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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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 permission.

 

Jandryca - Mocko - Moczko - Plachetka - Stelmach

... Can you give me information on Stellmach, Jandryca, Plachetka, or Motzko?

Stellmach: this comes from German Stellmach and Stellmacher, a term used in East Germany and Silesia (and brought from there into Poland) for "waggoner, cartwright." In Poland it is more often spelled Stelmach, and as of 1990 there were 8,354 Polish citizens by that name.

Jandryca is a very rare name, as of 1990 there were only 6 Poles by that name, all living in the province of Opole in southwestern Poland, the region called Silesia (near the Czech border); unfortunately I don't have access to any further info, such as first names or addresses. None of my sources mention this name specifically, but it's a good bet it comes from a variant form of the Polish first name Andrzej or German Andreas, "Andrew," and means "son of Andrew."

Motzko is a German spelling of a Polish name; Polish uses the letter c (sometimes cz) where German uses tz, so the Polish name would be Mocko or Moczko. That could be a nickname for someone named Matthew, or it could be a variant of the name Moczko (665 Poles by that name in 1990). But I'd have to see the original Polish spelling to say anything more definite, because the exact form makes a difference as to what name we're talking about.

Plachetka comes from the Polish word plachta, "covering, shroud." As of 1990 there were 304 Poles with the name Plachetka; a more common name from the same root is Plachta (3,256).

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

 

Janovsky - Janowski

Thanks in advance for your efforts.

Name: Janowski or Janovsky


The correct spelling in Polish is Janowski, pronounced roughly "yah-NOFF-skee." It's a moderately common surname, borne by over 13,000 Polish citizens as of 1990; they lived all over the country, with no concentration in any one area.

The name means literally "of John's _," where you fill in the blank with something so obvious it didn't need to be spelled out -- usually either "kin" or "place." So this name could mean simply "of the kin of John."

But most of the time surnames in the form X-owski refer to a family's connection at some point centuries ago with a place that had a name beginning with the X part. So we would expect this name to mean "one from Janów or Janowo" or some other place name beginning with Janow-. There are lots of places that qualify, and there's no way to know which one a given Janowski family came from, except by doing genealogical research. If you trace your family back to their ancestral region, at that point it may become possible to establish exactly how this name came to be associated with them. It helps a lot if you can focus on looking for a Janów or Janowo or Janowice in a specific area, instead of having to cope with dozens of them all over Poland.

This name can also appear in other countries, especially the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but also sometimes Russia and Ukraine. But Russians and Ukrainians use "Ivan" for the name "John," as opposed to Poles and Czechs and Slovaks, who use the form "Jan." So Janowski (Polish spelling) or Janovsky (Czech/Slovak spelling) usually originated among Western Slavs, not among Russians and Ukrainians, who'd be more likely to use the surname Ivanovsky with the same meaning.

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

 

Jankowski

... With my name being Jankowski I asked the Nuns what the difference was between our two names. Being a very Polish school and many fluent Polish speakers there I was told the following. Jan in Polish is "John" and the suffixes -kowski and -kowska meant "the son of or daughter of John." Or translated "Johnson" or "Johnsdaughter." After watching the post for sometime I have seen all kids of explanations for the ski suffix. Kind of lost.

I understand how you feel. It can get very confusing. Part of the problem is that there were basic rules that applied to the formation of surnames, but they weren't always applied consistently. And even a well-educated Pole who hasn't actually studied name origins can get it wrong; it's no disgrace, this is a specialized field and has its odd twists and turns. The only disgrace is insisting you know more than you actually do -- and all of us are vulnerable to that one!

At this point I should probably shut up, but I'll risk disgracing myself and try to explain.

There's no question the basic root of Jankowski is Jan, the Polish form of "John." But a name like this has to be broken down into its component root and suffixes. In this case it breaks down as follows: Jan + -k- + -ow- + -ski.

Janek is a diminutive form of Jan, meaning "little John, Johnny," or sometimes in names "son of John"; the -e- drops out when suffixes are added. The suffix -ow- basically implies possession or an "of" relationship (you can remember what it means by connecting it to our word "of"), so Jankow- means "[something or someone] of little John." The suffix -ski is adjectival, so that Jankowski literally means "of, from, pertaining to [something or someone] of little John." That's how the name actually breaks down.

In practice, Jankowski could have developed sometimes as meaning "son of John," that cannot be denied. And whatever its origin, Jankowski is an adjective and must follow Polish grammatical rules, so it changes forms, depending on grammatical considerations. Thus a female Jankowski would be called Jankowska in Polish. So the nuns could have been right, it could sometimes mean nothing more than "son of John" or "daughter of John."

But more often names in -owski originated as references to a connection between a person or family and a particular place with a similar name. Generally we'd expect Jankowski to mean "one from Janków, Jankowa, Jankowo," etc. Those are the most likely possibilities, but you can't rule out other place-names such as Jankówka, Jankowice, etc. -- by modern Polish grammar those names could not generate Jankowski, but centuries ago, when surnames were developing, the rules were looser.

There are a great many villages and settlements in Poland named Janków, Jankowo, etc., and all got their names as meaning "[place] of little John." Perhaps a Janek founded them, or at one point the noble who owned them was named Janek or was the son of a Jan, hard to say exactly what the connection was. But most of the time the surname Jankowski originated as meaning "one from Janków, Jankowa, Jankowo, etc.," and that in turn can be broken down to "one from the place of Janek." The word for "place" wasn't included because it was implied and everyone understood it without spelling it out. If the family in question was noble, they owned this place Jankow/Jankowo, etc. If they were peasants, they probably lived and/or worked the fields there, or else had once lived there and then moved elsewhere. In either case, at the time surnames were developing it made sense to refer to them as "the ones from Jankow/o/a."

So you see the nuns weren't necessarily wrong, and in some cases their analysis will prove correct. But on the whole, -owski names usually refer to a place name that is similar, beginning Jankow- or something like that.

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

 

Karbowski

... I am researching my family name Karbowski. I noted in your Home Page that you might be able to provide a short analysis of Polish Surnames. If it is possible, I would appreciate it if you could send me a brief analysis of my family name.

There are a couple of possible derivations for Karbowski. Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut notes that names beginning with Karb- generally come from the root karb, "notch, nick"; but he also notes that names with Karbow- can come from the term karbowy, "overseer," i. e., the man on a noble's estate who supervised the peasants as they worked. It is quite possible that Karbowski could be interpreted as "kin of the karbowy," since the -ski ending is adjectival and usually means "of, from, pertaining to."

The other interpretation is that Karbowski could mean "one from Karbów, Karbowo, Karbowa, Karby," in other words Karbowski is an adjective that fits several different place names. Of those, the only name for which I could find a place that actually exists was Karbowo -- there's a village by that name in Elblag province (the nearest parish and civil registrar's office is either Orneta or Lubomino), and another in Torun province (just a few km. north of Brodnica, which is probably where they went to register births, deaths, etc.). There may be more too small to show up on my maps, but it is thoroughly plausible that this surname started out meaning "person or family from Karbowo." Of course, the interpretation "kin of the overseer" is also perfectly plausible. In fact, we often see that a given surname can end up having derived two or three different ways, and that seems to be true here.

... I might mention that my goal is to find my ancestral village in Poland. I have been able to track my ancestors back to the year 1852 in a Polish settlement in Parrisville, Michigan. So far, I haven't been able to find out how these Polish settlers came to Parrisville, or where, in Poland, they came from.

Well, either of the Karbowo villages I mentioned above, in Elblag and Torun provinces, might be the place your ancestors were named for. I should caution you that surnames developed centuries ago, and over those centuries villages have disappeared, or been renamed, or been absorbed by others, so there may once have been other places named Karbów or Karbowo or Karbowa or Karby that this name could have come from. But these two might suggest areas to start looking in.

I'm afraid I have no other info that will help you pinpoint where your ancestors came from. As of 1990 there were 3,999 Polish citizens named Karbowski, living all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Suwałki (385) and Torun (413), and only 93 in Elblag province. So the frequency and distribution pattern offers no useful clues.

You say your ancestors settled in Michigan -- have you checked out the Polish Genealogical Society of Michigan, c/o Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library, 5201 Woodward Ave. Detroit, MI 48202-4007. If anybody can help you uncover some leads, I'd think they're the ones.

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

 

Kazanowski

... Can you give me any input on Kazanowski?

Usually Polish surnames ending in -owski refer to a place name with similar form; we would expect Kazanowski to mean basically "person or family coming from, living in, connected with Kazanów, Kazanowo, Kazany," something like that -- there are several different forms of place names that could all end up generating Kazanowski. In this case I notice there are at least two places that qualify -- perhaps more too small to show up on my maps -- a Kazanów in Radom province and one in Wroclaw province. People who came from (or, if they were noble, owned) either of these villages could easily end up being called Kazanowski. So it's unlikely there's only one Kazanowski family; there are probably multiple families with this name, with the name developing independently in reference to different places.

As of 1990 there were 1,152 Polish citizens with this name, scattered all over the country. The largest numbers appeared in the provinces of Warsaw (158), Chelm (87), and Lublin (245), but smaller numbers lived in practically every province. I see no real pattern to the distribution and frequency of the name -- which, again, suggests it probably started independently in different places.

I hope this doesn't disappoint you. Many people contact me in the hope that their surname will offer some really good clue as to exactly where their ancestors came from, so they won't have to do the tough work of tracking them down. I wish it worked that way, and once in a while it does. But the vast majority of Polish surnames just don't tell you anything really helpful; the most you can find out is their basic meaning and whether they're common or rare.

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

 

Kaznocha - Madej

... I am interested in any information you have on the origin of my paternal grandparents names Kaznocha from Rola Cicha, Rzeszów and Madej, Rudna Mala Rzeszow.

Madej is a name seen in records as early as 1415; it comes from the Latin first name Amadeus ("love-God"), famous mainly as the middle name of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but it was a moderately popular first name in Poland and other European countries. Names beginning with Mad- can also come from the name Magdalena, but in this case I think it's pretty likely Amadeus is the source. A great many Polish surnames come from first names, often referring to children by their father's names -- "There goes Madej's son" could eventually generate the surname Madej, or it could simply be a first name that came to stick as a surname. As of 1990 there were 16,799 Polish citizens named Madej, living all over the country (413 in Rzeszów province alone), so it's a pretty common name.

Kaznocha is tougher -- none of my sources mention it -- and also rarer; as of 1990 there were only 90 Poles by this name. They lived in the following provinces: Bielsko-Biala 3, Gdansk 5, Gorzów 7, Katowice 21, Kielce 2, Kraków 2, Krosno 1, Lublin 12, Rzeszów 9, Szczecin 17, Tarnobrzeg 5, Wroclaw 6. (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). A look at a map will tell you that the name is scattered in small clumps all over Poland, but it is possible this was not so before World War II -- the dislocations caused by that war, and especially by post-war forced relocation of massive numbers of people from eastern Poland and western Ukrainian to western Poland, may have muddied the waters considerably. Looking at this distribution, it strikes me as entirely possible that before 1939 this name might have been concentrated mainly in southeastern Poland (including Rzeszów province and those surrounding it). I can't be sure, I have no source of pre-war data, but it is at least possible.

It seems clear that this name comes from a root seen in Polish and Ukrainian, kazn-, which means "to scold, chastise, punish"; kazna is also a term used in Ukrainian to mean "public funds, treasury," and also in terms such as kaznokrad, "embezzler," and that may be relevant, but I suspect the other meaning is the one behind the surname. We see such terms as kaznodzieja in Polish, literally "chastise-doer" but used in the meaning "preacher," especially in the sense of one who chastises the sinful and brings the wrath of God down on his listeners. We see a number of names in Polish that come from a root plus the suffix -och or -ocha, which don't have a clear-cut meaning but are just suffixes added to form names. Such names were popular in Poland, especially before the country was Christianized and Christian names such as Jan, Piotr, Stefan, etc. supplanted the old native Slavic names; thus the name of the city of Czestochowa means "Czestoch's place" (the root means "many, much, frequent"), and I know a man named Zimnoch, from the root meaning "cold," etc. My best guess is that Kaznocha meant originally "the scolder, the chastiser." It would make a pretty good name back in the old days, meaning perhaps an intimidating fellow who punished anyone who got out of line.

I am just speculating here -- as I said, none of my sources mention this name -- but going by analogous names, I think it's pretty likely that's how this name started.

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

 

Kędziora - Kendziora

... I was hoping you might be able to give me some insight to my wife's surname Kendziora. I have read that it means a lock of hair or lock of red hair.

Yes, Kendziora comes from the Polish term kędzior, "lock of hair" (the ę is pronounced in most cases somewhat like en, so that names with this sound are often spelled either ę or en). This is a very common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 8,165 Polish citizens named Kędziora and another 121 who spelled it Kendziora. Unfortunately, with names this common there is no way to deduce just from the name exactly where it originated in the case of a particularly family. Only someone who possesses considerable knowledge about a given family's background can trace them to their origins; the name itself just doesn't offer enough in the way of clues.

... I do have couple questions, are there coat of arms or family crest in Poland? If so do you think that the surname Kendziora may have received one?

I don't know of anyone researching this name, but there surely are people who are doing so. As for a coat of arms, I have very little information on the subject of nobility and heraldry. Your best bet would be to contact the following organization: Polish Nobility Association Foundation, Villa Anneslie, 529 Dunkirk Rd., Anneslie, MD 21212-2014

I believe they will, for a moderate fee, search armorials and heraldic literature to see whether a given family was recognized as noble. However, the more information you have about your family, the better. I tend to doubt it would be enough to say "Were the Kendziora's noble?" You would probably need to be able to say "Were the Kendziora's living in the area of __ noble." However, I'm not sure about this -- it can't hurt to write and ask.

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

 

Kensicki - Kęsicki - Klimkiewicz - Strój

... My grandfather was a Klimkiewicz, born in Radzwie, Płock Poland. My second grandfather was a Kensicki from Dobrzejewicz, Torun, Poland. The third name I am interested in is Stroj, again from the Radzwie area. If you can shed any light on them I would appreciate hearing from you.

I doubt the info I can give you is a lot of help -- few Polish surnames do offer any really useful leads as far as tracking down a family's origins. But then you never know what might prove useful, so here's what I have.

Names ending in -owicz or -ewicz mean "son of," so Klimkiewicz means "son of Klimek or Klimko." Those, in turn, are short forms of the name Klemens (= English "Clement"). So Klimkiewicz means more or less "son of Clem" in English. Surnames formed from first names are very common and widespread in Poland, and this is no exception: 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 3,439 Polish citizens named Klimkiewicz, living all over the country -- of whom 147 lived in the modern-day province of Płock.

Kensicki is another way of spelling Kęsicki (ę is pronounced roughly en). The ultimate root of this name is the noun kęs, "piece, morsel." But it would generally refer to the name of a place with which the family was connected at some point, places named Kęsica or Kęsice. There was mention in old records of a Kęsicki family with an estate at Kęsice in Sierpc district; I can't find any such place on modern maps, but that's not odd; surnames developed centuries ago, and often the places they referred to have since disappeared, changed names, etc.

As of 1990 there were 1,448 Kęsicki's, of whom 118 lived in the province of Torun (only the province of Pila, with 167, had more). There were 21 Poles who spelled the name Kensicki, 3 in Elblag province, 11 in Gdansk province, 3 in Walbrzych province, and 4 in Wroclaw province -- unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses.

Strój is one of numerous names from the root stroi-, stroj, meaning "to deck, trim, adorn." Strój itself probably comes from the noun stroj, "dress, attire." This name is surprisingly rare, as of 1990 there were only 75 Poles named Strój, living in the following provinces: Warsaw 15, Gdansk 2, Katowice 17, Kielce 26, Kraków 7, Poznan 6, Szczecin 1, Zielona Gora 1.

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

 

Klejnowski

... I hope you can help me. I can't seem to find out any information on my name Klejnowski.

Names ending in -owski usually referred to some connection between a person or family and a place with a name ending in -ów, or -owo or -y or something similar; in this case, we'd expect the name to mean "person from Klejnów or Klejnowo or Klejny," something like that. I have a book that lists German and Polish names of places in some of the regions ruled by Germany up until 1918 and 1945, and it mentions at three villages called Kleinau, which is how Germans would write what the Poles would call Kleinów or Klejnów. One Kleinau was in Trzebnica county in Silesia, and the Polish name for it is Małczów. Another was in Goldap district in East Prussia. The third is called Malkowice by the Poles, in Prudnik county in Upper Silesia, now Opole province. These are places that might be connected with the name Klejnowski. I would imagine the original root of the name was German klein, "little, small." A great many "Polish" surnames actually started out German, and this could be one, especially since there is no root klejn or anything like it in Polish. (Note that the Polish equivalent of German klein, "little, small," is mały, and we see that root in the names Malczów and Malkowice).

As of 1990 there were 631 Polish citizens named Klejnowski, living all over the country, with larger numbers in the following provinces: Warsaw 98, Bydgoszcz 55, Ciechanów 65, Elblag 59, Katowice 40, and Torun 116. This suggests a concentration in northcentral Poland (Bydgoszcz, Elblag, Torun, Ciechanów and Warsaw provinces), and a smaller concentration in southcentral Poland (Katowice province). That is consistent with origin in several different places -- there were villages called Klejnów or Kleinau in several different areas of Poland, so the surname developed in reference to them, and thus is not unique to any one region.

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

 

Kochanowski

... I apologize for misleading you and wasting your time... My family name was not Kochanski, rather it was Kochanowski and, if my father can be believed, Kochanowska. The question I should have asked is... I was wondering if you had any information readily available for the last name Kochanowski and/or Kochanowska?

Actually, no harm done, because the answer is almost the same. First of all, names ending in -ska are the same as names ending in -ski, except that the -ska is the ending used for females. So the husband would be Kochanowski, but the wife would be Kochanowska. To Poles this is the most obvious thing in the world, but when they came to this country they eventually stopped doing it when they found themselves among English-speakers because they realized Brits and Yanks didn't understand and thought those were two different names.

As for Kochanowski, the key is in my previous note: "I don't see any place by that name, but some might have existed centuries ago, when surnames were being formed -- there are several villages named Kochanów, but that name would tend to generate a surname in the form Kochanowski, not Kochański." The surname Kochanowski began in most cases as a way of referring to a person or family who lived in or came from a place called Kochanów, Kochanowo, Kochanówka, or something similar. There are several villages named Kochanów and Kochanówka, so a Kochanowski family could have come from any of them, and thus there's no way to pin down which one a specific family came from without detailed data on the family. In other words, the most I can do is tell you what kind of place name to look for, and then with any luck you can use what you learn about your family and where they came from to see if there's any place nearby that qualifies.

As of 1990 there were 4,728 Polish citizens named Kochanowski, and they lived all over the country, so I'm afraid the surname itself doesn't offer much in the way of clues. About all we can know of it is that it originally referred to some connection between a family and a place called Kochanów or Kochanówka or something like that, and there are several places that qualify.

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

Kołaczkowski - Kolaĉkovsky

... Would like any information concerning the surname Kolaczkowski which was my maiden name. My research has just began and the only information I have is that my great-grandparents immigrated from Poland/ Czechoslovakia in the 1800's to U.S. Then on to Dallas, Texas in the late 1800's. Certain also the name remains in its original spelling.

As for Kołaczkowski, the standard Polish spelling of this name (ł which sounds like our w), names ending in -owski usually started as a reference to a connection between a person or family and a place, most often the village they lived in or came from. The name of that place is usually very similar but ends in -i, -ów, -owice, -owo, etc. Thus there is in Poland at least one village called Kołaczków, 3 named Kołaczkowice, and 3 named Kołaczkowo -- and the name Kołaczkowski could have started as a reference to any of them, or to more too small to show up on my maps.

As of 1990 there were 816 Polish citizens named Kołaczkowski. They were scattered all over the country, with no significant concentration in any one area. So unfortunately the surname doesn't offer much in the way of leads. If it's any consolation, that's the way it usually turns out -- even surnames that refer to place names, and thus seem to promise a specific lead, turn out to be disappointing because there are several places with the same name.

By the way, the spelling Kołaczkowski is distinctively Polish rather than Czech or Russian or whatever. However, that can be misleading. The same name, pronounced virtually the same way, surely exists in Czech: they would spell it Kolaĉkovsky. And there is at least one place named Kolaĉkov in Slovakia. The point is that if a Czech or Slovak named Kolaĉkovsky emigrated and came through Poland to a Polish or German port, his name might possibly end up being spelled by Polish phonetic values, simply because the officials involved were more familiar with Polish than Czech. If so, the Polish form of the name might fool us into excluding the Czech/Slovak region as his original home.

With the spelling Kołaczkowski, odds are they were Poles. But I thought I'd better mention the possible Czech or Slovak connection, just in case it comes up at some point.

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

 

Piczak - Śliwa

… I was wondering what you could make of my last name, Piczak. I traveled to Poland in 1997 w/ my father to tour and visit new-found relatives on my maternal grandparents side, Sliwa (I gather it means "plum"), which is apparently very common... Amazingly, the Polish people we spoke to over there, did not think "Piczak" was a real Polish name. Hmmm.... I did find one Piczak in a Warsaw phone book.

Well, native-speakers are not always right about names. They usually have a good feel for whether or not a particular name is a common one, but names are a rather specialized field of study, and without experience you can easily go wrong. In fact Piczak is a perfectly legitimate Polish name, one seen in legal records as far back as 1490. It is not a very common one, however; as of 1990 there were only 205 Polish citizens named Piczak. They were scattered all over the country, with the largest single block (55) in the province of Rzeszow in southeastern Poland -- no other province had more than 12. (I'm afraid I don't have access to more data such as first names or addresses).

Probably the reason the Poles you met weren't familiar with the name is because it derives from an archaic root, one not used in the living language for centuries. That root is pica (pronounced almost exactly the way we pronounce "pizza"). This word had several meanings: 1) fodder for animals; 2) a lifelong pension for ex-soldiers; 3) a soldier's daily ration; and 4) the vulva. I don't mean to be indelicate here, but many Polish name origins turn out to be unmistakeably from rather vulgar words, and pica is one of many, many slang words for the female genitals -- what's more, in the case of at least some names beginning with Pic-, Polish experts think that meaning was the original one behind the name, sort of like calling a person a "son of a slut" (although if I wanted to be absolutely accurate, I'd use a different 4-letter word).

I don't think we have to assume this was the meaning behind Piczak, however (and it's highly unlikely any of the Poles you talked to have ever heard this word). It could easily have started as a name for someone who fed animals or provided fodder, or an ex-soldier on a pension. But I'd be lying to you if I didn't mention the other possibility as well. For what it's worth, there are many, many other names with similar meanings, to the point that I sometimes ask people "Are you sure you want to know what your name means?"

Śliwa is indeed the word for "plum," and is a very common name, borne by 11,499 Polish citizens as of 1990.

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

 

Dziechciowski - Ratulowski

...This name is a duzzy!!! It is my cousin's name and everyone, even Polish people, had a difficult time spelling it correctly. So all the children legally changed their name to "Jeff" which is the pronunciation of the first part of Dziechciowski. I doubt if you can come up with anything on this name--it is very rare!

As of 1990 there were 217 Polish citizens named Dziechciowski; here is the breakdown of where they lived by province:

DZIECHCIOWSKI: 217; Bielsko-Biala 10, Bydgoszcz 2, Gdansk 1, Katowice 2, Koszalin 4, Krakow 3, Nowy Sacz 105, Poznan 21, Rzeszow 1, Szczecin 14, Walbrzych 11, Zamosc 10.

The name almost certainly comes from the name of a village or tiny settlement named something like Dziechciowo or Dziegciowo, most likely somewhere in the province of Nowy Sacz. I can find no such place, but that may just mean it's too small to show up in the atlases and gazetteers, or its name has changed in the centuries since the surname started. Dziechciow- is a spelling variant of Dziegciow-, caused by very similar pronunciation; the ultimate root of the name is dziegieć, "birch tar," and there is an adjective dziegciowy meaning "of birch-tar." There were people who worked collecting such tar for making various products, and presumably Dziechciowo/Dziegciowo was a village where such activity was common.

...I see from your list that there is nothing on the name of Ratulowski. Do you have any clue where or how this name originated?

Here is the data on that name's distribution by province as of 1990:

Ratułowski: 101; Bielsko-Biala 4, Gdansk 13, Kalisz 1, Krakow 7, Krosno 4, Nowy Sacz 63, Wroclaw 8, Zielona Gora 1.

This name also comes from a place name, and since the largest numbers appear in the province of Nowy Sacz, that's where I looked. Almost certainly this name comes from Ratułów, Nowy Sacz province, 15 km. southwest of Nowy Targ, 7.5 km. southeast of Czarny Dunajec, served by the Catholic parish in the latter village. A gazetteer entry for Ratułów even mentioned that there was a Maciej Ratułowski who owned the property in 1660. The place was originally called Radultów, after a local official named Radult, then later the name was mangled or changed into Ratułów.

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

Jękot - Jenkot

...What does the surname 'Jekot' mean?

The name is spelled Jękot in Polish, where ę stands for the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under it and pronounced, roughly, like en, so that the name sounds like "yen-kot" -- you might sometimes see it spelled Jenkot, too. It comes from a term jękot, apparently not used a lot, which means "one who's constantly moaning and groaning." As of 1990 there were 515 Polish citizens with this name, living all over the country but with the largest numbers showing up in the provinces of Katowice (43), Krakow (62), and Tarnow (180). All these provinces are in far southern Poland, with Tarnow stretching into southeastern Poland, not too far from the Ukrainian border. So the chances seem fairly good most Jekot's originally came from the Tarnow region or a little west of there. Unfortunately the source for this data does not give first names or addresses, so what I've given above is all I have access to.

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

Scislowicz - Ścisłowicz

...Am very new to this. Am researching the Scislowicz surname from Nowy Targ Poland...

As of 1990 there were 408 Poles named Ścisłowicz (pronounced roughly "schees-WOE-vich"). They lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice (43), Kielce (76), Krakow (29), Nowy Sacz (114) -- all roughly in southcentral Poland, not far from the border with the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The suffix -owicz means "son of," and ścisły means "compact, dense, exact," so the name would appear to mean "son of the short, squatty guy," or perhaps "son of the precise, exact fellow."

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

Łańczak - Marosz - Piszczek

...Could you please tell me the meaning of the Polish names Lanczak and Pisczek? Also, how long they have been around? I am also looking for the name Marosz/Marosze or Marosk. I do not know if it is Polish or not.

As of 1990 there were 4,657 Poles named Piszczek, living all over the country but with the largest numbers (over 200) in the provinces of Katowice (948), Krakow (953), Nowy Sacz (248), Pila (313), Radom (203), and Tarnow (244). Polish surname expert Dr. Kazimierz Rymut notes this name appears in documents as early as 1390, and usually comes from the term piszczek, "one who plays pipes or fife."

Lanczak is a tough one. My best guess is that this is an English rendering of Łańczak (pronounced roughly "WINE-chok"). There were 104 Poles by this name in 1990, scattered in small numbers all over; the largest numbers were in the provinces of Warsaw (14), Leszno (18), Przemysl (9) and Torun (9). I don't see any pattern to the distribution. The root would be either łania, "doe," or łan, "field, full-sized farm." The most reasonable guess is that the name started as meaning "son of a fellow owning a full-sized farm" -- many people were too poor to own regular farms and just owned little pieces of land, this would be a farmer who owned a full 30 acres or whatever. There are other possible meanings, but this is the one that seems most likely to me.

Marosz and the other variant forms certainly can be a Polish name, although there are probably other languages such a name could originate in. It probably started as a nickname for someone named Marcin (Martin) or Marek (Mark); Poles often formed names by taking the first syllable of a common first name, chopping off the end, and tacking on a suffix, in this case -osz. So you can't really say Marosz means anything, any more than "Teddy" or "Johnny" mean something; they're just nicknames that have developed into names in their own right. As of 1990 there were 593 Poles named Marosz, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (50), Bydgoszcz (81), Krakow (60), and Poznan (49). There were also 1,836 Poles named Maroszek -- the other spellings you mentioned suggest this might this name might be relevant. That name would just mean "little Marosz" or "son of Marosz." This name is rather common, and the largest numbers for it appear in the provinces of Warsaw (192), Kalisz (129), Katowice (394), Krakow (128), and Radom (266) -- pretty well spread out all over the country.

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

Mruk - Tylenda

... I am trying to trace my family roots and recently seen your book Polish Surnames: Origins & Meanings advertised for sale. However I was wondering about ... my 2 family surnames... They are: Mruk, my grandfather was born in Moszczenica in Poland; Tylenda, my grandfather was born in the Suwałki region of Poland.

According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut, Mruk comes from the basic root seen in the Polish words mruk, "man of few words, gloomy fellow," and the verb root mruczeć, "to mumble." It is a fairly common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 2,915 Polish citizens named Mruk. They were scattered pretty much all over the country, which is not surprising, since the name could arise any place Polish was spoken and there were taciturn or glum fellows around, i. e., anywhere.

Tylenda is harder to pin down; Rymut mentions it, but cannot say for sure which root it comes from. It could be from the term tyl, "rear, back," or from tyle, "how much?", or from the Germanic first name Till. I do see in my 8-volume Polish-language dictionary that there is a very similar-sounding word, tylędzie (the ę stands for the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail and pronounced much like en), which means "back or blunt side of a knife" or "the back of something" in general. Poles were quite imaginative in their use of nicknames, sometimes we can tell a name came from a particular word without quite being able to figure out what the association was -- I think that's true in this case. As of 1990 there were 475 Poles named Tylenda, scattered all over the country but with by far the largest concentration in the province of Suwałki (302) in northeastern Poland, near the border with Lithuania and Belarus. The spelling Tylęda, which would be pronounced the same way, is far less common, only 32 Poles by that name, with 31 of them living in Suwałki province. This suggests to me that far northeastern Poland is probably where this name originated, or at least where it's most common by far -- and that fits in with your information, too.

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

Płóciennik - Pluciennik - Plucinik

...My last name is Plucinik. My research shows that the original spelling is Plociennik, which later became Pluciennik, and then the present spelling. Some of my cousins who I've never met still spell it as Pluciennik. Can you provide any meaning or story behind the name?

According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut, this name comes from the Polish word płóciennik (pronounced roughly "pwooh-CHEN-nick"), which means "dealer in linen or cloth." Even in Poland the name can be spelled Płóciennik or Płuciennik. As of 1990 there were 3,265 Poles named Płóciennik and 3,242 named Płuciennik, so it is a pretty common name. The people with this name live all over Poland, with the largest numbers of Płócienniks in the provinces of Kalisz (492), Konin (292), Lodz (233), Poznan (275), and Sieradz (270); the most Płucienniks live in the provinces of Warsaw (222), Konin (282), Lodz (350), and Sieradz (373). So the name is found all over -- which is normal with names deriving from terms for common occupations -- but the main concentration seems to be in the central part of the country. (I'm afraid more detailed info, such as first names, addresses, etc., is not available, what I show here is all I have). The name is a fairly old one, it appears in records as early as 1395!

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

Ksen

...Do you have any information on the last name of Ksen?

The letter combination ks is not native to the Polish language, usually it shows up in words or names borrowed from Greek or Latin, especially by way of Ukraine or Belarus, because their ties to the Orthodox church caused them to borrow many names and words from Greek. In this case I'm fairly certain the name derives from either the Ukrainian feminine name Kseniya or the masculine name Ksenofont (for which Ksen' is a recognized nickname, in Cyrillic it looks like K C E H b). The latter name comes from the Greek roots xenos, "foreign" + phone, "sound," so apparently it originally meant "one who sounded foreign" -- but that was in Greek, I suspect by the time Eastern Slavs heard of the name it had become just a name, and few had any idea what it actually meant. The feminine name Kseniya, from the Greek xenios, "hospitable," is a bit more common, and the surname could also derive from it. In Poland and Ukraine surnames formed from first names are very common, especially from a father's name, but in Ukraine names formed from mother's names are not uncommon. So it's plausible to say this surname comes from one of these two first names.

Since Ksen' is distinctly Ukrainian (or perhaps also Belarusian or Russian), I'm not surprised that it's not very common in Poland, at least within its modern borders (back in the days of the Polish Commonwealth western Ukraine was ruled by Poland, and Polish and Ukrainian names mixed to a considerable extent). As of 1990 there were only 72 Poles named Ksen', living in the provinces of Warsaw (4), Elblag (5), Katowice (4), Kielce (16), Koszalin (2), Olsztyn (1), Opole (5), Poznan (2), Rzeszow (10), Szczecin (12), Tarnobrzeg (6), Tarnow (2), Walbrzych (3). They are scattered pretty much all over Poland, but that is probably due to all the forced relocations of displaced persons after World War II; I'd bet if we had data from before 1939 you'd find most of the people named Ksen' lived in or near Ukraine or Belarus. (Unfortunately I don't have access to more data, such as first names or addresses; what I give here is all I have).

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

Surdyka

...Do you have any background on Surdyka?

When I worked on my Polish surname book, I couldn't find any discussion of this name by the experts I prefer to rely on. So I had to make the best guess I could -- usually my "educated guesses" prove right, but not always, so don't take this for Gospel truth!

I found a verb in Polish szurdać się, which means "to pout, sulk." In Polish names it is not at all uncommon to see s and sz switch back and forth, any name with S might have a counterpart with SZ, and vice versa. So it's plausible to say Surdyka and the other names with the same beginning (Surdacki, Surdej, Surdek, Surdel, Surdy, Surdyga, Surdyk, Surdykowski, Surdynski, Szurdak) come from this root. If so, the name probably started as a nickname for someone who sulked a lot, or perhaps some who had a kind of pouty look to his or her face. As I say, this is only plausible, I don't have any solid evidence, but my batting average on such guesses is pretty decent.

Surdyka, and the closely related name Surdyk, are not rare; as of 1990 there were 392 Poles named Surdyka, and 1,077 named Surdyk. The Surdyka's lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Rzeszow (81) and Tarnobrzeg (143), thus mainly in southeastern Poland. The name Surdyk appears in many provinces in small numbers, none more than 43, except for one huge group in Poznan province (560!). So if Surdyka is the correct form (it could easily be a grammatical form of Surdyk, so you want to make sure that -a really belongs there), southeastern Poland or Galicia is likely to be where it came from; if it's Surdyk, the Poznan region seems the best bet. Unfortunately, I don't have any more data such as first names or addresses, so I can't help you locate any of those Surdykas or Surdyks.

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

Csehill - Tsehill

...Post the following in the ... surname site if you think it is accurate and would be helpful to others.

RE: Csehill

The Cs suggests Magyarization. Do you have how the name was/is written in Cyrillic? That would help in its interpretation because the name, in addition to being Magyarized, was also anglicized.
________

Lavrentij Krupnak

**********************************************

I read a little more about the Magyar language and have some information which may help decipher the meaning of the name Csehill. In 1910, when the Hungarian language orthography was modernized, the cs consonant combination was eliminated. It was replaced with ch and ts.

The ch is pronounced like "ch" in "CHeap" and ts is pronounced like "ts" in "iTS."

RE: Csehill. Perhaps this spelling is the version based on the pre-1910 Magyar orthography. Today, it maybe in Magyar written as Tsehill (here also preserving the anglicized form).

Ts is pronounced like the 27th letter of the Ukrainian alphabet. The Ukrainian word tsehla means "brick" or "tile." A tsehl'nik is a "brick-maker." Perhaps the surname Csehill is based on the Ukrainian word for "brick" or "tile."
________

Lavrentij Krupnak

Note: I can't think of anything to add -- I doubt I would ever have thought of this particular connection, but it strikes me as plausible.

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

Niemoj - Niemojewski

...I was looking thru your Polish Surname book, which I recently purchased, for a translation of a family name, Niemojewski. I tried matching up with all possible variations for a meaning but I didn't have any luck. Can you please help me out?

People who bought the book and want to contact me with requests for more info are welcome to do so! There are so many Polish surnames I couldn't hope to include them all, and I could not include all the info I have on the ones I did list. But E-mail and the Web allow me to share some of the info there was no room for in the book.

As of 1990 there were 175 Polish citizens named Niemojewski (one reason it wasn't in the book, as a rule I didn't have room for names borne by fewer than 300 people). They were scattered all over the country, with the largest numbers (20 or more) living in the provinces of Warsaw (30), Lodz (20), Radom (21), and Skierniewice (22). This suggests the name is most common in the central part of Poland (in its current borders).

Names ending in -ewski usually derive from a place name, especially ones ending in -ew, -ewo, -ewice, etc., so Niemojewski probably started out meaning "one somehow connected with a place named Niemojewo/Niemojow," etc. Unfortunately, there are several different villages in Poland with names that could yield this surname, Niemojewo, Niemojewice, Niemojki, Niemojow, etc. One was an estate called Niemojewo near Inowroclaw in modern-day Bydgoszcz province; it was served by the post office in Parchanie, about 5 km. away, and the Parchanie Catholic parish church is probably the one to which people in Niemojewo went to register births, deaths, and marriages. As of 1583 this village was owned by a Mikolaj Niemojewski. I mention it to prove that this is at least one place the surname could come from; but as I say, there are several others, and without much more detailed info on your family there is no way to know which one applies in your family's case. However, with luck and perseverance you may uncover enough info to settle the matter -- if you trace your ancestors back to a specific area and one of these Niemojewo's or Niemojki's or Niemojow's is nearby, that's probably the place!

The root of these place names is interesting. Niemoj is an old Polish first name; Niemojewo and Niemojow just mean "Niemoj's place." Niemoj could have arisen in a couple of different ways, one from a term meaning "mute," but one meaning is literally "not mine" (nie = "not," mój = "mine"). Sometimes in olden days when parents had lost one or more child and ascribed it to evil spirits, they would name a child "Niemoj" in hopes of convincing the evil spirits to leave it alone -- "This one's not mine, no point bothering it, I don't care." Probably later on people just named kids that without thinking about what it meant, but that is one way we know the name got started! ... I wish I'd had room for more info like this in the book!

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

Marchewka - Marchefka - Marhefka

...Could you please e-mail me with a short message regaurding the city or region of origin for my last name, Marhefka? Possibly spelled Marchefka.

Unfortunately, the name Marchewka (the standard Polish spelling, of which the others you mentions are variants) is very common in Poland; as of 1990 there were 6,800 Polish citizens by this name, living all over the country. The largest numbers showed up in the provinces of Warsaw (422), Czestochowa (790), Katowice (501), Krakow (561), Radom (855), but the only pattern I see to the distribution is that Marchewka's are a bit more common in the southern part of the country. The name comes from the noun marchewka, which just means "little carrot," I believe often used as a kind of nickname for red-heads, so the name could arise anywhere Polish was spoken and there were people with red hair, i. e., anywhere in Poland.

So, like the majority of Polish surnames, this one doesn't offer any helpful clues on where the families bearing it originated. It's pretty clear many different, unrelated families from many different parts of the country ended up with this name.

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

Kumiega

...I am not big into genealogy, just interested in my heritage. I have not been able to obtain any information on my name or history from relatives or informal sources. The information that I have been able to obtain indicates that my grandparents came to the US in the time period of 1897-1902 from the area of Tarnow in SE Poland. I would be happy with any information you might be able to provide, even if it is only to put a meaning to the surname, much like the surname "cooper" refers to the barrel makers trade.

I can't provide as much info as I'd like on Kumiega, but I have a little info that may be relevant.

First, the frequency and distribution of the name. There are two forms, Kumiega and Kumięga (here the ę represents the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under it, pronounce much like en). As of 1990 there were 215 Kumiega's; the overwhelming majority (168) lived in the province of Tarnow, with small numbers in a few other provinces. Kumięga was a bit more common and more spread out, there were 568 Kumięga's, but again, the huge majority lived in the neighboring provinces of Tarnow (271) and Tarnobrzeg (96) in southeastern Poland. This strongly suggests that your ancestors came from the heart of Kumiega country, and that the area you've identified is likely to be the area where this name originated and is most common.

Unfortunately I have no access to any further data, such as first names, addresses. If you want such data, you might try seeing if you can find someone to do a search of the Tarnow province phone directory; the Polish Genealogical Society of the Northeast, 8 Lyle Rd., New Britain CT 06053, does this at reasonable prices, but I'll warn you, there are problems. The way these books are organized, a search for a particular name tends to take several hours, plus phones in private homes are not as common in Poland as they are here -- so there's no guarantee any of the Kumiega's listed would be any kin to you, or at least not close kin. Still, it's the only way I know of to try to get specific addresses. If you want to go this route, you'd probably be better off pursuing your research to find out first what specific villages in Tarnow province your ancestors came from, since the name is so common in that area -- focusing on a specific village or two would narrow the focus of the search and increase the chances of a respectable pay-off.

As to the origin of the name, the only root I can find in Polish (or any other Slavic language) is the word ... which means "godfather," also "crony, pal." Poles (and Russians and Ukrainians) often use this term to refer to close buddies, guys you hang around with, as well as an actual godfather. There is a related verb kumać się, "to hobnob." The -iega suffix is not an extremely common one in Polish names, but we do run into it occasionally. In this context Kumiega or Kumięga would probably refer to "my buddy's kin," something like that. So if someone was regarded in the village as a good old boy, everybody's pal, the name Kumiega might get attached to his family as a kind of nickname, eventually becoming their surname.

That's the best explanation I can come up with. None of my sources discuss this name, so I'm having to make an educated guess, so to speak -- but I think the chances are good this is reasonably close to the truth.

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

Mochowak - Mokhovak - Mohovak

...I have another favor to ask. On my grandfather Mohylowski's death certificate, signed by my father who is now 7 years deceased, I see the maiden name of my great-grandmother. This is written in, everything else is typed. The death certificate is from 1947. It gives her name as Rose Mohovak. I see no Mohovak in your book, and of course, Mohovak with a "v" doesn't seem Polish to me, anyway. What do you think? This is another surname I have never come across. I'll do a search on the Internet -- Switchboard -- to see if there are any occurences of this name in the US.

No, this doesn't make sense as a Polish name. However, it seems there's a Ukrainian connection to your family, and Mohovak could be a rendering by English phonetics of a name such as Mokhovak, which in Cyrillic would look like MOXOBAK. I looked that up in my big Ukr. dictionary, and the root mokhov- deals with "moss" (in Polish the same term is mech). Some words from this root include mokhove boloto, a term for "moss-bog," and mokhovik, a term for the wood grouse, a kind of bird. So a surname Mokhovak makes sense as a reference to where a person lived (near a mossy area) or perhaps as a reference to this or some other kind of bird or animal. (By the way, the word Moch in German means something similar, "marshy place"!). This name is apparently not used by anyone in Poland, though there are a couple of Mochowicz's; and I have no data for Ukraine, but I bet it's not so rare there!

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

Dębowski - Dembowski - Krusiński - Kruszyński

...I am researching the names Krushinski and Dembowski (Debowski) from one or all of theses areas - Poznan, Dulsk, Ripien. I am not able to find any information at all. Can you help me?

In Polish spelling the names you're interested in would be spelled Krusiński or Kruszyński and Dembowski or Dębowski. Both these names probably originated as references to the names of places with which the families were connected -- if noble, they owned them at one point, if peasants they worked and lived there or traveled there often.

Krusiński probably originated as meaning "person from Krusin" or something similar. There is at least two places by this name, Krusin in Czestochowa and Torun provinces. It might also be Kruszyński, which suggests an association with places named Kruszyn, Kruszyna, etc. There are at least 15 villages with names that could, and probably did, generate the surname Kruszyński. So without very detailed info on the family there is no way to say exactly which places are referred to. If you can find a Krusin or Kruszyn near your families ancestral villages, that is likely to be the right place. As of 1990 there were 5,573 Poles named Kruszyński and 862 named Krusiński, but the names are too common and too spread out to offer any useful clues.

The same is true of Dembowski/Dębowski (spelled either way). The root is the word dąb, "oak," and there are at least 20 villages named Dębow, Dębowo, etc., all meaning essentially "the place with the oaks," or else "place associated with a fellow named Dąb or Dęb" (probably as a nickname). As of 1990 there were 9,745 Poles named Dębowski and 2,475 named Dembowski.

So unfortunately with both these names there are too many places the name might refer to -- only detailed info on the family will let you make an educated guess which one your particular ancestors were associated with. This is true of most Polish surnames coming from place names -- it's a shame, but that's the way it is. However, it sounds to me as if you have some info that may help you focus on the right areas, so with some luck and persistence in your research you may uncover enough info to zero in on the right ones.

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

Gaszyński

...Hi, my ... maiden name [is] Gaszynski. I am looking for any information you might have on the name Gaszynski. I'm not sure where to start to get ancestor information. I'm not sure if anyone is even left alive in the family that could provide anything.

The name Gaszyński is not extremely common in Poland, but it's not rare either. As of 1990 there were 486 Polish citizens by this name, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Warsaw (45), Bydgoszcz (63), Kalisz (30), and Poznan (40), and smaller numbers in many other provinces. So they're pretty well scattered, and I don't see any useful pattern in the distribution. Unfortunately, I don't have access to more detailed info such as first names, addresses, etc.

It's tough saying exactly what the name came from. It probably refers to a person with a name beginning with Gasz-, a name root coming from first names such as Gabriel, Gawel, etc. Poles often took the first couple of sounds of a first name, dropped the rest, and added suffixes to form nicknames or by- names, so that the names I mentioned would yield Ga-, the suffix -sz- would be added, and then further suffixes would be added to that. So you can't say it really means anything, it's just a form of a first name, sort of like "Ted" vs. "Theodore," "Jack" vs. "John" in English.

There is a village called Gaszyn in Sieradz province, and there might be more villages with similar names too small to show up on my maps -- chances are your ancestors lived or worked in such places, or owned them if they were noble. Those places, in turn, got their names from the Gasz- I mentioned above. So in most cases I would expect Gaszyński meant "person from Gaszyn," which in turn was named for a prominent citizen who had a name beginning with Gasz- (or possibly Gach-, that's also a root that could yield Gasz-).

I know this isn't really a lot of help, but that's not unusual for Polish surnames. Sometimes they give you a helpful clue, most of the time they don't. If, however, you have some luck with your research and trace your ancestors to a specific area, then you learn that there's a nearby place with a name beginning with Gasz-, chances are reasonably good you've found the place they took their name from.

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

Pusiak

...If you could assist me on the meaning/origin of my surname Pusiak, it would be very appreciated. The information on my family history is limited to that I know they were in the Bukowina province of the Austrian Empire as of 1850. This line converted from Greek Orthodox to Roman Catholic approx. 1880. I know from internet sources that a Pusiak was in Tartakow (north of Lvov) in the 1930's. Also through the International Genealogical Index, I know that there was a Pusiakin Marggrabowa, Ostpreussen who's Christening date was 1711.

According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut's book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles], Pusiak comes from the root pusz- as seen in old Polish pusz, "tuft of feathers," or puszyć się, "to prance, preen, swagger" (the root seems to mean about the same thing in Ukrainian, which is relevant in your ancestors' case). Presumably it originated as a kind of nickname, perhaps for someone who wore feathers as an ornament, or had a tuft of hair that stuck out, or who went around prancing or preening -- all these centuries later it's hard to say exactly what the connection was, we can only say what the word meant and speculate on why this particular name stuck.

Pusiak is not a very common name, at least not in Poland. As of 1990 there were only 176 Polish citizens with this name -- of course, remember that data was only available for people living within the borders of modern Poland, so if this data were available for 100 years ago, or included Ukraine, the numbers might be higher. The Pusiak's lived in the following provinces: Warsaw (9), Chelm (12), Jelenia Gora (6), Kalisz (4), Katowice (8), Legnica (1), Leszno (24), Pila (1), Poznan (39), Szczecin (9), Walbrzych (1), Wroclaw (2), Zielona Gora (60). (Unfortunately I have no further data such as first names, addresses, etc.)

This distribution may seem odd -- why are there so many Pusiak's in western Poland and so few in eastern Poland, which is where you'd expect to see them? I've seen this before, and think I know the answer: Operation Vistula. This was a massive program of relocation undertaken after World War II, when thousands (maybe millions?) of Ukrainians living near the new border with Poland were packed up and shipped off to populate the western parts of Poland, which had been seized from Germany and given to Poland. Huge numbers of Germans left the area to go to East Germany (not always voluntarily), and this left those newly-created western parts of Poland underpopulated. So vast numbers of people living in what had been eastern Poland were forced to relocate to western Poland. Ukrainians still have very bitter feelings about it and blame the Poles for it -- which may be justified, but I strongly suspect Joseph Stalin is the one who deserves the blame. Anyway, it was a wrenching experience, and it also muddled things for those of us doing research. Very often the descendants of people we know came from western Ukraine now show up in western Poland. Chances are very good many of the Pusiak's in Zielona Gora and Leszno province were living in Ukraine just a few generations ago.

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

Pęczkowski - Penczkowski

...I would like it if you could tell me what the name Penczkowski translates or derives from. The name is my mother's maiden name and I've also seen it spelled Pinkowski and Penkowski by other aunts and uncles, but my grandfather always used the cz and said that was the correct spelling.

Pinkowski and Penkowski are legitimate names in their own right, but it sounds to me as if you have reason to believe Penczkowski was the original form of the name, and that's certainly plausible. I should mention that whenever you see a Polish name with en, you must also consider the likelihood that it will also be spelled Pęczkowski or Pączkowski, where ą and ę (which are often interchangeable) refer to the Polish nasal vowels written as a with a tail under it and e with a tail under it, pronounced like on and en, respectively. Thus you're not just looking for Penczkowski, but also Pęczkowski, maybe even Pączkowski. The most likely form is Pęczkowski, as of 1990 there were 950 Poles by that name, only 10 named Penczkowski -- so this affects the spelling you want to look for. The Pęczkowski's were scattered all over the country, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Warsaw (74), Bydgoszcz (100), Ciechanow (65), Czestochowa (54), Katowice (52), Konin (60), Lodz (60), Lublin (52), and Poznan (67). I'm afraid I don't see any helpful pattern in that distribution, the name is not concentrated in any one area.

Usually names ending in -owski refer to a place name ending in -i, -y, -ow, -owo, etc. So this name probably started as meaning "person with some connection to a place called Penczkowo, Pęczkowo, Pączkowo, Pączki," etc. As you might expect from so many alternatives, there are several different villages in Poland this name might come from, including 2 Pęckowo's in Pila and Poznan province, Pączkowo in Poznan province, and a few other possibilities. Without much more detailed info on the family, I can't suggest any one place as the one likely to be relevant in this case. However, if you have a little luck with your research and manage to trace the family to a particular area, and a village with a name beginning with Pęczk- is anywhere close, chances are good you've found the place the name originally referred to.

I know this isn't a lot of help, but unfortunately that's the way it usually is with Polish surnames -- sometimes they provide a really helpful clue, but most of the time there are just too many possibilities, especially considering spelling variations, multiple places with the same name, etc. So if this info isn't a lot of help, at least you're not the only one with this problem!

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

Żuraw

...I'm wondering if you happen to have any info on the name Zuraw. Apparently in Polish the word zuraw means "crane" or "gantry". Does that have any significance?

Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions the name Żuraw (Ż, pronounced like the "s" in "measure") in his book on Polish surnames, and he says that the derivation of the surname is from the noun Żuraw, "crane," referring to the bird -- apparently the meaning "gantry" came later. By the way, the Ukrainian word, though spelled in Cyrillic, is pronounced and means the same thing. Rymut mentions that in old Polish the word was Żoraw, and it appears in records as early as 1204. I suppose the name may have started as nickname because someone reminded folks of a crane -- maybe he was thin and walked a certain way? All these centuries later it can be hard to figure out exactly why a certain name got stuck to certain people, the best we can do is examine what the name means and suggest plausible interpretations. There are a lot of names from this root, including Żurawek (little crane), Żurawicz (son of the crane), Żurawik (little crane, or crane's son), and Żurawski (coming from a place named for cranes). Żuraw itself is one of the more popular ones -- as of 1990 there were some 1,400 Poles with this name. They live all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (80), Kalisz (88), Lublin (119), Rzeszow (89), Siedlce (101), Sieradz (85), Tarnobrzeg (228), and Wroclaw (96). The name seems to be a bit more common in southern and especially southeastern Poland, but not so much so that it suggests anything helpful to me.

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

Banaszak - Dembkowski - Sikola - Sikora

...I am a professor of French whose mother was French. My father was either of Polish, Ukraine or Hungarian ancestry. He was born in 1910 and placed in an orphanage at age two. I never gave much thought about my father's origins, but now that he is no longer with me, I do wonder about it. His last name was Sikola, but he also went by the last name Banaszak at one time (when very young). His mother's name was Dembkowski or something like that I think.

Well, Dembkowski is a common Polish surname, so that's likely enough to be right, but it doesn't help much because there are Dembkowski's all over Poland. Banaszak is a name meaning something like "Ben's son" -- Banach is an old nickname, so to speak, from a variant form of Benedykt, "Benedict" (Benoit, s'il vous plait!), and when the suffix -ak ("son of") was added to it, the guttural ch sound modified to the "sh" sound of sz: Banach + -ak = Banaszak. As of 1990 there were 5,410 Poles named Banaszak, living all over Poland, so that one doesn't help much either.

Sikola is a rare name, as of 1990 there were only 2 Poles by that name, living in the province of Walbrzych in southwestern Poland (unfortunately I don't have access to any further data such as addresses). It appears to come from a root meaning "to trickle, spurt," and in vulgar usage "to piss." Names ending in -ala and -ola usually denote someone who was in the habit of doing whatever the root of the word indicated, so this suggests Sikola was a name meaning "one who was always trickling, spurting." I know this isn't very complimentary, and I'm not trying to be offensive here, but all I can do is say what the word appears to mean -- and I've heard of people with names with this root changing them precisely because they got sick of people making fun of them (cmp. the notes under Krzywosika). So it's at least conceivable your father may have gone by Banaszak because that's a perfectly ordinary, common name, not so easily made fun of... However, that's pure speculation, which probably isn't much help to you.

To be honest, when I saw Sikola I wondered if it was a variant of Sikora, an extremely common name (39,850 Poles by that name in 1990), coming from sikora, the titmouse (a kind of bird). I may be completely wrong, mislead by the similarity in sound, but I have seen r and l interchanged occasionally in names, and Sikora was the first thing that came into my mind. I just wanted to mention it so you can keep it in the back of your mind, just in case it ever comes up.

...On one form he filled out in WWII he said she was born in Russia, on another, Ukraine, on another, Poland. When I asked him about it, he said that the territory had changed ownership several times over history and he wasn't sure. His half-sister, now deceased, said their father had Hungarian blood.

The most likely explanation is that he came from what was called Galicia, now southeastern Poland and western Ukraine -- though from the late 18th century to 1918 this area was ruled by Austria, it has also been ruled by Poland and Russia, so the varying data on those forms would be quite comprehensible if he came from there. Also, when you get into that area there's quite a mixing of ethnic groups over the centuries, it's not out of the question that you might run into ethnic Hungarians. That whole area was ruled by Austria-Hungary, so there are some possibilities of connections.

As for how you could try to learn more, I don't do research, but I think it's worthwhile suggesting you join the Polish Genealogical Society of the Northeast, 8 Lyle Rd., New Britain CT 06053 -- I believe their dues are $15 a year, they put out a very fine newsletter twice a year, and they have some pretty good sources for research throughout the northeastern U. S. (and many of their members come from Galicia). If there's any group in the U. S. that might be able to offer some ideas for leads, especially regarding the Pennsylvania connection, PGS-NE is the one.

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

Golaszewski - Stasiak

... Found a name on your web site and I want to thank you for that information. Do you have anything on Golaszewski or Stasiak??

Stasiak comes from a nickname for "Stanislaw" -- Poles often take the first couple of sounds from a popular first name, chop off the rest, and start adding suffixes; so Staś is a popular nickname for Stanislaw, and when you add on the -ak you get Stasiak, probably meaning "Stan's son." Surnames meaning "son of" someone with a common name are themselves very common -- as of 1990 there were some 19,870 Poles named Stasiak, living all over the country. Which only makes sense: this name could get started anywhere Polish was spoken and guys named Stas' had sons, namely, everywhere in Poland!

Golaszewski is also a fairly common name, there were 4,302 Poles by this name as of 1990, scattered all over the country. The ultimate root of the name is gol-, "bare," but this surname probably originated as a reference to a place name, meaning basically "person from Golasza or Golasze or Golaszewo" -- any of those place names could generate the surname Golaszewski. As you might suspect, there are several different villages bearing those names, so we can't pin down which one is that one your relatives took their name from. If you have a little luck with your research, however, you may find something that lets you focus on a specific area in Poland. If you do, and you locate a village nearby with a name beginning with Golasz-, that's probably the one your ancestors came from.

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

Schoch - Szoch

... If you are still offering your services to provide basic information about Polish surnames, I would like to know if you have any information on my family name. My grandfather, Donat Szoch, immigrated to the USA in either 1900 or 1902.

Assuming that Szoch is the correct form of the name -- and I have to, if we start trying to deal with possible variants we'll never get anywhere, there are too many -- there are a couple of likely sources for it. In Polish there is a rather rare or dialect term szoch meaning "bulrush," of which the dictionary says: "1. Any of various aquatic or wetland herbs of the genus Scirpus, having grasslike leaves and usually clusters of small, often brown spikelets. 2. Any of several wetland plants of similar aspect, such as the papyrus and the cattail."

The other root I find is German Schoch -- a Pole hearing that name would spell it Szoch, so a German by that name who lived among Poles might well come to spell it that way. In German Schoch is a name from an old German word meaning "hay barn." So it appears we're dealing with a Polish name meaning "bulrush" - - and many Polish names do come from plant names, so that's plausible -- or a German name meaning "hay barn." In both cases, the name probably got started as a reference to a feature near where someone lived; he lived near a prominent growth of bulrushes, or near a hay barn. From the info I have available, those seem the two most likely derivations.

The name is pretty rare in Poland. As of 1990 there were 71 Polish citizens named Szoch, and here is a breakdown by the provinces they lived in: Warsaw 10, Białystok 14, Bydgoszcz 18, Katowice 1, Łomża 4, Lodza 1, Olsztyn 2, Ostrołęka 1, Radom 1, Siedlce 10, Suwałki 9. Unfortunately I don't have access to any more details such as first names or addresses. For what it's worth, however, the name seems more common in northeastern and northcentral Poland, and Warsaw, Białystok, and Suwałki provinces were areas ruled for a long time by Russia, so it would make sense a person coming from there would be listed on the census as born in "Russia-Poland."

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

Zacharek - Zachemski

... Wondered if you have info on the surnames Zacharek and Zachemska. They lived near Nowy Targ before 1900. My wife's grandfather who came from Hungary thought Zacharek was of Bohemian origin but my grandparents and my father who was born in Budapest Hungary spoke Polish.

Regarding Zachemski (the -ska is just the feminine form, no other difference), here are notes I wrote on this name, also spelled Zahemski, for another researcher:

...This one did not appear in the book because it is so rare. 1990 government databases list no Polish citizen by this name. However, h and ch are pronounced exactly the same in Polish, so the spelling Zachemski is also relevant, and as of 1990 there were 21 Poles by that name, all living in the province of Nowy Sacz, in south central Poland. I have to wonder if this is a mangled form of some other name, because I can find no Polish root that Zachemski would come from.

[Added note, 27 Feb 1998: Unfortunately, I do not have any details such as first names, addresses, etc., for those 21 Zachemski's in Nowy Sacz province. You might be able to get that info if you have a search done of the Nowy Sacz provincial phone directory. No guarantees, but that's the only way I can think of to get such info. The PGSA and the PGS-Northeast, 8 Lyle Road, New Britain CT 06053, can do such searches, contact them if you'd like to inquire about what's involved -- WFH].

You know, it could be we're dealing with a variant of a more common name, affected by dialect, mispronuncation, misspelling, something. The za- part makes perfect sense, it's a prefix and a preposition meaning "past, beyond, on the other side of." It's possible, for instance, that this name was originally something like Zachełmski, meaning "from the other side of Chełm," or "person from Zachełmie," the name of several villages that were "beyond, past Chełm." This makes sense too because that ł is pronounced so softly that sometimes it is just dropped, which would yield something sounding very like "Zachemski."

Also, a name Zachemba appears in the Surname Directory (very rare, only 8 bearers), and when the suffix -ski is added on that b sound would tend to disappear, again yielding "Zachemski." That name doesn't appear in the Directory either, but to me either Zachełmski or Zachembski sounds "more Polish" than Zachemski.

That's the end of the note on Zachemski. Zacharek is a name meaning "little Zachary" or "son of Zachary." As of 1990 there were 953 Poles with this name, living all over Poland but with the largest numbers (more than 40) in the provinces of Warsaw (41), Bydgoszcz (73), Gdansk (47), Koszalin (81), Olsztyn (49), Ostrołęka (140), and Torun (270). This suggests the name is most common in northcentral Poland, but is found elsewhere -- which is really what you'd expect with a surname formed from a popular first name. Such surnames could and did originate anywhere Polish was spoken and there were fellows named Zachariasz (in Ukrainian Zakhar) who had sons, i. e., anywhere in Poland.

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

Chmelyk - Juzda - Yuzda

...I really don't like to take advantage, but I have always been curious about the family surnames of Chmelyk and Yuzda from Galicia.

Chmelyk is not tough, that's a Ukrainian form, equivalent to Chmielik in Polish, and it refers to hops, the plant used in beermaking. Most likely the surname started out meaning "hopster" or perhaps "son of the hopster." As of 1990 there were 13 Polish citizens named Chmelik, a spelling variation of Chmelyk. But as I said, Chmelyk is a Ukrainian form, it's probably quite a bit more common in Ukraine, although unfortunately I have no source of data with which to check. (in Poland there are 372 Chmielik's, so it's not a really common name in Poland, but not rare either).

Since the sources I have are mainly in Polish, and Yuzda is a phonetic spelling of a name originally written in Cyrillic, I looked for the Polish spelling Juzda (Polish j is pronounced like our y) -- but I struck out, no Juzda's at all. At first I couldn't find any root it might derive from. But then I noticed in the dictionary a note that helped -- it mentioned, in connection with another word, that sometimes words beginning with J/Y are dialect variants of words with neither. In other words, Juzda/Yuzda can very well be a dialect variant of Uzda; this happens with other words, e. g. the word for "already" in Polish is już (pronounced sort of like "yoosh"), but in Russian and Ukrainian it's uzhe -- the main difference is that one puts a Y sound before the u, the other doesn't. And uzda I can find, in Polish, Russian, and Ukrainian --it means "horse's halter, bridle." That may sound odd as a name, but there are many other similar terms that became surnames, probably starting as nicknames because a man made halters, or sold them, or used them, something like that.

So it's plausible -- not certain, but plausible -- that Juzda is simply a variant of Uzda and meant originally "halter, bridle." Neither name is common in Poland, but might be a little more common in Ukraine -- as I say, I have no data on that.

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

Story

...I checked "the book", pp 468 for Story but the closest name is Storc. Story is on a baptismal certificate twice. Penmanship is very poor however I remember the surname Story being used at home a long time ago so I do believe it is a legitiminate Polish name. Unfortunately I've been blessed with rare surnames: Budarz (11) and Charamut (13). Is this another one?

You need to travel back in time and tell your ancestors to get easier names!

However, by comparison, this is a common one: Story was the name of 246 Polish citizens as of 1990. They were scattered all over, with the largest numbers (more than 10) in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (11), Elblag (14), Gorzow (25), Olsztyn (14), Rzeszow (38), Tarnobrzeg (40), Wroclaw (24).

As for the meaning, there are a couple of possibilities. The dictionary mentions stora as a variant of sztora, which means "window blind." That seems unlikely as a surname root, but I've learned never to say "never"... However, when I first saw this name I thought "That just might be a dialect variant of Stary, 'old.' I wonder if it is?" Well, here in the Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland, right after Story, is an entry for Storybrat -- now I know that is a variant of an established name, Starybrat, literally "old brother." This proves that Story can occasionally be just a variant of Stary, also not an extremely common name (192) but not rare either. Given a choice between "window blind" and "old," I'd go with "old" every time. Besides, in Polish the pronunciations of O and A are similar, they're easily confused and switched.

So that's my best guess: you're dealing with a dialect variation of the word meaning "old."

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

Jaks - Joks

...I have an ancestor with the last name Jaks/Joks. Is there some connection with Jaktor/Hektor? The first entries of this name appear in the register of the catholic church in the village Mikstat in the province Kalisz (formerly province Poznan) in 1803. I searched for this name in registers of several surrounding catholic, Jewish and Lutheran parishes. I could not find any references before 1803.

Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions Jaks in his book on Polish surnames, saying that it derives from short forms or nicknames of the first names Jakub (Jacob) and Jakim (Joachim) -- possibly others, too, but those would be the main ones. Another expert, Maria Malec, lists it among the derivatives of Jakub. So in most cases I would expect Jaks to be a short form of Jakub; in an individual case it might derive from the name Jaktor/Hektor, but those names are a lot less common in Poland than Jakub, so odds are Jakub (or Jakim) is the connection in question. One problem with this name is that it probably was, originally, just a nickname, and a halfway common one at that; with nicknames that became frozen as surnames, you can only go so far back before you don't know whether the name should be treated as a nickname or surname.

It's interesting that there's a work called the Dictionary of Old Polish Personal Names [Slownik staropolskich nazw osobowych], a collection by scholars of the first few appearances of names in old documents. Jaks is mentioned briefly in a 1485 entry in the Poznan Council Records ("Iakx, cerdo ruff[us])", and again in 1486. There are numerous citations of the name Jaksa/Jaksza/Jaxa. So these are old names. However, Jaks is probably common enough that you shouldn't jump to the conclusion this fello was an ancestor of yours -- I just wanted to show you that the name has been around a while!

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

Piłsudski

...Thank you for putting together the very informative home page regarding Polish surnames. Unfortunately I did not find Pilsudski. This was my mother's maiden name. I would appreciate any information you may have regarding the surname of Pilsudski.

Piłsudski (the l with a slash through it is pronounced like our w) is a surname deriving from a place name, and the Polish name of the place is Piłsudy, in what is now Lithuania. I cannot find it on maps, so I do not known the Lithuanian name, but it is surely very similar, probably something like Pilsude. I did find this information in an 1890's Polish gazetteer (Polish names are given first, Lithuanian names are given in brackets, when I could find them):

Piłsudy, 1) a village in Rossienie [Raseiniai] county, parish of Gierdyszki [Girdiske]. 2) a manor and village, Rossienie [Raseiniai] county, parish of Skawdwile [Skaudvile], property of the Wojdyllos.

So there were actually two places named Piłsudy, both fairly close to each other, near the town of Rossienie [now Raseiniai] in Lithuania; the inhabitants of one went to the Catholic parish in Gierdyszki to register births, deaths, and marriages, the inhabitants of the other went to the church in Skawdwile. The Polish leader Gen. Jozef Piłsudski was surely of noble birth, and usually when you have a Polish noble name in -ski from the name of a place, it is connected with a manor -- so I imagine the 2nd one was the seat of the noble Piłsudskis, even though another family (Wojdyllo) owned it as of 1890 or so.

As of 1990 there were only 8 Polish citizens living in Poland who had the name Piłsudski, living in the provinces of Warsaw (1), Gdansk (1), and Kielce (6). (I have no access to further details such as names and addresses, so I'm afraid the info I give here is all I can have). However, that data deals only with people living within Poland's current boundaries -- there may be more Piłsudskis living in Lithuania, but I don't have any info on that.

Since Piłsudski was so important in Polish history, there are probably books on him and his family -- you might write to see if one of the volunteers can find anything in the Library of the Polish Museum of America that would give background on the family. You might also want to write a gentleman named David Zincavage (jdz1@delphi.com), he is very interested in Lithuanian research and nobility, he might have more info on the surname, the village, etc. If not, he may be able to recommend some places where you could learn more. It wouldn't hurt to ask.

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

Szulczewski

... I ran across your web page while searching for info, places, & history on the net. My last name is Szulczewski...anything you can tell me about would be greatly appreciated.

Names ending in -ewski usually -- not always, but usually -- derive from the name of a place, and that name tends to end in -ow, -owa, -owo, -ew, -ewa, -ewo, or sometimes -y or -i. The most likely name would be something like "Szulczewo," though any of the other possibilities (and more!) can enter into it. I can't find mention in my gazetteers or maps of a specific village by the right name, although there was a Szulcowo some 80 km. from Kaunas in Lithuania, and another not too far from Vitebsk in Belarus. The fact that these places are no longer in Poland is no issue, at one time they were ruled by Poles and Poles lived there, also the inhabitants of the areas often identified themselves as Polish citizens regardless of their ethnic origin... There are also a few villages called Szulec that might come into play, but I see nothing to point to any particular one.

It's worth mentioning that any name in Szulc- usually derives from szulc, the Polish spelling of German Schultz, equivalent to Polish sołtys, meaning a kind of village headman or bailiff. So Szulczewski probably started out meaning "person associated with the village of Szulczewo (or the other possibilities)," and the name of that place in turn meant "the headman's place." This is relevant because a name like that could refer to just a very small settlement or farm that was owned by the local village administrator. So that name might be one used only by local inhabitants, it might never show up on any map or in any gazetteer, and yet such names generated surnames.

As of 1990 there were 1,159 Polish citizens with this name, so it is not rare. They lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (73), Bydgoszcz (74), Gorzow (70), Lodz (99), Płock (140), Poznan (145), Szczecin (94), and Wloclawek (126), and smaller numbers in virtually every other province. The only pattern to that distribution I see is that the name tends to be found mostly in central and western Poland, in areas once ruled by Germans (which is not surprising in view of the Schultz link). I should add that I have no access to more detailed info, such as first names and addresses.

I'm sorry I couldn't offer you more in the way of specific pointers, but it's that way with the majority of Polish surnames -- there are just too many places with names from which a particular surname could arise. You're going to find people with names begining Szulc- all over Poland, but especially in the areas closest to Germany. There just isn't any clue in the name itself to help pin it down.

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

Ogitzak

... I have been recently searching for my grandmother's maiden name to begin the quest of tracing my heritage. Her sister in law has tried, in the past, however, to no avail. Finding your website may give me a better chance at understanding just who I am, and possibly give my grandmother the gift of better knowing hers. The surname that I am looking for is Ogitzak.

I have looked through all my sources, and I'm afraid I have to admit I'm stumped. I can find nothing that appears to be related to this name. To start with, that is not a Polish spelling, although the name definitely appears to be Slavic; in Polish the tz would be spelled c, so I tried looking for Ogitzak or Ogicak, and found neither. There was no one in Poland with either name as of 1990, and none of my books shed any light on them. The only possibility I can think of -- and it's pretty far-fetched -- is that the family with this name might have lived in the part of Poland ruled by Russia, and the name was changed. Russian doesn't use the sound h, and Russians regularly turn h into g, so that in Russian I am called "Goffman" instead of "Hoffman." If that's relevant, the name might originally have been something like Ohidzak or Ohydzak; phonetically speaking, that is at least plausible. There is a Polish root ohyda that means "something horrible, dreadful, frightful, monstrous," and it is theoretically possible that a surname Ohydzak might derive from that and then turn into Ogitzak due to Russian phonetic influence. If so, the name would mean something like "son of the frightful one, hideous one." This is not a particularly pleasant name -- although I've seen plenty of Polish surnames that meant things like this, and worse. I wouldn't blame you a bit if you don't take it this too seriously, especially since I've had to make several stretches just to get to it; also, there was no one in Poland with this name or any likely spelling as of 1990. So it's far-fetched, as I said. But it's the only thing close to an explanation I can find!

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

Kuss

...Please can you help? My wife is a Kuss from Lodz. Where might her family have originated from?

The short answer is, there's no way to know. Kuss, in that form, appears to be a German name, perhaps from the root Kuss, meaning "kiss." But it may be a variation of a nickname for a first name such as "Kosmo," or it might be a Germanized spelling of a Polish name beginning with the root kus-, which can mean "small chunk of bread," "tempt," "short, scanty," "a young boy," etc. There just isn't enough info to say anything more definite.

As of 1990 there were 70 Polish citizens named Kuss, living in the following provinces: Warsaw 2, Białystok 3, Bydgoszcz 17, Ciechanow 2, Czestochowa 1, Elblag 1, Gdansk 5, Katowice 5, Legnica 14, Lodz 4, Lublin 5, Poznan 2, Szczecin 2, Torun 4, Wroclaw 3. If you are determined, you might be able to get hold of a Lodz province phone directory and see if any of the Kuss'es in Lodz are listed (they may not be, phones in private homes are by no means universal in Poland), and that might provide an address for someone to write to. Other than that, I'm afraid I'm out of ideas. The source from which I got the above data does not contain any more details such as first names and addresses, and I have no access to any such data. A telephone directory search is by no means certain to succeed, but it's the only way I know of you might be able to learn more.

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

Formański

My grandfather was born in Biavestake (sp?), Poland. Do you know anything about this surname [Formanski]?

In Polish it is spelled with an accent over the N and pronounced roughly "fore-MINE-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 169 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 is a variant of Furmański, from furman, "coachman." So Formański or Furmański would mean "of the coachman," presumably referring to the kin of one who made his living that way.

I can tell you there is no place in Poland named "Biavestake" -- that name has been badly mangled somewhere along the way. I don't know what it would have been originally. It might, possibly, have been Białystok, written with a slash through the L and pronounced roughly "b'yah-wee-stock." It is a sizable town in the far northeastern corner of Poland. One problem with this theory, however, is that the Surname Directory shows no one named Formański living in the province of Białystok as of 1990; so if your kin did live in the area once, it appears they no longer do.

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

Górski - Gurski

I have been told many things over my life about my heritage, it just seems that I can't tell what is true. My surname is Gorski, and yes I state it with pride. I am wondering if you can tell me what it means, and approximately how old it is.

In Polish the name Gorski is spelled with an accent over the O, Górski, pronounced roughly "GOOR-skee" -- the accent over the O causes it to be pronounced like Polish U, and that's why you also see it spelled Gurski sometimes, but Górski is the standard spelling. As of 1990 there were 41,790 Polish citizens by this name. They lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area; a Górski family could come from practically 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 1386. The root of the name is góra, "mountain, hill." So górski is just an adjectival form meaning "of, from, pertaining to, connected with the mountain or hill." Sometimes the name just means "hill-guy, the guy who lives on the hill," and sometimes it refers to any of the jillion villages with names formed from that root góra, thus "one from Góra, Góry, Górka, Górsko, etc." Or in other words, this name developed among Poles much the same way the surname Hill developed among English-speakers.

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

Graboski - Grabowski

I was wondering if you find me something definitive on the name Grabowski

In Polish this name is generally pronounced "grah-BOFF-skee," or in everyday speech it would often sound like "grah-BOSS-kee" -- which is why one may sometimes see it spelled Graboski. But Grabowski is the standard form (with Grabowska used when referring to females).

It is a very common surname 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 54,652 Polish citizens named Grabowski. They lived all over the country in large numbers, so it's highly likely there are many separate Grabowski families, not just one big one, and they are found all over 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 1387, and generally derives from the name of a place where the family lived or worked at some point centuries ago. It could refer to any of a large number of places with names beginning Grab-, including Grabowo, Grabów, Grabowa, Grabowo, Grabowice, Grabówka, Graby, etc. In such cases there is no possible way to know which of those places a given Grabowski family was connected with, short of doing genealogical research that traces them back to a specific region.

Those place names, in turn, derive from the root seen in such Polish words as grabie, "rake"; grab, "the hornbeam tree"; and grabić, "to plunder." Thus a place name like Grabowo would often have started out meaning "place of the hornbeams," and the surname Grabowski would mean "one from the place of the hornbeams." But place names beginning Grab- could also have been named for an owner or founder named Grab, and that name could come from the expression for "plunder" or "rake" or "hornbeam."

So there are no specific answers available through general research; only research into the past of a specific family can uncover facts that will establish the exact origin of this name in that family's case, and perhaps why it seemed appropriate to call them that.

I should add that sometimes surnames in the form X-owski can mean just "kin of X." So Grabowski might, in certain specific cases, mean "kin of Grab," referring to an ancestor by that name. But as a rule these -owski names tend to refer to place names. If you trace your Grabowski family to a specific area in Poland and then find a place nearby with a name beginning Grab-, chances are fair that's the place the name referred to. (Of course, you couldn't be positive unless and until research established it -- there are just too many places in Poland with names that qualify).

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

Gucwa

I am interested in finding out the meaning of the surname Gucwa. If you have any info, I would appreciate it.

Gucwa, pronounced roughly "GOOTS-vah," is a moderately common name by Polish standards. As of 1990 there were 1710 Polish citizens by that name, living all over Poland, with the largest numbers in the southcentral and southeastern part of Poland, in the provinces of Katowice (164), Krakow (163), Nowy Sacz (278), and Tarnow (455).

I have a book by a Polish name expert that focuses on names from that region, and it mentions Gucwa, saying that it may come from a short form of the old Germanic first name Guttwein or Gottwin. This is not as implausible as it might seem; it is credible that Poles might modify that name into Gucwa, and historically large numbers of Germans have lived in those regions. So absent any more definitive source, I'd have to say that's the best explanation I can offer.

The Germanic name was introduced in the area centuries ago with German soldiers, prisoners of war, and colonists who came to settle in southcentral and southeastern Poland, and over time Poles modified that name Guttwein or Gottwin, which sounded very foreign to them, into something a little more consistent with their phonetic preferences. They took Guttwein, dropped the last few sounds, turned the T sound into the "ts" sound spelled as a "c" in Polish, and changed the ending to -wa, a suffix that shows up fairly often in Polish names.

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

Jaskólski - Jaskulski

I am trying to locate information about my last name Jaskulski... Please advise of any information about the history of my name...

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He explains that it comes from the root seen in the noun jaskółka, which refers to the bird we call a swallow. In Polish the O has an accent over it and the L has a slash through it; and sounds like "yoss-KOOW-kah." The accented O is pronounced the same as U in Polish, which is why you often see names spelled either way. That's the word the surname comes from.

Jaskulski sounds like "yoss-KOOL-skee," but it can also be spelled Jaskólski, pronounced the same way (when the -ski is added, Ł changes to normal L). You want to keep an eye open for either spelling, since the same person might be Jaskólski in one record and Jaskulski in the next. Literally this name would mean "of the swallow," and might refer to an ancestor whom people associated with swallows for some reason. An ancestor might have imitated a swallow, or dressed in clothes that reminded people of a swallow's coloring, or lived in an area where there were lots of swallows -- hard to say which derivation might apply in a given instance.

Rymut points out that this name can also refer to the names of places in Poland derived from the word for swallow. In other words, Jaskulski or Jaskólski can also just mean "one from Jaskółki." There's more than one place by that name, and only detailed research into your family's history might uncover facts that would clarify which one your particular Jaskulskis 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 4,867 Polish citizens named Jaskólski. There were another 5,113 who spelled it Jaskulski. Both names were common all over the country, and give no clue what area a given Jaskólski or Jaskulski family might have come from. As I said, only research into the history of your particular family would establish that; the surname itself gives no clue.

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

Kaniewski

Any ideas on the origin of Kaniewski from the Torun area circa 1905 immigration?

In Polish Kaniewski would be pronounced roughly "con-YEFF-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 7,194 Polish citizens named Kaniewski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 924, Bydgoszcz 221, Katowice 292, Kielce 303, Lodz 235, Pila 315, Poznan 424, Siedlce 212, Skierniewice 222, and Wloclawek 545. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

Names ending in -ewski usually refer to the name of a place the family came from centuries ago. In this case, one would expect the name means "one from Kanie or Kaniew or Kaniewo," or some similar place name.

Unfortunately, there are a number of places in Poland that would fit. There are a couple of villages named Kaniewo in the former (1975-1998) province of Wloclawek, including one about 25-30 km. south-southwest of Torun, and another farther south, near Lubraniec. Either of these could plausibly be the place the surname refers to in your specific case. But only genealogical research might uncover facts that would allow you to say for sure "This is the one." Without that kind of detailed info, I can only suggest possible candidates. I think chances are good one of those Kaniewo's is the one the surname refers to, but I don't have enough information to be certain.

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

Kasprzycki

Do you have any idea what the name Kasprzycki means, if there is a meaning.

It's pronounced roughly "kosp-ZHIT-skee" (with the -a- in the first syllable sounding halfway between a short o and "ah"). It means more or less "son of little Casper" or "kin of Casper's son." In Polish Casper is either Kacper or Kasper. Add the diminutive suffix -yk to Kasper and it becomes Kasprzyk, "little Casper, son of Casper." Kasprzycki is literally an adjective meaning "of Kasprzyk," but in practical terms the name would usually mean what I indicated above.

Scholars are not positive what that name Kasper comes from, but they think it might be from Persian kansbar, "treasurer, keeper of the treasure." This name caught on among Christians because medieval tradition said it was the name of one of the three Wise Men or Magi who visited the infant Jesus, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (the other two were Melchior and Balthazar).

Kasprzycki could also conceivably mean "one from Kasprzyce" or some such place name, which in turn would have meant "[place] of Casper's son." But offhand I couldn't find any place with a name that fits, so I'm inclined to think it began as a reference to a person rather than a place. I should say, however, that there are many surnames derived from names of places that are too small to show up on most maps, or that have disappeared or been renamed. But even if the name does refer to a place called Kasprzyce or something similar, that name in turn started as a reference to a Casper or son of Casper who owned or founded the place at some point centuries ago. So one way or another, it all comes back to Casper.

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 2,949 Polish citizens by this name. They lived all over the country, with no particular concentration in any one area.

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

Kucharski

Surname is Kucharska

Kucharska is the feminine form of Kucharski, pronounced roughly "koo-HAR-skee." 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 1395, and usually refers to a family's origin in or connection with any of a number of villages named Kuchary. The basic root kuchar- means "cook," so that Kucharski could mean simply "kin of the cook." But in most instances it would refer to a family's coming from one of those villages named Kuchary, which in turn presumably got that name because of some connection with cooks. The only one to find out which one your particular family came from would be through genealogical research, tracing the family generation by generation till you find documents that tell exactly where they come from. At that point it may be possible to identify a nearby village Kuchary, which would probably be the one the surname referred 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 30,949 Polish citizens named Kucharski. They lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area.

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

Mastalerz - Masztalerz

Hi. My father is Stanley John Mastalisz.

All he knows is that his surname was changed, he thinks, from Mastalerz or some other such spelling. I do have some living relatives in Poland still.

They would be on my father's mother's side. Can you give me any info?


Mastalerz is probably the right spelling. 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 masztalerz, "court master of the horse." So it was a ceremonial position of honor held by a noble in the court of a king or lord; he was theoretically responsible for seeing to the state of the lord's stable. Of course, he had peasants who did all the actual work -- but that's what the word means.

Mastalerz is pronounced roughly "mos-TALL-esh." It is a variant of that noun masztalerz, which sounds more like "mosh-TALL-esh."

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 3,897 Polish citizens named Mastalerz. There wasn't any one area in which they were concentrated; a Mastalerz family could come from practically anywhere in Poland. (There were another 1,203 Poles who used the form Masztalerz.)

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

Mielcarek - Mielczarek

I'm a high school student at Resurrection H.S. in Chicago. My U.S. History class was given the assignment of researching our family history, including name origin, if possible. While the paper is due within the next week, I would appreciate it greatly if you could forward any information you might have on the Mielcarek family name, simply to satisfy my family's own curiosity.

In Polish the name Mielcarek is pronounced roughly "m'yell-TSAR-eck." Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], saying that names beginning Mielcar-, Mielczar-, and Milczar- come from an archaic noun, mielcarz, "maltster, brewer." The suffix -ek is a diminutive, so Mielcarek would mean literally "little maltster." It might have begun as an affectionate nickname for one who produced or sold malt, or it might simply have meant "son of the maltster." Many X-ek names do just mean "son of X." Either way, the name clearly indicates that an ancestor was associated with malt in some 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), there were 5,723 Polish citizens named Mielcarek. They lived all over Poland, with particularly large numbers in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 520, Kalisz 1,112; Konin 348; Leszno 319; and Poznan 1,144. This name was most common in the western part of the country.

Even more common was the form Mielczarek (11,379) ("m'yell-CHAW-reck"), meaning the same thing; it's just a slightly different form of the same name. If you researched the family you might find the name spelled Mielcarek one time, Mielczarek the next -- such variations are very common in the records.

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

Modrzejewski - Modrzewski

Would the surnames Modrzejewski and Modrzewski be the same regarding origin and meaning? If not can you tell me about Modrzejewski please?

The answer "by the book" is that these aren't the same surnames. Modrzewski sounds like "mo-JEFF-skee," whereas Modrzejewski sounds like "mo-jay-EFF-skee." I should add that in everyday talk there's a tendency to drop the "ff" sound spelled W in names with the endings -ewski and -owski, so that Modrzewski would often sound more like "mo-JESS-kee" (which Poles would spell phonetically Modrzeski), and Modrzejewski would sound more like "mo-jay-ESS-kee" (Modrzejeski). Both would almost certainly refer to the name of a place the family came from at some point centuries ago. Modrzewski would point toward a place with a name Modrze or Modrzew or Modrzewek or Modrzewie; Modrzejewski would point toward a Modrzejewo or Modrzejowice.

Unfortunately, there are a number of places by all those names I mentioned, so only research into a specific family might uncover info that will clarify exactly which place they came from. Just from the surname there's no way to tell whether a given Modrzewski family came from this village or that village (there are at least 8 with names Modrzew, Modrzewo, Modrzewie, etc.). And there are at least two places Modrejewski could refer to, Modrzejewo and Modrzejowice. That's not counting smaller places that may exist but don't show up on my maps.

But as I say, if we go by the book, the names are distinct, referring to different places of origin, and in theory should not be confused.

The way things are on planet Earth, however, people don't always go by the book. Obviously these two names sound similar and are related semantically. It's not at all unlikely that people might slur the pronunciation of Modrzejewski to where it was easily confused with Modrzewski. A good illustration is the fact the famous Polish actress Helena Modrzejewska spelled her name Mojeska and Modjeska when she came to the United States. She realized Americans had trouble spelling and pronouncing it, so she changed to a form that more closely resembled the way it sounded, in terms of English phonetics. Strictly speaking "Mojeska" would be spelled phonetically Modrzeska (or properly, Modrzewska) by Poles, which is not the same as her real name. But the point is, the way people pronounced her name, it sounded a lot like Mojeska or Modrze[w]ska.

So the two names should be distinct. But in plain everyday talk, they are easily confused.

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 4,873 Polish citizens named Modrzejewski (which includes females named Modrzejewska). They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 553, Gdansk 282, Lodz 341, Poznan 275, and Wloclawek 586. This indicates the name is most common in central to western 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.

As of 1990 there were 880 Poles named Modrzewski (and Modrzewska), so it's a less common name. The largest numbers lived in these provinces: Warsaw 110, Biala Podlaska 89, Elblag 65, and Olsztyn 103. So it's more common in northeastern and eastern Poland. But both names are found all over the country.

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

Motowidlak - Motowidło

I was wondering if you can give me some history on my last name, Motovidlak. I'm curious how old it is and the nationality of it.

Also, how many Motovidlak's there are. Thank you.


In Polish this name is spelled Motowidlak, pronounced roughly "mo-to-VEED-lock." 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 Polish citizens by this name. They lived in the following provinces: Katowice 4, Rzeszow 6. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses.

There's one thing you might try. 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, and it's of no help if a name is scattered all over the country. But in instances where a name is highly concentrated in one area, I pass the info along, because if this Central Address Office does succeed in providing you with addresses, chances are very good those addresses belong to relatives. It's worth a try.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. It comes from the noun motowidło, "a reeling-machine, spool." An ancestor presumably got that name because he made or sold or worked with such a machine. The suffix -ak in surnames generally means "kin of, son of, one associated with," so it seems likely this surname began as a way of referring to the son or kin of one called Motowidło because of a connection with reeling or spooling. The name Motowidło is more common, borne by 361 Poles as of 1990; a diminutive, Motowidełko, "little reel, little spool," was borne by 59 Polish citizens as of 1990.

I am assuming this name is Polish. It could develop in other Slavic languages; I don't know. I deal mainly with Polish names, so that's all I can talk about. Thinking about it, though, it's certainly possible the same name, spelled with a V instead of a W, could develop in other languages, too, such as Czech. It would presumably mean more or less the same thing, however.

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

Agopsowicz

Do you have any information on the surname Agopsowicz ??? If you do, could you please send me info?

Regarding the last name Agopsowicz. Thats my maiden name. If you have any info regarding this name. I live in Regina, Sask, Canada. Where there is a lot of Agopsowicz's here form the Zehner area. Love to hear from you regarding this name.


This one is fascinating. The suffix -owicz means "son of," so this means "son of Agops." But I had never run across that name before, and the -ops ending did not sound right for a Polish or Slavic name. But then I looked in a book on Polish surnames by Jan Stanislaw Bystron, Polskie Nazwiska, and sure enough, he mentioned Agopsowicz! It is listed among names coming originally from Armenian, and means "son of Jacob" -- apparently in Armenian this name is Agop or something similar. So the name, at least, would suggest an ancestor of the family was Armenian, but later came to Poland or the Slavic regions east of Poland. If they had held fast to their Armenian roots, the name would be something like Agopyan, since most native Armenian names end with that suffix -yan. The fact that the name ends in -owicz suggests they came to be Polonized, since that suffix is Polish (or, in the spelling -ovich or -ovych, Ukrainian or Russian or Belarusian).

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 67 Polish citizens named Agopsowicz. They were scattered in tiny numbers all over the country. The only "concentration" was in southcentral and southwest Poland, in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (8), Krakow (8), and Wroclaw (13). These numbers show just how widely scattered the name is, if these are the largest numbers in any provinces. 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 also looked in an index of names appearing in the 15-volume Polish gazetteer Slownik geograficzny Krolestwa Polskiego (Geographical Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland), published in the late 1800's. It shows that there were several villages or estates owned by people named Agopsowicz, so clearly this name can be one borne by nobles. Here are the four places this work mentions and their owners as of the time of publication:

Balince, village, Kolomyja county, owner Jakob de Hasso Agopsowicz [Vol. I, p. 88]. Bazar, village, Czortkow county, owner Jozef Agopsowicz [Vol. I, p. 121]
Buczaczki, village, Kolomyja county, owner Kajetan Agopsowicz [Vol. I, p. 437] Czernelica, village, Horodenka county, owner Antoni Agopsowicz [Vol. II, p. xvi].

All these places are now in the country of Ukraine, which used to be ruled by Poland. If you want to find these places on a map, it is possible you might be able to find them at this Website: http://www.jewishgen.org/ShtetlSeeker/loctown.htm

Or you might find some useful material at the InfoUkes Website: www.infoukes.com

Or at this Website, which specializes in research in Galicia (the former crown land of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that consisted of what is now southeastern Poland and western Ukraine): www.halgal.com

Since at least some Agopsowiczes were noble, you might be able to learn more about them 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


It's possible they can tell you more about this name or family.

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

Moździerz

My grandmother was from Szarwark, Poland, and her maiden name was Mozdzierz. I am doing my genealogy and would like to know what this name means or where it came from.

In Polish Mozdzierz is usually spelled with an accent over the first Z. So this name would be spelled Moździerz, and is pronounced roughly "MOZH-jesh."

You might also sometimes see it spelled with that first Z having a dot over it instead of an accent. This reflects a subtle difference in pronunciation, and to be honest, it's not significant for our purposes. Just remember it might be spelled with a dotted Z instead of an accented one, and this is just a minor spelling variation. As of 1990 there were 37 Poles who spelled it that way, scattered in small numbers all over the country.

Polish name experts say Moździerz derives from the noun moździerz, which means "mortar." Thus it probably began as a nickname for an ancestor whom people associated with mortar. Perhaps he made or sold mortar, or used it extensively in his work. That's typically how such names get started, although one can never be sure of the exact meaning of a nickname without detailed research into the specific family that came to bear the name. Still, it makes sense that a family wouldn't have come to be called "Mortar" unless an ancestor had some clear, obvious connection with the making, sale, or use of mortar.

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 952 Polish citizens named Moździerz. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 69, Krakow 46, Tarnow 491, and Wroclaw 91. 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 makes it clear the name is found all over Poland but tends to be concentrated primarily in southwestern to southeastern Poland, especially near the city of Tarnow in southeastern Poland. This is consistent with your info, since the only place I can find named Szarwark was in Tarnow province under the setup in force 1975-1998; it's northeast of Tarnow. So the Tarnow area is where you need to concentrate your research.

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

Surname 8 Combined File

MSZAŃSKI

I believe there is a town named Mszana in Poland which means Mass???

There is a town in Poland named Mszana, but it doesn't mean "Mass" (although that's a reasonable guess). The name of that town comes from mszany, which, believe it or not, is the adjectival form of mech, "moss." So Mszana was called that because it was the "mossy" place. (The adjectival form of Msza, "Mass," is mszalny).

Does my name (Mszanski) mean I am from Mszana??

Mszana is a good candidate, but unfortunately it's not the only one. There are quite a few places in Poland with names from that root meaning "mossy," places called Mszana, Mszanka, Mszanna, Mszano, etc. This surname could refer to any of them. Suffixes were often dropped before adding -ski, so that Mszański could mean "one from Mszanko" or any of the other places mentioned. I think the Mszana in Nowy Sacz province (which actually consists of Mszana Dolna, "Lower Mszana," and Mszana Górna ("Upper Mszana") may be the place the surname is most likely to refer to. But you can't rule out the other possibilities without detailed research into a specific family's past.

In Polish the name is spelled with an accent over the N, and is pronounced roughly "M'SHINE-skee." It's 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 85 Polish citizens by this name. They lived in the following provinces: Gdansk 3, Jelenia Gora 10, Katowice 7, Konin 21, Krakow 8, Krosno 3, Lublin 6, and Nowy Sacz 27. 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 scattered all over Poland, with some concentration near the towns of Nowy Sacz and Konin. The ones near Nowy Sacz, obviously, would be especially likely to refer to Mszana Dolna and Górna, since they are fairly near Nowy Sacz.

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


NIEMCZYK

Have been trying to locate the origin of my last name for some time to no avail. Any info you might have would be greatly appreciated.

The name Niemczyk is pronounced roughly "NYEM-chick." Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], saying it appears in records as far back as 1376. He says it comes from the term niemiec, "German." Niemczyk would mean simply "son of the German," and as such, we'd expect it to be found pretty much all over Poland, since Germans came to resettle all over that country -- especially in the western parts, but not exclusively.

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 7,453 Polish citizens named Niemczyk. They lived all over the country, with particularly large numbers in the following provinces: Bielsko-Biala 830, Bydgoszcz 402, Gdansk 471, Katowice 1,736, Krosno 511, Rzeszow 295. 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 confirms the surname is found throughout Poland, so we can't pin down where a particular Niemczyk family might have come from just from the surname alone. Only genealogical research might establish that, by tracing the family back, generation by generation, till you find a document that tells exactly what part of Poland they came from.

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


PAJĄKIEWICZ

Today I was reading PolishRoots and I found that you could tell me something brief about my surname... As you could see, my surname is Pajakiewicz and my grandfather was born in (for what I know) in Kurowice around 1901. I was trying to find some reference of Kurowice, but I couldn't.

In Polish the second A in this name is usually the nasal vowel Poles write as an A with a tail (ogonek) under it, pronounced somewhat like "on" in French bon, sometimes even like "on" in English "on."  So I write the name online as Pająkiewicz, pronounced roughly "pah-yonk-YEAH-veech," but of course in Polish that second A would have a tail under it, not a tilde after 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 60 Polish citizens by this name. They lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 8, Jelenia Gora 3, Katowice 4, Opole 3, Poznan 6, Walbrzych 15, and Wroclaw 21. 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]. The first part of the name comes from the noun pająk, "spider," and the -ewicz part means "son of." So the name means literally "son of the spider," and probably began as referring to the son of one nicknamed "spider," perhaps because he reminded people of a spider, perhaps because he was associated with spiders in some other way.

As for Kurowice, there are several places by that name in Poland. I'm afraid your only hope is to find some document that specifies which one is the one your ancestors came from -- maybe a letter with an address, or a form that asks for place of birth. By itself, Kurowice just doesn't tell you enough to go on.

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 "Kurowic" as the place you're looking for, select "Poland" as the country to be searched, and select "All towns starting with this precise spelling." Click on "Start the search," and after a moment you'll see a list of various places in Poland with names starting Kurowic-. For each, 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.

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


PAWLISZYN - PAWŁYSZYN

Pawlyszyn is the name I am researching.........late of Przemysl. Poland.

Pawlyszyn is actually a Ukrainian name -- which is not at all unusual. Przemysl is near the border with Ukraine, and we see a lot of mixing of Polish and Ukrainian names in that area. But the -yszyn suffix is distinctively Ukrainian (except that's a Polish way of spelling it).

This name is formed by taking the Ukrainian first name Pavlo (Paul), adding the suffix -ykha (woman of, wife of) and the suffix -yn (son of). The guttural -kh- turns into an "sh" sound when the -yn suffix is added. So it breaks down to "son of Paul's wife." Names ending in -ishyn or -ishin or -yshyn or -yshin (or as Poles spell it, -iszyn or -yszyn) are quite common in Ukrainian, whereas there is nothing quite like this in Polish. So while the family may have come from an area within the borders of Poland, and the spelling of the "sh" sound as -sz- is definitely Polish, there was at least some Ukrainian blood somewhere along the line, or this name would not have taken this form.

In Polish Pawlyszyn would be spelled not with plain L but rather with the L with a slash or crossbar, which is pronounced much like our W. So Pawłyszyn would sound like "pahv-WISH-inn." 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 43 Polish citizens by that name. They lived in the following provinces: Elblag 3, Jelenia Gora 2, Lublin 1, Lodz 2, Olsztyn 14, Ostrołęka 2, Slupsk 19. 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.

No Pawłyszyns were listed as living in Przemysl province as of 1990. This could be due to missing data -- data was lacking for about 6% of the population -- or it could be due to post-World War II forced relocations of many, many Ukrainians from east to west. In other words, most Pawłyszyns may have lived in the east and southeast before 1939, but by 1946 many of them had been forced to pack up and move west. Which makes tracing families these days that much harder.

A name meaning the same thing is Pawliszyn, pronounced "pahv-LEE-shin." The only difference is that the L is pronounced like L, not W, and the vowel after it sounds like "ee" instead of the short "i" spelled Y by Poles. In effect, this is the same name, just pronounced and spelled a little different. As of 1990 there were 643 Polish citizens by that name, living all over the country, but with 18 of them in Przemysl province. As I said, I have no data such as first names or addresses; but it proves this name, at least, still survives in the Przemysl area.

Since Ukrainian names developed a little differently, and are usually spelled in the Cyrillic alphabet, any Ukrainian name is essentially being written in a foreign alphabet when spelled by Poles or others who use the Roman alphabet. Thus Polish Pawłyszyn and Pawliszyn might be two different ways of spelling the same Ukrainian name, which would look kind of like this in the Cyrillic alphabet: Павлішин

The letter И in Ukrainian sounds like short i (which Poles spell Y); but in Russian it sounds like "ee" (which Poles spell I). This causes a lot of spelling confusion.

My point is simply that as you do your research, keep an eye open for Pawłyszyn and Pawliszyn. The spelling difference doesn't necessarily mean much. It could be nothing more than a slight difference in how Poles tried to represent in the Roman alphabet a name originally written in the Cyrillic alphabet -- and when that happened, there was room for variation in spelling. So you might see it spelled Pawłyszyn one time, Pawliszyn another.

So to sum up, whichever way it's spelled, this is a name of Ukrainian linguistic origin meaning "son of Paul's wife." As such, it offers little in the way of specifics on where a given family came from.

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


PIĄTEK - PIONTEK

Would it be possible to receive any information on the origination/meaning/history of the name Piontek.

I live in Yorkshire, England, and only know of family members with this name. I know that my paternal grandfather came across from Poland, via Germany in WW2, but unfortunately, I am no longer in contact with him to ask him such questions.

Piontek is pronounced roughly "P'YON-teck" in Polish, and is an alternate spelling of the name I represent as Piątek online. The Polish nasal vowel written as an A with a tail under it and pronounced much like "on" in French bon; the nasal E written as an E with a tail under it and pronounced much like "en". So Piontek is a reasonable phonetic spelling of Piątek, and in fact one may see the name spelled either way, even in Poland. But the form with the nasal vowel is the standard one.

The name comes ultimately from the root piąty, "fifth." At one time Poles counted the days of the week starting with Monday, so that Friday was the "fifth day," and piątek means literally "little fifth one," so that's the name they gave Friday. As a surname Piątek began as a sort of nickname for one associated with Friday -- he might have had some particular duty to perform on Fridays, or was born on a Friday, something along those lines. I can't rule a connection with the meaning "fifth," so that Piątek might have been a name given the fifth child of his parents; but generally we'd expect the primary association to be with the word for Friday.

This is a rather 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 19,796 Polish citizens named Piątek. They lived all over the country, so a family by that name could have come from anywhere.

There were 2,018 who used the spelling Piontek, with particularly large numbers in the region of Silesia in southwestern Poland, mainly the provinces of Katowice, 971, and Opole, 409. I suspect the spelling is common there because that region has a particularly strong German influence, and Germans can make no sense of the Polish nasal vowels, so they usually spell them phonetically as ON (for Ą) and EN (for Ę). This spelling is, however, found in other parts of the country as well, just not so frequently.

In a specific family's case one might find the name spelled either way. In other words, you may find your ancestors listed as Piontek or Piątek, and the difference would not necessarily suggest anything reliable in terms of family connections. Not all Pionteks would necessarily be related, and many whose name was spelled that way in the past probably go by Piątek today. Piątek and Piontek are simply two different ways of spelling the same name, and spellings in the records were often inconsistent.

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


STACHOWIAK

... I have recently become extremely interested in researching my family history and the history/meaning of my surname.

At this time I do not know anything about my surnames other than -owiak possibly means "son of".

Stachowiak would sound roughly like "stah-HOVE-yock," except the Polish CH is a bit more guttural than English h -- closer to 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 the suffix -owicz means "son of," and Stach is an ancient nickname that developed from various Polish names beginning Sta-, especially the first name Stanisław; so the name means basically "son of Stach" or "one of the kin 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 Stanisław, 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 Stachowiak, 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."

As of 1990 there were 13,372 Polish citizens named Stachowiak. They lived all over the country, with some concentration in the western provinces of Bydgoszcz, 848, Kalisz, 765, and Poznan, 5,200. So while people named Stachowiak live everywhere in Poland, they are especially common in the western part of the country.

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


ŻEBROWSKI

Do you have any info on the meaning and origin of the name Zebrowski?

My family is from the northeast near Białystok. A village called Grabowo

In Polish this name is usually spelled with the first Z dotted. Żebrowski is pronounced roughly "zheb-ROFF-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 10,150 Polish citizens by that name. They lived all over the country, with particularly large numbers in the following provinces: and Łomża 973, Olsztyn 551, Ostrołęka 1,637. There were 147 by this name in the province of Białystok. So the name is concentrated to a significant extent in the northeastern part of 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.

There were also 109 Poles who spelled it Zebrowski, no dot over the Z, pronounced more like "zeh-BROFF-skee." However, it's not clear how many of them really spelled it that way, and how many of those 109 were really Żebrowskis, but the name was keyed in wrong. There are, however, some parts of Poland where people tend to take Ż in the standard form of the language and turn it into plain Z. So some of those Zebrowskis may really spell and pronounce it that way. In general, however, we're justified in figuring that the form with plain Z- is probably just a variant of the standard form with Ż-.

Names in the form X-owski usually mean "one from X," that is, from a place with a name beginning with the X part, which may or may not have various endings added. As a rule we'd expect this surname to refer to a family's connection with a place named Żebrowo or Żebry or something of that sort. If they were noble, they owned an estate there at some point centuries ago; if they were peasants, they lived and worked there at some point.

The problem is, there are several places in Poland with names that qualify. There is a Żebrówka near Siedlce in southeastern Poland, and there are several places named Żebry or Żebry + a second name in the areas of Ostrołęka and Łomża. This is consistent with the large number of Żebrowskis in northeastern Poland, near those towns. It all suggests that the surname usually means "one from Żebry" -- but the problem is, which Żebry? There's no way to tell based on the name alone. Only detailed research into the history of a specific family may uncover information that establishes which Żebry your particular Żebrowski ancestors took their name from.

  

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


BALIŃSKI - PASTUSZYŃSKI

Could you please tell me anything you know about the names Pastuszynski and Balinski?

In Polish Pastuszyński is spelled with an accent over the N and pronounced roughly "poss-too-SHIN-skee." Baliński also has an accented N and is pronounced roughly "bah-LEEN-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 Pastuszyński. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 47, Gdansk 13, Katowice 11, and Kielce 26. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

This data tells us the name is scattered all over the country, with about a third of them living near Warsaw. That's probably not much help, but then relatively few surnames are concentrated in any one area to the point that it helps you trace where a given family would have come from. You usually have to trace the family back in the records, generation by generation, to establish that.

While Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut doesn't mention this exact name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], he does mention others beginning Pastusz-, and it's quite clear this name comes from the same root: pastuch, "herdsman, one who watches the herd." The guttural -ch at the end of that noun changes to the "sh" sound that Poles spell -sz- when suffixes are added. So Pastuszynski means literally "of the herdsman's _," where the blank is filled in with something so obvious it didn't have to be spelled out -- usually either "kin" or "place."

So it is quite possible this surname refers to the name of a place along the lines of Pastuszyn or Pastuszno, which would have started out meaning "place of the herdsman." I can't find any places by such names in my sources, but then sometimes these surnames referred to little settlements or subdivisions of a village. So a Pastuszyn or Pastuszno could have been small, not likely to show up on any maps, and yet could have generated a surname. Again, only detailed research into the specific family is likely to give a really firm, reliable answer that question.

But to be honest, I think in this case it is quite likely the name just means "kin of the herdsman." These X-yński surnames often refer to place names, but not always. And "kin of the herdsman" is a pretty plausible interpretation of the name.

So if I were you, I'd figure that's probably what it means. Still, as you research, keep an eye open for a place with a name beginning Pastusz-. If you find there was such a place somewhere near where your ancestors came from, it is entirely possible the surname referred to it. What we can say for sure is that the name means either "kin of the herdsman" or "one from the place of the herdsman."

As of 1990 there were 3,374 Polish citizens named Baliński, living all over the country, with no really significant concentration in any one part. The largest numbers tend to show up in provinces near the center of the country, especially Warsaw (365), Kielce (232), Lodz (232), Torun (188), and Wloclawek (145), with another chunk in southwestern Poland (Katowice 254, Wroclaw 148). But again, there's not really a clear pattern -- a Balinski family could come from practically anywhere.

Names in the form X-iński are like those in the form X-yński -- they usually refer to places. Baliński usually means "one from Balin or Balino." The problem is, there are several places in Poland with those names, and the surname gives no clue which one is being referred to in a given case.

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 "Balin" as the place you're looking for, select "Poland" as the country to be searched, and select "All towns starting with this precise spelling." Click on "Start the search," and after a moment you'll see a list of various places in Poland with names starting Balin-. 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 may help you may a connection if your research helps you pin down a particular part of Poland that your Balinskis came from, and thus may help you establish which Balino or Balino they took their name from.

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


CHOJNACKI - HOJNACKI

Hello, I am soon to be wed! My fiance's surname is Chojnacki. His grandfather is originally from Poland. I was wondering if you could please give me some information on my surname-to-be.

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!

In Polish Chojnacki is pronounced roughly "hoy-NOT-skee," although the initial sound is a bit more guttural than English H; it's like the "ch" in German "Bach."

Chojnacki is a fairly common name, borne by 24,744 Polish citizens as of 1990; they lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area. A Chojnacki family could come from practically anywhere in Poland.

The surname refers generally to the name of place where a family by this name lived or worked at some point centuries ago. A particularly good candidate is Chojnata, east-southeast of Skierniewice in central Poland; but there may be other places with names that qualify as well. "Chojnata" probably comes from the basic root choina, "fir, spruce tree," so that Chojnacki can be interpreted as "one from the place of the spruces," and thus it might not always refer to a specific place you can find on a map -- it might refer to any family who lived in an area with a lot of spruces. But as a rule I'd expect it to refer to a family's origin in Chojnata or some other place with a similar name, which probably referred to firs or spruces in the area.

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


CERAN- CYRAN - CYRON

I am a physician in Hershey, PA and am researching my surname. Could you/would you be able to educate me regarding the surname Cyran?

In Polish this name is pronounced roughly "TSI-ron" where the first syllable has a short i sound like that in English "ship."It comes from the noun cyran, meaning "teal" (a kind of duck), according to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut. Presumably it began as a nickname for one whom people associated with teals in some way, perhaps because he lived in an area where they were frequent, or he liked to hunt for them, or wore clothes colored like a teal -- something along those lines.

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 4,541 Polish citizens named Cyran. They lived all over Poland; there was no one area with which the name was particularly associated. There were also a number of Poles using variants of this name, including Ceran (609) and Cyron (747).

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


DUSZA

I have looked quite a bit for info on my maternal grandparents name Dusza

Any help would be appreciated.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions Dusza (pronounced roughly “DOO-shah”) in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1456 and comes from the basic root seen in the verb dusić, "to suffocate," and the noun dusza, "soul, spirit." In Polish, as in many other languages, the word meaning "soul, spirit" comes from the native root meaning "breath," but in Polish that root's meaning is modified in the verb meaning "to suffocate, choke off breath."

The simplest way to translate dusza is "soul," perhaps meant as an endearment, as if to say "You're a dear soul." I know in Russian you hear a diminutive of this same word, dushenka, used as a term of endearment. I suspect that's how it was meant as a surname in Polish -- sort of like saying "Now there's someone with a soul!"

As of 1990 there were 5,002 Poles by this name. They lived all over the country, with no significant concentration in any one area; it was more common in the southern part of the country than in the north, especially in the provinces of Katowice (1,278), Nowy Sacz (335), Opole (202), Radom (299), and Wroclaw (216). Still, you can't really say there's any one part fo the couontry a Dusza family would have come from; they could come from pretty much anywhere.

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


FRĄCZAK - FRONCZAK

I have been researching the Fronczak family and have heard it was spelled Frączak. I'm not very sure about this and needed some help on making this strange curly letter.

In other words, Frączak in Polish is actually spelled Fraczak, but that first A has a tail under it. That letter is normally pronounced like "on" in French bon, or a little like the "on" in English "bone," but without quite finishing the n sound. But for all practical purposes, Poles pronounce Frączak and Fronczak exactly the same -- "FRON-chock."

In Polish, Frączak and Fronczak are two different ways of spelling the same name; some spell it with the nasal -ą-, some with -on-. It doesn't really make a lot of difference which way you spell it. Either way, it means "son of Frank," coming from a short form of the Polish first name Franciszek, "Francis."

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 1,871 Polish citizens named Frączak. They lived all over the country, with the largest concentration, 556, in the province of Warsaw. There were 2,022 Poles who spelled the name Fronczak, and again, the largest number, 668, lived in the province of Warsaw. But people by both spellings lived all over Poland, so there's no way to say where a given Frączak or Fronczak family would have come from, just by looking at this data.

What all this means for you in practical terms is this. 1) The surname is a moderately common one, simply indicating that an ancestor was named Franciszek or some short form or nickname of that first name. 2) The surname may be spelled either Frączak or Fronczak. In old records spelling was often inconsistent, as the priest or clerk would simply write it down the way he heard it. You might see the same person called Frączak in one record, Fronczak in another. So as you research, you need to keep your eyes open for either spelling.

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


FRANCZAK - FRAŃCZAK

I am doing a project for school. We have to look up the origin of our last name.

My last name is Frencho, but it was changed in 1893 when my ancestor Jan Franczak came over on the boat. Could you look up the meaning of Franczak?

I'm glad you were able to establish the original form of the name -- I couldn't have guessed that Frencho came from Franczak.

Franczak in Polish is pronounced roughly "FRON-chock"; the first syllable rhymes more or less with the English words "gone" and "on."

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says the name Franczak appears in records as early as 1696 (and of course may go back a lot further; that's just the earliest appearance they've found so far in surviving documents).

The Francz- part comes from the first name Franciszek ("fron-CHEE-shek"), the Polish version of "Francis" (from Latin Franciscus). Poles often formed nicknames and affectionate short forms of names by taking the first few sounds, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes. So much as we get Frank and Frankie from Francis, Poles took the Franc- part, dropped the rest, and added -ak; in the process Franc- was modified to Francz-. That suffix -ak is a diminutive, so that Franczak means literally "little Franc." But usually in surnames you can translate the -ak part as "son of" or "kin of." So Franczak should normally be interpreted as meaning "son of Franc," or, as we'd say it, "son of Frank." The surname simply indicates that an ancestor was the son of a guy called Franc or some other very similar nickname from the first name we know as "Francis."

It's also possible an ancestor was known as Franek or Franko, two other nicknames from that same first name, and the -ek or -ko turned into -cz- when the -ak was added. I felt I should mention this because it's another way this surname could have developed. But in practical terms it makes little difference -- it still boils down to "son of Frank."

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 5,131 Polish citizens named Franczak. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 323, Krakow 466, Lublin 342, Nowy Sacz 261. 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 Poland but tends to be a bit more common in the southcentral to southeastern part of the country.

There is one other possibility I should mention. In Polish there are two letters N, one plain and one with an accent over it. So when I type Frańczak, just remember that it should be an accented N. That accent changes the pronunciation, so that Frańczak sounds more like "FRINE-chock," with the first syllable rhyming with "pine."

That name means the same thing, "son of Frank"; it's just some people in some areas had a tendency to modify the sound of the N, and some didn't. You run into a lot of this sort of thing with Polish names -- little subtleties of pronunciation that don't really affect the meaning of the name, but do change the way it sounds. We don't have anything quite like this in English, so it's hard to explain. The simplest way to say it is that Franczak and Frańczak are two different names that mean the same thing.

When a Frańczak came to an English-speaking country such as the United States, no one knew what to make of that accent over the N, so it was usually just dropped. Thus both Franczak and Frańczak usually ended up becoming plain Franczak in this country. And of course there could be further modification of the name later on, as there was in your case. Immigrants realized that people were having trouble with their names, so they'd modify them to make them a little easier for English-speakers to deal with. Frencho still retains some of the sound of the original name, but is easier for Americans to spell and pronounce. Or it's possible some official was filling out papers for your ancestor somewhere along the way, misheard the name, spelled it wrong, and the mistake stuck. Only detailed research into the family history might establish exactly what happened and when. But it all comes down to the same basic thing: the original name sounded too "foreign" and was modified to something a little easier to say and spell.

As of 1990 there were 1,290 Polish citizens named Frańczak, living all over the country, with the largest numbers in the following provinces: Przemysl 113, Rzeszow 91, and Tarnobrzeg 285. Those provinces are in the southeastern part of the country. So Franczak tends to show up more toward southcentral Poland, whereas Frańczak is more common a little farther east.

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


JAGELSKI - JAGIELSKI

My grandfather's surname was Jagelski. Can you give me any information about my family's past, or tell me of any resources that might prove fruitful?

Jagelski is a spelling variation of the surname usually spelled Jagielski, pronounced roughly "yog-YELL-skee." The rules of Polish orthography say that the letter E may not follow the letter G unless an I is interposed (because in standard Polish the hard G sound cannot be followed by E with palatalization, which is indicated with the insertion of the I, -g + -e = -gie-). So Jagelski is not "correct," but Jagielski is... In practice, however, not everybody followed these rules all the time, especially in old records and in the context of immigration. The standard form, however, is Jagielski, of which Jagelski a variant.

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 6,696 Polish citizens by this name. This name is found all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area. (By contrast, there were 9 Polish citizens who spelled it Jagelski, living in the provinces of Gdansk, 7, and Torun, 2).

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions the surname Jagielski in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], and he says it comes from an adjective formed from the noun jagła, "millet" (the Polish L with a slash through it is pronounced like our W in English). So Jagielski can mean nothing more than "the millet guy," perhaps referring to one who grew or sold or liked millet; or it might refer to a family's origin in a place such as Jagiele in Suwałki province, and the place name, in turn, is what came from the noun for "millet."

Some have asked me whether this name might be connected with Jagiełło , the Lithuanian prince who married Polish Queen Jadwiga in 1385 and thereby began the joining of Poland and Lithuania as the Commonwealth of Two Nations. As I say, Rymut finds the connection to be mainly with the word for "millet."

Another name expert, however, points out that Jagielski can also refer to the name of a place such as Jagiełła in Przemysl province, or Jagiełła in Siedlce province. I don't know for sure, but those places might derive their name from some tenuous connection with the name of the Lithuanian-Polish king; they may have meant "place of Jagiełło or his kin." It's unlikely the surname refers to any direct connection with Jagiełło himself, although of course you never know. But more often such names referred to a servant or property of the great man himself, rather than to any blood link with him.

Jagiełło, by the way, is a Polonized form of his original Lithuanian name, Jogailo. It is thought to come from the Lithuanian roots jo-, "to ride (on horseback)" and gail-, "mighty," so that his name probably meant something like "mighty rider." When he married Queen Jadwiga and accepted Christianity he took a Christian first name and was known thenceforth as Ladislaus Jogailo; but he became better known by the Polish forms of those names, Wladyslaw Jagiełło.

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


KOŚNIK

Hello, my name is Ashley and I am trying to find out what my Great Great Grandfather's name means, I believe it is spelled Kosnik. He came to Michigan, USA in 1883 at the age of three. I have not been able to locate his name on any passenger ships or anything. Do you think the spelling may be wrong?

Well, that's always a possibility you have to take into account. But I'm inclined to think the spelling hasn't been modified, because there is a Polish surname Kosnik, and I can find no other name that really matches well. But in Polish Kosnik is usually spelled with an accent over the S. So when I type Kośnik, remember that the S is with an accent over it.

In Polish that name is pronounced roughly "KOSH-neek." 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 1,048 Polish citizens by that name. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 133, Gdansk 86, Katowice 60, Łomża 88, Olsztyn 72, and Ostrołęka 319. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

This data tells us the name is found all over Poland, but tends to be more concentrated in northeastern Poland, near the cities of Warsaw, Łomża, and Ostrołęka. You can't conclude that's definitely where your ancestors came from, but it suggests that general area might be worth special attention.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it generally comes from the noun kośnik, which means "mower, haymaker." It might also be connected with the adjective kośny, "hay-growing," but I think most likely it began as a reference to an ancestor's occupation. He helped mow the fields and make hay, and thus was nicknamed Kośnik. At some point that name stuck and became established as a surname.

As I say, chances are decent Kosnik is the right spelling (the accent, of course, was usually dropped in non-Polish-speaking countries). But I should add that names of Eastern European immigrants were frequently misspelled at various points along the way, and this could affect your search. Thus if a Pole who couldn't write (and most immigrants couldn't) showed up at a German port such as Hamburg or Bremen and gave his papers to a German official, the German might spell the name the way it sounded to him, like Koshnick. Or an English-speaker might spell it Koshnik or Koschnik or even Coshnick or Coshnik. There wouldn't necessarily be any intention of changing it; but when people encounter a name that sounds "foreign" to them, the name often ends up being modified.

It's conceivable, for instance, that your ancestor was Kośnik, but the name was misspelled at some point, and since he couldn't read or write he had no way of knowing. Once he got to the U. S., however, he might have been around other Poles who could help him spell it right again. So it might have started out correct on his original papers issued near his ancestral village; then got misspelled somewhere along the way; then was corrected once he settled down in America. There are jillions of ways this scenario might play out, any of which could cause a wrong spelling to show up just where you're looking for it. That's why with surnames you have to wrack your brain to try to think of every possible spelling variation.

One other thought comes to mind. If your family settled in Michigan, you might find that the Polish Genealogical Society of Michigan can offer some help. They've developed lots of resources to help researchers find info on families that settled in that state. If you'd like more info you can visit their Website at http://www.pgsm.org. I don't want to pressure you to join them -- I'm just saying quite a few folks have found their assistance helpful.

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


MROCZKA - WOJNAROWSKI

Mroczka. From Southeastern Poland near Toki. My dictionary had an obscure reference to bat, or does it come from the root word for darkness?

The modern meaning of words from which names are derived can be misleading. What matters is what the word meant centuries ago, when names were developing. Polish name experts say Mroczka (pronounced roughly "M'ROTCH-kah") comes from the root seen in the noun mrok, "darkness," and the verb mrokotać, "to squint," and especially the noun mroczek, "one who squints, especially due to scotoma." So Mroczka probably began in most cases as a nickname meaning "squinter."

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 1,183 Poles by this name. They lived all over Poland, but the largest numbers lived in the southeastern provinces of Krosno, 184, Przemysl, 119, and Rzeszow, 142 (Jaslo was in Krosno province in 1990). So the name is most common in southeastern Poland, the part of the country that, with western Ukraine, was seized by Austria during the partitions and ruled by Austria as "Galicia." 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.

Second name, Wojnarowicz Is the root word war? Does it mean then Son of War or something similar? Same area of Poland but this time Jaslo.

Yes, according to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], this name does derive from the word meaning "war," and -owicz does mean "son of." So "son of the warrior" is probably the closest English translation. As of 1990 there were 680 Polish citizens by this name, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Tarnow, 86, and Zamosc, 89. Wojnarowicz is pronounced roughly "voy-nahr-OH-veech."

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


PARADA

I would appreciate it if you could advise me of the meaning of my maiden name Parada. My daughter is doing a project for her 4th grade class, and we have been having difficulty with this.

In Polish Parada is pronounced roughly "pah-RAH-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), 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.

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."

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


SOBOLEWSKI

Should you be so kind, I would love to get an interpretation of my maiden name….Sobolewski.

In Polish Sobolewski is pronounced roughly "so-bo-LEFF-skee," or, in some areas, more like "so-bo-LESS-kee" -- which explains why it is sometimes spelled Soboleski. But the standard form is Sobolewski, of which Sobolewska is the feminine form.

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), there were 15,631 Poles by that name. They lived all over the country, with no significant concentration in any one area. A Sobolewski family could come from practically any part of Poland.

Names in the form X-ewski usually mean "one from _" where the blank is filled in with the name of a place beginning with the X part. So we'd expect Sobolewski to mean "one from Sobole or Sobolow or Sobolewo" or some similar place name, meaning "the place of the sables." There are a number of villages in Poland with those names, and the surname gives no clue which one a given family would have come from. Only genealogical research into the history of a specific family might shed light on that question. Without that kind of detailed info, all I can tell you is that the name means "one from Sobole or Sobolow or Sobolewo" or some other place with a name beginning Sobol-, which, in turn, comes from the word meaning "sable."

Incidentally, sometimes X-ewski can also mean "of the kin of X," so that it is theoretically possible this name might mean "kin of the Sable," referring to an ancestor who was nicked Sobol, the Sable, for some reason. We can't rule that out with further research. But I doubt that's applicable. Most Sobolewskis would have gotten that name because of a connection with a place Sobolewo, Sobolow, etc.

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


WOJCIECHOWSKI

I am looking at the surname Wojciechowska, I have no info on this name and be most grateful if you could help.

Names in the form X-ska are almost always feminine versions of the same name ending in -ski. So a female would be called Wojciechowska, pronounced roughly "voj-cheh-HOFF-skee," and a male would be Wojciechowski ("voj-cheh-HOFF-skee"). The latter is regarded as the standard form of the 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 63,519 Polish citizens by that name. They lived all over Poland, so the surname gives us no clue as to where a specific family by that name might have come from. They could have come from anywhere in Poland.

This surname started out meaning either "kin of Wojciech" or "one from Wojciech's place." Most of the time, I think the latter would apply -- the name would mean "one from Wojciechy or Wojciechow or Wojciechowo," and there are a great many villages by those names, all of which mean basically "the place of Wojciech." The Slavic name Wojciech is closely identified with the Germanic name Albert/Albrecht/Adalbert, because the original St. Wojciech was confirmed by the bishop of Magdeburg, Adalbert, and honored him by taking his name as his own confirmation name. Since then Wojciech and Albert have been regarded as equivalents (though linguistically they have no link at all). Thus Wojciechowski could be interpreted as meaning "one from Albertville."

But that's a little fanciful. In most cases it just means "one from _" where you fill in the blank with any of a number of place names meaning "[place] of Wojciech." The only way to determine which one your particular family was connected with is through genealogical research, which might provide details enabling you to focus on a specifc area in Poland and thus find the most likely Wojciechowo or Wojciechowice or whatever -- a much more promising prospect than having to search through all the places in Poland with names that fit. Unless, of course, the name simply means you had an ancestor named Wojciech. Usually, however, names in the form X-owski do refer to places with names beginning with the X part.

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


WOJNAROWSKI

I was very impressed reading the descriptions of the histories of various Polish surnames on the internet through the PGSA website. I did not see my surname and am quite interested in what you can find out. My surname is Wojnarowski. My grandparents arrived from Pilsno, Poland at the turn of the 20th century (1900-1910ish). I know no other info beyond that. I would appreciate anything you could find on the name.

This name is pronounced roughly "voy-nah-ROFF-skee." Names ending in -owski usually refer to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago. We would expect Wojnarowski to refer to a place named Wojnary or Wojnarow or Wojnarowo or Wojnarowice -- something beginning Wojnar-. There are at least two villages the name might refer to, Wojnary near Nowy Sacz in southcentral Poland, or Wojnarowice near Wroclaw in southwestern Poland. Without detailed info on a given family's background there is no way to know which place the surname refers to in their given 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 3,304 Polish citizens named Wojnarowski. They lived all over Poland, with no concentration in any one area.

 

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


HARABURDA

I am very surprised to find that the surname 'HARABURDA' is not listed in your database. I am looking for the origins and meaning of the word - someone suggested that 'haraburda' is a derivative of an old ukrainian word 'halaburda'. Can u help??

No need to be surprised; a Polish government agency database showed over 600,000 surnames borne by Polish citizens as of 1990 -- and that does not include another 200,000 surnames with a frequency of 0 (meaning the name existed in the database but the entry was incomplete or corrupted; many of these were probably just misspelled). Some 40,000 surnames were borne by over 100 Polish citizens. That means roughly half a million surnames were borne by fewer than 100 Poles as of 1990. That's an awful lot of names. The fact that a specific name doesn't appear on the Website simply means no one has asked about it before -- not surprising, in view of the numbers.

As of 1990, according to the data I referred to above (from the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland, now available online at http://www.herby.com.pl/herby/indexslo.html), there were 722 Polish citizens named HARABURDA (pronounced roughly "hah-rah-BOOR-dah"). The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Białystok 149, and Suwałki 356. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. But this data indicates this surname is found all over Poland but most often in the northeastern 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 is indeed a variant of hałaburda, a term meaning "brawler, one who causes disorder, one who engages in debauchery." (the Polish L with a slash through it is pronounced like our W). This noun means essentially the same thing in Ukrainian, although in Ukrainian the primary meaning is "brawling, disorder, trouble, debauch," whereas in Polish it refers to one who engages in such behavior. All in all, it seems likely the name began as a nickname for an ancestor who had a tendency toward rowdy behavior; the name stuck, and eventually became established as a surname inherited by his children.

It is not odd to see a name vary between forms with L (Halaburda) and R (Haraburda). These sounds are considered to be related phonetically, and we often see interesting variations involving them (for instance the Polish name Rolbiecki also appears in the form Lorbiecki). Probably in some areas there was a dialect tendency to turn that L sound into an R, so the word was pronounced haraburda instead of halaburda, and that fact is reflected in the surname form.

It is interesting to note that as of 1990 there were 226 Polish citizens who went by the name HALABURDA with plain L (pronounced roughly "hah-lah-BOOR-dah") and another 339 who spelled it with the Polish L with a slash through it, which sounds like English W ("hah-wah-BOOR-dah"). So 3 different forms of this noun gave rise to three different surnames, which are related linguistically (but that would not necessarily imply any relation in terms of kinship between families bearing these names).

If you'd like to study the data on the frequency and distribution of these names, go to this Website, http://www.herby.com.pl/herby/indexslo.html, and type "*a?aburda" in the box, then click on "Szukaj" (Search). Use of the wild cards * and ? will help match many different spellings of the name -- Chalaburda, Galaburda, etc. (I would ignore Malaburda, Małaburda, Maraburda, Naraburda, and Staraburda -- they are probably something else entirely, although I could be wrong). Studying the data this way can be fascinating, and can also sometimes prove to be very helpful. If I hadn't looked at it, it would never have occurred to me that this name could also appear as Alaburda (initial H sound dropped), Chalaburda (H and CH are pronounced the same in Polish, and thus often appear in variant spellings), and Galaburda (the H sound was written as G due to Russian influence).

If you need help understanding the data, you can read my article The "Slownik nazwisk" Is Online!" in the August issue of the free e-zine _Gen Dobry!  It's fascinating, too, to note that the original form, with L instead of R, persists in the different forms, Alaburda, Chalburda, Galaburda, etc. -- but the most common form is the one with R, Haraburda! This is just the sort of odd and unpredictable fact you run into all the time with surnames!

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


MARCINKIEWICZ

MARCINKIEWICZ is pronounced roughly "mar-cheenk-YEAH-veech." The suffix -ewicz means "son of"; Marcin is the Polish form of "Martin"; and the -k- is a diminutive, so that Marcink- is short for Marcinek or Marcinko, meaning literally "little Martin," but possibly also used in the sense of "son of Martin." So the surname Marcinkiewicz means literally "son of little Martin," but could also be interpreted as "son of the son of Martin." It simply indicates that an ancestor was named the Polish equivalent of "Martin," or "little Martin" as a nickname.

As of 1990 there were 4,385 Polish citizens by that name, living all over the country, with no concentration in any one area; a Marcinkiewicz family could come from practically anywhere. To see the data you can search for the name at this site: http://www.herby.com.pl/herby/indexslo.html. If you need help understanding how to use it, you can read my article The "Slownik nazwisk" Is Online!" in the August issue of the free e-zine _Gen Dobry!

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

  

 

 

 

 


GANSCHINIETZ - GESINIEC

Already for a long time, I am trying to trace the origin of my ancestors´ name "Ganschinietz".I only know that they came from Russia, presumably from Belorussia. Can you inform me why and when the ending "ietz" has been introduced and where can I find some literature on it, preferrably in German?

I'm afraid I don't know of any literature on this subject in Russian, but -ietz is a German phonetic spelling of a suffix that is quite common in the Slavic languages. In Polish it is spelled -iec, and it appears in many nouns, including Niemiec, "German" (root niem-, "mute," + -iec), kupiec, "merchant" (root kup-, "buy" + -iec), starzec "old man" (root star-, "old" + -iec). So a name in the form X-iec or X-ec means "one who does X, one closely associated with X."

I can add that Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions GANSCHINIETZ in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. It is a German phonetic spelling of a Polish name written GĘSINIEC, with the Polish nasal vowel written as an E with a hook or tail (Schwänzchen) under it.

The basic root of the name GĘSINIEC is the noun gęś (hook under the E, accent over the S), which means "goose" (its sound is similar to that of the German word Gänse, actually).  Rymut says the surname GĘSINIEC comes from a noun that can be spelled with nasal a or nasal e, gąsiniec or gęsiniec. He defines this noun as "chlew gęsi," "a trough for geese." (Das polnische Wort chlew übersetzt man gewöhnlich Schweinestall, aber hier bedeutet es ein Stall für Gänse, nicht für Schweine.)

It is difficult to say how a person came to bear this name, but it probably began as a nickname -- perhaps one who worked on a farm and often fed the geese might be called Gęsiniec. I think that is the most likely explanation -- the name meant "the one who often works at the trough for geese."

As of 2002, according to the best data available (a database maintained by an agency of the Polish government), I was amazed to see that this name appears in several different spellings. As of 2002 there were 5 Polish citizens who spelled the name GANSCHINIETZ. One, a female, lived in the powiat (much like a Kreis in the old German administrative divisions) of Grudziądz in Kujawsko-Pomorskie province. The other 4, 2 males and 2 females, lived in Strzelce Opolskie powiat of Opole province.

There were 273 Polish citizens who spelled the name GANSINIEC. Most fo them lived in Śląskie province, near Katowice, which is roughly the heart of the area Germans call Schlesien and English-speakers call Silesia. There were 6 who spelled it GENSINIEC, all living in or very near the town of Łomża in northeastern Poland. This area was part of "Russian Poland" from roughly 1815 to 1918.

There were 12 who spelled it GĘSINIEC. 8 of the latter (5 males, 3 females) lived in Wroclaw powiat of Dolnośląskie province, and 4 (2 males and 2 females) lived in the actual _powiat_ of the city of Wroclaw. So those who spell it GĘSINIEC all live in or very near Wroclaw (Breslau).

This data may not help you actually find relatives. But it may at least help you gain a perspective on where in Poland these various different forms of the name appear. At some point that may become helpful in your research.

I should add that people now living in southwestern Poland may not have been living there long. After World War II, when the Allies took lands long ruled by Germany and gave them to Poland -- the territory that is now western Poland -- many ethnic Germans fled, to resettle in East Germany (the DDR). The Communists wished to repopulate those regions, and also undercut resistance from people living in eastern Poland. So they forced many to relocate from east to west. Thus it is possible some of those people named GANSINIEC and GANSCHINIETZ and GĘSINIEC now living in southwestern Poland have only been there since 1945 or 1946. Before then they may well have lived in eastern Poland, in regions once ruled by Russia.

To sum up, GANSCHINIETZ is a fairly accurate German phonetic spelling of the Polish name GĘSINIEC; that is to say, if a German heard a Pole say Gęsiniec and tried to write it down, he would probably write it as GANSCHINIETZ. The name itself is of Polish origin, from a word meaning "trough or sty where one feeds geese." It probably began as a nickname for one whose job on the farm was to take care of the geese. A great many Poles came to live in Belorussia over the centuries, so it is possible your ancestors were Poles who lived there. But by the early 1800s Russia ruled all of what is now Belarus, Lithuania, and most of eastern and central Poland. So Poles who lived "in Russia" might have lived in any of those places -- and there were many Poles who lived in Belarus and Lithuania, as well as in Poland.

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


SKRAKOWSKI

please excuse my intrusion but i am interested in finding out something about my surname, skrakowski. it has proved to be a fruitless if somewhat enlightening search on the internet as there are only a handful of entries at most in the search engines i have tried it on, yet other names produce many. it seems that my family does not have an ancestry that goes back beyond the present generation yet the nature of the name seems to be one that is old. by this i mean that its very meaning is 'from krakow' and as such must have come into existence in my mind at a time when people could still be distinguished by the place they were from. seems that my ancestors either left, or had to leave krakow sometime in early history, so why so little reference on the net? can you help

This is a fascinating question, and I must say up front I don't have a definitive answer. I often find such puzzles with names: X will be common, but X-owicz, "son of X," which you'd expect to be common also, turns out to be rare. Or vice versa. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to why a name did or not catch on.

But if you read notes written by foreigners who've studied English, you'll notice that often what they write is perfectly correct grammatically, and makes sense -- but it sounds wrong. We just don't say it that way. This phenomena is common in languages; a particular formulation is perfectly plausible, but "we just don't say it that way." The same thing happens with names. This one is common, that one is rare, and it's damned hard to figure out why.

Since I can't give you a definite answer, let me mention this. You can get an opinion from the real experts if 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. Now let me tell what little I can about SKRAKOWSKI.

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 at http://www.herby.com.pl/herby/indexslo.html), there were 26 Polish citizens by that name. They lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 8, Białystok 1, Gdansk 2, Gorzow 2, Jelenia Gora 6, Koszalin 2, Walbrzych 3, and Wroclaw 2. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

This data tells us the name is scattered all over the country in tiny numbers; there's no significant concentration that would help us point to a specific area and say, "Ah, that's where the name comes from." But this data is important in one way: it establishes that the name, however rare, does exist in Poland. So it is NOT an Anglicized distortion, such as Yastrzemski from Jastrzebski. It may be a variation of a more common name, but there are Poles who go by the name Skrakowski, and that is significant.

I have to differ with you on the basic interpretation of the name; I don't think it means "from Krakow." The reason is, in my experience you very seldom see names constructed that way, S-X-owski, where the S means "from" and X is the name of a place. It's redundant: KRAKOWSKI, without the initial S, already means "from Krakow."

When nobles first began using secondary names to clarify their identity, back in the 12th and 13th centuries, at first they used Latin formulations, since Latin was the language of all writing and record keeping. Thus a Pole Jan who had an estate at Grabowo would appear in the records as something like "Joannes de Grabouo." But later Polish became an acceptable language for keeping records, and Poles naturally tended to use native expressions meaning the same thing. At first you see "Jan z Grabowa," an exact Polish rendering of Latin "Joannes de Grabouo," and closer to what a Pole would say in everyday life.

But it wasn't long before Poles dropped that formulation as a foreignism and began using a Polish way of expressing the same thing: Jan Grabowski. That adjectival usage means "of Grabow/Grabowo," as well as "from Grabow/Grabowo." For some reason Poles liked the feel of it better than "z Grabowa." So nobles began using that formulation in a big way -- more and more went by X-owski, where X stands for the first part of the name of their estate. Gradually these names became hereditary and thus became surnames, and peasants began using them to. In that way "Grabowski" went from meaning "[lord] of Grabow or Grabowo" to "[one] from Grabow or Grabowo."

So you see, there's no need to express "one from Krakow" as SKRAKOWSKI, because KRAKOWSKI already says that. Of course you COULD theoretically use SKRAKOWSKI. But in my experience Poles just didn't do that.

Now you may write the Institute and they may tell you I'm all wrong about this. But I can only go by what I've seen and learned, and my gut feeling is that SKRAKOWSKI has nothing to do with Krakow.

So what is it? Good question. Usually X-owski means "one from a place with a name beginning X," but I can find no Skraki or Skrakow or Skrakowo. Often a rare name with A is a variant of a more common name with O, so I looked for SKROK- as well, and didn't find anything encouraging. The form SKRAKOWSKI could conceivably be a variant of SKRZAKOWSKI, with the -RZ- simplified to plain -R-; but again, I found nothing to substantiate that. So to level with you, I'm baffled.

But names in the form X-owski USUALLY (not always, but usually) refer to places of origin bearing names that meant, "of X." And surnames often referred to names of places that were small and don't appear on any map or in any gazetteer. In Poland even a bend in the road can have a name, especially if centuries ago, when names were originating, it was a significant center of commerce or activity. Very often we find it difficult to track down what place a surname refers to, but it does in fact turn out to come from a place name. Rare surnames are particularly likely to preserve old or dialect variations of names, so that the place in question may now called something besides Skrak-. The hard part, of course, is figuring out what or where it is.

The bottom line is that in many, many cases the only hope of getting the right answer is through genealogical research. If you trace your family back to their ancestral village, and then talk to people there, they may say, "Oh, yeah, that name refers to that field over there. They say once there was a farmstead there, but it disappeared long ago. But we still call that place Skrakowo because a man named Skrak supposedly owned it."

That's the best answer I can give you. I hope the scholars at the Anthroponymic Workshop may be able to tell you more. If you do write them and they give you a good, substantial answer, I'd be very interested in hearing what it was. You've intrigued me -- I'd love to know just what the heck Skrakowski meant, and why it's so rare! I want to know, even if the answer is, "You blew it, Hoffman. The pros say it is indeed a very old way of saying 'one from Krakow.'"

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


WOLICKI - WOLITZKI

Hello...and can you please help with just the 1 name Wolitski and possibly it's origin and where in poland i may look at to dig up more history on it? My grandfather came to saskatchewan canada in about 1905????? And i myself still live here!

Wolitzki is an alternate spelling of the name Poles usually spell Wolicki. The Poles pronounce the letter C as we pronounce "ts" in "cats," which is also the way Germans pronounce "tz." Poles pronounce the name Wolicki roughly "vo-LEET-skee," and when Germans, for instance, wrote that name down, they often spelled it Wolitzki or Wolitzky. But that's all simply spelling variation -- it's all the same name, and the standard Polish spelling is Wolicki.

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 1,132 Polish citizens named Wolicki. They lived all over the country, with particularly large numbers in the following provinces: Kalisz 103, Konin 117, and Tarnobrzeg 101. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is not concentrated in any one part of the country.

Incidentally, this source showed no one named Wolitzki or Wolitzky. That's to be expected -- only foreigners would spell the name that way. Poles would always tend to spell it Wolicki.

Polish name experts say this name usually refers to a family connection with a place named Wolica or Wolice, so that it means literally "[one] from Wolica/Wolice." The problem is, there are a number of places in Poland with those names -- at least 27 named Wolica, and 2 named Wolice. There's no way to tell just by looking at the surname which one a given Wolicki family came from. Only genealogical research might establish that. That means tracing the family back in documents, generation by generation, till you find something that tells yuo exactly where in Poland your particular Wolickis came from.

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


CHODKOWSKI

i make research about my grand father Théophile Chodkowski. He was born in Dobrolecka M'Chi 17 january 1892. His father was Jean (Jan) Chodkowski and his mother was Félixa Kossakowska.

My grand father came in France in 1905-1910 (i don't know exactly when). He came from the Ostrołęka area. He was too a self made man, and a veteran of World War 1.

The "legend" said that he had a brother, (or a nephew, or a oncle) called Kasimir, and this one go to 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, which can be searched here), there were 1,801 Polish citizens named Chodkowski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 295, Ciechanow 277, Olsztyn 166, and Ostrołęka 455. 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 Poland but tends to be most common in the northeastern part of the country, especially near Ostrołęka. So that at least indicates that your ancestors came from the area where this name is most common.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this surname in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He explains that most surnames in the form X-owski refer to the name of a place beginning with the X part. Thus we would expect Chodkowski to mean "one from Chodkow or Chodkowo" or some place with a similar name. Unfortunately, there are several places named Chodkow and Chodkowo, and it is impossible to tell which one a given Chodkowski family came from except through detailed research into that family's history.

I can tell you, however, that there are four small villages west of Ostrołęka with compound names beginning Chodkowo-: Chodkowo-Biernaty, Chodkowo Kuchny, Chodkowo Wielkie, and Chodkowo-Zalogi. If your family came from the Ostrołęka area, chances are good that their surname refers to a family connection with one of these villages. It is very common to see villages in that area with compound names. Most likely there was a connection at some point centuries ago, and one large estate was called Chodkowo, a name meaning "[place] of Chodek or Chodko"; later it was subdivided into four separate villages distinguished by adding a second name to the Chodkowo- part.

It is even possible your ancestor was noble, and that his family name originally indicated that they were the owners of the estate of Chodkowo. However, one cannot assume that. It is equally possible the family consisted of peasants who took this name because at some point they had lived or worked at Chodkowo. Again, the only way to shed light on any of these is through research into your family's history. I cannot do that, but you can, if you desire.

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


GODLEWSKI

I am interested in the Origins of my family's surname- Godlewski. I would be happy to purchase your book if this information is contained in the volume. If not, what information can I supply to assist you in answering my request?

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, which can be searched here), there were 11,754 Polish citizens named Godlewski. They lived all over the country, with no significant concentration in any one area; the name is somewhat more common in northeastern Poland than anywhere else, but not to the extent that this offers any useful lead in research. A Godlewski family could come from practically anywhere.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it -- like most names ending in -ewski and -owski -- derives from the name of a place where the family came from, or was associated with, at some point centuries ago. He specifically mentions Godlewo, Nur district, Łomża province, as a place the surname refers to.

I would add that there are few Polish place names that are unique, and there are other places with similar names (Godlewa, Godlewo, etc.) the surname could refer to. If you'd like to see some of them, go to this Website:

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

Enter "Godl" as the place you're looking for, select "Poland" as the country to be searched, and select "All towns starting with this precise spelling." Click on "Start the search," and after a moment you'll see a list of various places in Poland with names starting Godl-. For each, 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 is often the case with Polish surnames deriving from place names. Very often there's more than one place a name might refer to. The only way to determine which one the name refers to in a given family's case is through genealogical research. Thus if you determine the family came from a specific area, and you find a place nearby named Godlewo or something similar, chances are good that's the place the name originally referred to. In any event, I can only help with "quick and dirty" analysis, and cannot do the kind of detailed research necessary to establish this.

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


 

 

KONCZAL - KOŃCZAL

 

Hello, I was wondering if you have any information on the name Konczal. We have been in this country a long time and no one seems to know anything about our origins. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

There are two possible names here, because in Polish there are two N's. One is normal N, and with that N the name Konczal would sound like "CONE-chall." The other is an accented N; the form of the name with Ń is pronounced roughly "COIN-chall"; that accent indicates a slight softening of the N that affects the pronunciation of the vowel as well.

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 95 Polish citizens named Konczal. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Biala Podlaska 10, Bydgoszcz 13, Chelm 36; 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, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

As of 1990 there were 1,088 Poles named Kończal. The name was found all over the country, but was highly concentrated in two provinces: Bydgoszcz, 533, and Poznan, 235. So this name is most often found in northwestern to western Poland.

The name with normal N, Konczal, is thought to come from a nickname for the first name Konrad, which also appears in German as Kuntz and in Polish as Kunc. Konczal would just mean more or less "kin of Conrad." This is the name most common in far eastcentral Poland, near Biala Podlaska and Chelm on the border with Belarus and Ukraine.

The more common form with Ń comes from a root seen in the verb kończyć, "to end, finish," and in the noun koniec, "end." In Polish names of the form X-al or X-ala the usual meaning is "one always doing X, one of whom X is typical." So Kończal would mean something like "the one who ends it, the one who finishes it; the one at the end." Thus it might have started as a nickname for a guy who tended to finish things; or it might well refer to one who lived at the end of a certain property or at the end of a village. I find that interpretation a bit more likely, because there are several names in Polish that mean that. "One who ends it" seems just a bit figurative for a name interpretation; more often than not, names are pragmatic. So I suspect the name referred to one who was somehow associated with a place at the end of a village or road or property. However, I can't rule out the other meaning; a Kończal might have been the kind of guy who said, "OK, you started this; I'm going to end it."

In theory Konczal and Kończal could be confused. In fact, some of those Konczals living in Bydgoszcz province were probably Kończals whose names were mistyped. And some names come in two forms, one with an accented consonant and one without, reflecting slight regional differences in pronunciation. I think in most cases, though, Kończal would prove to be the standard form, and it probably derives from the root meaning "end, final," rather than from a variant nickname of Konrad.

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


LITWA

We are trying to find information on the name and ancestry for Litwa. We currently have little information on Albert Litwa, possibly from yonkers ny, parents may have migrated from binarowa, poland. We are doing the research for personal family history..... any help with the meaning or origin of this name would be greatly appreciated.

I'm afraid the nature of this name is such that I may not be able to tell you much. Litwa, pronounced "LEET-vah," is just the Polish word for "Lithuania." Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], saying that it appears in records as early as 1372; he confirms that it comes from the word for Lithuania.

As such, it probably originated as a nickname for a Lithuanian who came to live among Poles, or for a Pole who had some connection with Lithuania -- perhaps he went there once, or went there on business sometimes, or even had a tendency to hang around Lithuanians instead of Poles. It's hard to say what the nature of the connection was, because there are many different possibilities, and no way to tell which one applies in your particular case. But a family bearing a name meaning "Lithuania" obviously must have had some connection of some sort with Lithuania, or perhaps with a place in Poland called Litwa because of a Lithuanian 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 and can be searched here), there were 826 Polish citizens named Litwa. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Kalisz 60, Krakow 192, Nowy Sacz 51, Ostrołęka 74, Rzeszow 52, Wroclaw 54. 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. (Binarowa was in Krosno province in 1990, and there were at least 17 persons named Litwa in that province as of that year. There may have been more -- data from Krosno province was not complete in the databank, so the actual number may have been somewhat higher.)

It seems odd, at first glance, that this name is most common in southern Poland, especially the southcentral part of the country (near Krakow and Nowy Sacz). That's a long way from Lithuania! But if you think about it, actually it does make sense. Surnames developed to help distinguish people, so that you wouldn't confuse this Jan with that Jan or this Piotr with that Piotr. Suppose you live in northeastern Poland, near the border with Lithuania -- what point would there be calling someone there Litwa? Half the people you met could be called Litwa; the name didn't distinguish you. It'd be like everybody in Texas calling each other "Tex" -- sort of pointless. But if you run into persons of Lithuanian heritage down near Krakow or Nowy Sacz or Krosno, they're a long way from home. In that case a name meaning "Lithuanian" would distinguish them by pointing to something about them that made them stand out in a crowd. So actually it makes sense that the name would show up most often among people with a Lithuanian connection who had long since moved far away from Lithuania.

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


MACHOWIAK - POLCYN - WACHOWIAK

Machowiak, Wachowiak, Polcyn.

Would like origins of the names.

These surnames from old Polish first names to which suffixes were added that mean more or less "son of, kin of." Thus Polcyn, pronounced "POLT-sin," comes from the ancient first name Połka, a Pomeranian variant of a name seen elsewhere in Poland as Pelka (this Polka has nothing to do with the dance; the Polish slashed L pronounced like our W.) The suffix -yn means "kin of, son of," so Polcyn would mean nothing more than "kin of Połka." It can also come from the place names Polczyno or Polczyn, the names of several places in Poland), meaning "place of Połka." Either way, the name itself is not particularly enlightening.

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 1,209 Polish citizens named Polcyn. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 152, Pila 340, and Poznan 331. 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. Clearly this name is found most often in western to northwestern Poland.

As of 1990 there were 5,012 Poles named Wachowiak, living all over Poland but especially in the western half, especially the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 361, Kalisz 341, Leszno 485, Pila 528, and Poznan 1,733. This name developed from nicknames derived from first names beginning with Wa-, such as Waclaw and Wawrzyniec. Poles often formed nicknames from popular first names by taking the first few sounds of the name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes. So they would take Wa- from one of those first names mention, add -ch- to form Wach, then add -ow (which means basically "of") = Wachow-, "of Wach," and then further suffixes could be added to that. So Wachowiak would mean roughly "kin of Wach." But it doesn't really mean anything, any more than "Teddy" means something -- it's just a name that developed from another name that did originally mean something.

Machowiak is exactly the same sort of thing, except it developed from first names beginning with Ma-, such as Maciej (Matthias) and Mateusz (Matthew). So Machowiak, pronounced roughly "mah-HOV-yock," would just mean "kin of Mach's sons." As of 1990 there were 605 Poles by that name, with the largest numbers in the following provinces: Legnica 41, Leszno 267, and Poznan 89. So this name is found most often in west central Poland, in the former Provinz Posen [Province of Poznan].

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


MAJERCZYK

I am writing this e-mail in hope that you can tell me where the surname Majerczyk origin. It would mean a lot to my nephew, niece and brother-in-law if they new a little more about their polish ancestry. They are part polish part mexican but they have very little information about their polish heritage. My brother-in-laws father was named Val. I believe that either his parents of grandparents were famous opera singers. That is all he knows about his family. Oh yes his father served in the military. So if you could please give me an answer I would really appreciate it.

I don't have any information on specific families, so there is nothing I can tell you about any Majerczyks who were opera singers. I can tell you that I went to http://www.google.com, did a search for "Majerczyk," and came up with a number of hits that looked like they might have good information. If you haven't tried that yet, you really should.

In Polish Majerczyk is pronounced roughly like a combination of the English words "my-AIR-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 and can be searched here), there were 832 Polish citizens by this name. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 84, Krakow 58, and Nowy Sacz 371, Walbrzych 79, and Wroclaw 50; 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, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data indicates tha name is most common along the southern broder of Poland, especially near the town of Nowy Sacz in southcentral Poland.

The suffix -czyk usually means "son of," although sometimes it can mean "assistant, small." Majer comes from the German name Maier, Majer, Meier, or Mejer, which started out as a term for the overseer or administration of an estate. It's a common name among Germans, and many Germans resettled in Poland, so it's not rare to see Polish names that started as adaptations of German names. So Majerczyk means "son of the estate administrator," or perhaps "assistant to the estate administrator." It would be one of the many Polish surnames that refer to an ancestor's occupation.

Now I should add that this is true if the family was Christian. Among Jews the name Majer has a different source, coming from a Hebrew given name which is most often spelled Meier (but Poles spell it Majer), from a word meaning "illuminated." So if the family in question were Jewish, the surname would simply mean "son of Meier." From what you say I suspect this is not relevant in your family's case, but I wanted to mention it in case it is. The names of Polish Jews and Polish Christians can differ even when the name itself is spelled the same, as in this case.

So if the family was Christian, the name means "son of (or assistant to) the estate administrator," referring to the descendants of one who originally bore the German name or title Maier/Meier. If the family was Jewish, the name simply means "son of Meier."

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


PARADOWSKI

I am of polish descent and my mother's maiden name is Paradowski. That is the only spelling that I know of. Have you come across this name and what is it's origin and meaning? Any help would be kindly welcomed.

In Polish Paradowski is pronounced roughly "pah-rah-DOFF-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 can be searched here), there were 5,239 Polish citizens by this name. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 811, Bydgoszcz 284, Lodz 294, Płock 260, Skierniewice 380, Torun 248, and Wloclawek 373. 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. Basically, this data tells us the name is found all over Poland, but tends to show up most often in the central 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 root seen in the noun parada, "exhibition, display, show" (from the same Latin root as our word "parade"). Surnames in the form X-owski mean literally "of 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."

So this name may simply mean "of the exhibitions, of the shows, of the parades," possibly referring to ancestors who were associated with these shows and displays. Or it may mean "one from Paradowo" or some other places with similar names. 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.

To sum up, the name is not all that rare by Polish standards, and is found all over the country, but especially in the central part. It means literally "of the parades," and could refer to ancestors who were connected with putting on displays or exhibitions; or it could mean "one from Paradowo" or some similar place name. Only detailed research into your family's history is likely to establish which analysis is relevant in their case. So you're more likely to get the final answer to this question than I am!

By the way, I went to http://www.google.com and did a search for "Paradowski" and found quite a few hits. If you haven't tried that, you should -- you never know what connection you may make that way.

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


PODOLAK

My mother's maiden name was Podolak. I was born in 1938.

Podolak is pronounced roughly "po-DOE-lock." 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 2,518 Polish citizens by that name. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 102, Ostrołęka 256, Przemysl 244, Szczecin 126, and Zamosc 488. So while the name is found all over the country, it tends to be most common in southeastern Poland.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles].He says this name means "one from Podolia," which is the name of an area in southwestern Ukraine. That's why it's not surprising the name is most common in southeastern Poland, near the border with Ukraine and therefore not too far west of Podolia. You'd expect such a name to show up most often in areas reasonably near the region to which the name refers, and that's the case here. Surnames developed centuries ago, and there's been enough time for people bearing this name meaning "one from Podolia" to spread far and wide. But they still are most common in the part of Poland nearest Podolia. This name is also presumably fairly common Ukrainians, too, but I have no data for that country.

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


POŚLEDNIK - PUŚLEDNIK

I read your articles in polishroots and I kindly ask you where the name Puslednik comes from and what the meaning of it.

In Polish this name is usually spelled not with plain S, but with accented S, pronounced somewhat like English "sh." So the name is spelled Puślednik, pronounced roughly "poosh-LED-neek."

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 104 Polish citizens by that name. They lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 12, Gorzow 1, Jelenia Gora 4, Kalisz 6, Leszno 48, Opole 1, Szczecin 15, Wroclaw 11, and Zielona Gora 6. 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 western Poland, especially near the Leszno.

If you want to search the database for yourself, go to that site, http://www.herby.com.pl/herby/indexslo.html, and enter "P*LEDNIK" in the box, then click on "Szukaj" (Search). That will bring up Puślednik as well as other names that are very similar. It can be useful to compare different names and see how common they are and where they were common.

If you need help understanding how to read this data, you can read my article "The 'Slownik nazwisk' Is Online!" in the August issue of the free e-zine Gen Dobry!

None of my sources specifically mention the derivation of this name, but I looked in an extensive 8-volume Polish-language dictionary I have, which was recommended to me by Polish scholars as a good source of information on terms that often became surnames. It mentions a noun puślednik as a different way of spelling półślednik (accent over the O, slash through the L, accent over the S), which would be pronounced almost exactly the same way. That noun means "a farmer or peasant who works a 'half' farm." In Polish pół means "half," so this is a "half-farmer."

What that means needs a little explanation. Originally Polish peasants were allowed by nobles to work land that belonged to the nobles. A full-sized farm was one that was big enough to supply food for a family for a year. The size varied from place to place, but that's what a "full farm" was. However, as time went on and property was split among descendants, what began as a full-sized farm might become two half-farms, or 4 quarter-farms, and so on. A półślednik was a peasant who owned or worked a "half-farm" -- not one quite big enough to support a family by itself, but still much more land than many peasants had.

Now Poślednik (a more common name, borne by 500 Poles as of 1990, with the largest number by far, 267, in Leszno province) probably comes from a different word, poślednik, meaning "one who comes after; descendant." However, it can sometimes also mean the same thing as Puślednik. Probably the only way to find out for sure which meaning is relevant in a given family's case is through detailed research into their history, which might turn up some information that would shed light on this question.

There are other words in Polish that mean much the same thing, such as półkmieć and półrolnik. The fact that Puślednik and Poślednik are most common near Leszno province makes me wonder if it was a tendency for people in that area to prefer these terms, instead of the others? I don't know, but it does seem likely, in view of the fact that the surnames Poślednik and Puślednik are most common in that area. This might be a good indication that your family is likely to have come from that area originally.

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

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

LIEBOWITZ

I was perusing your site in search of some information on my last name, Liebowitz. I saw that the ending -owicz means "son of" and am assuming that -owitz is an Americanized version of it. Is this a reasonable assumption?

You're close. The -owitz form is associated mostly with German, either directly or by way of Yiddish. An English-speaking person who heard the ending -owicz and tried to spell it phonetically would tend to write -ovich or -oveech. But Germans have a tendency to turn -owicz into -owitz (pronounced roughly "oh-wits"). This may just be a German tendency for no particular reason; or it may go back to early contact with Poles, who originally tended to use suffixes -ic ("eets") and -owic ("oh-veets"), and only later, due to Belarusian influence, changed the final sound from -c ("ts") to -cz ("ch").

I've never had a chance to find out WHY -owicz became -owitz under German influence, and my speculation above may be completely wrong. All I know is that you do often see Germanized forms of Polish names with -owitz (less often as -owitsch, even though phonetically that is more accurate).

However, Lieb is not a first name I have ever heard and it is not listed on behindthename.com, an exhaustive but surely incomplete listing of first name etymologies. Is "lieb" perhaps another word in Polish, a noun or adjective? And if so, how can the "son of" ending be reconciled with this? Or perhaps "lieb" is a modified spelling of "leib" (e.g. Annie Leibovitz) which has some other signficance?

LIEB is a German adjective meaning "dear, beloved," and it appears in first names, especially associated with Jews, either in German spelling or modified by Yiddish influence. So we see the feminine first name Liba or Liebe, masculine first names Liber or Lieber, Libman/Lipman or Liebmann/Lipmann, and so forth. (Note that Germans spell the "ee" sound as -ie-, but in Yiddish it is spelled with the vowel yodh, usually rendered in our alphabet as -i-; so Yiddish Liber is pronounced just like German Lieber).

As I said, these names tend to show up mainly among Jews. It wouldn't surprise me if you see them occasionally among Christians -- it would be natural for any people to call a child a name meaning "dear one," after all. Still, when I have seen names with Lieb- or Lib-, they most often turn out to be borne by Jews.

In any case, LIEBOWITZ is presumably a German version of LIBOWICZ, "son of Lib or Liba" or some similar first name deriving, directly or through Yiddish, from that Germanic root meaning "dear, beloved."

I should add that confusion is possible with another first name used exclusively by Jews, Leib or (as Poles spell it) Lejb, pronounced roughly "lape" as if rhyming with "tape." This is an ancient Hebrew name from the Bible (Genesis 49:9), and strictly speaking has nothing to do with those much less ancient Germanic names from the root meaning "dear" that I mentioned above. But factor in dialect variations, human error, and other factors, and is entirely possible that LEJBOWICZ, "son of Lejba," might sometimes end up being rendered LIEBOWITZ. It's not "correct," but many of the things you run into with surnames are not correct.

Thus for instance I believe the surname of Annie Leibovitz is Jewish and means "son of Leib." If everyone was an expert on languages and names and no one ever made a mistake, it would be regarded as completely distinct from Liebowitz, not to be confused with it. But in fact the names are often confused, and it's easy to understand why.

For more background info on Jewish names, there are several good files at this site: http://www.jewishgen.org/InfoFiles/#Names

To sum up, names ending -owitz are usually German or Yiddish versions of names Poles use with the ending -owicz (and Russians with -ovich, although of course they spell it in the Cyrillic alphabet). The name you're asking about should generally mean "son of Lib or Liba," referring to an ancestor with a given name derived from the German root meaning "dear, beloved" and used in a number of given names popular historically among Ashkenazi Jews. But due to the similar sound and spelling it can easily be confused with LEIBOVITZ or LEJBOWICZ, "son of Leib," which is an ancient Hebrew name associated with Judah.

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


TRIKOWSKY

I have a looking for some sort of background information on my surname. It is TRIKOWSKY. I have been able to trace the name back to a small village in what was Bessarabia Russian. It was an area of Germans born in Russia. My confusion lays in the name itself I am finding conflicting information of the origins of the name .Is it originally from Poland then possibly they migrated into Russia or is it a Russian name. One last twist is that my family has always spoke German and consider themselves German. But when I started digging around I began to have questions. Most of the very few people I have found to posses the name lived in Germany but I was not able to contact them. Really what I'm looking for here is whether my name is Polish, Russian, or German

The first thing we have to be clear on is that ethnic identity may have nothing to do with a name's linguistic origin. If you go back to your 128 closest ancestors and it turned out 127 of them were Poles but 1 was German, his name might be the one you'd happen to inherit. So even though in this hypothetical case you are by blood 99% Polish, yet your name would be German. This subject gets very complicated, but I want to make clear from the start I'm talking about what LANGUAGE the name originated in.

We can scratch German -- it is definitely not of German linguistic origin. That ending spelling -owski or -ovsky or -owsky originated in a Slavic language, not a German one. Talking about a German named Trikowsky is like talking about a Swede named Yamaguchi; the two don't go together. Now since people can and do travel and relocate, you might have a Trikowsky living in Germany -- in fact, it's not at all unusual to find Germans bearing Slavic names, since the Germans and Slavs have been mixing and mingling for
centuries. And as I say, it's possible 99% of a Trikowsky's ancestors were German. But the name is not.

It's tougher saying whether the name is Polish or Russian, because many, many names and other words are similar in the various Slavic languages. From the form alone it is often difficult or impossible to tell whether a specific name is Polish or Czech or Russian or Ukrainian.

However, of all the Slavs, Poles are the ones most likely to bear a name ending -owski or -ovsky or -ovsky. The formation X-owski is one that most often originated among Poles. Thus the composer Tchaikovsky seemed to be as Russian as they come; but his name appears to be a Russified version of Polish Czajkowski, meaning "of or from Czajki or Czajkowo" or some other place with a name beginning Czajk- (as Poles spell it) or Tchaik- (as we spell the Russian version in our alphabet). So somewhere in his ancestry there was probably a Pole or Ukrainian who either came from or owned a place with a name beginning that way.

I would be lying if I said all names in the form X-owski or X-owsky were Polish. You do see Ukrainians and Belarusians with names of that sort. But they tend to be rarer, especially among Russians. They tend to use just the ending -ov or -ev, with any -ski added. You can read more about this.

All things considered, I'd say TRIKOWSKY is the name Poles spell TRYKOWSKI, pronounced roughly "trick-OFF-skee." Poles normally avoid the combination -RI-, preferring -RY- (but Russians have no problem with the combination (-RI-). Also Poles never spell it -sky, always -ski.

But if you look at the name and sound it out, you'll realize TRIKOWSKY and TRYKOWSKI are just slightly different spellings of the same name. Inconsistent spelling of names is extremely common when dealing with people from central and eastern Europe; it doesn't pay to get too hung up on spelling, better to deal with the sounds involved. This name could show up in records as TRYKOVSKY or TRICKOFFSKE or TRIKOWSKY, etc. But the standard Polish spelling is TRYKOWSKI. I suspect TRIKOWSKY is a Germanized version of that name, which would look kind of like this in the pre-1917 Cyrillic alphabet: T P N K O B C K I N

The 3rd letter looks like a backwards N, and the final letter looks like a backwards N with a little curve over it. The other letters look just like ones we use, but P is like the sound we write R, B is like our V, and C is like our S.

While frequency and derivation of this name in Poland is not directly useful to you -- since your ancestors seem to have been Poles who resettled in Bessarabia (which was not uncommon) -- such data can sometimes be helpful. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland and is now online as a searchable database at http://www.herby.com.pl/herby/indexslo.html), there were 283 Polish citizens named Trykowski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 31, Elblag 28, Gdansk 38, and Torun 87. 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 shows up most often in northcentral to northwestern Poland. I have no data for Bessarabia or any other country, so I can't give you any ideas on how common the name may be there.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it can come from the root seen in the noun tryk, "an ungelded ram," and in the verb trykac, "to butt with the forehead." Names in the form X-owski mean literally "of the _ of X," where the blank is filled in with something so obvious it didn't have to be spelled out -- usually "kin" or "place."

So TRYKOWSKI probably started out meaning either "of the kin of the ram" or "one from the place of the ram." The Tryk part may have been a nickname of an ancestor who raised rams or reminded people of a ram, or something along those lines. Then Trykowski would have been the way people referred to his kin or to people who came from a village or settlement or farm he owned or founded. It's quite possible the family got the name in Poland, then later moved to Bessarabia. As I said, that was not particularly uncommon; we find names of Polish origin all over that whole area.

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

Wojtkiewicz

... Just found your page...very interesting. If you could, tell me anything you can about my maiden name Wojtkiewicz.

The -ewicz suffix means "son of," so Wojtkiewicz means "son of Wojtek, 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." It is a pretty common name, as of 1990 there were at least 2,624 Poles named Wojtkiewicz.

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

Pryla - Pryła

... I was just wondering if you would be able to search for the name Pryla. I was told by my grandfather that the correct spelling is Prywa. I've never met or heard of anyone with that name besides my immediate family and have been very interested in finding out why. I wonder if I'm the last male able to carry on the family name?

Reading those first two sentences, I wonder if the story got mixed up a little? Saying the name Pryla should be spelled Prywa is kind of hard to explain -- but it makes perfect sense to say the name Pryla should be pronounced Prywa. That would mean the original Polish form was Pryła, where ł stands for the Polish l with a slash through it, which is pronounced like our w. So maybe your grandfather meant it was originally Pryła, pronounced "PRI-wah" (the first syllable sounds like the start of the word "prim"); or maybe his parents told him that and it got confused somewhere along the line... In Polish Prywa would be pronounced "PRI-vah," and there's no reason that should be spelled Pryla; but as I say, Pryła pronounced "PRI-wah" makes perfect sense.

All these names appear to be related to an old Germanic first name Bryl or Brill or Prill. I can't find anything on what that name might have meant, but it was a name used among Germans and Poles hundreds of years ago. So the surname Pryla or Pryła would mean basically just "Pryl's son."

As of 1990 there was no one in Poland with the name Prywa, but there were 50 Polish citizens with the name Pryła. They lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz (33), Gorzow (3), Katowice (6), Torun (7), Zielona Gora (1). There were also 15 named Pryla (no slash through the l and pronounced like an l), living in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz (10), Elblag (5). I'm afraid I have no further details such as first names, addresses, etc.

If you wanted to try to get addresses, there's only one way I know of to try: have someone search the telephone directory for the province in question. This is not a sure thing, phones in private homes are far less common in Poland than here. But a search of the Bydgoszcz province phone directory, for instance, might turn up one or two Pryła's and give you their addresses; you could write (the letter would almost certainly have to be in Polish) and see if there are any connections...

As you can see, it's not an easy way to do things, and there are no guarantees. But I know no other way to try to connect with relatives in Poland, unless your research has already allowed you to establish exactly where they came from.

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

 

Romanczuk – Romańczuk

I was also curious about my family name of Romanczuk. I found the site to which you directed [name deleted] with the maps. It is fascinating. Unfortunately, I don't know Polish although I am a French teacher. Is there a way to find a translation of that page?

Romanczuk in Polish can be spelled two different ways: with plain N, pronounced roughly "rome-ON-chook," or with accented N, pronounced roughly "ro-MINE-chook." While they mean essentially the same thing, "son of Roman," one is a lot more common in Poland than the other. You can see the maps on these pages:

http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/romanczuk.html

http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/roma%25C5%2584czuk.html

I know of no way to translate the Polish pages into English. Google and others have translating tools; sometimes they work fairly well, sometimes they're downright pathetic. I doubt they’ll help much here, so I’ll summarize the relevant info for you.

The spelling with accented N was borne by 3,515 Polish citizens as of 2002, while the version with plain N was borne by only 43 (and you have to wonder how many of those were misspelled and should have had accented N). In either case, the name is most common in the areas along the eastern border of Poland with Belarus and Ukraine. For instance, the largest numbers of Romanczuks with accented N lived in the county of Tomaszów Lubelski, 241. In municipal Bialystok county, there were 203; in Sokołów Podlaski county 165; in Hajnówka county 156, and so on.

Note that on the maps, if you position your cursor over a county, its name appears. That's how you tell which is which.

There is a reason for that concentration near the eastern border. Surnames ending in -uk or -czuk almost always originated among the Eastern Slavs who live in the general areas of Poland's current eastern borders. The -uk ending is characteristic of surnames that developed among speakers of the language that eventually developed into modern Belarusian and Ukrainian. Centuries ago, those languages were less differentiated than they are now, and it can be pointless trying to decide whether a name was of Belarusian or Ukrainian origin. We usually just say it's East Slavic, except that classification includes Russian, and the -uk names developed east of what is now Poland and west of what is now Russia.

The ending, whether in the form X-uk or X-czuk, meant basically "son of X." So Romanczuk, with or without the accent on the N, just meant "son of Roman." That's a fairly common first name in eastern Poland and western Belarus and Ukraine, so it's no surprise we find people by this surname all over eastern Poland. If we had comparable sources of data for Belarus and Ukraine, we'd probably find the name is quite common in those countries, maybe more so.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no source of comparable data for Belarus and Ukraine. But it can be instructive to key in the Cyrillic spelling of Romanczuk (since Belarus and Ukraine both use the Cyrillic alphabet), Google it, and see what Websites it appears on. The Cyrillic spellings of ROMANCZUK are РОМАНЧУК for the name with plain N and РОМАНЬЧУК for the version with accented N. The Google search brought up lots of Russian Websites, probably because the Russian and Communist Empires incorporated so many Belarusians and Ukrainians into Russia; many Belarusian sites are actually in Russian, not Belarusian. But I notice quite a few sites registered in Belarus (.by) feature the name as well.

If your system can display Cyrillic characters, you might find it interesting to look at the Google results:

http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4GGLL_enUS312US312&q=%d0%a0%d0%be%d0%bc%d0%b0%d0%bd%d1%87%d1%83%d0%ba

If that link doesn't work, maybe this TinyUrl will:

http://tinyurl.com/ygtgaa6

That’s for РОМАНЧУК. I also Googled РОМАНЬЧУК, and it also shows up quite often on Russian sites, as well as Belarusian. I'm a little puzzled it doesn't appear more often on Ukrainian sites, but maybe that particular name is more common among Belarusians than Ukrainians.

http://www.google.com/search?q=%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%BC%D0%B0%D0%BD%D1%8C%D1%87%D1%83%D0%BA&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7GGLL_en

If that link doesn’t work, try this one:

http://tinyurl.com/ygddcs5

In any case, that's about all I can tell you.
 

Copyright © 2009 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

 

Wierzchołek

...Interested in knowing if you have any information on Wieszcholek or Wierzcholek.

Wierzchołek (ł stands for the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w) is the standard spelling of the name, but it might also be spelled Wieszchołek because the Polish rz in that particular position is pronounced the same as Polish sz, like our "sh" -- the name would sound to us roughly like "vyesh-HOE-wek." This name comes from the Polish word wierzchołek, which means "top, summit, peak." It might have been used as a nickname for someone very tall, or perhaps it referred to where someone lived, near the top of a hill -- with names that originated centuries ago we can't always tell exactly what they meant, only make reasonable guesses.

This is not a very common name, as of 1990 there were only 64 Polish citizens named Wierzchołek, living in the following provinces: Bielsko-Biala 1, Jelenia Gora 1, Kalisz 35, Nowy Sacz 1, Opole 2, Rzeszow 11, Wroclaw 13. They're kind of spread out -- Kalisz and Wroclaw provinces are in southwestern Poland, Rzeszow in southeastern, so there doesn't appear to be any helpful pattern to the distribution. Unfortunately the data I just gave is all I have, I don't have access to first names, addresses, or any other info that might help you get in touch with the Wierzchołeks in Poland.

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

Szczudło - Szczudłowski

...Can you please give me a general meaning of my family's name, Szczudlo?

According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut, Szczudło is an established Polish name (the name sounds like "shchood-woe"). It comes from the term szczudło, "crutch, wooden leg," and appears in Polish records as early as 1407. Presumably an ancestor got this as a nickname because he used a crutch or wooden leg, and the name stuck. It is a moderately common name, as of 1990 there were 1,051 Polish citizens named Szczudło, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Czestochowa (57), Katowice (157), Krakow (234), and Pila (76), and smaller numbers living in virtually every province. This suggests the name is most common in southcentral Poland, but is not restricted to that region.

... Another variation of the name that has cropped up is Szczudlowski.

Yes, obviously that name comes from same root, but you want to be very cautious about concluding that Szczudło and Szczudłowski are variations of the same name. They both come from the same root, and in a rare cases the same family might have gone back and forth between the two versions before settling on one. But in most cases they prove to be different and unrelated in any way except linguistically. The -owski suffix usually refers to a connection with a place name; in this case, you'd expect it to mean "person from Szczudłow, Szczudłowo, Szczudła," something like that. (I can't find any such place on my maps, but that probably means it was too small to show up on them). The place, in turn, would take its name from that root szczudło, perhaps because they made wooden legs there or sold them, something. So the two surnames are related in meaning and origin, but in most cases families bearing them would not be related.

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

Reetz

... I would simply like to ask if the surname Reetz is a Polish name. I have learned that there is an area of Poland by this name.

In Hans Bahlow's Deutsches Namenlexikon he lists Reetz and says it is a Slavic place name in the Prignitz area and east of it; he says there was also a Reetze near Luechow. So this is one of many names that started out Polish or Czech and became Germanized -- there are a great many such names, especially in western Poland and eastern Germany. After all these centuries it is hard to say what Reetz started out as in Polish; another of my sources lists a village called Reetz by the Germans which the Poles call Recz (near Choszczno in Pomerania), and there was another called Reetz which the Poles call Rzeczyca Wielka (near Miastko in Pomerania). So there isn't just one place I can point to and say "This is Reetz," and thus there isn't one Polish surname I can give as the equivalent of German Reetz. But the Polish equivalents would probably start either Rec-, Recz-, Redz-, Rzec-, Rzecz-, or Rzedz-.

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

 

 

Pogorzelski

I have just started looking into my family history, and would appreciate your research, as your schedule permits, into the Pogorzelski surname.

Unfortunately, there is no one left on this side of my family to help with detail, so I was hoping your research may guide me to a starting point on a possible town.


I can certainly understand your hope, and it's worth a try! But surnames very seldom offer any useful clue whatever as to where a specific family came from. Polish surnames are no different from English surname -- most are too general in nature, or too common, or too rare. Even when they come from place names, as these two probably do, the problem is there are too many places with names that fit. With most Polish surnames you're very lucky if you find a concentration in a specific province or region; a specific town is usually too much to hope for. Still, it can't hurt to take a look at the data.

Pogorzelski is pronounced roughly "po-go-ZHEL-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 5,620 Polish citizens by this name. They lived all over Poland, with some concentration in the northeastern part of country, near Białystok and Ostrołęka and Warsaw.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. It comes ultimately from the root pogorzały, "one who's lost his property in a fire, one who's been burned out," from the root gorz-, "burn, fire." So it could just mean "kin of the one whose home burned down." But it can also refer to a family's connection with any of a number of places with names beginning Pogorzal- or Pogorzel-, which probably got that name because they burned down at some time or another centuries ago. There's no way to tell which particular village is relevant in a given case without detailed research into that specific family's history. About the most we can say is that the name usually means "one from Pogorzałka, one from Pogorzel, one from Pogorzelec," etc.

I wish I could tell you more, but I find it cruel to mislead people with false hopes that will inevitably be dashed. Best to tell you what I can, hope it helps you a bit, and let you proceed from there.

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

Bielat - Bielatowicz

...The question: How common/uncommon is Bielatowicz? ( I assume it's root comes from "white"). Do you have any data on the surname? Is it isolated to this area of Tarnow? (Honestly I've been searching for this name as a present day surname with little luck anywhere)

Bielatowicz means "son of Bielat," and yes, that name is connected with the root meaning "white"; it may have referred to a person who had a pale complexion, or white or fair hair, something like that. There were 366 Poles with this name as of 1990. As for distribution, it isn't absolutely isolated in the Tarnow area, but that's definitely the most likely area to find it. Here are the figures, broken down by province: Białystok (5), Gdansk (8), Katowice (12), Koszalin (10), Krakow (38), Legnica (6), Lodz (3), Nowy Sacz (5), Poznan (1), Rzeszow (24), Tarnobrzeg (2), Tarnow (250), Torun (2).

I notice that the name Bielat itself is a little more widely spread; there were 667, with 207 of them in Tarnow province, 92 in Kielce province, and 78 in Tarnobrzeg province, and no other province having more than 50. This means we can't assume all Bielatowiczes originally came from Tarnow province, that's stretching the data a little farther than it will allow. But I think it is fair to say that most Bielatowiczes, and an awful lot of the Bielats, must surely have their roots in the southeastern part of Poland, with particular concentration in the Tarnow area.

I hope this is good news for you -- so often I have to tell folks, "Sorry, your name's common and there's no hint on any area you should concentrate on." At least with this name the data is pretty suggestive.

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

 

Sala

... I am curious about the name Sala. I am aware that it means "hall, meeting place, salon," etc. in several languages, so I assume that it comes from a common root -- perhaps Latin. It does not appear to be a very common Polish name and seems to be more common as an Italian name -- even as the name of several Italian towns. Could it be that there was some migration from Italy to Poland? I would appreciate any thoughts you might have on this subject if you have the time.

Your ideas on this name can be right, but there are a few things I should add.

Sala certainly can come from the Romance root meaning "hall, meeting place." This word exists in Polish, too, with the same basic meaning. So while it's certainly true there were Italians who came to live in Poland -- and we do find Italian names mixed in among the Polish ones -- that doesn't mean people in Poland named Sala are of Italian descent. They might be, but they might have gotten their name from an Italian word that came into Polish, rather than from Italian people who came into Poland.

Also, Sala originated in other ways. In fact, for most Poles named Sala the surname probably started out as a nickname for Salomon (Solomon). Sala would be a little like Sol or Sal in English, with the final -a in many cases meaning "of Sol, of Sal" and thus referring to Sal's children. In Kazimierz Rymut's book on Polish surnames, the "Salomon" connection is the only one he mentioned for Sala; in my book I added the possible link to the noun meaning "hall, room" because I thought it might be pertinent in some cases and thus was worth a mention.

By the way, as of 1990 there were some 4,502 Sala's in Poland, living all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (343), Katowice (378), Kielce (717), Krakow (678), Rzeszow (203) -- this is an interesting pattern, it appears the name is most common in southcentral Poland, with some spillover to the southwestern and southeastern part of the country. However, there is virtually no province that doesn't have at least a few Sala's in it.

Anyway, that's a little info on this name. Your ideas about an Italian connection are plausible and may well prove correct in some cases; and as I said, there definitely were Italians who came to live in Poland. But for most Poles the connection with the name Salomon would probably prove to be relevant.

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

Dobilas - Dubilas

... I say, could you possibly advise us on the frequency of the name Dubilas in Poland? We are doing research for some long-lost relatives in Argentina, whose grandmother was a Dubilas. Quite an unusual name, I believe, and it doesn't sound particularly Polish. Maybe Lithuanian?

As of 1990 there were 107 Polish citizens named Dubilas, living in the provinces of Lodz (87), Piotrkow (19), and Zielona Gora (1). In this case, too, there appears to be a strong connection with Lodz province --Piotrkow province is just south of Lodz province, so we are talking about a very small, specific area in the center of the country.

Dubilas is an interesting name, because dub and las both make sense as Polish words -- dub- is a root meaning "nonsense, idiocy," and in other Slavic languages means "oak" (in Polish "oak" is dąb), and las means "forest, woods." So you'd think Dubilas would mean "oak forest" -- and yet the expression doesn't seem to exist in Polish, I couldn't find anything on it! You might be right that the name sounds Lithuanian, there is a word in Lithuanian dobilas meaning "clover," also "sweetheart."

I don't have a lot of information about Lithuanian names, but you might write to Dave Zincavage. Dave is interested in Lithuanian names and has some books that may give some additional information about the name, whether it appears in Lithuania, how common it is, etc.

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



 

Bejger - Bejgier

... Could you please tell me the meaning of the surname Bejger and an approximate location for this name. A possible original spelling of this name is Bejgier or Bejiger...

This sounds and looks like a German name that has been somewhat polonized; there are and long have been a great many ethnic Germans who came to settle in Poland, German names are very common there. I can't quite tell what the original German spelling would have been, it might have been Beiger or Beuger or several other possibilities. It only matters because I can't really tell what the name meant originally without knowing what its German form was... As for Bejger vs. Bejgier, Polish spelling rules say -ge- is not a permissible combination, it has to be -gie-; so Bejger is closer to the original German form, Bejgier has been a bit more polonized because that spelling rule has been applied. But they are the same name, just spelled differently. Bejiger is almost certainly a misspelling or error in copying.

As of 1990 there were 628 Polish citizens named Bejger, scattered in small numbers all over the country, but with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (65), Torun (201), and Wloclawek (156), all in northwestern Poland and in areas that were long ruled by Germany and have many, many descendants of Germans living there... Bejgier is less common, there were 228 Poles by that name, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgodszcz (16), Jelenia Gora (16), Łomża (20), Torun (43) and Wloclawek (70). Again, these areas are almost all in the former German partition, lands ruled by Germany from roughly 1772-1918 or, in some cases, 1945.

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

 

Ruszkowski

... I would like to learn more about the surname Ruszkowsk. If you have information or can recommend sources, I would be most appreciative.

Names ending in -owski usually started as references to place names, often ending in -y, -i, -ow, -owo, etc. So we would expect Ruszkowski to have meant "person, family associated with a place called Ruszki or Ruszkow or Ruszkowo." My Polish atlas shows 14 villages named Ruszki, Ruszkow, Ruszkowice, or Ruszkowo, and the surname could have gotten started as a reference to any one of them. As is often the case with a surname coming from place names applying to more than one place, the surname Ruszkowski is moderately common in Poland; as of 1990 there were some 3,820 Polish citizens by that name.

So unfortunately the name gives no clue as to a specific part of Poland the Ruszkowskis might have come from. However, if you have some luck with your research and find your ancestors came from a specific area, and then find a Ruszki or Ruszkowo near there, chances are excellent that is the place the family was named for.

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

 

Koprowski - Kosel

... Can you tell me about my maternal ancestory names, Kosel and Koprowski?

Koprowski comes ultimately from the roots koper, "dill," or kopr, "copper." But usually names ending in -owski derive from place names, so we would expect Koprowski to mean "person or family associated with Kopry, Koprow, Koprowo," something like that. I can't find any places by those names in my atlas, but that may just mean they were too small to show up, or have had their names changed, or have since disappeared or merged with other villages -- it's not uncommon to come across surnames derived from places of names we can't find any more. As of 1990 there were some 4,921 Polish citizens named Koprowski, so it's a pretty common name.

Kosel isn't necessarily Polish in origin, but if it is Polish it probably comes from the roots kos, "blackbird," or kosa, "scythe." As of 1990 there were 331 Polish citizens named Kosel, scattered all over Poland but with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice (99), Łomża (33), Radom (31). I can't see any pattern to the distribution (and, since many people ask, I should explain I don't have access to any further data such as first names or addresses). The similar name Kosela is more common, there were 913 Poles by that name.

I should add that I recently received a book on Polish names of German origin, and it mentions Kosel as a Germanized form of a Slavic name, from Polish Kozieł or Czech Kozel, presumably from the root kozioł, "goat." It also says the name can come from a number of places in Silesia called Kosel, of which the largest was Kosel, now called Koźle, in Opole province -- here again a connection with the root meaning "goat" appears to be relevant. So the name could be Polish from the roots for "blackbird" or "scythe," but in a lot of cases it's probably a Germanized form of a Polish name from the word for "goat."

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

 


 

Charlap - Kharlap

... I saw your 'Notes on Polish Surnames' on the internet. I'm a (VERY) beginner at researching my family heritage. I know, for example that my great-great and great grandfathers lived in Slonim, Poland in the mid to late 1800's. The names that I have are as follows:

Mishel Charlap - son, Yosef (Joseph Charloff/Charlaff) who married Sarah/Sara. They had a son, David Charlaff (dates believed to be 1878-1944).


The names you mention lead me to believe we're dealing with Jewish ancestry, correct? This does matter, because while there is obviously considerable overlap in research methodology for Jews and Christians from Poland, there are also factors that can make the practical issues involved very different. Just for example, most Polish Gentiles had surnames by the 1700's, often a century or two earlier, whereas most Jews living in the Commonwealth of Poland (which included modern-day Lithuania, western Ukraine, and Belarus, which is the country Slonim is in now) did not take surnames until required to by authorities in the 1800's. This means that Jewish surnames were given during a period for which many historical records still survive, so we can trace them back sometimes and say things much more definitively about them than we can about Christian surnames, many of which were established long before the earliest surviving records.

If I'm right and the family was Jewish, I recommend using the library to try to get a look at two books. One is Alexander Beider's A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire, ISBN 9626373-3-5, published 1993 by Avotaynu -- you can learn more about it by visiting Avotaynu's Web page at www.avotaynu.com. Beider mentions this name under the spelling Kharlap (as a phonetic rendering of the Cyrillic spelling); he also mentions it in his book on Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland (spelled there as Charlap because of Polish phonetics), and the info in both books is similar, but the Russian book has extensive introductory comments more relevant in your case. Beider briefly discusses the origin and meaning of the name, and gives references that tell "about the story of this family."

Another book that might prove very helpful to you is the just-published Jewish Roots in Poland by Miriam Weiner, 1998, ISBN 0-96565-080-4. For more info see the Web page at www.rtrfoundation.org. It is a wonderful book, enormously helpful for doing research in Poland. Since your family appears to have come from what is now Belarus, it would be less helpful, but might still prove very useful.

Both these books are expensive, that's why I recommend trying to get a peek at them through a library; you may find them well worth the money, but it'd be best to see them and know first. Weiner's book is $50 + $8 shipping, Beider's is $75 + shipping (right now I can't find the catalog, so I don't know how much shipping comes to).

Beider's book suggests strongly that there is some real info available about the Charlap family, so I really think you want to get a look and see about following it up. A lot of times I have to tell people there probably isn't much material on their specific families -- in your case it just might be otherwise. I hope so, and good luck!

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

 

Charłos - Harłos

...I am researching my family's roots and would like to know if my surname means anything. My ancestor was born in Zrenica, Posen and had the following variations of the surname: Harlos, Harłos, Charłos.

The variations all make sense: in Polish h and ch are pronounced exactly the same, kind of like our h but a bit more guttural, and we often see names spelled either way without it necessarily having any significance. The ł is pronounced like our w, so the name would sound like "HAR-wose" (rhyming with the Spanish name "Carlos") -- and we often see it and the normal l confused, partly because in some regions of Poland there was a preference for one over the other, partly because foreigners are confused by the ł and often just write it as l (e. g., when Poles emigrated).

This is not a very common name in Poland. As of 1990 there were only 4 Polish citizens named Harłos, 2 living in Poznan province and 2 in Zielona Gora province (I'm afraid I don't have access to further data, such as first names or addresses). There were 13 named Charłos, 6 in Gdansk province and 7 in Leszno province.

None of my sources discuss this name, so I'm left to look in dictionaries for terms that might have been its source. I note that in Polish there is a root charł- that means "poor person, beggar, wretch"; I also see there's a Ukrainian root that Poles would spell the same way and means the same thing. So while the words beginning with charł- are not all that common, they do exist, and they refer to a poverty-stricken person, a wretch, a beggar; and it seems likely Charłos is a name deriving from that root. While -os is not one of the more common suffixes we see added to Polish roots to make names, it's hardly unheard of, either.

All in all, that's the best guess I can make -- that the name comes from some rather rare words that all means basically "person who was poor and having a very tough time of it."

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


 

Kolbert

... I am having difficulty locating information on my Grandfather, Ignatz Kolbert, born in Biskupin, Prussian Poland in 1857. Is Kolbert actually a Polish name? Do you know if there are Kolberts in the area of his birth today? Do you know if there is a parish church for that town?

Kolbert is a German name, but millions of ethnic Germans lived in Poland until after World War II, when the majority of them relocated in East Germany. So it's not at all unusual to see German names show up in Poland. The name Kolbert is pretty rare in Poland today -- there are only 29 by that name, living in the provinces of Gdansk (1), Katowice (8), Kraków (1), Poznan (2), Sieradz (13), and Wroclaw (4). None of those provinces were in the part of Poland ruled by Prussia, so apparently there are no Kolberts left in the region you're talking about. Before World War II -- who knows? I have no data on that.

There are at least two towns or villages named Biskupin in the general area you're looking at, but the one in Bydgoszcz province, just a few km. south of Znin, is probably the one you want -- the other is in Wloclawek province, and if memory serves that's too far south to have been in West Prussia. The Biskupin in Bydgoszcz province does not have its own parish church; I'm not sure what village served it, but judging from the map I'd guess it would be Gasawa, just a few km. away.

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

 

Kosiorek

... Hello..My name is ... Kosiorek and there has been some problems finding out what my last name means and well all about it. My grandfather had told me that long ago the name was just Kosior (blackbird or something?). And I was wondering if you could be of any help.

Going by information in Kazimierz Rymut's book on Polish surnames, Kosiorek comes from the term kosior, which means "undertaker" and may in turn derive from the basic root kos- which means "blackbird" (presumably the black an undertaker wears is the connection with the bird). The suffix -ek is a diminutive, meaning "little," so Kosiorek literally means "little undertaker," but as a surname probably meant more "son of the undertaker." As of 1990 there were 3,942 Kosiorek's in Poland, as opposed to 3,703 Kosior's, so both names are reasonably common. The name Kosiorek appears in Polish records as early as 1414; the name Kosior appears even earlier, in 1204.

So while the word for "blackbird" may figure into it, the direct derivation would appear to be "undertaker's son." It's possible your surname originally was just Kosior and the diminutive suffix was added later, or your grandfather may have just meant that kosior was the word the name derived from, and kosior in turn derived from the word for "blackbird."

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

 

Kosmatka

... A couple of months ago you helped me with the surname Hechlinski. I am now wondering if you could also help me with the origin of the name Kosmatka. I appreciate any information you can provide.

Many names with the root Kosma- come from the first name Kosma (cmp. the rather rare name in English Cosmo), but this one probably comes from the root kosmaty meaning "mophead, shaggy-haired." The suffix -ka is a diminutive, so the literal meaning of the name is "little mophead," but the word kosmatka is also used as a term for a kind of bird, the wood-rush (Latin name Luzula). So it's difficult to say in a given case whether a person got this name because he was the son of a hairy guy, or if it referred to the bird; sometimes people got bird names because they liked that kind of bird, or wore clothes the same color as a kind of bird, or reminded people of that bird in some other way.

As of 1990 there were 555 Polish citizens named Kosmatka. The largest numbers were in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (107), Pila (59), and Skierniewice (222) -- the first two are north and west of central Poland, and Skierniewice province is just west of Warsaw, almost smack-dab in the middle of Poland. I'm not sure why the name is clumped this way, with two big concentrations separated by a fair amount of distance, but that's the pattern that shows up. Then there are small numbers of Kosmatka's scattered in many other provinces.

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

 

Kosciuszko - Kostka

... I am interested in learning more about the Kostka Surname I know that my great grandmother was born in Austria-Poland and would love to know about the origins of this name.

Kostka appears as a name in Polish documents as far back as 1318, and is particularly famous among Poles as the name of St. Stanislaw Kostka, a Polish saint who has been venerated for centuries as one of the most illustrious figures in Polish history; he died in 1568, and is the Polish patron saint of the young.

The name can derive either from kostka, "little bone," which can mean "dice" or "ankle" or any small bone, or --probably more often -- from a diminutive of the name Konstanty, "Constantine." Poles and Ukrainians both liked to take first names, drop all but the first part, and add suffixes, so that Kostka would be "little Constantine" or "son of Constantine." The same basic derivation applies for the name Kosciuszko, as in Tadeusz Kosciuszko, hero of Poland's fight for independence and also of the American Revolution. So in some cases the name might refer to "little bone," but in most cases it probably started as a nickname for a fellow whose "proper" name was Constantine. This is especially likely if there is a Ukrainian connection, but that derivation also applies for many ethnic Poles.

As of 1990 there were 4,554 Polish citizens named Kostka, so it's a pretty common name. It is seen all over Poland, with particularly large numbers living in the provinces of Katowice (1,392), Bielsko-Biala (319), Opole (325) -- all in southcentral to southwestern Poland. But as I say, you run into Kostka's in virtually every province, so the name's too common to point to one area and say "That's probably where your family came from."

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

 

Catcavage - Franzik - Kaczorowski - Kotkiewicz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kotłowski

... Thanks for your wonderful and insightful work on the internet. I have been looking for some time into my mother's maiden name Kotlowski. Any family members who could give me this information have long since passed away. If you could, please tell me about this name, it will be greatly appreciated.

Names ending in -owski usually began as references to a connection between a person or family and a place with a similar name, generally ending in -ów, -owo-, -owa, -y, etc. Thus we'd expect Kotłowski to mean "person from Kotłowo" or something like that; those place names in turn would derive from the noun kocioł, meaning "boiler, kettle." Without more info it's hard to say for sure, but those places probably got that name either because they were known for making or selling kettles, or because of some local geographical feature shaped like a kettle. Unfortunately, there are quite a few villages in Poland named Kotłów, Kotłowo, Kotłówka, etc., and Kotłowski could have come from any or all of them. Your Kotłowski's might have come from this village, another Kotłowski's family might have come from that one, and so on.

As is generally true when a surname can come from several different place names, this is a fairly common surname: as of 1990 there were 2,269 Polish citizens named Kotłowski. They lived all over Poland, with the largest concentration by far in the province of Gdansk (1,059); however, you find Kotłowski's in virtually every province, so we can't assume any one Kotłowski family comes from the Gdansk region. But that is where quite a few of them would come from.

I know this doesn't offer you much in the way of specific leads, but that's the way it usually is with Polish surnames. Names that give a really useful clue as to their place of origin are the exception, not the rule.

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

 

Krakowiecki

... Only one name please -- Krakowiecki. It was my grandfather's legacy...from Czartnorzew near Ostrołęka I believe.

The name Krakowiecki is not rare, but not extremely common. As of 1990 there were 376 Krakowiecki's in Poland, of whom the largest single block by far, 122, lived in Ostrołęka province; there are smaller numbers scattered in many other provinces. It's pretty certain we're dealing here with a surname derived from a place name, and the major city of Kraków might be involved, but there are other villages in Poland with names such as Krakowice and Krakowiec that could be relevant.

By modern Polish rules those are the most likely names Krakowiecki could come from, but some centuries ago the rules for forming names from place names were a bit looser than they are in modern Polish, and places named Krakówka or Krakówki might also generate the surname Krakowiecki. These names ending in -ski and -cki are adjectives, originally just meaning "of, from, related to, pertaining to X," with X being the name of a place, person, occupation, whatever. I mention Krakówka this because I notice there's a Krakówka served by the parish of Płock-Radziwie, not far from Czarnotrzew in Ostrołęka province (Czarnotrzew, by the way, is served by the parish in Baranowo, which is where you'd logically expect people from Czarnotrzew to go to register births, deaths, marriages). I don't have enough info to point to any one spot and say "That's the one your name refers to," but when I find a place with a name that would work, not too far from where a family came from, I figure it's worth mentioning. It's not a sure thing, but it could well be the place their name referred to originally. For instance, if a person or family moved from Krakówka to Czarnotrzew about the time surnames were being established, it would be quite plausible that folks would refer to him as "Krakowiecki," the guy from Krakówka... Notice, all this is plausible, and might be right, but it would take very meticulous research to prove that that is, in fact, exactly how the surname originated, in your family's case; another Krakowiecki family might have gotten the name some other way.

The ultimate origin of all these Krakow- names is generally from the old first name Krak, from a root meaning "raven" (thus Kraków just means "[place] of Krak," Krakowiec means "son of Krak" or "[place] of the son of Krak." I should mention that in some cases there was a vowel change and Krak- can also derive from krok, "step, march." So Krakowiecki probably meant something like "one from the place of the son of Krak/Krok," or "one from the place of the march." But for our purposes it boils down to "person from X," where X is a town or village with a name like Krakówka, Krakowiec, Krakowice, etc.

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

 

Krukowski

I’m actually curious about the name ‘Krukowski’. I see on Wikipedia that it’s included as one of the families which used the Slepowron “herb”.

In Polish, KRUKOWSKI is pronounced roughly "kroo-KOFF-skee." The O in the middle syllable is a little longer than our short O in "hot," but not quite as long as in "go." If you can make it of medium length, you'll have it right, and you'll be saying the name in a way any Pole could recognize. (Actually, the way we pronounce R is very unlike the Polish R, which is lightly trilled as in Italian. But a Pole would recognize the name with no problem.)

This name is adjectival in origin, which means males have traditionally gone by KRUKOWSKI, and females by KRUKOWSKA. There are some females in Poland these days who prefer to go by the "standard" form of the name, which is the masculine one. But the vast majority still use that traditional feminine form.

You can see 2002 data on the name's frequency and distribution, along with color maps illustrating the data, on these pages:

www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/krukowska.html

www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/krukowski.html

This data tells us the name is moderately common by Polish standards, with 3,299 Krukowskas and 3,075 Krukowskis as of 2002. As the color maps indicate, it's not highly concentrated in any one area; this is normal for Polish surnames, comparatively few are so highly localized as to give us a useful clue where a specific family came from. A Krukowski family could have come from practically anywhere in Poland; the only way to find out where yours came from would be to trace the family history in various records on this side of the Atlantic -- parish records, census rolls, naturalization papers, passports, ship passenger lists, that sort of thing -- till the wonderful day you find a piece of paper that tells you exactly where they lived in Poland before they emigrated. If you have that info, you can make real progress tracing them in Poland. Without it, a surname alone is almost worthless.

Fortunately, you have info that suggests the Zamosc area is where your ancestors came from, and that can really help a lot. The 2002 data tells us that Zamosc county is where the largest numbers of Krukowskis lived (188 Krukowskas and 175 Krukowskis). This means you may very well have relatives in the area; and instead of having to look all over Poland, you can try focusing on the Zamosc area.

The late Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in Polish records as early as 1443, and, like most names ending in -owski, derives from the name of a place the family was connected with at some point, a place with a name beginning Krok- or Kruk- or Kruch-; it's not uncommon for O and U to switch in surnames over time, and the guttural sound of Polish CH can sometimes switch with K.

If the family was noble, X-owski meant something like "the lord of X"; if it was not, the name meant "one from X." Originally surnames were used only by nobles, and often came from the names of their estates. But as time went on, peasants started using surnames too, and what once mean "lord of Krokow" came to mean little more than "one from Krokow."

I mention Krokow because that is the name of one place Prof. Rymut mentions as associated with this surname. He says it was in the "Eastern Borderlands," territory once ruled by Poland but now in Belarus or Ukraine. He also lists the name under those deriving from Kruchowo, a village near Bydgoszcz in northwestern Poland. As far as that goes, the name could also refer to a family connection with any of a number of villages with names such as Kruki, Krukow, Krukowo, etc.

There are quite a few places bearing those names, so that again, you can't tell from the surname alone which one your particular Krukowskis were named for. Only successful family research might uncover something that clears that up. For instance, if you establish that your family came from near Opatow in southeastern Poland, their surname might refer to the Krukow nearby; if they came from near Bialogard in northwestern Poland, it might refer to nearby Krukowo. The Krukow near Opatow is the closest I can find to the Zamosc area, so it MIGHT be the place your family's name came from.

There were noble Krukowskis, as you found on the Wikipedia pages. It was not at all unusual for families bearing the same name to bear different coats of arms. As you've guessed, there wasn't one big Krukowski family, but a number of different ones, coming by the name in different ways. One might have been "lords of Krukowo," another "lords of Kruki," another "kin of the guy nicknamed Kruk (raven)," and so on. Of course, if the family was of the peasant class, it did not have a coat of arms at all.

The good news is that, if you can trace your family to where they lived in Poland, you will probably be able to tell quite early whether or not they were noble; if they were, records will mention it. That would be good news, because records on nobles tend to be more plentiful, better preserved, and older than those on peasants. It can be pretty hard to find any record that mentions peasants before, oh, 1700; nobles may appear in records back to the 1400s or even earlier. So I hope for your sake that your Krukowski ancestors were noble!

As you can probably tell, with Polish surnames it's usually a "good news/bad news" situation. The bad news is that nobles were far more mobile than peasants; in fact, until serfdom was abolished, serfs could not leave their lords' land without his permission. So peasants tended to stay put, at least until the 1800s. But nobles bought and sold and traded estates all the time. So a noble family named Krukowski that lived in the Zamosc area might not have been from there originally; the Kruk- part could conceivably refer to some estate halfway across Poland.

So you do have your work cut out for you. You might want to post this name on the PolishOrigins Surnames Database at http://surnames.polishorigins.com. This database has not been up and running all that long, but it's already got a respectable list of names. It might be an easy way to make contact with others researching the same name. I notice there is a Krukowski on there already, but apparently he's not sure of the spelling, and it doesn't sound as if his roots lie all that near Zamosc. Still, it can't hurt to compare notes!

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

Fred (officially "William F.") Hoffman
Author, Polish Surnames: Origins & Meanings

www.fredhoff.com

Copyright © 2010 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Kruk

My research states it [Kruk] means "those who live at the sign of the raven." What does that mean? What is the sign of the Raven? where is it?

Who knows? All we can say about a name like Kruk (pronounced much like the English word "crook") is that it means literally "raven." It could refer to one who lived at the sign of the raven, which could be an inn or the name of a specific house -- in some towns and villages individual houses were given names, and Raven could be one of them. It could refer to one who had coarse dark hair that reminded people of a raven. It could refer to one who was full of gloom and doom, so that people considered "raven" a good nickname for him because ravens were associated with bad omens. It could refer to almost any association people might make between a person and a raven -- and people are very ingenious with nicknames.

Names like this started centuries ago, and there's no way to know exactly what they referred to. All you can do is find out what the name means literally and then make intelligent speculations on how such a name developed. If you're really lucky, genealogical research might eventually turn up a record that refers to a person's name and why he was called that. That happens very rarely, but you never know -- if you do good research, you just might get lucky.

As of 1990 there were 19,923 Polish citizens named Kruk, living all over the country. There was no significant concentration in any one area to the point you could say "Here is where Kruks came from." They could come from anywhere in Poland -- much like ravens!

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

Kostka

... I am interested in learning more about the Kostka Surname I know that my great grandmother was born in Austria-Poland and would love to know about the origins of this name.

Kostka appears as a name in Polish documents as far back as 1318, and is particularly famous among Poles as the name of St. Stanislaw Kostka, a Polish saint who has been venerated for centuries as one of the most illustrious figures in Polish history; he died in 1568, and is the Polish patron saint of the young.

The name can derive either from kostka, "little bone," which can mean "dice" or "ankle" or any small bone, or --probably more often -- from a diminutive of the name Konstanty, "Constantine." Poles and Ukrainians both liked to take first names, drop all but the first part, and add suffixes, so that Kostka would be "little Constantine" or "son of Constantine." The the same basic derivation applies for the name Kosciuszko, as in Tadeusz Kosciuszko, hero of Poland's fight for independence and also of the American Revolution. So in some cases the name might refer to "little bone," but in most cases it probably started as a nickname for a fellow whose "proper" name was Constantine. This is especially likely if there is a Ukrainian connection, but that derivation also applies for many ethnic Poles.

As of 1990 there were 4,554 Polish citizens named Kostka, so it's a pretty common name. It is seen all over Poland, with particularly large numbers living in the provinces of Katowice (1,392), Bielsko-Biala (319), Opole (325) -- all in southcentral to southwestern Poland. But as I say, you run into Kostka's in virtually every province, so the name's too common to point to one area and say "That's probably where your family came from."

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

 

Króciak - Kruciak - Kruczak - Kruczek

... My family name is Kruciak. My Granddad, Anton Kruciak came over from Poland when he was 6. Family settled in Panna Maria, Texas. He died in 1951 or 52 and is buried in the Catholic cemetary at Panna Maria. Apparently the spelling of Kruciak may have been changed upon entry at Galveston. Aside from relatives here in USA I can't find the name on search engines in Poland.

I'm afraid I can't help you too much with this name. I looked in the 10-volume set that lists every surname borne by Poles as of 1990, and it showed a frequency of 0 for Kruciak. What that means is that there was at least one person by that name, but they had incomplete data -- so the name is not completely unknown, but it must be very rare.

I tried looking at names of which that Kruciak could be a variant spelling, but didn't have too much luck there either. There was one person named Króciak, and that would be pronounced exactly the same as Kruciak; it most likely comes from a root meaning "short." Also possible is Kruczak, because the cz is pronounced a lot like ci -- there were 76 Poles names Kruczak, scattered all over the country; this name would come from the root kruczać, "to rumble," or from kruk, "raven." The odd thing is that Kruczak is pretty rare, but Kruczek was the name of 5,088 Poles as of 1990 -- it means "small raven, mole cricket."

So Kruciak is possible, but very rare. The alternate spelling Króciak is the same, possible but rare. If the spelling of the name was changed, it might have been Kruczak or Kruczek originally, those are more common names (especially Kruczek). But the cz to ci change is one I'd expect to happen in Poland -- if it happened in an English-speaking country, the natural change would be to "Kruchak," because that's what the name would sound like.

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

Krygowski

... Could you please forward any information you might have on the surname Krygowski

Names ending in -owski usually started as a reference to a connection between a family and a place with a similar name, usually ending in -ów, -owo, -i, or something like that. In this case we'd expect the name to mean "person or family from Krygów, Krygowo, Krygi," or something along those lines. Offhand the only place in Poland I can find that might qualify is a village Kryg in Krosno province, in southeastern Poland; but the reference could be to places too small to show up on the maps. Also things may have changed in the centuries since the surname was established, the place or places in question may have changed their names, or disappeared, or been absorbed by other communities -- hard to say. But that's basically what the name means, "one from Krygów" or some other place with a similar name.

As of 1990 there were 614 Polish citizens named Krygowski. They lived all over Poland, with the larger numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (50), Krosno (151), and Pila (80). The ones in Krosno may well refer to that village of Kryg, but Bydgoszcz and Pila provinces are in northwestern Poland, so that makes me think there probably was a Krygi or Krygowo in that region -- it seems a bit unlikely people living there would have names referring to a village near Krosno, although with all the relocation of people after World War II you can't count on that too much.

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

 

Czerny - Krzemiński - Rostow - Sędek - Szczepanek - Witek

… my mother and I are trying to complete some family history for our family. Both my parents came from Poland but from different parts and it has been very hard trying to find all our ancestors. Here is the surname list and maybe you could help us out:

Sedek, (Edek, Wladek, Andrzej, Stanislaw)
Szczepanek (Ania, Eva, Maria-Kristina)
Czerny (unknown, Eugenia)
Krezminski (Stanislaw)
Rostov (unknown)
Witek (unknown)

We would like to know what the name means where our family orriginated and if their is any tree or if you could design a family crest!!!!!


Well, all I can do is tell you whether my sources give info on the linguistic origin of specific names; and occasionally a name will be associated with a particular area of Poland. I'm afraid that isn't true of any of these names, so I hope you won't be disappointed.

Szczepanek just means "little Stephen," although it would often have started out meaning "son of Stephen." As of 1990 there were 4,058 Poles with this name, living all over the country, which just makes sense -- this name could get started any place there were guys named Szczepan who had sons. You wouldn't expect it to be associated with any specific region.

Czerny means "black," probably referring in most cases to the color of one's hair or eyes. It, too, is quite common -- there were 1,638 Poles named Czerny as of 1990 -- and appears all over the country.

Sedek probably started out as Sędek -- the ę is the Polish nasal vowel pronounced like en. Sędek comes from a root meaning "judge, court," and the -ek suffix is a diminutive, meaning "little" or (as with Szczepanek) "son of." So the name probably meant "judge's son" originally. As of 1990 there were 747 Poles with this name, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Warsaw (336), Kielce (159), Krakow (52), and Siedlce (40), roughly in central to southcentral Poland; but there are smaller numbers scattered all over the country.

Witek is a diminutive of the first name Wit, so it probably started out meaning "little Wit" or "Wit's son." The origin of the first name Wit is somewhat unclear, but in English we know it as "Vitus" -- this name is little used in English, and is probably familiar only from the name of the illness called "St. Vitus' dance." As of 1990 there were 13,222 Poles named Witek, living all over the country.

Krezminski is a variant or misspelling of Krzemiński, which means "from a town or village named Krzemin or Krzemien." Unfortunately, there are quite a few places by those names, so from the surname alone it's impossible to tell which place a given family was associated with. As of 1990 there were 14,154 Poles named Krzemiński, living all over Poland. There are probably more by this name living in Russia and Ukraine, too, because there are places with similar names in those countries; they all derive from a basic Slavic root meaning "flint."

I suspect Rostov may not have been Polish originally. Polish doesn't use the letter V, it uses W to stand for that sound, so the spelling isn't Polish. Also, Polish does not often form surnames ending in -ow, it prefers endings like -owski or -owiecki. Rostov may well be Russian, because I know there's a city in Russia called Rostov on the Don. The name could show up in Poland, spelled as Rostow, but it'd be rare -- as of 1990 there was no Polish citizen named either Rostov or Rostow. The root of the name is an old common Slavic verbal root meaning "to grow."

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

 

Kucejko

... My sister and I are trying to locate information on the Kucejko name. It may or may not be part of a longer or shorter name. The area of Poland that it comes from is very close to Russia and her father-in-law said that if you crossed the railroad tracks near the family farm that you were in Russia. The area is Sukolka (and pardon me if I have spelled it incorrectly).

First of all, the matter of Sukolka -- you don't need to apologize for spelling it incorrectly, the right spelling of names in that part of the world can be hard to find. But you need the right spelling desperately, you're not likely to get anywhere till you have it right. And the problem is, few names are unique -- if there's one place by a particular name, there are usually at least two or three more. In this case, the name of the place you're looking for is probably Sokółka. There are several places by that name, but I suspect the one you want may be Sokółka in Białystok province in northeast Poland; it's maybe 8 km. from the border with Belarus, which has been associated with Russia for so long that people often regard it, inaccurately, as part of Russia. Historically this area was also part of the Kingdom of Poland even after the Russians and Germans and Austrians partitioned Poland (beginning in 1772). So people from this area may well be referred to as Poles, Belorussians, Russians -- borders have moved so much, and ethnic groups have mixed so much, that it can be sticky trying to figure out exactly who was what. But this is the only Sokółka I can find that sounds like it fits the description you give. I think chances are reasonably good this is the place you're looking for.

Kucjeko is a bit tougher, because I can't say it comes from one and only one root; but at least I can say there's no reason to assume it was part of a longer name -- this name does exist in that form. Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut lists this under names beginning with kuc-, but there are three different roots such names can come from. There's kuc, "pony"; there's the verb kucać, "to squat"; and there's kuca, "shelter, tent." That's if the spelling is reliable -- in that part of Poland the combination cz is often simplified to c, and kucz- is a whole different set of roots. So the name may derive from roots meaning "pony," "squat," or "shelter." The -ko suffix is a diminutive, meaning "little," so the surname means "little Kucej" or "son of Kucej," but I have no way of knowing which of these three roots this name came from in your family's case.

There is some good news. I have a 10-volume set that gives every surname borne by Poles as of 1990, how many there were, and where they lived by province (I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, unfortunately). It says Kucejko was the name of 117 Poles, and they lived in the following provinces: Białystok (49), Chelm (1), Gdansk (7), Leszno (1), Łomża (1), Lodz (15), Olsztyn (8), Radom (7), Suwałki (2), and Warsaw (26). It's dangerous jumping to conclusions, but the facts that the largest number of Kucejko's live in Białystok province, and that's the province Sokółka is in, suggest you may have some relatives still living in that general area.

You might want to consider joining the Polish Genealogical Society of the Northeast (PGS-NE), because they have a lot of members from that part of Poland, and might be able to offer some really useful leads.

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

 

Kujawa - Mentis

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

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

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

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

Kukowski

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

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

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

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

Kurdziel - Pawłowicz

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

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

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

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

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

Kusznierewicz - Maciejewski

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

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

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

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

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

Kwaśnica - Kvasnica

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

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

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

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

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

 

Łabeński - Łabędzki

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labus - Łabus - Łabusz - Łabuś - Łabuz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Latkiewicz - Ludzia - Przewozik

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

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

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

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

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

 

Linettaj - Linette - Linettej - Linetty

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Literski

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

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

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

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

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

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

Łącki - Łoncki

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

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

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

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

 

Gruszczyński - Łukaszewski

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

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

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

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

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

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

Majkowski

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

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

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

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

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

Makarewicz

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

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

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

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

Matuch

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

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

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

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

Miarka

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

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

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

Mentus - Miętus

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

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

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

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

Dąbrowski - Dombrowski - Litwiński - Milko - Ruszczyk

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jamaika - Jamajka

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

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

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

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

I do not have any information on others with this name, but you might want to post this name on the PolishOrigins Surnames Database. This database has not been up and running all that long, but it's already got a respectable list of names. It might be an easy way to make contact with others researching the same name.

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

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

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

 

Misiewicz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mockiewicz - Moczkiewicz

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

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

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

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

 

Motowski

… Do you have any information on the name Motowski?

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

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

 

Munko - Muńko

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

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

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

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

 

Nakoneczny - Nakonieczny

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

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

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

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

 

Nizow

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

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

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

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

 

Maurycy - Osielski

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Otlewski - Otłowski

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

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

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

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

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

 

Pacholewski

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

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

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

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

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

 

Pałac - Paląc - Pałąc

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

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

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

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

 

Paprotny

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

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

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

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

 

Parzysz - Pasterski

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

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

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

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

 

Bialakowski - Fischer - Rojewski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Safiański

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

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

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

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

 

Schmidt - Ucker - Uecker

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

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

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

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

Siwy - Siwiński

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

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

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

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

Ryback - Rybak - Szkaradowski

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

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

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

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

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

Skwara - Skwira

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

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

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

Siwiński

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Soliwoda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solibieda - Soliwoda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sowiński

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stawarz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tarasek - Terasek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Śliwa - Topolski

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

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

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

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

Sowa

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

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

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

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

 

Turok

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

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

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

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

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

Anszczak - Lukasik - Pietrowicz

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

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

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

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

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

 

Paciuszko

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

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

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

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

 

Rukść - Rukszcz

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Solibieda - Soliwoda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Szymialowicz - Szymialis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Szalkowski - Szałkowski

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

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

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

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

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

 

Walicki

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

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

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

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

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

Kuczyński

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

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

 

Walicki

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

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

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

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

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

 

Rospłoch - Rozpłoch - Wejta

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wesołowski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Surname 4 Combined File

 

ONYSZKÓW -- SOROKA -- WIERZBICKI -- ZAGRODNY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


WINCEK

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

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


WINKELMAN

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

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

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


WOLICKI

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

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


WOLNIEWICZ

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

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

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


WOŹNIAK

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

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

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


WYROSDICK -- WYROSTEK

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

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

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

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


ZACHARCZYK

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

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

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

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


ZALIPSKI

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

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

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


KOŃCZYK – ŚLIMKO -- ZAREMBA

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

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

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

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


ZDROJEWSKI

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

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

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


ZELMAŃSKI -- ZIEMNIAK

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

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

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

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


ZIMA

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

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


ZYSKOWSKI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


KOMORNICKI

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

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

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

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

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

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


STELMASZEWSKI

Hi Fred,

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

Kraków, March 12, 1998

Dear Mr. Stelmar,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

/Janina Szymowa M.A./      

 

Stybak

...A cousin of my father recently traveled to the same small town. She found plenty of Szafrans (my great-grandmother's maiden name), but stated there were no more Stybaks left! Any help would be greatly appreciated.

 

Well, Stybak is not a common name by any means. The Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland, which lists all names of Polish citizens, how many Poles bore those names, and a breakdown of where they live by province, shows only 88 Stybaks as of 1990. They lived in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (57), Koszalin (3), Krakow (1), and Rzeszow (27). Unfortunately further data, such as first names, addresses, etc., is not available. But since Wadowice is in Bielsko-Biala province, and the largest number of Stybaks live in that same province, this suggests there are still possible relatives living somewhere in that area -- perhaps not in Wadowice itself but in villages nearby.

 

The only hope I know of to find them -- and it's a bit of a long-shot -- is to do a search of the Bielsko-Biala telephone directory. It's not on-line, and the way these directories are organized makes it tough to search them; furthermore, phones in private homes are not nearly as common in Poland as here, so there's no guarantee any of these Stybaks would be listed. Still, I know no other way to do it... What I'd suggest is you contact the Polish Genealogical Society of the Northeast, 8 Lyle Rd., New Britain CT 06053, to ask about the possibility of having them search the directory -- they have a complete set, and for a reasonable fee they'll search them for a particular name. I especially recommend contacting the PGS-NE because of the HolyokeMA connection. The Society has members with connections to Holyoke, and just MIGHT be able to help with a lead or some background info. In any case they should be able to search the phone directory, and I wouldn't expect that to be horribly expensive.

 

It's also a mystery what Stybak comes from. Many names from styb- come from a Germanic root, but a German name would have to be pretty thoroughly polonized before it would start taking on Slavic suffixes such as -ak. I notice in Polish there is a dialect or rarely used word styba meaning "grain-crushing mill," so a stybak may have been a person who worked at such a mill. That's nothing more than an educated guess, but I can't find any other root that seems likely to apply.

 

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

Nigbor

... contact regarding my family name Nigbor. I have tried to do searches on the internet without results. Would you know if this name is listed in the Rymut Volumes? Possibly, do you have any other information that would help in my research? My grandfather, Blase, was born in Binarowa near Biecz in 1881,if that helps.

Nigbor is listed in the directory Rymut edited. As of 1990 there were 26 Polish citizens by this name, living in the following provinces:

NIGBOR, 126: Warsaw 1, Bielsko-Biala 16, Bydgoszcz 2, Elblag 1, Kalisz 1, Katowice 17, Krosno 12, Legnica 11, Leszno 3, Nowy Sacz 20, Rzeszow 1, Szczecin 5, Tarnow 20, Wroclaw 1.

This distribution suggests the name is most common in the southeastern (Tarnow and Krosno provinces) and in southcentral Poland (Bielsko-Biala, Nowy Sacz and Katowice provinces). Unfortunately the directory does not give further data, such as first names or addresses, so I can't help with any more info than I gave above. In theory you could write the Polish Genealogical Society of the Northeast, 8 Lyle Rd., New Britain CT 06053, and ask them to do a search, for a fee, of provincial phone directories, to see if any of the Nigbor's are listed. But it's a bit of a long-shot -- phones in homes are far less common in Poland than here, so there's no guarantee any will be listed. If you can limit the search to one province, that will help, but the way the directories are organized it will still be a difficult procedure. If you can give them a specific surname, town, and province, that would hold the cost of the search down to a reasonable level (I'm guessing maybe $10-20, but I can't be certain). Since the only Binarowa I can find near a Biecz is in Krosno province, that is presumably the area you want searched: Binarowa or Biecz, Krosno province. There are no guarantees, but I honestly can't think of any other way to go.

I'd hope one of my sources would suggest the meaning of this name, but none of my sources list it or a reasonable variation. In theory it could be a polonized form of German Nachbar, "neighbor," or a name from nie, "not" + gbur, "peasant." But those are just guesses, I don't have anything firm on the name.

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

Ogrodowicz

...Do you have any information concerning the surname Ogrodowicz? Can you suggest some references for trying to search our family tree?

The name Ogrodowicz comes from the root ogród, "garden." The suffix -owicz means "son of," so in this case the name probably started out meaning "son of a gardener." There are quite a few common surnames in Polish meaning the same basic thing, including Ogrodowczyk, Ogrodniczak, etc.

As of 1990 there were 592 Polish citizens named Ogrodowicz, living all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (53), Kalisz (66), Poznan (76), and Wroclaw (54). I see no particular pattern to the distribution, which is not surprising, because such a name could get started anywhere Polish was spoken and there were gardeners, i. e., all over Poland.

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

 

Krause - Krivosika - Kryvosika- Krzywosika

Laurence Krupnak sent me a copy of his note, in response to Julia's questions about the name Krzywosika, writing:

...The name Krivosika may have vulgar meaning or connotations which I do not know. I can say that in Ukrainian language the root word kriv- means "crooked," like a lame person, not necessarily that a man's penis is crooked or deformed. "Crooked" in Polish language is krzywy. I believe your grandfather probably received so much locker room joking that he just decided to change his name to Krause.


I read Julia's note, and might be able to add a little to the discussion.

The root krzyw- in Polish and kryv- in Ukrainian mean the same thing, "crooked," in a physical sense (not necessarily in a criminal sense, as in English). And the verbs sikać in Polish and sykaty in Ukrainian both mean basically "to squirt" and have the vulgar meaning of "to piss"; according to my dictionary, Ukrainian sikaty has a related meaning, "to blow one's nose," and sik is "juice, sap." So whether the name started out meaning that, Polish Krzywosika and Ukrainian Kryvosyka would sound like they meant "crooked-piss," with all the accompanying speculations about exactly why a person would piss crooked. (I don't think the Ukr. y and i interaction here is necessarily significant, but the spellings with y are presumably a bit more "correct"). Such names are not uncommon in Polish (or in Ukrainian either, from what I've seen). Sometimes I find names with meanings that imply such intimate knowledge of a person's body or habits that I find myself wondering "How on earth did anyone know enough to give this guy such a name?" Names like these can be terribly cruel (and hilarious, so long as you're not the one everybody's laughing at!).

The interesting thing is, I'm not sure the name started out meaning that. In Polish, for instance, there is a name Krzywosz that dates from around 1439; it probably started as a nickname for a person with a deformity, maybe lame or with a crooked limb. Now the thing is, in Polish and to some extent in Ukrainian the suffix -ik is often added to roots to form a name. So the name may have started out as something like Polish Krzywosik, Ukr. Kryvosik, and meant "son of the cripple" - still not a particularly nice name, granted, but not nearly so graphic and vulgar as "crooked piss." But we see the suffix -a added sometimes to names, so that may be how Kryvosik turned into Kryvosyka, just meaning "of the cripple's son." Once that form was around, anyone hearing it would have a tendency to break it down differently, not kryv-os-ik-a but kryvo- + sika.This often happens, a name starts out meaning one thing, but as the centuries pass and people forget what it originally meant, they modify it slightly to something readily comprehensible; or sometimes they give a name a malicious twist just out of meanness.

Either way, I can certainly understand why a man with such a name might get into fights and be glad to change it at the first opportunity. Krause, by the way, is a German name meaning "curly-haired," but he probably chose it because it had a similar sound but wasn't so likely to provoke cruel jokes. It's a shame he got jeered at anyway as a German.

I have no data on Ukr. surname frequency or distribution, but it might be useful to mention that in Poland as of 1990 there were 368 people named Krzywosz, at least 1 named Krzywoszek (data for that name was incomplete), 6 named Krywopust (which offhand looks to me as if it might mean something similar, except maybe dealing with ejaculation rather than urination!), 1 named Krywosłyk, and 1 named Krywosz (the names with Kryw- rather than Krzyw- are likely to be Ukrainian rather than Polish). There's a real catalogue of bodily ills, too, names such as Krywoborodenko (crooked beard), Krywohławy (crooked head), Krywonis (crooked nose), Kryworuka (crooked hand), Krywoszeja (crooked neck), etc.

I can't be sure my "cripple's son" theory is valid, but it is plausible, and I thought it worth mentioning. To a Pole or Ukrainian this name would sound like a rather vulgar but funny nickname, no question -- but that doesn't necessarily mean the name started that way.

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

 

Andryshyn - Andryszyn

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

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

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

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

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

They provide a lot of good info.

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

 

Arnista

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

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

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


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

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

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

Andrychowski - Stygar - Sztygar

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

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

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

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

 

Białaszewski - Wawro

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Buława - Stawecki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can make the following short comments on these surnames:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




 

Chlapowski

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cieliczka - Tuszyński

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cwojdak - Sikora

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

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

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

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

 

Czaplicki

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

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

Name Origins

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

Four Czaplicki Families

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

Our Czaplicki Roots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Danisiewicz

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

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

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

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

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


 

Dejo - Raflewski

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

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

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

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


 

Derlanga - Malik - Prokowski

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

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

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

Here are the distributions for the names mentioned above:

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

DERLANGA -- no listing

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Duda - Dudynic

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

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

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

Tavarishch Lavrentij


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

 

Dulka

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Palzewicz

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

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

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

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

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


 

Puchlik

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

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

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

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


 

Dec - Mitus

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

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

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

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


 

Oborski - Piglowski

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

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

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

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


 

Oryl

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

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

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

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


 

Blochowiak - Blohoviak - Pachucki - Pahucki

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Budzyn - Jaktorowo

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

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

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

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

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


 

Domała - Domalik - Domamir - Domasław

... Hi, I'm looking for the origin of the name Domalik. The only reference I have found was in Polish so I am wondering if it is a Polish surname. Do you have any records of it being a Polish surname? Thanks for any information you can give me. ...

Domalik definitely can be a Polish surname; I can't say for sure whether it might also be found among other ethnic groups, because many Slavic names are very similar and it might be this name also occurs among Czechs or Ukrainians or someone else. I tend to doubt it, however -- the formation and structure definitely seem Polish to me.

Most Polish surnames beginning with Dom- come from the ancient root dom, "house, home" (common also in other Slavic languages), either in its own right as a noun or as a root in ancient pagan compound names such as Domamir ("peaceful home") or Domasław ("famous house"); such names, which arose as a kind of prophecy or way of giving a child a name of good omen, often were shortened into nicknames by taking the first syllable, chopping off the rest, and adding suffixes. One such name, Domała , appears in Polish records as early as 1339, and Domalik looks as if it was formed by adding the diminutive suffix -ik to that name. So it's tough to say whether Domalik should be interpreted as meaning "little stay-at-home" or "son of stay-at-home," or as just "son of Domała," with that name meaning no more or less than nicknames such as "Ted" or "Fred" or "Jack" in English.

Domalik is not a particularly rare or common surname in modern Poland, it's kind of in between: as of 1990 there were some 343 Polish citizens by that name. Of those by far the most, 211, lived in the southcentral province of Nowy Sacz, southeast of Krakow. Several other provinces had a few Domalik's living in them, but only Jelenia Gora (10), Katowice (35), Krakow (16), and Slupsk (10) had 10 or more. Often Polish surnames don't have any particular distribution pattern, but this strongly suggests the origin of most families named Domalik was in southcentral Poland near Nowy Sacz.

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


 

Dula - Dulański

OK, let's translate the entry first. "Blaseia Dula (g. sg.) z Maniow 1610" is probably "Blasei Dula (genitive singular) from Maniowy, 1610," which means someone named Błaźej (English Blaise, in Latin Blasius) is mentioned as coming from Maniowy in a legal entry from 1610. Grammatically z Maniow must mean "from Maniowy" rather than "from Maniow" -- there is a Maniowy in Nowy Sacz province, maybe about 20 km. east of Nowy Targ. Then it says there is mention of a Dulka, a feminine form, in 1616, and of a Dulka (but in the genitive singular form Dulki) from Maniowy in a 1622 entry. It says the name is derived from the noun dula, which means "1. a kind of pear, or 2. a thick or swollen nose." The basic root dul- means "swelling, thickening," so the kind of pear got the name because of its shape, and the link with the nose is not hard to see (do any of your folks have swollen noses?).

"LW (NT)" is an abbreviation for Księga sądu wojtowskiego lawniczego miasta Nowego Targu Archiwum Powiatowe w Nowy Targ"

As you know, peasants were almost never mentioned in any kind of record before the Church started requiring pastors to make records of baptisms, deaths, marriages. So when we can trace a name back earlier than, oh, about 1700, it's usually because the name appears in land and legal records dealing with the nobility. In this case, it is very difficult to translate these terms because we don't have any legal equivalent, but the title of the book is basically Legal book of the wójt's aldermen's court of Nowy Targ, preserved at the State Archive office in Nowy Targ. The wójt was a kind of village chief or headman, and often headed a kind of local court with alderman sitting on the bench (the root ław- means, basically, "bench"). So some folks named Dula had legal dealings with the aldermen's court of Nowy Targ.

I didn't include Dulański in my book because as of 1990 there were only 32 Poles with that name. The breakdown by province is instructive: Bielsko-Biala 2, Katowice 2, Nowy Sacz 28! Sounds to me like the Dulanski is a rare name, almost always found somewhere near the Maniowy area! In some ways that's tough, it's hard to find anything on a family with such a rare name -- but the good side is, if you find a Dulanski, odds are he/she's a relative! That's a lot easier to deal with than 220,000 Nowaks!

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


 

Huratiak - Kuziak

... I received your book on Friday and I am very happy with it. Of course I haven't had time to read it yet. Of course I immediately looked up my surnames and found the root for both names. Now come the questions.

... 1) The original Rusyn Cyrillic transliteration of my name from the Shematizm for Greek Catholic Diocese - Lemko from 1787 was: H u r e j t j a k. I have the marriage records of my 2 Great uncles from this country in 1898 and 1908, and my father's baptism record from 1905 and the name is spelled H u r e t i a k. My Grandfather's tombstone and Great Uncles's tombstone both spell the name H u r a t i a k. The root of my name is Hur-, as your book suggests. Am I correct? The biblical version is listed as Khur, since I can only find Hur in my biblical reference books, should I assume Khur and Hur are the same? Should I use H u r e j t j a k in trying to search for relatives in Poland, Slovakia, or the Ukraine? If not what spelling would be used today? My Grandfather came from the village of Uscja Ruskie, Horlyci county, Galicia. Today that village is Uscie Gorlickie, Poland.

With names transliterated from Cyrillic it can get awfully tough to know for sure the "right" spelling and even the right root. I will say that Khur and Hur can be the same -- the original sound is most often spelled kh in English to indicate a guttural much like that in German "Bach"; but it is also sometimes spelled h -- the original Hebrew letter looks a lot like the letter for h, and is often rendered as an h with a dot under it, and the dot can easily get forgotten. So think Khur and Hur are probably the same. But given the East Slavic confusion of h and g sounds, even origin from a root Hur- or Gór- is not impossible.

Having said that, I have to waffle even more on you. It is very hard to say for sure what the ultimate root of your name is. The problem is that last syllable -tiak or -tjak -- I don't see how it fits into any of the possible roots. Huratiak, Hurejtjak, Huretiak, these are all just variant spellings trying to capture in letters the sound of the name, which probably sounded almost like "Hurray-chok"; the key question is, what's the source of the first part of the name? It could come from a East Slavic-influenced form of Polish góra, mountain (? "son of the mountain-man"?), or from the Khur/Hur name, it might even be an East Slavic-influenced name from Horacy, "Horace" (son of Horace?). None of these is certain, and I don't have anything that would give me reason to favor one over the others as the most likely.

I hope you won't get disgusted with me if I suggest this is a prime case for discussing with the folks at the Pracownia Antroponimiczna [Anthroponymic Workshop] of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow (for more information see my introduction, or click here for the address: Institute address). I knew my book would not be able to answer everybody's questions, and that's why I want people to know the Workshop exists -- for those who really want to know the answer, the Workshop's staff are the people best suited to supply it.

... 2) My Grandnother's name was Kuziak. I have the birth records of the Kuziak family back to the 1780's. In fact I have found a second cousin in Poland who I communicate with via email, so the name is not the problem. My question is: In your book the root is Kuz, Kuziak is listed after the meaning of carabus beetle. Is that the meaning of the name?

Kuz- is also tough because kuz- itself doesn't seem to be a popular root in Polish. I noticed in the Slownik Warszawski (an 8-volume Polish-language dictionary) that most words (as opposed to names) starting with kuz- were dialect variants of words with guz- in standard Polish. If this applies to names as well -- and generally that's a reasonable assumption to make -- Kuziak would be a variant of Guziak, a fairly common name from a root meaning "bump, swelling, button." If the K is right, however, not just a variant of G, then my best guess is that the name derives from kuza, old cow, or kuzaka, the carabus beetle.

I'm sorry I couldn't give you a straighter answer, but a lot of the time a simple, straight answer just isn't possible -- there are too many variables, an honest man can't ignore them. As you probably know, anyone who claims to have all the answers is usually a charlatan. The notions I discuss above are my best insights, but if you're not satisfied with them (and I won't blame you if you're not), it would probably be pretty cheap to contact the Anthroponymic Workshop in Krakow and see if they can help. If they can't, well, I don't know who can. But I think they're worth a try.

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

 

Kaszubik - Kaszubowski

I think I have learned enough about Slavic linguistics and onomastics to say this much, however. I don't think it's exactly right to call -ik the Czech counterpart of Polish -ek. I think it's closer to the truth to say both -ik and -ek are suffixes used in many Slavic languages, including Polish and Czech. I think -ek, -ik, -ka, etc. all started as diminutives, often used in names to mean "son of ...," and I have some reason to think that's true in Czech as well as Polish. Regional preferences may -- I stress may -- have made -ik more common in Czech than -ek; I just did a quick scan of some Czech names, and it seemed -ik appears more often in Czech than does -ek.

KK> For What It's Worth (Buffalo Springfield 1967), my ancestral surname of Kaszubik and its origins may be of interest to the subject of this discussion.

KK> At the beginning of my research, the surname Kaszubowski appeared to me to be obviously connected somehow with the Kashubians in Northern Poland. Kaszubowski appeared to mean, "from Kashubia" or "from the Kashubians." (Which came first, Kashubia or the Kashubians? - the chicken or the egg...). The original surname of Kaszubik (before 1857) appeared to be a patronym: "son of a Kashub" or a diminutive: "little Kashub." In fact its origins in my family are in the village of Kaszuba in the southern Kaszuby region (also recorded as Koszuba). A small village in the parish of Lesno in Bydgoszcz province where the surname Kaszubik is recorded as early as the year 1666. In the late 17th century the spelling of the surname of those "from" that village alternated back and forth between Kaszuba (rarely) and Kaszubik. In the 18th century and into the beginning of the 19th century, the surname alternated back and forth between Kaszubik and Kaszubowski. Kaszubowski became the more standard version of the name. There are only two Kaszubiks in Poland today, but there are thousands of Kaszubowskis. At any rate, I believe that the suffix -ik, as applied to my family name before 1857, is in this case a more archaic suffix used to indicate someone who was "from" the village of Kaszuba. Parish records in the surrounding area show this same evolution of the surname of those families who left the village in the past. Another interesting aspect to be considered is that: In the northern Kaszuby region there are fewer surnames which end with the suffix -ski (e.g. Bialk instead of Bialkowski, Konkol - Konkolewski). Father Rekowski - a Kashubian scholar of note - writes that the Kashubians love to make their surnames as short as possible with lots of consonants. I believe that the suffix -ski may have some connections due to the influence of the Polonization of the Kashubian region to the south.


Another factor in which to consider is that priests of higher education than the masses recorded the surname more properly in Polish. It is also possible that the suffix -ik in my ancestral surname could mean "son of someone from the village of Kaszuba." Kaszubik and Kaszubowski are certainly toponyms in this case. This gives another view to Professor Rymut's explanation for surnames which begin with the root Kaszub-. Not all surnames with the root Kaszub- have their origins in the Kaszuby region. Kaszub+ek versus Kaszub+ik is almost certainly an influence of Germanization in my family. Today in Germany, those Kaszubiks who emigrated there before the surname was Polonized to Kaszubowski (1880's-1890's), are now known by the name of Kaschube[c]k.


Standard Disclaimer: No generalization is worth a damn including this one.

Keith A. Kaszubowski

Note: for more information on the Kashubs, see the Website of the Kashubian Association of North America (KANA) at: http://feefhs.org/kana/frg-kana.html -- Fred Hoffman

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

 

Kiełtoń

... Your Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings, Second Edition is a real hit at our house!

Delighted to hear it! If people pay good money for the book, I want them to feel they got their money's worth. It's gratifying when folks tell me the book really did them some good.

... Lo and behold there is Kiełton on page 289. We have never seen that name anywhere!! We found about three Kieltons in the People Search of the US. John's mother's maiden name is Kielton. Now, I have a question. There is the number (8) next to the Kielton name. If I understand this correctly - that is the number of Kieltons living in Poland???

That is correct, as of 1990 there were 8 Polish citizens by the name of Kiełtoń: 1 in Krakow province, 7 in Nowy Sacz province... Actually, it was sheer luck that name appears in my book. I noticed there were 1,518 Poles named Kiełtyka, so I resolved to include that name, especially if I could find any good sources on its derivation (in general I wanted to include any name with more than 1,000, unless I had absolutely no idea what the name came frm). Then I noticed Rymut had an entry on Kiełtyka, giving its derivation, so that meant that name was definitely going in! When I typed that entry, I noticed there was room in the line for another name; and I believe I remember I had seen somewhere that a PGS member was researching the name (presumably you!?). I felt fairly sure Kiełtoń comes from the same root, so I went ahead and included it. That name got in there simply because there was enough room in the line for another name! I was trying to hold the size of the book down, I might not have included it if it had required a second line... The funny part is, now I notice that Kiełt has 304 bearers, and if I had noticed that I would have included it, and maybe omitted Kiełtoń, and you'd have missed out. So let's be glad things worked out the way they did!

......Where would I find these Kielton names? John's grandfather listed Poland-Austria as his birthplace on the 1900 Census. We have no other info about him except that he came to South Bend, Indiana about 1910.

Ah, that's the tough part. The organization that maintains the database from which those figures are taken will not share any other data with anyone. Part of the deal with Rymut was "Yes, you can use our totals for each surname and our breakdown per province -- but nothing else!" So we know 1 Kiełtoń lived in Krakow province, and we know 7 lived in Nowy Sącz province -- but that's as far as we can go. Frustrating! For what it's worth, Nowy Sącz was in Galicia, so "Poland-Austria" fits; the Kiełtońs in the Nowy Sącz region are very likely to be relatives.

What might be worth a try is to take a look at a telephone directory for Nowy Sącz province. Phones in private homes are far less common in Poland than here, so there's no guarantee any of those Kiełtońs would be listed. But it's the only thing I can think of, and with 7 of them, just maybe 1 will be listed! The problem with Polish directories is, they are organized by province, and they go through each community, one at a time. So you can't just consult a master list for "Kiełtoń", you have to check this village, then the next one, then the next, and so on, to the end. It makes it a long and tedious process; but it can be done, and it just might pay off.

The Polish Museum of America Library has some of the provincial phone directories, but I don't know if it has Nowy Sącz province. If not, the PGS-Connecticut/ Northeast has the complete set. I don't know how much they'd charge to look through the Nowy Sącz directory for Kiełtoń listings, but it might be worth asking. I think you have their address (if I remember right, you're a member, aren't you?) but in case you don't, it's PGS-CT, 8 Lyle Rd., New Britain CT 06053.

This is not a sure thing, it may lead nowhere. But I'm afraid I can't think of anything else to do. I hope some day the Polish government will realize the benefits of sharing info, and maybe then getting in touch with relatives will be easier. But for now we have to use what resources we have, even though they leave a lot to be desired.

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

 

Kilar - Kilarski

...I have been researching the origin of my mother's maiden name Kilar and found no reference to it in your book Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings. She came from Obertyn, which was located in eastern Galicia at the time of her birth. We were told by an uncle that its origin is Swedish. Any suggestions or help would be greatly appreciated.

I imagine you looked in the first edition of my book, because in the second edition I did mention Kilar. I could not find any source that gave firm info on he name's derivation, but it was too common to ignore, so I mentioned it and speculated it is a variation of the name Kielar; as of 1990 there were 2,994 Polish citizens named Kielar, 611 named Kilar, and 654 named Kilarski. Referring to a 10-volume set that gives names and frequencies (but no first names or addresses), we see that the name Kielar appears all over Poland, but with the largest numbers in the provinces of Krosno (590), Przemysl (282), Rzeszow (377), and Zamosc (299). These are all in southeast Poland and thus would have been in Galicia. As for Kilar, they too live all over, with the largest number in the province of Krosno, 196. With Kilarski the largest numbers are in the provinces of Warsaw (50), Opole (38), Tarnobrzeg (52), and Wroclaw (115); the frequency of this name in other parts of the country may have something to do with the forced relocation of Ukrainians after World War II. It certainly appears these names were most common in what used to be Galicia.

As I said, I don't have a firm indication of what the name derives from. I do note that there is or was a village called Kielary in Olsztyn province (northern Poland) which was "Kellaren" in German. This suggests the name Kielar/Kilar may derive from German Keller, "cellar," as a surname often meaning "cellarer, one in charge of the wine-cellar." Since there were large numbers of Germans living throughout all of Poland and Galicia and Ukraine, this derivation is plausible. Also worth mentioning is the root kila, a measure of grain in the Caucasus; it is possible Kilar could also come from this, especially in eastern Galicia. But I don't have enough information to say for sure.

If you'd like to get a more informed opinion on this, I recommend writing the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow.


I hope this information helps -- and if you do write the Workshop and get some info, I'd be very interested in hearing what they say. Most of the time they confirm my theories, but every so often they come up with something I've never heard of. I would love to know for sure what Kilar comes from, if I have this info I'll put it in the next edition of my book.

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

Czyzewski

... I am searching my family's Czyzewski name and have come across a town by the name of Czyzew on a library map of Poland. (It looks like it is about 60 miles southwest of Białystok, between Sokoly and Kossow.) Now it just seems too simple to suspect that my family was 'from the town of Czyzew' and hence are named Czyzewski ! And please - stop me before I go to far with this too, too simple explanation of my name's derivation !

At this point you're probably saying (or should be saying), "Oh, hell, here comes Mr. Know-it-all to spoil my fun." I don't really mean to be constantly complicating things, but sometimes the answer isn't simple, and I'd be a liar if I said it was.

The good news is, yes, it can be just that simple: Czyżewski can, and often does, mean "person from Czyżew."
The bad news is, not only is there more than one Czyżew, but this name might also be "person from Czyżewo" or even "person from Czyżów or Czyżówka." When Poles add a suffix such as -ski to a place name, it is customary for final vowels to drop off; so a name -owski or -ewski can, in theory, come from places ending in -ow, -owo, -owa, -ew, -ewo, and so on. And in older Polish even suffixes such as -owice and -owiec and -owka often simplified to -ow- before adding -ski. Furthermore, names that are plural forms and end in -e, -y, and -i can also sometimes generate adjectival forms ending in -owski or -ewski. (I'm not even going to get into the whole question of when it's -owski and when it's -ewski, unless of course you want to read a dissertation on the significance of hard and soft consonants, orthographic representation of palatalization, and so on)... The bottom line is, Czyżewski may come most often from "Czyżew" or "Czyżewo," but there are other possibilities we really can't rule out.

And I'm afraid several different places exist with all those names that could yield the surname Czyzewski. There isn't just one Czyzew; the Euro-Reiseatlas Polen shows one in Konin province and one in Płock province, as well as a whole cluster of places in Łomża province with double names (Czyzew-Osada, Czyzew-Siedliska, etc.) -- if I'm not mistaken, one of these is the one you found, probably Czyzew-Osada, the largest. The Slownik geograficzny gazetteer also mentions a couple of places named Czyzewo. And there are several Czyzow's, Czyzowice's, Czyzowka's, and so on.

I'm not trying to make you give up in disgust here. I'm just trying to make the point that folks can't say, "My name's So-and-So, where did my ancestors come from in Poland?" The vast majority of the time there are too many possibilities. But if you've done some research and say "I'm researching Czyzewski's who came from the area southwest of Białystok," then all of a sudden we can ignore a lot of those other places: there is a place with the right name in the right area, odds are good it's the right one. Most surnames don't offer enough clues to let you zoom right in on the correct spot. They're not like a treasure map -- but they can be the X that marks the spot on the treasure map. The key is to get enough info to let you focus on a specific area, rather than having to comb through all of Poland and deal with a dozen different places that all have the right name.

... Does the town of Czyzew have many people named Czyzewski ?) ...

That's an interesting question, too, and I don't know the answer. But think of it this way. Surnames arose as a way to distinguish people -- so what good would it do if everybody in Czyzew started calling himself Czyzewski? That's like everybody in Houston taking the surname Houston. I'm sure there are some folks named Czyzewski in Czyzew and Czyzewo (etc.), but common sense suggests a name like this wouldn't be much good until after you left Czyzew. If your ancestor was born in Czyzew but moved to, say, Sokoly, then it would make perfect sense for the locals to call him "Czyzewski -- the guy from Czyzew" ... That's what common sense says. But it doesn't always work out that way.

Thanks for asking some very interesting questions, and I hope my explanations haven't just confused you worse!

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

 

Grajewski

[Note: Mr. Grajewski's original note, asking about his surname, was in Polish. My answer, in Polish, is followed by a translation in English.]

Szanowny Panie Grajewski! Nazwiska na -ewski i -owski zwykle wskazuja na zwiazanie z nazwami miejscowosci, wiec Grajewski prawdopodobnie znaczy "osoba lub rodzina pochodzaca z Grajewa lub Grajowa" -- z miasta "Grajewo" w woj. lomzynskim, lub ze wsi "Grajewo" w woj. suwalskim, moze byc takze "Grajow" w woj. krakowskim. Jest takze mozliwe, ze inne miejscowosci istnieja lub kiedys istnialy, z nazw ktorych to nazwisko moze pochodzic, ale takich nie znalazlem w atlasie. Polski uczony dr. hab. Kazimierz Rymut pisze w Nazwach miast Polski, ze nazwa miasta Grajewa w woj. lomzynskim pochodzi z nazwy jeziora, nad ktorym miasto powstalo. Ta nazwa byla staropruskiego pochodzenia, a Polacy przejeli ja w formie "Grajwo, Grajewo" (1577 r.).

W 1990 r. bylo 2,756 polskich obywatele o nazwisku Grajewski. Mieszkali w nieomal wszystkich wojewodztwach, z wiekszymi liczbami w tych woj.: warszaw. 107, bialostock. 119, bydgosk. 260, gdansk. 210, katowic. 110, poznan. 288, suwal. 313, torun. 189, i wroclaw. 98. -- Z tego wynika, ze to nazwiska wystepuje rzadziej w Malopolsce, a czesto w innych czesciach Rzeczypospolitej.

[English translation:]

Dear Mr. Grajewski,!

Names ending in -ewski and -owski generally indicate a connection with the names of localities, so Grajewski probably means "person or family from Grajewo or Grajów" ? from the town of Grajewo in Łomża province, or from the village Grajewo in Suwalko province, possibly also Grajów in Krakow province. It is also possible that other places exist or once existed from whose names this surname could derive, but I found none in the atlas. The Polish scholar Prof. Kazimierz Rymut wrote in Nazwy miast Polski that the name of the town of Grajewo in Łomża province comes from the name of the lake on which the town developed. That name was of Old Prussian origin, and Poles transformed it into the forms "Grajwo, Grajewo" (1577).

In 1990 there were 2,756 Polish citizens named Grajewski. They lived in almost all provinces, with the largest numbers in those of Warsaw (107), Białystok (119), Bydgoszcz (260), Gdansk (210), Katowice (110), Poznan (288), Suwałki (313), Torun (189), and Wroclaw (98). From this it appears that this name appears more rarely in Malopolska and more often in the other parts of the Republic.

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

 

Wojton

... I saw your message on the Polish Genealogical site. If you have the time I need some help. Our family name is Wojton. My father emigrated from Poland around 1922-24 from a town/village called Janow. The problem is I don't know what province. Mapquest shows 20 "Janow" listings in present day Poland. I thought that maybe you might be kind enough to tell from the surname where I should focus my search. I thank you in advance for your help.


I was afraid I wouldn't be able to help at all -- so often with Polish surnames there is no real clue to the specific area they came from, and as you've discovered, there are lots of Janow's. But I looked up the name, and there is some info that might be helpful. Here's the distribution by province for the 428 Wojton's living in Poland as of 1990:

Wojton 428: Bydgoszcz 5, Czestochowa 3, Gdansk 10, Jelenia Gora 6, Kaliz 2, Katowice 32, Kielce 190, Krakow 5, Krosno 3, Legnica 7, Lodz 6, Olsztyn 13, Opole 6, Pila 7, Piotrkow 10, Płock 13, Przemysl 4, Radom 6, Rzeszow 66, Sieradz 2, Skierniewice 1, Slupsk 1, Szczecin 3, Tarnow 6, Walbrzych 7, Wloclawek 9, Wroclaw 5.

Obviously you may be unlucky and your Wojton's might have come from one of those provinces with only 2 or 3 -- but if you play the odds, it seems the most likely place to start is Kielce province. With 190 of the 428 Wojton's (almost half), chances are reasonably good that's where your Wojton's came from. I notice there are at least 2 Janow's in Kielce province, but at least searching them might be a manageable job... If you have no luck there, Rzeszow province, with 66, seems like the next place to try.

I wish this data could have simplified your task a lot more, but at least it might be some help. Now you know focusing on a Janow in Kielce province is more likely to pay off than looking in, say, Tarnow province. You still may have a lot of work to do, but I hope maybe this will save you some trouble.

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



 

Brytka - Levitsky - Lewicki

... Thanks so much, William, for your translations of my ancestral surnames. I just recently ordered your book from the PGS. I also thank you for listing some village names that I will definitely look into to see if great-great- greats came from perhaps these other villages.

I'm glad my info helped, and I hope you find the book even more helpful. I like the idea of the book and Web page because they complement each other. In the book I didn't have room for a lot of info on individual names, so I discussed background info at length; on-line I don't have time for a lot of background info but I can discuss individual names in more depth. Put them together and I think you have a pretty good source of information... As for the villages, they are crucial -- Slavic names seldom contain enough info in them to tell you exactly where they originated, but if you can match them up with a specific area, your chances of hitting paydirt are much better.

Could you possible look at two other surnames? They are: Levitsky...

The name Lev/Lew is definitely part of the picture. Actually the name Levistky could get started several ways, but the most likely way in most cases is this: a fellow named Lev has sons, who are called Levichi or Levitsy (the suffix just meaning "son of"), and then places associated with them end up being called Levichi or Leviche or Levitsy or Levitse, then people who come from there are called Levitsky (Polish spelling Lewicki). So usually Levitsky would break down as meaning "person associated with or coming from the place of Lev's son." It wouldn't have anything to do with the city of Lviv, in fact most likely you're looking for a village named Levitsy, Levitse, something like that.

... 2. Brutka (Ukrainian surname) from Strilbychi, Ukraine. My cousins pronounce it : Brit-ka (first syllable is stressed and has a short i sound). I dont know its original Cyrillic spelling, but it would have to be pronounced either: Britka or Brutka (Broot - ka).

I can't find anything under the Brut- root. There is a Ukrainian root that would be rendered bryt- in the Roman alphabet, meaning "shave, shaved" -- in Cyrillic it looks like this:  БРИТ-

Names from this root would be pronounced with a short i sound and stress on the first syllable. It seems plausible this root could be related to the name, "Brytka" may have originated as a nickname given to a person who was clean-shaven -- that would set him apart, which is how nicknames got started -- and eventually the nickname might have stuck as a family name... Anyway, that's the only thing I can find that appears likely to be relevant.

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

Wozniak- Woźniak

... Interested in any information on the surname Wozniak. It was my paternal g-grandmother's maiden name.

This is a very common name in Polish, as of 1990 there were 81,390 Poles named Woźniak. The root is woz, wagon, cart, and woźniak is a term meaning "saddle horse." This surname would probably be much like "Carter" in English, referring to a fellow who drove a cart. It might also be connected to woźny, a court crier or beadle, but in most cases I expect it's linked to the meaning "carter."

... Do you have any information on Dygton?. I am not absolutely positive of the spelling. It appears to be one of my paternal g-grandmothers. I think she was from Tarnow.

There was no record of anyone by that name in Poland in 1990, and I must say it doesn't even look "right" to me -- I have to suspect the spelling has been mangled. If the spelling's right, none of my sources give any info on the name.

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

Strzelecki

...If you would be so kind i would like information on the surname "Strzelecki..."

As for the name Strzelecki, in 1990 there were 11,467 Polish citizens by that name; they lived all over the country, with some of the larger numbers appearing in the provinces of Warsaw (1,061), Bydgoszcz (540), Katowice (620), Kielce (539), Lodz (714), Poznan (476), Radom (473), Torun (583), and Wloclawek (607) -- in other words, the name appears to be fairly evenly distributed, with no obvious concentration in any one part of the country.

The root this name derives from is strzelec, "shooter, marksman," referring to someone who shoots a gun or, in older times, a bow and arrow. The name Strzelecki could come directly from this noun, thus meaning "[person or kin] of a marksman." Also, there are a some 20 or more villages named Strzelce and at least one Strzelec, and the name could also refer to an association with those places, thus "person or family from Strzelce or Strzelec." So this name probably arose independently in many different places, thus there is no such thing as one Strzelecki family -- the name is borne by many separate families, coming from different parts of Poland.

Common names such as this present their own problems -- it's not hard finding Strzelecki's, but you can't assume they're related to your ancestors; rare names have different problems -- it's hard to find info on them, but if you do, chances are they are relatives. Some Strzelecki's may be of noble descent, since surnames taken from place names originated when nobles took a last name from the name of the estates they owned; but in other cases Strzelecki's are probably descendants of peasants who worked on those estates. Only detailed research will establish which case is relevant to your ancestors.

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

Niziolek - Niziołek

... Is the name Niziolek in your book or do you have any references to it -- family trees, immigrants about 1900, locations in Poland etc. If so let me know, I may be interested in your book.

It is mentioned, but no name is discussed in great detail -- there just wasn't room in the book, instead I concentrated on giving an extensive list of names, tell what basic root they come from, and say what kind of names they are. Then readers can go to the first half of the book and read the chapters that give more info on how names of that sort arose. So if you want anything detailed, I'm sorry, I just didn't have room for it. What I give is basically this: Niziołek (the ł is pronounced like our w) comes ultimately from the root niz- meaning "low, short." One Polish name expert links it with the term niziołek meaning "imp, sprite." It is a pretty common name, as of 1990 there were 3,429 Poles named Niziołek, and another 2,592 named Nizioł, which is the same root without the diminutive suffix -ek.

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

Kołacki

... I happened to come across your links site, and was just wondering if you had any info on the name Kolacki, I didn't see it in your list, that is my grandfathers name, he came from Warsaw, I am trying to trace some lineage back to poland, but so far have not had any luck, any info on the name would be greatly appreciated, thank you

Kołacki (the ł is pronounced like our w) is a moderately common name. As of 1990 there were 1,179 Poles by that name, living all over the country; the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (130), Konin (116), Leszno (71), Lodz (73), Poznan (217), Szczecin (64) (there were 40 living in Warsaw province).

Determining what the name comes from is pretty difficult, because there are several possibilities. It could come from kołacz, "cake, wedding-cake" -- if you've ever heard of the Czech pastries called "kolaches," it's basically the same thing -- or it could come from kołat, "noise, din." Without any really solid info to go on, my guess is that it comes from a place-name, meaning "family from __." The problem is, there are several places that qualify, for instance, the villages of Kołata and Kołatka in Poznan province. Those 217 Kołacki's in Poznan province probably got their name from there. However, it's harder to say exactly what place a Kołacki in Warsaw would get his name from.

I know this doesn't really help you much, but it's so often that way with Polish names. You often can't point to one origin and say "This is definitely it." And I'm afraid this is one of those names.

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

Budrewicz

... I have just begun a search of my family name. What info I have is very limited. I have researched only a handful of Budrewicz's in America and have had contact via the internet to a Budrewicz in Poland who explained that the name was not widespread to say the least there. I would appreciate any info that you could give me...

The suffix -ewicz means "son of," so the name means "son of Budry, Budre, Budrus" something like that. So the question is, what does that root budr- mean? Ancient records mention a first name Budrys or Budrus which comes from Lithuanian budrus, "alert, watchful"; also in Polish budrus is a term meaning "a Lithuanian." So the name means "son of Budrus" = "son of the alert one," or else "son of the Lithuanian." It is not at all unusual, by the way, to see "Polish" surnames that are connected in form or meaning with Lithuanian names or words, and vice versa.

All things being equal, you'd expect to find a name like this most often in northeastern Poland, near the border with Lithuania (in fact, there is a village Budrowo, from the same root, in Suwałki province, which is in that area). However, over the course of time people have scattered quite a bit; also after World War II millions of people were forced to relocate from the areas east of modern Poland to the western part of Poland, so we find Lithuanian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian names scattered all over Poland. As of 1990 there were 644 Polish citizens named Budrewicz, and they were literally all over the country. The provinces with the largest numbers (more than 30) were: Warsaw (40), Elblag (47), Gdansk (40), Jelenia Gora (34), Olsztyn (52), Slupsk (36), Suwałki (31), Szczecin (45), and Wroclaw (54). Most of those provinces are in northern Poland, but I see no really useful distribution pattern there; it's a shame we don't have data from before World War II, when things got mixed up so badly.

By the way, the Lithuanian form of this name would be Budrevicius or something similar. You might want to contact Dave Zincavage to ask if he has any sources that shed light on the name and whether it's found in Lithuania. He is quite interested in Lithuanian names and might be able to add something to what I've given.

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

Chechliński - Hechliński

...Hello, I am researching my father's family name Hechlinski (Chechlinski originally I think. I am having a lot of trouble finding out anything about this name...

Since Polish ch and h are pronounced exactly the same (kind of like "ch" in German "Bach"), either spelling is possible. But as of 1990 there were only 13 Poles who used the spelling Hechliński, living in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (8), Gdansk (3), and Katowice (2). On the other hand there were 109 Polish citizens named Chechliński, living in the follow provinces: Warsaw 16, Gdansk 4, Jelenia Gora 3, Katowice 9, Koszalin 3, Krakow 9, Lublin 41, Lodz 5, Nowy Sacz 2, Poznan 4, Rzeszow 2, Tarnobrzeg 6, Zamosc 5. These suggests a concentration in southeastern Poland (Lublin, Rzeszow, Tarnobrzeg, and Zamosc provinces) but shows that it is found elsewhere.

According to the Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut, the ultimate origin of the surname is the verb chechłać, "to drench or to cut with a blunt instrument," but it also is connected with place names such as Chechły and Chechło -- those place names derive from the verbal root by way of the old word chechło, "damp meadow, damp area." There are quite a few villages by those names, so without very detailed info on your family I can't suggest which of them your particular ancestors were named for. But it probably suggested origin from a place with a name beginning Chechl-, and that place in turn got its name from the fact that it was situated on damp, marshy ground.

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

Borowski - Burowski - Buruffski

...I recently found your web site through a link from genealogy search web site. After reading your page I thought perhaps you could help me. I am trying to find information on the Polish surname Buruffski. The name belonged to my maternal grandfather (who I never knew)...

As of 1990 there was no one in Poland named Buruffski, and that spelling looks all wrong to me. Most likely the spelling was changed at some point, to make it easier to pronounce; this may have happened during the course of emigration, or it may have happened while your ancestors were still in Europe. If, for instance, they lived in the areas ruled by Germany about 1772-1918 the Germans, who tried to wipe out the Polish culture and language, may have changed it without asking. In any case, that spelling is not likely to be the correct original spelling, which you will probably need to get anywhere with your research. The question is, what was the spelling? I can't be sure, there are many possibilities. The two most likely, from a phonetic point of view are Burowski or Borowski -- the first is pronounced something like "burr-OFF-skee," the second like "bore-OFF-skee." It's not hard to see how either could be mangled into Buruffski. Going by numbers alone, Borowski is the more likely choice: as of 1990 there were 24,889 Poles named Borowski, living all over the country, as opposed to only 84 named Burowski (of whom 55 lived in Krakow province, and a few scattered here and there in other provinces). In some ways, that first syllable of Buruffski suggests it was Burowski, and that might be easier for you -- the other name is so common it's hard to get anywhere with it. Still, with names you really can't jump to conclusions, sometimes you look at the original form and what it ended up as and you're left scratching your head and wondering "How on earth did it get changed to that?"

I'm afraid you'll have to try to find some other records that give the names and especially the place of birth in Poland for your ancestors - the surname alone just doesn't give you enough to go on. That's usually the case, by the way, folks often contact me hoping I can give them a hot clue that'll take 'em right where they need to go. Usually I have to disappoint them (and I hate disappointing people). Still, better to tell the truth than encourage them with false hopes that will inevitably be dashed!

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

 

Dankowski

...My name is Anthony Dankowski... Is Dankowski a common Jewish name? And what does Dankowski mean? I do not know anything about my grandparents but I am told they were killed during the war...

Names ending in -owski usually started as a reference to an association between a person and a particular place, and the names of those places generally end in -i, -y, -ow, -owo, etc. I would expect Dankowski to mean "person from Dankow, Dankowo," something like that. There are at least 8 villages named Danków, plus several more named Dankowice that the surname could conceivably derive from. So unfortunately the name Dankowski does not narrow things down much, families coming from any or all of those places could end up being called "Dankowski." The names of those places, in turn, come from names meaning "of, belonging to Danek or Danko," and would refer to some connection between the place and men named Danek or Danko who owned them, founded them, were prominent in them, etc. Danek in turn is a nickname or short form of such first names as Daniel and Bogdan.

Dankowski can be a Jewish name, but it doesn't have to be; Jews or Christians could have a first name Daniel or Bogdan (which means "God-given" and is thus a Slavic translation of Hebrew-based Biblical names such as Nathaniel or Jonathan), so a "Danków" or "Dankowo" could be a place where either religion lived, and thus Dankowski could be a name used by Christians or Jews. There just isn't anything about the name that gives a clue either way. There are some names that by their very nature are unlikely to be borne by Jews or Christians, but this isn't one of them. As of 1990 there were 2,539 Polish citizens named Dankowski, living all over the country. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (233), Poznan (268), Torun (173), and Wloclawek (324), so the numbers are particularly large in north central and west central Poland; but those are provinces with large populations anyway, so I don't know that there's much to be concluded from that pattern.

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

 

 

Golec - Goletz

... looking for the surname Goletz. Have looked for it but haven't found it. Talked to parents and they think it came from Golec. Can you help me?...

Well, I can help a little. Goletz is indeed a German or English spelling of the name Poles spell Golec (the Poles pronounce c as ts or tz), so your parents are probably right about that. As of 1990 there were 16 Polish citizens who spelled their name Goletz, as opposed to 6,474 named Golec, so it seems likely the spelling change took place after your ancestors left Poland; it makes sense they would change it so people around them would have an easier time knowing how to pronounce it... The 6,474 Poles named Golec lived all over Poland, with particularly large numbers in the provinces of Katowice (733), Opole (467), Tarnobrzeg (564), and Tarnow (593); I see no pattern there, apparently the Golec's are not particularly concentrated in any one area. The root of this name is gol-, meaning "bare, naked." Specifically, golec is or was a term meaning "naked person, poor person," in the sense of one so poor he couldn't afford clothes. This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but there are a lot of words in Polish meaning the same basic thing, so we have to figure there were plenty of folks so poor they went nearly naked. (As best we can figure, my wife's ancestors' surname, Holochwosc, means basically "bare- assed"!). This may not be the most complimentary of names, but believe me, when you start looking at the meaning of Polish surnames, this is a long way from the worst I've seen!

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

 

 

Mosiniak

... I understand my family name Mosiniak is a rather uncommon name in most places in the world. Can you tell me something about it ? Or a place to look? I have read your book on surnames.

Mosiniak is not an overly common name in Poland, only some 161 Polish citizens bore this name as of 1990. The root of the name is Mos-, which is like a short form or nickname for such first names as Mojsław (literally "my glory") and Mojzesz (Moses). Poles often took the first couple of sounds from a name, dropped the rest, and added suffixes. Thus Mos- could arise from Mojslaw or Moses, then Mosin would mean "of, belonging to Mos)," then -iak probably means "son of." So to whatever extent you can translate the name, it would mean something like "son of, kin of Mojslaw or Moses." That may seem kind of fuzzy, but names are that way -- what does "Ted" mean? It's just a short form of a name, "Theodore," which did originally mean something ("gift of God" in Greek), but by the time the nickname "Ted" arose no one associated any meaning with it any longer. Same with this Polish name: it just means "son of Mos, son of Mosin, Mosin's kin."

There is also the possibility it might refer to a place: -iak with a form of a personal name usually means "son of," but sometimes it's use with place names. There is a village in Poznan province named Mosina, I can't rule out the chance that Mosiniak started out meaning "person from Mosina." The chances are good enough to be worth mentioning.

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

 



Plech - Zarobski

... I am interested in finding out about my family's history. All I know is that my parents came from Poland to the US about 1950. My maiden name is Plech. My mother's maiden name is Zarobski. If you could give me some information about my surname, or how to find out more about my Polish history, I would appreciate it.

With Plech it depends on what the original Polish spelling was. If it was Plech, Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions this in his book as deriving from the noun plech, "cuirass" (a certain part of armor, if I remember correctly). If it was Plecha, it could come from that root, it might also come from the term plecha, "bald spot, bare spot." If it was Płecha (with ł which sounds like our w), then it probably comes from the root płcha, "flea." As of 1990 there were 476 Poles named Plech, 76 named Plecha, and 460 named Płecha.

Zarobski is a bit of a puzzle. It's not a very common name -- in 1990 there were only 33 Zarobski's living in Poland, most of them (25) living in Lublin province in southeast Poland. The name might refer to a village or community named Zarob, Zaroby, something like that, or it may come directly from the verb root zarobić, "to earn, merit." None of my sources mention it, so that educated guess is about the best I can do.

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




 

Rosen - Wallach

...Hello my name is Ben Rosen I have been doing my family tree and I was wondering if you know any informaion about the last name Rosen or Wallach. I can't find much stuff on either, I believe Wallach is either Russian or Polish and Rosen is German or Russian not sure.

Rosen and Wallach are both originally of Germanic (Yiddish) linguistic origin, meaning "rose" and "foreign" respectively, but there were lots of people with those names who lived in Germany, Poland, Russia, all over eastern Europe. One problem is that both names were so common that it's hard to really pin anything down without detailed info one exactly where the specific families involved came from. There are three books you might be able to access through the library that will tell you more. One is Benzion Kaganoff's A Dictionary of Jewish Names and Their History, Schocken Books, NY 1977 -- I believe a new edition has recently been put out, but don't have the relevant publication info handy. Still, with any luck you should be able to find a copy thru a library. Kaganoff gives good explanations, his book is very readable and not too expensive, but sometimes his derivations are suspect.

More accurate, but less readable and considerably more expensive, are Alexander Beider's two books, A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland and A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire." For more info on them, see the Webpage of Avotaynu, Inc. at www.avotaynu.com. Either book gives good background info, as well as some specific data on where people with particular names lived and what the names meant. With these books I would definitely recommend trying to get a look at them through a library or genealogical society -- you wouldn't want to spend the money to buy a copy unless you've seen first whether it's worth it to you. But they do have some really good info.

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

Trochowski

...I feel so lost. I have been doing genealogical research for 26 years, mostly in this country. I avoided the Trochowski branch for a lot of reasons. Now that everyone who resisted my efforts to connect with the "old" country is dead I can start really from scratch. Any info on the name Trochowski (Trohoski) would be helpful. I know my g-grandfather settled in Erie, PA and died there.

Names ending in -owski usually originated due to some link between the family and a place name, generally ending in -ow, -owo-, -y, something like that. I can't find any villages named Trochy or Trochowo on my maps -- there are probably such places but they are too small to show up. In any rate, that's what the surname most likely comes from -- it meant "person from Trochy/Trochowo." The place, in turn, probably got its name from the root trocha, "small, little." As of 1990 there were 509 Polish citizens named Trochowski, scattered all over Poland but with significant concentrations in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (144), Elblag (36), Gdansk (222), and Torun (33). These are all in a relatively small region, the northcentral part of Poland, in areas long ruled by the Germans.

If your ancestor settled in Erie, PA, you might want to investigate the Polish Genealogical Society of the Northeast, 8 Lyle Rd, New Britain CT 06053. They have a number of members in Pennsylvania, they might be able to help you make some contacts that would prove useful. The Polish Genealogical Society of America is also pretty big in Pennsylvania, and has a lot of members from the part of Poland the Trochowski's live in -- you can learn more about the PGSA at their Website, www.pgsa.org.

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



 

Kazimierz - Kusmisz

...HI, My last name is Kusmisz. My family is from Poland (Warsaw and Kaszimierz). The last name may have been changed, originally being Kaszimierz. Uncertain. Any info is appreciated, or help with how to find any information on my Polish relatives or where the name derives...

There are a couple of other names Kusmisz could conceivably come from, but if you have reason to believe it was originally Kaszimierz, that is certainly plausible. Actually the standard Polish spelling is Kazimierz, and it's an ancient Slavic name dating back to when the Poles were pagans and gave their children names formed by joining two root-words to express a kind of hope or prophecy for their children. So Kazimierz comes from the root kazi-, "to destroy" + mir, "peace" -- thus naming a child Kazimierz was expressing the wish that he would grow up to be a destroyer of peace, i. e., a great warrior ("peace" as ancient Slavs thought of it was not necessarily the wonderful thing we consider it, they gloried in war).

Kazimierz is an extremely popular first name in Poland, and has been for a long time -- it's one of the few Polish names that is even used in English, in the Latinized form Casimir. It is not all that common as a surname -- as of 1990 there were only about 202 Polish citizens with Kazimierz as a surname. But other names formed from it are extremely popular -- for instance, Kazimierczak (5,095), Kazmierczak (28,198) [both of which mean "son of Kazimierz"), and Kazmierski (5,240). The latter basically means "of, pertaining to, belonging to Kazimierz," and in many cases probably means "coming from Kazimierz" -- there are several places by that name in Poland.

So to some extent the questions in your case are, what was the original form, and when and where was it changed? As of 1990 there was no Polish citizen with the name Kusmisz, and only 8 with the name Kusmirz (in this case the RZ and SZ are pronounced the same, like our "sh"). I think you'll have to answer those questions before you can make much progress. Part of the problem is, surnames from this name are too common for the name itself to do you much good.

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


Olshefski - Olszewski - Stypułkowski

...You were so very helpful when I asked about my Puchiks, Moizuks, Judyckis etc, that I wondered if you could assist me with the origins and meanings of two more names: Olshefski and Stypulkowski...

Like most surnames ending in -owski, both of these are probably derived from place names. Olshefski is an anglicized spelling of Polish Olszewski, which is pronounced roughly "ol-SHEF-skee," so that spelling in English makes sense. The list of villages this name could refer to is pretty long, as there are quite a few villages named Olszew, Olszewka, Olszewo, so it's not surprising there are a lot of Olszewski's in Poland -- as of 1990, some 44,638, living all over the country! The root of the place names, in turn, is the word olsza, "alder tree." So Olszewski means basically "person from the place(s) associated with alder trees."

Stypułkowski appears to derive ultimately from the root stypuła, "drumstick," and there are several villages with compound names, "Stypułki" (literally "little drumsticks") + a second name, e. g. Stypułki Borki, Stypułki Giemzin, etc., in Kobylin Borzymy and Sokoly parishes of Łomża province; there may be more elsewhere, too small to show up on my maps. It's hard to say exactly why these villages got that name, perhaps there was a geographic feature that looked like a drumstick, or perhaps there was a family in the area that made drumsticks, or perhaps the places belonged at some point to a person with the nickname "little drumstick" -- the names probably originated centuries ago, so it's tough to say just how they got started. In any case, Stypułkowski would mean roughly "person from the place associated with little drumsticks," or just "family from Stypułki."

As of 1990 there were 1,636 Polish citizens named Stypułkowski, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (176), Białystok (344), and Łomża (551). The concentration in northeastern Poland is enough to make me wonder if most of the Stypułkowskis did, in fact, come from the area of those villages I mentioned above, and then spread out. I don't know if that's true, or if there are other Stypułkis in other parts of the country, too small to show up in my sources.

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

 

Chlewiński - Klevinski - Klewiński

...Could you please research my family name Klevinski. My father thinks the original spelling started with "Ch". My grandfather came to America from Poland around 1890. Thank you in advance for your help.

The problem here is trying to figure out what the original form of the name was in Poland. The v is wrong because Poles don't use v; but that's not a big problem, Polish w sounds like v and thus is often spelled as v by non-Poles. So we can say Klewiński is the way the name would be rendered by Poles. But what about the first letter? Your father could be right, non-Poles often had trouble with the guttural ch or h sound in Polish and turned it into k, which is the closest sound in English. So we might be dealing with Chlewiński.

But Klewiński is a recognized Polish name -- as of 1990 there were 72 Poles named Klewiński, living in the provinces of Warsaw (18), Bielsko-Biala (5), Gorzow (16), Jelenia Gora (1), Leszno (3), Lublin (6), Olsztyn (22) and Opole (1). There's no recognizable pattern to this, they're scattered all over the country. But the point is that this name is possible. It derives most likely from Klewe, a German place name, and generally Klew- in German comes from a short form of the first name Niklaus (Nicholas); there is a village Klewinowo in Białystok province.

If the name was originally Chlewiński, it comes from the root chlew, "pigsty." There were 238 Poles named Chlewińskias of 1990, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Olsztyn (40) and Pila (52), in northcentral Poland, the area formerly called Prussia and ruled for a long time by the Germans.

So either name is possible, and there's really no way I can tell you for sure which is right in your case. I guess you'll just have to hope you can find some record (immigration and naturalization papers, ship passenger lists, parish records in this country) that will establish what the original form was and where the family came from.

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


Jamroży

...I have been trying to find information on my maternal grandmother. She was said to be polish. Is the surname Jamrozy Polish?...

Yes, Jamroży is Polish (ż is the dotted z, pronounced like "s" in "measure"). It is actually a polonized version of the first name "Ambrose," in Latin Ambrosius. In Polish the standard form of this name is Ambroży, but in medieval Polish records we also see it in the form Jamroży (pronounced "yahm-ROZH-ee"). It was back in that same time period it began to be used as a surname, also; and although it is seldom seen as a first name anymore (as I said, Ambroży is the standard form of the name these days), it has survived as a surname. In 1990 there were some 1,045 Polish citizens with the surname Jamroży (and 4,399 named Jamro'z, from another form!). There doesn't seem to be any particular pattern to where they lived, so we can't say this name is more likely to come from one part of Poland than another -- but that's usually the case with surnames derived from first names.

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

Ścisław

...Yes, I have an odd surname. The name Scislaw has NOT been changed, shortened, etc from Poland to the US. (I have seen marriage documents-1890s- in Zuromin Poland for the name Scislaw.)

The name has a mark over the Cap "S" or "c" (sorry I can't remember) and a slash through the "l". My grandmother pronounced the name "Shish Waff" or "Chish waff"

The ONLY time I have ever seen the name in any form is from the town of Mstislav in Russia today. In the 1700s when Poland owned it...it was shown on a map as Mscislaw (same accent marks as mine...but with an M). I don't know if that means anything but I do know that Mstislav is a first name and not a surname....but then again, there is an M in front... ANY CLUES???


This is an unusual name, no question, and I'm glad you've done a good job of documenting it. Your grandmother's pronunciation is fairly accurate -- in standard Polish the name Ścisław (spelled as you indicate) would be pronounced roughly "SHCHEES-waff," and could very easily be pronounced in everyday use as your grandmother did.

As of 1990 there were only 9 Polish citizens with the surname Ścisław. They lived in the provinces of Ciechanow (8) and Torun (1). Unfortunately I do not have access to further details such as first names and addresses, but at least we know the name has not died out in Poland -- and if you ever do find a Ścisław in Poland, chances are excellent he/she is a relative!

The name could fool us because it looks and sounds like a couple of the ancient pagan Slavic names formed by joining two roots to create a kind of name of omen or prophecy for a child. You mention Mścisław (in Russian "Mstislav," there is a famous Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich), from the roots mści-, "avenge" + -sław, "glory," thus meaning "one famed for taking revenge." But in that name the M- is such an integral part of the meaning and the name that it would be rare for it just to drop off. So it probably has nothing to do with your name... There are other names such as Czesław, but these, too, probably have nothing to do with your name.

What is likely is that this name derives from the root ścisł-, "compact, dense, exact." There are several common names from this root, including Ścisło, Ścisłowski, etc. Name expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions these and others, including Ścisławski (24 Poles by that name as of 1990), as coming from that root -- he does not specifically mention Ścisław, but if Ścisławski derives from it, it's a good bet Ścisław does, too. The suffix -aw- is adjectival, and we often see it added to roots (e. g., Bielawa < bial-, biel-, "white"). So strictly from a linguistic point of view the name probably originated as meaning "person with a compact, dense body," thus someone who was short and thick and powerful. Ścisło is a more common one meaning the same thing.

There is also a plant in the myrtle family called ścisławin, Latin name beaufortia. I'm not familiar with it, but I'll bet it got this name because it grows thick and dense. It might be connected with your name, but not necessarily -- I mention it only because it proves that names can be formed from the root ścisław-.

So I can't be 100% certain, but it is very plausible that this is a variant of other names from the same root that happen to be a bit more common. There is nothing odd or strange about a Polish name formed by taking a root such as ścisł- and adding the adjectival suffix -aw. This is all perfectly natural and plausible, and that's my opinion as to how the name was formed. I could be wrong, but my gut feeling is this is right.

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

 

Ciszewski - Malewicki

...noticed you had information on Czyzewski and Malewicz. I was wondering if the info for those names are the same for Ciszewski and Malewicki? If not, do you have any info on these names you can share with me?

The Malewicz info would be very similar -- this means basically "son of the little guy," or perhaps "son of Mal" with Mal being a short form of a longer name such as Malomir. This is a moderately common name, with 1,113 Poles by this name as of 1990. They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (109), Białystok (117), Bydgoszcz (173), Gorzow (82) and Szczecin (82). I really don't see much in the way of a pattern to the distribution, which makes sense -- a name like this could got started anywhere Polish was spoken and there were short guys who had children!

Czyzewski comes ultimately from the root czyz, "green finch, siskin," but more directly from a place name such as Czyzewo, Czyzew, etc. -- and there are a lot of those. As of 1990 there were 10,543 Poles named Czyzewski, living all over the country. So I'm afraid it's one of those names that's too common to help much. It can help in one way, however: if you do good research and pin down the part of Poland the family came from, and you notice there's a place called Czyzew or Czyzewo nearby, chances are good that's the particular village the name derived from in your case.

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

Ampuła - Mydło

...Could you please provide any available information on the following names: Ampuła and Mydło?...

As of 1990 there were 167 Polish citizens named Ampuła, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Warsaw (25), Ciechanow (24), and Kalisz (60). It apparently comes from the noun ampuła, from Latin ampulla, a container used in church for wine or water at the Eucharist. In more modern Polish ampuła means the same thing as the English term "ampoule" or "ampule," a small glass vial. It's tough to say how a person would get this surname -- perhaps the family made or sold such items? Or I suppose it could be a nickname based on a person's shape. Without going back several hundred years to the time and place of the name's origin, it's a little tough saying exactly how it got started.

Mydło is a moderately common name, as of 1990 there were 472 Poles named Mydło. It comes from the noun mydło, "soap," perhaps indicating a person who made or sold soap, or maybe even a nickname for a very clean person. Poles by that name live all over the country, but there is a definite concentration in the provinces of Olsztyn (80) and Ostrołęka (192) in north-central and northeast Poland.

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

 

Felenak - Stanczewski

...About the only information I have on them is their last name. If you could find the time to research these 2 names, I would appreciate it very much: Felenak and Stanczewski...

The name Felenak is either slightly misspelled or else very rare -- as of 1990 there was no one in Poland named Felenak. There were 62 Poles named Felenczak, and 640 named Feliniak. It could be the name was Felenak and as such was a pretty rare variation of a name such as Feliniak, or perhaps somewhere along the way the spelling was accidentally changed. Either way, names beginning with Felen- and Felin- come from nicknames or short forms of such Polish first names as Feliks (Felix) or Felicjan (a name seldom used in English, we'd probably spell it Felician). Poles often took the first syllable of a popular first name, dropped the rest (much as we turned "Theodore" into "Ted") and added suffixes. Felenak or Feliniak would both mean something like "son of Feliks or Felicjan." Unfortunately none of these names shows any particular distribution frequency, so I can't suggest a specific part of Poland where this name is most likely to be found -- it could show up almost anywhere.

Stanczewski also derives ultimately from a short form of a first name, in this case Stanisław (in English and Latin Stanislaus), often abbreviated by Poles as Stan or Staś; a name such as Stanczak or Stanczyk means "Stan's son," so that may be where the -cz- comes from. However, names ending in -ewski usually derive from a place name such as Stanczewo, something like that, and those places names in turn meant "Stan's son's place," referring perhaps to a man who once owned or found