often formed affectionate diminutives of first names by taking the first few sounds, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes such as -ch or -sz. So the first part of the process went as follows: Stanislaw -> Sta- + -ch = Stach. Once that name existed, Poles eventually would add further suffixes to it, such as -ula. It's a little like the way English took John or James and made the nickname Jack, then later added -y or -ie to create Jacky or Jackie. But this sort of thing is not that common in English, whereas it's very common in Polish, and Polish has a whole range of suffixes it adds to names. Note that you can't say "Jacky" or "Teddy" really means anything -- they're just nicknames formed from older first names that did originally mean something. To the extent that Stachula can be said to mean anything, about the closest we can come to translating it is "kin of Stanislaw."

It's also possible in some cases that names beginning with Stach- come from another first name, Eustachy ("Eustace" in English). That would be rarer, however, than derivation from Stanislaw.


STEC

... I am trying to find info on my in-laws name, Stec. I saw nothing on your web site, but I have seen other spellings that I believe are related--Stecz, Stetz. The only history I know is Anton Stec who came to the USA from Tarnow poland during WWI. Do you have anywhere I can go to find this name.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says Stec (pronounced "stets") developed as a kind of nickname or affectionate form of the first name Stefan, "Stephen." So it's roughly comparable to "Steve" in English, except it long ago came into use as a surname, presumably as a way of referring to the kin of some person commonly called by that nickname in his local community. By German phonetic values this name would be spelled Stetz, and that's probably where that spelling came 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 8,335 Polish citizens named Stec. They lived all over the country, but the name is definitely more common in the southern part of the country than in the north. There were 803 Poles named Stec living in Tarnów province alone.


TULISZEWSKI, WYSOCKI

... I wondered if you had information on two other family names: Tuliszewski and Wysocki? 

Both Tuliszewski and Wysocki would refer to the names of places with which the families were connected at some point; if noble, they owned estates at those places, and if not, they probably lived and worked there. 

Tuliszewski would mean "one from Tuliszew" or some similar place name. I can't find any places by those names on modern maps, but that's not unusual -- 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. The name is pronounced roughly "too-lish-EFF-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 115 Polish citizens named Tuliszewski. They were scattered in small numbers all over the country, with no significant concentration in any one area.

Wysocki ("vee-SOT-skee") can refer to any of a large number of places with names like Wysoka, Wysockie, Wysocice, etc. What these names all have in common is a connection with the root wysok-, "high, elevated," so that they probably refer to the elevation of the terrain in the area where the village or town was located. Wysocki is pretty common by Polish standards -- as of 1990 there were 29,720 Poles by this name Wysocki, living in large numbers all over the country.


GIBOWSKI

... Do you have any info on the name Gibowski? Anything you may have would be appreciated. 

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 497 Polish citizens named Gibowski. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (52) and Poznan (157), with the rest scattered in small numbers all over. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. But this does tell us the name is somewhat concentrated mainly in western Poland, in the area from around Poland north to Bydgoszcz.

Surnames in the form X-owski usually mean "one from X," that is, they refer to the name of some place the family came from at some point. We'd expect Gibowski to mean "one from Giby" or "one from Gibowo" or some similar name beginning with Gib-. There is a village called Giby in Suwałki province, but that's awfully far away from western Poland. Most likely the surname refers to more than one place with a name beginning Gib-, and not all of them show up in my sources. That's not unusual -- 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.


KALIŃSKI

... Would you help me to know what my family surname of Kalinski may mean?

Names ending in -ski are adjectival, and Kaliński (pronounced "kah-LEEN-skee" and written with an accent over the N) means literally "of, from, connected with, relating to kalina." That is a Polish noun meaning "guelder rose" (Viburnum) or "cranberry tree." So the name means literally "of the guelder rose" or "of the cranberry tree." As a surname it might refer to a family's living in any of a number of places called Kalina (presumably because these plants were common in the area), or it might refer to some perceived association between the family and those plants. Thus it might refer to one who lived in an area with these plants, or who wore clothes colored like them, or some other connection. It's difficult to say without detailed research into a given family what the connection was, but there obviously was enough of a connection that people found Kalinski an appropriate name for this person or family.

In some cases the name might also come from the Latin feminine first name Aquilina (literally "of the eagle"); but I think that would be true only occasionally. Most of the time the derivation would be from the noun kalina.

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 5,250 Polish citizens named Kalinski. The largest number, 933, lived in the province of Warsaw; the rest were scattered in somewhat smaller numbers all over Poland. Essentially, a family by this name could have come from anywhere in the country.


POPOVITCH - POPOWICZ

...I am a writer currently working on a piece of fiction concerning Polish-Americans. I would like to be sure that the surname I have chosen for my characters is appropriately Polish. This is probably an odd request but I have not been able to make an accurate determination and your site allowed me to write to you, so I am. Is the surname Popovitch a Polish one? If not, can you suggest a good resource for this kind of information?

As an author myself, I understand and applaud your emphasis on accuracy in the smallest details. Too many writers don't bother with such "trifles," and I respect anyone who will go to a little trouble to "get it right"!

The spelling Popovitch makes sense as an Americanized phonetic spelling of the Polish surname Popowicz. That name, pronounced roughly "pop-OH-vitch," is definitely attested among Poles. 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 1,912 Polish citizens named Popowicz. There was no one part of Poland in which the name was concentrated; you run into people by that name all over the country. I would think that makes it a very good choice for your purposes -- there's no danger someone will read your work and say, for instance, "This is absurd, that name is found only among the residents of the region of Kaszuby, and the fellow in this story is certainly no Kaszub!" 

In Polish names the suffix -owicz means "son of," so that Popowicz means "son of the pop" (pronounced with an O sound about halfway between the short o of English "pop" and the long O of English "Pope"). In modern usage that term means "clergyman of the Eastern church," referring to a priest of the Greek Catholic rite; but in older Polish it could also be applied to a Roman Catholic priest. It comes ultimately from the same root as "Pope" and "papa," clearly in the sense that a clergyman was a father to his parishioners. The older meaning of "Roman Catholic priest" is probably relevant because surnames developed centuries ago, so we must take into account their meanings back then, not their modern meanings; the name Popowicz appears in records as early as 1412! 

This needs a little historical context. In the last few centuries there's been considerable mixing of ethnic groups and religions, so that today one finds Greek Catholics living in western and northern Poland. But centuries ago, when the name first appeared, there was no such thing as a Greek Catholic rite (or, as they were first called, Uniates). That did not develop until the 1600's, if memory serves. Before then you had Belarusians and Ukrainians who used Orthodox liturgy but felt some allegiance to the Roman Pope. It was in the 1600's that a compromise was worked out whereby the so-called Uniates could keep their Eastern rite and liturgy, but recognized the Pope as their spiritual leader. This, of course, was black heresy to all true Orthodox believers, and over the next few centuries there was a lot of conflict between Greek Catholics and Orthodox adherents. Poles, on the other hand, seem to have accepted Greek Catholics as followers of the same basic religion, or as followers of a rather exotic version of the True Faith, since they both accepted the Pope's leadership.

The point is that when this name Popowicz first appears in Polish, it must have referred to Roman Catholic priests, and perhaps also Orthodox priests; it couldn't refer to Uniates because no such critter existed. As time went on, and the Uniate church (later called Greek Catholic because the term "Uniate" came to be viewed as pejorative) came into existence, the term pop came to be associated more and more with the clergy of that church. In more modern times the term is identified exclusively with Greek Catholic priests. But back when the name Popowicz developed among Poles, it probably referred in most cases to Roman Catholic priests.

I don't know if we should be too literal in saying it means "priest's son" -- since obviously Roman Catholic priests weren't supposed to be having sons! Still, priests are human too, and it might be the name was sometimes applied to the son of a priest who strayed. But I believe it can also be used in a more general sense, "kin of the priest," not just in the literal sense of a son.

I hope I've helped you with this information. If you want to clarify what I said about the religious aspect, you might do a little basic research into the origins of the Uniate or Greek Catholic church. But the bottom line is, Popowicz is a perfectly good name for a Pole to bear; and Popovitch makes sense as an Anglicized form of that name. If a Pole by that name found himself dealing with German officials, the name might end up spelled Popowitsch. But Popovitch is quite credible as the form a Polish immigrant to America might choose to go by, because it retained the original pronunciation of his name but made it a bit more accessible to Americans.


PIECHOCKI

... If you have any spare time, could you please try to find something on my last name Piechocki.

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 5,437 Polish citizens named Piechocki. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 548, Konin 316, and Poznan 1,146. 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 an area north and west of the center of the country (in its current borders). Unfortunately, that's no help trying to trace a specific family that bears this name -- a Piechocki could come from almost anywhere in Poland, but is statistically somewhat more likely to come from the area of the provinces mentioned above. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says names beginning Piech- usually developed from nicknames for Piotr, "Peter." Poles often formed nicknames or affectionate diminutives by taking the first few letters of a name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes, so that Piotr/Pietr -> Pie- + -ch = Piech. Once that name existed, it could easily have suffixes added to it, so that Piechocki may mean nothing more than "kin of Peter" or "one from the place of Peter's kin."

It's worth mentioning, however, that Piechocki could also have originated as an adjectival form of the noun piechota, "infantry," so that it could mean "kin of the one from the infantry." I'd think that might be more relevant; most names beginning Piech- would come from the nickname for Peter, but ones beginning Piechot- or Piechoc- more likely come from the word for "infantry." Still, either is possible; surviving records make clear that the surname Piechota can come from the nickname for "Peter."

Also, Piechocki might refer to a place name, such as Piechocice, Piechotne, and Piechoty -- there are various villages by those names, and without detailed info on a specific family there's no way to know for sure which one the surname refers to.

To summarize, with many Polish names you can't give a simple, unambiguous derivation unless you have access to very detailed info on that particular family and the context in which it came to be associated with a specific name. Piechocki could mean "kin of the infantryman" or "one from the place of the infantry," but it could also mean "kin of Peter" or "one from the place of Peter." Without firm data indicating which is relevant, I can only give info on the possible derivations, and leave it to you to do subsequent research that might tell you more.


ŚMIAŁKOWSKI

... I am interested in any information you could give me on the surname Smialkowski. I believe my great grandparents came from Galicia, Poland and settled in Northeast Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their children changed the name to Smalkoski, leaving little chance for others to be able to contact them. So I am struggling for information. My great uncles and aunts would never talk about Poland. I believe the family had much pain. Thank you for any help you can give.

In Polish this name is spelled with an accent over the S and a slash through the L, so that it is spelled Śmiałkowski. It is pronounced roughly "shm'yaw-KOFF-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 985 Polish citizens named Śmiałkowski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Lodz 228, Katowice 83, Płock 71, Poznan 67, and Szczecin 67, with the rest scattered in 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. 

This data tells us that there is a significant concentration in the area near the city of Lodz, but not enough of a concentration to serve as a reliable guide for where a given Śmiałkowski family came from. Besides, your info suggests the family came from Galicia, the part of Poland seized by Austria during the partitions -- it included the southcentral and southeastern part of modern Poland, as well as western Ukraine. So the distribution data is no real help in tracing your family -- which is the case, I'd estimate, at least 90% of the time with Polish surnames.

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. So we would expect this name to mean "one from Śmiałki or Śmiałkowo," place names literally meaning "[place] of the bold one." They were probably named for an owner or founder who bore the name or nickname Śmiałek, "bold one."

Without much more detailed info on a specific family there's no way to know for sure which place the surname might refer to. It's worth mentioning, however, that there is a Śmiałki northwest of Czestochowa in southcentral Poland; this is not far from the western edge of Galicia. So the name might mean "one from Śmiałki." 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 be quite obscure, or may even have disappeared or renamed or absorbed into another community centuries ago. Śmiałki is the only place I can find on modern maps that makes sense as the place the surname might refer to; but it would be irresponsible to jump to the conclusion that that HAS to be the right place.

I'm afraid only genealogical research is likely to uncover facts that would establish the right place. Once you trace the family back to a specific area in Poland, it becomes possible to search that area for places with names that qualify. But I'm afraid that's more than I can do; I only have the time and resources to do "quick and dirty" analysis.


KOCZARA

... Do you know what Koczara stands for? 

According to my sources, the name Koczara (pronounced roughly "co-CHAR-ah") comes from the noun koczar, which means "cabriolet," a small carriage. A person who bore this name presumably drove such a carriage for a living. 

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 697 Polish citizens named Koczara. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 114, Ciechanow 67, Krakow 71, Ostrołęka 172. 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 an area just northwest of the center of the country (in its current borders).


FLEISCHER - FLESZAR

... I just found your page. I've always been interested in finding out more about my Polish heritage. My grandfather came over to America with his parents early in life. He came over before being in kindergarten, so he really has no recollection of anything in Poland. My great-grandfather's name was Wladyslaw Fleszar. My grandparents tried to find out info on the name and the family line, but found nothing but people trying to make a buck on false information - for instance, after the move my great-grandfather "Americanized" his name to Walter Flesher. These places told my grandparents they could trace his name back for hundreds of years in Poland - of course, Flesher was not his Polish name, so these traces were not true. If there is anything you can direct me to, or even a sentence or two in your spare time, I'd be appreciative.

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 906 Polish citizens named Fleszar (pronounced roughly "FLESH-are"). The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Poznan 105, Rzeszow 280, Walbrzych 85. 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 suggests the name is found all over Poland, with concentrations in a couple of areas, western Poland (near Poznan) and southeastern Poland (near Rzeszow). As I say, this is not unusual; one finds names of German origin all over the country, especially in the west (which was long ruled and colonized by Germans) and in the southeast, which was never ruled by Germany but became home to many German immigrants.

One of the books I have, concentrating on Polonized forms of German names, shows Fleszar as coming from German Fleischer, "butcher" (from the same basic Germanic root as our word "flesh"). There have always been large numbers of Germans who came to settle in Poland, so it's not unusual to see Poles bearing names of German linguistic origin. Presumably a family Fleszar started out as a German family named Fleischer, presumably earning a living as butchers; as time went by and they settled among Poles, the form of their name was gradually Polonized so as to be easier for Poles to pronounce. It's possible an ethnic Pole might come to bear this name because he lived among a lot of Germans, but as a rule you'd expect a Fleszar to be of Germanic origin ultimately, because Polish has native words meaning "butcher," e. g. rzeznik.


RASIMOWICZ

... I often wondered what the derivation of my name was. I never see it posted. My name is now Rasinowich but I know it was changed. My father used Rasimowicz when entering the service. Would appreciate any information.

When a name has been changed the first problem is figuring out what the original form was, and often there's no way to tell for sure without hard evidence -- documents such as naturalization papers, passport applications, ship passenger lists, etc. I can't be certain what the original form was, but Rasimowicz is a real possibility. It is pronounced roughly "rah-shee-MO-vitch," of which Rasimowich could obviously be just a slight Anglicization. So while it's not certain Rasimowicz is the right original form, I will proceed on the assumption that it is, because the odds are good it is. 

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 62 Polish citizens named Rasimowicz. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Łomża 13, Olsztyn 22, Suwałki 13. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. But this data shows the name is most common in northeastern Poland, and that makes sense given certain clues the name provides.

The suffix -owicz means "son of," and while it is found all over Poland, it is especially common in eastern and especially northeastern Poland, which fits in with the distribution data. This suggests the surname means "son of Rasim." There are several possibilities for what that name comes from, but I think the most likely one is that it started out as a short form for a Slavic adaptation of the Greek name Gerasimos, "honored, prized." This name is somewhat rare among ethnic Poles, but is more common among Eastern Slavs, namely Belarusians and Ukrainians, in forms such as Harasim or Harasym; Greek-based names are often associated with adherents of the Orthodox church, such as the Belarusians and Ukrainians, whereas Poles were more likely to take names from Roman Catholic saints, influenced more often by Latin than Greek. 

In other words, I strongly suspect this name Rasim is a short form or nickname of Harasim or Harasym and originated among Belarusians or Ukrainians, followers either of the Orthodox church or the Greek Catholic rite. So the surname Rasimowicz, which might also be spelled Rasymowicz sometimes, probably means "son of Harasym." The data on the name's frequency and distribution is consistent with this; we often see names of Eastern Slavic origin in northeastern and eastern Poland. The family may have lived elsewhere later, but they probably started out living somewhere in eastern Poland or in the regions just east of the current Polish border, Lithuania or Belarus or Ukraine. These regions were long regarded as eastern territories of the old Polish Commonwealth, and people living in them were often ethnic Poles or regarded as Polish citizens. So even if the name is of Belarusian or Ukrainian linguistic origin, that wouldn't necessarily make the families bearing it any less Polish. Some of Poland's greatest heroes, including Kosciuszko and Mickiewicz, actually came from Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine.

I've drawn some pretty sweeping conclusions based on a little data, and might be wrong. But I really think this is the right derivation of this surname. It means "son of [Ha]rasim" and is most likely of eastern Slavic origin.

 

  

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

Chmieliński

I would appreciate any information you could give me on the name Chmielinski and where in Poland it originated.

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 1,839 Polish citizens named Chmieliński. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Ciechanow 204, Gdansk 223, Katowice 116, Olsztyn 211, Ostrołęka 196, and Warsaw 218. 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 is found all over Poland, and there is no one region with which it is associated.

As I say, in Polish this name is spelled with an accent over the N, and it is pronounced roughly "h'myell-EEN-skee" -- the initial H sound is a little bit guttural, like the ch in German "Bach."

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it refers to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago, a place with the name Chmielno or Chmielen. Unfortunately, there are several such places in Poland, and without detailed information into a specific family's background, there's no way to know which one the surname derives from in their particular case. That's probably why the name appears all over the country: there isn't just one Chmieliński family, but a number of different ones, named for various different places all over Poland.

If you'd like to see maps showing at least some of these places, go to this Website:

http://www.jewishgen.org/shtetlseeker/loctown.htm  

Enter "chmieln" as the place you're looking for, select "Poland" as the country to be searched, and select "Search using Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex." Click on "Start the search," and after a moment you'll see a list of various places in Poland with names that are reasonably good phonetic matches with Chmieln-. The first four on the list are the best matches. For each one, 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 give you some idea where the places called Chmielen and Chmielno are located, and at some point in your research this may allow you to make a correlation that proves handy.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Chojnowski - Hojnowski

Would you have any information as to the names Choynowski or Chojnowski? The only information I could find is that its associated with the Polish clan Lubicz. Any info would be appreciated.

Chojnowski could also be spelled Choynowski in older Polish, but in modern spelling that "y" sound would be represented with J. Other likely spelling variations are Hojnowski and Hoynowski. In Polish the H and CH are pronounced exactly the same, so either spelling is possible; within the last century or so, though, spellings have tended to become somewhat standardized, and the standard spelling of this name these days is Chojnowski. You want to note the other spellings, however, because spelling wasn't always reliable in old records, so you might find the name spelled any of the ways I've mentioned.

The H or CH is a little more guttural than the English H, it sounds somewhat like "ch" in German "Bach"; that said, the name is pronounced "hoy-NOFF-skee," however it's spelled.

As of 1990 there were 7,211 Polish citizens named Chojnowski (only 161 who spelled it Hojnowski). The Chojnowskis lived all over Poland; there were particularly large numbers in the provinces of Białystok, 350; Łomża, 1,957; Olsztyn, 299; Ostrołęka, 548; Suwałki, 347; Torun, 322; and Warsaw, 712. So the name is most common in northcentral to northeastern Poland.

The ultimate root of the name is the noun chojna, "fir, spruce." Names in the form X-owski usually refer to the names of places with which the families were connected. If a Chojnowski family was noble, at some point they owned an estate with a name beginning Chojn-, so that the surname meant essentially "of the place of the firs or spruces." If they were peasants, they lived and worked at a place with an appropriate name somewhere along the line.

There are a number of villages and settlements in Poland named Chojna, Chojnów, Chojnowo, etc., so without more specifics on an individual family there's no way to know which of those places the surname refers to in a given case. As I said, I can't even say for sure the family was noble, because originally -owski names were used only by nobility -- X-owski meant "[lord] of X" -- but as time went on peasants took such names as well. In their case, X-owski simply meant "one from X."

So to be sure your family was of the noble Chojnowskis, you'd have to trace the bloodline back and establish a connection with a recognized noble. I'm not saying your family is or isn't of noble origin. I'm just saying you can't tell from the name itself. Only genealogical research would establish the point.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Chiemengo - Ciemięga - Ciemenga

I have been searching for a while and have not been able to find any information about my family. All I know is that they are from Poland and that my grandfather came to the U.S.A. around the early 1900's from Poland. He was sent to the U.S.A. by his father who owned a shoe factory somewhere in Poland. When they arrived at Ellis Island I have been told that the name was changed, I am not sure why but it was changed from CIEMIEGA to CHIEMINGO. My grandparents both died at very young ages, and the children were sent to farms and lost all possible family records.

My information sources don't help much with finding individual persons or families, but I can tell you a few things about the name that may prove interesting, if not helpful.

In Polish this name is spelled Ciemięga -- as an E with a tail under it, and usually pronounced much like "en." In Polish the combination CI is pronounced much like English "ch." So Ciemięga sounds like "chem-YENG-gah." Once you realize this, it's not hard to understand why the spelling might be changed to Chiemingo -- by English phonetic values, this is a reasonably good representation of how the name was pronounced in Polish. That's usually the reason for spelling changes of this sort. Different languages using the Roman alphabet use different ways of representing sounds, and in Polish Ciemięga is a very good way of spelling the sounds of this name; but it makes no sense to English-speakers, for us English "Chiemingo" is a more comprehensible 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 960 Polish citizens named Ciemięga. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 278, Radom 74, Rzeszow 149, and Tarnow 82. 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 shows the name is found primarily in southcentral and southeastern Poland, in the region formerly ruled by Austria and called Galicia. But the disappointing thing is that it doesn't really help a great deal in tracing where a given Ciemięga family came from originally; they could come from anywhere in Poland, and especially in southcentral to southeastern Poland.

There was also 124 Poles who spelled the name Ciemienga, which makes sense phonetically, if you recall what I said about the pronunciation of that letter Ę.

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 ciemięga, which means "dullard, worthless fellow, twerp." I know this isn't very flattering, but believe me, compared to some Polish names I've seen, this is not bad at all. There are an incredibly large number of Polish surnames that come from words that are outright insults, some of them obscene. I really think some of them were surely meant in fun, the way Americans sometimes call their friends by insulting names as a jest.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Cieszyński

I was wondering if you had any information on my last name. It is Cieszynski.

In Polish this name is spelled with an acute accent over the N, and is pronounced roughly "cheh-SHIN-skee."; so I spell the name Cieszyński.

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 3,242 Polish citizens by this name. They lived all over Poland, with particularly large numbers in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 191, Gdansk 612, Katowice 146, Olsztyn 133, Rzeszow 163, Slupsk 156, Torun 737, and Wloclawek 197. 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 a Cieszyński family could come from practically anywhere in Poland, but there are significant concentrations in northcentral Poland.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1418, and just means "one from Cieszyn" or Cieszyna or Cieszyno or Cieszyny -- there are a number of different places with these names. The only way to tell which one a specific family came from would be through genealogical research, which would allow one to focus on the exact area that particular Cieszyński family came from and thus on a nearby place with an appropriate name.

There is, for instance, a famous and fairly large town Cieszyn down in southcentral Poland, on the border with the Czech Republic, and Cieszyński could refer to a family's connection with that place. But all those Cieszyńskis up in Gdansk and Torun provinces are less likely to have names referring to that Cieszyn all the way down in southern Poland. Their name is somewhat more likely to refer to a Cieszyna or other similar place name closer to home. That's why one has to know what part of Poland a family came from before it's possible to suggest which place the surname refers to.

Cieszyński could also come from short forms of ancient pagan names such as Cieszybor and Cieszymir and Ciechosław, in which the first part of the name means something like "joy" or "consolation." Thus Cieszybor probably meant "joy-battle" (may he enjoy battle); Cieszymir probably meant "joy-peace" (may he find joy in victorious peace); Ciechosław probably meant "joy-glory" (may he find joy in glory). These names produced nicknames or short forms such as Ciech, Ciecha, Ciesza, etc.; the guttural -ch- tends to become -sz- when suffixes are added, so that names beginning Ciech- and Ciesz- are from the same source.

Once those names Ciech or Ciesza or whatever existed, Cieszyn would develop from them, meaning "[kin] of Ciesza or Ciech" or "[place] of Ciesza or Ciech." Then Cieszyński could develop as a way of saying "kin of Ciesza's kin" or "one from Ciesza's place." The latter is probably applicable in most cases, as I said above -- it would mean "one from Cieszyn" or "one from Cieszyna," which in turn means "one from Ciech's/Ciesza's place." However, it is possible the surname Cieszyński could refer not to a place but rather to the extended family of a fellow named Ciech or Ciesza or something similar.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Falikowski - Falkowski - Chwalikowski

I was hoping you could help me out. My surname is Falikowski. When I researched coats of arms, I found Falkowski, but no Falikowski, with the "i" after the L. Do you know whether the two names are related? Are they derivations of Falk? Any other information that you could share would be most appreciated.

This is a tough call, because FALIKOWSKI (pronounced roughly "fah-lee-KOFF-skee") obviously comes from the same basic root as FALKOWSKI; but that doesn't necessarily imply any other relationship. Just as the English surnames Jones and Johnson both come from the first name "John," but would usually be totally different names borne by different families, Falikowski clearly has that same basic root fal- as Falkowski; but that signifies only a linguistic relationship, not a family one.

I should add, though, that just as Jones and Johnson could conceivably be confused because they're similar names, so Falikowski and Falkowski might be confused. A family properly known as Falikowski might sometimes be called Falkowski by error, and vice versa. But that's a matter of human error, which must always be factored into our research. The names would usually be borne by distinct families, not necessarily connected in any way.

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, available online), there were 104 Polish citizens named Falikowski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Walbrzych, 24, and Wroclaw, 67. 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 primarily in southwestern Poland, in the region called Silesia.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says that like so many names beginning Fal-, this one is a modified form of names originally beginning Chwal-. That root is pronounced with a guttural "ch" (as in German "Bach") followed by "vahl." It's a bit of a mouthful, but Poles can handle it. Still, for some reason, in some parts of Poland there was a tendency to simplify that combination of sounds to a simpler one that sounds much like English "fall."

So FALIKOWSKI is a variant of CHWALIKOWSKI. Professsor Rymut says that name appears in records as early as 1395, whereas FALIKOWSKI shows up as early as 1399. He says Falikowski refers to a family connection with any of a number of places named Chwalikowice and Chwalikowo. There are several places by those names, and from the surname alone there's no way to tell for sure which one a given Falikowski family came from. Only research into the family history might establish that.

Here's where it gets complicated -- Rymut gives FALKOWSKI, appearing in records as early as 1448, as potentially having the same derivation. In other words, both Falikowski and Falkowski can mean "one from Chwalikowice or Chwalikowo." In some cases the surname retained that -i-, in other cases it dropped it over time. This makes it even more possible that Falikowski might sometimes be the same as Falkowski. It would depend a lot on the individual families involved. Some might have gone by either name; others might have insisted on one or the other.

FALKOWSKI, however, clearly can also refer to a connection with places named Falki, Falków, Falkowo, etc., which do not have that -i-. FALIKOWSKI would refer to a place with a name beginning Chwalik- or Falik-. So in some instances the presence of that -i- can indicate a different derivation. The problem is, it doesn't always -- you can't rely on that being true every time.

There's only so far you can go by analyzing name origins. There comes a point where you say, "OK, that's what I can tell you. From here on you're on your own. These CAN be connected -- but only your research can tell you whether they were or were not." That's the point we've reached. Both these names can have the same derivation, but only you can determine whether they are actually connected in your family history.

I wish I could give you a simple, straightforward answer. But sometimes the answer is not simple, and pretending otherwise is a lie. I hope I've told you enough to help you with your research. That's what I try to do -- outline the possibilities, so that you can make informed choices based on what you discover as you trace your family history.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Charęża - Haremza - Haremża - Haręża

I would like to know if you have heard of or know of the name Haremza. My ancestors are from the Poznan area of what used to be Prussia.

This name is spelled many different ways by Poles, all sounding more or less like "hah-REN-zhah" or "hah-REM-zhah." Most of these spellings use letters we don't use in English which are the Polish E with a tail under it (pronounced like "en" or "em"), and the Z with a dot over it, pronounced like "zh." The version Haremza, with no special letters, would sound like "hah-REM-zah." Put a dot over the Z and it sounds like "hah-REM-zhah." Change the -em- to the nasal E written with a tail under it, Haręża, and it's "hah-REN-zhah." Since H and CH are pronounced the same in Polish, we often see forms versions beginning CH- instead of H-. And so on; many different spellings, but all variations of the same basic name.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it is of Romanian origin, from the Romanian noun arindza, "stomach." Presumably it began as a nickname for various people of Romanian origin who had a large stomach, or was always eating, or something along those lines. A given ancestor was called this by Romanians, and when he and/or his descendants moved to live among Poles the name stuck. The different spellings in Polish probably resulted from slightly different pronunciations of the word or name as it came to be used by Poles. They weren't familiar with the Romanian word, and as they tried to pronounce it they modified it slightly. Some people spelled and pronounced it one way, others a slightly different way. That's how we end up with all these different spellings.

We often run into names of Poles that turn out to be of some other linguistic origin, including Romanian, Armenian, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Slovak, etc., so this is not surprising. Historically there were significant ties between Poland, so that there was a certain amount of mixing of names; we see distinctively Polish names borne by people in Hungary and Romania, and Hungarian and Romanian names borne by Poles. It's not at all odd, therefore, to find people who consider themselves 100% Polish but bear names that actually originated in some other language.

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 434 Polish citizens named Charęża, 595 named Haremza, 340 named Haręza, and 556 named Haręża. You need to keep your eyes open for all these spellings, as any of them could conceivably appear in the records.

Of the 595 Polish citizens who spelled it Haremza as of 1990, the largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Leszno 63, Poznan 330, and Wroclaw 47. 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 concentrated primarily in the western part of the country, which would include the area your ancestors came from.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Czerniak

...I was just wondering if you have any info on the name Czerniak. From what little bit i could find, it must have originated in the Poznan region of Poland. Also where can i get/order a copy of your book?

The ultimate root of the name Czerniak is czarn-, meaning "dark, black." Names can derive from a number of different words based on that root, including czarny, "black," czern', "blackness, mob," etc. There are also many, many places with names based on this root, and then surnames can derive from those place names. Unfortunately, with names (like this) that can get started dozens of differente ways, it's impossible to say just how a particular family ended up with a particular name, unless you've done extremely detailed research on that family -- and even then you often can't say, because there just aren't any surviving records that shed light on the matter. About all we can say for sure is that this is one of many popular names deriving from the root meaning "dark, black." It might refer to complexion, disposition, place of residence, etc.

As of 1990 there were some 7,269 Poles with this surname, living all over the country. In modern-day Poznan province there were 781, which is the highest number for a single province; some other provinces with lots of Czerniaks are Bydgoszcz (438), Katowice (595), Konin (331), Lublin (682), and Zamosc (335). There doesn't seem to be any obvious pattern to the distribution, except that the most Czerniaks live in the provinces with the largest populations.

I know this information is awfully general and may not help you a lot, but with many common names that's about all you can do. I hope this is some help to you, and wish you the best of luck with your research!

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

Nienajadło

... Would you know of the Polish name Nienajadlo? I wonder if you have come across it and perhaps would know any brief history of the family name?

I've never come across this name before, but it is an interesting one.

Nienajadło (the Polish slashed l is pronounced like our w, so that the name would sound like "nyeh-nah-YAHD-woe") is not extremely common, but not really rare -- as of 1990 there were 278 Polish citizens by this name. They lived in many different provinces, with the larger numbers showing up in the provinces of Legnica (23), Przemysl (42), Rzeszow (39), and Tarnobrzeg (103), which suggests the southeast corner of Poland is where this name originated.

That fits in with the linguistic aspects of the name -- Nienajadło derives from nie-, "not," plus najadły, a participle of the verb najeść, "to eat one's fill." So Nienajadło would appear to mean "one who didn't eat too much," perhaps meant ironically, a kind of nickname for someone who was skin and bones. However, I could also easily imagine this as meaning "one who never can eat his fill," i. e., someone with a big appetite. Names formed from participles like this generally do show up mostly in southeast Poland, near the Ukrainian border, which is where this name is most common. Also, there were a lot of times historically when famine struck this area, sometimes due to crop failure, sometimes because of war.

So this suggests the family may have tended to be on the thin side -- perhaps because they were too poor to eat much -- or were famous for their appetites and could never get enough to eat. Those are the two most likely meanings of the name.

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

Ramzinski - Ramziński - Ramżyński

...Your new book is very informative and it has helped me very much. My great-grandmother had the maiden name Ramzinski, which is not included in the book. Several Ramzinski families came to the Bexar county, TX area between 1870-1875. They came from Kiszkowo, Gniezno, Poznan. I would appreciate information on the history and origin of the name and how are they distributed now in Poland?

I'm glad to hear my book has helped you!

I'm afraid the Slownik nazwisk shows no entry for Ramzinski, which either means there were none and the name died out in Poland after your ancestors emigrated, or there were only a few in 1990 and they happened to live in those provinces for which the database did not have complete data. I notice there is an entry for Ramżyński, which would be pronounced almost exactly the same (the zh sound would be a bit stronger, and the Polish y is like the "i" in "sit" rather than the "ee" sound of Polish i; the ń stands for the n with an accent over it, the Ż stands for the z with a dot over it). The Ramżyńskis lived in the provinces of Krosno (4), Wroclaw (1), and Zielona Gora (4). Although the two names sound very similar and might just be variants of each other, I'm reluctant to conclude there is a connection between these two surnames, because there's reason to believe they come from two different place names, as I'm about to explain.

The form Ramziński would most likely mean "one who comes from a place called Ramza, Ramzia, Ramzy," something like that. I can find only one area that seems to fit. There was a locality Ramzy composed of two parts, Małe Ramzy ("Little Ramzy, German name "Klein Ramsen"), a manorial grange, and an estate Wielkie Ramzy ("Big Ramzy," German "Gross Ramsen"), both in Sztum county (now in Elbląg province), 5 km. southeast of Sztum, which is where the Lutheran parish church was located, whereas Catholics went to the parish church in Postolin. I can find Postolin and Sztum on my maps, but can't find either Ramzy -- perhaps they're too small to show up on the map, perhaps the name has been changed, or perhaps they've been incorporated into some other place.

There was also a tiny village Ramżyno in Dzisna county, which would put it in what is now Belarus. The name Ramżyński is a better fit, linguistically, with this name, and that's why I'm hesitant to identify the two surnames as just variants of each other. One may have originated in Belarus, the other in East Prussia -- a considerable distance apart.

Without much more detailed info on your family, I cannot say for sure your Ramzińskis are connected to the places named Ramzy in Elbląg province. They could well be, people did sometimes move around in Poland (though not to the extent modern Americans do, for instance); but your Ramzińskis might have taken their name from another place too small to show up in the gazetteers and on maps. Still, just from a linguistic point of view, the Ramzy - Ramziński connection is quite credible.

Sorry I couldn't give you a more definite answer, but I hope this info is some help to you, and I wish you the best of luck with your research!

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

Bycofski - Bycowski - Byczewski - Bykowski

...I am a second generation American. My grandparents came from Warsaw. Their last name is Bycofski. They took up the surname Cuba. They settled in Athens, Ohio. My grandfather died in the worst mine disaster in the history of Ohio ? the Pittsfield mine explosion. I'm trying to piece my lineage together. Can you shed any light on the name Bycofski?

The first problem here is to get the original Polish form of the night -- Bycofski has clearly been anglicized. The w in the ending -owski is pronounced like an f, so Bycowski is a plausible spelling. Unfortunately, there was no one in Poland with this name as of 1990, which suggests -- although it doesn't prove for sure -- that that form is not likely to be right. The c is the next problem. If it is pronounced like a k, the Polish spelling was probably Bykowski; but sometimes c and cz alternate in names, so Byczowski is also possible. But that name doesn't show up in Poland either. There is Byczewski, a name borne by 59 Poles. Bykowski, however, was the name of 2,778 Poles as of 1990. Without more info to go on, I'm inclined to think Bykowski was the original Polish spelling. As I said, there were 2,778 Poles by that name, living all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of: Warsaw (166), Białystok (163), Lodz (181), Piotrkow (153), and Wloclawek (197). I can't see any real pattern to the distribution, the name appears to be spread all over the country.

Whether byc- or byk- was the original beginning of the name, it probably derives from the term byk, meaning "bull," diminutive byczek, "bullock." The -owski ending usually means the name was formed from the name of a village or town ending in -ow, -owo, -owa, or something similar. There are quite a few places named Bykow, Bykowo, Bycz, Byczow, and so on, and the surnames Bykowski or Byczkowski could theoretically come from any of them. Those places got their names from a connection with a fellow with the nickname Byk ("Bull") or with bulls -- probably cattle were raised there. So your surname probably started out meaning "person from the place of the bulls or Bull's place." But since there are so many places that might be the source of this name, there's no way to guess which particular one the name started in. It could have started in any of them, and probably did arise independently in a number of places. That explains why Bykowskis now live all over the country.

I know I haven't answered all your questions, but without lots of detailed info on your particular family, there just isn't enough data to draw any specific conclusions. Still, I hope this info is some help to you, and I wish you the best of luck with your research!

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

Brataniec - Niedzwiecki

...The Brataniec name that you could not find, per say, as a Polish name, I found in Monovia on the Polish border in a town called Mahrisch-Ostrau. I cannot say for sure that that is where he originally came from (born in 1874) as I lack the records.

I can't remember what I wrote about Brataniec, but it clearly comes from the term brataniec, literally "brother's son," i. e., "nephew." As of 1990 there were 60 Poles with this name, living in the provinces of Katowice (4), Krakow (13), Krosno (4), Nowy Sacz (11), and Tarnow (28). This strongly suggests the name comes from southcentral and southeastern Poland, in the area that was formerly ruled by Austria and named "Galicia."

...Interesting though may be his mother's maiden name, which is Niedzwiecka. I am not sure that this is a Polish name either, especially from looking in your book... So my question is, do you have any insight to the name Niedzwiecka? If I can find out a location, I may have a chance of finding my family!

Niedzwiecka is simply the feminine form of Niedzwiecki -- the wife or daughter of a man named Niedzwiecki would be called Niedzwiecka. As it says on p. 216 of the first edition of my book, and p. 358 of the second edition, Niedzwiecki comes from a Polish word niedźwiedź meaning "bear." It might have started as a nickname for a bear-like fellow or a guy who was good at hunting bears. But in many, many cases it would have meant "fellow who owned, came from, or often traveled to __" where the blank is filled in with any of several dozen villages with names from that root meaning "bear," for instance, Niedzwiedz (at least 11), Niedzwiada (at least 4), etc.

As of 1990 there were 1,866 Poles named Niedzwiecki, 6,432 named Niedźwiecki (with an accent over the z), 1,068 named Niedzwiedzki (which is pronounced exactly the same, so the names are easily confused), and 2,382 named Niedźwiedzki. So that's almost 12,000 Poles who have what is, for all intents and purposes, the same surname. Clearly the name originated in many different places at many different times, so there are numerous separate families with the name.

This is one thing I kind of hate about answering questions on Polish surnames: people hope the name will give them a clue where in Poland their families came from. It does work that way, sometimes, and when it does both the questioner and I end up feeling quite good about it! But the majority of times there just isn't info in the name to help. There were lots of places in Poland where bears were common at one time, so places where they fed or lived often got a name like Niedzwiedz, and then people coming from those place ended up with names like Niedzwiedzki or Niedzwiecki (which are pronounced the same).

So, this info may not be much help to you. For what it's worth, if you can find a place named Niedzwiada or Niedzwiedz (from which the name Niedzwiecki can come) near Mahrisch-Ostrau (Ostrawa Morawska, which according to my sources is in the Czech Republic, very near the border), that might be the right one.

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

Levickis - Lewicki

...My parents were Lithuanian. I have a suspicion that our surname Levickis is derived from Polish and may have originally been Lewicki or similar. Many years ago I was sent a coat of arms reproduction via Poland with that name. I wonder if you could assist me in any way what so ever, I would be very grateful.

Chances are very good the name was Lewicki at one point -- Lithuanian names ending in -auskas usually correspond to Polish -owski, -inskas corresponds to -inski, and -ickis corresponds to -icki. Sometimes Lithuanians dropped their original names (if they had one, at that point in time many Euopeans did not) and adopted Polish names that they liked or that seemed somehow appropriate. Also, numerous ethnic Poles lived and still live in Lithuania, and as time went on their Polish names were changed slightly to fit Lithuanian linguistic patterns. So there are several ways the names Levickis and Lewicki can be connected.

The problem is, Lewicki is such a common name -- as of 1990 there were 13,441 Poles by that name. The ultimate origin, in most cases, is the term lew, "lion," also much used as a first name Lew (= "Leo" or "Leon"). A place belonging to the kin of a prominent man named Lew might be called Lewice, for instance, and then people coming from that place would be called Lewicki ("one from Lewice"). In some cases, it can also be a Jewish name, connected to the Levites. So it's tough to draw any conclusions regarding the name without detailed info on the particular Lewicki or Levickis family in question. Only detailed research into the history of the specific family in question might uncover information that would shed light on how that name came to be associated with that particular family.

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

Szala - Szała

...I would sincerely appreciate any information you could provide to me in regards to the surname Szala.

Unfortunately, this is one of those names that could have come (and probably did) from several different roots. Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut lists it under the entry Szal- and says such names can derive from the word szala, "scale" (as in a scale to weigh something), or from szal, "shawl," or from szaleć, a verb meaning "to rage." We also can't rule out the possibility it derived from a short form or nickname of Salomon (Solomon) -- due to dialect pronunciation peculiarities, s and sz often switch.

As of 1990 there were 2,124 Poles named Szala, and 330 named Szała (using ł to stand for the Polish slashed l, which sounds like our w). The Szala's lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (127), Kalisz (101), Katowice (418), Rzeszow (110), and Zamosc (176). If there's a pattern there, I'm afraid I can't see it. The Szała's were by far most common in the province of Poznan (236).

No matter how you add it up, I'm afraid there just isn't a clear picture. The name could have come from several different roots, and there's no pattern to its distribution that tells us anything useful.

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

Kulis - Purzycki

...I am doing research on two branches of my family, with a current goal of determining, hopefully, where each originated from in Poland. I have visited your web page, and would like to ask if you might have encountered either the surname Kulis or Purzycki.

Kulis can come from several different roots: Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book on Polish surnames under kul-, explaining that such names can come from the word kula, "sphere, bullet, crutch," or the verb kulić się, to crouch. I have also noted that in a few cases it can come from a nickname for Mikolaj, "Nicholas." In practice most names from kul- mean basically "cripple" (related to that meaning of "crutch" for kula), and that seems the most likely answer here, that an ancestor named Kulis had a deformity that made him lame or forced him to use a crutch.

Names from kul- are very common, and Kulis was the name of 810 Poles as of 1990, with another 1,727 named Kuliś (that ś is pronounced like a soft, hissing "sh") -- either of those could be the Polish form of this surname, and they both would mean about the same thing. The largest numbers of Poles named Kulis lived in the provinces of Warsaw (81), Katowice (79), Krakow (64), Olstzyn (51), Ostrołęka (57), Skierniewice (85), and Szczecin (52) -- there doesn't appear to be any particular pattern to the distribution. For Kuliś, the largest numbers were in the provinces of Warsaw (95), Czestochowa (104), Katowice (146), Kielce (200), Łomża (119), Ostrołęka (102), Piotrkow (108), Suwałki (202), and Tarnow (95) -- again, spread fairly evenly all over the country. (By the way, I'm afraid I don't have access to any more detailed info, such as first names and addresses, what I show here is about all I have).

Purzycki might come ultimately from a term purzyca, "thigh," but the immediate source would be a place name Purzyce or something like it. There is, for instance, a Purzyce-Trojany in Ciechanow province, and the surname probably referred to a family's coming from that or some other village with a similar name (there are probably others, too small to show up on my maps). As of 1990 there were 1,243 Poles named Purzycki, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (227), Ciechanow (247), and Olsztyn (136). Probably quite a few of those took their name from that village I mentioned, but there are enough people by this name, in enough different parts of the country, to suggest more than one place gave rise to this surname. So the name means basically "person or family associated with, coming from, working at Purzyca or Purzyce."

This info may not be a lot of help pinpointing a particular area your ancestors came from, but that's generally true of most names. There are just too many different words, and places with similar names, to point unambiguously at a place of origin or clear-cut meaning. The origin of a place-derived surname usually is the most help if your research has established an area your ancestors came from, and if you find a village nearby with the right name. So if you learn where the Purzycki's lived in Poland before coming over, and you find a Purzyce or Purzyca nearby, that's probably the right place! As for Kulis, it could and did originate in many different parts of Poland, there just isn't any clue as to which particular place your Kulis's came from.

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

Filipowski - Nowacki - Odachowski - Pieściuk - Plaski - Puszynski - Rzentkowski - Wisniewski

... I just discovered your surname meanings ... web page. It was wonderful to find that someone else had been searching for my surname (Odachowski). I was wondering if you might know anything about some other surnames in my family: Filipowski, Nowacki, Pieściuk, Plaski, Puszynski, Rzentkowski, Wisniewski.

Names ending in -owski, such as Filipowski, usually indicate association with a place name, often ending with -ew, -ewo, -ow, -owo, etc. I'd expect Filipowski to mean "one from Filipow, Filipowo, etc." Those names, in turn, mean "Philip's place," Filip is the Polish form of our name "Philip." Unfortunately there are at least eight such places in Poland, so there's no way to know which one your Filipowski's might have been connected with. As of 1990 there were 4,138 Polish citizens named Filipowski, living all over the country.

Nowacka is just a feminine form of Nowacki, and that comes from the word nowak, "new guy in town." Names from nowak are exceedingly common -- as of 1990 there 24,910 Polish citizens named Nowacki, scattered all over the country.

According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut, the name Pieściuk comes from a root meaning "to fondle," perhaps it was a nickname for someone who was very demonstrative in showing affection, with lots of body contact. As of 1990 there were only 87 Piesciuk's in Poland, living in the following provinces: Warsaw 8, Gdansk 6, Jelenia Gora 2, Katowice 1, Koszalin 14, Olsztyn 3, Ostrołęka 1, Suwałki 4, Walbrzych 3, Wroclaw 1, Zielona Gora 10. There's not really enough data there to give a useful pattern of distribution, they really are scattered all over the country.

Plaski appears to come from the Polish word plaski, "level, flat," perhaps referring to the area where a family lived or perhaps to some quality or feature of their appearance or personality. As of 1990 there were 551 Poles by this name, with the largest numbers in these provinces: Warsaw 176, Katowice 50, Kielce 59, and Lodz 45.

Puszyński comes from a basic root meaning "to preen, prance, strut," or from an archiac word meaning "tuft of feathers." However, names ending in -iński and -yński are also usually associated with place names, and Puszynski probably indicates connection with a town or village. I can only find one likely candidate in my atlas, Puszyna in Opole province, so the Puszyński family in this case may have come from there. However, there might be other villages named Puszyn, Puszyna, etc. that were too small to show up on the maps. As of 1990 there were 273 Polish citizens named Puszynski, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of: Bielsko-Biala 45, Kielce 58, Warsaw 26, and Wroclaw 19. This seems to indicate the name tends to be most common in southcentral Poland.

Rzentkowski probably indicates origin in a village named something like Rzentkow, Rzentkowo, Rzentki - I can find no such places in my atlas, but that may just mean they were too small to show up. This is a tricky name because there are several different ways to spell it in Polish: it could be Rzętkowski (ę stands for the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under it and pronounced like en, ą stands for the other Polish nasal vowel written as an a with a tail under it and pronounced like on, or Rzędkowski, or Rzendkowski, or Rządkowski (the nasal vowels often switch), and so on. To make things worse, in Polish rz and Ż (dotted Z) are pronounced exactly the same, so for each of these spellings you also have to consider variants with Ż instead of initial Rz. In Polish names, if there are several different ways of spelling the sounds of a name, you should not be surprised to see several different spellings of the name... As of 1990 there were only 25 Poles named Rzentkowski, 46 named Rzędkowski, 1,265 named Rządkowski - this makes it very tough to say exactly which form of the name is relevant, and also what place name spelling we should be looking for.

The ending -ewski on Wiśniewski tells us this is another name indicating place of origin -- in this case, from any of a jillion villages named Wiśniewo or Wiśniew, all taking their names from the root wisznia, "cherry-tree." When a surname comes from a place name this common, you'd expect the surname to be common also, and Wisniewski is: as of 1990 there were 104,418 Polish citizens by that name, living in huge numbers all over the country.

... One last question. Could you recommend any web sites where I could look up the addresses of family members in Poland?

No, I'm afraid so far there are no such web sites. They're just starting to get Polish phone directories on the Web - so far as I know, the Poznan directory is the only one up and running - and phones in private homes are less common in Poland than here - so even when all the directories are on- line, they won't be very complete listings. As of now I don't know of any way, on-line or not, to get addresses, other than to use the phone directories. The PGSA and its sister society PGS-Northeast (8 Lyle Rd., New Britain CT 06053) have sets of such directories and will search them for specific names for a fee; contact them if you want to know more. It's kind of a long shot, but I don't know of any other source of the info you want. Sorry!

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

Scigan

...I recently read that Cygan is Polish for "Gypsy." I have an ancestor named Scigan. Are these last names related?

It is true that Cygan is Polish for "Gypsy," and it is perfectly reasonable to ask if Scigan is related to that root. It's dangerous to be dogmatic about surnames, especially as regards spellings -- it's not completely out of the question that Scigan might be a mangled version of Cygan. But there is a root that matches the name much more closely, and is probably the right derivation in this case: Ścigany.

Ścigany (the ś makes it sound like a soft, hissing "sh," as opposed to the chunkier sh-sound of Polish sz, so that this name would be pronounced roughly "schee-GONE-ee") looks like a passive participle from the verb ścigać, "to pursue, hunt, chase." So ścigany would mean "hunted, pursued," and it would not be at all odd to see that -y drop off to leave Ścigan. Exactly who was hunting your ancestor I have no way of knowing, but apparently he was being chased or pursued... It's also worth mentioning that ściganka shows up in the dictionary as a term for chasing your opponents in a game to hit one of them with a ball, so it's possible the name refers to someone who was always "it" in playing a game. Also, there is a dialect term ścigany which is the name of a dance. So your ancestor's lot may not have been so terribly grim after all -- perhaps, instead of being a hunted criminal, he got this name because of playing a game or dancing! No point assuming the worst, eh?

There's one other interesting bit of info about this name: as of 1990 there were 62 Polish citizens named Ścigan, and 61 of them lived in the province of Jelenia Gora! That's in the far southwestern tip of Poland. I seldom run across a distribution pattern that's quite that clear. But if the form of the name as you have it is correct, it strongly suggests Jelenia Gora province is where you should be looking, and all the folks with that name just might be related!

Unfortunately I have no further info to help you with -- the source of my data does not give first names, addresses, ages, or anything else, just how many Poles had a particular name and what province they lived in. Perhaps you could arrange to have someone look in a phone directory for Jelenia Gora province -- surely one or two of those Ścigan's has a phone. That would provide you with the address of someone who may well be a relative. There are no sure things in genealogical research, but I like the odds.

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

Rakiewicz

...Any information on my surname would be greatly appreciated. All I know of my ancestry is that my grandfather emigrated to the US from Krakow early this century...

The suffix -iewicz means "son of," and the term rak means "crab," so the literal meaning of this name is "son of the crab." It might refer to the son of a fellow who made crab-like movements, or who caught or sold crabs, or ate them a lot; I'm not sure if "crab" has the same connotation in Polish of "sour, mean-tempered person," so we don't have to assume your ancestor was a crab in that way.

I am assuming the spelling here is correct. For instance, if the a is the nasal vowel written with a tail under the a and pronounced like "on," that would change the root meaning to "hand." But if this info is right, "son of the crab" is the likely meaning, and that is quite plausible -- there are a lot of Polish surnames that come from the names of animals, seafood, etc.

As of 1990 there were 63 Poles named Rakiewicz, living in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz (2), Gdansk (4), Konin (32), Koszalin (1), Olsztyn (5), Poznan (15), Slupsk (1), Walbrzych (3). The only real pattern I see is that they tend to live in areas once ruled by the Germans -- and it is interesting that in German a similar surname, Krebs (from the word for "crab"), is fairly common. I'm afraid I have no further info, such as first names, addresses, etc. for those people, the source I'm using gives only names, the number of Poles with each name, and a breakdown by province of where they live.

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

Jajesniak

...Fred, I read your book with great interest. I thought it was both informative and entertaining as well.

I'm very glad to hear it! As you can imagine, I put a lot of time and effort into it, and it's a great pleasure to hear from folks that my efforts weren't wasted and the book helped them. I particularly love it when folks say, in surprise, "Hey, this is actually funny!" I had to wade through a lot of really DRY stuff when I wrote it, and I just had to throw a little humor in there or I'd have gone nuts.

...I'm interested in knowing more about the name Jajesniak. The family originates from an area located between Kielce and Krakow. In researching the Parish Records for the town, I noticed that many common names began with a J - such as Jadamczyk. I'm wondering if this is a peculiarity to this region of Poland...

The root in this case is almost certainly jaje, "egg." My 8-volume Polish-English dictionary mentions the term jajeśnica, saying it's a dialect form of jajecznica, a food made by spreading beaten eggs on butter or bacon (sounds like a dish my daughter would like!). This shows that the -eśniak ending does not affect the root, to where we have to go searching for some other origin -- the name derives from "egg." It might have been applied originally to a person who was particularly good at fixing this dish, or loved to eat it, or from some other association not so clear. But it was surely a nickname or descriptive name -- and fortunately not nearly as embarrassing as many Polish names!

As of 1990 there were 170 Poles named Jajeśniak, living in the following provinces: Warsaw (2), Biala Podlaska (6), Czestochowa (1), Gdansk (17), Katowice (44), Kielce (51), Krakow (24), Krosno (5), Lodz (2), Olsztyn (1), Opole (3), Poznan (6), Radom (3), Slupsk (3), Szczecin (2). The numbers for Katowice, Kielce, and Krakow provinces tend to go along well with the info you provided on origins.

There definitely are certain regions in Poland where there's a distinct tendency to take an initial A- and put a J- in front of it, as you mentioned with Jadamczyk -- other examples are Jagata from Agata, Jagnieszka/Jachna from Agnieszka, Jalbert from Albert, and so on. But in this particular case that doesn't seem to be a factor. The Ja- is an integral part of the root jaje, "egg," rather than a dialect form. So what you say is right, but is not a factor with this particular name.

... PS - I've always gotten a lot of comments about my family name. From your book, I've been able to determine that it's not too common. We've always figured that the first Piekielny must have been a "hell" of a guy...

Hey, that works for me! And Piekielny is still a long way from being one of the worse names a Pole could get stuck with!

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

Buczak - Piszczek - Sniegowski

...As time permits, can you please furnish whatever information you have on these family names: Piszczek, Sniegowski, Buczak.

As of 1990 there were 2,597 Poles named Buczak, spread all over the country but with the largest numbers (over 100) in the provinces of Warsaw (145), Katowice (220), Kielce (228), Krakow (214), Tarnow (122), Wroclaw (247), and Zamosc (428). The main concentration appears to be in the southern part of Poland, but beyond that I see no really useful pattern to the distribution. This name, according to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut, derives either from the verb buczeć, "to hum, drone, buzz" (perhaps as a nickname from someone who hummed or droned on a lot) or from buk, "beech tree."

As of 1990 there were 4,657 Poles named Piszczek, again living all over the country and with the largest numbers (over 200) in the provinces of Katowice (948), Krakow (953), Nowy Sacz (248), Pila (313), Radom (203), and Tarnow (244). Rymut notes this name appears in documents as early as 1390, and usually comes from the term piszczek, "one who plays pipes or fife."

There were 808 Poles named Śniegowski, with the largest numbers (over 50) in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (56), Konin (122), Poznan (190), and Szczecin (65). The ultimate root of this name is clearly śnieg, "snow," but names ending in -owski usually come from a place name, so in this case we'd expect the name means "person from Śniegi, Śniegow, Śniegowo," something like that. I can't find any places with likely names in my atlas, but that probably suggests the places involved were too small to show up on maps, or have since changed their names -- not at all uncommon. If your research leads you to a specific area of Poland and you find mention of a place named Śniegi or Śniegowo nearby, chances are good that's the place this family got its name from.

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

 

Bury - Ciuła

...I'm interested in the name Ciula. I've also seen it written as Chulonga. This name is of a family from Slupiec... Also, the name Bury appears as a maiden name on records I have. Is this a Polish surname?

Bury can be a Polish surname, although of course Polish isn't the only language in which such a name can arise. But as of 1990 there were 5,825 Polish citizens named Bury, so it is a fairly common name in Poland. Those Poles named Bury lived all over the country, with particularly large numbers in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (1,215), Katowice (622), Przemysl (368), Rzeszow (253), Wroclaw (233), and Warsaw (232). (This is all the data I have, I'm afraid I don't have access to first names, addresses, etc.) The only pattern I see is that the most Bury's live in the southern part of Poland. The name probably derives from the adjective bury, "dark grey," or perhaps in some cases from bura, "brawl, disturbance."

As of 1990 there were 947 Poles named Ciuła (l with a slash through it sounds like our w; the name would be propounced something like CHEW-wah). The largest numbers of Ciuła's lived in the provinces of Katowice (202), Krosno (88), Nowy Sacz (243) -- again, in southern Poland. I can't correlate the numbers with Slupiec, because I don't know which of at least 3 places named Slupiec you're referring to. I haven't seen any expert discuss the origin of this name, but it seems a decent guess it might derive from the verb ciułać, "to gather or accumulate slowly and with difficulty."

The spelling Chulonga is puzzling -- I could easily see the name spelled as Chula or Chulo in English, but that -onga is disturbing. Pronouncing that out loud, it sounds as if it might have been Ciułąga in Polish (ą = the Polish nasal vowel written as an a with a tail under it, pronounced roughly like on). However, I can find no record of such a name in Poland, and apparently you usually see it as Ciuła, so I'm not sure how to account for that.

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

 

 

 

Giejda

...I saw your name under the genealogy forum...We are having trouble finding out about my husband's grandfather...His name was Jan Giejda... he came over from Poland in the late 1800's...As far as we know he came alone..and know nothing about the name or if he has family there...We have come to a dead end with this surname...any help would be appreciated.

Giejda is a pretty rare name in Poland -- as of 1990 there were only 31 Polish citizens with this name, living in the provinces of Warsaw (2), Ciechanow (5), Elblag (10), Lublin (14). (Unfortunately I have no access to further data such as names, addresses, etc.). The only root I can find that this name might have derived from is a dialect term giejda, meaning "mute, deaf and dumb." Of course I don't have enough data to say this is definitely where the name came from, but this seems a perfectly plausible origin for the name.

I realize this isn't a lot of help in finding Jan Giejda's relatives, but every little bit helps -- maybe this will do you some good. I hope so, and I wish you the best of luck with your research.

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

Krafczyk - Krawczyk

...I was wondering if you had any information on the Polish surname Krafczyk. I believe the original spelling is Krawczyk. I have a birth certificate on my grandfather and the location listed is Ottynia. Any information would be helpful.

Unfortunately, the problem here is that the name's too common; there's little to learn that's helpful. The proper form of the name is Krawczyk, but that spelling Krafczyk is perfectly understandable, because in Polish pronunciation that w devoices to the sound of an f -- so it sounds like Krafczyk, and thus it's reasonable to spell it that way. As of 1990 there were 365 Polish citizens who spelled the name Krafczyk -- in the provinces of Czestochowa (70), Jelenia Gora (1), Katowice (247), Nowy Sacz (1), and Opole (46) -- as opposed to 58,246 who spelled it Krawczyk. (I'm afraid I have no further data on the 365 named Krafczyk, my source doesn't give any further details such as names, addresses, etc.; and I know of no way to get them, short of having someone search through the Polish telephone directory for the province in question, which is no sure thing).

The name comes from the root krawiec, "tailor," and the suffix -czyk means "son of," so the name means "tailor's son." That's why it's so common, it could start anywhere they spoke Polish and had tailors, i.e., all over the country.

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

Chludziński - Hludzenski - Karwowski

...I have been trying to find the origins of my grandparents names. They are Karwowski and Chludzinski, both came from the area around Łomża in what was Russian-ruled Poland. They came to this country prior to World War One. I have very few relatives in this country and when I visited Poland I found few ther with the surname Chludzinski. At some point in this country our names spelling changed to Hludzenski.

As of 1990 there were 1,541 Polish citizens with the name Chludziński. They were scattered all over the country, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Warsaw (188) and especially Łomża (649). This name most likely derived from a place name beginning with Chlud-, and the only place I find on the map that seems to qualify is a village called Chludnie, some 10 -15 km. northwest of Łomża. It seems plausible, even likely, that this surname started out, therefore, meaning "person from Chludnie," and could have referred to a family that owned the estate there (if they were noble) and families that worked the land there (if they were peasants). The ultimate root of the place name might be the verb chludzić, "to put in order." The spelling change of Chludziński to Hludzeński is not particularly odd or unusual -- in Polish h and ch are pronounced the same, so we often see names spelled either way, and the change of the vowel i to e is not unusual, often caused by nothing more than a dialect tendency to change the sound slightly.

The name Karwowski is pretty common, as of 1990 there were 9,003 Polish citizens by this name. They were scattered all over the country, but the largest numbers (more than 500) lived in the provinces of Warsaw (1063), Łomża (1832), Sieradz (662), and Suwałki (856). Generally one would expect the name Karwowski to have originated as a way to refer to people who came from places called Karwow or Karwowo. On the map I see two places called Karwow, and 6 called Karwowo, including 3 in Łomża province. Since your family came from the Łomża area, their surname probably referred to origin in one of those 3 villages named Karwowo in Łomża province, but only detailed research could establish which of the three. The ultimate root of the place name is the term karw, "ox, especially an old, lazy one," or in older Polish karwa, "cow" -- most likely these villages called Karwow and Karwowo were places known for the raising or sale of oxen or cattle.

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

Kuznik

...I would greatly appreciate any information on my last name, Kuznik. I also have some knowledge that some relatives spell it Kuzniki. I would also be interested on the meaning of Kuz and Nik.

In this case you can't break it down to Kuz- and -nik, the -n- is part of the root word and the -ik is the suffix. The root word is kuźnia, "smithy, forge," and a kuźnik was "one who worked at a smithy or forge, i. e., a blacksmith. This is a moderately common surname in Poland, as of 1990 there were 2,687 Polish citizens by this name. They lived all over the country -- not surprising, the name could get started anywhere they spoke Polis and had blacksmiths, namely, everywhere! The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Czestochowa (128), Kalisz (145), Katowice (894), Konin (101), Opole (162), Sieradz (426), and Wroclaw (130). Most of those provinces are in southcentral and southwestern Poland, but beyond that I don't see any really significant pattern to the distribution.

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

Sędzikowski - Sendgikoski

... I have a request and you may post it as you wish. My interest is in the meaning of the name Sendgikoski. That is my family name. We haven't much of a clue about the name at all. We think it was butchered at Ellis Island. (Of course!!) But if you could help us in finding out what it means I would be ennternally grateful!!

It's tricky trying to de-mangle Polish names, but when I tried to say it out loud I suspected that Sendgikowski is pronounced roughly "sen-jee-KOS-kee." If so, it is probably an anglicized version of the Polish name Sędzikowski (the ę stands for the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under, pronounced in most cases somewhat like en). The ultimate root of this name would be the Polish words sąd, "court of law," and sędzia, "judge." (Of course, if I'm wrong about Sendjikoski = Sędzikowski, then the rest of this is no use; but I suspect I am on the right track here.)

Breaking the name up into its components, it appears to come from Sędzik ("little judge, judge's son") + -ow- (of, pertaining to) + -ski (adjectival ending) = "person from the place owned by the judge's son." In practice surnames ending in -owski usually started as referring to a family's origin in a place ending with -ow or -owo or -owa. On my maps I can't find any place with an appropriate name, but a Polish gazetteer lists a place Sędzikowszczyzna (that -szczyzna suffix usually indicates a place name formed from the same name with -ski), a private manorial farmstead on the Radunka river about 40 km. from Lida -- this is probably now either in Lithuania or Belarus. That doesn't necessarily mean your ancestors came from that particular place -- there could well be little villages or manors in Poland with appropriate names that were too small to show up on maps or in gazetteers, yet we know such names gave rise to surnames. Unfortunately, however, if I can't find such a place on the maps I can't suggest where the family came from. But it does seem likely at some point this family either owned (if they were noble), or worked on (if they were peasants), an estate or village named Sędzikow or Sędzikowo, which in turn probably got its name from having once been owned by a judge's son.

The name Sędzikowski is not exactly rare, but not extremely common either -- as of 1990 there were 399 Poles by this name. The 10-volume Directory of Polish Surnames in Current Use does not give addresses or any other info except how many Poles bore a particular name and how many lived in each province. From this I can see that the largest numbers of Sędzikowski's lived in the provinces of Warsaw (96), Elblag (30), Lodz (52), and Torun (54); smaller numbers (less than 30) lived in several other provinces.

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

Staszak

...My wife became jealous that I received this information from you and would like to know her father's surname meaning which is Staszak. We know that there are a lot of Staszaks in the Poznan area but have no clue as to the name's meaning...

In the interests of promoting domestic tranquility, I'll be glad to tell you what I can.

Poles historically loved to form nicknames and affectionate variations of names by taking the first few sounds of a popular first name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes -- not unlike the way we turned "Edward" into "Eddy." One of the most popular names in Poland, as far back as we have records, is Stanisław (the ł is pronounced like our W), an ancient name coming from pagan times and meaning something like "May he become glorious!" Poles formed a great many nicknames and short forms of that name, one of which is Staś (accent over the s, giving it a kind of an "sh" sound). This is still a very popular name among Poles, I know several people called Staś.

The sz combination in Polish is also pronounced like "sh," although it's a chunkier, harder sh, whereas ś is kind of light and hissing. You have to grow up speaking the language to really get the difference -- but the point is, both Staś and Stasz sound pretty similar, and both started out as nicknames for Stanisław. Then, once these names became common, Poles started adding suffixes to them. Staszak is basically a diminutive, meaning "little Staś," often = "son of Staś." So Staszak became a surname meaning "Staś's son" (not unlike Smithson or Alexanders in English). That's the origin of this name.

Since Stanisław and many of the names formed from it are extremely popular, it's not surprising that the surnames formed from them tend to be common. As of 1990 there were 5,562 Polish citizens named Staszak. They lived all over the country, with some of the larger numbers appearing in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (380), Kalisz (693), Konin (927), and Poznan (845). But really, the name's fairly common all over the country, which just makes sense -- it could, and did, get started anywhere they spoke Polish and there were guys named Staś who had sons.

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

Henryk

...I am trying to find the correct spelling of a Polish surname. It is pronounced Hyn-rick , but I believe it is spelled Hnyjnrch or something similar, but I am having no luck with my search using that spelling...

Well, it sounds as if you're talking about a surname derived from the Polish first name Henryk, which is the equivalent of our "Henry." Henryk is the standard spelling, but it derives from the German Heinrich, and other spellings are possible, depending on the degree to which the name has been adapted to Polish phonetics. They include Hejnrych, Heinrych, Hendrych, and Henrych. Henryk rarely appears as a surname in Poland, but the other four forms I just mentioned do, some more common than others. So I would guess you're looking for Heinrich, Hejnrych, Heinrych, Hendrych, or Henrych. I have no way of knowing for sure which of those forms is the exact one you're looking for, but I hope this will give you enough info to make your search more productive. Good luck!

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

Lizewski

... In the spirit of your notes, and my last name being Lizewski, I should look for villages in Poland such as Lizew, Lizewo, Lizewa, Lizewice, etc.? Thanks for your assistance...

It is such a pleasure talking to somebody who actually reads and understands what I have written! It makes me feel that perhaps I'm not wasting my time after all!

Yes, that is the basic idea with a name like Lizewski. You'd expect it, just judging by the form, to come from a place name beginning with Liz-, and the names you mention are all reasonable candidates. The only problem may be finding the place in question. Some surnames were formed from the names of rather small settlements, so the place names were never used by anyone by locals. Also, the surnames generally originated at least 200-300 years ago, and names can change. So there's no guarantee you'll find the right place, unless you manage to get at records that are very localized and go back a long way!

I looked in the Słownik Geograficzny gazetteer and only found a few places that might fit. There was a Liż, a manorial farmstead in Srem powiat (near Srem in Poznan province), part of the Jawory estate. There was a Liza Nowa served by Piekuty parish and part of Poswietne gmina in Wysoko Mazowieckie powiat. There were a couple of Lizawy's, one in Konin powiat, Slesin parish, and one in Stopnice powiat, Pierzchnica parish (Lizewski < Lizawy is a bit of a stretch, but not too much so). There was a Liże near Rossienie (now Raseiniai in Lithuania). And there were 2 places called Lizowszczyzna, which might be relevant -- the -szczyzna suffix usually was formed from names ending in -ski, so we have a link with Lizowski, and that could well be relevant, e and o often switch. Both these places were near Dzisna, and thus are probably now in Belarus; one was about 14 km. from Dzisna, the other about 50.

One of these might be the right place; or your Lizewskis might have taken their name from another place that has since disappeared, or changed names. I wish I could give you something exact to work with, but I just don't have enough data. Still, maybe some of this info will come in handy. I hope so! And I wish you the best of luck with your research!

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

Pieknik - Puch

...I would like to request information conserning the surnames Puch and Pieknik. Both families came from the Galicia region of Poland. My husband still has relatives (Pieknik) in Jaslo. I am not aware of any relations by the name of Puch currently residing in Poland, but the family original came from an area near Stary Sacz...

As of 1990 there were 160 Polish citizens named Pieknik, with larger numbers in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (16), Czestochowa (14), Katowice (29), Legnica (15), Rzeszow (25), and a few scattered in other provinces. This indicates the name is a bit more common in southcentral and southwestern Poland than elsewhere -- most of those provinces are a little west of Galicia proper, but Rzeszow province was in Galicia. Pieknik probably derives from the root piękny (ę is pronounced much like en), which means "beautiful, pretty, nice." The name probably meant something like "son of the beautiful one." It might also come from the root piek- meaning "bake," but that -nik suffix makes derivation from the root meaning "beautiful" considerably more likely.

Puch appears in records as early as 1381, and is thought to derive from the root puch, "down, fluff" -- perhaps it referred to a person with soft hair or skin. As of 1990 there were 640 Puch's in Poland, with the larger numbers living in the provinces of Białystok (69), Katowice (52), Lublin (41), Nowy Sacz (70), and Wroclaw (40), and smaller numbers in several other provinces. The provinces mentioned are all over Poland, but Lublin was in Galicia, and I believe Nowy Sacz province (which includes Stary Sacz) was also. So the numbers fit in fairly well with the info you provided.

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

Schwerm - Szwerm

...If you have an occasion in your studies to come across any information on the name Schwerm, I would be most grateful for it...

Schwerm is a German name, but German names are often very relevant to Polish research; there are just too many names borne by true Poles that originated from German expressions or names! Schwerm appears to come from the same root as the German names Schwermer and Schwa"rmer -- those names mean "enthusiast, zealot," i.e., somebody who gets all worked up over something. As of 1990 there were 51 Polish citizens with the name Schwermer (most living in Pila and Poznan provinces), but none named Schwerm. There were 24 who used the name Szwermer (which is just Schwermer spelled by Polish phonetics), but none named Szwerm -- and you should keep your eye open for that spelling, because over the course of time the names of Germans in Poland did often come to be spelled according to Polish phonetics, particularly as those people began to fit in and lose their status as "foreigners."

This might mean the original form of the name was Schwermer rather than Schwerm, but I wouldn't jump to that conclusion. There might be plenty of Schwerm's in Germany. Modern numbers on German-sounding names in Poland can be deceiving, because so many ethnic Germans decided to get out of Poland after World War II (being an obvious German in post-war Poland was not a good career move!). So there may have been Schwerm's in Poland before 1945; or people named Schwerm/Szwerm may have decided to change their names to something a bit less German-sounding.

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

Majtyka

...I found your page ... and am interested in any info you can turn up on the name Majtyka. I don't know much except that my grandfather and his parents settled in Detroit either just before or during WW1 after leaving Warsaw. Also, I've heard several suggestions as to the origin of the name, none of which has been confirmed...

Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions Majtyka under names coming from the basic root majd-, "to move back and forth, wag (a tail), dangle (legs)," so it appears to be a name that originated (perhaps as a nickname) as a reference to a physical characteristic. Perhaps your ancestor had a habit of moving that way -- it can be tough, all these centuries later, to reconstruct exactly how and why a particular name came to be associated with an individual. All we can do is note what the words mean and try to make plausible suggestions on why the name was appropriate.

Rymut is usually pretty reliable, but I can't help wondering if this name might also be connected with the word majtek, which means "ordinary sailor." This word could quite plausibly generate a surname Majteka or Majtka or Majtyka meaning, basically, "sailor's son." It's possible Rymut looked at this and rejected it for good reason; but it strikes me as worth consideration.

As of 1990 there were 673 Polish citizens named Majtyka, living all over the country, with larger numbers in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (69), Czestochowa (48, Krakow (84), Sieradz (130), and Wroclaw (81). These provinces are all in an area of southcentral to southwestern Poland, so that's the general area in which this name is most common -- although it is found in smaller numbers in virtually every province of Poland. Unfortunately I do not have access to further details, such as first names, addresses, etc.

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

Królak - Milan - Rudy

...Thanks much for your information regarding my Grandfather. I would appreciate it if you would give me quick and dirty rundown on the following: My dads mother : Barbara Rudy from Tarnapol ...

Names beginning with Rud- can come from the adjective rudy, "ginger-colored, red-haired," from the noun ruda, "ore," or from the first name Rudolf. In this case I imagine Rudy probably comes from the adjective meaning "red-haired," although there's no way to be certain without a lot more detail. As of 1990 there were 1,178 Poles named Rudy, so it's a moderately common name; there were Rudy's living in every province, but the largest numbers were in the provinces of Katowice (246), Krosno (98), and Zamosc (141) -- the latter two are in southeastern Poland (and thus geographically not that far from Tarnopol, which is now in Ukraine), the other, Katowice, is an area where many eastern Poles and Ukrainians were forced to relocate after World War II. My source of Polish data does not include areas outside Poland's current borders, so I can't tell you how many Rudy's live in the Tarnopol region.

...My moms Mother Mary Milan or Mellon ...

Mellon makes no sense as a Polish name, though it could be an anglicized version of Milan, which is a recognized Polish name. Milan could have developed as a short form of the first name Emilian, or as a nickname for the first names Milobor, Milosław, etc -- there are a number of ancient names beginning with the root mil-, "dear, nice, beloved." So either way you look at it, this is one of those surnames that derived from a first name, usually because a family was being named after the father, almost in the sense of "Milan's kids." As of 1990 there were 256 Poles named Milan, so it's not all that common a name; small numbers lived in many provinces, the largest numbers were in the provinces of Elblag (22), Krosno (33), Nowy Sacz (46), and Przemysl (23) -- so it's a bit more common in southcentral and southeastern Poland.

...My Moms dad: Andrezej Krolak ..

Królak comes from the word król, "king," so Królak means something like "king's son"; obviously in most cases the term isn't literal, it might mean "son of the king's man, son of the king's servant," something like that. It's a pretty common name, as of 1990 there were 5,660 Poles named Królak; it's common all over Poland, with an especially large group of 1,500+ in Warsaw province. (By the way, that first name is properly spelled Andrzej, not Andrezej -- not a big deal, but it might prove helpful at some point to know that).

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

Gozdowski

...I have your book Polish Surnames and enjoy it a lot. I would like to know more about the Gozdowski name and were they came from. I'm told that they came from Posen,but I donot know if it was the city or province. Is it Posne or Poznan? ...

I'm glad you like the book -- I put a fair amount of work into it, and hoped people would find it helpful.

To start with, Poznań is the Polish name of a major city in Poland, and also of the province of which it is the administrative capital (Poznan is the capital of Poznan province, Krakow is capital of Krakow province, etc.). The German form of this name is Posen, so when the Germans ruled this area (from roughly 1772 to 1918) that's the name they used. A large part of what is now western Poland was called Provinz Posen ("Poznan province") by the Germans -- it's not the same as the modern-day province of Poznan, it was much larger. So when you talk about Poznan/Posen, it makes a big difference whether you're talking about the city or the province, and it makes a big difference what time frame you're dealing with.

Names ending in -owski usually (not always) refer to some association between a person or family and a place with a name ending in -ów or -owo; so we would expect Gozdowski to mean something like "person from Gozdow or Gozdowo." There are quite a few places named Gozdów and Gozdowo, but in this case you say your folks come from near Poznan, and I notice one of those Gozdowo's is in modern-day Poznan province -- it's about 40 km. east-southeast of Poznan, and less than 5 km. from the town of Wrzesnia. This doesn't HAVE to be the Gozdowo your family's name refers to, but chances seem reasonably good that it is. As of 1990 there were 597 Polish citizens named Gozdowski, of whom 142 lived in Poznan province (by far the most in any one province).

By the way, the place names Gozdow and Gozdowo probably come from the archaic root gozd, "forest," so the place name meant something like "place of the forest," and thus the surname means "family from the place of the forest." In some instances names with gozd- can also come from the root gwozdz, "nail," but I suspect in this case it's the old word for "forest" that's involved

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

Borcz

...From reading your postings I'm guessing the first part of my name means "battle" but I was interested in any other info you may have. My father believes that our name did not change any when my grandfather came from Poland around 1914...

There are two roots bor in Polish, and usually when you talk about the names the one you want is the bor- that has to do with "fight, struggle, battle." But not always -- and this seems to be one of those times. The other bor is a root meaning "woods, forest," and Borcz (if the name wasn't shortened, and there's no real reason to believe it was) apparently comes from that one. A multi-volume work on Polish place names mentions a village Borcz in Gdansk province (9.5 km. southeast of Kartuzy), and says its name is from the word bór (the ó sounds like "oo" in English "book"), "woods, forest." Originally the name of the village was Borc (sounds like "borts"), and the change to the "ch" sound of Polish cz came about under German influence. So if this is true of the place name, it's likely to be true of the surname as well -- although that isn't absolutely true all the time, but it seems likely. I would think your ancestors got their name from living in or near a forest, maybe even in or near the village of Borcz. Still, there were so many forests all over Poland that this surname probably arose in different places at different times, not necessarily just from the village of Borcz.

As of 1990 there were 514 Polish citizens named Borcz; the largest numbers of them lived in the provinces of Katowice (41), Przemysl (63), and Rzeszow (114), with much smaller numbers in many other provinces.

Since the largest number of Borcz's seem to live in southcentral and southeastern Poland, it's a good idea to be cautious before applying to that surname the derivation of the name of a village up near Gdansk! So we can't be certain Borcz comes from the root meaning "woods, forest." It might derive from a diminutive form of a name with the bor meaning "fight" (e. g., Borek -> Borczak -> Borcz). But I'd lean toward the "forest" derivation myself, it strikes me as being just a little more probable.

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

 

Paleń

...Could you please help me with the origin and the meaning of the surname Palen. I'm not sure if it was shortened or not and if it was I'm not sure what it was before. Thanks

It could have been shortened, but there's no need to assume so. Paleń is a moderately common name: as of 1990 there were 711 Polish citizens by this name. Small numbers lived all over the country, but the provinces with the largest numbers were Legnica (41), Tarnobrzeg (364), Wroclaw (33). Obviously Tarnobrzeg province seems the most likely place of origin -- it's in southeastern Poland, not too far from the Ukrainian border. And since many Ukrainians were forced to relocate west after World War II, the Paleń's in Legnica and Wroclaw province may have been living in southeastern Poland, too, before 1945.

The root pal- means "light a fire, heat," and there are a lot of words that come from it. Two that might be relevant to your name are palenka and paleń. The term palenka means "booze, liquor, vodka," a reference to the heating that's an essential part of the distilling process. A paleń is a set of two beams or rods attached side by side along a wall beneath ceiling, for drying wood, flax, onions, etc.; here the meaning is more along the lines of "dry out" rather than actually heating something. So my guess is a person got the name Paleń either because he made liquor (probably home brew) or because somehow people associated him with those drying rods -- maybe he was thin as a rod, or made such rods, or used them all the time. Centuries after the fact it can be awfully hard figuring out how names got started, the best we can do is say what words and meanings a name is associated with, and then try to suggest plausible explanations.

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

Chritz - Hryc

...My grandfather's name was changed when he came to the U.S. in 1907. He was only 15, and all alone. I'm not sure why it was changed, but the story is that a schoolteacher thought that the original would be too difficult to pronounce. The name was changed from Hryc to Chritz. Do you know how the original name would have been pronounced? I believe he was from Tarnow, Poland....

Sometimes these stories about how names were changed turn out to be utter nonsense, but this one is probably true. I say this because the Polish pronunciation of sounds like "Chritz," if you make the initial "Ch" sound kind of like k (as in "Christ," for instance); so it's very credible that a Hryc who asked for help in making his name easier for English-speakers to pronounce would be told "Chritz" was a good choice. The ch and h are pronounced the same in Polish, a guttural h with attitude, much like the ch in German "Bach" or Scottish "loch"; the Polish y is pronounced like the short i in English "sit," and the Polish c is pronounced like "ts" in "cats." So you see, Chritz really does do a pretty good job of rendering the Polish pronunciation by English phonetic values.

In origin Hryc is a form of the first name Gregory, and it's a form influenced by Ukrainian -- which makes sense, because Tarnow is not far from the border with Ukraine, and the Polish spoken in southeastern Poland does have a certain amount of Ukrainian mixed in. The Ukr. form of the name "Gregory" is Hrehir (with the h, remember, sounding almost like a k), and Hryc or Hryts is a kind of nickname, like "Greg." Poles and Ukrainians both like to make nicknames by taking the first couple of sounds from a popular first name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes; so even though it may not look much like it, Hryc is a nickname for Hrehir... By the way, please note that the name may be of Ukrainian linguistic origin, that doesn't necessarily mean your grandfather wasn't Polish. Many native Poles have names of non-Polish origin that got started centuries ago; also, the western half of Ukraine was under Polish rule for a long time, so a lot of Ukrainians thought of themselves as citizens of Poland. So your grandfather may have been a Pole, a Ukrainian, both -- in matters of ethnic identity we almost have to say "You are what you think you are," because borders in eastern Europe changed so often it's a real mess trying to define ethnicity by strict rules.

As of 1990 there were 233 Polish citizens named Hryc, scattered all over the country, but with larger numbers in the provinces of Łomża (40) and Nowy Sacz (68). There was only one Hryc in Tarnow province. You'd expect most of the Hryc's to live in southeastern Poland, but many people from southeastern Poland and western Ukraine were forced to relocate to western Poland after World War II, so that muddies the waters quite a bit when we look at distribution of Ukrainian names... If we had data on Ukrainian names, there might be a lot more Hryc's there. Interestingly, there's a more common "Polish" name from the same root, Hryciuk (1,394 Polish citizens by that name as of 1990), which means "son of Greg."

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

 

Majdoch

...I'm wondering if you could help me out with a little information regarding my family's surname: Majdoch. I really don't know any thing about the history of my family and as far as I know there arn't too many of us out there. The majority of us live in the Milwaukee area with a few exceptions in the Dallas area and also in Arizona I believe. Any info that you may have would be greatly appreciated...

I don't have a lot that will help you. As of 1990 there was no Polish citizen named Majdoch (according to a Polish government database that covered about 94% of that country's population). There were 3 people named Majdok (1 each in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala, Katowice, and Opole), and 1,087 named Majdak -- but without further data it's not a good idea to assume either of those names has anything to do with yours. Majdoch is, theoretically speaking, a perfectly plausible Polish name; it just doesn't happen to be used by anyone now in Poland. I have run into many, many cases where a name died out in Poland after a family by that name emigrated, that may be what happened here.

I do wish we had some idea where the Majdoch's came from, it might shed light on what the name meant. I have a source that says in the Cieszyn area in Bielsko-Biala province (in far southcentral Poland) there is a term majdok that means "left-handed person," so that might be relevant to your name. Majdek is a word meaning "ordinary sailor" (i. e., not a captain or admiral, just a seaman). There's also a verb majdać that means "to wag (a tail), to move back and forth," and Majdoch could well be a name from that root given someone, sort of as a nickname, because of something about the way he moved. All these are possible -- but there just isn't enough data to let us settle on one as being the most likely.

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

Budacz - Kubiszewski - Walczak - Walczyk

...Have you been swamped with requests? I only know of three other family names: Budacz, Kubiszewski, and my grandmother's maiden name--seen spelled Walczak, Walczyk, and numerous other (surely) Americanized versions...

I have been swamped with requests, which is why I didn't answer earlier. But I can spare a few moments to talk about these names, none of which is particularly difficult.

Budacz means "stall-keeper, person with a buda" -- a buda is a small booth or stall used by, say, watchmen as a guard-house, or peddlers selling inexpensive items out of a stall at market. A buda could be used for many purposes, and a budacz was someone who worked out of or owned a buda. As of 1990 there were only 111 Budacz's in Poland, with larger numbers in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (12), Krakow (39), Nowy Sacz (26), and Tarnow (13) and a few living in other provinces -- thus the name is mainly to be found in southcentral and southeast Poland.

Kubiszewski means "person or family from a place with a name beginning Kubiszew- or something similar." Offhand I can't find any Kubiszew's or Kubiszewo's, but it's quite common to see surnames derived from names of places that were quite tiny, or have since changed their names or been absorbed by other communities. The Kubisz- part is a nickname from Jakub, "Jacob," so Kubiszew or Kubiszewo would mean something like "Jake's place," and Kubiszewski would break down to mean "person from Jake's place." But for all intents and purposes, "person from Kubiszew or Kubiszewo" is probably the best practical translation. As of 1990 there were 851 Poles named Kubiszewski, with larger numbers living in the provinces of Warsaw (79), Bydgoszcz (157), Gdansk (65), Skierniewice (138), and less than 50 living in most other provinces. This suggests the name is scattered all over the country, there's no one area most likely to be the home of the Kubiszewski's, so there's probably more than one family with that name, and more than one Kubiszew or Kubiszewo.

Walczak and Walczyk are both common names, meaning "son of Walka," and Walka was a kind of nickname that could come from first names such as Walenty (Valentine) or Walerian (Valerian), or from the verb root wal-, "to bring down, overthrow." As of 1990 there were 42,119 Walczak's in Poland, and 4,482 Walczyk's, so both names are common and encountered all over Poland.

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


Petrasz - Pietrasz

...My grandmothers surname was either Petrasz or Pietrasz. Could you tell me the origin of the name. I'm assuming that the derivation between the two spellings, is just that and not two different names. If so, which would be the more accurate. The family was from Zagorz, near Sanok...

The name Pietrasz comes from the first name Piotr, "Peter," and would not mean much more than "Peter's kin, Peter's sons." Of the two spellings, I'd say Pietrasz is a little more standard -- sometimes the name is pronounced without the slight "y" sound of the i, so that Petrasz sounds like "Pet-rosh" and Pietrasz sounds like "PYET-rosh." That's a pretty minor difference, but Petrasz would be more a dialect form, Pietrasz would be "standard" Polish... As of 1990 there were only 42 Poles who spelled it Petrasz, as opposed to 1,022 named Pietrasz -- of whom 99 lived in Krosno province, which is where Zagorz and Sanok are located. (Sorry, I don't have access to any first names or addresses).

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

Gądela - Gondela

...If you have the time,can you tell me about the surname Gądela. The first a has a tail. I appreciate your time...

An A with a tail under it is pronounced like on in French "bon" -- and since it sounded like that, it was often written that way, so keep an eye open for Gondela, that is an alternate spelling you may well run into.

This is a tough one because none of my sources mention it specifically. There is a verb root gąd- meaning "to play on a stringed instrument," and it generated such surnames as Gądek (= "one who plays an instrument, a home-bred musician") and Gądzik. It may also be the source of Gądela -- the suffix -ela is one we see used in Polish, along with -ała and -uła and several others. That suffix usually implies continual performance of the action of the verb root, so that Gądela would mean "one always playing an instrument." This is quite plausible, and may be exactly how the name got started. I'm just a little worried because this specific name isn't mentioned in my sources, so there's always the chance it came from another root I don't know about... Still, I think the odds are good that's how the name originated, as a nickname or name for a fellow who liked to play an instrument at every opportunity but had no formal training.

As of 1990 there were only 15 Polish citizens with the name Gądela. They lived in the provinces of Krosno (9), Legnica (1), Walbrzych (4), and Wroclaw (1); I'm afraid I have no access to further details such as first names and addresses. The odd thing is, there were more named Gondela, and usually you'd expect it to be the other way around; there were 58 Gondela's, living in the provinces of Biala Podlaska (3), Gdansk (7), Katowice (2), Krosno (35), Lodz (2), Rzeszow (5), and Zielona Gora (4). This isn't much data to draw conclusions from, but it looks to me as if this name is most common in southeastern Poland (Krosno and Rzeszow provinces are in the southeastern corner). This raises the possibility of a Ukrainian linguistic influence, but I can't find any root in Ukrainian that sheds any light on the matter.

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

 

Praski - Prassky

...My name is ... Praski. I am trying to find anything on Praski family...Need help. If you have any info or directions where I should look, please advise...

I'm afraid I can't tell you a thing about the Praski family, only a little on the origins of the name. For ideas on how to go about your research, I suggest looking through the resources offered on our website.

As of 1990 there were 835 Polish citizens named Praski, living all over the country but with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (104), Czestochowa (273), Katowice (142). So there's a good group by this name in the area of the capital city of Warsaw; and about half of all the Praski's live in Czestochowa and Katowice provincesin southcentral Poland, so there seems to be a concentration of Praski's in that area.

Praski appears (spelled Prassky) in old Polish legal records for the city of Warsaw back in 1483, so the name has been around a while. It's probably derived from place names, and the ones that seem the best candidates are several places named Praga (one of which is now a part of the city of Warsaw), and Praszka, in Czestochowa province. From a linguistic standpoint, the surname Praski could easily derive from either of those place names, and since they match up reasonably well with the areas that have the most Praski's, they seem like good places to look at... Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions that this name can also come from the term praga, "longing, thirst," and that possibility can't be dismissed. But when you can match a -ski name up with a place name, that generally turns out to be the connection that matters.

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

 

Cwenar - Cwynar - Gerlach - Gierlach

...The surname is unusual, but Polish. As of this writing, I am under the impression that there are under 150 households in the world with this name: Gierlach. The man who died in the 1850's, lived in the area of Pozen, or Posen. My research has brought me to the eastern area of Galicia -- the Krosno province -- in the mid 1870's. I would like to know further about the meaning of my surname, because I find it interesting that this rare name can have relations living so far apart, or maybe back then the name was more common -?? ...

Gierlach is a slightly Polonized version of the ancient German first name Gerlach, from the roots ger, "spear" + lach, thought to be connected with roots meaning "jump" and "war-game." So it's one of those ancient names from pagan times, when parents gave their kids names meant to be good omens for them; naming a boy Gerlach was expressing a hope he would excel with the spear in martial activities. Here is a listing of the 3 most common spellings of this name in Poland, the number of Poles with each name as of the year 1990, and the provinces in which the largest numbers lived (I don't have access to details such as first names and addresses, so what you see here is all I can offer):

GERLACH 782: Warsaw 66, Jelenia Gora 38, Katowice 64, Krosno 94, Legnica 32, Slupsk 32, Walbrzych 34, Zielona Gora 30

GIERLACH 562; Katowice 44, Krosno 191, Rzeszow 67 (only 11 in Poznan province as of 1990)

GIERŁACH 165: Opole 36, Tarnobrzeg 87

Most provinces of Poland have a few people by these names living in them, these are the ones that seem to have significant concentrations. It's interesting that southeastern Poland, i. e., Galicia, is where the main concentration of Gierlach's and Gierłach's live (Ł sounds like our w); but Gerlach is also common in the western provinces formerly ruled by Germany. All this makes sense: there are many German names in Poland, including most of the western part, but also in Krosno and Rzeszow province, where Germans came as colonists in the Middle Ages, at the invitation of nobles, to help beef up the local economy and repopulate areas devastated by the Black Death, and also later as prisoners of war... One other thing that affects this data is the fact after World War II millions of people were forced to relocate from eastern Poland and western Ukraine to western Poland; so those numbers in Opole and Katowice provinces might also include folks who were living in eastern Poland before 1945.

...The other name I am having trouble with is Cwenar - or is it Cwynar ?? Many documents have it spelled one way or the other for the same person (US documents). Are these spellings one and the same? Also, conflicting stories put this person as Polish from Galician area, or "White Russian" which would put her in Byelorussia (maybe this is incorrect, I am uncertain about the term "White Russian")...

Well, Belarus (as it's called now) and Byelorussia and Belorussia are all the same; Belarus is the name of the country in Belarusian, the others are attempts to represent the name in Latin, spellings that later were imported into English. Belarus means "White Rus'," where Rus' is the Slavic root that has (somewhat inaccurately) been rendered as "Russia." Belarus is just east of Poland, north of Ukraine; its language is very similar to Ukrainian and Russian. Due to the history of the area, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Poles are well pretty mixed together in the area east of Poland's modern borders and west of Russia. For centuries the Poles ruled those regions, and Polish became the language of the upper classes for a long time. In a particular instance it can be tough telling whether a name is Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian or Russian (Lithuanian is usually easier to tell). Just going by its form, this name could be any of them, although the spelling Cwynar/Cwenar is definitely by Polish phonetic values.

In my book I had to list Cwynar as one I couldn't figure out. It's a fairly common name, as of 1990 there were 1,980 Polish citizens named Cwynar; they were most common in the provinces of: Katowice 138, Krosno 266, Opole 122, Przemysl 230, Rzeszow 475, Wroclaw 130. Notice again that the southeastern provinces of Krosno, Przemysl, and Rzeszow come up big, as do some of the provinces Galicians were forced to move to after World War II (Wroclaw, Katowice, and Opole).

The name can also be spelled Cwenar, as of 1990 there were 203 Poles by that name (distribution roughly the same as Cwynar). In some parts of Poland, especially southeast Poland, it isn't at all unusual to see e and y switch. But Cwynar appears to be the more common form.

In view of the geographical distribution of Cwenar/Cwynar, it seems likely it is of either German or Ukrainian origin -- tough to tell which. The -ar suffix is often a tip-off that you're dealing with a name that started out German, with -er; so German Zwiener, Zwinner, Zweiner are theoretical possibilities. Of those, the only one I can find in my sources is Zweiner, "quarrelsome person." It's interesting that Ukrainian has a noun tsvenik (by Polish phonetics that would be Cwenik) that means "braggart, boaster, gossiper." The problem is, Ukrainian and Polish also use the suffix -ar (in Polish it's usually -arz) much the same way as German uses -er; so I have no way to be even halfway sure what the name comes from. I suspect it's either from German Zweiner or Ukrainian Tsvenik; but I can't say with any certainty.

...Also, someone has told me that this is only actually a part of a name, not the full one...

Possibly, but there's no compelling reason to think so. As I said, some 1,980 Poles have the name Cwynar, and probably more in Ukraine -- why jump to the conclusion the name was shortened when data says this form is clearly a common name? To be honest, I get a little fed up with people who shoot off their mouths with checking to see if there's any data; and many of the folks who contact me have been fed a line of bull by such "experts."

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

 

Knopek

...A friend of mine whose family came to Scotland from Poland during WW2 has never been able to trace anyone else with this name [Knopek] or find out anything about his roots. Could you help with this?...

I can't tell him a whole lot. According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut names such as Knop, Knopa, and Knopik derive from the term knap, "weaver, clothier," and Knopek appears to be the same, meaning basically "little weaver, weaver's son." As of 1990 there were 485 Polish citizens named Knopek, living in most of Poland's provinces but with larger numbers in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (80), Bydgoszcz (66), Katowice (239), and Opole (44). This suggests the name is particularly concentrated in southcentral Poland, near the border with the Czech Republic -- but it is found elsewhere.

I don't know how much help that is, but it's what I have and he's welcome to it.

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

Włodarz - Wodaszak

My great-grandmother's maiden name was Wodaszak. Can you tell me anything about that name? ...

Well, as of 1990 there was no one in Poland with that name, and it doesn't really sound or look right to me. In theory it could come from the root woda, "water," but I can't make any sense of it. There is one possibility that strikes me: it might be a spelling variant, or misspelling, of a name from another root, włodarz, "ruler, steward." The Ł (pronounced like our w) is often pronounced so lightly that it's dropped. You pronounce włodarz sort of like "vwoe-dosh," and if you drop the "w" sound it would come out "voe-dosh," which could be spelled either Wodarz or Wodasz. Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions in one of his books that some names with Woda- do come from włodarz, and if that's the case here, it makes sense: the name was originally something like Włodarzek, Włodarzak, meaning "little steward, son of the steward." Names from the root włodarz are moderately common, e. g. in 1990 there were 1,245 Poles named Włodarek, 1,003 named Włodarz, etc.

That's the best guess I can make, is that we're dealing with a misspelling or variant spelling of a name from that root. I can't say whether the change happened in Poland or elsewhere, but you might want to keep your eyes open for any sign that the name was once spelled with Ł. If that's not what happened, I'm fresh out of ideas!

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


Wołoskowski

...Could you do a quick & dirty study of my name Woloskowski, My grandfather came from Stanislaw. It is now called Ivano-Frankivsk...

The name is spelled Wołoskowski in Polish, where ł is pronounced like our w, so that the name would sound like "vo-wos-KOFF-skee." It comes from the root wołoch, "Wallachian, a pastoral ethnic group of Carpathia and Romania," according to Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut. The root wołoch-/włoch- actually meant "foreigner" originally, and the modern Polish word for "Italian," Włoch, comes from this root (ultimately, so does the English word "Welch," for that matter), but when used in surnames the root usually refers to the Wallachians. That may sound unlikely, but in medieval times that area was sometimes under Polish rule or influence, and there were some ties between Poles and Romanians, so it's actually quite plausible.

Your particular surname's ending of -owski suggests it began as a reference to a connection between your family and a specific place, the name of which began with Wołoch-, perhaps Wołochowo or Wołochów. Thus the surname means "person from Wołochow[o]," which further breaks down into "person from the places of the Wallachians." Offhand I can't find any places with names that fit, but the place in question is probably now in Ukraine, and my sources for there are not as good as for Poland proper.

Some of the names from the root wołoch are fairly common, such as Wołoch (997 Poles by that name as of 1990) and Wołosz (1,651), but Wołoskowski isn't one of them -- as of 1990 there were only 16 Polish citizens by that name. They lived in the provinces of Jelenia Gora (5), Opole (1), Szczecin (2), Wroclaw (1), and Zielona Gora (7). These are all in western Poland, and it's a good bet few of them lived there before 1945 -- that's when huge numbers of people were relocated from what had been eastern Poland to the lands taken from Germany and added to Poland's western borders... Unfortunately, I have no data on name frequency and distribution in what is now Ukraine, so the area around Ivano-Frankivsk (formerly Stanisławów) wouldn't show up in the data I have access to. (I should mention also that I have no further details such as first names or addresses, and don't know offhand how you could get them. I know that's disappointing, but I figure I might as well tell folks that up front).

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

Pawlik - Pawlikowski

... I would be interested in finding out the origin of my surname Pawlik. Idid see Pawlak but do not think this is the same. I would love to find out. I was told by my father that my grandfather was wealthy in Poland and that they came from kings and had servants apparently in southern Poland. He also stated that the name was shortened from Pawlikowski but this has not been confirmed...

Pawlik means more or less the same as Pawlak -- both come from the first name Paweł (Paul) and have diminutive suffixes, so that they mean literally "little Paul" and usually translate as "son of Paul." Whether a name took the suffix -ak or -ik seems to be insignificant -- in certain regions people may have tended to add -ik rather than -ak because they just liked the sound of it better. I don't think you can read any great significance into the difference unless you want to get into some very detailed linguistic discussions.

Pawlik could be a shortened version of Pawlikowski, but in general I doubt it, because the names mean different things. Pawlik means "son of Paul," Pawlikowski means "person or family from the place of Paul's son," i. e., "person from Pawlikow" or perhaps "Pawlikowice." I doubt Poles would shorten it, because to them there's nothing long or difficult about saying Pawlikowski; and if foreigners caused it to be changed, surely they'd change it to something more German or English-sounding than "Pawlik." However, there are always exceptions to the general rules, so I can't say definitely that the name wasn't shortened, only that I doubt it.

All these names are quite common in Poland. As of 1990 there were 12,296 Pawlik's, 43,556 Pawlak's, and 7,070 Pawlikowski's. Since the names are so common, and distributed widely all over the country, I don't really have access to any specifics that would help with your particular family; the most I can do is tell what a name means, and indicate whether there's anything about it that might make it easier to track down. These names are so common that you have to figure there are many, many different families bearing them, and I have no sources that would shed light on any particular one. Only detailed genealogical research will help with that.

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

Kramarz - Kramasz

...I wish to find out the meaning of my surname. It's K R A M A S Z. If possible, would someone be able to determine the region(s) from which that name originated in the old country?...

I'm glad to say I can give you a bit of info on this name, although of course I can never give folks all the info they'd like to have. In this case the name is essentially the same as Polish Kramarz, which has the same origin as the German name Kramer or Krämer; they all mean a person who sold things at a small stall or booth, for instance at fairs and markets. A kram in Polish is a "stall" or a "booth," and a kramarz was one who kept such a stall. Eventually the word's meaning was expanded a bit to include anyone who kept a small shop dealing in inexpensive or second-hand items. These people were often Jewish, so we often see the name borne by Jews, but not exclusively. It's kind of like Hoffman, both names are especially common among Jews but were also borne by Christians.

The difference between Kramarz and Kramasz is one of spelling. In Polish rz usually sounds like the "s" in "measure," and sz sounds like the "sh" in "ship"; but at the end of words the rz is "devoiced," as linguists say, and sounds just like the sz. So Kramarz and Kramasz were pronounced exactly the same, and thus the name could be spelled either way. However, most Poles knew the "correct" form was Kramarz and spelled it that way. Thus in 1990 there were 1,989 Polish citizens named Kramarz and only 19 named Kramasz. So basically I'm saying you want to keep your eye open for either spelling -- you may well find documents where the name was spelled Kramarz... I'm just guessing here, but it may be in the past, when most Poles were farmers or peasants and had little or no education, the spelling Kramasz was more common, because that's what it sounded like; but in recent decades, as more Poles learned to read and write, more of them realized the "correct" spelling was Kramarz, and that's why that spelling is prevalent today. So your ancestors may have spelled it that way when they emigrated, but since then that way of spelling it has become less common in Poland.

I don't see any signficant pattern to the name distribution in Poland. People named Kramarz lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (104), Katowice (187), Krakow (351), Rzeszow (148), and Tarnow (128), and smaller numbers in virtually every other province. This suggests the name is more common in southcentral and southeastern Poland. As for Kramasz, the 19 Poles by that name lived in the provinces of Warsaw (5), Katowice (3), Kielce (1), Legnica (1), Lodz (1), Opole (1), Torun (1), Wroclaw (5), and Zielona Gora (1); there aren't really enough of them to establish any kind of pattern (and unfortunately I don't have access to any source of info that would give their first names and addresses).

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

Matela - Słomczyński

...My name is ... Slomczynski and I am interested in researching my family history in Poland. My grandfather Anton Slomczynski emmigrated from Poland between 1900 - 1915. My grandfather had a sister who still lived in Poland - her married name was Pelagia Matela. Any information you can provide would be most appreciated...

The name Słomczyński (pronounced something like "swom-CHEEN-skee") comes ultimately from the Polish root słoma meaning "straw," but this particular name probably derives from a connection between the family and one of several places named Słomczyn or Słomczyna, something like that -- and those place names, in turn, derive from the word for "straw." On my maps I see two places that are decent candidates: Słomczyn in Radom province, a little north of the town of Grojec, and Słomczyn in Warsaw province, a few km. southeast of Warsaw. There may have been more places with names that could generate the surname Słomczyński -- very few Polish place names are unique, and often surnames originated from a connection with very small places you won't even find on a map -- but those two are pretty good bets.

As of 1990 there were 1,480 Polish citizens named Słomczyński, living all over Poland, with some of the larger numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (342), Czestochowa (93), Katowice (89), Poznan (88), Radom (117), and Skierniewice (82). The large numbers in Warsaw and Radom provinces probably are connected with those two places I mentioned; the others might be as well, or might derive from other places with similar names that, as I say, are too small to show up on my maps, or have disappeared or changed names in the centuries since the surname developed.

Matela is a name seen in Polish legal records as far back as 1416. It most likely started out as a nickname for someone whose "proper" name was Mateusz or Maciej (Matthew, Matthias), somewhat the same as we form "Eddy" from "Edward." So it probably began as a name meaning something like "Matt" in English, and then eventually stuck as a surname. As of 1990 there were 951 Matela's in Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (79), Białystok (64), Konin (75), and Poznan (332), and smaller numbers in many other provinces. I can't say I see any real pattern to that distribution, which is not surprising -- by its very nature, the name could have started almost anywhere there were Poles named Matthew or Matthias. We wouldn't generally expect surnames formed from nicknames formed from popular first names to show up only in one limited area. Unfortunately, that makes our genealogical research that much harder! (By the way, I don't have access to any sources with first names or addresses of any of those Słomczyński's or Matela's, I'm afraid what I've given you is what I have).

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

Rąpała - Rępała - Rempała - Rompała

...I am just starting the process of researching my family's name and history. I would appreciate any help that you can offer. The family name is Rempala. From what I know, we still have relatives in Poland and there are at least 2 distinct families here in the US. Both have their roots in the Chicago and Northern Indiana areas...

According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut, this name comes from the root rąpać, "to insult." The Polish nasal vowel written as an a with a tail under it and pronounced like "on" or, before a b or p, like "om" -- this vowel often alternates with the nasal ę and is pronounced like "en" or, in this case, "em." (The ć sounds like our "ch" in "cheetah"). In other words, these two vowels tend to switch often, and they are often spelled the way they sound, so that we can see the same name appear as Rąpała (ł pronounced like our w ), but it can also appear as Rompała, Rępała, and Rempała. In every case it's still the same basic name, but spelled differently (kind of like Hofman, Hofmann, Hoffman, Hoffmann, etc.). I hope this isn't too confusing -- if you work with Polish names a lot it gets to where it seems obvious, but I imagine it's kind of odd to someone who doesn't work with Polish much.

The suffix -ała, when added to a verb root, usually implies continual repetition of the action denoted by the verb. So Rępała or Rempała (both pronounced like "rem-PAW-ah") would mean "one who's always insulting people."

As of 1990 there were 218 Polish citizens named Rempała, with by far the largest group living in the province of Tarnow (in southeastern Poland) and just a few living here and there in other provinces. There were 65 Poles who spelled the name Rępała, which surprises me, I would have expected more to spell it ę rather than em. In that case, also, the vast majority (50) lived in Tarnow province... Just for comparison, there were 1,294 named Rąpała (again, Tarnow province, with 577, had the biggest number), and only 54 named Rompała (Tarnow province had 12, the largest single group).

I'm not exactly saying that you should regard all these names as identical to yours, that's not quite accurate. They all share the same linguistic derivation; but over the course of time the spellings diverged, so that different families used different spellings. It is very possible that you might run into your name spelled Rępała -- since em and ę sound so similar, we often see the same name spelled either way. It's somewhat less likely that you'll see your named spelled Rąpała or Rompała. But it is a good idea to keep your eyes open for those spellings; I can't rule out the chance that you may the name spelled that way in some cases.

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

Zwoliński

...I am just beginning my quest to research my family history and was wondering if you could help with the possible origin of my last name and the proper spelling: Zwolinski...

That probably is the correct spelling -- as of 1990 there were 7,864 Polish citizens named Zwoliński (the name is pronounced something like "zvo-LEEN-skee"). The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Warsaw (1,127), Gdansk (331), Katowice (396), Krakow (331), Skierniewice (458), and Wloclawek (390), with smaller numbers in virtually every other province. This suggests the name is fairly evenly distributed all over Poland, there doesn't appear to be any one place or region where the name is especially common, although of course Warsaw province is clearly the home to a pretty good concentration.

Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut says this name can come from the verb root zwolić, "to permit, allow," or from place names such as Zwola. As a rule, names ending in -iński do tend to come from place names; your surname probably started out referring to a connection between your family and a place they lived in, worked at, traveled to, etc. Most often, it would simply mean "person or family from Zwola, Zwolin, etc." Unfortunately, there's more than one place this name could refer to. There are at least 3 Zwola's in Poland, two in Siedlce province and one in Tarnow province; and there may be more too small to show up on my maps. There are also at least a couple of villages named Zwolen; in a world where languages were absolutely precise, you'd expect that name to yield Zwoleński, not Zwoliński; but in the real world, where languages and spelling sometimes get a little sloppy, "Zwoliński" might also refer to a Zwolen as well as a Zwola. So the surname doesn't give us enough info to let us say "it means person from this place right here and nowhere else." But if your research establishes that your family came from a specific area, and you find there is a place with a name beginning Zwol- nearby, that is probably the one the surname originally referred to.

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

 

Szczygieł

I recently learned that my great-grandfather came from Wroclaw. I recently met a lady that came to Canada from Poland about seven years ago. She put me onto 'Herbarz Polski'. This is the first time that I've tried to find anything here. I would appreciate anything that you can tell me about out paternal name of Szczygiel...

I'm glad you established that the original form of the name was Szczygiel -- if I had gone hunting for Steigel I probably would have come up with wrong information, since that is a perfectly good German name that can derive from roots having nothing to do with Szczygiel. But given the German-Polish connections in the Wroclaw area (as well as many other parts of Poland), the change Szczygiel to Steigel makes sense. So your having the right form saves error and confusion.

Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut says this name comes from the Polish word szczygieł, "goldfinch," a kind of bird; the name would sound something like "shchig'-yeh" with a slight w-sound at the end. There are many Polish surnames that come from words for birds and other animals, and it can often be quite difficult to imagine how they originated -- why would your ancestor be named for a goldfinch? It could be he lived in an area where these birds were particularly common; or that people knew he had a special liking for them, or liked to catch them and keep them as pets; or that something about his manner reminded people of them. I also see in my 8-volume Polish-language dictionary that szczygieł was a term used jokingly for students at certain provincial and county schools, called that because they wore a uniform with a stiff red color and and a red cap; so they looked a little like the birds in question. That may or may not be relevant, but it seems worth mentioning -- even if that isn't how the name started in your family's particular case, it does shed light on how such names came to be applied.

This name appears in Polish records as far back as 1499, so it's been around a long time! I didn't know there were any noble families by this name, but the Polish nobility isn't something I know a lot about.

Szczygieł is very common in Poland, as of 1990 there were 10,245 Polish citizens by that name. They lived all over the country, with especially large numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (449), Bielsko-Biala (419), Czestochowa (409), Katowice (1,760), Kielce (632), Krakow (688), and Lublin (657) -- most of these are in southcentral to southeastern Poland, so the name's somewhat more common in that region (traditionally called Malopołska or Little Poland, and from the late 1700's to 1918 it was part of the Austrian Empire, the western half of the region called Galicia). This doesn't really narrow the area of your search down much, but I thought it was worth mentioning because you never know what detail might prove helpful in research.

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

 

Kondysar

...I am very new to geneology but I am trying to research my family the Kondysar's from a town called Rudnik n. Sanem. I am interested in that name, and have been told it is a name of some signifigance, and that it might actually be of Russian and or Jewish descent...

Well, first I looked to see if I could get any hard data on the name. A 10-volume set that lists all surnames of Poles as of 1990, and gives a breakdown on what provinces they lived in, shows Kondysar to be a very rare name -- as of 1990 there were only 15 of them, 11 living in Tarnobrzeg province, 4 in Wroclaw province. "Rudnik nad Sanem" means "Rudnik on the San River" (to distinguish it from other places named Rudnik), and Rudnik nad Sanem is in Tarnobrzeg province in southeastern Poland; so it appears we can say there are still some 11 people with your name living in or fairly near Rudnik, since Tarnobrzeg province isn't all that big.

Unfortunately I don't have further details such as first names and addresses; but perhaps you could get those from a search of the Tarnobrzeg province phone book. The Polish Genealogical Society of the Northeast probably has that directory, and it will look up such data for a very moderate fee -- since you're only asking about one name and have a very good idea where it's find, I think it would be pretty cheap, maybe $10-20 at the most. You might try writing the PGS-NE at 8 Lyle Rd., New Britain CT 06053, and see if they can help you. Polish phone directories are not nearly as comprehensive as those in the U.S. -- phones in private homes are less common there -- but you might get lucky and find a Kondysar listed. If so, he/she is almost certainly a relative!


The origin of the name is a puzzle. On the whole, I doubt it's Jewish; but I think the reason you were told that is that a book by Alexander Beider listing Russian Jews' surnames mentions a Kundysh, saying it comes from a Russian word for a kind of clothing, or from Yiddish kundes, "wanton, wag." But no mention of Kondysar. And if the family were Jewish, I would think chances are good Beider would have mentioned the name; and I'm not convinced the surname comes from either of those words anyway.

Since none of my sources mention this name, I went looking through my 8-volume Polish-language dictionary to see if there was any plausible root it might have come from. I discovered there is a term kondys, a variant of the word usually seen as kundel, which is a kind of mongrel dog, often used by shepherds or herdsmen; it can also be a kind of slang term for a simpleton or good-for-nothing fellow. In the Slavic languages the suffix -ar (in Polish -arz) usually means much the same as -er in English, so I tend to suspect that a Kondysar would be a person who bred or used such dogs; that strikes me as a bit more probable than the "simpleton" connection. The name might be of Slovakian or Ukrainian origin, in view of where Rudnik is located. That's even more likely because those languages are more likely to use -ar where a truly Polish form would be something like Kondysarz. But down in southeastern Poland you get a kind of linguistic mixing, so that a person might well be a Polish citizen and yet bear a name that shows traces of Ukrainian or Slovakian influence. I think that may account for the -ar form (it's interesting that there was no listing of anyone named Kondysarz). This suggests the name is rare and might not be originally Polish; but clearly there are a few folks by that name living in southeastern Poland, and they're probably related to you.

If you get in touch with them, they might be able to shed more light on exactly what Kondysar means. My guess is that it originally meant someone who bred or used mutts to watch herds. But that is merely an educated guess, and could prove completely wrong!

Anyway, that's the best I can offer you. I hope you have some luck getting in contact with the Kondysar's living near Rudnik -- if you do, I'd be quite interested in hearing what they say about the name. And in any case, I wish you the best of luck with your research!

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

 

Haiduk - Hajduk

...We spoke with you briefly, at the Polish Genealogy Society of Texas meeting on Saturday, about the meanings of names and from what region in Poland a name may be from. We asked you about the name Haiduk. What is the meaning of that name and what region is known for that name being prominent? ...

Hajduk is the standard Polish spelling of this name, though you might also see Chaiduk, Haiduk, Hayduk, Hejduk, and Heyduk (because of phonetic similarities -- all those spellings are pronounced very similarly). As of 1990 there were 9,133 Poles by this name, so it is a fairly common one. People by this name live in all the provinces of Poland, with the largest numbers showing up in the provinces of Warsaw (422), Katowice (1,659), Kielce (579), Krakow (512), Opole (477), Przemysl (312) and Tarnow (453). With the exception of Warsaw (which, as the capital, tends to have large numbers of almost any name you look up), those provinces are in the southcentral and southeastern part of the country, the region called Malopolska (Little Poland)... Names formed from this root are also pretty common, including Hayduczek (394), Hajdukiewicz (930, both of those mean "son of a hajduk"), and Hejduk (1,121), the same name with a vowel change. Hajduk sounds like "HIGH-duke," Hejduk sounds like "HAY-duke," and the switch between what we'd call the long i sound of "aj" and the long a sound of "ej" is very common.

The origin of the name is interesting. It comes from Turkish hajdud, "brigand, ruffian, highwayman," and came into Hungarian as hajdü. It came into Polish meaning "soldier in the Hungarian infantry, which existed in Poland from the beginning to the middle of the 17th century, and later served in campaigns of infantry captains." Near the borders Slavs shared with Turks it meant "fellow who waged war against the Turks on his own account." After it became established in Polish it also came to mean "robber, ruffian, highwayman." It also came to be used to refer to servants who dressed like Hajduks, in Hungarian clothing. It has also been used as the name of a dance common among the mountain folk of southeastern Poland, kind of like the dance we've seen the Cossacks due, with a lot of squatting and jumping.

So you see, the name can mean a lot of things in Polish, most related one way or another to the original Turkish term that came into Hungarian and thence into Polish. It's common in Poland, and I imagine in most cases the connection is with the Hungarian infantrymen -- but in some cases it might have come from the usage of the word as "robber," or even occasionally from the "servant dressed like a Hungarian" connection.

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

Andrysiak - Hyska

...Can you give me any information on the surnames of Andrysiak and Hyska...

Well, let's take Andrysiak first. It comes from the first name Andrzej (the Polish version of "Andrew"), which over the centuries has appeared in Polish in many forms. To one of those forms, Andrys, the suffix -iak was added; it generally means "son of," so Andrysiak means "Andrew's son" (compare "Anderson" in English). Surnames formed from popular first names are quite common in Poland, so it's not surprising that this name is reasonably common -- as of 1990 there were 1,793 Polish citizens by that name. I don't see any particular pattern to the distribution, which makes sense: this name could get started anywhere they spoke Polish and had guys named "Andrew" who had sons.

The change to Andershock was probably just due to phonetics. Non-Poles found it hard to figure out how Andrysiak was pronounced, so someone started using a spelling that they could pronounce, one that still sounded similar to the Polish original. Andrysiak sounds kind of like "on-DRISH-ak," and if you said that out loud to an English-speaking person it could easily end up as "Andershock." This sort of thing happened to Polish names all the time, it's not unusual or surprising.


Hyska is a tough one. I find there is a rather seldom-used word hyska that means "small horse, pony, hobby-horse," and the name could come from that. But it doesn't really sound like proper Polish, and the name itself is a problem because there's nothing it really matches up with well, and there about a jillion things it might match up with if you factor in spelling variations. All I can say is that as of 1990 there were 357 Poles named Hyski, of whom some surely were females and therefore called Hyska (the suffix -ski changes to -ska when referring to females). The Hyski's were scattered all over Poland, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Gdansk (34), Katowice (63), Legnica (30), and Wroclaw (35). That's not a lot of info, I know, but my sources just don't have much that gives clues about this name.

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

 

Serwa - Serwach - Serwacki

...My great-grandfather Kazimier Serwack was born 1888 in Warsaw, I'm looking for any information that I can get, thanks...

I'm afraid what I have may not be a lot of practical help to you, although it may be nice to know what the name means. It comes from the first name Serwacy (pronounced "ser-VOT-see"), not an extremely common first name in Poland but not all that rare either, especially a few centuries ago, when surnames were being formed. It comes from Latin "Servatius," from the word servatus, "saved." Several surnames were formed from this first name, including Serwach and Serwacki. I can't tell for sure which of these two is relevant here -- "Serwack" may be a misspelling of "Serwach," or a variant form of it, but it might also be Serwacki with the ending -i inadvertently dropped. Either way, though, both names would have derived from the first name, probably as a sort of verbal shorthand for "the kin of Serwacy, Serwacy's offspring."

As of 1990 there were 583 Polish citizens named Serwach, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Warsaw (79), Lodz (95), and Płock (149), and smaller numbers scattered in other provinces. There were 171 Poles named Serwacki, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Warsaw (20), Lublin (33), Pila (23), and Tarnobrzeg (36). The most common surname from this root is Serwa, borne by 1,087 Poles in 1990.

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

Banas - Banaś

...I have recently begun trying to trace my roots back to Poland. In doing some research, I came across your page on Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites. My last name is Banas and I would love to know everything I can about it. I realize you only do meanings, but if you could lead me somewhere else, I would deeply appreciate it...

In Polish this name can be spelled either Banas or Banaś (ś is pronounced like a soft, hissing "sh"). The spelling Banaś is more common -- as of 1990 there were 11,828 Poles by that name, as opposed to 286 who spelled it Banas (without the accent). The Poles named Banaś lived all over the country, with especially large numbers in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (504), Katowice (1,430), Kielce (1,165), Krakow (955), Przemysl (522), Tarnow (782), and Wroclaw (527). All those provinces are in southcentral to southeastern Poland, in the areas historically called "Silesia" and "Małopolska" (Little Poland). However, the name is common all over the country, those are just the areas where it tends to show up the most.

This name originated as a kind of nickname for someone named Benedykt (Benedict). Although Benedykt is the standard form of that first name in modern Polish, some centuries ago (back when surnames were being formed) there were other forms widely used, including Banadyk. Poles liked to form new names or nicknames by taking the first few sounds of popular first names, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes (somewhat as we formed "Eddy" from "Edward" and "Teddy" from "Theodore"). So they took the Bana- from Banadyk, added an , and that give the name Banaś -- a lot like our nicknames "Ben" or "Bennie." Later, as surnames became established, a family might have gotten this name because some particularly prominent member had this name, so that it meant, in effect, "Ben's kin."

Surnames deriving from nicknames for popular first names generally are quite common in Poland, and this is no exception, as the figures above prove.

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

Gądek - Gondek - Paździora - Zworski

...I was hoping that you could help me with three Polish names that I am having a very difficult time finding information on: Gondek, Pazdziora, Zworski...


Well, I can offer at least a little information on them. It may not be as much as you'd hoped for -- the nature of surname research makes it difficult to provide really detailed information on names without equally detailed research into the history of the individual family that goes by them. But my sources do provide some insights.

Gondek is a spelling variant of Gądek, where I'm using ą to represent the Polish nasal vowel written as an a with a tail under it and pronounced much like on (especially as in French bon). Since the ą sounds so much like on, it is very common to see names written either way; so Gądek and Gondek are two ways of spelling the same name, with Gądek being the more "Polish" way to spell it. According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], Gądek appears in Polish legal records as far back as 1415, and derives from the term gądek, "player, home-bred musician." So this name was applied to somebody who played an instrument without any formal training.

As of 1990 there were 3,499 Polish citizens named Gądek; they lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of: Katowice 378, Kielce 406, Krakow 767, and Tarnow 596. Thus the name is most common in southcentral and southeastern Poland. As for the spelling Gondek, it was borne by 3,042 Poles, with the largest numbers in the provinces of: Bydgoszcz 202, Katowice 320, Krakow 263, and Tarnow 466 -- a similar distribution.

According to Rymut, Paździora (ź sounds like a soft hissing "zh") comes from the root paździerz, "harl of flax, awns." It might be a reference to a person's hair, which looked like a bunch of flax, or perhaps it referred to some other characteristic of a person -- surnames often developed from nicknames, and it can be very hard to deduce what nicknames originally referred to. As of 1990 there were 590 Poles named Paździora, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (248), Katowice (78), Krakow (30), and Wroclaw (29) -- again, in the southcentral part of Poland.

Zworski is far less common -- as of 1990 there were only 64 Poles with this name, living in the following provinces: Warsaw (15), Jelenia Gora (12), Krakow (12), Legnica (4), Olsztyn (9), Opole (1), Pila (4), and Wroclaw (7). (Unfortunately I have no access to any further details, such as first names or addresses). None of my sources give any clue what this name might come from, and I find no place it might refer to -- theoretically Zworski could mean "person or family from Zwor or Zwora." There is a term zwora meaning "something that closes or holds two things shut, dowel, cramp (in building)," so that might be the origin of the name. Perhaps it applied to a person who made or used such objects. But there is also a rather rare word, zwór, which means "a dry gully in the Carpathians, between mountains close together, which points to a breach of rivers." That's what the dictionary says, I'm assuming it means a narrow opening between mountains caused by erosion. In any case, geographical features such as this often were the source of surnames, which suggests the family involved lived in or near such a place. If that is the root of this surname, it suggests the family lived in southcentral or southeastern Poland, in the Carpathian Mountains.

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

 

Kromrei - Krummrey

...A few weeks ago, I asked you about the name Kromimceir, which you stated was probably incorrect, or else the name has "petered" out. I have found out, after checking many resources, that the name was incorrect. I have just found out and verified that my great grandmother's last name was Kromrei. In her lifetime, she lived in Sonnenborn, Germany....but that area is now known as Slonecznik, Poland. Do you know how this name is pronounced? And also, can you give me any insight, towards the name? ...

The name Kromrei would be pronounced something like "CHROME-ray" by Poles, by Germans more like "CHROME-rye." It's normal for the German combination ei to be pronounced "ay" by Poles and like "eye" by Germans; the Polish pronunciation is probably based on the fact that in some dialects Germans pronounce it like "ay" and those dialects are the ones Poles had the most contact with, even if the "standard" German pronunciation was different.

It's pretty likely this name is German in origin; the few Polish words and names with the root Kromr- were borrowed from German anyway. There seem to me two possible roots. The surname might come from Kramer/Kromer, which was an occupational term, meaning a person who kept a small stall at markets or a small shop, in either case selling inexpensive items. In Polish this term became Kramarz, in German it normally shows up as Kramer or Krämer, but it can sometimes appear with o instead of a. It is a fairly common name in those forms.

The other likely root -- and this strikes me as the better candidate -- is the German surname Krummrey, which German expert Hans Bahlow says comes from the Middle High German roots krümm, "bend in the road," + rein, "ridge, bank or border of a field." Krummrey is noted as a place name mentioned in records, designating a field and meaning probably something like "place by where the ridge or road curves."

The reason I think this latter is a bit more likely is because I looked up info on the plausible forms of this name as borne by Poles in 1990, and came up with the following data (showing how many Poles had that name and what provinces they lived in):

KROMRAJ: 36; Bielsko-Biala 7, Bydgoszcz 1, Gdansk 1, Gorzow 4, Krakow 4, Legnica 2, Sieradz 3, Szczecin 5, Walbrzych 5, Wroclaw 4
KROMREI: 9; Katowice 1, Olsztyn 8
KROMREJ: 3; Olstzyn 3
KRUMRAJ: 22; Bydgoszcz 16, Pila 6
KRUMREI: 6; Gdansk 1, Olsztyn 3, Suwałki 2
KRUMREJ: 19; Elblag 1, Katowice 1, Olsztyn 2, Torun 15
KRUMREY: 33; Warsaw 1, Bydgoszcz 5, Elblag 6, Leszno 3, Pila 13, Poznan 5

While the only real pattern we can see is that this name tends to show up in areas with lots of Germans, it also seems pretty likely from this data that these are all variants of the same name, and o and u switch pretty easily. From a linguistic point of view this is plausible. Note that these forms of the name often show up in what is now Olsztyn province, and that's important because that's where you should be looking. It may be that some regional pronunciation quirk made Olsztyn one of the places where the vowel was more often u than o.

There are two villages called Słonecznik, both in what used to be East Prussia and now is the province of Olsztyn (German name Allenstein) in northern Poland. One was called Sonnenberg by the Germans, near Szczytno, but that's not the one you want. You want the one the Germans called Sonneborn, about 7-8 km. south of the town of Morąg (ą is pronounced much like on). In Polish the root słonce means "sun," just like Sonne in German, so it's not odd the two villages have similar names in both languages. Your Słonecznik had its own Catholic parish church, which may be where your family's records were kept if they were Catholic; if they were Protestant (and many in the area were), it appears the records would have been kept either in Słonecznik/Sonnenborn or in nearby Morąg (German name Mohrungen).

So I think the name is German, the most common form of it is Krummrey in German, but the other forms shown above are all legitimate, and they all started out as a name for a place. There are not a lot of Poles these days with any of the forms of the name, but there are a few, and it appears some of them still live in Olsztyn province -- possibly still quite near Słonecznik near Morąg.

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

Dushenski - Duszyński - Olszewski - Schell - Szel - Szela

...I have been searching my father's family. Currently the name is spelled Schell. In older records I have found the family name spelled Szel and Szell. My grandmother's family also came from Poland. The family name was Olsheski also spelled Olshewska. My grandmother's grandmother's maiden name was Dushenski also spelled Duskenski. The Schell's came for Posen area; a town call Tokorowo which no longer exist. My grandmother's family came to Wisconsin a long time ago and no one remembers were from Poland they were from. If you can help me--God Bless...

Szel and Szell are just Polish phonetic spellings of German Schell -- the sound we spell "sh" is spelled sch in German and sz in Polish. In any case, the origin of the surname is German, from a root meaning "loud, noisy person," according to German name expert Hans Bahlow. As of 1990 there were only 38 Poles with that name, most living in the provinces of Koszalin (9), Wroclaw (11), and Zielona Gora (8) -- not surprisingly, these are in the areas of western Poland that used to be ruled by Germany. However the name Szela (from the same root and meaning the same thing) is much more common, there were 930 Polish citizens named Szela as of 1990, living all over the country, with largest numbers in the provinces of Gdansk (131), Rzeszow (359), and Tarnów (101).

Olszewski is the standard Polish spelling of "Olsheski" -- again, that latter spelling makes sense as a phonetic spelling in English of what the Polish name sounded like. Olszewski means "person from Olszewo" (or several other place names beginning with the root Olszew- or Olsz-); those places take their names from the root olsza, "alder tree," so you could interpret the surname as meaning "people from the place of the alder tree." Unfortunately there's about a jillion villages in Poland named Olszewo, so God only knows which particular one your family was named for. As of 1990 there were 44,638 Poles named Olszewski, living all over the country.

With the other name it's hard to tell whether it would originally have been Duszenski or Duskenski or what -- neither is a common name. But it might be a variant of Duszyński, a name borne by 6,436 Poles as of 1990. Most names beginning with Dusz- come from dusza, "soul," especially the diminutive duszka, literally "little soul" but used as a term of affectionate, sort of like "my sweet." Without firmer data on the original form of the name, I can't say too much more, but maybe this is enough to be some help to you.

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


Krupiński - Sobczak - Warsiński

...looking for name info on Krupinski, Sobczak, Warsinski (perhaps Warzinski)...

Krupiński means "person from Krupin" or Krupno or several other possibilities. Since there are several villages in Poland with names that could generate this surname, there's no way to say which particular one your family was associated with. But if your research leads you to a specific area where your family lived, and you find a place with a name beginning with Krup- nearby, chances are quite good that's the place your family was named for -- perhaps because they once lived there, or had worked there, etc... The basic root is krupa, "groats" (a kind of cereal); perhaps these places got their names because of some association with groats, and your ancestors probably took their surnames from the place names, so that Krupiński means "person from the place of the groats." Krupiński is a pretty common name, as of 1990 there were 7,986 Poles named Krupiński, living all over the country.

Warsiński is the same sort of name, originally meaning "person from __" where you fill in the blank with any village name beginning with Wars-, e. g., Warsin (also called Warszyn), Lesno parish, Bydgoszcz province. A family that came from Warsin, worked at, or even once owned it (if they were noble) could end up with the surname Warsiński. As of 1990 there were 640 Poles by this name, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (185) and Gdansk (141) in northcentral Poland.

Sobczak is easy. -czak is a suffix meaning "son of," and Sob- is a short form of several different first names, including Sebastian but also ancient pagan names such as Sobiesław. So given that Sob is a nickname for someone with one of those first names beginning with Sob-, Sobczak would mean "Sob's son." Such names formed from popular first names tend to be quite common, and Sobczak is -- as of 1990 there were 27,613 Poles by that name, living all over the country.

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


Ryś

...What can you tell me about this surname, its origins and meanings? For the most part it is Rys, but have seen Ryz also.

Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut says there are three possible roots this name could derive from. One is rysa, "dash, crack"; another is ryś, "lynx"; the third is as a short form or nickname of Ryszard (= Richard). It's tough to say which one is relevant to a particular family without detailed research, but I'd think the nickname for Ryszard or the term for lynx would prove applicable in most cases. As of 1990 there were only 251 Poles named Rys but 5,587 named Ryś (i. e., with the accent over the s, giving it a kind of soft "sh" sound). That makes me think the link to the word for "lynx" is what most Rys's got their names from. (Other names like Ryszka or Ryszko might be more likely to come from Ryszard).

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

Korytkowski

...My father and most of his siblings changed their family name from Korytkowski to Cory in the late 1940's. Since none of the survivng members of his immediate family will discuss anything to do with our heritage, I am quite curious to know more about the family background. I have heard, but not confirmed, that we are actually Russian, not Polish, but that is a very artificial distinction in my opinion, since political boundaries have moved so frequently, especially in eastern Europe...

I'm glad you understand about the variability of political boundaries -- sometimes I tell people their names come from a Ukrainian root and they say "That can't be, we're Polish." But a little knowledge of the region's history helps a lot!

Korytkowski is a Polish spelling of the name, but we can't be positive it is Polish. The basic root of the name is koryto, "trough," and that root exists in Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, and probably other Slavic languages. The structure of the name -- root koryt + diminutive suffix -k- + possessive suffix -ow- + adjectival suffix -ski -- is such that it could have developed in any of the languages mentioned. If it were Russian or Ukrainian, but the family lived in Poland for a while or began their trip to America from Poland, the name's spelling might well have been Polonized slightly -- so it may have started out as Russian (spelled in Cyrillic, looking like KOPbITKOBCKNN) but when the family encountered the need to fill out documents in the Roman alphabet, the spelling used was Polish... Personally I think the name probably is Polish, but I just wanted to show that we can't assume that without proof; it is possible the name could have originated in Russia or Ukraine and only later picked up a Polish-looking spelling.

As I said, the basic root of the name is koryto, a trough, especially for watering cattle. But usually names ending in -owski developed from the names of places, and in this instance we'd expect the surname to mean "person or family from Korytkow or Korytkowo," some place with a name beginning Korytk-. There are several villages in Poland that qualify, including Kortyków in Radom province and Korytków Duzy and Korytków Maly, both in Zamosc province. All three of these places are in southeastern Poland, not too far from the border with Ukraine. There may be more places with names that qualify as possible sources for this surname, including places too small to show up on my maps, and places outside Poland, for which I don't have maps quite as detailed. But again, while we can't rule out non-Polish origin, Korytkowski certainly makes perfect sense as a Polish surname originally indicating a connection of some sort between a family and a place named Korytków or Korytkowo.

As of 1990 there were 1,599 Polish citizens named Korytkowski. There were some by that name living in virtually every province, but the provinces with the largest numbers were Warsaw (168), Łomża (410), and Płock (111). So while the name is found all over Poland, it is particularly common in an area of central to northeastern Poland (locate Warsaw, Łomża, and Płock on a map and you'll see what I'm talking about).

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

Pośpiech - Zdeb

...I would like to know about the origin and meaning of Zdeb. My grandfather was born in the town Malogosht, district Injeov. Could you also please give me some information about the surname Pospiech.

The surname Zdeb comes from the term zdeb, which means "wildcat, bold cat," and in a more figurative sense "gloomy or selfish fellow." Names such as this generally got started as nicknames, designating a person who had some apparent connection with a wildcat -- perhaps he ran into one once, or perhaps he hunted them, or trapped them. And of course the name could also stick because of some perceived similarity in character -- a person who reminded folks of a wildcat might end up being called "Zdeb." It is a moderately common name, as of 1990 there were 1,742 Poles named Zdeb. They lived all over the country, with particularly large numbers in the provinces of: Katowice (125), Kielce (254), Krakow (163), Lublin (202), and Tarnow (227), thus in southcentral to southeastern Poland.

Pośpiech (the ś is pronounced like a soft "sh") is even more common, as of 1990 there were 3,877 Poles by that name. The name is found all over Poland, with particularly large numbers of Pośpiech's living in the following provinces: Czestochowa (544), Kalisz (231), Katowice (1,149), and Opole (322); looking on a map, we see that the name is most common in southcentral Poland. It comes from the term pośpiech, "hasty activity," which in older Polish also meant "success." So depending on how far back the name goes, it might have been applied as meaning "successful person," or "one who is active and in a hurry" (you can see how the two are somewhat linked semantically, a person who's always busy and does things quickly could well come to be successful).

I am somewhat concerned about your statement that your grandfather came from "Malogosht, district Injeov." Those names have clearly been distorted, and if you don't have the correct forms you'll have a devil of a time finding them. It seems likely to me you're talking about Małogoszcz (the ł is pronounced like our w), in Kielce province, a few km. southwest of the city of Kielce. If I'm not mistaken, it used to be in Jędrzejów district (ę is the Polish nasal en sound). In terms of where your names show up geographically, this makes fairly good sense, so I think that's probably right. At least, that's where I'd start looking.

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

Czeszyk

...My paternal grandparents settled in Cicero, IL in 1913. My father spelled our surname Ceszyk, however, I believe Czeszyk , which was on his Catholic baptismal record, is probably the original Polish spelling. My grandfather's Social Security application form states Wszana, Dolna, Poland as the place of birth, but I've not been able to find such anywhere to this point in time (though I suspect possibly a little east of Krakow). If you can come up with anything on Czeszyk, I'd really appreciate knowing...

Czeszyk seems very plausible; in theory Cieszyk is also a possibility, but Czeszyk seems more likely. This name is thought to derive in most cases from nicknames of popular first names beginning with Cze-, especially Czesław (the ł is pronounced like our w); Czesław is by far the most popular first name beginning that way, so in most cases names with Cze- will prove to be nicknames of Czesław... Poles liked to take popular first names, keep the first couple of sounds, drop the rest, then add suffixes (kind of the same way we made "Eddy" out of "Edward"); so we see nicknames such as Czesz from Czesław. Then a suffix such as -yk could be added to make Czeszyk. What it means is basically "son of Czesław."

In theory it's also possible such a name could come from the root Czech, "Czech, Bohemian"; if so, it would mean "son of the Czech." Most Polish surname experts apparently don't think that's what it means in most cases, but it is at least possible, so I thought I'd mention it.

Czeszyk is not an extremely common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 244 Poles by that name. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Kalisz (56), Katowice (3), Krakow (11), Poznan (37), Przemysl (50), and Szczecin (10). From the nature of this name it's not one you'd expect to be limited to any one area -- the first name Czesław is used all over Poland, so surnames meaning "son of Czesław" could probably develop all over as well.

As for your grandfather's birthplace, I wonder if there might have been confusion and it should be Mszana Dolna, a decent-sized town in Nowy Sacz province, southeast of Krakow? I can't find any place-name beginning Wszan-, but Mszana Dolna sounds like it might fit, and it's not too hard to imagine an M being mistaken for a W, the way Poles write. There is a Mszana Dolna (Lower Mszana) and a Mszana Gorna (Upper Mszana); Mszana Dolna is roughly halfway between Krakow and Nowy Targ. If that is the right place, I think you shouldn't have too much trouble finding it on a map somewhere.

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

Warka - Wojno

...grandfather Constatine Wojno/born in Poland Russia/grandmother/Mary Warka/born in Austria,thats all i know,our name is now wyno,of all things,dont really know when it was changed. grandparents married in Connecticut, This will be a hard one,thanks for anything,if not,i totally understand...

I'll give you what I can, but I'm afraid it won't be much help. What might be a good idea is to consider joining the Polish Genealogical Society of the Northeast, 8 Lyle Rd., New Britain CT 06053. They have a lot of leads on research involving folks in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, and the parts of Poland those people usually immigrated from -- most folks in the Northeast did come from the Russian and Austrian partitions.

Now, as to your names. On Warka I can't help much at all. As of 1990 there was no one in Poland with that name -- not too surprising, since you said your grandmother was born in Austria, which may mean in Austria itself or in the parts of Poland and Ukraine under Austrian rule from 1772-1918. In either case, the name might not show up in Poland by its modern borders. The name appears to come from a root warcz- or wark- meaning "growl, snarl"; but if the family came from the Austrian partition, it's also possible the name came from Ukr. Varka, a short form or nickname of "Barbara." There is a town Warka in what is now Radom province (which was in the Austrian partition), this might be relevant. Other than that, my sources don't give anything.

Wojno (pronounced VOY-no, rhyming with "boy go") comes from a root meaning "war, struggle," probably a name for a person who was a good warrior or soldier. As of 1990 there were 1,542 Poles named Wojno, living all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of: Warsaw (273), Białystok (190), and Łomża (491). All these were in the part of Poland ruled by Russia after the partitions, so that fits in with your info.

I know this isn't much help, but maybe it'll be a little use. And I really do think the PGS of the Northeast might be worth checking it; I've seen them give people some really good help. Good luck with your research!

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

Cudzidło

...I came upon your article in my search for some information reguarding my Surname.Although my mother is from Poland she was not able to give me any hint as to it's origin or meaning.I have in recent months become more and more interested in the meaning and origin.Also if the is a family crest or some family coat of arms.My name is ... Cudzilo.The original name has a small diaganal line through it,giving it athe letter a WO sound to the last to 2 letters.I some how have come to the conclution that it has a Lithuanian ancestry due to the Jagelloean sounding Lo at the end.

The -ilo ending does sometimes indicate Lithuanian origin, but in this case apparently not -- I checked the best compilation of Lithuanian surnames, and it showed nothing for this or any of the likely spelling variants.

If it is of Slavic origin, then, the name may come from the root cud, as seen in cud, "miracle," cudo, "wonder, marvel," or cudzy, "foreign, not your own." But there's also a rare or dialect root cudzi- meaning "to groom, comb (horses)," and a noun cudzidło, "implement for grooming horses, comb." (The ł is pronounced like our "w"). I don't have enough information to tell which of these roots applies in the case of this surname -- the suffix -ło could be added to either. But I will say this: the suffix -ło tends to show up more on names from eastern Poland and its neighbors to the east, i. e., Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine. So I suspect this name comes from that area, and means either "one always marveling at something," "one always doing something unusual or strange," or else "horse groom."

I looked in the 10-volume set Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland, and it shows that as of 1990 there were 549 Polish citizens named Cudziło; the largest concentration was in the two provinces of Tarnobrzeg (284) and Zamosc (42), with 20 or fewer living in most other provinces of Poland. Tarnobrzeg and Zamosc are in southeastern Poland, where there is a kind of interaction between Polish and Ukrainian, so that fits in with the whole idea about -ło.

I wish I had enough information to tell you which of those two roots the name comes from. If I had to make a guess, I'd go with "horse groom," that seems to fit a little better, both semantically and grammatically. But I can't rule out the "marvel, strange" connection.

As for whether your family was noble, I don't have any sources on that. You might try contacting the Polish Nobility Association Foundation, Villa Anneslie, 529 Dunkirk Rd., Anneslie, MD 21212-2014. If I'm not mistaken, they will do an inexpensive search of their library to see if a particular name is mentioned in any of the armorials written on Polish nobility. Other than that, I don't know what to suggest.

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

Kuprowski

...I have been trying to track down the original name of my gggfather who arrived in the US sometime inthe late 1880's...he was from Warsaw, Poland...as the story goes the name was changed when entering the US to Cooper...I have been told that it was orignially Cooprowski...I'm leaning toward the letter K...any assistance would be greatly appreciated as it will get me going in the general right direction. As of now I'm having a hard time trying to track anything down.

I hope this is a simple case of phonetic spelling, because if his original name in Polish meant "cooper," there are a lot of possibilities. But if he just changed the spelling so that Americans would pronounce it more or less the way it sounded, that's easier. What we'd write as "Cooprowski" would probably be Kuprowski in Polish. The u is pronounced like our "oo," and Poles use K to represent the hard sound of c in "cooper." And it makes fairly good sense that a Pole named Kuprowski would change it to Cooper -- it's a good English name, one Americans would have no problem with, yet it would still sound enough like the original to make it easy for him to answer to.

Kuprowski means basically "person/family from Kuprów or Kuprowo," and those names mean something like "Cyprian's place." I can't find a Kuprów or Kuprowo on my maps, but that probably just means it was (or they were -- there could easily have been more than one) too small to show up, or has since changed its name. As of 1990 there were 190 Poles named Kuprowski, scattered in small numbers over many different provinces; the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Koszalin (35), Kraków (24) and Krosno (19), which are all in different parts of the country. So there's no one area you'd go looking for Kuprowski's.

Anyway, from the info you've provided, I'd say Kuprowski is your best bet. I hope this information is some help to you, and wish you the best of luck with your research.

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

Snaza - Schnaza - Sznaza

...My grandmother was born 1885-6 in Gdansk. Her name was Katarzyna Snaza / Schnaza / Sznaza. Her brother used the name Snasa. Their mother was Zophia / Sophia Etilma? Filma? The only record that shows her maiden name is difficult to read. The family history and records indicate that they were Polish. I cannot find either of those names associated with Polish descent.

Well, Etilma/Filma has me baffled. I've never run into either one, and neither sounds Polish, if you know what I mean. And as of 1990 there was no one in Poland by either name. Sometimes people give me forms of names and I can tell what the original, correct form was, but I'm drawing a blank on this one.

The spellings of Snaza/Schnaza/Sznaza make more sense than may be evident. Polish often has regional variations in pronunciation, and a common one is the switch between the standard "s" sound of s and the "sh" sound of sz; and Germans write that "sh" sound as sch. So these different spellings aren't irreconcilable; the name was probably Snaza but sometimes pronounced "Shnaza" (which Poles would write "Sznaza" and Germans would write "Schnaza"), or else vice versa. And since Germans often pronounce the "s" as Z, Schnase is another way you might see this name spelled. All these different spellings are just different ways of representing the sound (which would sound like "schnah-zuh" to us) with varying degrees of adaptation to German and Polish phonetic values.

I don't know what the name means, but as of 1990 there were 124 Poles named Sznaza, of whom 37 lived in Elblag province and 70 in Gdansk province. There were 61 Sznaze's, with 31 in Elblag province and 13 in Gdansk province. There were 32 Snaza's, all but one living in Gdansk province. Finally, there were 14 Schnase's (a more German way of spelling the name), 13 of whom lived in Gdansk province. So it's pretty likely either Gdansk province, or Elblag province (just east of Gdansk) is where this family came from.

My source for this data doesn't have further details such as first names and addresses, but there may be a way to get that info. Both the Polish Genealogical Society of America and the Polish Genealogical Society of the Northeast have provincial phone directories and will search them for specific names, for a reasonable fee. Phones in private homes are not as common in Poland as here, but chances are decent some relative is listed. That's the only way I know of you might be able to track them down, if your research doesn't reveal the family's ancestral home.

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

 

Bugajski

...Hi! I have recently become very interested in my Polish ancestry. I am currently 20 years old, and I am third generation American, still 100% Polish. I would be very interested in hearing what you have to say about the name Bugajski. If you have anything to contribute, I'd love to have some input. I don't believe that the name has been altered in any way.

This is a pretty common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 4,919 Polish citizens named Bugajski; they lived all over the country, with particularly large numbers in the provinces of Katowice (447), Kielce (1,107), Kraków (363), and Nowy Sacz (320) -- all in south central Poland. According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut this name comes from the term bugaj, which in standard Polish means "bend in the river," and in dialect also means "bull; big, strong fellow." There are 26 towns and villages named Bugaj, probably so named because they are located on a bend in a river, and in most cases the surname Bugajski probably started as a reference to some connection between a family and one of those places -- they probably lived there, came from there, traveled there often on business, or, if noble, owned land there.

So the good news is, it's a very good Polish name. The bad news is, it's fairly common, so I can't give you any really helpful clues on exactly which of those 26 Bugaj's your family was connected with.

By the way, I'm glad to hear you're interested in your roots at such a young age. Most of the folks I deal with are older, usually retired, and the comment I hear most often is "Oh, how I wish I had gotten started with this when I was younger! I waited too long." You, at least, won't have any regrets about that. I hope you always retain your interest in your family history, and that over a long life you will learn lots and lots about them!

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

Małyszka

...Do you have any info on the name Malyszka?

A little -- which is a sort of pun, since this name comes from the root mal-, meaning "small, little." This name appears in Polish records as far back as 1136, so it has been around a long time! In view of the meaning, it probably started as a nickname or by-name, a little like "Tiny" or "Shorty" in English -- which, I suppose, means the original bearer might have been a little guy, or he might have been huge and burly and people called him that out of irony. As of 1990 there were 648 Poles named Małyszka (the ł is pronounced like our w); the largest numbers of them lived in the provinces of Kalisz (61) and Poznan (257), but small numbers lived in virtually every other province as well... Similar surnames from the same root and with roughly the same meaning are even more common, for instance: Małysa (790), Malyśka (1,493), Małysz (2006), Małyszko.

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

Bartoszek

...I'm trying to trace my family roots and i've come up empty on my surname---- Bartoszek, my father was Walter Michael Bartoszek, Jr., and my grandfather was Walter Michael Bartoszek, Sr. he is beleaved to be from the Chicago area. any information that you could give me would be a big help to me.

Bartoszek is basically the Polish name Bartocha with the diminutive suffix -ek added; when such suffixes are added, the final sound of the root often changes, and in this case the guttural ch sound changes to the "sh" sound of sz. So Bartoszek, pronounced roughly "bar-TOE-shek," means "little Bartocha," or "son of Bartocha." This, in turn, is a very old Polish first name, which in some cases probably came from the Polish root barta, "battle-axe," in others from "Bart," a nickname for "Bartholomew" (in Polish Bartlomiej), or even from German Bart, "beard."

As of 1990 there were 5,277 Polish citizens named Bartoszek, so it's a pretty common name. The largest numbers of them lived in the provinces of Kalisz (280), Katowice (1,050), Lublin (509), Lodz (369), Tarnobrzeg (260), and Zamosc (358); so it's most common in the southeastern quarter of the country. But you find people named Bartoszek in virtually every province.

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

Dudek - Walec

...I'm looking for information on my grandparents names: Mary Dudek and Gregory Walec. I'd love to receive any information on either name. They lived in Passaic, New Jersey. Both were born about 1890 in Poland and emigrated here about 1905-10.

Dudek is a very common name in Poland -- as of 1990 there were 49,428 Polish citizens named Dudek, living all over the country. In most cases Dudek comes from the word dudek, the hoopoe (a kind of bird). I'm afraid the word also has been used sometimes to refer to a simpleton, but surnames derived from birds are very common in Poland, so I see no need to assume the name had to be meant negatively. There is also a possible connection with duda, "bagpipes, or a home-bred musician," but in most cases that root applies to names such as Duda, Dudziak, etc. -- Dudek more likely is connected with the bird.

Walec is much less common, as of 1990 there were only 217 Poles by that name. They were scattered in numerous provinces, but the largest numbers showed up in the provinces of Kraków (26) and especially Tarnobrzeg (118) in southern and southeastern 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.

The meaning of Walec is also harder to pin down, because there are several roots it could derive from. There is a term walec that means "barrel, cylinder," and while it's hard to see how such a term could become a name, we see many instances where such terms unquestionably did generate names. Perhaps an ancestor made cylinders, or his shape reminded people of a barrel. The term walec is also a variant of the noun walc, "waltz," so a person who liked to waltz or play at waltzes might possibly end up with such a name. Other plausible connections are with the roots walić, "to overturn," walczyć, "to fight, battle," or the first name Walenty (Valentine) -- although the latter connection is more likely with names such as Walek.

I'm sorry I couldn't give you a definitive answer on Walec, but with many names there are several possibilities, and only detailed on-site research can possible establish which one is applicable. So this is the best I can offer. I hope it's 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.

Arbaszewski - Harbaszewski

...My sister is the big researcher but i am trying to help her and surprize her!! We are searching for the name Arbaszewski.

Names ending in -ewski usually started as references to places with similar names, because a family lived there, or came from there, or went there often on business -- some sort of connection like that. Thus we'd expect Arbaszewski to have started out meaning "person from Arbaszewo or Arbaszy" or some place with a similar name.

I can only find one place that seems to qualify -- there may be more, because surnames formed centuries ago, and often the places they referred to have since disappeared, or changed their names, or become too small to show up in gazetteers. But there is a village Arbasy or Arbasy Duze ("Big Arbasy"), in Białystok province in northeastern Poland, 15 km. southwest of the town of Drohiczyn (there is also another village Arbasy Male, "Little Arbasy," very close by, so close that for practical purposes the two can almost be thought of as one). Over the centuries its name has varied, it has also been called Harbasy, Harbasze, etc. It is served by the Roman Catholic parish church in Sledzianów, a few km. away (in other words, that's where people from Arbasy probably went to register births, deaths, marriages, etc.). Its name comes from an ancient Polish first name Harbas, so that it meant "Harbas's place." It's interesting that there was a noble family Harbaszewski from this village mentioned in mid-16th century records, and it's clear that this name often drops the H, so it is possible -- though by no means certain -- that your family might have a link to these noble Harbaszewski's.

As I say, I can find no other place that seems to qualify, so this might be one of those rare instances where you can actually pinpoint a specific area of origin just from the name. That doesn't happen often with Polish names, and I want to stress that it's not 100% certain -- you'd be jumping to conclusions if you assumed this has to be what you're looking for. But the odds seem to me reasonably good that this is the place in Poland where the family comes from. It's worth a look, anyway, especially if the LDS has microfilmed the Sledzianów parish records and you can request them through your nearest LDS Family History Center.

As of 1990 there were 196 Polish citizens named Arbaszewski, with the majority living in the provinces of Warsaw (75), Białystok (51) and Ostrołęka (33), and a few scattered in several other provinces. These three provinces are all in northcentral to northeastern Poland. This distribution suggests a lot of those Arbaszewski's probably do derive their name from that village in Białystok province; with the Warsaw figures it's hard to say whether those Arbaszewski's came from a different place, or if many of the Arbaszewski's from the Białystok area tended to migrate toward the capital, which is a phenomenon we see with many other names... I don't have access to further details, such as their first names and addresses, but this may be enough information to help you get off to a good start with the name.

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

Badanowski

...I have spent years on and off trying to find some information on the origins and/or history of my surname: Badanowski, with no luck at all. I realize that you must be receiving many requests, but if you have any time, I would appreciate any information you can give me. By the way, my family is Jewish, and so I am not sure that this surname is really Polish in origin. In any case, any suggestions would be very helpful for me.

It is wise to mention that the family is Jewish, because very often different circumstances affected the surnames of Polish Jews as opposed to Polish Christians. Jewish names were, generally, established much later, often within the last two centuries, so that we can actually hope to find surviving documents that shed light on their origins and meanings; the names of Polish Christians were usually established much earlier. There are pluses and minuses, either way, but the religion can definitely make a difference in the circumstances affecting the name. In this particular case, I don't believe it does; but it was still a good idea to mention it.

I'm not surprised you have had trouble finding this name: as of 1990 there were only 3 Polish citizens named Badanowski, all living in the province of Warsaw. The source from which I got this information does not give first names or addresses, so I cannot tell you more than this, but it may prove of some value.

Usually names ending in -owski began as references to a connection between a person or family and a place with a similar name, so that we would expect Badanowski to have meant originally "one from Badanów, Badanowo, Badanowa," something like that. I could find no place in Poland by any such name, but one reference I checked mentioned that Badanów was a variant name by which the village Bogdanowice, in what is now Opole province in southwestern Poland, was once known. In other words, that village's name, which means in effect "the place of Bogdan's sons," was sometimes modified or distorted to Badanów, appearing as such in records from 1845; and people who came from that village or that area at that time might well have ended up with the name Badanowski, meaning "person from Badanów."

Alexander Beider's Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland also mentions Badanowski as a Jewish surname deriving from the name of the townlet of Bohdanów in Oszmiana district of Wilno province. I can't find this specific place, but Oszmiana is now Ashmjany or Oshmyany in Belarus (this place would not have been mentioned in my other source because that one covered only places still within the borders of Poland). What this proves is that Badanowski as a surname can derive from the names of at least two different places, far apart, with only one thing in common: they were formed from the old Slavic first name Bogdan/Bohdan (literally "gift of God"). So the surname Badanowski can refer to origin in Bogdanowice in southwestern Poland, or Bohdany in Belarus -- and perhaps more places that don't show up in my sources.

Some of them may be outside Poland -- Badanowski is a Polish spelling, but that doesn't necessarily mean the name had to be of Polish linguistic origin (although personally I think it probably is). Still, a Russian, for instance, named Badanovsky, might sometimes have his name written Badanowski because of German or Polish linguistic influence (since his name would have been originally written in Cyrillic and would have had to be transliterated when he emigrated). As I say, I think the name is of Polish linguistic origin, but I cannot rule out other possibilities.

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

Bakys - Bakies

..My name is ... Bakies. My family came over from Lubla, Strzyźow, Rzeszów, Poland between 1910-1913. On both the ships records and my grandfather's baptismal certificate, the name is spelled Bakes (no i). The family was using Bakies by 1917 when my greatgrandfather died in Ohio. My mother recalls a conversation with her father-in-law that at one point the name was originally something like (phonetic) Bakishkowski and that at some point before they came to the USA it was changed. I've looked at your book, but don't know which of several entries would apply: Bąc, Bąk (bąkać, to mutter), Bąk (bąk, bittern, gadfly, error) or Bak (bakać, to yell, scold). Does the area they were from have any bearing? Do you have suggestions or comments?

I wish I could suggest something, but it's not too common to see a Polish name ending in -es or -ies; Bakes or Bakies just doesn't sound like a native Polish name, and none of my sources mention it. So I have to wonder if it originated in some other language. But I've never run across it before, and as I say, none of my books mention it. I have a good source on Lithuanian names that mentions Bakas and Bakys -- the latter, in particularly, might possibly become Bakes or Bakies in Polish; but the Lithuanian sources aren't sure what it comes from.

In any case, the name does exist in Poland. As of 1990 there were 20 Poles named Bakes (living in the following provinces: Katowice 4, Lodz 4, Walbrzych 5, Wroclaw 7), and 35 named Bakies (Gdansk 4, Lodz 14, Poznan 1, Sieradz 2, Tarnobrzeg 10, Zielona Gora 4). (I have no access to further details such as first names and addresses, unfortunately). It's odd that we find that name exists, but there's no sign of anything like "Bakishkowski" -- the closest is Bakirzyński (20, all living in Olsztyn province). That doesn't prove the name never was shortened from something longer, but we can't help but wonder how reliable that bit of info is... By the way, if the name is Lithuanian in origin, the distribution patterns for Bakes and Bakies don't make too much sense. Lithuanian names don't have to be found only in northeastern Poland, but that is where they tend to be more common.

I'm sorry I couldn't help more, and maybe those figures on name frequency and distribution will help a little. If you'd really like to try every possible source, I'd suggest running this by the staff of the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Kraków. I doubt they'd charge more than $20, and if they can't help you, I don't know who can. Good luck!

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

Bartelak

...I have been trying for some time to get information about the name Bartelak.They came from Posen, Poland in the year 1890 maybe you could give me any information you have about them. If you care to list the name you can do so.

Bartelak means basically "son of Bartholomew." Bartel is a short form or nickname for Bartholomew used by Germans and Poles, and the -ak suffix is a diminutive, so that Bartelak started out more or less as a nickname or by-name meaning "little Bart," probably referring to the son of a fellow named Bartel, which is in turn a form of the name we spell Bartholomew.

I'm a little surprised to see this name isn't all that common in Poland; as of 1990 there were only 179 Bartelak's, living in the following provinces: Warsaw 3, Bydgoszcz 3, Czestochowa 121, Gdansk 1, Gorzów 7, Jelenia Gora 8, Kalisz 1, Katowice 1, Legnica 10, Piotrków 1, Szczecin 5, Walbrzych 1, Wroclaw 17. I would have expected more, and I'm a bit surprised to see there are none in the area of Poznan. (By the way, I don't have access to more details, such as first names and addresses; what I give here is all I have).

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

Bąbaś - Bambas - Bombas - Gall

...I am trying to get more information on the surnames Gall, Bambas. They immigrated from Rogasen, Prussia 1860. I will be happy to reimburse you if needed. I don't know if it matters, but they were Jewish.

It definitely can be relevant that the names you're interested in were borne by Jews. Obviously genealogical research for Polish Jews and Christians overlaps in many respects, but there are a number of factors that can make a big difference, both in regard to what names meant and where records are kept. Jewish surnames, in general, originated much later than those for Christians; in general Polish Christian surnames originated 300-400 years ago, farther back then there are surviving records (except for nobility), whereas most Jews first took surnames less than 200 years ago, and many records do survive from then. Also, Jews generally took names from different sources than Christians, so that the same name can mean something different when borne by Christians and Jews. The religion of the people you're researching can make a big difference, and I always advise folks to make it clear up front what religion their ancestors were -- it can save a lot of time and trouble.

Having said all that, the sad truth is I wasn't able to come up with too much on either name. As of 1990 there was no one in Poland with the name Bambas; I looked at some of the likely spelling variations, and found there were 36 Polish citizens named Bąbas -- the ą represents the nasal vowel pronounced like on or, before b or p, like om. There were 26 named Bąbaś, and 38 named Bombas. Any of these names might be related to Bambas when you take Polish phonetics and spelling into account. The people by these names were scattered all over the country, with no real concentration, and none of them lived in Gdansk province, which is where Rogasen is located.

I could find no mention of Bambas in any of my sources, including ones concentrating on Jewish names. The closest match is with the root bąb-, which means "to strike, hit." Bambas and the other names mentioned above could possibly come from that root, meaning the guy who was always hitting. But that's just an educated guess.

Gall is not a very common name, but at least there are some folks named Gall alive in Poland: as of 1990, there were 268. They were widely scattered, with the largest numbers in the provinces of: Warsaw 42, Elblag 17, Jelenia Gora 20, Wroclaw 15. There were a dozen or less in several other provinces, including 6 in Gdansk province. (I have no access to first names or addresses, I'm afraid this data is all I have).

When borne by Christians this surname tends to come from the Latin first name Gallus, especially in reference to the Irish saint Gallus, who founded a monastery in Switzerland. My books on Jewish surnames suggest that among Jews it more often came from Yiddish gal or German Galle, both meaning "gall, bile." This might be associated with a person who was bitter or spiteful, or perhaps with someone rather pious who found life in this world to be bitter and difficult and thus looked forward to the afterlife.

By the way, I couldn't find Rogasen, or whatever it's called today. I have sources that mention it, and they locate it as very near the town of Koscierzyna (called Berent by the Germans) in what is now Gdansk province. Nearby villages are Nowy Barkoczyn, where Protestant records were kept, and Garczyn, which has a Catholic parish church where Catholic records were kept, and Liniewo (Lienfelde) for civil records. I know Rogasen has to be within a few km. of these places, but it doesn't show up on my maps, unless the Polish name is completely different from the German one (which does happen sometimes)..

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

Banach - Kempski - Kępski - Krzywonos - Kujat - Marczyniec - Poręba - Poremba

...When you have a moment, could you give me a meaning/background for the following surnames?

Banach is a very common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 12,318 Poles by that name, living all over the country. It comes from a short form of nickname of Benedykt, "Benedict," kind of like "Benny" in English -- Poles loved to take popular first names, drop most of them, and add suffixes, and that's what happened with this, Ban- (from Benedykt) + -ach.

Kempski was the name of 1,004 Poles as of 1990, and another 1,727 spelled it Kępski; the ę is the Polish nasal vowel pronounced usually like en but like em before b or p, so that Kępski sounds like Kempski, and that's why it can be spelled either way. It comes from the root kępa, "cluster of trees," or a place named Kępa or Kępy. There are literally dozens of villages named Kępa, so we can't trace it to any one part of Poland -- it could get started anywhere they spoke Polish and had trees.

Krzywonos was the name of 974 Poles as of 1990, and means literally "crooked nose"; the term krzywonos is also the name of a bird, the grosbeak. It's hard to say how often this got started as a name for humans because someone had a crooked nose, and how often it comes from the bird, since bird names yielded many very common names in Polish. The province of Poland with the largest number of Krzywonos's in 1990 was Rzeszów in southeastern Poland, with 183, otherwise it's spread pretty evenly throughout the country.

Kujat is a rarer name, only 128 Poles had this name in 1990, and it comes from the root kuj-, "to forge, hammer." Presumably it started as a name given a smith. The name does not appear to be concentrated in any one part of Poland.

Marczyniec means literally "son of Martin," but that first name is generally spelled Marcin in Polish, so the spelling Marczyn, though pronounced almost the same, is rarer -- as of 1990 there was no one in Poland with the name spelled Marczyniec, but there were 1,344 who spelled the name Marciniec. In older times most folks were illiterate, and variant spellings of names were a dime a dozen, but in this century most Poles have learned to read and write, and the "standardized" spellings of names have taken over. So if you found relatives in Poland, you might find that they now spell the name Marciniec, but in older records the spelling Marczyniec might appear.

With Poremba we're dealing with that nasal vowel ę again; in 1990 there were 3,036 Poles named Poręba, and another 483 who spelled it Poremba. It comes from the term poręba, "clearing" in a forest, and presumably began as a reference to where a person lived; there are numerous villages named Poręba in Poland. As of 1990 the biggest concentration of Poręba's, 966, lived in the southcentral province of Nowy Sacz, and 290 lived in the southeastern province of Tarnów.

...Do you have an idea where in Poland these names may have originated? I know Kempski was from Poznan or Posen.

Your Kempski's may have come from the Poznan region, but most Polish surnames don't give much of a clue as to a specific place of origin, unless they derive from a unique place name (and there are comparatively few of those). I'm afraid none of these, except Poręba, is concentrated in any one part of the country; and Poręba may be most common in Nowy Sacz and Tarnów provinces, but there's virtually no province where you won't find a pretty good number of Poręba's.

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

Bator - Siwek

...I'm researching Siwek and Bator surnames (for family history purposes). Don't know how rare/common they are. Our ancestors all came from Tarnow province. The former from Ryglice and the latter from Pilsno.

Both are pretty common names. According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut, Bator comes from a Hungarian term meaning "courageous, bold" (cmp. the name of Stefan Batory, in Hungarian Istvan Bathory, a Hungarian who was king of Poland 1576-1586); as of 1990 there were 4,653 Polish citizens by that name. Siwek comes from a root meaning "white, gray" -- siwak means "grey-haired fellow," and siwek is a term sometimes used for a grey horse; as of 1990 there were 11,822 Siwek's in Poland.

Of the 4,653 Bator's, 479 of them lived in Tarnów province, the largest single number; in general, the name is most common in south and southeastern Poland, the territory that was ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire and called Galicia from the 1800's to 1918. With that link, it's not so odd that a Hungarian name would be common in the region, there are other such names that originated as Hungarian but are reasonably common in Poland. The Siwek's are common all over Poland, there's no particular concentration in any one area.

That's about all I have on these names. I don't have access to any data on first names or addresses for the Bators or Siweks in Tarnów province, only figures on how many by each name live in each province.

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

Bazydło

...I was surfing the net and typied in my last name, your homepage came up and interested me. My last name is Bazydlo, was wondering if you have any information on this name? Was thinking of trying to find out more of my families past in Poland. Any information you can pass along would be greatly appreciated.

The standard form of the name in Polish is Bazydło -- ł is pronounced like our w, so that the name sounds like "bah-ZID-woe" (ZID rhymes with "kid"). Polish expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions the name Bazydło in his book on Polish surnames, saying that it is one of a number of names that derive from the first name Bazyli, which is the same as our Basil (from a Greek word meaning "king"). So when the name first originated it probably meant something like "Basil's son."

I don't recall running into this name before, so I was a bit surprised to see it is moderately common in Poland; as of 1990 there were 938 Polish citizens named Bazydło. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Łomża (240) and Suwałki (258), both in far northeastern Poland, near the border with Belarus; there were much smaller numbers scattered about in various other provinces, but Łomża and Suwałki provinces are definitely where this name is most concentrated. This is like saying a name is common in two particular states in the U.S. -- it doesn't really pin it down to a small, searchable area, but it is better than nothing. And if it's any consolation, this is more info than most surnames offer; usually I have to tell people there's nothing about the name that narrows the search down at all. Your particular family might have come from one of those other provinces besides Łomża and Suwałki, but chances are good they started out, somewhere along the line, in far northeastern Poland.

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

Bendyk

...The surname I was hoping you could research for me is Bendyk. My grandfather came from Szaflary, Poland in 1905 and am having trouble getting any information other than where he came from and when.

The surname Bendyk, like many Polish surnames, derives from a first name, in this case, Benedict, in Polish Benedykt. This name was used in a great many different forms in Poland, including Bandyk and Bendyk. So the name means "Benedict," probably referring to the name of a prominent ancestor.

As of 1990 there were 535 Polish citizens named Bendyk. They lived all over Poland, with larger numbers in the provinces of Ciechanów (49), Elblag (101), Gdansk (57), Olsztyn (40), and Torun (90). All these provinces are in northcentral Poland, so that seems to be the area where the name is most common, although, as I said, you run into it all over the country.

I know this information probably is a lot less specific and helpful than you'd like, but I'm afraid that's the way it is with Polish surnames: relatively few of them tell you much. Sometimes you run into one that tells you all kinds of good things, but those are definitely the exception.

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

Bielejewski

...I would appreciate any information about the subject surname Bielejewski, (meaning etc.)...

The root from which this name derives ultimately is bial-/biel-, meaning "white," but the surname started out as a reference to some association between a person or family and a specific place with a name like Bielejewo; that's what Bielejewski means, "of, pertaining to, associated with Bielejewo (or a similar name, Bielejewa, etc.)." The name of the place, in turn, comes from the old first name Bielej, which means something like "Whitey" in English, so that Bielejewo means "Whitey's place." There are at least two villages that qualify: Bielejewo in Kalisz province, 10 km. NW of Jarocin; and Bielejewo in Poznan province, 8 km. south of Wronek. In addition, the village of Bielewo in Leszno province was called "Beleyevo" in the late 14th century, so it's possible the surname could have developed in connection with it as well.

As of 1990 there were 308 Polish citizens named Bielejewski; the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Pila (114) and Poznan (111) in west central Poland, with a few scatered in other provinces here and there.

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

Bielecki - Bilicki

...Hello, my name is ... Bilicki and as you can tell from the last name by heritage is Polish. I have looked through your list on the internet and did not come across my surname. I was hoping that if you had the time you would be able to tell me more about my surname. The reason I ask for this info is so that I can track the descent of my family all the way back to Poland during WWI. Thank you for your time and help.

The name Bilicki is almost certainly a variation of the name Bielecki; in the Slavic languages the basic root bial-/biel- means "white," and in different areas it takes the forms Bel-, Bial-, Biel-, and Bil-. So etymologically speaking Bilicki should be treated as more or less the same as Bielecki. Both most likely started as references to a connection between a person or family and a place with a name like Bielica, Bielice -- there are at least 3 villages named Bielica and 17 named Bielice in Poland alone, to say nothing of other countries that might be relevant (mainly Belarus and Ukraine); so the names Bielecki and Bilicki could develop anywhere people might want to refer to a "person from Bielica/Bielice." Those place names derived from the term bielica, "soft, clayish ground, bog," and that in turn presumably derives from the root meaning "white."

As of 1990 there were some 1,507 Polish citizens named Bilicki, living all over the country, with larger numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (186), Gdansk (82), Konin (67), Lodz (79), Olsztyn (74), Pila (115), Płock (163). This suggests a concentration in the center and northwest quarter of Poland, roughly in areas once ruled by Germans. If I'm not mistaken, German influence might have a little to do with the spelling of the name as Bilicki; in standard Polish the name is more likely to be Bielecki, pronounced "byel-ET-skee," but Germans would tend to turn it more into "bill-IT-ski," Bilicki.

I'm afraid this information isn't likely to be much practical use in tracking a specific Bilicki family -- unfortunately that's generally true of Polish surnames, relatively few have any feature that offers real help in locating exactly where they came from. Still, I hope this is some help to you, and wish you the best of luck with your research.

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

Bilsky - Drebit

...I'm trying to locate information on my Grandparents surnames.....Drebit & Bilsky. From what I've learned, they lived in the village of Kolodribka (near Sinkiv), Zalesciki Region, Ukraine. Any info is appreciated.

I'm afraid my sources on Ukrainian names are far less extensive than on Polish names. I know a little; for instance, Bilsky comes from the Ukrainian form of the Slavic root meaning "white" (in Polish it would be bial- or biel-), so this name began as reference to a place with a name from that root, or perhaps in some cases as a reference to a person's hair or complexion. It would also be a very common name, but unfortunately I have no sources that give statistics on frequency or distribution of this name in Ukraine (it's also fairly common in Poland in the form Bilski, as of 1990 there were 8,355 Polish citizens by that name).

Drebit probably comes from a Slavic root seen in Ukrainian, Russian, and Polish, meaning "small, fine." In Polish drobotać means "to walk quickly but with small steps, or to speak quickly but in a wheedling manner." In Ukrainian words with very similar meanings exist, but spelled drib- rather than drob-; it is quite possible, linguistically speaking, that that root could also be spelled dreb-. So I suspect that's what the name ultimately derives from, the root meaning "small, fine, mincing." As of 1990 there were only 5 Polish citizens named Drebit, all living in Olsztyn province, up in northcentral Poland -- that may well be due to post-World War II compulsory relocations that moved vast numbers of Ukrainians to parts of Poland that many ethnic Germans had been deported from. Unfortunately, I don't have access to details such as first names and addresses, so I can't tell you any more about those Drebit's, but perhaps the info will be some use to you.

The best place I know to learn more about Ukraine and Ukrainian customs and names is this Website: www.infoukes.com. If you haven't visited it, I recommend taking a look!

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

Błażek

...I am interested in knowing the history of the family name Blazek from the town of Grabowa in Szczecinskie.

I have no information on individual families, all I can tell you about is the linguistic origin of the name, and sometimes where the name is most common in Poland these days.

Blazek would be Błażek in Polish - the name would be pronounced roughly "BWAH-zhek." It originated as a diminutive of the Christian first name Błażej, the Polish version of the name we called "Blaise," but that name is much rarer in English than Błażej is in Polish; if you're Catholic and are over 40 you might remember when kids used to go to church to have their throats blessed in the name of "St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr" -- that's who the name is associated with. Błażek would mean "little Blaise, son of Blaise."

Surnames from Błażej are pretty common in Poland, e. g. Błażejczak, Błażejewski, Błażewicz, but Błażek, for some reason, is not all that common; there were only 247 Poles by that name as of 1990. They were scattered all over the country, with larger numbers in the province of Gdansk (60) and Katowice (24). There was only 1 Błażek in the modern-day province of Szczecin (I have no access on data to first names or addresses, what I'm giving here is all I have), but Szczecin province used to be much larger than it is now, so there may be a few more in areas that used to be part of Szczecin province but no longer are; and there are too many Grabowa's for me to know precisely which one is relevant to your research.

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

Bocheński - Bochyński - Bohinski

...I was reading your surname information ... on the internet and checked out the surname section looking for my last name, which of course was not listed. I would be interested in knowing the meaning and also if the spelling would be correct. My great-grandfather has his name spelled Bochynski. My son recently returned from Poland after studying at the University of Warsaw and had inquired about the spelling and was told very likely the spelling was Bochinski which is another way our name is shown being spelled in local records. The current spelling is Bohinski. I know that your expertise is in the area of name meanings, but I wonder also if you may know what region of Poland this name may be found if the Bochynski spelling is or was likely.

This is a difficult question, because in fact there are three different spellings that could all apply to the same name: Bocheński, Bochiński, and Bochyński, and I don't see a really clear-cut pattern in their geographical distribution. As of 1990 there were 3,501 Polish citizens named Bocheński, 497 named Bochiński, and 1,085 named Bochyński. All three spellings appear all over the country. As of 1990 the largest numbers of Bochiński's lived in the provinces of Warsaw (128), Gdansk (65), Łomża (66), and Poznan (48), with much smaller numbers in many other provinces. Bocheński is common all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (345), Katowice (244), Kraków (213), and Nowy Sacz (245), which suggests it's most common in southcentral Poland and near the capital (many names show a tendency to congregate around Warsaw as well as in areas where they presumably originated). Bochyński is most common in Kalisz (151), Lublin (128), and Poznan (95) provinces. The likely derivation is from the noun bochen, "large loaf of bread," or from place names such as Bochnia (a sizeable town in Tarnów province); the adjectival form of that place name is bocheński, which, as a surname, could mean "one from Bochnia," and that seems to be the most common, standard form of the name.

I can't say for sure that all three spellings are variants of the same name, it could be in some cases the spellings match up in some cases with different origins. But it seems pretty certain that Bocheński is the standard form and Bochyński is often a variant of that form. By modern rules of Polish orthography Bochiński is questionable, Poles avoid using the combination -chi- except in foreign words. The reasons involve linguistic questions that would bore you to death, but I would have expected Bocheński and Bochyński to be the most common forms, with Bochiński rare. I'm surprised there were 497 people with that spelling, actually. It could be that spelling originated back in the days when the rules weren't quite so strict, or people didn't know them, and that it has stuck for reasons of family tradition.

But going strictly by the rules (which, of course, people have done inconsistently over the course of history), the e sound is the one you'd expect, and in some areas regional pronunciation tendencies might cause that to become the short i sound (as in "sit") spelled as a y in Polish. So Bocheński would sound like "bo-HEN-skee," Bochyński would sound like "bo-HIN-skee." Bochiński would sound like "bo-HEEN-skee," but as I say, Poles generally avoid putting the long "ee" sound of the letter I after the guttural combination ch, and that's why I think this is the least common spelling.

To make matters worse, the ch and h are pronounced exactly the same in Polish, so in theory you could also see the spellings Boheński, Bohiński, and Bohyński. Fortunately for your sake, those spellings are, however, extremely rare in Poland, though obviously Bohinski is familiar to you. Still, I thought I'd mention it in case you ever ran across these other spellings.

Those are my thoughts on the subject. If you'd really like to know more and don't mind spending about $20 or so, there is a group of scholars in Kraków, Poland who are experts on name origins and might be able to shed more light. They can handle correspondence in English (although they prefer Polish), and I've heard from quite a few people who were very pleased with the job they did; they don't do genealogical research, just research on the origins of names..

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

Barna - Bojanowski

...Any information on the surname Bojanowski available?

Names ending in -owski usually refer to a connection between a person or family and a place with a name ending in -ów or -owo or something similar. In this case you'd expect the name to mean "person from Bojanów or Bojanowo or Bojany" -- those names, in turn, means "Bojan's place" (Bojan is an ancient Polish first name). There are at least 13 villages in Poland with names that qualify, so it's impossible to tell which particular one a given Bojanowski family was associated with. And, as usually happens when there are that many different potential sources for a name, the surname is a common one -- as of 1990 there were 4,264 Polish citizens named Bojanowski, living all over the country.

...Also researching Barna...

None of my sources discuss Barna, so I can't give a definitive source or meaning. The most likely derivations are either as a short form of the first names Bernard or Barnaby or Bronisław -- there is a popular surname Barnas that comes from Bernard, and Barn is a recognized short form of Barnislaw, a Pomeranian version of the common first name Bronisław -- or from the noun barna, which is a variant form of brona, "harrow." One source also mentions barna as a Hungarian word meaning "brown, russet-colored"; there are some names in Poland that turn out to be of Hungarian origin, but without more info it seems far-fetched to connect that to this name. There is nothing that tips the scales in favor of one or another of these derivations, all I can say is that these are possible sources of the name Barna.

As of 1990 there were 521 Polish citizens named Barna; they were scattered all over Poland, with the largest numbers living in the following provinces: Gorzów 57, Koszalin 76, Krosno 32, Legnica 78, Slupsk 42, Zielona Gora 38. In terms of geographical distribution, most of those provinces are in western Poland, the area once ruled by the Germans; that seems to be where the name is most common.

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

Borończyk

...I had a library patron call the Reference Desk today and ask for the meaning of the name Boronczyk. Unfortunately, we have little on Polish surnames. I found your site posted ... and promise I'll order a copy of your book for the next interested patron! In the meantime, is there a quick answer to our patron's question? If not, I'll refer him to your webpage.

I doubt there's much on the Webpage that would help with this particular name. The total number of Polish surnames is disputed, but there is no question we are talking at least a hundred thousand, probably many times that. So I haven't gotten to them all on the Webpage -- or in the book either, for that matter! On the page I deal only with those I have been asked about the last few months; in the book I deal with the most common ones. (The distribution curve of Polish surnames is odd: a few thousand account for 90% of the population, and then you have jillions and jillions of really rare ones.)

In surnames the suffix -czyk usually means "son of," so we can state with some confidence that the name means "son of boron." So it's a question of what boron means. Polish phonetics and linguistics suggests it is most likely boroń. One of my sources, Nazwiska Cieszyńskie [The Surnames of the Cieszyn Region] by Wladyslaw Milerski, Wydawnictwo Energeia, Warszawa, 1996, links it with the root bor, "forest, woods." Milerski says that names with the suffix -oń are typical of southern Silesia, so that may well be where this name originated. Milerski also says boroń is a noun meaning "forest-dweller," so it seems probable that Borończyk began as one of that class of surnames that refer to the place a person lived or worked; it would be, literally, "son of the forest-dweller."

I can add that as of 1990 there were 365 Polish citizens named Borończyk, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Katowice (67), Kielce (49), and Piotrków Trybunalski (47) -- all in southcentral Poland, a little east of Silesia proper -- and smaller numbers scattered in many other provinces. Unfortunately I do not have access to details such as first names, addresses, etc.; what I've given here is all I have.

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

Brack - Brak

...I was hoping that you could tell me something about the name Brack. We had been told it was Brak, but recently found it to be Brack.

Well, the main question is whether it is of Polish or German derivation. From what you say about the spelling, it probably was German, and German surname expert Hans Bahlow said in his Deutsches Namenlexikon that Brack means "tracker dog," or could also derive from the name of the Brack river near the Neckar. But Bahlow also mentions that the root brack can refer to moist, swampy terrain, and Brack could also be a name for a person who lived in such a place.

As of 1990 there were only 3 Polish citizens named Brack (1 in Warsaw province, 2 in Lodz province), but there may have been more once -- millions of ethnic Germans who had lived in Poland relocated to East Germany after World War II, so numbers these days don't necessarily mean much in relation to a century ago.

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

Ciżewski - Czyżewski - Pionek

...My family has an obscure last name, as far as we can tell, anyway. My fathers parents names were Cizeski and Pionek, the latter being our family name. As far as we can tell it means "chess pawn." Would you have any clue as to where it may originate or if it were chosen upon entry into the states?

Cizeski is almost certainly a variant of Cizewski, which in turn appears to be a different spelling of Czyzewski; all three names are usually spelled with a dot over that middle z (ż), and they are all pronounced roughly "chee-ZHEFF-skee" ("ZH" = the sound of "s" in "pleasure"). In many parts of Poland that -w- right before -ski is pronounced very lightly or even dropped, so it's not unusual to see names spelled without it, even though by "proper" Polish it should be there: Dombroski vs. Dombrowski, Janoski vs. Janowski, etc. So Cizeski is probably just a slightly different form of Cizewski, which is a less common way of spelling Czyzewski.

As of 1990 there was no listing of anyone in Poland named Cizeski, but that's probably because the advent of universal literacy has caused the name to be "corrected" and standardized with the -w- intact. By comparison, there were 237 Poles named Cizewski, but there were 10,543 named Czyżewski, so you can see that's a popular name. The "correct" spelling would be Czyżewski, but some still spell it Ciżewski, and historically some pronounced it Cizeski (some probably still do), which is how that spelling came to appear in writing... The 237 Cizewski's lived all over Poland, but by far the largest number, 67, lived in the province of Białystok in northeastern Poland. Czyzewski's, on the other hand, are common all over the country.

The ultimate root is czyz, "green finch, siskin" (a kind of bird), but Cizeski or Cizewski or Czyżewski are all adjectives most likely formed from the names of villages Czyżew or Czyżewo; the surnames mean basically "one from Czyżew or Czyżewo," and those place names, in turn, mean "place of the green finch." There are a number of places named Czyżew and Czyżewo, including several in what is now Łomża province. There are also a number of places named Czyżów, and that place name, too, could also generate the surname Czyżewski. So I can't point to any one place and say "That's the one your Cizeski's came from"; there are too many possibilities, and no good reason to favor one over the other.

I should add, just to be complete, that Cizeski might also come from Ciszewski, which is also a surname derived from a place name. From a phonetic standpoint that is also possible. But I would think the link with Czyżewski from czyz is more likely to be the right one, in most cases.

Pionek does appear to come from the word meaning "pawn," although a similar word used in dialect means "potato." I'm not sure exactly how it came to be used as a name, but I'm continually surprised when I learn how creative people can be when it comes to giving names; so just because the meaning of a name isn't obvious to us doesn't mean it wasn't obvious to those who originally gave or received it.

The name Pionek itself is rather rare in Poland these days; as of 1990 there were only 13 people with that name, living in the provinces of Warsaw (2), Katowice (4), Opole (1), and Szczecin (6). (Unfortunately, I don't have access to any further details, such as first names or addresses). Pionka (441) and Pionke (351) are more common.

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

Czekaj

...I’m hoping you can send me some info on the surname Czekaj. Its origin, etc. I know it`s a very common name in Poland, (about 75 listed in the Kraków telephone directory). I am doing research on my grandfather who emigrated to America from Kraków in 1896. About how many Czekajs are there in Poland?

You're right that it's a common name: as of 1990 there were at least 7,328 Polish citizens named Czekaj (the source for this material was based on data for about 94% of the population of Poland, so the numbers could be a bit higher). The provinces with the largest numbers were: Katowice (1,051), Kielce (1,259), Kraków (1,318), Rzeszów (305), and Tarnów (391); there were smaller numbers of Czekaj's in virtually every province. This suggests the name is most common in south central and southeastern Poland, roughly in the region called Małopolska ("Little Poland"), which was seized by Austria during the partitions and ruled (along with western Ukraine) as an Austrian crown possession under the name of "Galicia" (German Galizien).

This is an interesting name because it's easy to say what it means, but a little harder to understand exactly how such a name got started. Czekaj comes from the verb czekać, "to wait," and in form is a command: "Wait!" It is used in Polish to mean also "Stop!" or "Listen up!" Also czekaj can be used as a noun meaning "one who waits for something." So the meaning is clear. As to why it became a name, your guess is probably as good as mine. It might be this was a nickname given to someone who was always saying "Czekaj!" Or it might be given to someone who was always waiting for something. The puzzling thing is that it's such a common name, so whatever the connection was, it surely must have applied to more than one person -- it seems doubtful all those Czekaj's could be descended from one ancestor! Although really, who knows?

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

Schwidke - Shvydki - Svidky - Świdka - Szwydki

… Seeking info on "Shywydky", "Svidky", possibly other spellings. The patriarch of my mother's branch of the family came to Canada in the 1890's, claimed to have a university education, and spoke Englsh, French, German as well as an assortment of slavic languages. The only other Shywydky family I've run accross is Jewish.

The only information I could find on this name was in a book on Jewish surnames, which mentioned that it comes from the Ukrainian term shvydkij (we'd pronounce that "shvid'-kee," the "i" in the first syllable is short, as in "sit"), which means "quick, rapid." I confirmed that that is what the Ukrainian term means, and it is certainly plausible that the surname developed from that source. The sounds of "sh" and "v" and the short "i" as in "sit" are spelled different ways in different languages, so it's no wonder this name can appear as Schwidke (German), Szwydki (Polish), Shvydki or Svidky (English), etc.

As of 1990 there were two Polish citizens named Szwydki, 1 in Kalisz province, 1 in Wroclaw province (I don't have access to further data such as first names or addresses, I'm afraid); there were also 2 Szwydko's, in Krakow province. There were 6 Szwidke's, all in Wroclaw province. There were 4 Świdka's (accent over the S), 2 in Walbrzych province, 2 in Zamosc province. And that's all I could find for this name.

So to summarize, it's probably comes from a Ukrainian word meaning "swift, rapid," is rare in Poland but probably more common in Ukraine, and can be spelled a jillion different ways (this is where the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex system comes in handy; see
http://www.jewishgen.org/infofiles/soundex.html)

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

Shotkowski - Szotkowski

… Our "clan" is having it's first family reunion in many, many years (being held in Fullerton, NE August 8th)! It is turning into quite a party with approximately 400 people responding. We would like to offer a T-shirt to commemorate the event and would like the design to reflect the name somehow. Could you please supply me the general meaning of the family name Shotkowski.

To start with, the spelling Shotkowski is Anglicized a little -- Polish doesn't use sh except on rare occasions in compound words when a component ending with s happens to be joined to one starting with h, on which occasion they'd be pronounced separately (to be honest, I can't think of a single case where that happens). But Polish Sz is pronounced the same way we pronounce "sh," so most of the time you can safely figure English sh = Polish sz. So Szotkowski is the name we're dealing with, almost certainly.

The direct derivation is from a place name -- these -owski names usually started as a reference to a connection between a person or family and a place, usually with the same name ending in -ów, -owo, or something like that. So Szotkowski would mean "one from Szotków or Szotkowo or Szotkowice, etc." When I saw this name, I looked in a gazetteer and noticed a place Szotkowice, a village that's part of the town of Jastrzębie-Zdrój in Katowice province in southcentral Poland, very near the Czech border; I thought this might be the right place. I found a book on surnames in that general area, and it confirmed that Szotkowski began as a surname meaning "person from Szotkowice" ... That particular village might not be the only one this name could come from -- often surnames came from the names of tiny places used only by local residents, names that would never appear on any map and might have changed or disappeared centuries ago. But that's the only place I could find, and it's a good bet at least some Szotkowski's trace their name back to a link with that village in Katowice province.

So what does the place name come from? Here's where it gets interesting. The name breaks down Szot- + -k- + -ow- plus suffixes, and that means "of the Szotek's," and Szotek is a diminutive of the noun Szot, which originally meant "Scot." A great many Scotsmen came to Poland and worked as traveling peddlars, to the point that Szot came to mean not only "Scot" but also "peddler; small-scale merchant" (kind of the same way "gypsy" doesn't necessarily refer only to Gypsies, but to a way of life or a style of music, dance, etc.). Szotek would mean either "little Scot/peddler" or "son of the Scot/peddler." So Szotkowice is literally "the [place] of the Scots or peddlers' sons."

There is also a word szota, a contemptuous term for a shoemaker. In some cases the name could come from this link. But where linked with the place Szotkowice, the link is almost certainly with the root meaning "Scot" or "peddler."

As of 1990 there were only 64 Polish citizens named Szotkowski, living in the following provinces: Warsaw (3), Białystok (1), Bielsko-Biala (14), Ciechanow (3), Czestochowa (1), Gdansk (1), Kalisz (11), Katowice (6), Olsztyn (14), Opole (3), Ostrołęka (2), Szczecin (2), Wloclawek (1), Wroclaw (2). This is pretty widely dispersed, but Bielsko-Biala and Opole are both very near Katowice province, so we can say about 1/3 of the Szotkowski's live fairly near the village I referred to. The others might trace the name to the same origin, or in some cases their name might have derived from the name of some other place where Scots or peddlers lived.

So you have some interesting possibilities. You may have to display considerably ingenuity to come up with a good design, but you have a little material to work with. You could use a map of Poland showing where Szotkowice is located; or you could do something with the notion of Scots in Poland (which, believe me, is not ridiculous -- there were plenty of them!), or with a peddler's pack.

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

Szczębara - Szczembara

... I would like to know if you could furnish any information on my surname. I have learned that it could be spelled differently. My mother has said that a "m" was added to the name when my father arrived in this country, but I'm not sure. The spellings are Szczebara or Szczembara. Thank you.

I can't find any sources with any information on the meaning or origin of this name. From what you say it's clear the name would be spelled Szczębara (where ę is pronounced, before b or p, like "em") or Szczembara. But none of my sources mention this name or any root from which it seems likely to have derived.

But the name exists, no question. As of 1990 there were 124 Polish citizens named Szczębara. They lived in the following provinces: Jelenia Gora 6, Katowice 1, Kielce 2, Krakow 7, Lublin 11, Przemysl 1, Radom 1, Rzeszow 3, Szczecin 5, Tarnobrzeg 81, Tarnow 1, Wroclaw 3, Zamosc 2. There were another 42 who spelled the name Szczembara: Kalisz 10, Katowice 1, Koszalin 1, Krakow 7, Krosno 3, Lublin 4, Tarnobrzeg 16. Unfortunately I don't have access to further data such as first names and addresses, but it seems pretty clear the name is most common in Tarnobrzeg province, in southeastern Poland.

This is one I'd definitely suggest sending to the Polish name experts of the Anthroponymic Workshop in Krakow. For more info on them, read the note on my introduction to Polish surnames.

If you ever do find out more about the meaning and origin, I'd love to hear about it. I'd like very much to include it in the next edition of my book on Polish surnames!

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

Jucha - Szafran

… I am wondering if you have encountered the name Szafran. I am not 100% certain of the Province that it is associated with. I strongly suspect Płock ? I am also interested in the name Jucha , this is my G- Mother maiden name.

According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut, the name Szafran comes from the noun szafran, "saffron." It is a pretty common name, as of 1990 there were 4,134 Poles named Szafran. They were pretty evenly spread all over Poland, there was no one province or region with a particular concentration (there were 67 in the province of Płock).

As of 1990 there were 1,673 Poles named Jucha, with larger numbers in the provinces of: Bielsko-Biala 235, Katowice 233, Kraków 111, Krosno 99, Opole 85, Przemysl 199, Rzeszów 150, Tarnów 98, Wroclaw 127. There were smaller numbers of them in many other provinces, but these were the provinces with significantly larger numbers, and they are all in southcentral and southeastern Poland.

The meaning of Jucha is not something I can say with any certainty. None of my sources mentions it, and I see in the dictionary that it is a dialect term for "the blood of cattle, bears, and other animals," also a term meaning "rascal." It can come from a verb meaning "to cry out ' Juchhaj' joyfully," or it can be a dialect variant of ucho, "ear." It might also be, in some cases, a sort of nickname for popular first names such as Jan and Joachim. So it could come from any of these expressions, or it might be something else entirely -- I just don't have enough information to say.

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

Obuchowicz - Świtalski

...I would be very interested in information on both my paternal (Switalski) and maternal (Obuchowicz) surnames. My father's family lived in Tuchola, and my mother's near Gdansk. I notice the Switalski is a fairly common name on North America with a few listings in every major city in North America. My mother's surname does not appear to be as common. I remember being told as a child that it had some inference that it may mean "from the city of....".

According to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut, Obuchowicz comes from obuch, "ax-head, battle-ax," plus the suffix  -owicz, which usually means "son of." It would seem Obuch could have been used as a kind of nickname, perhaps for someone who used this weapon well in battle, and his offspring were referred to as "son of Obuch." It might be in some cases -owicz could be used as meaning "from the city of," sort of in the sense that "so-and-so is a son of this city," but the problem is I can't find any place with a name that fits -- Obuch, Obucha, Obuchow, Obuchowa, any of those might work, but I can't find any Obuch- place name at all. Besides, it would be more common to see an -owski name, something like Obuchowski, used in that sense, rather than a -owicz name. So I'm inclined to go with Prof. Rymut and say it means literally "son of the battle-ax," where presumably the latter is a name applied to a man who was known for being good with that weapon (that's my interpretation, not Rymut's). In Polish the name would be pronounced roughly "oh-boo-HOE-vich." As of 1990 there were 762 Polish citizens named Obuchowicz, and they were spread pretty much all over Poland -- there doesn't appear to be any particular area where the name is concentrated.

(2) What is the meaning and origin of the name Switalski?

In Polish Switalski is written with an accent over the S and is pronounced roughly "shvee-TALL-skee." It's a moderately common name 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 and can be searched here), there were 3,180 Polish citizens by that name. They lived all over the country, with no significant concentration in any one area.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the root seen in the noun świt, "dawn, daybreak," and in the verb świtać, "to dawn, grow light."

The -ski is adjectival, so that Świtalski would mean literally "of Świtała" (using Ł pronounced like our W -- but the L in Świtalski is plain L, and pronounced more or less the same way we pronounce L). Names in the form X-ała usually mean "one always doing X, one of whom X is the most prominent characteristic." So Świtała would mean literally "the one always dawning, the one associated with dawning."

I'm not sure if this started as a nickname for one who was being compared to the brightness of a dawn, or one with a sunny disposition, or maybe just one who tended to always get up at dawn. Perhaps it could mean any or all of these things, and the exact meaning varied from case to case. Świtała is a common surname in its own right (borne by 4,753 Poles as of 1990), so it must not have been an unusual thing to call a person somehow associated with dawn. And Świtalski probably just started out meaning "kin of Świtała." I should add, however, that in some instances it might also mean "one from Świtały" -- there's at least one place by that name in Poland.

So, as with many Polish surnames, there isn't one simple answer to what the name means. It means "kin of Świtała" or "one from the place of Świtała," but the exact meaning of that name is open to debate. People named Świtalski live all over Poland, so the only hope of establishing exactly where a given Świtalski family came from, and how and why the name came to be associated with them, is to do detailed research into their history.

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

Sulatycki - Sulatycze

... My last name is Sulatycki and I would like to know what part of Poland the name comes from.

Actually, this name isn't Polish but Ukrainian; Ukraine was under Polish rule for a long time, and the peoples mixed to a considerable extent, so it's not at all unusual to find Polish names in Ukraine and Ukrainian names in Poland. But it's pretty certain this name derives from Sulyatichi (called Sulatycze by Poles), 82 km. south-southeast of Lvov (Lviv) in Ukraine. It's possible there are other places with similar names this could derive from -- when you talk Slavic place names, it's kind of rare to find one that isn't shared by at least a few different towns or villages -- but the Sulyatichi in Ukraine is the only one I've heard of. So the surname means basically "person from Sulyatichi."

This name is pretty rare in Poland, as of 1990 there were only 34 Polish citizens named Sulatycki, and they were scattered all over western Poland (undoubtedly the result of post-World War II forced relocations of millions of displaced persons). I would expect the name is more common in Ukraine, but have no data on that. You might want to see if you can find out more by visiting the Website www.infoukes.com, I believe they have a page devoted to Ukrainian surnames.

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

Strzyżewski - Walkowski

… A request for some information on the names Strzyzewski and Walkowski.

Both names began in most cases as references between a person or family and a place with a similar name; thus we'd expect Strzyżewski to mean "one from Strzyżew, Strzyżewo, Strzyże," and Walkowski to mean "one from Walki, Walków, Walkowo." In both cases, there are numerous villages with names that could produce these surnames, so it's impossible to say, just from looking at the surnames, which specific villages were the original connections. The ultimate roots of both surnames and place names are strzyż, "wren," so that Strzyżew would mean "[place] of the wren," and wal-, which can mean "overthrow, cast down," or it can come from the first name Walenty -- I imagine that Walkowski started in most cases as meaning "one from the [place] of little Wal."

Both names are moderately common in Poland; as of 1990 there were 2,901 Poles named Strzyżewski, and 2,675 named Walkowski. Both are also distributed fairly evenly across the country, so that we can't point to one area and say "Here's where they came from." It's highly likely many different families came to bear these names independently.

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

Dammratsch - Stodółka

… I was hoping that you could help me out concerning my Grandfather's surname Stodolka. I am interested in finding out what the name means? Are you familiar with this surname? Do you possibility know of any other persons researching it?

I don't know of other people researching Stodolka, but Polish onomastics expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book on Polish surnames. In Polish it's usually spelled Stodółka and would be pronounced roughly "stoh-DOOW-kuh." It comes from the root stodoła, "barn," and -ka is a diminutive suffix, so the literal meaning is "little barn." It probably started as a nickname for someone who lived near a little barn, or worked at one, or something like that -- all these centuries later it can be tough figuring out exactly what the connection was, but clearly the name indicates some sort of connection with a little barn.

In Poland these days this is not a common name, but not really rare either -- as of 1990 there were 256 Polish citizens named Stodółka. They were scattered all over, with larger numbers living in the provinces of Czestochowa (98), Legnica (39), and Wroclaw (27), so the name is most common in southcentral to southwestern Poland. (Unfortunately I do not have access to further details such as first names and addresses; the data I've given here is all I have). Other names from the same root are more common, e. g. Stodulski (1,426), Stodolny (912), etc.

… Have you heard of this town "Dammratsch" ? I have not been able to find it on the Internet. Also, have you ever heard of this ship the "Allemannia"?? I can find nothing on this ship!

Dammratsch is a German name, so if the village in question is now in Poland, it's in the areas that were ruled by Germany up until after World War I or II, when territory was taken from the Germans and given back to Poland. There are a great many places now in Poland that used to have German names. My sources mention at least one Dammratsch -- there may be others! -- and say it is now called Domaradz, in what is now Opole province in southwestern Poland (near Czestochowa and Legnica provinces, so that makes some sense in terms of the surname distribution data). As I say, there could easily be other places the Germans called Dammratsch (there are at least 3 villages in Poland today called Domaradz), but this one in Opole province seems to be your best bet.

I have no info on ships, but you might use Alta Vista or another Web search engine to scan Usenet postings for mention of Michael Anuta's book "Ships of Our Ancestors." I see mention of this book from time to time on Genpol and other on-line forums, it's supposed to be a fine source of info for the ships immigrants came over on. I'm not sure, but it may also be mentioned somewhere on the Website of the Polish Genealogical Society of America . If you visit that site, you might also wish to see if they have any info on Stodolka's in their various searchable databases.

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

Damaski - Damazki

...This [Damasky] is my husband's surname. His ancestors (according to a death certificate on his fathers side) were from Germany (no city mentioned). However, his surname certainly does not look German to me.

My husband thinks it is German, his brother thinks it is Jewish, and his sister thinks it is Polish. Me, I do not know what to think but I have been given the task of researching the family surname for them (since I am the one that is interested in the family tree).

I have searched around on the internet for surname information trying to determine the origin of this surname, however, I just can't find any answers. Books from the local library indicate that it could possibly be Polish, Czech, Jewish, or Russian.


Well, let's start by saying what it's not. It's not German -- at least, not if we're talking linguistic origin. German just doesn't form names with the suffix -sky or -ski, that is a trait of the Slavic languages. Of course, a great many people of Slavic ethnic origin ended up living under German rule and their names were modified slightly to fit German phonetic preferences -- that's not at all uncommon. In this case there's no way to know if the name was originally Damasky or Damaski or Damazki or Domaski or Domaszki -- there just isn't any data, and any of those names (and others) could end up as Damasky under German influence.

It's probably also not Jewish, although I can't say that for sure. But Alexander Beider produced two very large books on the surnames of Jews living in the Kingdom of Poland and in the Russian Empire, and neither mentions Damasky by that or any other spelling. If it were used often by Jews as a surname, chances are Beider would have mentioned it. So while the name might occasionally have been borne by Jews, it is not a distinctively Jewish name.

So the name is Slavic -- but whether Czech, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Slovak, Belarusian, that's harder to say. All those languages use the suffix -sky or -ski, and there's nothing distinctive about this name that allows us to say "Aha, it has to be so-and-so because they're the only ones who do that with names." In theory the name could have originated as meaning "from Damascus" -- in Ukrainian there is an adjective damas'kiy that means that. But in practice it seems unlikely many Slavs had any connection with Damascus strong enough to generate a surname alluding to such a connection. So the name more likely derived from a first name, perhaps Damian or Damazy or Adam, perhaps even Dominik or Domamir or Domasław, because under German influence the o could easily have been changed to a. Slavs loved to take the first part of first names, drop the rest, and start adding suffixes; so Damasky could easily come from any of those names I mentioned.

As of 1990 there was no one in Poland named Damasky or Damaski. There were, however, 196 Polish citizens named Damas, 550 named Damasiewicz, 219 named Damaszek, 273 named Damaszke, 256 named Damaziak, 247 named Damazyn, etc. So we get back to the same problem: what was the original form of the name, and has it been modified much because of German influence? Clearly the root damas- was used in Polish names; was this originally a Polish name that was modified and has since become rather rare? Or does it come from Czech or Russian or Ukrainian? I just don't have any information by which to judge, and I don't have name frequency data from anywhere but Poland.

So I can't really answer your question with anything definitive. But I hope the information I've given will prove to be a little help. The main point is that this surname -- like the vast majority of Polish and other surnames -- doesn't provide much in the way clues or leads as to its specific origin in time and place. I'm afraid only good old-fashioned digging in the records -- perhaps parish records in this country where your husband's ancestors received the sacraments or sent their kids to be educated, perhaps naturalization papers, perhaps ship passenger lists, etc. -- will enable you to make any progress with your research.

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



Disse - Eidenschenk - Nalde - Schnitzer

...Thanks for the information about names. Can you give me any background on the names; Disse, Eidenschink (Eidenschenk), Schnitzer or Nalde. These must be all German and you may not know or have anything on them.

What little information I have on these names is from Hans Bahlow's Deutsches Namenlexikon. He says Disse is a surname derived from a place name, for instance Dissen near the Teutoberg forest -- apparently the root is one of many in German that means "bog." He has nothing on Eidenschenk (or -schink). Schnitzer means "sawyer" or "one who cuts wood." Nalde is not mentioned, but Nadler is, meaning "needle-maker," so Nalde might mean something pretty similar.

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

 

Doboszyński - Magdziarz

...My last name was originally spelled Doboszynski and my GGGGfather may have been from around from what is now the Vilnius, Lithuania area... I don't feel my GGGGfather was Lithuanian but Polish.

The name Doboszyński probably started as a reference to a place with a name something like Dobosz, Doboszyn, Doboszyno. I can't find any such place on my maps, but a Lithuanian book on surnames mentions Dabaŝinskas as a Lithuanian form of Polish Doboszyński, and quotes a Polish scholar as saying it comes from a place name, Dobszyn. As best I can tell, this refers to a place now called Dobczyn, in Poznan province, in Srem township, 8 km. northeast of Dolsk; in the 15th century it was called Dobszyn or Dobszyno, and "person from Dobszyn" would be Dobszyński, which could easily be modified to Doboszyński. I can't be positive this is how your name got started, but it is plausible and there is some evidence for it ... I should add that there's nothing unusual about Poles living in Lithuania -- my wife's ancestors came from there. Poland and Lithuania were a single political entity for a long time, and certain Lithuanian regions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth used to be 40% or more Polish, so it's not in the least strange to hear of Poles living near Vilnius. It's not even out of the question that a family that once lived near Dobczyn in Poznan province might end up centuries later all the way up by Vilnius.

As of 1990 there were 181 Polish citizens named Doboszynski (that's within the borders of Poland, it wouldn't include anyone living in Lithuania). They were scattered all over, with larger numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (42), Bielsko-Biala (18), Gdansk (19), and Kielce (25). I have no access to further details such as first names and addresses, so I'm afraid that's all I can tell you.

...My wife's maiden name was Magdziarz. Her grandfather's naturalization papers listed Pielzno, Austria/Poland as his birthplace in 1877.

Magdziarz comes from a sort of short form or nickname of the feminine name Magdalena -- it might almost be translated "Maggie's child." It's a fairly common name, as of 1990 there were 2,688 Poles named Magdziarz, living all over the country with no particular pattern to the distribution... That "Pielzno" is probably a misspelling of Pilzno, a reasonably good-sized town in what is now Tarnów province; this region was under Austrian rule as of 1877, part of the territory known as "Galicia" which encompassed southeastern Poland and western Ukraine. By the way, there is no guarantee "Pilzno" is the exact place of birth, it was large enough to be the seat of a county (in Polish powiat), and often people mistook that for the actual birthplace. So your wife's grandfather may have been born in Pilzno, but it's also quite possible he was born in one of the villages in Pilzno county of what was then Galicia or Austrian Poland.

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

 

 

Dobrzechowski

... My family came from Gleboka in Sambor near the boarder of Russia. I hear that it is now a part of Russia. My gr-grandpa married a woman from the same village by the name of Dobrzechoski. I've seen many variations of this name. The only other people I know of on this line of my genealogy are from the same area as well with the names Houinka and Sawolia, two other names I haven't seen at all. Do you know anything about these other names?

Well, Dobrzechoski would be a variant of Dobrzechowski. In many parts of Poland they barely pronounce that w right before the -ski, so it's not unusual to see Iwanoski as well as Iwanowski, Dombroski as well as Dombrowski, etc. So the "standard" form of the name would be Dobrzechowski, which probably referred to a place with a similar name. For instance, there's a village named Dobrzechów in Rzeszów province in southeastern Poland, 4 km. northwest of Strzyzów; there also used to be a Dobrzechówka, in Rzeszów province, Niewodna parish. These are not too far from the area you're talking about, it's at least possible one of those is the place the surname originally referred to. Both places meant something like "place of Dobrzech," where that was a first name originating as a kind of nickname for people with names based on the root dobry, "good, kind." As of 1990 there was no one in Poland named Dobrzechowski or Dobrzechoski, so either the name has died out or the only people still with that name live across the border in Ukraine.

I can't really find anything on the other two, and they don't sound Polish to me -- possibly Ukrainian, possibly Slovakian, and my sources on those languages aren't as extensive as what I have for Polish. I wonder, have you investigated the Website www.infoukes.com? They just might have some info that would provide leads for you. It's worth a try!

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

 

Dziedelonis - Percha

...If you have the time, I am looking into several ancestoral surnames. Dziedelonis and Percha do not seem very popular. Maybe there are other spellings?

Dziedelonis is probably not Polish -- that -onis suffix is one used by Lithuanians to form patronymics, i. e., "son of so-and-so." The Dzied- part could be Polish, there is such a root dziad/dzied, meaning "old man, grandfather," also "inheritance." It is conceivable a Pole living in Lithuania (as many did and still do) might have a name like Dziedziel and his son might be referred to as Dziedzielonis or Dziedelonis. Or a Lithuanian with a name such as Dedelonis ("uncle's son," from the Lithuanian root dede, "uncle," obviously related linguistically to the Polish root dziad) might have been around Poles and had the spelling of his name Polonized to Dziedelonis. Or this may be a Lithuanian name from a totally different root. All these things happened often, but none of my sources really shed much light on this particular surname. There is a Lithuanian surname Dziedulionis, a variant of Diedulionis, that might be relevant, but I can't nail anything down.

The Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland shows that as of 1990 there were plenty of Polish citizens with names beginning with Dzied-, but none with any form of that name combined with the suffix -onis. I looked under every likely spelling variation I could think of. If the name is still in use, it is probably to be found in Lithuania, but as I say, none of my sources on Lithuanian give an exact match. So one way or the other, the name does not seem to be a very common one.

Percha is not common either, as of 1990 there were 19 Polish citizens by that name, living in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (4), Elblag (4), Katowice (3), Lodz (3), Torun (2), Walbrzych (1), and Zamosc (2). I'm afraid I don't have access to further data such as first names or addresses, what I gave here is all I have. There is a term percha this name might come from, it's a term used by bee-keepers for a ball of flower pollen collected by a bee, or pollen in a honeycomb. It is conceivable this might become a name for a bee-keeper. Or it might be a variant of something entirely different, but if so, I can't think of what that original form might be.

Sorry I came up with so little, but that's the way it goes with rare names -- their rareness makes it unlikely you'll find much on them. You might want to try writing to the Polish Language Institute in Kraków and see if they can find anything more definitive in their sources. In any case, I wish you the best of luck with your research.

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

Dziubański

...I am trying to research my family from Poland and I would like to know the meaning of the surname Dzuibanski — the n has a ' over it I don't know if that makes much difference to the meaning or not but thought I should mention it just in case. I would also like to know how to pronounce the surname "DzuibaNski"

This is almost certainly a misspelling of the name Dziubański. This name would be pronounced roughly "joo-BINE-skee." According to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut, it comes from the root dziób- or dziub-, which means "bill, beak, pockmark," and especially the term dziubany, "pockmarked." In form it is an adjective, meaning "of, from, pertaining to the pockmarked one," and as a surname would surely mean something like "kin of the pockmarked one." Since Polish u and o with an accent over it are pronounced the same, you could see this spelled Dziubański or Dzióbański; but as of 1990 there was no one in Poland who spelled it the second way, and there were 222 Polish citizens who spelled it Dziubański. These people were scattered all over the country, but the provinces with the largest numbers were Katowice (37), Koszalin (32), and Wroclaw (30). 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.

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

 

Frodyma

... One of the names that came up in my grandmother's pedigree chart was Frodyma. I've since contacted via Prinke's List, someone from Albany, NY who hails from the Springfield, MA area. She claims there's a good size bunch of Frodyma's in that area who are proud to be Polish. They hail from the area around Frysztak and immigrated to the USA at the end of the 19th century. The thing that puzzles me is the root of this name. Could it be from German froh or freude. The reason I ask is that I couldn't find it in your book. I'd appreciate your comment on this.

I didn't put Frodyma in my book because I could find absolutely nothing on it -- not in any of my sources! It's frustrating, because I keep feeling that I should be able to figure this one out, but so far no luck. I have considered German froh or Freude as possible sources, but then the -yma part makes no sense; and the books I have on German names and on Polonized forms of German names don't mention Frodyma under either root. So I've drawn a complete blank on this one; I guess the Polish Language Institute in Kraków may be the only hope for getting an explanation on this one.

It's not a very common name, but not rare either -- 383 Poles named Frodyma as of 1990, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Krosno (83), Rzeszów (90), and Tarnów (36). So it's definitely concentrated in southeastern Poland. This suggests German, Ukrainian, Romanian, or Hungarian roots might be involved -- but as I say, no German and Ukrainian connections show up in my sources, and I don't really have enough on Romanian or Hungarian to say.

So I don't know what it is. If you ever find out, please let me know and I'll be glad to include it in future editions of the surname book!

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

Gajewski

...I wonder if you can give me any nformation about the derivation of the name Gajewski. Your web page includes information on the name Gasiewski. I wonder if my name is a variant? I am told my grandfather came from Warsaw.

No, Gajewski would not normally be a variant of Gasiewski. The root gaj or gai- in Polish has to do with "adorn with verdure, open a garden," and the noun gaj means "grove." Gajewski is adjectival in form, meaning basically "of, from, pertaining to the place of the grove or garden," but as a surname it probably started in most cases as referring to a specific village named Gaj or something like that -- there are quite a few villages by that name, and there's no way to know which specific ones a given Gajewski family came from. So the name means either "one from the grove or garden," or "one from Gaj, Gajów, Gajewo, etc.," in either case specifying place of residence or origin.

The rub is that as of 1990 there were 25,666 Poles named Gajewski, living all over the country, so it's a pretty common name. If it's true your grandfather came from Warsaw, that still isn't much help, because in 1990 there were 3,299 Poles named Gajewski living in the province of Warsaw. I'm afraid about all I can do is give you that number and tell you the basic meaning of the name.

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

 

Galagan - Gałgan - Hatman - Hetman - Żurowski

...My husband and I are planning a trip to Poland this October and since we're both half Polish, we wish to visit the villages from which our grandparents came. My grandparents' village location has been a total mystery for me to find. My grandmother told me that she came from a village named "Papuchi" (my father, however says it's spelled "Popowcz" and is in the Galicia region. I can't find anything that looks like either name. My grandmother said it was located 14km from Kraków near Bioda, and that her maiden name was Zurowski. Her mother's name was Hatman and her father was "John Zurowski" My grandfather was from the same village. His name was "Simon Galagan." My grandmother said that the name Galagan is Polish, but I suspect that it might be Hungarian. I had examined my grandparents' entry papers they had when they came to the United States, and verified the spellings of my grandfather's name to be Galagan, and my grandmother's parents' names to be Hatman and Zurowski. Could you help me with the origins of these names? Your answer may help me to find their village.

I looked through my sources, and there is mention in the Slownik geograficzny gazetteer of several places with names such as Popowice. One struck me as promising: a Popowice, a settlement on the outskirts of the village of Siepraw, which looks to be about 14-15 km. south of Kraków, roughly between Myslenice and Wieliczka. In old records it sometimes call "Popowicz." I can't find a Bioda or Bieda or anything similar nearby; but this region was included in Galicia (the far western edge of it). It's not a perfect match with your info, but it's good enough to be worth a look. This Popowice was a very ancient settlement, first mentioned in a medieval charter granting ownership of the village of Brzeczowice "with the settlement Popowicz" to a monastery. It did not show up on 19th-century maps and official lists of settlements, but it was listed in an 1826 gazetteer of Galicia. It's quite possible this is a name you would only hear locals use -- just as in the U. S. you might run across a little settlement that has since been incorporated into a bigger town, and only old-timers would use its original name. If this is the right place, residents would surely have gone to the Catholic church in Siepraw to register births, deaths, and marriages. With any luck the LDS may have microfilmed the Siepraw records, and a search through them may allow you to confirm or reject it as the right place. I will say this, "Papuchi" is almost certainly not correct, that's not a Polish name, whereas Popowicz or Popowice are quite plausible as Polish names.

As I say, I can't promise this is the place you're looking for, but it does seem worth a look. Lenius's Genealogical Gazetteer of Galicia mentions two other villages called Popowice, but one was near Przemysl, which is too far east, and the other was near Nowy Sacz -- that's not all that far away, but it makes sense to go with the one nearest Krakow. And that's the settlement that once was on the outskirts of Siepraw.

Galagan might derive from some other language, but it seems possible it is a variant of the surname Gałgan (using ł sounding like our w). This is an established name, meaning "rag" and also used to mean "good-for-nothing, scoundrel." As of 1990 there was no one in Poland named Galagan (within the accuracy limits of available data); there were 6 Poles named Gałagan, living in Płock province, and 432 named Gałgan, of whom the largest number (198) lived in Bielsko-Biala province, just south of Kraków provinces (only 1 lived in Kraków province itself). I have no access to further details such as first names and addresses, but the large number in Bielsko-Biala province would be living not far at all from the Siepraw area, so there could be a connection.

Hatman is almost certainly a variant of the name Hetman, from hetman, "captain, chieftain, army commander." That word, in turn, derives from German Hauptmann, meaning much the same thing. The 1990 data mentions 3 Poles named Hatmann, all living in Poznan province; it shows a frequency of 0 for Hatman, meaning there was at least one person by that name but the data on him/her was incomplete, making it impossible to give the province of residence. Hetman is a common name, as of 1990 there were 1,472 Poles by that name as well as 682 Hetmańczyk's and 791 Hetmański's. I can't be 100% certain Hatman is a variant of Hetman, but I'd be very surprised if it isn't.

Żurowski is a very common name, derived from the names of numerous villages called Żurów, Żurowo, Żury, etc., originally just meaning the person or family by that name came from one of those villages. Names ending in -owski are adjectival, and any of the places named Żurów etc. would form the adjective Żurowski, so there's no way to specify which one is connected with your family. There were 179 Żurowski's in Kraków province as of 1990, but there were people by that name living in virtually every province, especially in southeastern Poland (Radom province 309, Tarnów province 345, etc.).

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


 

Galaska - Gałązka

... Most of my family lives in Ohio and Michigan. I currently live in North Carolina. I was contacted about a month ago by a man in England who did a search of my last name and found my email address. He sent me a note. His name is Roman Galaska. We are trying to find out if we are related. He is 2nd generation from Poland and I am fourth. My great grandfather came to the US. His name was Andrew. Apparently, his grandfather was in the calvary of Frans Joseph. I don't have his name but he was an orphan and raised by his godmother. Anyways, Roman and I agree that the last name is Galazka, possibly with a sideways colon above the Z ? We believe the name to mean "twig" or "branch of a tree". Any info you could provide would be greatly appreciated, including any family crest, shield,etc. Roman still has family over in Poland who he will go visit in August. We are still in contact with one another and he may come up with more information the next time I contact him. Thank you for your time and helping us make a distant connection with our past.

I'm afraid I have no knowledge of family arms, that's not a subject I've ever had the time or inclination to study. I can tell you that Galazka is spelled Gałązka -- ą is the nasal vowel pronounced much like "own", and ł is pronounced like English w. So Gałązka sounds much like "gahw-OWN-ska."

As you say, it comes from a Polish root meaning "twig, branch." It is not an uncommon name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 9,377 Polish citizens named Gałązka. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Warsaw (1,773), Ostrołęka (912), Siedlce (923), which suggests it tends to be concentrated in northcentral and northeastern Poland; but you can find people by this name in virtually every province. This suggests that there probably isn't just one big Galazka family, most likely the name arose independently in different places and at different times.

I remember some years ago hearing of a man named Jacek Galazka living here in the U.S., he was, I believe, connected with Hippocrene Books, a firm that publishes books on Polish and eastern European subjects. There's a book something like Who's Who Among Polish Americans, he'd probably be listed in it. Anyway, I mention him just to show that the name is pretty common, it's not hard to find people named Galazka.

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

 

Gardocki - Tworek

...I am interested in finding out what our name Tworek means in Polish, and its entymology, if it has one that you know of!

Tworek appears in Polish legal records as far back as 1395, and it comes either from the root twor-, "create, make," or from the first name Tworzyjan, a Polish adaptation of the first name Florian. The -ek is a diminutive suffix, meaning "little Twor, son of Twor," but we can't be sure in a given case whether Twor- came from that name Tworzyjan, or if it comes from ancient pagan Polish first names formed with the root twor-, "make, create" plus some other root, as in Tworzymir ("Make-peace"), Tworzysław ("Make-glory"). So it's clear Tworek started as a reference to a personal name, probably the father or most prominent member of a family; we just don't know whether Twor- is short for the medieval first name Tworzyjan, or for one of those ancient names, dating from when Poles were pagans. If the name was around in 1395, either is possible.

...My mother-in-law's branch of the family is Gardocki and I know her aunt has told us there was a family crest which dates from the 15th or 16th century and that the family was from the town of "Gardote". Do Gardocki and Gardote derive from the same root, and what root would that be? What does it mean?

It is likely that Gardocki originally referred to a connection between a person or family and a place with a name such as Gardote or Gardoty; when the suffix is added, the t in the original root becomes a c, so Gardocki does make sense as deriving from those place names, or from personal names such as Gardota. The ultimate root of all these names is seen in gardy, "haughty," and gardzić, "to despise, scorn." Again, this was a root used in ancient pagan names such as Gardomir ("scorn-peace"), and Poles love to take such names, keep the first part and drop the rest, and then add suffixes. So Gardota would be a kind of nickname for Gardomir and other similar names; the "place of Gardota" could be Gardoty, and "one from Gardoty" would be Gardocki... I don't see a Gardote (though there certainly could be one, or could once have been one), but there is a Gardoty in Łomża province, and I would think in the case of many Gardocki's, that's the place the name refers to.

Both Tworek and Gardocki are fairly common names. As of 1990 there were 3,548 Polish citizens named Tworek, and there were 992 Gardocki's. Both names can be found all over Poland, but the Gardocki's were most common in the northeastern provinces of Łomża (441) and Suwałki (110), and there were 618 Tworek's in Tarnobrzeg province in southeastern Poland. You can't really conclude that's where the names come from originally -- both could have developed independently in different areas -- but at least in terms of numbers those are places worth particular attention.

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

 

Gejda - Giejda - Ołdakowski

...I am John Machnicz and I am researching my family tree. I would appreciate if you could tell me about my grand-parents surnames ........ Oldakowski .......... and Gejda. I read your reply to the name Giejda, could this be variation of that name?

Gejda would almost certainly be a variation of Giejda. In Polish, according to "proper" spelling, the g is never supposed to be followed directly by e; it should always be gie-, not ge-. However, this rule is comparatively recent, and until about 100 years ago the vast majority of Poles couldn't read or write anyway, so the spelling of their names wasn't always consistent. So no matter what the grammarians say, Gejda is a perfectly good variation of Giejda. In fact, there are more Poles these days who spell it Gejda than Giejda, which surprises me. As of 1990 there were 99 Poles named Gejda, living in the following provinces: Warsaw (4), Biala Podlaska (6), Ciechanów (2), Czestochowa (4), Elblag (14), Gdansk (5), Nowy Sacz (2), Olsztyn (38), Opole (10), Ostrołęka (12), Skierniewice (2). These figures show it is most common in northcentral Poland, in what used to be East and West Prussia. (Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses of those 99 Gejda's; what I give here is all I have).

Names ending in -owski generally began as a reference to a connection between a person or family and a particular place with a similar name. In the case of Ołdakowski (the ł is pronounced like our w), we would expect the name to mean something like "person from Ołdaków, Ołdakowo, Ołdaki." I don't find any places named Oldaków or Oldakowo, but there are at least four named Ołdaki, and it's impossible to say which one a particular Ołdakowski family would be connected with, without further detailed research (which I'm in no position to do). The name Ołdaki appears to come from an old word ołd, a variant of hołd, "homage, tribute," and suggests the name of the place originally meant "place of those who paid homage" -- presumably vassals of some liege lord.

As of 1990 there were 1,189 Polish citizens named Ołdakowski; they lived all over the country, but the largest numbers were in the provinces of Warsaw (256), Łomża (326), Suwałki (110) -- this suggests a concentration from central to northeastern Poland. This makes a certain amount of sense, all of the Ołdaki's I found on the map are in northeastern Poland. So the name seems to be most common in that area, although as I say, there are Ołdakowski's living all over Poland.

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

 

Geĉionis - Giec - Goetz

...Although the Lithuanian spelling of my GGrandfather's surname was Geĉionis", the Polish version of it, for many years, was Geczionis. What, if anything, could that surname be derived from, assuming it was from a Polish root?

I notice the Dictionary of Lithuanian Surnames edited by A. Vanagas mentions Polish Giec or Giecz as a possible source of the name. If that's so, the only info I can find is that giec is a dialect variant of kiec, meaning "corncrake," a kind of bird (Latin name Crex crex). As of 1990 there were 876 Polish citizens named Giec (as opposed to 301 named Kiec). Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut says kiec can also mean "skirt," but if I'm reading him and my other sources correctly, giec is connected only with the root meaning "corncrake." There are a great many Polish surnames deriving from names of birds, presumably given because something about a person reminded folks of a bird; sometimes it was the clothes they were were the same color as a bird's plumage, or maybe their voices sounded like a bird, or some other connection -- all these centuries later, it can be tough to recreate the exact nature of the connection.

This is a tough one to nail down because there are so many possibilities. In some cases German Goetz might also be relevant -- that's a short form of German first names such as Gottfried or Gottschalk; in what used to be East Prussia you have a lot of connections between Germans and Poles and Lithuanians, so German origins can't be overlooked. And of course Vanagas suggests the name can be linked with the basic Lithuanian root ged-, "pain, sorrow." So you have a lot of possible derivations.

But you asked for the Polish angle, and the Giec/Kiec connection is the one that seems strongest. The only thing I'm not sure about is what part of Poland is associated with that Giec/Kiec dialect usage. If it's only in southern Poland, it probably isn't relevant here; but if we also see it in northern or northeastern Poland, then it's quite plausible. Unfortunately, I don't have any sources that go into that much detail.

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

 

Godzinski

...I am looking for any info on the Godzinski name. I have absolutely none. This is my mothers family name. My grandparents are deceased and my mother knows as much as I regarding our heritage/heraldry.

I'm afraid I have nothing on this name that will help you. None of my sources mention it. It probably comes from the root godz- meaning "to join, reconcile," or from an ancient first name that had that root as part of the name, such as Godzimir or Godzisław. It might also come from the root godzina, "hour." All that is concerning the ultimate root; the surname may have derived more directly from a place named Godno, Godzino, something like that (which in turn derives from those roots I talked about), but I can't find any place with a name that would work. That isn't uncommon, many surnames refer to places that were very small, or had names used only by locals, that would never show up on any map.

The only hard bit of info I have on the name is that as of 1990 there were 573 Polish citizens by this name, but that's not much help because they weren't concentrated in any one area. They lived in small numbers scattered all over the country.

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

 

Gołębiewski - Golembiewski

...My last name is Golembiewski. Do you have any information on it?

Names ending in -owski or -ewski almost always originated as references to a connection between a person or family and a place with a name ending in -ów, -owo, -ew, -ewo, -y, and so on. Thus we'd expect this name to mean "person from Golembiewo, Golebie" or something similar. There are quite a few villages that qualify, including Golembiewo's in Gdansk and Torun provinces, Golebiow's in Radom and Tarnów province, etc. The place names, in turn, come from the Polish word for "dove, pigeon," so they mean "place of the dove" and the surname means "person from the place of the dove." This is a very common name in Poland, although it's usually spelled a little differently: Gołębiewski, where ł is pronounced like our w, and ę is a nasal vowel pronounced like "em" when it comes before b or p -- the name sounds like "go-wemb-YEFF-skee." As of 1990 there were 12,330 Polish citizens by that name, living all over the country, i. e., there's no one area they're concentrated in.

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

 

Góralski - Marek

... If time allows would it be possible to find meanings for two surnames: Goralski and Marek. Many thanks for your time.

Marek derives from the first name Marek, which is the Polish equivalent of "Mark," from Latin Marcus. This is a common surname in Poland, as of 1990 there were 16,202 Polish citizens named Marek, living all over the country; surnames derived from first names are very common in Poland. Most likely it began when some member of a family named Marek was prominent, so people began using his name when referring to his kin -- as I say, a very common practice.

Góralski comes from the root góral, meaning "mountain-man," used to refer to the mountain-dwellers of southeastern Poland. There is a whole separate sub-culture of the górale, and they are regarded as wild, colorful, and fiercely independent. Góralski is in form simply an adjective meaning "of, from, pertaining to the mountain-men." As of 1990 there were 4,416 Polish citizens named Góralski, so this, too, is a pretty common name.

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

 

Kalinowski

… I've been following Gen-pol question and answers and am really impressed by the professionalism of folks in geneaological research. The knowledge of history has certainly been interesting and pertinent. Since I am just getting started on our family tree I would ask that you allow me to impose on you for information as to the origin and meaning of the Kalinowski name.

Genpol is a very impressive group -- we have a lot of knowledgeable folks who share information, and we've been spared most of the "flame wars" so common on other Internet groups. I think anyone interested in Polish genealogy who doesn't keep up with Genpol is missing a bet.

As for Kalinowski, it is a very common name; as of 1990 there were some 30,012 Polish citizens by this name, living all over the country. The basic root of the name is kalina, "guelder rose, cranberry tree," according to Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut. But names ending in -owski are adjectival in form and usually (not always, but usually) began as references to a connection between a particular person or family and a place with a similar name, typically ending in -ow, -owo, -owa, or some other possibilities. Thus Kalinowski means literally "of, from, pertaining to Kalinow, Kalinowo, Kalinowa, etc." If a family was noble, that would typically be the name of the estate they owned; if peasant, they probably lived or worked there, or traveled there often on business, something like that.

The problem is that this surname -- like many -owski names -- can refer to any of numerous towns and villages. There are quite a few Kalinow's, Kalinowa's, Kalinowo's, etc. in Poland, and the name could have begun in connection with any or all of them; that's probably why the name is so common. Those places, in turn, got their names because they were places where guelder roses or cranberry trees were plentiful. So functionally we'd interpret Kalinowski as "person from Kalinow/a/o, etc.," but a literal translation would be "place of the guelder roses."

These surnames derived from place names seem to promise us help with tracking down our ancestors, but usually disappoint us precisely because so few place names are unique; if you find one Kalinow/o/a you may easily find 3 or 4 or even 20! For what it's worth, that's the way it works with most names; not many provide really helpful clues.

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

 

Gruchacz - Kurkiewicz

...I'm researching my husband's family. The main surnames are Gruchacz and Kurkiewicz. I've never seen either name on any lists. I'm most interested in knowing which part of Poland has populations with these surnames.

According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut, Gruchacz comes from the verb gruchać meaning "to coo (like a pigeon), to warble"; the -acz suffix usually denotes one who often performs the action of the verb, so Gruchacz would mean literally "cooer, warbler." It is apparently one of those names that arose due to association of a person with a particular characteristic, perhaps a gentle or tuneful voice. The name Gruchacz appears in Polish records as far back as 1424, so it's been around a long time. However, these days it's not particularly common: as of 1990 there were only 175 Polish citizens named Gruchacz; the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Katowice (19), Kraków (77), Warsaw (19), Wroclaw (10) and Zielona Gora (11), with fewer than 10 in several other provinces. The only pattern I see there is that the name is most common in southcentral Poland, but that doesn't really tell us a lot.

In Kurkiewicz the suffix -iewicz means "son of," and kurk- comes from a diminutive form of the words meaning "cock" and "hen," so the name means literally "son of the small chicken." That's the literal meaning of the word; Kurek and Kurko and other such names may have been used as by-names or nicknames for a fellow who reminded people of a bantam rooster; also, like "cock" in English, kurek has many other meanings, including "weather-vane," "faucet," etc. But the basic connection would probably be with a cock, either because a person raised chickens or sold them or else reminded people of them somehow. Whatever the precise origin, this is a pretty common name in Poland; as of 1990 there were 2,205 Polish citizens named Kurkiewicz, living all over the country.

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

Bryś - Gniewek - Gudelski - Merski - Mierski

I have a question about several family names. They are Gudelski, Gneiwek, Brys, and Merski.

The most likely derivation for Bryś is as a nickname or short form of the Latin first name Brictius, which came into use by Poles as Brykcy or Brykcjusz but is quite rare among English-speakers. There may be other possible derivations for the name, but this seems the most likely. As of 1990 there were 2,248 Polish citizens named Bryś (with an accent over the s, giving it a slight "sh" sound), so this is a moderately common name in Poland.

Gudelski is a rare name, as of 1990 there were only 50 Poles named Gudelski, living in the provinces of Koszalin (1), Łomża (2), Ostrołęka (22), Suwałki (5). This means almost all of them live in northeastern Poland, which is near Lithuania and makes me suspect the root of the name is Lithuanian in origin. A book I have on Lithuanian names cites Gudelskas (= Polish Gudelski) as derived from Gudelis, which means "son of Gudas" -- it turns out in Lithuanian gudas means either "Belarusian person," sometimes also used to refer to a Russian or Pole, or "skilled, experienced." So this appears to be a Polonized version of a Lithuanian name, meaning either "son of the experienced one" or "son of the Belarusian."

The proper spelling of Gneiwek is surely Gniewek. This is a moderately popular name -- as of 1990 there were 1,130 Poles named Gniewek. The root is gniew, "anger, wrath." The name could come from that term directly, perhaps applied to a wrathful person, but it might come from ancient Polish pagan names with this root, such as Gniewomir ("wrath" + "peace"); Gniewek would be a typical nickname for someone named Gniewomir. So the derivation is from the word for "wrath, anger," either directly or by way of a first name.

Merski is hard to pin down. As of 1990 there were 409 Poles by that name, so it isn't rare, but it's not too common either. Merski doesn't really look or feel quite right, it might be a variant of Mierski or something similar, or it might come from the first name Marek (= Mark). I just don't have enough information to give you anything very definite.

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

 

Biraga - Guzek - Kalak

...I was wondering if you knew anything about the surnames Guzek, Kalak, or Biraga? Any info would be appreciated.

I can't find anything on the origin or meaning of Biraga; as of 1990 there were 200 Polish citizens by that name, of whom 44 lived in Ciechanów province, 101 in Ostrołęka province, and the rest were scattered in small numbers in other provinces. (Unfortunately I have no access to further details, such as first names, addresses, etc.).

According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut, Guzek comes from the root guz meaning "bump, bulge" (there is also a term guzik, "button"); as of 1990 there were 3,682 Poles named Guzek, living all over the country.

Rymut says Kalak comes from the verb kalać, "to soil, dirty, stain." As of 1990 there were 126 Poles named Kalak, of whom the vast majority (108) lived in the province of Kalisz, so that's a prime place to look for them.

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

 

Ługowski - Resel - Roesel

… I am looking for information about my grandparents family names, Lugowski & Resel.

The name Ługowski (ł is pronounced like our w), like most names ending in -owski, initially referred to a connection between a person or family and a place with a similar name. In this case we'd expect Ługowski to mean "person from Ługi or Ługów or Ługowo," something like that. There are several villages named Ługi and at least a couple more named Ługów, so there's no way to say which one a particular Ługowski family came from. The ultimate root of the place name is probably either ług, "lye," or a variant of łęg, "marshy meadow." As of 1990 there were 3,992 Polish citizens named Ługowski, living all over the country, so there is no one region we can point to and say "That's where they came from." The surname probably started independently in several different places in reference to a nearby Ługi or Ługów.

As of 1990 there were 147 Poles named Resel, with larger numbers living in the provinces of Czestochowa (39), Opole (54), and Walbrzych (16) and a few living in other provinces scattered here and there. The provinces mentioned are in far southcentral and southwestern Poland, in areas with large German populations. That may be significant, because Resel does not appear to be of Polish linguistic origin -- there is no similar Polish word or root. It is most likely a Polish phonetic spelling of a German surname such as Ressel or Roessel or Roesel. According to German surname expert Hans Bahlow the name Roesel is found among Germans in that general area, and means "rose-gardener, one who sold flowers." It is perfectly plausible that the spelling of the name of a German family Roesel who lived among Poles might eventually be modified so that Poles would pronounce it correctly, and Resel fits. So that strikes me as the most likely derivation of this name -- though I can't be 100% certain.

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

 

Bucyki - Haczyński

...I came across your website today when my father asked me to search for any information on our surname - Haczynski. My grandfather was born in Grzymalów (I think that may be a parish?) And the town on the birth certificate we believe is Bucyki but I can't find anything on the web about it. Would you have anything on the origins of Haczynski?

I can't find any source that says definitively what Haczyński comes from. It could come from the root hak, "hook," also seen in the verb haczyć, "to hook"; the root is basically the same in Polish and Ukrainian, so if Haczyński is the correct spelling and the name hasn't been modified somewhere along the line, that probably is the ultimate root. But often names ending in -iński and -yński refer to places, so that Haczyński could mean "person from Hak, Haka, Haczyn," etc. I can't find any places by those names, so the surname may not refer to a place and may have started as simply meaning "guy with a hook, guy who uses a hook." But it's not rare to find that the place a surname referred to centuries ago has since vanished or changed names; and, as we'll see in a moment, we need to look in Ukraine, not Poland, anyway, and my maps for Ukraine aren't as good. So I can't rule out a reference to a place named something like Hak, Haka, Haczy, or Haczyn. In any event, if such a place name existed, it probably derived from the root meaning "hook" anyway, so one way or another we end up back with that root.

As of 1990 there were 140 Polish citizens named Haczyński. They were scattered all over the country, with larger numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (13), Bydgoszcz (35), Legnica (13), Walbrzych (12), and Wroclaw (20). As I say, that's pretty widely scattered, I don't see any significant pattern to that frequency and distribution. By the way, people often ask, so let me explain that I get this data from a multi-volume directory of Polish surnames -- it does not give first names or addresses or anything more detailed than the data I've quoted here, and I don't have access to anything more detailed. So what I've given is all I have.

At first I couldn't find Bucyki, but I have on microfiche a 15-volume Polish gazetteer dating from the turn of the century, and it does mention Bucyki. Here's what it says (I've edited out some stuff that almost certainly wouldn't interest you):

"Bucyki: a village in Skałat county, 2 km. east of Grzymałów, 17 km. from Skałat... It belongs to the Roman Catholic parish in Grzymałów, and there is a Greek Catholic parish in the village, which, along with branch parishes in Leźanówka and Bilenówka numbers 939 souls of the Greek Catholic rite and belongs to the Skałat deanery... The owners of the major estate are Leonard and Julia, Count and Countess Piniński." [Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polkiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, vol. 1, p. 433].

Remember, that info was current as of, say, 1870-1890, that time period. Since then borders have changed, and now that area belongs to Ukraine. Skalat is a town or village southeast of Ternopil, Ukraine, which explains why you couldn't find it. It was part of Polish territory long ago, but from about 1772-1918 this area was ruled by Austria under the name of Galicia (German Galizien). I can't find Bucyki (probably now called Butsyki, if it still exists) or even Grzymałów (probably something like Grymaliv) on my maps of Ukraine; Skalat is all I could find. A lot of villages in that area suffered terribly during the two World Wars, so there may no longer be any village there. But there definitely was one at one time. I would expect the Roman Catholic records of the parishioners' births, deaths, and marriage to have been kept at Grzymałów, and the Greek Catholic ones on-site in Bucyki. I have no idea whether the LDS has been able to microfilm them yet, you may have to do a fair amount of searching to find them, if they even exist any more. A lot of records in that area were destroyed. If you want more info, I suggest visiting the Website www.infoukes.com.

There may be more Haczyński's in Ukraine than in Poland, since the area your ancestors came from is now in Ukraine; but I have no sources for that country, so I can't tell.

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

 

Jajko - Tarka - Trac

... My grandfather, Jan Jajko arrived 1902 and settled in Massachusetts. Think he came from Gradisca/Gradiska, near Austrian border? Some family have changed spelling to Jayko. I only know the ones in MA. Somehow we're related to Albert Moryl, LaPorte, IN. My grandmother, Mary Tarka (lots of Tarkas) I think came from Kanna. She had a brother Wojciech Tarka, came to see Marya Fail. Mary Tarka's mother was a Trac, don't think she came over.

I can't tell you a thing about your families, only the linguistic origins of their names and, in some cases, a little info on where in Poland those names are most common. Thus Jajko comes from the Polish word for "egg," and as of 1990 there were 675 Polish citizens by that name; there were some living in almost every province of Poland, but the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Kraków (71), Krosno (95), and Tarnobrzeg (207), all in south-central to southeastern Poland. (I'm afraid I have no access to further details such as first names and addresses, what I've given here is all I have).

Tarka comes from the word tarka, "grater," and in 1990 there were 4,262 Poles by that name; there were sizable numbers all over the country, but the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Płock (575), and Radom (410) -- there were 101 in Tarnobrzeg province and 98 in Tarnów province.

Trac is probably from tracz, "sawyer," also meaning "merganser," a kind of duck. Apparently in 1990 there was no one in Poland with this name, it may have been changed somewhere along the line; if so, it probably was Tracz originally, which was the name of 6,323 Poles as of 1990.

One last word: with your MA and Galicia connections, you really should look into joining the Polish Genealogical Society of the Northeast, 8 Lyle Rd., New Britain CT 06053. I think it's $15 a year, and they specialize in research in precisely the areas you're interested in. Chances are you could pick up some very helpful info.

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