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.

 

Chowaniec - Penc

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

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

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

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

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


 

Grzybowski

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

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

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

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


 

Bronder

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

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

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


 

Bugno - Judicky - Moizuk

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

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

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

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

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


 

Juszkowski - Lagiewniki - Logewnik

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

 

Fedosz

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

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

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

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


 

Frankowski - Gąsiewski - Gonsiewski - Nawodyło - Stankiewicz - Wykowski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Furgal - Furgat

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

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

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

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

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


 

Gacek - Kochowski

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

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

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

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

 

 

Głębocki - Glembotsky

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Grycki

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

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

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

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

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


 

Haszczak

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

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

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


 

Hendzel

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Kazczyk - Shmegelski - Śmigielski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Kiszkiel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Klucznik - Rydzewski

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

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

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

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


 

Kołos - Wcisło

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

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

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

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


 

Krutzel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Kumor - Witkowski

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

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

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


 

Kuzniar

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

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

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

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


 

Łachut - Łahut

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

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

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

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

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


 

Laskowski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Lewandowski - Marciewicz - Nalaskowski - Pawlak - Tamulewicz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Tylinski - Zielinski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Zatorski

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

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

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


 

Mądrowski - Mondrowski - Szudarek

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lichorobiec

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Ludwiczak

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

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

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

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

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

 

Miazga

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

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

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

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

 

Mojsiewicz - Onychimowicz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a later note Kristin gave some additional info:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Nowakowski - Sanocki

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

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

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

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


 

Okrzyński

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

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

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

[Note: Alice later wrote me as follows:]

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

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

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

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


 

Orlicki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Pankevych - Pankiewicz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Pettkus - Tomaschewski - Tomaszewski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Pilarski - Sytek

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

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

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

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


 

Pochopień

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Jarmulowicz - Rutkowski

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surname 5 Combined File

LUTY

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

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

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


GORZKIEWICZ

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

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

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

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


DEPUT

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

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

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


WĄDOŁOWSKI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


POLEK

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

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

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


SPYCHALSKI

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

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

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


ZAKRZEWSKI

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

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

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


STYPA -- WOLCZEWSKI

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

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

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

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


DRAŻBA

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

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

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

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


GÓRALEWICZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


CZERNIEJEWSKI -- LAMCZYK

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

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

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

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

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

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

Czerniejewski is a name meaning "person from Czerniejew or Czerniejewo or Czerniejow," and there are several Polish villages by those names, so without further info on the family we can't say which of those villages the name originally referred to in your family's case. It's a fairly common surname, as of 1990 there were 1,616 Poles named Czerniejewski, living all over the country.


BOGDAŃSKI

… I was wondering if you could give me any information on my surname, it is "Bogdanski"? I know some history behind the name, but not much any help would be appreciated.

I'm afraid I can't give you much detailed information, because this is one of many Polish surnames that derive from popular first names, and such surnames tend to be very common and distributed all over Poland, since by their very nature they could develop almost anywhere. Thus in 1990 there were 5,543 Polish citizens named Bogdański (ń stands for the accented n). The surname comes from the first name Bogdan, which is a Slavic compound name meaning literally "God-given" (a Slavic equivalent to Hebrew Nathaniel, Greek Theodoros, etc.). Bogdański means literally "of, pertaining to Bogdan," and thus might have originated as a term for "kin of Bogdan," or "person from Bogdanka or Bogdanki [Bogdan's place]," etc. There are several villages by those names, so even if we assume the surname referred to a place rather than just meaning "Bogdan's kin" -- and that's probably not a justifiable assumption, in most cases "Bogdan's kin" probably was the original meaning -- it still doesn't narrow things down much.

With that many Bogdański's, it seems likely the name developed independently in many different places at different times, so there isn't one big Bogdański family, but rather many different ones, and they could have come from anywhere in Poland.

I'm sorry I couldn't be more help, but if it's any help, that's the way it is with, oh, at least 90% of Polish surnames. They just aren't unique enough to offer any really useful leads. Folks often hope I can give them some info based on the name that will help lead them to the place of origin in Poland; I wish it worked that way, but it seldom does.


BAZIŃSKI -- HEJZA -- KOŁTON

… I am the only person in my family that knows how to use the Internet. I am the first generation that was born in the United States. I am 17 years old from troy michigan and want to desperately find my ancestors and family tree. I cannot use a program from the store since my mom and Dad are born in Poland and I am afraid that a lot of the records were lost in the War.

First off, I don't do research; I have all I can do translating records and editing and typesetting various publications. But I can suggest some organizations that might be able to help you quite a bit with your questions.

I would strongly advise you to visit the Website of the Polish Genealogical Society of America at . There's a lot of free info on there that can help beginners. The PGSA also has a handout on genealogy software -- I'm not sure whether it's on the Website, but you could look. If it's not, I'm sure you could buy a copy for a few dollars; I believe it's also included in the packet of info people get for free when they join the PGSA.

Another organization that might be able to help you a lot is the Polish Genealogical Society of Michigan. They're not really on the Internet yet, but you can write them at this address:

PGS-MI
c/o Burton Historical Collection
Detroit Public Library
5201 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, MI 48202-4007

With your family's Michigan roots, PGS-MI might really be able to help you find some excellent leads; you might want to consider joining -- I think their dues are either $15 or $20 a year -- and since they specialize in Poles who settled in Michigan, they're probably your best bet for making valuable connections.

There is also a book you might want to look for at a library or bookstore. It's by Rosemary Chorzempa, and it's called "Polish Roots," 1993, Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore MD, ISBN 0-8063-1378-1. Many, many people have told me it helped them enormously when they were getting started, and it's relatively easy to find -- the Barnes & Noble just up the road from my house sells it. I believe it's $20 or less, and lots of folks swear by it.

The reason I'm giving you this info is because surnames, in themselves, very rarely offer any real help with tracing a family. They're just too common. Thus as of 1990 there were 1,012 Polish citizens named Kołton, and another 2,689 used the variant Kołtun. It comes from a root kołton meaning "twisted hair, shaggy hair." Obviously this is a name that could develop independently in many different places all over Poland. Knowing what it means is nice, but doesn't do a thing in terms of helping you find your ancestors.

Other names, such as Baziński, are not so common, but don't really help a lot either. As of 1990 there were 113 Polish citizens named Baziński, but they were scattered all over the country, with larger numbers in the provinces of Bielsk-Biala (25) in southcentral Poland, and Tarnobrzeg (37) in southeastern Poland, and a few here and there in many other provinces. (I don't have access to further data such as first names and addresses, what I've given here is all I have). Polish name experts believe the name comes from the first name Bazyli = English Basil; Poles often formed names by taking the first part of a popular first name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes, thus Baz- + -in- + -ski. This means nothing more than "kin of Basil," or "person from Basil's place."

Hejza is not listed in any of my sources, so I don't know what it comes from. As of 1990 there were 123 Polish citizens by that name, again scattered all over, with larger numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (32), Slupsk (20), and Wloclawek (23) -- which means it appears mainly in northcentral and northwestern Poland. That suggests it might be of German origin, since a great many Germans have lived in that part of Poland, and if so, it probably comes from German Heise, which originated as a nickname for "Heinrich" = English "Henry."

As I say, this is how it goes with the vast majority of Polish surnames -- it's nice to know what they mean, but they don't provide much in the way of real help. And that's why I think the information you can get from the sources I mentioned is your best bet. Or, if you can afford it, you might hire a researcher who specializes in Poland; but that gets expensive, and you can do a lot of that yourself, with a little assistance from the PGSA, the PGS-MI, and Chorzempa's book.


SKARPIAK -- SZKARPIAK

… After reading your response & explanation of "Jankowski", I am hopful that you will be kind & help me with my maternal surnames. In searching Skarpiak I have come to a dead end. The brothers Skarpiak appeared to all have daughters & I am only aware of two decendants still living (which again are females), Would you be able to provide additional info re family name(s)?

Skarpiak appears to be a very rare name. None of my sources mention it, and as of 1990 there was no one in Poland by that name, or named Szkarpiak (Polish names beginning with S- often have variants beginning with Sz-, and vice versa). It might possibly come from the term skarpa, "buttress, escarpment" -- if so, it probably means something like "one who lived near the buttress, one who worked on the buttress," or else the son of such a person.

The only mention I could find of such a name anywhere was in the Index to Obituaries in the Polish-language Chicago daily Dziennik Chicagoski. There was an obit for a Walenty (Valentine) Szkarpiak who died 30 Apr 1928 in the Chicago area, in the 3 May 1928 issue of that paper. Also, a Franciszek (Francis or Frank) Szkarpiak was mentioned in two other obits for people named Szymanska. If this sounds like a possible lead, I'd suggest going to the Website of the Polish Genealogical Society of America, www.pgsa.org, and searching their Chicagoski and other databases for Skarpiak or Szkarpiak. If the name is all that rare, there is a chance these folks might be related to you, and searching those databases might turn up some leads (if these aren't people you already know about).

If you don't mind spending $10-20 to learn more, you might try writing the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Insitute in Krakow -- they don't do genealogical research, only research on name origins, and they can correspond in English. For more details, see the introduction to Polish surnames at http://www.polishroots.org/surnames/surnames_index.htm.


KREJPCIO

… As far as I know, it was Boleslaw Krcipczio, altho his immigration papers showed it as Krejpcio, The latter is what I used when I was in grade school. It is now spelled Krepshaw. The passenger list indicates he was from Biala Wala, Russia. I guess that is/was a Polish province taken over by Russia. He immigrated to Phila., PA.

Well, there are so many Polish surnames that it's tough to say anything definitive about them if you don't have a correct spelling -- and Krcipczio makes no sense phonetically or linguistically, it's surely a misreading or misspelling somewhere along the line. However, there is a name Krejpcio which might fit -- it's close to some of the variant spellings you gave, and would be pronounced roughly "CRAPE-cho" (rhymes with "scrape-snow"), which could easily become Krepshaw in America. I can't be certain that's the right name, but it's close enough to be worth mentioning.

As of 1990 there were 172 Polish citizens by that name, of whom the vast majority (141) lived in the province of Suwałki, in northeastern Poland, on the border with Lithuania. And Krejpcio is almost certainly Lithuanian in terms of linguistic origin. It appears to come from the Lithuanian word kreipti, "to turn, make crooked." I would suppose the name might have referred originally to someone who had something crooked about him -- not meaning he was a crook, but rather that he had a crooked leg or back or something like that. We see a lot of Polonized forms of Lithuanian names near the border, so that makes sense in terms of what you said. The area was originally Polish, but was taken over by Russia in the 1800's. And vast numbers of Polish-Lithuanian immigrants settled in Pennsylvania, so that fits too.

… His papers also had last spelled as ....Krepcio, Krepshio. I cannot find Biala, Wala anywhere on a map that I have. Can you help me??? This info. is necessary, as I want to find his birth certificate so I can find out who his parents were.

Place names with bial- in them are very common -- the root just means "white." Biala Wala doesn't seem right, but Biala Wola could well work. There could be quite a few little villages or communities by that name, but I notice there is at least one on the map, a little village called Biała Wola (the ł stands for the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w) in the extreme northern part of what is now the province of Olsztyn. This is some distance west of Suwałki province, but not so far as to be implausible -- and it is still quite near the border with Lithuania. So geographically speaking, it fits -- it was in the Russian partition, and it's close to Lithuania. I can't guarantee it's right, but I think the chances are good enough to make it worth a look... If it doesn't pan out, I'd try "Biala Woda" (literally "white water"), but I'd try Biala Wola, Olsztyn province, first. The only problem is, my sources list no Krejpcio's in Olsztyn province, so if they did live there once, they seem to have moved or died out. But some of the Krejpcio's in Suwałki province may well be relatives.

To find birth certificates, you need the parish church that served the community in question. I can't find anything that says for sure which parish serves Biała Wola, but on the map it appears Lubomino is the closest -- it's only a few kilometers away, that probably is where folks in Biała Wola would go to register births, deaths, and marriages. I don't know if the LDS Family History Library has microfilmed the records for Lubomino parish, but I'd suggest going to the nearest Mormon Family History Center and seeing if those records are on file. If they are, you can have them loaned from Salt Lake City to your FHC and can look through them there -- much faster and cheaper than writing to Poland. If it turns out the records you need aren't available through the FHL, then you may have to write the parish in Poland, or the Polish National Archives.

As I say, there are too many variables here for me to be sure I'm right. But if I were you, I'd try looking for a family named Krejpcio living in or near Biała Wola, Olsztyn province, probably served by Lubomino Catholic parish.

[Addendum: Mr. Krepshaw later wrote back to ... inform us that these suggestions turned out to be exactly right! Hurray! That's one for the good guys!]


BRYK

… is the name Bryk covered in your book? I'm interested in its etymology. In your opinion, is it common for a surname, such as Bryk, to be found in Jewish as well as Catholic families (predominantly the latter, I think)?

Bryk is mentioned in the book, although with 30,000 names in 400 pages, you can imagine I don't have room to give a whole lot of detail on any one them... Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut says Bryk can come from two roots: from the old Latin first name Brictius, which was used more often in Poland centuries ago (it's almost unheard of today) in forms such as Brykcy and Brykcjusz; or from the verb root brykać, "to frisk, gambol." The form Bryka shows up in documents as early as 1397. Personally, I suspect Bryk derives in most cases from the first name -- surnames derived from first names are very common in Polish, and the Poles often took the first part of a name, dropped the rest, and used that first part as a new name or nickname, often adding suffixes.

Now what I just said applies mainly to Polish Christians. Alexander Beider's book on surnames of Jews in the Kingdom of Poland (the part under Russian rule roughly 1772-1918) does mention Bryk as a surname borne by Jews, especially in the areas of Makow, Zamosc, Bilgoraj, Stopnica, and Warsaw. He says this name, when used by Jews, usually comes either from Yiddish brik, "bridge" (compare German Bruecke) or from an acronym of Ben Rabiy Yaqoyv Qopl, "the son of Rabbi Jacob Koppel"... By the way, it is not at all unusual to find that Christians and Jews have names that look exactly the same but had different derivations. So among Christians the derivation would probably be from the first name Brykcy/Brictius or the verb meaning "frisk, gambol." But for Jews it would come from the usages I just described.

As of 1990 there were 3,278 Polish citizens named Bryk, so it's a moderately common surname. The bryk's were distributed fairly evenly over the country, with a slight concentration in southeastern Poland.

I imagine most of those Bryk's are Christians, simply because the Jewish community was utterly devastated by the Nazis, and you find very tiny numbers for most distinctively Jewish names. But when dealing with families who emigrated before World War II, the name could easily be either Christian or Jewish.


RADZISZEWSKI

… I have long wondered on the meaning of my family name: Radziszewski. Would you have any information on its origins & meaning ?

Names ending in -owski and -ewski usually began as a reference to a connection between a person or family and a place with a similar name, generally ending in -ow/-owo or -ew/ewo. So we'd expect Radziszewski to have started out meaning simply "one from Radiszew/o or Radiszow/o." There are at least two places this surname could have derived from, and perhaps more, too small to show up in my sources (or they may have changed their names over the centuries since the surname was established). There is a Radziszow in Krakow province, maybe about 20 km. south-southeast of Krakow; and there are villages named Radziszewo-Krole and Radziszewo-Sienczuch in southeastern Łomża province. People from any of these places (and, as I say, possibly more) could have ended up with the name Radziszewski... The names of these places mean, in effect, "the [place] of Radzisz" -- Radzisz is an old Polish first name appearing in documents as early as 1414, coming either from a root meaning "joy" or from a root meaning "advise." Most likely it started as a nickname or short form for a longer compound name such as Radomir ("glad of peace") or Radosław "glad of fame"), or it could have meant "the adviser" or "the joyful one." At any rate, somewhere along the line a little settlement or village founded or owned by a guy named Radzisz could easily end up being called Radziszów or Radziszewo, both meaning "Radzisz's place"; then later a person connected to that place could be called Radziszewski = "one from Radziszewo" = "one from the place of Radzisz."

This is a fairly common surname, as of 1990 there were 4,982 Polish citizens named Radziszewski. They lived all over the country, with especially large numbers in the provinces of Białystok (1,087) in the northeast; Katowice (228) in southcentral Poland; Łomża (208) in northeastern Poland; and Warsaw (462) in east central Poland. It's conceivable all these Radziszewski's might have gotten their names from the three villages I mentioned above, but it seems just a little far-fetched, which is why I think there may once have been more places with names that could generate this surname.

For what it's worth, this is how it goes with the vast majority of Polish surnames -- very few offer really helpful clues with exactly where a given family came from. Usually about the most you can hope for is a reasonable idea of what the name meant when it originated; I'd say about 90-95% there is no link with any specific area, at least nothing precise enough to give you a good lead.


TOŁODZIECKI – TUŁODZIECKI

… My new cousin and i are looking for surname of Tolodziecki, or Tulodziecki. She found it on the wall of honor. my name has changed from what my dad's was on birth and his father's birth. so we are having fun looking to see how it all comes together

The first question is the original form of the name. I have a 10-volume set that lists all the surnames of Polish citizens as of 1990 and tells how many lived in each province (but unfortunately does not give further data such as first names or addresses), so I looked up both spellings and got these results (ł stands for the Polish l; with a slash through it, pronounced like our w):

Tołodziecki, total 121; provinces with 10 or more: Koszalin 18, Legnica 10, Torun 48; there were a few other provinces with fewer than 10.

Tułodziecki, total 747; provinces with 50+: Warsaw 57, Bydgoszcz 57, Ciechanow 101, Olsztyn 71, Torun 141, Wloclawek 108; numerous other provinces with smaller numbers.

So this suggests both forms are "correct," but Tułodziecki is probably the standard form, and Tołodziecki a variant spelling of that, based perhaps on regional variation in pronunciation. Also, the names are most common in northern and northwestern Poland, in areas formerly ruled by the Germans, mainly East and West Prussia.

Names ending in -cki or -ski, more often than not, referred originally to a connection between a person or family and the name of a place -- we'd expect the place or places to be something like Tułodziad. And in fact there is a village and former estate by that exact name, Tułodziad, called "Taulensee" by the Germans, in what used to be Ostróda county, but now in Olsztyn province; it's located roughly 20 km. east of Lubawa and 25 km. south of Ostróda. It is a few km. west of Grunwald, the site of a very important battle in 1410 between Polish and Lithuanian forces and the Teutonic Knights; the Knights were defeated, a major turning point in Polish history.

The name of the village is a puzzle, it appears to be a combination of roots tul- meaning "wander, be exiled" or "hug" + dziad, "old man, grandfather"; I have no more information on the name's meaning, but it looks as if it might originally have been named for some old man who was exiled (?), or perhaps for a man with a compound name meaning "affectionate grandfather." Those are just guesses, until Polish scholars finish a large 10-volume dictionary of Polish place names they're working on (they've only gotten up to the D's so far), I'll have no way of knowing for sure, but that's what the name appears to mean.

None of my sources mention the surname Tułodziecki directly, but odds are it originally meant just "one from Tułodziad." If the family was noble, this may mean they owned it; if non-noble, they were probably peasants who worked on the estate there, or came from there and moved elsewhere.


DZIURA -- JAROCH -- KIEŁTYKA -- KOCHANOWICZ

… You printed a letter and your reply, to someone re: the name "Kielton", and your response included reference to the name "Kieltyka". That is my mother's maiden name... If I understand correctly, that you are able to provide the derivation of the name, and location where it originated, I would be very interested.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions Kiełtyka in his book on Polish surname (on-line we use ł to stand for the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w but usually just rendered as plain old l in other languages). He says it comes from the root kiełtać, "to cut with a dull knife." I'm not sure how this got to be a person's name, and apparently that root is either quite archaic or else used only in dialect, because it doesn't appear in any of my other sources -- but I've found Rymut usually knows his stuff, so I'm inclined to believe him on this one... This name shows up in Krakow legal records as far back as 1382. It's odd that this root kiełt- generated only this one, rather ancient surname, and otherwise has left no trace in the language; but that's the kind of odd quirk that makes name origins so interesting!

As of 1990 there were 1,518 Polish citizens named Kiełtyka, living in virtually every province of Poland (there may well be more by that name living in Ukraine, but I have no data on that). The provinces with the largest numbers were: Katowice 233, Krakow 155, Krosno 133, and Tarnow 118 -- all in southcentral or southeastern Poland. Przemysl province, which is where Wyszatyce is located, had 46. However, the database from which this info was compiled was lacking complete data for some provinces, including Przemysl, so the actual number might be somewhat higher... The source of this data is a government database, but the book I got it from only has totals for all of Poland, then for each province. In other words, I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses; the Polish government agency that runs that database won't allow researchers access to such info. So what I've given you here is all I can get.

… Other names in the tree that I would like to know more about, if you have the information are: "Kochonowicz" or "Kochonowich"; "Jaroch"; "Dzuira."

Kochonowicz is probably a misreading of Kochanowicz; the -owicz means "son of," and the root kochan- means "beloved," so the name means roughly "son of the beloved one"; or it may have started more often as just meaning "son of Kochan" where that was a first name in itself, deriving from the root meaning "beloved." As of 1990 there were 1,106 Poles named Kochanowicz, none named Kochonowicz, which is why I think the first form is probably right. The Kochanowicz'es lived all over Poland, but the largest single number for any province was Przemysl, with 208. "Kochonowich" is surely a spelling affected by English phonetic values, since the -cz is pronounced like our "ch." The name would be pronounced by Poles something like "ko-hah-NO-vich."

Jaroch may have started as a nickname of older pagan compound names such as Jaromir, where the first part is an ancient root meaning "harsh, severe," or in some cases "robust, young." But some scholars think the specific names Jaroch and Jarosz came from a variant of the Slavic version of "Jerome." So the name probably meant originally something like "kin of Jerome." As of 1990 there were 1,092 Poles by this surname, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (250) in northwestern Poland and Przemysl (137) in southeastern Poland. The name is pronounced roughly "YAH-rok."

Dziura is probably the right spelling of "Dzuira." This is a very common name, with 6,017 Poles named Dziura as of 1990. It comes from the term dziura, meaning "hole." Perhaps it referred to a person with holes in their clothes, or a person who lived in a hole -- after all these centuries it's hard to say. But that's the basic meaning of the name, there must have been some kind of connection between the person and holes. The name is pronounced something like "jura" (like English "jury" with an -uh sound on the end, instead of an -ee).


ORTHNER

… Recently, I have been making genealogical links to the Germanic family Orthner. Would you happen to known the meaning and origin of this surname?

Hans Bahlow's Deutsches Namenlexikon (available in English translation as Dictionary of German Names) mentions Ortner as coming from a root meaning "end," so that names such as Orthmann, Orth, Ohrt, and Ortner usually referred to where a family lived, i. e., "at the end of the village, end of the street." (Orth- and Ort- are the same, older German spelling often put a silent H after T, as in the name of the writer Goethe, more modern spelling drops the H). I'm afraid I don't have any data on how common the name is in Germany (although I'm sure some book must exist that gives that info), but as of 1990 there were 8 Ortner's in Poland, 1 living in Gdansk province, and 7 living in Opole province, which is in southwestern Poland, in that part of Silesia included in Polish territory after World War II.


SIDOROWICZ

… If time allows please respond. father’s surname: Sidorowicz

Ah, an easy one! I love easy ones!

In Sidorowicz the suffix -owicz means "son of," and Sidor started as a short form or nickname of the first name Izydor, in English "Isidore." That's a fairly rare name in this country, but over the centuries it's been moderately popular in Poland -- as of 1994 there were 4,054 Poles named Izydor, and a century or two ago it was probably more common. It comes from a Greek name meaning "gift of Isis."

As for Sidorowicz, in 1990 there were some 2,343 Poles with that surname, so it's a moderately common name. Sidorowicz'es lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers (100+) in the provinces of Warsaw (173), Białystok (345), Gdansk (136), Gorzow (122), Suwałki (173), and Wroclaw (108). This means there's a particular concentration of people by this name in northeastern Poland (Suwałki and Białystok provinces) -- but you can't really assume that's where a given Sidorowicz family came from, as there's practically no part of Poland that doesn't have at least a few.

By the way, there are several other common surnames that also mean "son of Isidore," including Sidorczuk (1,128) and Sidoruk (1,208). I haven't yet discovered any particular rule or pattern as to why some folks would say the same thing with -owicz, some with -czuk, some with -uk. Maybe one day I'll find out if there is any pattern to it, or if it's just a matter of what people liked the sound of.


BIEDROŃ

… Can you tell me about the surname of Biedron?

According to Polish name experts, names beginning with Biedr- can come from the noun biedroń, which means "ox with mottled coloring, of many colors" (I'm using ń to stand for the Polish n with an accent over it), or from the noun biedro (also spelled biodro), "hip, haunch." Since Biedroń is an exact match with the word for ox, it seems likely that's what that particular name derives from, rather than from the "hip" root. It's difficult to say exactly how such names got started, because they originated centuries ago, often from nicknames, and it can be very difficult to figure out exactly what the original connection was. A Biedroń might have gotten that nickname because he wore clothes that reminded people of the coloring of a certain ox; or maybe he owned such an ox. About all we can know for sure is that there was something about the first person to bear this name that people somehow connected with an ox.

As of 1990 there were 1,636 Polish citizens named Biedroń. The name could be found all over the country, but was particularly common in the provinces of Czestochowa (277), Katowice (171), Krakow (102), Nowy Sacz (203), and Tarnow (189) -- all in southcentral or southeastern Poland. Unfortunately, there's nothing about the name that helps us pin it down to a more specific area.


LUDWA

… Earlier this year you provided me information about my surname. I was wondering, if you have the time, could you please provide information concerning the name Ludwa.

As of 1990 there were 340 Polish citizens with this name, of whom by far the largest number (181) lived in the province of Tarnow in southeastern Poland; there were much smaller numbers scattered all over the rest of the country.

None of my sources mention this name, but it seems most likely this started as a short form or nickname of Ludwik, the Polish form of the name Louis (in German, Ludwig). I can find no native Polish root with ludw-, and the connection with Ludwik seems too obvious to ignore. There is a basic Slavic root lud- meaning "entice, allure, deceive," and ludwa or ludva could possibly have derived from that. But it seems much more likely to me it's just a short form or nickname for Ludwik. Poles often took the first part of popular first names, dropped the rest, and added suffixes, so Ludwik -> Ludwa is not at all implausible.


KRÓL -- ŚNIEŻEK

… I am trying to find the orgins of two surnames listed as Austria/Pol on documents. Krol and Sniezek.

Król comes from the Polish word for "king," which is król (the Polish ó is pronounced like the "oo" in "good"). It could have started as a nickname, perhaps calling somebody the king of a little group; it also sometimes was applied to someone who was a servant of the king. It's a very common surname, as of 1990 there were 46,458 Poles named Król, living all over the country in huge numbers.

Śnieżek would be spelled in Polish with an accent over the S and a dot over the Z, pronounced something like "SHNYEH-zek." That doesn't sound very pretty to our ears, yet it's actually kind of a pretty name, because it comes from śnieg, "snow." The -ek is a diminutive, so śnieżek (as we write it on-line, trying to compensate for not being able to reproduce the Polish characters) means something like "little snow." As of 1990 there were 1,315 Poles with this name; it is found all over the country, but the largest numbers are in the provinces of Katowice (136), Krakow (94), Krosno (282), Opole (110), Rzeszow (86), and Wroclaw (91) -- all in southcentral to southeastern Poland, and therefore mainly in Galicia, that part of Poland ruled by Austria from the late 1700's till after World War I.


KORNASIEWICZ

… The surname that I am interested in is Kornasiewicz. My grandfather was born in the town of Besko in Austrian Galitzia around 1880. I have located a town of this name about 20 miles west of the city of Sanok in southeastern Poland...

The suffix -ewicz or -owicz means "son of" (making the name a so-called "patronymic," a name derived from one's father's name), so Kornasiewicz means "son of Kornaś," where ś stands for the Polish accented s, written si when followed by a vowel. So the real question is, what does the name Kornaś or Kornas come from? Polish scholars have come up with a couple of different possible derivations, but no way to be certain which one is right in a given instance. The name can come from the root korn-, "humble, submissive, obedient," or from kórnik, "bark beetle," or from the first name Kornel (the Polish version of Latin Cornelius). The bark beetle connection seems least likely in this case, because the -ik suffix is integral to that meaning and that suffix does not appear in this name. So we're left with Kornaś as either a nickname for "Cornelius" -- which is quite plausible -- or perhaps as an old first name in its own right, given to someone in hope that he will be humble... By the way, among Slavs this basic notion of korn- is not an insult, Poles and Russians etc. admire someone who's simple, honest, and humble; so whereas "humble, submissive, obedient" may not sound like virtues to us, a name from the root korn- could be thought of as having a positive connotation, the perfect name for a fellow who's good-hearted and not too full of himself.

It's interesting that as of 1990 there were 1,266 Polish citizens named Kornas (no accent over the s), another 1,631 named Kornaś (with the accent) -- but only 100 named Kornasiewicz. That's kind of unusual, as surnames patronymics are generally as common as the names they came from, if not more so. But there are exceptions, and this is one. The 100 Kornasiewicz'es lived in the provinces of: Warsaw (22), Bielsko-Biala (3), Katowice (5), Kielce (3), Krosno (56), Opole (1), Rzeszow (1), Skierniewice (3), Szczecin (1), and Wroclaw (5) -- unfortunately I have no access to further details, such as first names or addresses. This data fits well with your information, since Besko is in the province of Krosno in southeastern Poland, and that area has the largest concentration of Kornasiewicz'es in Poland. Southeastern Poland and western Ukraine comprised the "crownland" of Galicia in the Austrian Empire, and Krosno was right in the heart of it. So this data suggests you are looking in exactly the right place.


DULĘBA -- DULEMBA

… If I may bother you for just one more surname origin - it was my grandmother's maiden name: Dulemba.

This name can be spelled either Dulemba or Dulęba (with ę standing for the Polish nasal vowel written as E with a tail under it and pronounced like en, but before b or p like em) because both spellings sound like "doo-LEM-bah." There are many Polish surnames ultimately from the root dul-, "swelling, thickening," and this may be one of them. But although I can't find any confirmation of this in works by the experts, I suspect the name derives more directly from dulęba, a dialect term for an awkward, uncouth fellow. As of 1990 there were 2,199 Polish citizens who spelled the name Dulęba and another 618 who spelled it Dulemba, so it's a pretty common name (I don't know why it is, but there seem to be jillions of common Polish names from insulting terms, and only a few from complimentary ones!?). You can find Dulęba's or Dulemba's all over Poland, but the largest numbers of Dulęba's are in the provinces of Kielce (780) and Bydgoszcz (136), whereas Dulemba's are most common in the provinces of Katowice (136), Kielce (96), and Rzeszow (71).


BALKIEWICZ -- BOBROWSKI -- GRUNWALSKI

… Thank you for posting your interesting, informative information on Polish surnames. I'm trying to find more about mine--Balkiewicz, and also those of my maternal grandparents--Grunwalski and Bobrowski.

The suffix -ewicz means "son of," so Balkiewicz means "son of Balek, Balka, or Balko." This first name could develop in several ways, as a short form of Baltazar (by tradition the name of one of the Three Kings or Magi), from the Hungarian first name Bal, or from the Polish root bal- meaning "to tell tales." As of 1990 there were some 270 Polish citizens named Balkiewicz, scattered in many different provinces, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Elblag (60), Gdansk (25), Lodz (20), Olsztyn (20), and Ostrołęka (26) -- all in northern Poland, in what used to be Prussia. (I'm afraid I have no access to further details such as first names and addresses).

Names ending in -owski usually refer to a connection between a person or family and a place with a similar name; we'd expect Bobrowski to have started out meaning "person from Bobrow, Bobrowo, Bobry," etc. Those places, in tern, got their names from the root bóbr, "beaver." In effect, Bobrowski means "one from the place of the beavers." There are quite a few villages named Bobra, Bobry, Bobrowo, etc., so the name itself doesn't tell us which a given Bobrowski family was connected with. As of 1990 there were 5,874 Polish citizens named Bobrowski, so it's a pretty common name and probably developed independently in many different areas.

Grunwalski is surely an adjective meaning "of, from Grunwald." This is a German name meaning "green forest," and there are several places in Poland that are or have been called by that name (especially when western and northern Poland was ruled by Germany). The most famous Grunwald was the site of a battle in 1410 in which Polish and Lithuanian forces defeated the Teutonic Knights, a major event in the history of Poland. As of 1990 there were only 7 Grunwalski's in Poland, 6 in Katowice province and 1 in Opole province, so it's a pretty rare name -- but 1,269 Poles were named Grunwald! 

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


SOSZKA

… I was hoping that you could help understand the meaning of the last name of Soszka.

This name could develop two ways. It can be a diminutive form of socha, a forked branch, also a kind of primitive plow; so if a fellow used such a branch, or his shape reminded him of one, he might get the nickname "Soszka," "the little forked branch." The name can also derive as a short form of old pagan compound names beginning with So- such as Sobiesław -- these names were ancient, and as time went on the Poles liked to take the first part, drop the rest, and add suffixes. It's sort of like what we did with "Theodore" to get "Teddy." And just as "Teddy" doesn't really mean anything -- it's just a short form of Theodore, which originally meant "gift of the gods" -- so Soszka wouldn't really mean anything, but is just a short form of various older names that did originally mean something. At this point, centuries after names such as Soszka developed, it's difficult to say which of these two roots the name came from in the case of an individual family.

As of 1990 there were 1,167 Polish citizens named Soszka, living all over the country; the largest number of Soszka's lived in the provinces of Lublin (127), Siedlce (315), and Warsaw (154), so there is no one area the name is particularly associated with. (I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses).


GARDOLIŃSKI

… I have just moved from Brazil to the US, and I am living in Atlanta. My grandfather was the only Gardolinski who migrated to Brazil, and the rest of the family is still in Poland... I had Mr. Jan Pizczor research on the Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland, and he found only 18 occurrences in Poland, mainly in the Warsaw area... I already saw the origin of Garwolinski (which looks pretty close), and the prefix Gard- in your book. But I still feel that we may be able to get closer to the actual origin...

As Mr. Piszczor told you, this is a very rare name in Poland these days; only 18 Polish citizens had that name, and all but 4 lived in Warsaw province. And unfortunately, due to its rarety, it hasn't come in for any attention in any of the sources I have -- none of them mention it. I do feel the similarity to Garwoliński is deceptive, in that Gardoliński probably does not have anything to do with that name.

Most likely Gardoliński began as a reference to a connection between a person or family and a place named something like Gardolin, Gardolino, Gardola, etc. There are villages named Gardlin in both Białystok and Łomża provinces, and the surname might be connected with one or both of them. I'd expect a surname meaning "coming from Gardlin" to be Gardliński, but it's not out of the question that an -o- might slip in there. Other than that, none of my gazetteers or atlases mention a place with an appropriate name. Of course, this is not rare -- surnames typically formed several centuries ago, and since then many of the places that generated surnames have disappeared, been absorbed into other communities, changed their names, etc. So often we find a surname that clearly came from a place name, but can no longer find any trace of that place.

I note in a Polish encyclopedia mention of an Edmund Gardolinski, born 1914, a Polonian activist, engineer, and historian of the Polish community in Brazil, and a representative of Rio Grande do Sul in the legislature. Surely it's not assuming too much to suppose this was/is your grandfather? ... Unfortunately, that's the only prominent Gardolinski I can find any mention of.

The only way I know of to get a better answer on the name's derivation would be for you to spend $10-20 and contact the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow; they can correspond in English, and they do research into name origins, not genealogical research. If anyone can pin down the exact origin and derivation of this name, it would be the scholars of that Workshop. The address is given on page 177 (assuming you have the second edition of my book). I strongly suggest you write them and see if they can tell you anything.

And by the way, if you do write the Workshop and they give you a good answer, I'd be very interested in hearing what they say. I would gladly add Gardoliński to the next edition of my book, if I just had some info on the name's origin. So if you do write and get an answer, I'd appreciate very much getting a copy!


BRODZKI

… If you please, could you see if you have any info for the surname Brodzki. I believe we originated from the southlands of Poland, (Probably Russia Now). I haven't been able to turn up a single clue as of yet, any info you may have would be greatly appreciated.

As of 1990 there were 444 Brodzki's living in Poland proper -- but I have no data for the areas that used to be part of the Polish Commonwealth but now are in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine. The name can derive from many different roots, including broda, "beard," bro'd, "ford, wading-place," from short forms of ancient pagan Slavic names such as Brodzisław, etc. But from what you say, it seems in your case the most likely derivation is from the name of the town of Brody, a county seat in what used to be Galicia (the territory ruled by Austria after the partitions) and now in Ukraine. If that's so, the name would mean basically just "one from Brody." As I say, I have no data for anywhere but Poland in its modern boundaries, so I can't tell you how common a name Brodzki is in Ukraine (of course, it would be spelled in Cyrillic, and would be written in English phonetic values more like Brodsky).


HODYL

… I have been trying to find some information on the surname Hodyl. This was my grandfather's name (Rafal Hodyl) and all we know is that he came from Naliboki, somewhere in Belarus. He was born in 1904, immigrated to US and died 1989 in NY. He married Josefa Adamciewicz, also from that area. I think the area was Poland at the time, since my family claims Polish ancestry. I cannot find any information on this name. Someone once told me that Hodyl may have been the name of a river? or stream? in that area, but it also may have been a Dutch surname...

As of 1990 there were 135 Poles named Hodyl, scattered in numerous provinces all over Poland, with no concentration in any one area; I'm afraid I only have data for Poland in its current boundaries, so anyone living by this name still living in Belarus would not show up. And there have been sizable numbers of Poles living in Belarus for centuries now -- Belarus was long part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, so it's quite credible that people living there could be of Polish ancestry.

None of my sources mention anything about this specific name's derivation. A number of names beginning with Hod- and Chod- (in Polish h and ch are pronounced exactly the same, kind of like the guttural ch in German "Bach") are given as deriving from the root chod-, "to walk, go," and this same root is used in Russian and Ukrainian (in Belarusian it appears with an a sound rather than an o); among these names are Chodyła, which would mean something like "the guy who likes to walk, who's always walking." It is quite plausible that Hodyl is more or less the same thing, although as I say, none of my sources say so specifically.

If Hodyl is the name of a river or stream, I can't find it on any of my maps. But often surnames did come from names of little streams -- sort of a verbal shorthand meaning the family lived near the stream -- and there certainly could be such a stream that wouldn't show up on my maps (which are not too detailed). Naliboki (now Nalibaki in Belarus) is on a river named Lebiezada, about 110 km. from Oszmiana (now Asmiany in Belarus) and 160 km. from Wilno (now Vilnius in Lithuania).

It's interesting that there is a village called Hadzilivichy in Belarus, also called Hadzilowicze and Hodzilowicze by the Poles, about which a late 19th-century Polish gazetteer says this:

"Hadzilowiczevillage, Rohaczew county, on the Warsaw-Moscow highway, not far from Rohaczew and Dowsk, 300 Orthodox males. School, brick Orthodox church."

I mention this because the Hadzilov- form is Belarusian, but Poles would call it Hodzilowicze and Ukrainians would call it Hodylowicze -- and the name means "[place of] the sons of Hodyl." In other words, if you factor in each language's phonetic tendencies, this village name comes from more or less the same root as your surname. That doesn't mean the two are related in any way, but it's at least interesting. This village is just a few km. east of Rohaczew, as the Poles call it, or Ragachev, as the Belarusians call it.

As for a Dutch connection -- well, it's possible. A lot of Dutch and Germans were invited to come settle in sparsely-populated areas of the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, as farmers and skilled craftsmen they were highly desirable colonists. So I can't rule out a Dutch origin. But let's just say this: the name makes perfect sense in a Slavic context, there's certainly no reason to assume there had to be a Dutch connection. But we can't rule it out.


ZAPOLSKI

… My grandfather came to America from Poland at the age of 14. His parents remained in Poland and he never saw them again. I really know very little about the Poland side of the family. Only his birth city (Barglow, Suwałki in 1984). I am trying to do research on his and my last name (Zapolski). Can you give me information on it and his mothers maiden name which is Pucrsztowskich?

The surname Zapolski comes from the term zapole, "corn bin," or from the place name Zapole, which may come from that word or from za, "past, beyond" + pole, "field" -- unfortunately, there are over 70 villages in Poland called Zapole, so it's very hard to say with any certainty which one a given Zapolski family might have been connected with back when surnames were originating, several centuries ago.

As of 1990 there were 1,066 Polish citizens named Zapolski, of whom the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Białystok (143), Olsztyn (89), and Suwałki (201) in northeast Poland; so yur grandfather came from the general area where the name is most common, although you see it all over the country... With the link to northeastern Poland, I suggest you investigate joining the Polish Genealogical Society of the Northeast, 8 Lyle Rd., New Britain CT 06053. A lot of their members come from the Białystok-Łomża region, so they've specialized in that area and just might be able to offer you some good leads. I think it's worth a try.

I'm afraid I can't help you with Pucrsztowskich, because it's not the correct form of the name -- just as one can tell that Anderqswn is not the right spelling of an English name, certain letter combinations just don't occur in given languages, and "Pucrsz-" is not Polish (or any other language I know of). I can say that the -ch ending is almost certainly a grammatical ending that should be dropped. Maiden names are often given in Polish records as, for instance, Anna z Grabowskich, which means literally "Anna of the Grabowski's"; to get the standard form of the name you drop the -ch. But as I say, Pucrsztowski still doesn't work.

Sometimes I can look at a mangled name and figure out what the original form was, but I can't get this one -- there are too many possibilities. If you find some record that gives you another form, let me know and I'll see if I can tell you anything about it.


ZACHARZEWSKI

… I saw your piece on the PGSA pages, and was wondering whether you had any information on the surname Zacharzewski (my original surname).

Like all names ending in -ski, this one is adjectival, meaning basically "of, pertaining to the __ of Zachary," and you fill in the blank with an appropriate word, such as "family," "place," "estate," etc. It could have been applied in some instances to people who were kin of a man named Zachary, but I'd think more often it would mean "person from Zacharzów, Zacharzew, Zacharzewo," etc., where those are all place names meaning "Zachary's place." Presumably at some point a Zachary owned or founded such a village, or was prominent there. I notice on the map there are at least four places that could generate this surname, Zacharz in Piotrkow province, Zacharzów in Radom province, Zacharzew in Kalisz province, and Zacharzowice in Katowice province. There could well be more, places too small to show up on my maps, or ones that have changed their names or disappeared in the centuries since the surname was established. Zacharzew is the best fit, followed by Zacharzów, but the truth is, the surname Zacharzewski could very well have started as a reference to any of those places.

As of 1990 there were 888 Polish citizens named Zacharzewski; the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Gdansk (56), Łomża (87), and Warsaw (63), with smaller numbers scattered in numerous other provinces. (I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses). So unfortunately neither the name nor its distribution gives us any firm clues that would let us point to a specific place and say "That's where the name comes from." Different families with this name could have come from different places.


POZORSKI

… I wonder whether you have come across Pozorski as a surname in the course of your studies? I have been unable to find out much about it, other than that we are the only Pozorski family in the United Kingdom, which may indicate that it is relatively rare.

In Poland Pozorski is not an extremely common name, as such things go, but neither is it rare -- as of 1990 there were 1,409 Polish citizens named Pozorski. They lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers (40+) in the provinces of: Bydgoszcz (484), Elblag (47), Gdansk (365), Pila (60), Slupsk (57), Szczecin (53), and Torun (44). The name is thought to have derived from the archaic term pozor, "semblance, appearance."

With that distribution pattern, it is at least possible this name is associated with the ethnic group known as the Kaszubs; they are closely related to the Poles, but have their own language and customs, and represent a fascinating subject in their own right. If you would like to learn a little more, you might benefit by visiting the Webpage of the Kashubian Association of North America: http://feefhs.org/kana/frg-kana.html  

I'm not positive Pozorski is a Kaszub name, but that distribution pattern of greatest frequency in the provinces of Gdansk and Bydgoszcz is typically Kaszubian -- those are their ancestral lands. So there is at least a decent chance your family may have some Kaszub connections, and if so the Website of KANA may offer some valuable leads. I hope so, and I hope this information proves helpful to you!


AUGUSTYN -- AUGUSTYNIAK -- KĘSEK

… I am trying to find out information on the family surname of Kensek. Apparently we spell it "kensek". My uncle spells it "kesek". And my grandfather who came to the US told the census taker of 1920 that it was "kiesek".

It's tough to give anything reliable on a name if you don't have a reliable spelling -- change one letter, and it can make all the difference in the world. Still, it sounds to me as if we're probably dealing with the name Kęsek (ę is how we represent on-line the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under it and pronounced most of the time like en); we often see ę spelled en in names, so that Kęsek would often show up as Kensek. As for Kiesek, that's not too hard to explain; in proper Polish the combination Ke- is not supposed to happen, there should always be an I between them, thus Kie-. That rule doesn't apply to nasal ę, but many Poles would stick an i in there anyway, by force of habit. So Kesek, Kensek, and Kiesek would all make sense if the original name was Kęsek.

This name comes from the root seen in kęs, "piece, bit," and kęsy, "short, scanty"; the suffix -ek is a diminutive, meaning either "little" or in names "son of." My best guess is that this name would be applied to a short fellow or his son. As of 1990 there were 674 Polish citizens named Kęsek, with by far the largest numbers in the provinces of Krakow (448) and Nowy Sacz (49) in southcentral Poland. There are smaller numbers of Kęsek's living in other provinces, but the Krakow-Nowy Sacz area is the site of the main concentration.

… My grandmother's maiden name was something like "agustyn" or "agustynick".

It's pretty certain this would be a surname formed from the first name Augustyn, in English "Augustine." The most likely candidates are Augustyn (7,143 Poles had that surname as of 1990), Augustyniak (14,211, meaning "son of Augustine"), or perhaps Agustyniak (13, a variant of Augustyniak, meaning the same thing). The variant Agustyniak is quite rare, but is possible; the other forms are extremely common. The Chicago-area Polish-language newspaper Dziennik Chicagoski had an obit in its 28 Dec 1927 issue for a Jan Agustyniak, and as best I can determine that was how he spelled his name, it wasn't a misprint for Augustyniak... Those are the surnames that seem most likely to be relevant in your case.

If you want to see if you can find more Agustyniak's, you might visit the Website of the Polish Genealogical Society of America at www.pgsa.org and use their searchable databases for the Chicagoski obits, and also for Haller's Army volunteers, to look up the name. Who knows, you might find some relatives?


PILARCZYK

… I have been thoroughly enjoying reading your responses on the PGSA web site. I'm researching the Pilarczyk side of my family (from Krempa, but the parish church is in Tuliszkow). From responses that you have posted, it looks like my ancestors are "sons of sawyers" - is that correct

Yes, it is, and it's a pleasure to talk to someone who actually bothers to read what I write and understand it! So often I have to bite my tongue to keep myself from screaming "I've already answered that, it's right there in black and white!" I know that's overreacting, but repeating the same thing gets frustrating after a while -- so it's gratifying to deal with someone who has read and comprehended!

… There are only about 100 people with the surname of Pilarczyk scattered across America. I haven't found the name in telephone directories for the larger cities in Poland. Is it uncommon?

I'm afraid not, as of 1990 there were 4,267 Polish citizens named Pilarczyk, and by Polish standards anything over 1,000 has to be considered moderately common. The Pilarczyk's lived all over the country -- which makes sense in view of the meaning of the name, it obviously could develop anywhere they spoke Polish and had sawyers who had sons. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of: Kalisz 586, Katowice 409, Konin 379, Lodz 228, Poznan 393, but there was no part of the country that didn't have at least some Pilarczyk's living there. Some of the 379 in Konin province probably live near the Krempa/Tuliszków area and may be related, but obviously with numbers of this sort it's dangerous to jump to conclusions... Unfortunately, the source from which I got this data does not include first names or addresses, and I don't have access to those details.


DRANKA – DYNDA – IMBOR -- IWASZKO – JAPOLA – KOJDER – KUCZUN – ŁACHMAN – MOSOŃ -- OSIKOWICZ – RZESZUTEK – SOKOLOW – TRYNDA -- WATARZ

[Here are brief notes on a number of names. Please note, these days I don’t have time to answer queries on more than three names – if you send me a note asking about more, I’ll just ignore it. – WFH]

Dranka appears to come from dranka, "batten, board." As of 1990 there were 338 Poles by this name, with a clump in Krosno province (153) and a few scattered here and there all over.

Dynda comes from the verb dyndać, "to dangle, swing," or dynda, "something dangling, swinging." As of 1990 there were 293 Poles by this name, concentrated mainly in Nowy Sacz province (109) and Rzeszow province (70) in southcentral and southeastern Poland.

Iwaszko would be an East Slavic name from Iwan, the Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian version of "John"; Iwaszko would be sort of like "Johnny" in English. As of 1990 there were 1,651 Polish citizens named Iwaszko, scattered all over.

Imbor, pronounced sort of like "EEM-bore," almost certainly comes from the root imbir, "ginger"; I imagine it refers to the spice or to ginger-colored hair or something similar, not to Ginger on "Gilligan's Island." As of 1990 there were 129 Poles named Imbor (with the largest numbers in Katowice province, 28, and Kielce province 52), as well as 395 named Imbierowicz ("son of ginger") and 118 named Imbiorski ("of, from, pertaining to ginger").

Japola is a mystery, I could find nothing on it. However, as of 1990 there were 6 Japola's (5 in Lublin province, 1 in Przemysl province), and 28 Poles named Japoł (12 in Nowy Sacz province, 9 in Szczecin province), also 8 named Japołł, all in Krakow province.

As of 1990 there were 858 Kojder's in Poland. This was a name I could find nothing on -- it sounds to me as if it might be German, perhaps Keuder or something like that, but I came up empty trying to pin this one down. The Kojder's were most common in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (150), Jelenia Gora (122), Przemysl (128), and Rzeszow (105), thus in southern Poland.

Kuczun is a tough one, there are three roots it could come from: 1) kuczyć, "to tease, annoy"; 2) kucza, "hut, tent," or kuczka, "small heap." As of 1990 there were 33 Poles by that name, living in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 4, Jelenia Gora 4, Kielce 6, Slupsk 13, Tarnow 3, Walbrzych 3 -- in other words, they were scattered all over the country.

Łachman is either a variant of łach, "rag, clout, clothes," or a Polonized form of German Lachmann, "one dwelling by a pool." As of 1990 there were 476 Lachman's in Poland (most common in Krakow province, 145, and Katowice province, 50), 74 Lachmann's. There were 249 Łachman's, 100 in Krakow province and 76 in Tarnobrzeg province and a few scattered in other provinces.

Mosoń (the ~ signifies an accent over n) is one of numerous names thought to have derived from abbreviations or nicknames of first names beginning with Mo-, such as Mojsław or Mojżesz (Moses). Poles often took the first part of such names, dropped the rest, and added suffixes, so Mosoń would mean no more than "Teddy" does in English -- it started as a nickname for a longer name that did originally mean something (like Teddy from Theodore, from a Greek name meaning "gift of the gods"). As of 1990 there were 405 Poles named Mosoń, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Krosno (82) and Tarnow (82) in southeastern Poland.

Osikowicz means "son of the aspen"; the -owicz suffix means "son of," and osika is "the aspen tree." It may have referred to the son of a fellow who lived near aspens, or worked with them, or something of that sort. As of 1990 there were 170 Osikowicz'es in Poland, with something of a concentration in southcentral Poland (22 in Krakow province, 38 in Nowy Sacz province, 30 in Katowice province).

Rzeszutek is a moderately common name (1,763 as of 1990) from the term rzeszoto, "sieve, grain measurement."

Sokołów comes from the root sokół, "falcon." Surnames from this root are very common, as comparisons to the falcon made for a complimentary name, and there were also numerous places named Sokoly or something similar because there were lots of falcons there. Sokołów is one of the rarer surnames from this root, as of 1990 there were only 131 Sokołów's, scattered all over the country, with the only large number in Warsaw province (47).

Trynda is thought to come from the verb tryndać się, "to shuffle one's feet, squirm." As of 1990 there were 218 Poles named Trynda, with the largest numbers in the southcentral provinces of Czestochowa (81) and Katowice (37) and the southeastern province of Zamosc (35).

Watarz appears to come from wata, which can mean "cotton wadding" or "large drag-net" -- my guess is a watarz would be someone who used a large drag-net, but I can't be sure. As of 1990 there was only 1 Watarz in Poland.


BARNISZKE -- KRAWIECKI -- SIEKIERKA -- S^NARPUNAS

… I am interested in the names of: Siekierka (Anastasia- b.May 1829 ) in Ksiestwo Poznanskie, Poland…

Siekierka comes from the term siekiera, "ax, hatchet"; the -ka suffix is diminutive, so that the name means "little ax," possibly a name given the son of a man known for a connection with this weapon (perhaps he made them, was especially handy at using them, etc.). As of 1990 there were 1,026 Siekierka's in Poland; they lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (136), Katowice (130), and Opole (140), all in southcentral and soutwestern Poland. There were only 17 in the modern-day province of Poznan; unfortunately, I don't have access to first names or addresses or any other details beyond what I've given here... By the way, "Wielkie Księstwo Poznańskie" means "Grand Duchy of Poznan," it was the name of a political entity that existed 1815-1918, of which the city of Poznan (German "Posen") was the capital.

… Sznarpunas or Sznapunas, Sznaspunas ( Joseph- b.Feb 1864) Littan, Poland…

There was no one by any of these names in Poland as of 1990 -- we are almost certainly dealing with a Lithuanian name here. I wonder if "Littan" might not be Littau, German for "Lithuania," or Litwa, the Polish name for that country? This surname and Barniszke are almost certainly Lithuanian, or at least influenced by Lithuanian. Lithuania was an integral part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth for centuries, and many Poles lived there. It's possible the records are saying these people came from Lithuania, Poland, which makes sense because Lithuania was long considered part of Poland (although Lithuanians would disagree!), and you often see Lithuanian names referred to as "Polish" by those who didn't know any better.

There is a known surname in Lithuania, S^narpunas (with a little caret over the first S, giving it the sound of "sh" in English, which is spelled sz in Polish); it is apparently found mainly in the area of Vilkavis^kis (Polish name Wilkowyszki). According to Lith. experts, it comes from a verb s^narpti, meaning "to gulp soup, make a rather unpleasant sound clearing one's nose." A person might have gotten this as a nickname because of a habit, and it stuck -- there are many, many names in Polish and Lithuanian that are uncomplimentary, even insulting; compared to some, this is mild!

… Barniszke- Litan, Poland…

There was no one by this name, or anything like it, in Poland as of 1990. As I said, this name, too, sounds Lithuanian; it could be a Polonized form of Lithuanian Barnis^kis, from Lithuanian forms of the first name "Bernard."

…Kraiviecka- also from Littan, Poland…

Well, if this is a Polish name, it's misspelled -- Polish doesn't use the letter V. It may well be a misreading of Krawiecka, the feminine form of Krawiecki, or it could be a Lithuanian-influenced spelling. Krawiecki is a moderately common surname, borne by 1,090 Polish citizens as of 1990. It comes from the word krawiec, "tailor," and is literally an adjective meaning simply "of, from, pertaining to a tailor."

You might wish to learn more about this possible Lithuanian connection by going to this address: http://www.lithuaniangenealogy.org


KWIATEK

… Here's a request that has been challenged by a friend that does not believe in the power, potential and capabilities of the internet. Her Polish last name is Kwiatek, and she wants to know what it means. Can you help?

This one's not even a challenge. Kwiatek comes from the Polish root kwiat, "flower." The suffix -ek is a diminutive, so the name means literally "little flower." Surnames from this root are very common in Poland, and this is no exception; as of 1990 there were 5,448 Polish citizens named Kwiatek. I would give you a breakdown of where they lived by province, but it would be kind of pointless; there's no particular pattern to the distribution, it's just a fairly common name all over the country... This name appears in Polish records as far back as 1136 – a papal Bull in Latin from that date mentions "Ponat, Quatec, Targossa," where "Quatec" is a Latin phonetic spelling of Kwiatek (quoted in Najdawniejsze zabytki jezyka polskiego [The Most Ancient Relics of the Polish Language], ed. W. Taszycki, Biblioteka Narodowa, seria I, nr. 104, 3rd edition, Wroclaw 1951, p. 70) -- so it has been around a long time!


GARCZYŃSKI

… Could you provide any information on the Surname Garczynski. I did some research from his Naturalization Form and it says that he came from (I'm not sure of the first letter but it looks like an L) Leullmaini, Germany,Poland.

Garczyński is a moderately common name in Poland; as of 1990 there were 2,366 Polish citizens by that name, living all over the country but with particularly large numbers (200+) in the provinces of Warsaw (217), Lodz (238), Poznan (314). The derivation of the name is not clear; it could come from the dialect term garczyna, "pot, broken pot," also used in a symbolic sense to mean "poor or sickly person." But it may also refer to origin in a place named Garcz or Garczyn; my guess is that in a lot of cases the name started as a way of calling someone who came from the village of Garczyn in Gdansk province, or Garczyn Duzy in Siedlce province. But it's likely there isn't just one Garczyński family, but the name developed independently in different places, perhaps in most cases from these two places I've mentioned (or others with similar names too small to show up on my maps), maybe in a few cases also from that term garczyna.

That "Leullmaini" doesn't look or sound right for either German or Polish -- I'm afraid it's been misread. It's probably a town or village in that part of northern or western Poland ruled for a long time by Germany. If you could be sure what it says, that would help you a lot. If there's any way you could get a copy of that form to me (scan it and attach it as a graphics file to an E-mail note, or mail it to me), I'd be willing to look at it and see if I can figure out what it says.


ROZMARYNO[W]SKI

… Hi, I am interested in finding out about the surname, Rosemarynoski.

The standard form of this name in Polish is Rozmarynowski, but it makes perfect sense that it could come to be spelled the way you write it in English. The -owski is properly pronounced "off-skee" in Polish, but in many parts of the country they barely pronounce that "ff" sound, so that it comes out more like "-ah-skee." Thus Rosemarynoski is a pretty good way of writing how Rozmarynowski sounds to those of us used to English phonetic values.

The root of the name is rozmaryn, the Polish word for the herb "rosemary" (both English and Polish get this word from Latin rosmarinus). The surname, like all names ending in -ski, is an adjective, meaning literally "of, from, pertaining to the __ of rosemary," where you fill in the blank with something implied and understood, something that doesn't need to be said. It could be "kin," it could be "place." So the surname could mean "of, from, pertaining to the kin of Rosmaryn," with that used as a first name. This seems possible because there is also a surname Rozmarynowicz, "son of Rozmaryn," so this may have been used as a first name.

But more likely in most cases is that the surname means "person from Rozmarynowo," where that is the name of a village, literally "the place of rosemary," i. e., a place where there was a lot of rosemary around. One of my gazetteers mentions a Rozmarynowo in the county of Wrzesnia in or near Poznan province; I can't find it on any of my maps, it may be too small to show up, or it may have disappeared, or it may have changed its name. After all, most surnames are at least a couple of centuries old, and many, many surnames refer to places that have since changed names or disappeared, etc. But it makes sense that a person or family who came from this place (and possibly others too small to show up in my sources) known for its rosemary might come to be called Rozmarynowski, i. e., "one from Rozmarynowo" = "one from the place of rosemary."

As of 1990 there were 1,055 Polish citizens named Rozmarynowski; they lived all over the country, with the largest numbers (50+) in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (98), Gdansk (54), Katowice (62), Pila (135), Poznan (79), Sieradz (124), and Warsaw (54). There was no one who spelled the name Rozmarynoski, without the w, but that's not odd -- the spelling of names has been somewhat standardized over the last century, so people have gotten used to writing names as -owski even if they don't pronounce them that way. Rosemarynoski is a purely English spelling, so it's not surprising no one in Poland spelled the name that way.


KUBISIAK

… My husband's family name is Kubisiak. We have very little information about the family except that they came from Posnine, Poland (which I can't locate). His great grandfather's name was Michael John Kubisiak born at Posnine. Michael fathers name was Stahley and mother was Kathan. We think Kathan was from Germany and her fathers name was Michal Novich and her mothers last name was Morski. I do not have any dates of births, deaths, etc. My husband is 39 years old.

Well, there is a limit to how much I can tell anyone about specific families -- I just don't have the data. I can, however, suggest that "Posnine, Poland" is probably "Poznan," one of the major cities of Poland. If an American asked a Pole where he came from and the Pole answered "Poznan," the American would probably write what he heard as "Posnine." So I think it's very likely Poznan (called Posen by the Germans when they ruled the area) is what you're looking for... The bad news is that in Poland such administrative subdivisions as provinces (wojewodztwa) and counties (powiaty) and districts (gminy) are named for the town in which their administrative centers were located; Poznan has been the center of various such subdivisions, and often when people said where they came from, they were referring to the province or county of Poznan, not the city. In other words, "I come from Poznan" might have meant not the city but the whole region of which Poznan was the capital, which historically was larger than the modern-day province of Poznan. So you want to start by assuming your husband's family came from the city of Poznan -- it's a big place, lots of people did -- but there's no guarantee that assumption will prove correct.

"Michael John Kubisiak" would appear in Polish records as "Michał Jan Kubisiak" (I'm using ł to stand for the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w). "Stahley" and "Kathan" make no sense, those aren't Polish names; I'm guessing "Stahley" should be "Stanley," which is an English name often used as an equivalent to Polish "Stanisław." As for "Kathan," I have to guess here -- it seems most likely to be a misreading or misspelling of "Katarzyna," the Polish form of "Catherine."

Now, as for the surname Kubisiak, it breaks down as Kubis + -iak. Kubis is a nickname derived from the last part of the first name Jakub (Jacob); for some reason English-speakers never formed a nickname from that part, but Poles and Germans formed several, and Kubis is one -- it would be kind of like "Jake" or "Jakey" in English. The -iak suffix usually means "son of" in surnames, so the surname started out meaning "Kubis's son," referring to some member of the family named Kubis who was fairly prominent in his community at the time surnames were becoming established.

Surnames formed from first names are pretty common in Poland, and Kubisiak is no exception -- as of 1990 there were 1,405 Polish citizens named Kubisiak. They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Kalisz (142), Lodz (126), Poznan (192). The significant number of Kubisiaks living in the Poznan province suggests that could well be where your husband's ancestors came from. Unfortunately, this still doesn't narrow the search down enough to do you much good.

I hate to say it, but to have any realistic chance of tracing the family in Poland, you're going to have to have more info from some source -- naturalization papers, ship passenger lists, records at a church (often marriage or baptismal records give info on family origins). Even if the family came from the city of Poznan rather than the surrounding area, Poznan is too big to track down one family with a name as common as Kubisiak. To make any progress tracing the family in Poland, you absolutely have to have the correct name, birthdate, and birthplace of the ancestor who emigrated. Until you have those, your chances of getting anywhere are pretty slim. I realize you were probably hoping the surname would provide a clue or a lead, but the truth is I have to disappoint people who hope for that about 95% of the time. Most Polish names just don't offer any information that helps significantly with research.


TOMAKA

… I would appreciate any information on the Polish name of "Tomaka". I was told my Grandfather named "Wojciech Tomaka" came from Oswiencima, Poland, but I think the spelling should be Oswiecim, Poland.

As of 1990 there were 527 Polish citizens named Tomaka, living in small numbers in numerous provinces but with by far the largest concentration, 306, living in the province of Rzeszow, in southeastern Poland. There were only 8 in Krakow province, which is where Oswiecim is located -- actually there are 2 Oswiecim's, there's another one in Kalisz province, but the one near Krakow is the famous one, known in German as Auschwitz. The spelling Oswiencima does not contradict origin in Oswiecim. In Polish, Oswiecim is spelled with an accent over the s, giving it a slight "sh" sound, and a tail under the e, giving it the sound of en; so it's not at all unusual to see Polish names with that nasal e spelled also with en instead, Oswiecim = Oswiencim. As for the final -a, that is probably just an ending dictated by Polish grammar, for instance "from Oswiecim" is z Oswiecima, and in such cases the case ending should be dropped to arrive at the standard form of the name... I should add that the data given above is all I have access to; in other words, I cannot get further details such as first names or addresses of any of those Tomaka's in this province or that.

Actually, it's possible the surname in question is Tomak, and that final -a there, too, is a case ending dictated by grammar. But I notice as of 1990 there were only 63 Tomak's, as opposed to 527 Tomaka's, so the numbers suggest the latter is indeed the name you're interested in. The names mean much the same thing, so it's not a major issue which is meant, but Tomaka seems correct.

This name comes from the first name Tomasz, "Thomas." Poles often formed nicknames (which could later become established as surnames in their own right) by taking the first few sounds of a popular first name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes (not unlike "Tommy" in English). Tomaka probably should be broken down as Tom- + -ak- + -a, where Tom- is from Tomasz, -ak is a suffix meaning "little, son of," and -a is an ending meaning "of," so that the name began as meaning "[kin] of Tom's son." Tomak, by contrast, would be simply "Tom's son" or "little Tom." Tomak appears in records as far back as 1369, I can't explain why it is now rare and Tomaka is much more common; sometimes these things just happen with names, perhaps because Poles just liked the sound of one more than the other.


DUBIEL -- DZIEDZIAK -- STEMPIEŃ -- STĘPIEŃ

… I am just beginning to research my Polish genealogy and was wondering if you have any information on the following names: My maiden name is Stempien. The other names I am interested in are Dziedziak and Dubiel (two grandparents with that name).

Dziedziak comes from the root dziad, "old man, grandfather." The suffix -iak, in names, usually means "son of" -- the vowel -a- in dziad often changes to -e- when suffixes are added -- so the basic meaning of this name is "son of the old man, grandfather's son," something like that. Another possible source is a short form of ancient Slavic names with this root _dziad- such as Dziadumil ("dear to grandfather"), so in some cases the name may have started as "son of Dziad" or some other nickname formed from one of those old names. The bottom line in either case, however, is derivation from that root dziad, one way or another. As of 1990 there were 501 Poles by this name; they lived all over the country, but with a particular concentration (208) in Nowy Sacz province, in southcentral Poland. In Polish the name is pronounced roughly "JED-jock."

I'm afraid Dubiel, pronounced roughly "DOOB-yell," is one of many names that are not very complimentary: it comes from dubiel, "stupid person, simpleton" according to Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut and others. I guess there were a lot of stupid people in Poland, as this is a pretty common name: there were 8,722 Poles named Dubiel as of 1990, living all over the country but especially common in southcentral and southeastern Poland.

[Subsequent analysis by Polish name experts has established that dubiel is also a term referring to a specific kind of small fish, Carpio collari. A connection is also possible with dub, which means "oak tree" in Belarusian, Russian, and Ukrainian. So it is quite possible that, in a given instance, the surname referred to some connection between an ancestor and this fish, or to oaks, and not to any lack of mental acuity. Without more information on a specific Dubiel family's history, it's impossible to say for sure which derivation applies in a given case.]

Stempien is even more common, as of 1990 there were 1,163 Poles by that name and another 42,062 who spelled it Stępień. I'm using ę to stand for the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under it, pronounced like en or, before b or p, like em; the ń stands for n with an accent over it. So the name is pronounced roughly "STEMP-yen," and since that em sound can be written either ę or em, you see it spelled either way; but the "correct" or standard spelling is Stępień. Rymut says it probably comes from the archaic term stępień or wstępień, "newcomer to a group, next in line for a position of authority," from the basic root stęp- meaning "step, pace." Some names beginning with Stęp- come from stępnik, "worker who prepares material for processing in a mill [stępa]," so that might also be relevant -- but since this particular name matches the term stępień exactly, I think that's probably what it comes from. It, too, is common all over the country, but especially in south central and southeastern Poland.


OSIEWAŁA -- OSIWAŁA

… My grandfather was from Lodz, Poland and his last name was Osiwala. Born in Lodz, 20/Oct/1890, given name: Ignatius. Other spellings are Osiewala and Osiwalla.

Ignatius is the Latin form of the name Poles call Ignacy -- I just wanted to mention that so that if you run across that form, you will recognize it and have no doubt that the names are, indeed, equivalent.

Osiwala is a little tricky, because Osiwała could possibly be a variant of another name, or it could be an independent surname with its own meaning -- it could come from the verb osiwieć, meaning "to turn grey." (By the way, I'm using ł to stand for the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w). The -ała suffix (also often seen as -ala or -alla) usually implies continual or repeated performance of the action, or manifestation of the trait, denoted by the first part of the name. Osiwała, in effect, would be a name given a person whose hair had turned grey, probably prematurely and due to worry and care. This is plausible. The only thing against this explanation is that we'd expect the form to be Osiwiała, not Osiwała, that is, there really should be an extra -i- stuck in after the w. Also, it might be more likely to see the ending -y, not -a, on the name as borne by a man.

The other possibility is that it's a variant of Osiewała -- which, in fact, you mention as a form you've encountered -- and that comes from the verb osiewać, "to sow, sift." Thus Osiewała would mean "the sifter, the sower."

As of 1990 there were 52 Poles with the name Osiwała, living in the following provinces: Warsaw 8, Jelenia Gora 6, Kalisz 5, Katowice 5, Konin 3, Lodz 18, Opole 2, Piotrkow 2, Zielona Gora 3. (Unfortunately I have no access to further details, such as first names or addresses; what I've given here is all I have.) There were 423 Osiewała's, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Kalisz (127), Lodz (81), and Sieradz (96), and less than 30 in several other provinces.

Since Osiewała is the more common name, it seems likely that Osiwała is just a variant form of it. The pronunciation of both is very similar, "oh-shee-VAH-wah" (Osiwała) vs. "oh-sheh-VAH-wah" (Osiewała), in other words the only difference is that in Osiwała that i is pronounced like our long e, in Osiewała the ie is pronounced like our short e. So that's the most likely derivation. But I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the possibility that, at least in some cases, Osiwała might be a name in its own right, meaning "one whose hair has turned grey."

Even if you wrote Polish name experts, I'm not sure they could answer this question for you without detailed information on your specific family. So what I suggest is that you continue your research -- obviously concentrating on the region of Lodz, since your facts and the data above suggest that's one of the main places this name is found -- and see which form predominates in the records. If you see it spelled Osiwała or Osiwiała more often than not, it may refer to a grey-haired person. But if Osiewała is the form you encounter more often, that "sow, sift" root is probably the right derivation. All things being equal, that's the one I'd put my money on... If you would like to write name experts in Poland and get their opinion, see the Introduction to my page on Polish surnames, specifically the paragraph on the Pracownia Antroponimiczna in Krakow.


DŁUTOWSKI

Dłutowski (the ł standing for the Polish l with a slash through it) is not all that common in Poland, but as of 1990 there were 297 Poles by that name; the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (81), Ciechanow (70), and Wroclaw (36) smaller numbers in several other provinces. The name probably comes in most cases from villages named Dłutów, Dłutowo, Dłutowek, etc. There are at least 8 places by thos names, all of which could yield Dłutowski as a name for a person from there. The place names are thought to come from the term dłuto, "chisel, engraver's tool." In some cases the surname Dłutowski might also have started as meaning something like "kin of the engraver." Hope this is some help!


PYSZ

… Can you give me any information about the meaning or origin of the name Pysz. I believe this is a Russian/Polish name from the Polish provinces of Galicia

According to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut, the name Pysz shows up in records as early as 1389, and comes from the root seen in the words pycha, "pride, conceit," pyszny, "proud, haughty," and pysznić się, "to strut, put on airs." As of 1990 there were 1,033 Polish citizens named Pysz, living all over the country, but with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (395), Katowice (161), in southcentral Poland, and Przemysl (43), Rzeszow (78), and Tarnobrzeg (39) in southeastern Poland. (Unfortunately, I don't have access to more details such as first names and addresses). The area of main concentration does coincide pretty well with western Galicia, as you expected.


LICHNIAK

… My grandfather Lichniak came from Nowominsk, Poland, Russia. My mother thought he made up this name. Apparently, he was the black sheep of the family. Is Lichniak a surname - or could it have been made up. Since I am attempting to do my genealogy, I think I need this cleared up.

Lichniak is a real name, although not a particularly common one -- as of 1990 there were only 81 Polish citizens named Lichniak. They lived in the provinces of Warsaw (52), Jelenia Gora (1), Siedlce (20), Skierniewice (2), and Suwałki (6) -- unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses... If I'm not mistaken, Nowominsk would be the town now called Minsk Mazowiecki, in Warsaw province -- this area was under Russian rule for most of the 19th century until about 1918. So the facts fit together pretty well, and it seems likely some or most of the 52 Lichniak's in Warsaw province are relatives.

I wouldn't think Lichniak is a name most people would make up or voluntarily adopt, because the root lich- means "bad, evil" in Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, etc.; in Polish it means "bad" less in the sense of "evil" than in the sense of "miserable, shoddy, lousy." The -iak suffix usually means "son of" in names, so Lichniak would seem to mean "son of the miserable one." I guess a black sheep might take a name like that, just to spite people or be different. But it's not a name most people would go out of their way to adopt, so I'd be inclined to think it's real and treat it as such until you have good reason to think it's made up.


ŁUC

… I am looking for information on my last name. Father grew up in Detroit, Michigan near Hamtramck(sp.); my grandparents (Stanislaw and Anna Łuc) were from Poland/Austria died when I was very small and never learned to speak English, but the whole family used Luc as their last name. My father did not speak English until he was 9. The history of my last name that I had been told was that it was really spelled Łuc and pronounced Wootz.

Yes, Łuc would indeed be pronounced "wootz."

… I spoke to someone online once who told me that my last name was not Polish, nor was my name located in any surname books. I am aware that there are many surnames, but since my father's death and my inability to locate any of my relatives, I am feeling a little detached. I always felt I knew where I came from, etc. Now, I'm not so sure. Maybe I should embrace my other ethnic background, Irish. I definitely have been able to trace back that heritage.

I'm starting to get a little angry -- I hear fairly often from people whom some "expert" has misled with information that is completely wrong. I don't who these experts are, but they should shut the hell up!

To start with, as of 1990 there were 1,030 Polish citizens named Łuc -- I'd like to see these experts go tell those 1,030 folks they're not Poles! The largest concentration by far was in the province of Przemysl (349) in southeastern Poland, but there were much smaller numbers scattered all over the country -- the more significant numbers were in the provinces of Katowice (66), Legnica (73), Poznan (48), Wroclaw (57), all the rest were much smaller numbers.

As for Łuc not being in any surname book, that's also a load of crap -- the book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles] by Kazimierz Rymut, who's probably the foremost Polish name expert, lists it. While I can't blame someone for not knowing of this book, anyone not familiar with Rymut's work has no business pretending he/she knows anything about Polish names! It's like pretending to be an expert on physics without ever having bothered to read Einstein.

According to Rymut, Łuc could have come from several different roots. Probably the most likely derivation is as a short form of such popular first names as Łukasz (Luke, Lucas), Łucja (Lucy), and Łucjan (Lucian); it might also, in some cases, derive from the root łuk, "bow, arch," seen also in the verb łuczyć, "to aim at." I would also mention the German name Lutz, which derives from the first name Ludwig (Louis); Poles might turn that into Łuc.

All in all, I'd expect the name Łuc would usually have started as a shortened form of a first name; we see this all the time in surname origins, and it seems likely here. If the family was pretty much Polish in ethnic origin, the most likely name involved would be Łukasz; Łucjan is less common, but is a viable candidate; surnames were less often formed from women's names, so I think Łucja is a bit of a long-shot. If the family had some German blood or lived in areas where German had some influence, it might be a Polonized form of Lutz from Ludwig. But derivation from a first name seems more likely than from the root for "bow, arch."


MRÓZ

… I was wondering if you have any info on my surname, which happens to be Mroz..I understand that this is not a uncommon name, and was awarded a Coat Of Arms almost a milennium ago…

Mróz is pronounced roughly "m’rooz" in Polish, and it is indeed a common surname -- as of 1990 there were 24,134 Polish citizens named Mróz, living in large numbers all over the country. The name is seen in documents as far back as 1377, so it is quite old. I don't know much about coats of arms, so I can't tell you whether there is a Mróz coat of arms, and I tend to doubt it's 1,000 years old -- that seems pushing it a little. But no question the name has been around a long, long time.

In most cases this name would come from the Polish word mróz, "frost." Some names beginning with Mroz- can also come from a short form or nickname of the first name Ambroży (= Ambrose), so we can't rule out the possibility the Mróz might also have originated that way in some cases. But obviously there is no one Mróz family, there are many families with the name that developed independently; in some cases the "Ambrose" connection may account for the name, but I suspect in most cases it is the "frost" connection that is relevant.

If you'd like to learn more about whether there is a Mróz coat of arms, and how old it is, you might want to contact Leonard Suligowski, the Director of Heraldry for the Polish Nobility Association Foundation and editor of their Journal, "White Eagle." Leonard doesn't do genealogical research, he's a heraldic artist, but he has an extensive library on the subject of European and especially Polish heraldry. For a very reasonable fee he will see what info he can extract from all his armorials and pass it on to you -- some folks even engage him to paint their arms. If you're interested, his address is: Leonard Suligowski, 218A N. Henry St., Brooklyn, NY 11222.

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


WALENTOWICZ

… I am attempting to determine the meaning of the name Walentowicz? And also, if the name denotes a reference to any particular region in Poland. I've been told by relatives that we are Prussian Poles. I have already read that the suffix -owicz means son of, so I guess the key would be to determine what walent means. My humble guess is that is is a patronmic name of St. Valentine, or possibly some reference to Walter. I'm sure my limited knowledge will be apparent.

Don't sell your "limited knowledge" short, because you're on target; some Polish names are not so tough, and this is one of them. As you say, -owicz means "son of," and the Walent- part comes from the first name Walenty, which is the Polish version of "Valentine" (originally from Latin Valentinus from valens, "strong, mighty"). So the name means "son of Valentine."

Unfortunately, by the nature of things, patronymics formed from popular names are quite common, and are seldom concentrated in any one area. As of 1990 there were 504 Polish citizens named Walentowicz (compare 994 Walentynowicz's); the largest numbers (more than 20) lived in the provinces of Białystok (31), Bydgoszcz (135), Ostrołęka (35), Szczecin (24), Torun (62), and Warsaw (40), with much smaller numbers scattered in most other provinces all over the country. It's fair to say there is some concentration of Walentowicz's in the areas formerly part of Prussia and Pomerania of the German Empire -- Bydgoszcz, Szczecin, and Torun provinces fall roughly into that area, and they have a pretty good share of the people by this name, 221 of 504. But that's still not half of the total, so I don't think we can say the name is all that closely identified with Prussia. Still, if you have family information that your folks were Prussian Poles, I'd say the numbers I've quoted do nothing to discredit the idea... I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses, I'm afraid what I've given is all I have.


WIELGOPOLSKI -- WIELKOPOLSKI -- WIELOPOLSKI

… Could you please give me any information on the name "Wielgopolski" or "Wielopolski"? Any information you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

There are two separate names that might be involved here, Wielkopolski (sometimes also seen as Wielgopolski, because both forms sound similar) and Wielopolski. The name Wielkopolski comes from a combination of the root wielki (also sometimes wielgi) meaning "great" and the root pol-, "field," or polski, "Polish," which ultimately comes from that root. In most cases this name probably refers to Wielkopolska, "Great Poland," a division of the country running basically from northwestern Poland down toward Krakow in the south, covering perhaps a quarter of Poland (there's also a Malopolska, a "Little Poland," which is basically the southeastern part of the country). The surname Wielkopolski probably started in most cases as a name for a person from that area or somehow identified with that area. Unfortunately, it's a rather large area, so the name itself doesn't provide anything very helpful in terms of tracing ancestors. As of 1990 there were only 4 Poles named Wielgopolski, all living in the province of Konin; and there were 120 Wielkopolski, scattered all over the country.

Wielopolski is different, it derives from places named Wielopole or something similar -- that's all it means, "one from Wielopole." There are several places by that name, so this surname, too, offers nothing very helpful in terms of tracing ancestors. As of 1990 there were 252 Polish citizens by this name, and they, too, were not concentrated in any one place -- you find small numbers of folks by that name all over the country.


PINCOSKI -- PINCZEWSKI -- PIŃCZOWSKI

… I read your invitation and hereby submit the surname Pincoski.

As of 1990 there was no one in Poland with the name Pincoski. It's possible this is a misreading or misspelling of some other name, or it may be a dialect form of a name that appears in standard Polish as Pinczewski (there were 301 Poles by that name as of 1990). When we see -oski it's almost always a dialect form of -owski, so spelled because in some areas the w isn't pronounced; and in some areas of Poland the -cz- (pronounced like our "ch") is pronounced, and therefore often spelled, as -ts-, which Poles spell with the letter -c-. So Pincoski probably = Pińczowski (ń stands for the Polish accented n). Names ending in -ewski or -owski usually started as references to a connection between a person or family and a place with a similar name, so Pińczowski meant "one from Pińczów" -- there's a village called Pińczów in Kielce province and another in Nowy Sacz province. The surname Pińczowski appears to have died out these days in Poland -- but as I say, Pinczewski might be the standard form these days. In any case, we know Pińczowski it used to exist, and it meant "one from Pińczów." I'm often surprised at how many surnames have died out after families emigrated, so that you have an odd situation where a good old Polish surname is no longer to be found in Poland, but only in other countries such as the U.S.A.!

So to sum up, I can't be positive about any of this, but from a linguistic point of view, Pincoski is probably a dialect version or misreading of Pińczowski, "one from Pińczów." The name appears to have died out in Poland, or else has been standardized as Pinczewski.


WITWICKI

… My surname is Witwicki, which I took from my family from Poland... He was born in a village called "Rawa" that is now not in Poland.

A surname ending in -icki usually got started as a reference to a connection between a person or family and a place with a similar name ending in -ica, -ice, -iki, something like that. In this case I can find only one likely match, and that is Witwica, which is now Vytvytsa in Ukraine. The Rawa you're referring to may be Rava Ruska, which is in Ukraine, just across the border from Tomaszow Lubelski in Zamosc province, Poland -- although there may well be other places named Rava that don't show up in my sources, this is probably the "Rawa" you're referring to (in Polish the v sound is spelled with a w). Witwica and Rawa are some distance apart, but they are both in far western Ukraine, not too far from the current borders of Poland; for centuries this area was ruled by Poland, and many Poles lived there (and still do).

The probable root of the place name and surname is witwa, the basket willow (Salex viminalis), so that Witwica was "the place of the basket willow," and the Witwicki was "the one from Witwica." Here is some information on Witwica I got from a late 19th-century gazetteer:

"Witwica, village in Dolina county, 14 km. NW of Dolina, 10 km. south of the county court and post office in Bolechów. Greek Catholic church in Witwica, Roman Catholic church in Bolechów... This village is the ancestral home of the Witwicki's. From there came Stanisław, Bishop of Kiev and later of Poznań (died 1697); also from this family was the poet Stefan Witwicki, born in Janów in Podolia…"

Dolina is now Dolyna, and Bolechów is now Bolekhiv; my maps confirm that Witwica/Vytvytsa is about 14 km. northwest of Dolyna. Most of the inhabitants of this village were Greek Catholics, and would have gone to the church in the village to register births, deaths, and marriages, whereas the Roman Catholic minority would have gone to the church in Bolechów/Bolekhiv.

As of 1990 there were 955 Polish citizens named Witwicki, living all over the country, but with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (89), Katowice (97), Wloclawek (72), Wroclaw (138). There may well be many more in Ukraine, but I have no access to such data; nor do I have access to further details such as first names or addresses for the Witwicki's in Poland.


FIGLEWSKI -- GALUS

I am researching my family tree. I need information, on the names Figlewski and Galus, if available.

Figlewski is not a very common name, as of 1990 there were only 173 Polish citizens with this name. The largest numbers (10 or more) lived in the provinces of Jelenia Gora 12, Poznan 15, Torun 57, Warsaw 11, Wloclawek 15, so the people by this name are scattered all over the country, but with some concentration in central to northwest-central Poland. Usually names ending in -ewski originated as references to a place; in this case we'd expect the name to mean something like "person from Figlewo," except I can't find any mention in any of my sources of any place with a name remotely similar. It could be there was such a place centuries ago, when the surname originated, but it has since disappeared, been renamed, been absorbed into another community, etc. The probable root of the name is figiel, "trick, prank," and Figlewski appears to mean "of, from, pertaining to the __ of the tricks"; most often that blank is filled in with "place," so that "Figlewo" would be "the place of the tricks," but sometimes "kin" is the understood word that fills in that blank. So it could be this name could be an exception and never referred to a place at all, but to the kin of a prankster. That, at least, is the best guess I can make on the basis of the information available to me.

Galus is easier, it's a moderately common name -- there were 2,665 Poles named Galus as of 1990, living all over the country but significantly more common in southcentral and southeastern Poland. It comes from the Latin first name Gallus, which is thought to derive either from Latin gallus, "cock," or from Celtic ghas-los, "foreigner, newcomer." A 7th-century Irish hermit, St. Gall (in Latin Gallus) settled at St. Gallen, Switzerland, and after his death his cell grew into the nucleus of a major monastery of the Benedictine Order. The Order spread this name throughout Europe (although it's not very well known among English-speakers), and among Poles it also developed the form Gaweł, just as in Czech it became Havel (the surname of the president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel). Galus developed from the original Latin form.


GRABOWICZ

… I'd like to know if the name Grabowicz is listed in your book.

It is. However, I think it's silly to make a person buy the whole book if all he wants is one name. Let me tell you a bit about this name, and you can buy the book only if you want info on more names, or background info on how such names developed. -- By the way, the book doesn't go into much detail on individual names; it deals with some 30,000 surnames, so there wasn't room. Instead, the index of names gives brief indications of what roots specific ones came from, and the 12 chapters of text that precede the index provide background on how names of that sort originated. The book is long on general info, short on details for specific names; on-line I have to be short on general info, but can give more details on a specific name. So I think the book and my Website complement each other.

The suffix -owicz means "son of," so Grabowicz means "son of Grab." It appears that in ancient times Grab was sometimes used as a first name, though it's unheard of these days. There are several roots it might come from: grab, "the hornbeam tree," grabie, "rake," or grabić, "to rob." So a name like Grabowicz might refer to a person who lived near a grove of hornbeams, or who somehow reminded people of a rake -- but in most cases it probably referred to the son of a man named Grab, and that name was given to someone in hopes he would be quick to "grab" and hold onto property, wealth, whatever (I'm not sure, but I don't think it's totally coincidence that English "grab" and this Polish root are similar; they may well both trace back to some Indo-European root). Other names beginning with Grab- such as Grabowski would more likely refer to a place named for hornbeams, but I think "son of the hornbeam" or "son of the rake" doesn't make that much sense for this name.

As of 1990 there were 1,193 Polish citizens named Grabowicz. They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (106), Lodz (177), and Skierniewice (349). So the name is most common in central Poland, but I don't have access to any details that would let me get more specific than that. The name itself is little help in tracking down a particular Grabowicz family -- you'd have to have data from some other source. Incidentally, this is true of probably 95% of Polish names; comparatively few offer any real lead as to where the families bearing them came from.


KWACZENIUK

… Maybe you can help me with another name, when you have a chance, that's not a '-ski' or a '-wicz', or anything common like that? The name is Kwaczeniuk.

The suffix -uk or -iuk is a diminutive generally used to form patronymics, and it tends to appear more often in eastern Poland, Belarus and Ukraine. So usually you can take off -uk or -iuk and render the name "son of _," and usually the first part of the surname is clearly a first name or occupation, e. g., Martyniuk = son of Martyn, Tkaczuk = son of the weaver. Kwaczen-, however, is a bit unusual because it doesn't appear to be a first name or an occupation.

Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut says names beginning with Kwacz- come from the root kwacz-, "to emit a sound like a duck," that is, "to quack"! So this surname would appear to mean "son of the quacker." (You see, you can't make this stuff up; reality is always stranger than fiction!).

Since this name is likely to have originated in eastern Poland, I was curious to see if my Ukrainian dictionary suggested any possible roots. I should mention that Poles use w for the sound we write v and cz for the sound we write ch; Kwaczeniuk is pronounced roughly "kvah-CHEN-yook" -- so what I was looking for was a Ukrainian root (written in Cyrillic) which we'd write phonetically as kvach. All I could find was the noun kvach, "clout; brush for greasing wheels; shaving brush; weak-willed (yielding) person." I don't normally disagree with Rymut, he's damned good, but since this particular name seems likely to originate from the eastern areas where Ukrainian has a lot of influence on names, I'd consider it at least possible Kwaczeniuk means "son of the kvach," perhaps referring to a person who was a bit of a push-over or wimp.

Hard to tell for sure which derivation is correct. I could imagine a person ending up with a nickname because he made a quacking sound; but the "weak-willed" connection also seems plausible. So objectively I can't be sure which one you should go with. If you find your Kwaczeniuk ancestors seem to have come from the eastern parts of the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, I'd think the "son of a wimp" derivation is more likely. But if they seem to be ethnic Poles, "quacker's son" is more likely.

As of 1990 there were only 29 Polish citizens named Kwaczeniuk, living in the provinces of Warsaw (3), Białystok (5), Gdansk (1), Gorzow (15), Legnica (4), and Poznan (1). Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses, what I give here is all I have... It's odd that the largest number live in Gorzow province in western Poland, but I strongly suspect that's due to post-World War II forced relocations; I'd bet almost anything if we had pre-1945 data we'd find most of the Kwaczeniuk's living in eastern Poland or what is now Belarus and Ukraine.

If you'd like to see if Polish name experts can come up with anything more definitive, you should go to the introduction to my Surname and read in the introduction about the Anthroponymic Workshop in Krakow. They can correspond in English, they seldom charge more than $10-20 per name, and they're the best experts I know of regarding Polish and Slavic names; they might be able to tell you more. If so, I'd be very interested in hearing what they have to say...


KAROŚCIK -- TRACZEWSKI

… Hello Fred, do you have any information on the origin and meaning of my Grandparents surnames: Grandfather: Karoscik, Grandmother: Traczewska.

The name Karościk is quite rare; as of 1990 there were only 6 Polish citizens by that name, 4 living in the provinces of Gdansk and 2 in Lodz province; unfortunately I don't have access to first names or addresses, but perhaps you can contact the Polish Genealogical Society of America at www.pgsa.org or the PGS-Northeast http://members.aol.com/pgsne2/ to see if they could search Polish provincial phone directories for people by this name... I'm not sure what the name comes from, it might be from a diminutive of karaś, "crucian carp," or it might come from the root kar-, "punishment; the color black when referring to horses." None of my sources mention this surname, so I don't have any Polish experts' research to rely on, but I'd say one of those is the probable origin.

Traczewska is easier. First of all, names ending in -ska are feminine forms of names given in standard form with the ending -ski, so we're looking for Traczewski. Literally the name breaks down as "of, from, pertaining to the __ of the tracz," where you fill in with the blank with some understood word, usually either "place" or "kin." In names Tracz- usually comes from the noun tracz, "sawyer, one who cuts wood" (although I wonder if sometimes it might also refer to tracz, "the merganser duck"?), so Traczewski probably started either meaning "kin of the sawyer" or "one from Traczew or Traczewo or Traczewa = the place of the sawyer." I can't find any mention in my sources of a place named Traczew/o/a, but that isn't conclusive because such a place may have existed centuries ago when the surname developed but has since disappeared, been renamed, etc. So I can't say for certain whether the surname means "sawyer's kin" or "one from Traczew/a/o," but one of those two is probably right. In either case, there's some sort of connection to a guy who sawed wood for a living (or, just possibly, to mergansers?).

As of 1990 there were 458 Polish citizens named Traczewski, and they were scattered all over the country, with no real concentration. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Warsaw (81), Ostrołęka (53), and Radom (57), thus in east central Poland, but that's not a lot of help, I know.

If you'd like to see if Polish name experts can come up with anything more definitive on Karościk, you might visit the introduction to my Surname page and read in the introduction about the Anthroponymic Workshop in Krakow. They can correspond in English, they seldom charge more than $10-20 per name, and they're the best experts I know of regarding Polish and Slavic names; they might be able to tell you more. If so, I'd be very interested in hearing what they have to say.


KONOPKA

… Having recently found, and greatly enjoyed enjoyed your website(s) on Polish history and genealogy I am writing to inquire as to the roots and significance of the surname Konopka. Any assistance would be appreciated.

According to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut and others, Konopka comes from the root konopie, "hemp," and this name appears in Polish legal records as early as 1393. It is quite common in Poland, as of 1990 there were 11,121 Polish citizens by this name, living all over the country, with particularly large numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (1,278), Katowice (935), and Łomża (1,622)... When giving people nicknames based on the names of animals or objects, Poles often added a diminutive suffix such as -ek or -ka to help distinguish the person from the animal or object; and that's probably how the name Konopka, literally "little hemp," got started, as a nickname that eventually stuck as a surname. It might have referred to a person who grew hemp, sold it, used it a lot, etc. -- now, centuries after surnames were established, it's sometimes difficult to recreate exactly what the link was. But something about a person named Konopka seemed associated with hemp, we can be fairly sure of that.

I'm going strictly by memory here, and thus might be wrong, but I believe Władysław Konopka was the original name of actor Ted Knight, who played "Ted Baxter" on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. He is perhaps the best-known person named Konopka, although the name is common enough that there probably have been other prominent figures by that name.


HODAS -- MAJCZYK

… I ran across your book information on the PGSA web page. If possible, could you find any information on two names: Hodas and Majczyk. Through my limited reseach found nothing about these names.

I'm not surprised you could find nothing on Hodas; none of my sources mention it, and as of 1990 there were only 8 Poles by that name, all living in Krakow prov. Unfortunately I don't have access to first names or addresses, but the PGSA can often search telephone directories for specific parts of Poland; perhaps you could contact them and see if they have the one for Krakow. Phones in private homes are rarer in Poland than here, there are no guarantees, but maybe one of those Hodas's will be listed... As for the origins of the name, the H and Ch are pronounced the same in Polish, so we might be dealing with a variant spelling of Chodas (as of 1990 there were 33 of them, with 28 living in Warsaw province), which presumably comes from the root chod-, "go, walk." But if the family's roots lie in southern or southeastern Poland, the name could come from Ukrainian hoda, "difficult, hard," or from Czech hod, "feast, festival," or hodit, "to throw, cast." Or if the family was Jewish, it's possible the name comes from Hebrew hadas, "holy" (cmp. the original name of the Biblical figure Esther, Esther 2:7).

I know that's a lot of if's, but without more info it's hard to say anything with much confidence. If the family has no Jewish blood and comes from an area where Czech or Ukrainian aren't likely to have much influence, then the link with chod-, "walk, go," seems the most likely derivation. But you can see how the place of origin could affect which source is the most likely.

If you'd like to ask the best experts and don't mind spending $10-20 for an answer, look at the Introduction to the Surname webpage and get the address of the Anthroponymic Workshop in Krakow. They have the best sources, if there's anyone who can give you a reliable answer, it's them. (If you do write them and they give you a good reply, I'd love to hear what they have to say!).

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut includes Majczyk with a number of other names from the root maj, "May." In names -czyk usually means "son of," so the name literally means "son of May." A name like this might originate because a child was born in May, or something about that time of year was associated with him. All these centuries later it can be tough trying to figure out exactly what the connection was, the most we can do is say there was a connection. As of 1990 there were 258 Poles named Majczyk, scattered all over the country, with larger numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (25), Kalisz (38), Lodz (33), Sieradz (33). These provinces are all in central Poland, so the name seems to be most common in that region; unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses, and I'm afraid this probably isn't specific enough to help you much.


SEBZDA

… The name I am looking for is Sebzda. Both my grandparents came from Galicia, Austria, I think. My grandmother could not write so she phonetically spelled her name. It is Anna Puktah.

I'm afraid I can't help you much with these names. I've been trying for some time to figure out what Sebzda comes from, because the name intrigues me -- at times I wonder if it might be a mangled name from Sebastian, but I haven't found any info on this anywhere. It's not all that rare a name: as of 1990 there were 381 Poles named Sebzda, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Katowice (29), Przemysl (68), Rzeszow (29), and Wroclaw (107). Przemysl and Rzeszow are in that part of southeastern Poland seized by Austria and ruled as "Galicia," Wroclaw and Katowice are just a little west of there, so the name is most common in southcentral and southeastern Poland. But as I said, none of my books mention it, and I haven't been able to come up with even an intelligent guess, other than that very tenuous notion about "Sebastian." Such a connection is not outrageous, given the changes names can undergo; but such guesses are also worthless without some evidence, and I have none.

As for Puktah, I'm afraid I've come up empty there, too. There was one Pole named Pukto in Katowice province in 1990 (I'm afraid I have no access to further details such as names and addresses), and I could find no mention of any other name remotely like this. Neither Puktah nor Sebzda really sounds Polish, and it's not rare to see names of many other origins in Galicia -- Hungarian, Romanian, Ukrainian, Slovak, etc. I strongly suspect these names originated elsewhere and came to Poland with people who immigrated there over the centuries.

If you'd like to ask the best experts and don't mind spending $10-20 for an answer, look at my Introduction to the Surname webpage and get the address of the Anthroponymic Workshop in Krakow. They have the best sources, if there's anyone who can give you a reliable answer, it's them... If you do write them and they give you a good reply, I'd love to hear what they have to say, especially about Sebzda!


KORDALEWSKI

… Trying to find the roots of the Kordalewski family please, can you try to guide me in the right direction.

Generally names with the pattern X-ewski can be interpreted literally as "of, from, pertaining to the kin/place of X," so that we'd expect this to mean either "one from Kordalew/Kordalewo/Kordalewa" [which means "place of Kordal"] or "one of the kin of Kordal." I can't find mention in any of my sources of any place with a name beginning Kordal-, but that doesn't necessarily mean much -- surnames developed centuries ago, and sometimes the place they referred to has since disappeared, changed its name, etc. So it's still kind of up in the air whether this name referred originally to a village or settlement named something like Kordalew or Kordali, or whether it simply meant "kin of Kordal or Kordala." Those are names known to have been used in the past, coming either from the roots kord, "saber," or korda, the cord used by monks or nuns instead of belts, or (just maybe) from the Latin name Cordula.

As of 1990 there were 259 Polish citizens named Kordalewski, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Warsaw (57), Ciechanow (23), Lodz (35), Płock (75), and Skierniewice (18), with only a few others scattered in various other provinces. So the name seems to be most common in central Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to first names or addresses for any of those people, and "central Poland" is still too large an area to help you very much. I'm afraid that's the way it is with most Polish surnames -- they just don't offer much in the way of helpful clues.


PISZCZOR

… My surname, Piszczor, traces from the Zakopane/NowyTarg region back before 1620 (based on reports of a baptismal certificate supposedly in the civil Nowy Targ records). Now the root of our name piszcz I have found to be difined as either a large rodent/high-pitched voice; or as being a claimant, making a claim. (What type of claim has always been a item of wonderment for me. Just a big whiner?)

Since I last revised my book on Polish surnames, I've got hold of a couple of books on names in that general area, especially Cieszyn and Nowy Sacz, and they shed a little more light on this name (and since as of 1990 fully 45 of the 75 Piszczor's lived in Nowy Sacz province, this seems relevant). Apparently most of the names beginning with piszcz- are thought to have referred to piszczeć, "to play a pipe, flute, pan-pipe"; so while the link with the basic root's meaning of "squeal, high-pitched sound" is clear, Wladyslaw Milerski's Nazwiszka Cieszyńskie specifically mentions Piszczor, Piszczór, and Piszczur among the names that probably began as meaning "piper." I know I'd prefer that to being a whiner or rodent!

… Anyway, I have found that region was not begun to be settled until the years 1590-1610. Now I have found on some old 1943 U.S. Army maps a village about 2km or so east of Zakopane by the name of Piszczora! Guess what I'm asking here is, can we begin to draw some conclusions from this?

Out of curiosity I looked in the Slownik Geograficzny gazetteer -- it mentions a "Piszczory, a wólka belonging to Skrzypne, Nowy Targ county, on the stream Rogoznik, in the northern part of Skrzypne, with 7 houses and 35 inhabitants." [A wólka was a "new" agricultural settlement (probably less than 500 years old, as opposed to a really old place like Gdańsk or Poznań) established with settlers from some older village; it was typically established with a 10 or 20-year exemption from rents and taxes, so the settlement could get on its feet before it started paying its noble landowner dividends.] I doubt this is the same place you're talking about, as this one would be maybe 10-20 km. north of Zakopane; but it's not unusual to see two or more places with similar names in the same general region. What I found interesting about this is that Piszczory was a subdivision of Skrzypne, and that name comes from the root skrzyp-, "creak, grind, squeak," used especially in skrzypki, "fiddle," and skrzypce, "violin." Apparently they had a kind of musical theme going in that area, with lots of pipers and fiddlers!

Anyway, I would think a place called Piszczora would have come from the genitive-case form piszczora, "[place] of the piper." In other words, the place probably took its name from people, rather than the other way around. It's risky making general statements like this, there are so many exceptions. But I think the places named Piszczora and Piszczory got those names because there were a lot of pipers around, or else from a person whose name was Piszczor because he or an ancestor had been a piper. That's how I see it, anyway.


ŁOZIŃSKI

… Laskowski was my maternal grandmothers' maiden name, and when I showed my mother your (very NICE, thank you very much) e-mail and your web site, she also became interested. Her maiden name was Lozinski, and again, is one of those names that I couldn't find any info on on your site.

Well, the 1990 compilation I quote for data on name frequency lists some 800,000+ Polish surnames (only 44,723 of which are borne by more than 100 Poles), so there are one or two I haven't gotten to yet on my Website. Even my book only had room for 30,000 of the most common ones...

As of 1990 there were 3,095 Łoziński's in Poland -- I'm using ł to stand for the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w, and ń for the accented n; the name is pronounced roughly "woe-ZHEEN-skee." The provinces with the largest numbers were: Gorzow 169, Katowice 163, Krakow 183, Warsaw 258, Wroclaw 366, Zielona Gora 179. Those are the provinces with the most people, so basically that just means the name is rather evenly distributed all over Poland.

A name ending in -iński usually (not always) refers to a similar place name. I'd expect Łoziński to have started as meaning "one from Łozin, one from Łozy," something like that. There are several villages with names that qualify, including Łozina in Wroclaw province, Łoza in Elblag province, and at least three Łozy's (in Przemysl, Siedlce, and Zielona Gora provinces); a Łoziński could come from any of those places. The root of all these place names is probably the term łoza, "osier, wicker," so that these place names all meant basically "place with lots of wicker" and the surname meant "one from Łozina, Łozy, etc." = "one from the wicker place." Viewed this way, it's not surprising the name is moderately common, that's a name that could (and surely did) get started independently in many different places.


DOMARACKI -- DOMARADZKI -- DOMARECKI -- DOMERACKI -- DOMERADZKI

… I found your web page through a search. I have been trying to find even just basic info. on the Polish surname, Domeracki. I've visited a lot of Polish genealogy sites but no info. Was wondering, if it is at all possibly, for you to send me any info., such as etymology etc., that you might have on this surname.

The probable origin of Domeracki is from an old Slavic pagan first name, Domarad, literally "glad at home." The ancient Poles and other Slavs gave their children names that were meant to be good omens, so giving a child a name like that was to express hope he would have a happy home. There are several villages in Poland with names that come from this name, probably because someone named Domarad founded them or owned them at some point; they include a village called Domarady in Olsztyn province, and villages called Domaradz in Krosno, Opole, and Slupsk provinces. There may be others that don't show up on my maps, but this shows there are at least four different places this surname could come from.

There are several reasonably common surnames formed either directly from the name Domarad, or else from places such as those I just mentioned, which in turn got their name from Domarad.

As of 1990 there were 1,129 Polish citizens named Domeracki, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (302), Olsztyn (117), and Torun (139), and smaller numbers scattered all over the country. There were another 755 who spelled it Domeradzki, which would be pronounced exactly the same, roughly as "dome-air-OTT-skee," and for all practical purposes they could be considered the same name; the Domeradzki's were most common in the provinces of Warsaw 107, Płock 91, Radom 98, and Wloclawek 74. However, neither name is associated with any one area to such a degree that we can say "Here's where the name came from" ... Besides Domeracki and Domeradzki we also have the "standard" or most common form Domaradzki (there were 3,409 Poles by that name as of 1990), as well as Domaracki (317) and Domarecki (603). All of these are just variants of the same basic name with slight differences due to regional pronunciations, errors, etc. The data strongly suggests there isn't just one big family that shares this name, but rather the name got started independently in different places at different times.


CHORĄŻEWICZ -- SZABLAK

Horonzevicz (or Horonzewicz) and Szablak are the names I'm interested in

Szablak comes from the word szabla, "saber, sword." The -ak is a diminutive ending, so the name means literally "little sword." Often when Poles formed a name for a person from the name of an object they added a suffix to help distinguish the two; that may be the case here, so that the name means "swordsman." Or the -ak may imply "son of the swordsman," either interpretation is plausible. As of 1990 there were 408 Polish citizens with this name, with the largest numbers in the northeastern provinces of Ostrołęka (138) and Łomża (73) and smaller numbers scattered all over the country. The name is pronounced much like "SHAW-block" would be in English.

Horonzewicz is a variant of the name which appears as Chorążewicz in standard form; the ch and h are pronounced exactly the same in Polish, and ą stands for a a nasal vowel written like a normal a with a tail under it and pronounced much like "own."N. Ż stands for Z with a dot over it, so that it sounds like zh in "Zhivago." Both spellings sound the same -- much like "hoe-ron-ZHE-vich" -- and it's not unusual in such cases to see more than one spelling, especially in past centuries. As of 1990 there were 740 Poles named Chorążewicz, with particularly large numbers living in the provinces of Olsztyn (203) and Ostrołęka (215), both in northeastern Poland, and smaller numbers in many other provinces. There was no one in Poland who spelled it Horonzewicz, probably because with the advent of mass literacy in this century the spellings of many names have been standardized. The name means comes from the term chorąży, "standard-bearer" (tail under the a, dot over the z) plus the suffix -ewicz, "son of," so it means "son of the standard-bearer."


ORSZAK

… Hello, I've already ordered your book, but in the meantime I was wondering if you could provide any information on the subject surname (Orszak) which was my mothers maiden name.

I'm glad you contacted me -- I don't want people who order the book to be disappointed, and Orszak is not in there! I was a little surprised to see I hadn't included it, but generally I didn't include names borne by fewer than 300 Poles as of 1990, and as of that year there were only 183 Poles named Orszak. About half lived in the provinces of Rzeszow (58) and Tarnobrzeg (38) in southeastern Poland, the rest were scattered in small numbers all over the country; so this tells us that at least these days the name is most common in southeastern Poland, sometimes called Malopolska or "Little Poland," and "Galicia" after the Austrians took it over during the partitions. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses of those Orszak's, the info comes from a Polish government agency database, and they won't allow us access to anything other than info on how many people have a particular name and where they live by province. But it might be a little helpful to know the Orszak's are most common in that region.

Polish names can fool us, but it certainly appears that this name comes from the term orszak, "retinue, staff, group of persons accompanying someone or something," in archaic times meaning "a mass of people." My 8-volume dictionary of Polish says it comes from Turkish urszak, "group of people assembled for a specific purpose." It used to be pretty much mandatory for any important noble or clergymen to be attended by a retinue (kind of like the way people use the term "posse" in modern slang), and I suppose this name could come to be associated with a person who had or served in such a retinue. One source, Alexander Beider's Dictionary of Jewish Surnames in the Kingdom of Poland, says this term is what the name probably comes from, and speculates perhaps it referred to a rabbi's train or retinue"; so I'm not the only one who thinks that's the derivation of it the name. However, there is no reason to assume this name was borne only by Jews; I'm sure it's one of many names used by people of any religion; the only difference is, among Jews it might refer to a rabbi's retinue, among Christians it would probably refer to the retinue of a noble or high clergyman.


KURZYNA – NIEDBALSKI -- WALIŃSKI -- WOLIŃSKI

…Is Kurzin a Polish name and if so, what does it mean? I have an ancestor with that name who came from Poznan.

The spelling Kurzin is not used these days -- as of 1990 there was no one in Poland by that name. But there were 16 named Kurzyn and 892 named Kurzyna, and Kurzin could very well be a variant dating back to the days when spelling rules weren't quite so strict or well-known. The 892 Kurzyna's lived all over Poland, with larger numbers in the provinces of Białystok (112), Łomża (150), Lublin (162), and Tarnobrzeg (180); the 16 Kurzyn's lived in the provinces of Warsaw (1), Lodz (1), Suwałki (8), and Zamosc (8). Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses... The root of either name is kur, "chicken"; kurzyna can mean "chicken meat," or "a bad hen, one of poor quality," plus several other things.

2. What is the difference between Walinski and Wolinski, or are they the same name with the same meaning?

They can be the same name -- in Polish a and o sound very similar, and we often see them confused in spelling. But in a perfect world, the two names are distinct, referring usually to the names of places the families came from, such as Wola, Wolin, Wolina vs. Waliny. The basic root of wola has to do with "(free) will," but people named Woliński were connected with agricultural settlements called Wola's, because they were settled by people from other villages who were given 10-20 years of exemption from taxes and rents while they got the new settlements on their feet. Names beginning with Wal- typically came from short forms of first names such as Walenty (Valentine) or Walerian (Valerian), or from the verb root walić, "to overturn, overthrow, upset." Poles typically form nicknames or new names by taking the first syllable of a name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes (sort of like English "Teddy" from "Theodore"), and that explains how names like Walin came from Walenty or Walerian. Then -ski is an adjective ending, so that Waliński means literally "of, from, pertaining to Walin." So in practice Waliński would end up meaning something like "kin of Val, one from the place of Val." As of 1990 there were 874 Walinski's in Poland, as opposed to 6,584 Wolinski's.

3. What does the name Niedbalski mean?

This comes from the term niedbala, "negligent, sloppy fellow." The -ski is adjectival, so that the name means literally "of, from, pertaining to the sloppy guy" -- most often in names it would mean basically "kin of the sloppy guy, son of the sloppy guy," something like that. As of 1990 there were 1,446 Poles named Niedbalski.


LEWKOWICZ

… I am beginning to look into my heritage. I don't even really know where to start. My father's name is Stephan Lewkowicz......his father is Bronislav Lewkowicz....I was told that my grandparents came from Poland. Do you have any information on Lewkowicz?

The -owicz suffix means "son of," so this surname means "son of Lewko." Lewko is a name used by Christians and Jews, and the origin can be different, depending on religion. But the names you cite, Stephan and Bronislav, are Christian, so I will assume the family was Christian and not Jewish. In that case the name can come either from the term lewy, "left," or the first name Lew, which comes from the common Slavic root for "lion" and is basically the Slavic equivalent of our names Leon and Leo. So Lewkowicz is basically a Slavic name meaning "son of Leo." As of 1990 there were 2,943 Polish citizens named Lewkowicz, living all over the country. So I'm afraid -- like most Polish surnames -- this one doesn't provide us with any useful clues about where the family might have come from. I would think it more likely to have originated in eastern Poland or Belarus or Ukraine than western Poland, but even then it's more a matter of probability -- there are and have been plenty of people named Lewkowicz in western Poland.


PANIKOWSKI -- PANKOWSKI

… looking for the Polish surname closest to Panikowski can't seem to find one.

Well, how about Panikowski? As of 1990 there were 139 Poles by this name, scattered all over Poland -- the largest single numbers live in the provinces of Gdansk (27) and Krakow (24), with much smaller numbers living in many other provinces, so there's no one part of the country where this name is concentrated... If you want a common name close to Panikowski, I'd suggest Pankowski, there were 3,696 Polish citizens by that name in 1990. But if Panikowski is the form you have, I see no reason to look for anything else -- Panikowski is a perfetly good Polish name.

Both Panikowski and Pankowski probably derive ultimately from the root pan, "master, lord," or from short forms of several first names, such as Pankrac, Pantelejmon, Opanas, etc. Pankowski probably comes in most cases from a name of a village such as Panków or Panki, and would mean basically "one coming from Panków, Panki, etc," and those place names mean basically "place of the pan" or "place of Pan-." There are several villages in Poland named Panki and Panków, so I can't tell you which one the name would refer to in a specific family's case.

Panikowski would probably originated as meaning "one from Paników, Panikowo, Paniki, " or some other place with a similar name. I can't find any such place on my maps, but that doesn't mean anything -- these surnames typically developed centuries ago, and the places they referred to have often disappeared, changed their names, etc. Here again, the name of the place, if there was such a place, would mean something like "place of panik," where panik might be a diminutive of pan, meaning "little master," or might be a nickname from one of those first names I mentioned earlier.


OLISZEWSKI

… I have read your renderings of Polish surnames online and wonder if you might be able to assist me...I have only one name for you to look at! My great-great-grandmother's maiden name is Olishefskie, and I have been unable to find anything which divulges its meaning.

Well, this is probably just a phonetic spelling of Polish Oliszewski -- pronounced out loud, that name does sound very much to us like "oh-li-SHEF-skee," so that spelling makes sense. As of 1990 there were 331 Polish citizens named Oliszewski, with the largest concentration (128) in the province of Warsaw and much smaller numbers scattered in many other provinces all over the country. The name probably comes from Olisz, a sort of nickname of Aleksander -- in many parts of Poland this name takes the form Oleksander, with O instead of A, and Poles formed many nicknames from it. Oliszewski literally breaks down as "of, from, pertaining to the __ of Olisz," where the blank is filled in with something not expressed because it was obvious -- usually either "kin" or "place." So this surname probably meant something like "Al's kin," or else "one from Al's place." I can find only one place on my maps with a name that qualifies, Oliszki in Białystok province, and a family from there could have ended up with a name like Oliszewski. Or there may once have been a place somewhere called Oliszew or Oliszewo, but it has changed names or disappeared in the centuries since the surname was established. Or it may still exist and is just too small to show up in my sources.

Oliszewski is a perfectly good Polish name, but there is one other possibility I really should mention. There is a very common Polish name Olszewski (44,638 Poles bore that name as of 1990), meaning basically "one from the place of the alder trees" (thus "one from Olszewo/Olszewa/Olszew, etc."). This name is so common, and so close to what you mention, that I figured I'd better point it out, just in case it turns out that was the original form, and the first -I- in Olishefskie was inserted by mistake.


MAKOMASKI -- OCHYLSKI -- PRACKI -- STRZELECKI

… Would you please give me info on the names Strzelecki, Pracki, Makomaski, and Ochylski? My grandfather wrote a book on our family, and I am completing his research.

I'm afraid Strzelecki is the only name I can find much on -- it generally meant a family came from one of numerous villages called Strzelce. That name, in turn, comes from strzelec, "shooter, marksman." As of 1990 there were 11,467 Poles named Strzelecki, and the name is common all over the country.

I could find no info on the derivations of the other names. I do have a source that gives the total number of Poles by specific names as of 1990, with a breakdown of where they lived by province (but I have no access to further details, such as first names or addresses). Here's what that source shows

Makomaski: 95, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (30), Płock (12), less than 10 in 11 other provinces.

Ochylski: 12, living in the provinces of Koszalin (3), Lodz (5), Poznan (4)

Pracki: 428, scattered all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Płock (76), Wloclawek (69), and smaller numbers in many other provinces.

If you would like more information and don't spending $30 or so, I recommend contacting the Anthroponymic Workshop I mentioned on the introductory page.


KAPCZYŃSKI -- PŁOTKOWSKI -- ZAWORSKI

… I have searched for possible root words of the 3 names in which I am interested, in my Polish/English dictionary, but, probably because I have only the slightest understanding of the language, I have had no luck in figuring out whether my names have ANY meaning at all. They are: Plotkowski (with a crossbar on the l), Zaworski, and Kapczynski. (The 1st & 3rd families are from the rural area northwest of Warsaw, if this helps any.)

Kapczyński is a moderately common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 1,552 Poles named Kapczyński (by the way, I'm using ~ to mark Polish diacriticals, so that ń is the n with an accent over it, ł is the slashed l, etc.). The largest numbers were in the provinces of Warsaw (205), Bydgsozcz (169), Ciechanow (148), Lodz (106), and Pila (126), with smaller numbers scattered in many other provinces. The root of this name would seem to be kapać, to drip, but I can't seem to find Kapczyński listed in any of my sources; I would expect this surname to be connected with a place name, something like Kapcza or Kapczyn. I can't find any such places listed in my sources, but that doesn't necessarily mean much -- surnames developed centuries ago, and it's not unusual for the places they referred to then to have since disappeared, changed names, etc. Still, I can't help wondering if this is a variant of the name Kopczyński, which was borne by 8,474 Poles in 1990. In Polish the a and o are pronounced very similarly, and we often see them switch back and forth in names -- I can't help but wonder if that's happened here? The name Kopczyński appears to come from the root kopczyna, "pile, mound," especially a pile of harvest grain gathered by landless farmers.

Płotkowski was the name of 314 Poles in 1990, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (51), Gdansk (28), Szczecin (60), Torun (55), and Wloclawek (26); there were only 11 in the province of Warsaw. The name almost certainly derives from the roots seen in płot "fence, enclosure," or płotka, płoć, "roach (a kind of fish)." I would expect this name to have started in most cases as a connection with a village or place named something like Płotki, Płotkowo, so that the name would mean basically "person from Płotki, Płotkowo, etc." Those places, in turn, probably got their names because of some association with either enclosures or the kind of fish we call (rather disgustingly) "roach." As with Kapczyński, however, I couldn't find mention of any places with names that qualify, so I can't be positive.

1,884 Poles bore the name Zaworski in 1990, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Gdansk (222) and Poznan (317). It appears to derive from the term zawora, "bolt, latch," or from places named Zawory in Gdansk and Poznan provinces. I would think the link with the villages would be likely for a surname, thus meaning "one from Zawory"; the large numbers of Zaworski's in Gdansk and Poznan provinces tends to support that notion, since that's where we actually find villages named Zawory.


REDISCH -- REDISZ

… My grandfather, Peter Redisch, left Poland and his parents in 1864.All I know is from his death certificate that the family lived in Galicia at that time.

REDISCH is hard to pin down, because that spelling of the name is clearly influenced by German -- Polish seldom uses the combination -sch, that's a German way of spelling the sound we write as -sh, which the Poles write -sz. So the question arises whether this name is actually German or Polish in origin. None of my sources mentions this name, and a look at surnames used in modern Poland shows no one named Redisch; if we look for the Polish way of spelling this name, there were 11 Poles named Redisz as of 1990, living in the provinces of Katowice (5), Krakow (4), Ostrołęka (2). I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so about all we can say is that these days the name appears mainly in southcentral Poland, which before 1918 was roughly the extreme western edge of Galicia.

If the name is German in origin, it might come from the root red-, "swamp," or from Reddich, an old variant meaning "radish." These seem unlikely, though, the suffix -isch or -isz in surnames is usually Slavic rather than German. So it's more likely this is Polish. Polish names beginning with Red- are usually northern Polish (Pomeranian) variants of names with Rad- in standard Polish. That root means either "joy" or "advise." Generally names with Rad- started as a nicknames or short forms for a longer compound name such as Radomir ("glad of peace") or Radoslaw "glad of fame"), or it could have meant "the adviser" or "the joyful one." The name Radzisz shows up as a first name in old records, and Redisz could be a variant of that. But without more information it's really very hard to say. Of course the problem with this is that the name is showing up in southcentral Poland, rather far from where Red- variants of Rad- would be expected to originate. Still, people did move around in the old days, it's hardly impossible that a family might have come from northwestern Poland and moved to Galicia. We do know from records that some people with German-influenced names settled in Galicia, often as colonists settling new communities or as prisoners of war.

So I can't be certain, but the most likely explanation, from the info I have, is that this is a German-influenced variant of an old Polish first name such as Radzisz, which started as a short form or nickname for someone named Radolf or Radomir or Radoslaw, and later came to be used as a surname. And at some point in, say, the 15th or 16th century, the family came to live in Galicia. This is, at least, consistent with the facts as we know them, and is fairly plausible.


AUFSCHAUER

… Any info on my last name Aufschauer. My Father grew up in Lvov (Lemberg) Galicia.

This name is pure German, and almost certainly comes from the verb aufschauen, "to look up" -- Aufschauer would mean literally "one who looks up." It might seem odd that such a German name shows up in Lvov, but there were large numbers of Germans, as well as German- or Yiddish-speaking Jews, who lived in that area, so it used to be quite common to run across Germanic names there. There is no one in Poland today with this name, but that's hardly surprising, since I only have data for Poland in its modern boundaries, and Lvov is now in Ukraine, so names appearing in the Lvov area would not be included in my sources. It's questionable whether anyone with this name would still live in the Lvov region -- after World War II many of the people with German names and blood left what used to be Poland and resettled in Eastern Germany, sometimes voluntarily, sometimes not.


JASTRZĘBSKI – JESTRIMSKI -- YASTRZEMSKI

… I have spent some time searching for information on my family name & was wondering if you per chance had any references to Jestrimski or maybe Jestrimsky

The problem with this name is that Jestrimski or Jestrimsky is almost certainly an Anglicized form of the name, not the original Polish form; and without the original Polish form, there's not much I can do. I'm pretty sure this isn't the original form because 1) there was no one in Poland with this name as of 1990, 2) I've never seen this before, and 3) the spelling is inconsistent with Polish linguistic preferences. So until we know what the name was before it was changed, it's hard to analyze it.

I'll say this, I suspect this is a phonetic spelling of the Polish name Jastrzębski -- the ę is a way of indicating on-line the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under it, pronounced normally like en but before a b or p like em, so that the name would sound to us like "yahs-CHEMP-skee." This is a very common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 19,156 Polish citizens by that name, living all over the country. It comes from the root jastrząb, "goshawk" (ą is another nasal vowel, written as an a with a tail under it, pronounced like om before b or p); the surname typically originated either as a nickname for an individual whose manner or voice or clothes reminded people of a goshawk, or from a place name, "person from Jastrzębie [the place of the goshawks]" or other places with similar names and meanings. There are quite a few places by that name in Poland, so it's difficult to tell which one a given family might have come from.

I have seen this name Jastrzębski mangled into many different forms in English – there was a famous American baseball player named Carl Yastrzemski, for instance -- and Jestrimski could very well be a rather inaccurate phonetic spelling of it. I can't be sure, but that would be my guess.

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


CHUCHRO -- HUCHRO -- PIETRYŁKA

… Thank you again for the information on the name Drazba. There are 2 more names I would like some information on. Chuchro/Huchro and Pietrylka/Petrylka.

The standard form of the name is Chuchro, but since Polish ch and h are pronounced the same, Huchro is a perfectly understandable variant spelling; both are pronounced roughly "khookh-row," where kh stands for the guttural sound of ch in German Bach. It appears to come from the term chuchro, "weakling, frail person." As of 1990 there were 563 Poles by this name (vs. 14 who spelled it Huchro). The largest numbers of Chuchro's lived in the provinces of Katowice (132) and Krakow (90) in southcentral Poland, with much smaller numbers scattered in many other provinces.

Pietryłka (where I'm using ł to stand for the l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w) is a very rare name today in Poland; as of 1990 there were only 4 Poles by that name, all living in Krosno province in the southeastern corner of the country. The form Petryłka was borne by 17 Poles, in the provinces of Jelenia Gora (4), Krosno (11), Zielona Gora (2). None of my sources mention it, but it seems likely to derive from a nickname from Piotr, "Peter." Judging by where it appears in post-war Poland and the Piet-/Pet- spelling variation, I strongly suspect it is of Ukrainian origin rather than Polish, and might be a bit more common in Ukraine -- however, I have no data for that country and thus cannot be sure.


BENTKOWSKI -- BĘTKOWSKI -- CEBULA -- CHLEBEK -- CZUBSKI -- KASPRZAK -- LIGAS – NOWOROLNIK -- ZABRZESKI

… If you discuss any of the names listed below in your book, please let me know and I will be happy to purchase a copy. Any direction you can provide is greatly appreciated.

Well, I hate to disappoint you, but in at least 90% of cases there is nothing about a surname that indicates anything useful in tracing the family. Thus Cebula comes from the word for "onion," and as of 1990 there were 9,868 Poles with this name, living all over the country. Presumably it originated as a nickname for a person who grew onions, or liked to eat them, or was shaped like them, something like that, then later it stuck as a surname. Clearly this isn't going to help you discover where any particular family named Cebula lived.

Similarly, Noworolnik comes from noworola, literally "new field," often used for "field plowed just before spring sowing," or in some cases from nowy + rolnik," literally a "new farmer." A Noworolnik got that name because he was farming a "new field," and as of 1990 there were 486 Poles by that name; the largest numbers were in the provinces of Lublin (122), and Nowy Sacz (163), but that doesn't really tell you anything you didn't already know. (I'm afraid I don't have access to details such as first names and addresses, what I give here is all I have)... The info that your maternal grandparents' family came from Tylmanowa, near Nowy Targ in the province of Nowy Sacz in southcentral Poland (it's 20-30 km. WSW of Nowy Sacz), is far more helpful than anything I can tell you about any of the surnames. Tylmanowa is big enough to have its own Catholic parish church, which is where people living in the vicinity would have gone to register births, deaths, and marriages; if the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah has microfilmed its records, that's the place to start trying to trace them.

Bentkoski is a variant of the name Bentkowski (1,426 in 1990) or Bętkowski (1,501) -- these are the same name spelled differently, because the vowel I'm writing here as ę is a nasal vowel, an e with a tail under it, pronounced like en, so that either spelling is phonetically correct, although the spelling with ę is usually standard these days. Names ending in -owski usually refer to a place, so that this one refers to a family's origin in any of several places named Będkowice, Będkowo, or Będków. Będkowice in Krakow province might be a good bet, since this is in southcentral Poland, which seems to be the area your roots might lie in; this village has its own Catholic parish church, so with any luck the records might have been microfilmed by the LDS.

Chlebek means literally "little bread," and as of 1990 there were 963 Poles by that name, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice 220, Nowy Sacz 198, Rzeszow 108 in southcentral and southeastern Poland.

Czubski comes either from czub, "hair on top of the head," or from czubić się, "to quarrel." It might also refer to origin in a place with a name beginning in Czub-, e. g., Czuby in Lublin province, and a place with such a name derives from the roots given above. As of 1990 there were 209 Poles with this name, and the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Katowice 112 and Walbrzych 36, with much smaller numbers scattered in many other provinces.

Kasprzak means "little Casper, son of Casper," and there were 16,744 Poles by that name in 1990. As with most surnames from popular first names, this one is common all over the country; there isn't one big Kasprzak family, but dozens or hundreds of individual ones that all came by the name independently, because around the time surnames were being established, a Kasper or Kacper was prominent enough that his kin were referred to by his name.

Ligas probably comes from the verb ligać, "to kick or lie down," compare the term ligęza, "one who loves to lie around," so Ligas too may have started as a nickname for a rather easy-going fellow. As of 1990 there were 687 Poles by this name, with the largest number by far, 290, in the province Nowy Sacz.

In Zabreskiego the -ego is just an ending dictated by grammar in certain circumstances, so you drop it when looking for the standard form. This is almost certainly a simplified spelling of Zabrzeski, "one from Zabrzeż"; in this case the probable reference is to the village Zabrzeż (dot over the final z) in Nowy Sacz province, maybe 5 km. north of Tylmanowa. There are other places with names that could produce this surname, but with the info on your family's roots this is the most likely. Notice again, the surname by itself is useless, but if you have reason to believe the family came from a clearly defined area, you can look for places in that area that match up, with reasonable chances of success.


STĘPKOWSKI

… Please send me any remarks on the surname I hold, i.e.: Stêpkowski (the third letter of it may be correctly seen using Central European Windows fonts).

Usually those of us whose machines are not configured for Polish characters use ę to stand for the nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under it and pronounced like en in most cases, but like em before a b or p. But in this note I’ll use ê so it will show up correctly on your computer.

According to onomastics expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut, the name Stêpkowski comes ultimately from the Old Polish root stêpka, "a small stêpa"; he defines stêpa as "urzadzenie do tluczenia, ubijania." In English I rendered this as a "mill for crushing grain, ore, etc." It often happens that names ending in -owski refer to place of origin in a village with a similar name, such as Stêpki, Stêpkowo, etc., and those places got their names because of some association with such mills. I can find no places by such names on the maps I have, but that is not unusual. Surnames generally developed at least two centuries ago, often much earlier, and the places they referred could be quite small, unlikely to appear on maps, or may have disappeared or changed names in the centuries since then.

This is a moderately common surname in Poland: as of 1990 there were 2,142 Polish citizens named Stêpkowski. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Warszawa (353), Ciechanow (270), Krakow (104), and Wloclawek (102), but there were smaller numbers in virtually every province (for instance there were 57 in Lodz province). Unfortunately, my source for this information, Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, does not give further information such as first names and addresses, so this is all the data I have access to.


ROMAN

Roman is the name of my Grandfather and Anthony is his first name, they came to the USA from Poland around late 1890's and settled in Pennsylvania. My Grandmother came from a small provence near Warsaw, but there is no one alive to tell me the name or even her maiden name, I am trying to establish a family history...Thank you for your help...

I wish I could help you, but I'm afraid Roman is too common a surname to offer much help. As of 1990 there were 5,730 Polish citizens named Roman, living all over the country -- there is no one particular area where this name is concentrated. It comes from the first name Roman, from Latin Romanus, "Roman, citizen of Rome," and also from the Roman coat of arms. The name appears in records as far back as the 1400's.


NADANER

… I'm very actively researching my maternal grandfathers family, the Nadaners, and have recently connected with two separate Nadaner families... The first translation of Nadaner yielded 'Talented', the second was 'nice, pretty'.

Linguistically speaking, Nadaner is a distinctively Yiddish form, created by adding the Yiddish-German suffix -er to the archaic Polish adjective nadany, in form a participle from the verb nadać. The translations "talented" and "nice, pretty" come from efforts to render the meaning of nadany in English: the word means literally "on-given, to-given," in the sense of "one to whom [desirable qualities] have been given." The English words "talented, nice, pretty" correspond fairly well to the meanings this word had in Polish (as I say, it's archaic now). In some ways nadany is best defined in terms of its antonym, nienadany, where nie- is the negative particle meaning "not, non-"; the term nienadany was used to mean "barbaric, wild, uncivilized." This suggests nadany was used as a positive description for someone comely, attractive, desirable.

I can't add much more; my main source of information for Jewish names is Alexander Beider's Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland, and from the info you gave I'm fairly certain you've consulted this work at some point. About the only thing I can add is that as of 1990 there was no longer anyone named Nadaner living in Poland; there were still some who bore the native Polish forms Nadany and Nadana, but no Nadaner, at least not within the limits of accuracy of the database maintained by the PESEL Government Information Center.


WOJCZYŃSKI

… I would appreciate any information on the meaning or origin of my grandmother's maiden name [Woyczynski].

The Polish spelling of the name is Wojczyński, where ń is how we represent on-line the Polish n with an accent over it; the name is pronounced roughly "voy-CHIN-skee." As of 1990 there were 268 Polish citizens by this name, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Kalisz (221), Pila (103), and Poznan (52) and smaller numbers (fewer than 20) in many other provinces. So this name is most common in west central Poland -- but the data does not allow us to narrow the focus to any particular area.

Names ending in -ski are adjectives, and Wojczyński literally means "of, from, pertaining to wojczyn," so the question is what that means. The ultimate root of is probably woj, "warrior," with wojczyn either as meaning "son of the warrior" or a nickname from old Polish first names such as Wojciech, Wojslaw, etc. Actually, I would expect Wojczyński, like most names ending in -iński and -yński, to have referred to a place named for a warrior or a Wojciech, Wojslaw, etc., thus meaning something like "one from Wojczyn or Wojcza"; there is a village Wójcza in Kielce province, at least some Wojczyński's probably got their name because they came from this place.

There are also at least 5 villages called Wójcin, and since the letter combinations -cin and -czyn in Polish sound similar ("cheen" vs. "chin"), it is possible Wojczyński might also have referred to those places, "one from Wójcin." This place name could come from that first name Wojciech, but could also come from the word wó~jt, a kind of village mayor; so Wójcin can mean "the place of the wójt" and Wójciński "one from Wójcin = one from the place of the wójt." It's a bit of a reach from Wójciński to Wojczyński, but I can't rule it out; there probably are at least a few cases where the two names were confused.


FUJARA -- SZWAJA

… I have come across these two names in my family. They seem unusual. Does anyone know if Fujara is actually Polish? That is the exact spelling on a good number of clear records.

Fujara can be Polish, there were 85 Polish citizens by that name as of 1990, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice (32) and Przemysl (16). It almost certainly comes from the word fujara, "pipe," the sinple musical instrument, with a secondary meaning of "nincompoop, goof-off." I think the connection is a fujara is "the kind of fellow who sits around tootling while all us poor slobs are working our butts off, damn him (and how come I don't get to do that?)." My big dictionary says the ultimate source of the word is Romanian fluera, and I'm rather proud of the fact that when I first read your note I thought, "Hmm, sounds Romanian." (If I'm so smart, why ain't I rich?)

Does Szwaia fall into Polish names? It is written exceptionally well on one record so the spelling cannot be denied.

This is in the book, but not in that spelling. As the notes on p. 11 of the book indicate, J and I and Y were often interchangeable in older Polish spelling; these days the standard spelling of this name would be Szwaja. I couldn't find discussion of this name by any Polish expert, but there is a word szwaja, a contemptuous term for "seamstress, neadlewoman," and I strongly suspect that's the source of the surname. As of 1990 there were 1,096 Szwaja's in Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Czestochowa (155), Katowice (136), Kielce (129), Krakow (93); so it's found most often in southcentral Poland.

Don't be bothered that neither of these terms is particularly complimentary. Compared to a lot of Polish names, ones meaning "nincompoop" and "seamstress" are mild!


DYTRYCH

… Since the birth of my son I've developed an interest in trying to trace our family tree, but I must admit I am not getting very far as records are very thin on the ground. My father was born in Poland but lived out his years in England after the war. I would be grateful if you could offer me any advice on the origins of our surname.

Dytrych is a Polish version of the German first name Dietrich; the German name is pronounced roughly "DEET-rick," whereas this Polish version (there are others) sounds more like "DITT-rick," with that first vowel a short i rather than a long e. This name is of ancient origin, from back in the days before Germans and Poles etc. were Christianized -- parents would give their children names of good omen, based on what they hoped the child would grow up to be (or naming them after a famous person who bore that name). The ancient Germanic roots in this name mean "people" and "rule," so that we might interpret the name as "ruler of the people" = "may he grow up to rule the people" (the second element is also seen in "Friedrich" [Frederick], "peaceful ruler," "may he rule in peace").

There were a great many ethnic Germans who came to live in Poland, often invited by land-owning nobles who wanted skilled farmers and craftsmen to help repopulate areas devastated by the Black Death and other catastrophes. So it's not at all rare to see names of German origin in Poland. The family bearing this name, after a while, probably thought of themselves as Poles and didn't even think about how their ancestors were actually Germans. Millions those who did continue to identify themselves as German, or who had distinctively German names, moved out of Poland after World War II, afraid to go on living there after what the Nazis did to the Poles during the war.

Dytrych is still a moderately common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 588 Polish citizens by this name, scattered in small numbers all over the country. I'm afraid there's nothing about its frequency or distribution that offers any really helpful clues as to what part of Poland families by this name might have come from; they could have lived anywhere in the old Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania. I know this may be disappointing, perhaps you were hoping the name would give a clue; but in all honesty I'd estimate some 90% of Polish names don't provide any kind of useful lead. I'm afraid usually the only thing that helps is digging in naturalization records, ship passenger lists, church records, etc.


SIEDLECKI

… I would appreciate it if you could search my last name, Siedlecki.

Siedlecki is one of many Polish surnames coming from place names, generally indicating that the family in question came from or was otherwise connected to a place with a name like Siedlce or Siedlec. If the family was noble, it meaned at one time they owned a village or estate by those names; if the family was not noble, they probably worked the fields at such a place, or at one time lived there and later moved elsewhere, so that it made sense to distinguish them by calling them "the ones from Siedlce/Siedlec." That's really all Siedlecki means, it's an adjectival form meaning "of, from, pertaining to Siedlce or Siedlec." It's pronounced in Polish something like "shed-LET-skee."

There at least a dozen places in Poland with those names. The largest and best known is Siedlce in east central Poland, big enough to be the capital of its own province; but there are several other Siedlce's and quite a few Siedlec's. All of these place names derive ultimately from a Polish root siedl- meaning "settle" (it's not an accident the Polish and English roots sound similar, if you go back far enough they came from the same original root in Indo-European). Usually what happened is that back in the old days before Poles accepted Christianity, they named their children with names formed by sticking two roots together to express a good omen or hoped-for success, much as German Friedrich means "peace+rule" = "peaceful ruler." For instance, there was an old Polish name Siedlewit, and the roots in question are siedl-, "settle, seat" + wit, "master, lord," thus "lord of the settlement," expressing a hope that the child would be the master of the place where he lived. Then later Poles abbreviated the name and added suffixes (much as we turned "Theodore" into "Teddy"). Siedlec and Siedlce both would mean something like "the place of Siedl," and Siedlecki just means "one from the place of Siedl."

As of 1990 there were 7,786 Polish citizens named Siedlecki, living all over the country, so it's a pretty common name. And it's so widely distributed that you can't trace it back to any one place and say "That's where it came from." The only way to figure out which particular Siedlec or Siedlce your family came from would be to trace the family's roots back to Poland, pinpoint exactly what area they came from, and then look for a Siedlec or Siedlce nearby. Even that's not foolproof, because these names originated centuries ago, and a lot has changed over the ages. But that would be the only way to even hazard a good guess on which particular place a given family came from.


WICHEREK

… Hello. My name is Czeslaw Wicherek and my family come from the Polish part of Silesia and are fiercely Polish. However, I can find no reference to the name anywhere and now not in your list… Do you know if my name is a form of any other name or anything about it, or could you advise me where to look. Any assistance you could give would be much appreciated.

Well, according to the series Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, a 10-volume set edited by Prof. Kazimierz Rymut of the Instytut Jezyka Polskiego PAN in Krakow, as of 1990 there were some 800,000+ surnames used by Poles! Obviously many of these were very rare or were closely related variants of others -- e. g. Kamieński vs. Kamiński, or Wicher vs. Wicherek vs. Wicherski -- but there were still more than 40,000 borne by 100 or more Poles. So neither my book nor my Webpage can begin to cover them all! That's why there are a great many names that don't appear in that list.

According to Prof. Rymut's book Nazwiska Polaków, the name Wicherek comes from the term wicher, "wind," or especially wicherek, "little wind, breeze," and appears in Polish documents as early as 1401. He does not discuss exactly how a family might come to get such a name, and in fact even the best experts can't always say how such a thing happened; humans are very ingenious in the names they give each other, and most of these names are many centuries old, so it can be difficult to analyze the exact origin. A name like this might have once been given someone because he was born on a breezy day and got the name to commemorate that; or perhaps he lived in an area that was always breezy. About the most we can say is that the name originally was given because of some connection to wind or breeze, and may have started as a nickname that later became established as a surname.

As of the year 1990 there were 552 Polish citizens named Wicherek. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (189), Katowice (103), and Poznan (88), with much smaller numbers in many other provinces. So the name is most common in southcentral Poland, in or just east of Silesia, depending on exactly how you define "Silesia." Unfortunately I have no access to further details such as first names and addresses.


GIERASIK

… Could someone help me to explain the meaning if any of the surname Gierasik.

This is a diminutive form of the name first name Gieras or Gierasz, so that it would mean something like "little Gieras" or "son of Gieras." That first name arose as a short form or nickname of the Polish forms of such first names such as Gerard or Gerald, possibly even Gertrude. These names generally started as Germanic names from pagan days, when instead of naming children after Christian saints, parents gave them native names of good omen; thus Gerard comes from Germanic roots ger, "spear" + hart, "strong" = "may he be strong in use of the spear," in other words, "may he be a valiant warrior." Or Gerald is from ger + walt-, "rule," "spear ruler," "may he rule with the spear." In Polish the combination Ge- tends to become Gie-, so we see such forms as Gieralt and Gierard; most scholars seem to think Gerard is the one Gieras came from. The process of forming a new name or nickame by taking the first part of a popular name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes is seen in English, too, e. g., "Teddy" from "Theodore." So Gierasik would be a sort of Polish equivalent to "son of Jerry" in English.

That's what Polish scholars mention. To me it also seems possible the name might occasionally come from Gierasym, a Polish form of the Ukrainian name Harasym, from Greek gerasimos, from a root meaning "prize, award." Probably among ethnic Poles, however, the connection with "Gerard" or "Gerald" would hold true more often.

As of 1990 there were only 37 Polish citizens named Gierasik, living in the provinces of Warsaw (17), Białystok (2), Bydgoszcz (6, Gdansk (7), and Skierniewice (5). Unfortunately I don't have access to further data such as first names, addresses, etc. What I've given here is all I have.


BRUDNICKI

… I am searching for information on the Polish name Brudnicki.

This name is one of many Polish surnames that indicate a family's connection with a place of similar name; we would expect Brudnicki to mean something like "one from Brudnice or Brudnica." There are at least three places in Poland that could generate this surname, Brudnice in Ciechanow province, Brudnice in Płock province, and a village that no longer exists, Dramino Brudnycze in Goleszyn parish of Sierpc county. There may have been more that have since been renamed or disappeared, but persons connected with these three villages could easily have ended up with the name Brudnicki, "one from Brudnice." The ultimate root of the place names is brud, "dirt, filth," but the surname would probably not mean "dirty one, filthy one" but rather "one from Brudnice," and that place, in turn, got its name from that root. It's worth noting that the Brudnice in Ciechanow province is thought to have been called Brodnica originally, so it's possible in some cases this surname might be a variant of Brodnicki ("one from Brodnica," and there are at least 8 towns and villages by that name); but it would be stretching things to assume that line in regard to a particular Brudicki family without a lot more evidence.

As of 1990 there were 1,123 Polish citizens named Brudnicki, of whom the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Konin (91), Lodz (62), Pila (222), Radom (79), Szczecin (76), Warsaw (69), and Wloclawek (99), with smaller numbers in a great many other provinces. So there's nothing really helpful about the frequency and distribution pattern of the name; it's seen all over the country. But generally you'd expect it started out as referring to a place named Brudnica, Brodnica, or Brudnice, with the latter as the most likely connection.


CICHOWSKI -- MIKULSKI -- NAPIERKOWSKI -- TOBACZEWSKI

… I started this for my niece, but I've found myself wanting to learn more. Is there any way you can help me find any information on my grandparents' names. All four came from Poland. We'd like to know their history, if any. Names are as follows: Cichowski, Tobaczewski, Napierkowski, Mikulski.

Names ending in -owski and -ewski usually started as references to a connection between a family and a place with a similar name. Thus Cichowski probably means "one from Cichów or Cichowo or Cichy"; there are at least two villages named Cichów, a couple named Cichowo, as well as the village of Cichy in Suwałki province. These place names in turn come from the adjective cichy, "quiet, still, calm." As of 1990 there were 3,435 Polish citizens named Cichowski, and there is no way to know which particular place a given Cichowski family came from without detailed research establishing exactly which part of Poland they came from.

Mikulski is the most common of the names you mentioned, as of 1990 there were 9,693 Poles named Mikulski, living all over the country. It comes from a variant form of the first name Mikołaj = Nicholas. The name may have started meaning "kin of Nicholas," or it may have referred to a place named for a Nicholas, for instance, there are at least two villages named Mikulice, and the surname might also refer to them. So obviously there isn't one Mikulski family, there are lots of different families that ended up with this name because they were named for a prominent member named Mikula or came from a place named for such a person. One of the U. S. Senators from Maryland is Barbara Mikulski, and she played a major role in Poland’s acceptance into NATO.

As of 1990 there were 218 Poles named Napierkowski, scattered all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Leszno (43), Ostrołęka (63), and Poznan (49). This surname might refer to is Napierki in Olsztyn province, and that place name derives from the root napierać, to press, urge, advance.

Tobaczewski presumably refers to a place named something like Tobaczewo or Tobaczew. I can't find any places by those names, but these surnames typically developed centuries ago, and since then the places they referred to may have disappeared, been absorbed by other communities, or changed their name. The name probably comes from a short form or nickname of the Biblical first name Tobias, so that Tobaczewski may have meant "kin of Tobias" or "one from the place of Tobias." The surname is pretty rare, as of 1990 there were only 21 Poles by this name, living in the provinces of Szczecin (12) and Zielona Gora (9). I'm afraid I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses.


PADVAISKAS -- PODVAISKAS -- PODWOJSKI

… My maternal grandmother, Helena Olszewska (1894-1964), came from a town called "Ruda" according to the naturalization papers of her husband Frank Podwoiski (1894-1954). She allegedly arrived in the U.S. in 1909, but I have not been able to find her on any passenger list. I did find his name for 1912, and he was Lithuanian descent{Pudvolskas??}. Any ideas where "Ruda" is/was???? "A small town near the border; close by there was a forest with many mushrooms", is the family legend of her origins.

I am afraid I can't help you much. Olszewska is simply a feminine form of Olszewski, that's considered the standard form of the name, and it is an extremely common one, borne by 44,638 Poles as of 1990. It just means "one from Olszew or Olszewa or Olszewo," and those place names mean "place of the alder trees." As for Ruda, there are at least 50 villages by that name on my maps, and probably more too small to show up on my maps, so I'm afraid that's no help either; the word ruda means "ore," and this name was often given to any little community that originated as a place for mining ore or working with metal.

Podwoiski is probably Podwojski in standard spelling. As of 1990 there were 156 Poles by that name, scattered all over Poland; it comes from the word podwojski, "court crier, beadle," according to Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut. According to the best work available on Lithuanian surnames, Podvaiskas or Padvaiskas is the Lithuanian form, and it comes from that Polish word podwojski. There are and long have been a great many Poles living in Lithuania -- that's where my wife's Polish relatives live. So even though her husband came from Lithuania, he may have been a Pole by blood, or else was a Lithuanian who took a Polish name; for a long time the Lithuanian nobility considered it more fashionable to go by Polish names, and that preference filtered on down to the peasant as well, so this is feasible.

I'm sorry I couldn't help more, but the truth is 95% of Polish names don't offer any real help with tracing the family. If you know a lot about where the family lived, sometimes a surname will give you a clue to some background; but if all you have is the surname, very seldom does it lead you to a specific place or time.


GĄGOROWSKI

… Recently, after I had sent in to GenPol a probably too long post about a recent bit of information I'd received, concerning in part, the name Gagorwoski" I received a message suggesting that I write you. Can you tell me anything about this name?

Well, none of my sources say anything about this name, but as of 1990 there were 473 Polish citizens named Gągorowski, using ą to stand for the Polish nasal vowel written as an a with a tail under it and pronounced much like on in French bon. They were scattered all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice (51), Kielce (110), and Wroclaw (70). So this is a legitimate, established name.

The probable derivation is from the Polish word gągor, a variant or dialect word meaning "gander" (comparable to the standard terms gęga, "goose," and gąsior, "gander"). The name presumably started out meaning "of, from, pertaining to the [place/kin] of the gander(s)," either in the sense "one from Gągorów or Gągorowo" or "kin of the gander" (referring to a goose-herder?). I can't find any mention of a village by these names, but surnames typically developed centuries ago, and often the places they referred to have since disappeared, changed names, been absorbed by other communities, or something of the sort.


MAJKOWSKI -- SZCZEPAŃSKI

… In both cases - my wife's and mine - these belong to grandparents from Przasnysz. Any background and meanings would be appreciated.

Szczepański (in Polish spelled with an accent over the n and pronounced roughly "shcheh-PINE-skee") is an adjective in form, meaning "of, from, related to Szczepan," which is one of the Polish forms of the name "Stephen." So in many cases this name means simply "kin of Szczepan," in some other cases it might mean "one from the place of Szczepan" where that place was once owned or founded by a prominent Szczepan and bears a name such as Szczepanki or Szczepanowo, something like that. It's a very common name, as of 1990 there were 31,208 Polish citizens named Szczepański, living all over the country.

Majkowski is less common, but still pretty common -- as of 1990 there were 5,085 Majkowski's in Poland. This name is also adjectival in origin, meaning roughly "of, from, pertaining to the __ of Majek," where you fill in the blank with word so obvious it doesn't need to be spelled out, usually either "place" or "kin." So Majkowski could mean "kin of Majek," but especially "one from Majk, Majki, Majków." There are several places in Poland that have these names, and the surname is common all over the country, so I'm afraid this name doesn't give much in the way of clues as to where a family came from. However, since you have information leading to the Przasnysz area, it makes sense to suggest the surname referred to one of two villages in Ostrołęka province, not far from Przasnysz. Majki-Tykiewki is the name of a village about 25 km. due east of Przasnysz, and Majk is about the same distance northeast of Przasnysz. It's not certain the surname refers to one of these places, but it seems a pretty decent bet... The Majk- root comes from an old first name derived from maj, "May," probably given a child in memory of the month he was born in.


BIERFASS -- LAUBERFELD – LÖWENTHAL -- ORLING -- TEPPER

… I was wondering if you could tell me anything about the following names I am searching in South-Eastern Poland: Lo"wenthal, Tepper (or any related names, such as Toepfer, Topper), Lauberfeld, Orling, and Bierfass.

As I'm sure you realize, all these names are of Germanic origin, which is not unusual -- large numbers of Germans, and of Jews who spoke German or Yiddish, settled all over Poland, including the southeastern part of the country. I have sources such as Alexander Beider's Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland and his similar work for the Russian Empire, plus books on German names, and they give some insights into the meanings of these names. But the only data I have on frequency and distribution of names in Poland comes from 1990 data, and I'm afraid the Holocaust and post-World War II relocation of Germans from Poland to East Germany greatly distort that data. Thus Teper is the only one of these names borne by any Polish citizens as of 1990; there were 1,038 Teper's, living all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice (247), Kielce (68), Krakow (55), Lublin (91), Nowy Sacz (74), and Warsaw (56), and smaller numbers in virtually every other province. Before 1939 there may well have been people with the other names living in Poland, but I have no way of determining how many there were or where they might have lived.

Here's what I came up with on the meanings of the names:

Bierfass: comes from the German words for "beer" and "barrel," thus might refer to someone who made barrels or was otherwise connected with brewing and storing or selling beer. The name could also be used, presumably, as a kind of insulting nickname for a person who drank a lot of beer or was rather fat, shaped like a beer barrel.

Lauberfeld: probably comes from Laub, "leaf, foliage, arbor" + Feld, "field," and thus referred to a place the family lived, literally "leaf field."

Löwenthal: comes from the German words for "lion" and "valley," and presumably referred originally to a place the family came from or lived. As of 1990 there were 9 Poles who used the Polish phonetic spelling of Lewental, living in the provinces of Krakow (6) and Walbrzych (3) -- I'm afraid I have no access to further details such as first names or addresses.

Orling: I could find nothing on this name. The root Orl- appears in Jewish names sometimes as a form derived from the first name "Aaron," and this might be relevant here. The root Orl- also appears in names of Polish origin as a form of the word for "eagle," but that usage is inconsistent with the form of this name.

Tepper: this and the other variants of the name you mention all come either from German Töpfer or the Yiddish equivalent teper, "potter."


JANICZEK

… If you have the time, I'm curious about my maiden name, Janiczek.

Janiczek means basically "son of little John." Jan is the Polish form of the name "John," and if you add the patronymic suffix -icz to it you have Janicz, "son of John." But Poles love to add suffixes, and once the name Janicz existed it was only a matter of time before we had Janiczek, formed by adding a diminutive suffix, -ek, to that name. So it's Jan + -icz- + -ek = Janiczek, "son of the son of John," or "little John's son." This surname appears in Polish legal records as far back as 1567. As of 1990 there were 1,520 Polish citizens by this name, living all over the country -- after all, the name could get started anywhere they spoke Polish and there were guy's name "Jan" who had sons.


JABŁOŃSKI -- MUDRY

… I would like to find out more about the orgins of my last name (Mudry). [removed] My mother's maiden name is Jablonska and I've been told that my grandfather Stanislaw Jablonski might have had noble roots.

In the Slavic languages the root mudr- means "wise, clever, intelligent"; we see the adjective mudry with that meaning in Russian and Ukrainian. The vowel changes slightly in some of the Slavic languages, thus it is moudry in Czech, and in Polish it takes the form of the nasal vowel written as an a with a tail under it, pronounced much like "own" -- on-line we write is as mądry to represent the nasal vowel. So in all the Slavic languages the name means pretty much the same thing. Furthermore, the actual form of the name gives a general hint where it originated. If your ancestors had been ethnic Poles, or had lived in a predominantly Polish linguistic environment, we would expect the name to be Mądry. The fact that it is Mudry suggests a Russian or Belarusian or Ukrainian influence -- possibly also Czech with modification. There are several places called Brzeg in Poland, so I don't know which area your family came from, but it's not at all rare to see non-Polish versions of Slavic names in Poland. To a Pole Mudry sounds a little foreign, but still Slavic and thus not hard to understand or requiring change.

As of 1990 there were 146 Polish citizens named Mudry, and 44 more with the feminine form of the name Mudra. Of the Mudry's, the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Katowice (13), Opole (35), Wroclaw (21), and Zieona Gora (13). I'm afraid I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses, this is all I have.

Jabłoński is an exceedingly common name from the root jabłoń, "apple-tree" (the ł stands for the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w, and the ń stands for the Polish accented n); the name is pronounced roughly "yah-BWOIN-skee" in Polish. As of 1990 there were 46,728 Poles by that name, living in large numbers all over the country. There probably were Jabłoński's of noble blood, but I'm afraid I have no information on that.


KINIC -- RUTKOWSKI

(referring to a previous disagreement on Rutkowski):

… Thanks. OK, but still think that both explanations are correct and claiming that only one is valid is an oversimplification.

Ah, I think I understand better now what you wrote. (In case it is easier for you to read Polish, I repeat my comments below in Polish. I read Polish better than I write, but Poles tell me my Polish is not bad, so I hope you will understand it.)

On the Web-page I have to discuss names in general, I don't have enough time or space to discuss them in detail. I did not mean to exclude derivation of Rutkowski from rutka (according to Mr. Rutkowski, a term for a maiden gathering rue). I meant only that in most cases the surname probably comes from names of places such as Rutki or Rutkowo. However sometimes Rutkowski surely can come directly from rutka, but more often the surname comes from the place names. But what do the place names come from? Probably from rutka! Surely these places were called that because there were rutki there. So yes, Rutkowski can come from rutka, directly or indirectly. Most often, the surname indicates derivation from the place name, and the place name can come from rutka. (I cannot exclude possible derivation from the first name Rut, and even sometimes from Rudkowski). Or sometimes Rutkowski can come directly from rutka. The one thing that’s certain is that it refers to some kind of connection with rue -- perhaps with the place where it grew or was gathered, or perhaps with the girls who gathered it.

… Apart from them do you know something about my mother's name "Kinic" ???

In his book Nazwiska Polaków Prof. Kazimierz Rymut says names with Kin-, including Kinic, come from the old Polish verb kinąć, "grow, boil, seethe" (rosnać, kipieć). Other Polish onomastics experts mention that it might also come sometimes from "Kin" as a short form of the first name Konrad. So Kinic could mean "son of Konrad," or it can mean "son of one who grows, boils, seethes." In 1990 there were 34 Poles named Kinic, living in the following provinces: Bielsko-Biala 4, Gdansk 3, Kalisz 2, Katowice 3, Koszalin 4, Lodz 2, Poznan 12, Sieradz 1, Szczecin 2, Wloclawek 1.

[PO POLSKU]

Ah, ja wierze, ze teraz rozumiem lepiej to, co Pan napisal. (Powtarzam swoje notatki tu po polsku, jesli to jest latwiej. Czytam po polsku lepiej, niz pisze, ale Polacy powiedziaja, ze moja polszczyzna nie jest najgorsza, wiec mam nadzieje, ze Pan to rozumie).

Nie mam czasu i miejsca na Web-stronie dla szczegolowego omowienia nazwisk. Nie chcialem wykluczyc derywacji nazwiska Rutkowski z wyrazu rutka. Chcialem tylko powiedziec, ze w wiekszosci przypadkow to nazwiska prawdopodobnie pochodzi od nazw miejscowosci jak n. p. Rutki, Rutkowo. Czasami Rutkowski zapewne moze pochodzic od rutka, ale ja wierze, ze czesciej to nazwisko pochodzi od nazw miejscowosci. A skad pochodza te nazwy miejscowosci? Prawdopodobnie od rutka! Zapewne te wsi tak sie nazywaly, gdyz tam byly rutki. Wiec mozemy powiedzic, ze Rutkowski moze pochodzic od rutka, posrednio lub bezposrednio. Naczesciej nazwiska odnosi sie do nazw miejscowosci, i nazwy miejscowosci pochodza od wyrazu rutka. (Takze nie moge wykluczyc derywacji z zenskiego imiona Rut, a nawet z nazwiska Rudkowski). Ale czasami jest mozliwe, ze Rutkowski pochodzi bezposrednio od rutka. Tylko to pewne, ze nazwisko to odnosi sie do jakiegos zwiazku z ruta – do miejsca, gdzie ruta rosnala, lub gdzie dziewczyny rute zbierali, lub do dziewczyn, zbierajacych rute.

W swej ksiazce Nazwiskach Polakow prof. Kazimierz Rymut daje zbior nazwisk od postawy Kin-, w tych Kinic, a kin- pochodzi od staropolskiego wyrazu kinąć, "rosnąć, kipieć." Inni polscy onomasci daja takze mozliwa derywacje od imiona Kin- jako skroconej formy imiona Konrad. Wiec Kinic moze znaczyc "syn Konrada," ale takze moze znaczyc "syn rosnacego, kipiacego, kiwnacego." W r. 1990 Polacy nazwiska Kinic liczyli 34, w wojewodztwach: bielskim 4, gdanskim 3, kaliskim 2, katowickim 3, koszalinskim 4, lodzkim 2, poznanskim 12, sieradzkim 1, szczecinskim 2, wloclawskim 1.

Man nadzieje, ze te notatki pomagaja Panu, i zycze Panu najlepszego szczescia w badaniach.


KASPARAVICIUS -- KASPERAVICIUS -- KASPEROWICZ

… As stated above I would appreciate if you could provide me with any information on this surname (Kasperowicz). The name originates I believe from the area Wilno which was once part of Poland.

This is a pretty easy one. The suffix -owicz means "son of" (the same suffix is also used in Russian and other Slavic languages, only the spelling changes -- most often by our phonetic values it is rendered -ovich), and Kasper is the first name we write as "Casper." This is not that common a name in English-speaking countries, but it is reasonably common in Europe, because by tradition Casper was the name of one of the Three Magi or Wise Men who visited the baby Jesus shortly after his birth (tradition says the other two were named Melchior and Baltazar). So the surname just means "son of Casper."

This surname is moderately common in Poland -- as of 1990 there were 1,759 Polish citizens by this name, living all over the country, but especially common in northeastern Poland, near the border with Lithuania. My data only covers Poland in its current boundaries, so I don't have exact figures on people by this name in Lithuania -- but many ethnic Poles did live, and still live, in Lithuania, especially near the area of Wilno (now Vilnius). This surname is also reasonably common in Lithuania, but in the forms Kasparavicius and Kasperavicius, which are just Lithuanian renderings of Kasperowicz. If you have relatives still in Lithuania, chances are that's how the spell the name -- "Kasperowicz" is a little too obviously Polish and therefore foreign, Lithuanians prefer to spell the name their way.


TRZASKOMA

… Curious to know if you've got any information on the surname Trzaskoma.

This is a rather unusual name in that it appears to come from the root trzaska, "wood chip," or the related verb trzaskać, "to whack, whip, smack," but you don't often see -oma added as a suffix to Polish roots. Still, the name appears in old Polish legal documents as far back as 1436, and Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut lists it under names coming from the roots mentioned above, so apparently there's good reason to think that's what it derives from. As of 1990 there were 504 Polish citizens named Trzaskoma, with the majority living in the province of Warsaw (361) and smaller numbers (22 or fewer) in a number of other provinces.


JEZIORKOWSKI

… My surname is Jeziorkowski. I was wondering if you could tell me more about it.

The basic root of this name is jezioro, "lake." It breaks down as Jezior- + -k- + -owski, with -k- representing a diminutive suffix ("little lake") and -owski an adjectival suffix meaning "of, from, pertaining to the place of," so that the name as a whole parses as meaning "one from the place of the little lakes." In most cases, however, -owski names refer to a connection between a person or family and a specific place or places with similar names. In this case, we'd expect Jeziorkowski to mean, practically speaking, "one from Jeziorko or Jeziorki," with those place names meaning essentially "little lakes." There are at least a dozen villages named Jeziorki and at least seven more named Jeziorko, and the surname could refer to any or all of them, so I'm afraid the name by itself doesn't do much to clarify exactly where the family came from. If, however, you have a little luck with your research and find your family came from a specific area of Poland, and then you discover a Jeziorko or Jeziorki somewhere nearby, chances are reasonably good that's the place the name originally referred to. The surname is pronounced roughly "yeah-zhore-KOFF-skee" in Polish -- the "zhore" sounds like English "shore," but with the initial sound much like "s" in "pleasure."

As of 1990 there were 264 Polish citizens by this name, scattered all over Poland but with larger numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (54), Poznan (59), and Zamosc (32). I'm afraid I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses.


WARZYŃSKI

… Your book gives the meaning "to prepare (food)" for the surname Warzynski and I would like to know if you can give me any more information on the source of the name. Is it prevalent in Poland today? My ancestor came from Zerniki/Oborniki.

Well, the point is that names beginning with War- or Warz- usually trace back to the root war, "something hot," or warzyć, "to cook, prepare food." However, along the way suffixes were added to produce various names of people and places, so that we'd expect Warzyński to come from such names (here I'm using ń to stand for the Polish accented n; the name is pronounced something like "wah-ZHIN-skee," where "ZHIN" rhymes with English "shin" but the first sound is like the "s" in "pleasure"). In general the name Warzyński probably meant "person from Warzyn, Warzyny," and those place names in turn derived from that root -- perhaps these were places known for their cooking, or were founded or owned by a fellow with a name from that root. Some places that might produce this surname are the villages of Warzyn in Kielce province and Warzyń-Kmiecy and Warzyń-Skóry in Płock province, and Warzno in Gdansk province. People from those places could very well end up being called Warzyński.

I don't have data on exactly how those places ended up with these names, what the connection with the root warz- was. The Polish Language Institute is putting out a 10-volume series on the origins of place names, but so far they've only gotten up to the D's, so it'll be a while before they get to the volume that discusses places beginning with Warz-.

This is a moderately common surname in Poland, as of 1990 there were 1,007 Poles named Warzyński. They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (87), Bydgoszcz (50), Katowice (108), Kielce (118), Piotrkow (83), Pila (89), and Radom (74), and smaller numbers in many other provinces. There were only 2 in Poznan province, which is where Oborniki and Zerniki are located (there are lots of Zerniki's, but that's the only area where I find an Oborniki and a Zerniki near each other). So if your ancestors came from that area, there don't seem to be too many left there now.


DOBRZYŃSKI

… In your spare time could you tell me about the Dobrzynski surname?

This is one of those surnames on which there's really not a lot to tell. It generally refers to origin in a town or village called Dobrzyn, meaning something like "one from Dobrzyn," and there are at least 9 places by that name in Poland. The surname is pretty common, as of 1990 there were 8,215 Poles named Dobrzyński (I use ń to stand for the Polish n with an accent over it). So unfortunately the name is too common, and there are too many places it could derive from, to give much in the way of details; a Dobrzyński could come from almost anywhere in Poland, and there are undoubtedly many separate Dobrzyński families that all acquired the name independently. Your best bet is to see if you can turn up info on the area in Poland your ancestors came from, then look to see if there's a Dobrzyn anywhere near by -- if so, chances are that's the place the name originally referred to.


KIEWRA

… Hi, I found your web page & was wondering if you had any quick thoughts on our surname of Kiewra

I'm sorry I couldn't answer your note sooner. I've been horribly busy lately, and haven't had much time for answering name inquiries. But I did look through my sources some time ago for information, and found that none of them mentioned this name. I was waiting for another book to come in, which, I hoped, might shed some light. But unfortunately, it didn't. So I simply have to admit I don't have a clue what this name comes from. My gut feeling is that it might be Ukrainian, but even my Ukrainian sources don't mention it.

The one thing I can tell you is that the name, while not common, is not unknown in Poland. As of 1990 there were 196 Polish citizens named Kiewra, and another 94 named Kiewro. Neither name showed any particular concentration in one place, although both seem more common in western Poland, in the areas formerly ruled by Germany but returned to Poland after World War II. This is not inconsistent with Ukrainian origin, because after World War II huge numbers of ethnic Ukrainians were forced to relocate from southeastern Poland (which used to include much of western Ukraine) to those "recovered lands" (as the Poles call them) in western Poland. If we had data from before World War II (but unfortunately we don't), I would make a pretty sizable bet the name would show up almost exclusively in eastern Poland and western Ukraine.

I'm sorry I couldn't help more -- you might visit www.infoukes.com, investigate their resources, and see if anyone there can at least confirm or refute my suspicion that the name is Ukrainian. If it is, who knows, maybe someone there can tell you something useful... You might also try writing the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute -- there's more info in the introduction to this Webpage.


ADAMOWICZ – PERKOWSKI

… I was wondering if you could tell me the origins and/or meanings of the surnames Adamowicz and Perkowski?

Adamowicz is a simple one, it means "son of Adam" -- that suffix -owicz shows up in most Slavic languages, although in the others it's usually spelled -ovich or something similar; -owicz is a distinctively Polish spelling. As of 1990 there were 7,583 Poles named Adamowicz, so it's a pretty common name, found all over the country.

Perkowski is probably like most other names ending in -owski, usually they refer to a connection between a person or family and a particular place with a similar name; we'd expect Perkowski to have started as meaning "one from Perki or Perkowo or Perkowice." Unfortunately, there are several villages in Poland that could yield this surname, including a Perki in Płock province, several settlements in Łomża province with two names of which the first is Perki (e. g., Perki-Lachy), Perkowice in Biala Podlaska province, and Perkowo in Leszno province. People coming from any of these places could easily end up with the surname Perkowski, and without detailed information on where a given Perkowski family came from in Poland, it's impossible to match them up with any one of those places.

As of 1990 there were 5,264 Poles named Perkowski, so this, too, is a fairly common name. The name was most common in the provinces of Białystok (1,235), Łomża (951), and Suwałki (272), so it is somewhat concentrated in the northeastern part of Poland, near the borders with Lithuania and Belarus. However, it is not exclusive to those areas, you do run into the name in decent numbers almost anywhere in Poland.

 

 

 

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


KRECZMER -- KRETSCHMER

… I would be most grateful if you could give me any information on the polish surname Kreczmer. My father is originally from Poland Poznan and I am trying find out more about this surname. I.e its meaning and if this is a common or unusal name!I am also tring to locate other Kreczmers on the net, so any information you have as to how I could go about this would be gratefully appreciated.

Kreczmer is a variant form of the name Karczmarz, which comes from karczmarz, "innkeeper." This is the source of a number of very common Polish surnames, including Kaczmarz, Kaczmarek, Kaczmarczyk, etc. The form Kreczmer is especially likely to be associated with Jews, by connection with the Yiddish word krechmer, which obviously comes from karczmarz. The name also appears in the more German spelling Kretschmer. I don't think either form is exclusively Jewish; non-Jewish Germans could bear this name. However, in Poland at least, it was often true that tavern-owners and innkeepers were Jewish, so that the name is identified with Jews more than anyone else.

As of 1990 there were 826 Kreczmer's in Poland (68 of them living in the province of Poznan), as opposed to 180 Kretschmer's; by comparison, there were 23,521 Kaczmarczyks, 59,403 Kaczmarek's, 2,297 Karczmarczyks, etc. So among Poles, names from the native form of the word are extremely common; names from the German or Yiddish forms are less so, but still far from rare.


JURGELIONIS

… I wanted to see if you had any information on the surname Jurgelionus (or maybe Jurgelionis). The name was "Americanized" to Yurgeles during the Ellis Island experience occuring approximately 1914-1918. Due to the fear of ethnicity that pervaded that time period I have no records, oral or written, as to family history.

Actually this is a Lithuanian name, originally Jurgelionis. It comes from the first name Jurga, which is the Lithuanian form of "George," and the suffixes just mean "son of," so the name means "son of George" or "son of little George." This may seem odd, but actually it's not at all rare to see Polish and Lithuanian names confused, because for a long time Poland and Lithuania were united as one country, the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania, and the people and languages mixed to some extent. You have ethnic Poles living in what is now Lithuania (my wife's relatives, for instance, live near Alytus), and you have ethnic Lithuanians living in what is now Poland. People from western Europe and America are generally not aware that there is even a difference between Poles and Lithuanians (but for God's sake never tell a Pole or a Lithuanian that! despite their past history together, they don't always get along too well).

As of 1990 there was no one in Poland named Jurgelionus or Jurgeliois, but there were 21 Polish citizens named Jurgielanis, all living in the province of Suwałki in northeast Poland, near the border with Lithuania; and there were 491 Poles named Jurgiel, which is just a Polish rendering of Lithuanian Jurgelis.


RADWAŃSKI

… I am just beginning to explore a long time interest in family heraldry. I would appreciate any info you might have on the surname of Radwanski. Thank you.

Radwański comes from the ancient Polish first name Radwan, which is also the name of a coat of arms. This is thought to come from the old Polish verb radować, "to make glad, cause to rejoice." As of 1990 there were 3,832 Radwański's in Poland, living in large numbers all over the country, so I'm afraid without specific data on a given family it's impossible to tell from the name alone where they came from.

Since this is the name of a Polish coat of arms, and at least some Radwanski's probably got their surname because they bore those arms, it might be worth your while to contact Leonard J. Suligowski, 218A N. Henry St. Brooklyn, NY 11222. He doesn't do genealogical research -- he's a heraldic artist, Director of Heraldry for the Polish Nobility Association Foundation, and editor of the PNAF Journal "White Eagle." He has an extensive library of armorials and other books on Polish heraldry, and he charges very reasonable fees to search his library for info on noble families. If he finds material, it would probably be more detailed than anything I have at my disposal. So I really think your best bet would be to contact him and see if there's any way to connect your family with any noble Radwański's.


KORNASZEWSKI

… If I can impose on you to do the same for my mothers maiden name I would doubly appreciate it. Her maiden name was Kornaszewski.

Structurally speaking, this name is an adjective (like all names ending in -ewski or -owski), meaning literally "of, from, related to the __ of Kornasz," where that blank is filled in with a term obvious enough that it didn't need to be expressed -- usually either "kin" or "place." So in practice the name started as meaning either "kin of Kornasz" or "one from Kornaszew or Kornaszewo or Kornaszewice," and those place names, in turn, mean "the place of Kornasz." We see the name Kornasz used in records at least as far back as 1558, and its origin is unclear. It may derive either from the root korn-, "humble, obedient, submissive," or from the word kornik, "bark beetle"; but it might also come from the old word kornel, a kind of chalcedony, or a nickname for someone with the name Korneliusz, "Cornelius." The Polish experts feel there isn't enough data available to say for sure which of these origins applies; my gut feeling is that it probably was a first name meaning "the humble one," or else the nickname for Cornelius.

I can't find any place named Kornaszew (or Kornaszewo, etc.), but that seems the most likely origin of this surname. Surnames developed centuries ago, and since then the places they referred to could have disappeared, changed names, and so on; so quite often we can't find the places they referred to, unless we get lucky and dig up mention of them in old records. So I think the surname probably meant "person from Kornaszew/o," but possibly also it just meant "Kornasz's kin."

As of 1990 there were 548 Polish citizens named Kornaszewski, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (197) and Radom (62), and smaller numbers in many other provinces. There doesn't appear to be any one area the name's associated with, although obviously there is a concentration of people by this name in the area near Warsaw.


FURLIT -- RYDZIŃSKI -- SMOLAK -- ZDROJOWY

… Could you tell me if you have anything for the following surnames: Rydzinski, Smolak, Furlit, Zdrojowy.

I'm afraid my sources come up empty on Furlit -- there was no one by that name in Poland as of 1990 (there were 9 Furlik's, all in Krosno province), and none of my books mention it. The only thing that comes to mind is the similarity in sound to an Italian name I've heard, Forlitti -- some Italians did settle in Poland, so it's not out of the question that the name is Italian. But that's strictly a guess, and the question arises whether the name has been mangled and was originally spelled some other way.

Rydziński probably comes from the root rydz, "agaric, a kind of edible mushroom," or perhaps from rydzy, "reddish-gold color." One of those is surely the ultimate root, but this particular surname probably referred to a place with a name from those roots, such as Rydzyna in Leszno province, Rydzynki in Piotrkow province, Rydzyno in Płock province, Rydzyny in Lodz province, etc. As you can see, there are several villages with names that could generate this surname, meaning "one from Rydzyn, Rydzyno, etc." I note that as of 1990 there were 388 Polish citizens named Rydziński; the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (49) and Torun (200), with a few scattered in other provinces. That distribution pattern makes me wonder if this name is primarily associated with the Kashubs, a Slavic ethnic group related to the Poles but with their own culture and language who live in northwestern Poland. You might wish to investigate this possible link by visiting the Webpage http://feefhs.org/kana.

Smolak comes from the root smola, "tar, pitch," or from smolić, "to dirty"; presumably a smolak was a fellow who worked with tar or pitch, or else a rather dirty fellow. This is a common name, as of 1990 there were 2,295 Smolak's in Poland. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Gdansk 100, Katowice 130, Lublin 453, Wroclaw 150, and Warsaw 347, with smaller numbers all over the country.

Zdrojowy surely comes from the root zdrój, "spring, spa," or from numerous places named Zdrój or Zdroje from that root, presumably because they were near springs. This particular name is rather rare, as of 1990 there were only 118 Zdrojowy's in Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Kalisz (45) and Poznan (30) and a few scattered in other provinces. Other names from the same root are more common, e. g. Zdrojewski (3,825).

By the way, I don't have further details on where people by these names live, such as first names and addresses -- the source I use has only a breakdown by province for each name, nothing else.


IKALEWICZ -- SYTNIK

… I would like to find the family history of Ikalewicz and Sytnik.

Someone appears to be misleading people about what I can do -- I'm getting more and more notes like this. I can't tell anyone anything about their family history. I can only address the question of what a name means and where in Poland it is most common. Sometimes that information provides people with a clue or lead they can follow in tracing their roots, sometimes it doesn't.

As of 1990 there was no one in Poland named Ikalewicz, but it's not unusual to find that a name that did once exist has since died out, possibly because the whole family emigrated. The sufix -ewicz means "son of," so the name means "son of Ikała or Ikało." As of 1990 there were 14 Polish citizens named Ikała, all living in the province of Pila in northwestern Poland; there were also 4 named Ikało, all living in the province of Koszalin, in the same general area. I have no access to further details such as first names and addresses, I'm afraid this data is all I have. Names ending in –ała or –ało usually mean one who constantly exhibited the action or feature denoted by the root that starts the name, in this case ik-. This appears to come from the rather rare verb ikać, "to hiccup," so Ikala or Ikalo probably started as a name for someone who hiccuped often, and Ikalewicz would refer to his son.

Sytnik appears to come from the root syty, "well-fed, sated," or the related word sytny, "nourishing, satiating." Presumably the name referred to one who appeared well-fed, perhaps a bit on the chubby side. As of 1990 there were 172 Sytnik's in Poland; larger numbers lived in the provinces of Katowice (17), Krakow (10), Legnica (18), Leszno (13), Opole (20), Szczecin (20), Wroclaw (31), and there were fewer than 10 in several other provinces. Those provinces with the largest numbers are all in western Poland, in the area formerly ruled by Germany, and especially in southwestern Poland, the region known as Silesia.


SZACH

… I would appreciate any info you could provide on Szach. I noticed on your website that you have a similar name, Szoch. Anyway, the word means "check" in Polish (from chess). The story I hear from my relatives is that it was changed to "Shark" when my grandfather entered the army in the U.S., and the recruiter couldn't pronounce his name, so he changed it.

Well, that sort of change did happen all the time, so it's certainly plausible that's how the name changed form.

None of my sources discuss the origin of this name, at least as used by Christians -- Jews used it partly because of the connection with Polish szachy and German Schach, "chess," and partly because it was short for a Hebrew expression meaning "from the lips of the priest," and was the pen name of a prominent Vilnius rabbi. When used by Christians, it probably comes from Persian shah, either directly or by way of the term for chess, which originated from the Persian expression shah mat, "the king is dead."

But I don't think we can rule out another possible derivation: a Polish nickname for first names beginning with Sa- or Sza-. Poles loved to take the first couple of sounds of popular names, drop the rest, and add suffixes (sort of like English "Teddy" from "Theodore"). There are some Polish or Ukrainian names such as Szawel ("Saul") and Sawa that could, theoretically, undergo this treatment and come out as Szach. I don't have any proof this happened, but it happened to so many other names (Jan -> Jach, Stanislaw -> Stach) that I think it has to be considered possible. And to be honest, the Polish a and o sound so much alike that they often switch, so Szach could sometimes be a variant of Szoch... Still, the sound of the expression szach is so connected with "shah" or "chess" that I think that's the association most likely to be relevant in the majority of cases.

As of 1990 there were 218 Polish citizens named Szach, scattered in small numbers all over Poland, so there's no one area we can point to and say, "Ah, that's where all the Szach's came from."


PRZYBYŁKO

… I'm wondering if I could ask you about a Polish spelling. Our grandfather's sister supposedly married someone with the last name: Pryzybylko(taken from a personal phone book, not official documents). However, no such spelled name is listed in the US phone directories, etc. Some people, not relatives, have suggested the correct name could be Przybylko.(without the 3rd letter Y). There about about 30 instances of this name in the US. However, my husband cautions me that this could be a different family. What do you think? We are trying to find this missing sister.

I applaud your husband for not jumping to conclusions -- it's always best to start by assuming the form of the name as given is right until you obtain convincing evidence to the contrary. But I think in this case it is justifiable to conclude the name was originally Przybyłko (using ł to stand for the Polish l with a slash through it). In Polish the combination Pryzy- is very unusual, whereas Przy- is extremely common. As of 1990 there were 547 Polish citizens named Przybyłko, but not a one named Pryzybyłko. And I have seen exactly this sort of thing happen before, where an extra -y- sneaks in. So I really think you can assume the name was Przybyłko before non-Poles got confused and added one y too many... The name, by the way, comes from a root meaning "arrive," and usually was given to a family that had recently arrived in the village, that is, a newcomer. You find it all over Poland, but it's more common in southcentral and southeastern Poland, especially Tarnow province, where 113 Przybyłko's lived as of 1990.


BENINDA – BIENIENDA

… My family name is Beninda, My grandfather, Stanley, arrived in America approx. 1912. My father was not sure, but he thought the name might of had an extra I in it. I am trying to research my roots and could any suggestions on the correct spelling.

This is a pretty rare name, no matter how you spell it. As of 1990 there was no on in Poland with the spelling Beninda. There were 23 named Bienienda, all living in Olsztyn province in northcentral Poland; there were 21 named Bienięda (ę is how we represent on-line the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under it and pronounced much like en), living in the provinces of Gorzow (1), Lublin (2), Radom (9), Tarnobrzeg (9); and 3 named Bienięnda, all in Tarnobrzeg province in southeastern Poland. All these names are pronounced more or less the same way, like "ben-YEN-dah" or "byen-YEN-dah," and we often see variation in spelling with Ben- vs. Bien- and -ęda vs. -enda. In other words, it is perfectly correct to regard all these as mere spelling variants of the same name.

This name is thought by Polish experts to derive from the first name Benedykt, in English "Benedict." Bienięda is regarded as the "standard" spelling, and the name appears in Polish legal records (in archaic spellings) as far back as 1222, so it's an old name. The Poles often formed nicknames or short forms of names by taking the first 2 or 3 letters, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes (somewhat like "Teddy" from "Theodore" in English), so the progression is Benedkyt -> Ben- or Bien- + -ęda = Bienięda or Benięda. It started as a sort of nickname or short name like "Benny" in English, and "Benny" or "son of Ben" is about the closest we can come to a translation. It is very common to see such first names or nicknames become established as surnames.


JASZCZ

… I was interested in getting information about the surname Jaszcz.

It could have developed two different ways. It could derive from the term jaszcz, which is a name for a kind of fish, the ruff (Acerina cernua). It can also have developed as a short form or nickname from first names beginning with Ja-, such as Jan (John), Jakub (Jacob), etc., kind of like "Jack" in English. In the case of any individual family, it's difficult to say for sure which of these two derivations applies, whether from the fish or the first name. As of 1990 there were 748 Polish citizens named Jaszcz, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (113) in northwestern Poland, and Lublin (139) and Tarnow (118) provinces in southeastern Poland.


DOLEŻEK -- FURDAL

… My grandfather's last name is Dolezek, the "z" accented with a dot over it. I would love to find some insight as to the origin of this name. I vaguely remember hearing the mention that my great-grandparent(s) came from either Czechoslowakia or one of the countries bordering Poland in a similar fashion. Also, the surname Furdal appears in my family tree.

The key question here is whether the name is Polish or Czech. The name Doleżek (I use ż to stand for the z with a dot over it) is a legitimate Polish name, coming from the verb doleżeć meaning "to lie in bed for quite a while, especially while recovering from illness." So if the name appears among ethnic Poles, that's the likely origin. But there's no question we see such names as Dolezal and Dolezek among Czechs. They could come from that same root -- many roots are similar in Czech and Polish -- but I note there is also a term in Czech dolezat', "to fawn on someone." I don't have enough info on Czech names to say for sure which is applicable here, or whether the ż vs. z is a key factor in the meaning. I can say Doleżek is not a very common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were only 126 Polish citizens by that name. They lived scattered all over the country, with no real concentration in any one part of Poland.

I couldn't find anything definitive on the derivation of Furdal in my sources, but it seems likely it comes from the terms furda and furdal, both meaning essentially "trifle, bagatelle, thing of little value or weight" and seen in both Polish and Ukrainian. As of 1990 there were 317 Polish citizens named Furdal, living scattered all over Poland but with the largest number by far, 171, living in the province of Lublin in southeastern Poland.


SOLAK

… As a school project I have been asked to research the meaning and geographic origin of my surname Solak. Through much research I have only been able to determine that the name possibly originated in western Poland due to the -ak suffix. Also, that sol in Latin means "sun". I also have found the city of Nowa Sol located in western Poland and wondered if it had any significance. I would appreciate any assistance you can give. Not only for the purpose of school, but now my personal interest to know the meaning of my surname has been peaked.

Well, the -ak suffix appears in names all over Poland, not just the western part. Some Polish names come from Latin roots, but generally they derive from Slavic roots, and the root sol has to do with "salt" in the Slavic languages, so that's the root to concentrate on.

Basically Solak isn't a very specific name, it means something like "the salt guy," and just indicates that people gave someone this name because of a perceived connection with salt. Perhaps he helped mine salt -- this was a major occupation in medieval Poland -- or he may have sold salt, or he may have used a lot of salt in his food. The name just isn't specific enough to let us define the connection more precisely. The term solarz was used more often for a salt dealer, and Solarz is a common Polish surname (there used to be a congressman by that name, I'm not sure if he's still in office), so I tend to doubt solak would be used in that sense. I think we have to be satisfied with "salt guy, someone connected with salt."

One other possible kind of derivation should be mentioned: from names of places. There is a river Sola in Poland (its name appears to refer to the fact that its water was salty), and Solak could have developed in some cases as indicating that a person or family lived near or on that river. The surname might also have referred to people who came from villages such as Sól in Bielsko-Biala province or Sól in Zamosc province. The village you found, Nowa Sól ("new salt") in Zielona Gora province, might also have some Solak's who came from there.

It's frustrating that we can't pin down one derivation and say with certainty "This it it." But with many names we find that there isn't just one derivation, a specific name could have developed several different ways; and without detailed information on an individual family's past there's no way to know which derivation applies to it. In other words, we can't assume all the Solak's in Poland got that name the same way, or even that they're all part of the same family; there could easily be numerous separate families that ended up with this name independently. And since surnames typically were established during the 15th-18th centuries, in many cases there are no records that go back far enough to settle the matter.

Solak is a moderately common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 1,718 Polish citizens by that name. They lived all over the country, but the largest concentration is in the provinces of Tarnow (598) and Zamosc (208) in southeastern Poland. So the name can be found anywhere in Poland, but is particularly common in the southeastern part.

A final note: the root sol- means "salt" in most Slavic languages, and the suffix -ak is not used only by Poles, so we can't say this name has to be exclusively Polish. You could run into it among Czechs and Russians and Ukrainians, too, and possibly others. I have no data on that. But I do think it probably is Polish in most cases.


CYMBAL -- HAJDER -- KONIECZNY -- SYMBAL -- SZCZECH

… I have read with interest the facts you have provided on many polish surnames, and wonder if you have any information on some from my family, all of which I find to be fairly rare: Konieczny, Szczech, Symbal (or symbol), and Haider.

Haider is probably a variant of Hajder (since they're pronounced the same), and derives from the German name Heider, one who lived on a Heide (heath, moor). A great many ethnic Germans have always lived in Poland, so it's not unusual to come across names from German borne by people living in Poland. As of 1990 there were 576 Poles who used the spelling Hajder, and it is most common in western Poland, long ruled by the Germans, especially in the provinces of Katowice (104), Poznan (82), and Rzeszow (52), with smaller numbers in many other provinces. The spelling Haider is rare in modern Poland, only 24 Poles used that form, living in the provinces of Białystok (2), Katowice (15), and Opole (7). In older spellings i and j were often switched, so it seems likely more folks used to spell the name Haider but have since come to use the standard spelling Hajder, which is more in line with modern Polish phonetics. Unfortunately I don't have access to more data such as the first names and addresses of any of those Haider's and Hajder's, what I've given here is all I have.

According to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut, Konieczny comes from an archaic word konieczny meaning "final, last," from the root koniec, "end." Now, centuries after names were established, it can be difficult to determine exactly why a particular name got linked with a particular family; often the most we can do is explain what the basic root meant, and speculate on the reason that root became a name. Perhaps Konieczny referred to someone who lived at the end of a road or on the outskirts of a village, something like that. It is a fairly common name in Poland, where as of 1990 there were 14,126 Polish citizens by this name.

As of 1990 there was no one in Poland with the name Symbal or Symbol, and none of my sources mention this name. An educated guess is that it is a variant of Cymbal (pronounced TSYIM-ball); it is not unusual to see the ts sound of Polish c symplified to an a sound in some areas. Cymbal appears to come from the word cymbal, "dulcimer; also (referring to people) a dolt." So the name may have started as a nickname for someone who played the dulcimer, or else someone who got the slang nickname meaning "dolt, blockhead."

Szczech is thought to come from the archaic word szczesny, "happy, fortunate," which was also sometimes used as a first name, a Polish equivalent of Latin Felix, which meant the same thing. Poles often formed nicknames or short forms of first names by taking the first few sounds of the name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes such as -ch; so the closest we can come to a "translation" of this name is "Felix, son of Felix," or "the happy one, the fortunate one." As of 1990 there were 1,571 Poles by this name.


EWERTOWSKI -- KŁOSOWSKI

… It would be most helpful if you could supply me with any information on Ewertowski and Klosowski.

Names ending in -owski usually refer to a connection between a person or family and a place with a similar name, or sometimes a person with a similar name. Thus Kłosowski, for instance -- ł stands for the Polish slashed l, pronounced like our w -- means literally "of, from, pertaining to the __ of Kłos(es)," where that blank can be filled in with some word that was obvious enough it didn't need to be spelled out. Usually the missing word is "kin" or "place," so that the surname would mean, in effect, "kin of Kłos(es)" or "one from the place of Kłos(es)." Kłos could be a first name, but in this case I doubt it is (unless it's Kloss, a German variant of Klaus from Niklaus, "Nicholas") -- the basic root involved here is probably kłos, "ear of corn."

Thus Kłosowski probably referred to a family's coming from of several villages named Kłosy or Kłosów or Kłosowo. As I say, there are several villages with those names, so without further data on a specific family it's impossible to say which of them the surname refers to in a given instance. The surname breaks down as meaning "one from Kłosów or Kłosy or Kłosowo," and that in turn breaks down as "place of the corn." Kłosowski is a pretty common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 6,697 Polish citizens by that name, living all over the country.

Similarly, Ewertowski might mean "one from Ewertów or Ewertowo," but I can find no mention of any such places in my sources. It's possible there have been places named Ewertów or Ewertowo and they've since been renamed or disappeared, but in this case "kin of Ewert" makes as much sense as "one from the place of Ewert." Ewert is an old German personal name, which also appears in such forms as Evert and Evers. There have always been large numbers of Germans living in Poland, so it's not unusual to see surnames derived from German names. As of 1990 there were 1,229 Ewertowski's living in Poland. They could be found all over the country, but the largest numbers were in the provinces of Olsztyn (317), Pila (109) and Torun (279), in north central and northwestern Poland.


MAZIARSKI -- MAZIARZ -- MAZIERZ -- MAZIERSKI

… If you should have the time, would you please tell me anything you can find related to the surname Mazierski.

Mazierski is almost certainly from the noun mazierz, which is a variant of maziarz, "tar-burner." As such it is one of many surnames derived from terms for occupations. I must admit I don't know that much about this occupation, which was somehow involved with burning wood to distill pitch or tar -- but I see mention of it all the time in old sources, so up until a century or two ago it was clearly a pretty common way to earn a living. The standard form, as I say, is maziarz, and the adjectival form is maziarski, which means literally "of, from, pertaining to the tar-burner"; as a surname it would mean basically "kin of the tar-burner." We also see the surname Mazierz and the associated adjectival form Mazierski, and these would be the same name, it's just pronounced and spelled slightly differently in some areas, perhaps much as Americans write "color" and Brits write "colour."

In some cases the surname might also refer to origin in a place named something like Maziarze (for instance, there is a village by that name in Radom province). In other words, Maziarski or Mazierski might also have started as meaning "one from Maziarze" -- and obviously a place by that name was so called because of a connection with tar-burners. So either way the surname refers to that occupation -- in one case it would mean "kin of the tar-burner," in the other case "one from the place of the tar-burner."

As of 1990 there were 146 Polish citizens named Mazierski, scattered in numerous provinces; the largest single concentration, 55, was in the province of Wloclawek in central Poland. Just for contrast, there were 4 Poles named Mazierz, as opposed to 349 named Maziarski, 4,691 named Maziarz, and 656 named Maziarczyk ("son of the tar-burner").


BISKUPIAK

… Any thoughts on the surname Biskupiak? Would it relate to a particular area of Poland?

The name comes from biskup, "bishop," and just means a person in some way connected with a bishop. It might refer to kin of a bishop, a bishop's servant, or people who worked on lands belonging to a bishop -- until a few centuries ago, bishops and higher clergy owned large estates, so this isn't as far-fetched or unusual as it might sound. Often the -iak suffix means "son of," but it seems rather unlikely, in a devoutly Catholic country like Poland, that anyone would go around with a name meaning "son of a bishop" (although Lord knows there probably were a few of those around!). But the name doesn't really allow us to define the relationship more precisely -- it just means "bishop's person" in one way or another.

As of 1990 there were 215 Polish citizens named Biskupiak; they were scattered all over the country. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (53) in northwestern Poland, Lodz (28) in central Poland, and Wroclaw (23) in south central Poland. So you can't really say there's any one part of the country with which this name is generally associated.


FINK -- HONIGMAN

… My father’s mother's name was Fink, but that probably is too common to pursue. My mother's last name was Honigman, her family came from Lodz. Any hints on that?

Fink is indeed a very common name. Despite the relocation of millions of ethnic Germans from Poland at the end of World War II, there are still 373 Fink's and 210 Finke's in Poland. The name comes from the German word for "finch," and I would imagine there are thousands of people by that name in Germany. It is borne by Christians and Jews, and probably was applied originally either to a bird-catcher, someone who lived in an area with many finches, or someone with a bright, cheerful disposition that reminded people of a finch.

Honigman is also German, obviously, and means literally "honey man." It might have referred to a person who kept bees or produced or sold honey, or even symbolically to a person with a sweet personality. In some parts of Germany "Honig" can also come from variants of the name Heinrich, "Henry," according to German name experts. As of 1990 there was no one named Honigman in Germany, but there were 8 named Honikman, which is just a Polish phonetic rendering (Honigman actually is pronounced in German as if it were written Honikman); they lived in the provinces of Gorzow (7) and Lodz (1).


GURGUL

… I realized that I do not know the origin of my surname Gurgul. All I know that it is not uncommon in the province of Tarnow, and that there is an area in Austria called Ober-gurgle. If you have any other info regarding this name it would be greatly appreciated.

When I did my book on Polish surnames, this one gave me a lot of trouble. I couldn't ignore it -- as of 1990 there were 1,980 Polish citizens named Gurgul, so it's rather common. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Katowice (165), Krakow (333), Nowy Sacz (180), and Tarnów (750) -- plus smaller numbers in many other provinces -- so it is most common in south central and southeastern Poland. But I could find no clear info on the name's derivation.

I noted in my book that there is a Polish term gurgole meaning "women's clothing," and that might be connected; but that strikes me as weak and far-fetched, although it is possible a person who made or sold women's clothes might end up with such a name. The name does sound rather similar to German Görgel, which is a sort of nickname from Georg, "George" -- thus it might have started as a nickname for a fellow named George or his son. German-derived names are not at all uncommon among Poles, because many Germans have lived in Poland over the centuries.

A book I recently acquired on names in southcentral Poland may shed some light. It discusses the name Gorgol, saying it comes from gorgolić, "to grumble, mumble, complain," and adds "compare Gurgol," a name found in a Polish legal record from 1415. It is not far-fetched to say Gurgul could very well come from that root.

I suspect we may be talking about two different names here: a German name from Georg and a Polish name from the word for "mumble, complain." There were and are a lot of Germans in the areas where Gurgul is common in Poland, including Tarnow province, so I can't really say one is more likely than the other. But the Polish author who wrote the book I just mentioned feels the connection with gorgolić is relevant for Poles, and I am inclined to agree. And either "George" or "mumble" strikes me as more likely than a connection with gurgole, "women's clothing" (although with surnames you never say "never").


MOSZCZYŃSKI

… A long time ago I was able to look through a copy of your Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings book and got totally lost on one family name. I have found out a bit about most of my husband’s Polish ancestors, but his great-grandfathers surname Moszczynski sure is a tough one to figure out.

I know what you mean. Some names are nice and clear-cut, like Kowalski from kowal, "smith," or Jankowski from Janków or Jankowo, "the place of Janek." Other names are a lot harder, and Moszczynski is one of them. In Polish it is Moszczyński (accent over the n), pronounced roughly like "mosh-CHIN-skee."

There is no short, sweet answer, but I can say that in most cases it comes from the name of a place, such as Mosty or Moszczenica or Moszczenno, and (naturally) there are several villages with those names. So this is a surname that you really can't get anywhere with until you have pretty good info on exactly where the family comes from. Then if you look at that area and find a place with a name like Moszczenica or Moszcze, chances are that's the place... In most cases these place names came from nicknames of first names, especially Moszko, which can from Mojżesz (Moses) or from some very old pagan first names such as Mojsław. Often what happened is a person named Moszko (or something similar) founded a village or owned an estate, and it came to be named after him, then people who came from there were named after it, and that's how you go from Mojsław or Mojżesz -> Moszko -> Moszczenica -> Moszczyński. As you can see, it's not exactly an obvious progression, but that's one way this name could get started.

… Also....you mention another book which has a breakdown of where people are living in Poland based on their surname. I would appreciate if you would be willing to share that data with me on the Moszczynski surname. It might aid me in my research if I actually knew where any lived. Unfortunately my husbands grandfather is old and no longer remembers where his father comes from.

As of 1990 there were 3,253 Polish citizens named Moszczyński. There are people by that name in virtually every province of Poland, but here is a list of the provinces with larger numbers (more than 100): Warsaw (383), Ciechanow (178), Gdansk (162), Katowice (118), Lodz (342), Olsztyn (458), Płock (125), Torun (130), Wloclawek (119), and Wroclaw (105). So the name is most common in north central and central Poland, but not to the extent that it really gives much in the way of solid leads. I know that may be disappointing, but it's typical -- I'd estimate no more than 10% of Polish surnames, and maybe only 5%, give any kind of clue to their origin that's even minimally helpful. Most of the time they mean either "son of Joe" or "kin of the carpenter" or "guy from X" where there are 25 places named X.

I realize this probably isn't a lot of help, but maybe somewhere along the line it will do you some good. I hope so, and I wish you the best of luck with your research.


HAŁAS

… I would like any information on the Halas surname. I have encountered a brick wall with this polish family of mine. any information would be appreciated.

The name is spelled Hałas in Polish -- the ł is how we represent on-line the Polish l with a line through it, which is pronounced like our w, so that this name sounds like "HAH-wass." It comes from the Polish word hałas, which means "noise, outcry." It's a fairly common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 3,853 Polish citizens named Hałas, another 1,242 named Hałasa, and even 348 named Chałas (the ch is pronounced the same as h in Polish, so you could see the name spelled either way). Poles named Hałas lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (342), Katowice (344), Lublin (315), Poznan (49), and Zamosc (274). Unfortunately, that just means there's no one part of the country the name is associated with, a Hałas could come from anywhere in Poland.

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


KOCHNIARCZYK

… I am interested in researching my family name, Kochniarczyk, specifically in the year 1910 when my grandfather, Marek, immigrated to the US, to be followed by my grandmother Regina Kochniarczyk, nee Pajdzik, and my father Stanley who was 2 years old in 1912....

This is a difficult name, because I can't find any mention of it in my sources. I can tell you that as of 1990 there were 55 Polish citizens named Kochniarczyk; they lived in the provinces of Kielce (6), Krakow (9), Krosno (5), Legnica (1), Lodz (1), Nowy Sacz (8), Poznan (8), Sieradz (2), Tarnów (9), Walbrzych (6). This means it is a fairly rare name, and is not limited to just one area -- Poznan province is in western Poland, Nowy Sacz and Krakow in south central Poland, Tarnów and Krosno in southeastern Poland. (I don't have access to further details such as first names and addresses, all I have is this breakdown of where they lived by province).

As for the meaning, one part is clear -- the suffix -czyk means "son of," so it is a patronymic name, "son of X." The question is, what does that X, Kochniar-, mean? I suspect it is an unusual word meaning "cook"; kuchnia means "kitchen" in Polish, Koch means "cook" in German, and the suffix -iarz in Polish is a lot like -er in English, and that suggests kochniarz could be a dialect or rare word meaning "cooker" = "one who cooks." So my gut feeling is that this surname means "son of the cook." But I can't find any sources that confirm this, and unless I come across something more definite, it will have to remain an educated guess.

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


TAŃSKI

… Are you familiar with the name Tansky. We believe it's from Warsaw.

In Polish this would be spelled Tański, with ń representing the Polish n with an accent over it, which modifies the a to where it sounds almost like "TINE-skee." As of 1990 there were 2,553 Polish citizens by this name, including 237 living in the province of Warsaw; other provinces with large numbers of Tański's were Ciechanow (359), Olsztyn (376), and Ostrołęka (359). It seems to be most common in the northeastern part of Poland, although you find people by this name all over the country.

The derivation of this name is hard to pin down, because there are several possibilities. Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut lists a number of names beginning with Tan- in his book, saying they generally come from either tani, "cheap, inexpensive," or taniec, "dance." But another source mentions that it can come from an old first name Tan, seen in old compound names such as Tanard and Tancar. Another expert mentions it as possibly coming from a short form or nickname of Kajetan, a rare first name in this country but not so rare in Europe -- compare French Gaetan, Italian Gaetano, etc.

And, to be honest, we can't rule out origin from nicknames for Antoni (Anthony) and Atanazy (Athanasius) -- it's not rare at all for Poles to take just one syllable of a popular first name, drop the rest, and make a new name or nickname by adding suffixes (sort of like "Teddy" in English from "Edward" or "Theodore"). I think the link with "Anthony" is especially worth considering, even though none of my sources mention it, because northeastern Poland often has a tendency to use the sound of a instead of o -- partly due to Belarusian and Lithuanian influence -- and in Lithuanian Tanas is a nickname for Antanas, the Lith. form of "Anthony." With all the Tański's in northeastern Poland, it's quite possible some of them got the name by way of Tanas or something simiar.

So we can't really say it comes only from this word or that word -- it's quite possible the surname Tański developed from all of these sources. In one family's case, it might come from the root meaning "cheap," in another's from a nickname (kind of like "Tony" in English), and so on.

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


BURDZEL -- STRZAŁKOWSKI

… My ggrandfather's surname was Burdzel. I am assured he was Polish but I can find nothing about this name at all. Do you have any information on this name?

As of 1990 there were 225 Polish citizens named Burdzel, of whom by far the greatest number, 148, lived in the province of Tarnobrzeg in southeastern Poland. There were smaller numbers scattered in other provinces, including 23 more in Rzeszów province (also in SE Poland), but Tarnobrzeg is definitely the area where the name seems to be concentrated. There were also 14 named Burdziel in Rzeszów province, and that is probably a variant form of the same name. Unfortunately I don't have access to further info on the Burdzel's and Burdziel's, such as first names or addresses.

As for the derivation, well, often these are a bit embarrassing -- the most obvious link here is with burdel, "brothel." However, that doesn't have to be the origin of this name. Although the primary meaning of burdel (from Latin borda or bordelum, compare Italian bordello) is "brothel," the term also came to be used for any old, decrepit building, so the name might have started as a nickname for someone who lived in or owned such a building. According to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut, names like this can also come from the root burda, "brawl, disturbance of the peace." As such, Burdel or Burdzel may well have originated as a nickname for someone who raised hell from time to time. Not necessary a complimentary name, but better than "brothel"!

My grandmother's maiden name was Strzalkowski. I can find nothing on this name either. Can you help?

Names ending in X-owski usually break down as meaning "of, from, pertaining to the _ of X," where that blank is filled in with an understood word, usually "kin" or "place." In this case the X is the root strzałka, "arrow," or strzel-, "to shoot." So while this surname might refer to the kin of a person who made or used arrows, or who had a nickname Strzałka or Strzałek because he was a great archer or was straight and thin as an arrow, the probable origin in most cases was "one who comes from Strzałki or Strzałków or Strzałkowo," and those place names, in turn, would mean "place of the arrows." Perhaps these places were known for producing or using arrows -- all we can really be sure of is that a name like this got started because of some connection with arrows. In most cases, I would think it simply meant "person from Strzałki/Strzałków/Strzałkowo." Unfortunately there are several places by those names, so without further information there's no way to know which one this surname referred to in any one family's case. There probably isn't one big Strzałkowski family, but rather numerous ones who got the name independently because they came from a community with one of the names mentioned.

This is a fairly common surname, as of 1990 there were 4,455 Strzałkowski's in Poland. The name is found all over the country, with particularly large numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (758), Białystok (162), Bydgoszcz (171), Lodz (162), Płock (233), and Radom (342). The inescapable conclusion is that the name is not concentrated in any one area, a Strzałkowski family could come from almost anywhere in Poland. (By the way, I'd estimate this is true in at least 90% of all cases -- most Polish surnames just don't offer much in the way of specific clues. Burdzel is an exception in that it is primarily associated with one province.)

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


BUBCZYK

… I was looking for the name Bubczyk and the meaning. It was my grandfathers surname. He came from Plevnik Russia/Poland County of Przasnysz now in the Province of Ostrołęka, Poland. Thank you very much. Christian Bubczyk chef3@juno.com.

The suffix -czyk usually means "son of," and the root bub-, according to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut, is buba, "something that frightens," also used in the meaning "idiot." So I'm afraid the choices are "son of the scary guy, son of the scared guy," or else "son of the idiot." I know these aren't very complimentary, but I can assure you, compared to some names I've seen, they're not bad. I just had to tell a lady her great-grandfather's name appears to come from a word for "brothel"!

Bubczyk is not a very common name, as of 1990 there were 73 Polish citizens by that name. They lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 9, Chelm 38, Gdansk 1, Katowice 4, Lublin 18, Zamosc 3. While it's a bit surprising none show up in Ostrołęka province, this is not unusual -- I often find a particular name doesn't show up in the area where you'd expect it, perhaps because the name died out in Poland after a lot of the family emigrated, or due to subsequent wars and other hardships. I'm afraid I don't have access to further details such as the first names and addresses of those Bubczyk's, what I've given here is all I have.

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


BRZESZCZAK -- LERYCH

… First, my father's family name is Lerych, and in the family tradition it originated somewhere in Germany. The odd thing is that apparently my great-grandfather used (or had a document issued in) the name Relich (which, I believe, is actually not an uncommon German name). I suppose that the two names could have been reversed phonetically, but I can't tell which is the original one since I do not have any documents predating the Lerych version. (Could it be French: Le Riche?).

I agree that in terms of linguistic and ethnic origin, Lerych is probably German -- it doesn't really "sound" Polish, if you know what I mean. By phonetics, we would expect this to come from something like Lerich or Lehrich in German. Looking through my sources to see if any of them mention this name, I find that Hans Bahlow's Deutsches Namenlexikon mentions Lerich under the entry for Lerch, "lark," a name typically applied to catchers and sellers of birds (but names from birds' names were also given to people whose clothes reminded them of a lark's coloring, or whose voices or movements somehow reminded them of a lark). Alexander Beider's book on Surnames of Jews in the Kingdom of Poland also cites this derivation, lerych from German Lerch, Lerche. (That does not mean the name is necessarily Jewish, many such names were used by both Christians and Jews.)

But I note that Bahlow also mentions in regard to the family name Lerich a possible connection with the German root ler, "swamp." If that is applicable, Lerich/Lerych might refer not to the lark but to the place where a family lived, somewhere near swamplands -- there are many, many names with this meaning, in German and Polish. I think the "lark" derivation is the more likely in most cases, but we cannot rule out the possibility that in some cases it originated as a name for someone living in or near swampy land.

As I'm sure you know, it is not at all unusual to find German-derived names among Poles (there are thousands of Hoffman's in Poland today). Large numbers of Germans have always lived in Poland; in the Middle Ages, many Germans fleeing war and economic distress in their homeland were invited to come settle in Poland as skilled farmers and craftsmen. And of course after Poland was partitioned many Germans came uninvited to what is now northern western Poland, to take over the best land and promote the German vision of finding living space [Lebensraum] in land east of Germany (often referred to as the Drang nach Osten, "drive to the east"]).

As for Relich vs. Lerich, it is not uncommon to see the switch from L-R to R-L in names. A recent issue of Rodziny, the Journal of the Polish Genealogical Society of America, has an article in which a member discusses the names Rolbiecki vs. Lorbiecki, a name found mostly among the Kaszubs, and concludes they are the same name, with Lorbiecki being the preferred form among Kaszubs and Rolbiecki more commonly used by Poles. So the variation between Lerich and Relich is not such an odd phenomenon; it still seems to me Lerich/Lerych is the original form, with Relich a later, dialectal variant.

As of 1990 there were only 13 Poles with the name Lerych, living in the provinces of Warsaw (10) and Skierniewice (3). There were also 6 Leryk's, which is surely a variant of the same name, all living in Skierniewice province. (Unfortunately I do not have access to further data such as first names and addresses, what I have given here is all I have.) This compares with 417 Lerka's, 81 Lerek's, and 489 Lerch's. The amazing thing is that there are 234 Relich's, living in many different provinces but with larger numbers in those of Gorzow (25), Jelenia Gora (20), Katowice (34), Opole (25), and Zielona Gora (44) -- all provinces in western Poland or Silesia. Without much more extensive research I cannot say how many of them bear that name as a variant of the name Lerych and how many derive Relich from something like religa, "old horse, ungainly fellow."

This is a very interesting subject, and if you would like to learn more, perhaps it would be worthwhile to contact the Pracownia Antroponimiczna, Instytut Jezyka Polskiego, ul. Straszewskiego 27, 31-113 KRAKOW. They generally charge no more than $10-20 to check their sources and see if they have information on the origin of a specific name. These are the best experts I know of on such matters, and while they can correspond in English, with you that will not be necessary! I think there's a very good chance they would be able to add to what I've said and give you some good insights on the origin of this name and the exact relationship between it and Relich.

Second, my mother's family name is Brzeszczak. Again, the family tradition maintains the first Brzeszczak was a knight who came to Poland from Hungary with king Louis and settled down there. The family, as far as I can tell, has always lived in the general vicinity of Warsaw. I suppose "Brzeszczak" could be derived from brzeszczot or the city of Brzesc (Brest), as well as any Hungarian name like Berescaky (?) or something.

As of 1990 there were 260 Brzeszczak's in Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (113), Czestochowa (80), and Radom (22), and a few in several other provinces. According to Prof. Kazimierz Rymut's Nazwiska Polaków, Brzeszczak comes ultimately from the root brzost, "birch tree," but we would usually expect it to have started as meaning "one from Brześć or Brzesko" or some similar place name, and there are quite a few places with names that qualify (all eventually deriving from brzost), so that the surname would mean "one from the place of birches."

I don't have any information on specific families, so I cannot comment on your family tradition, except to say it is certainly feasible. There are many such cases documented. It might be the knight came from Hungary, where he had a name that sounded similar and was modified by Poles to Brzeszczak, or he might have borne another name entirely and later took the name Brzeszcak because he owned an estate or town or village named Brześć or Brzesko. But it would take someone with sources on Polish heraldry to tell you that. You might contact Leonard Suligowski, 218A N. Henry St., Brooklyn, NY 11222, a heraldic artist with an extensive library on Polish nobility. He might be able to find in his sources some information that would shed light on the family's origin.

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


PIEKARCZYK

… I was wondering if you have any information on the name Piekarczyk... That was my Grandfather's name before it was changed to Baker. I was told that Piekarczyk translates to "little baker", but I don't know if that is true.

Yes, that is the literal meaning of Piekarczyk. The word piekarz is Polish for "baker," and the suffix -czyk can mean "little one," and in surnames it often means "son of." There is a term piekarczyk, "boy working at a bakery," according to Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut. So "little baker" is a fairly literal translation, and as a surname Piekarczyk probably was applied to a baker's son or assistant -- to a considerable extent the two meanings would overlap, since you'd generally expect the baker's son to help his father in the family business.

This is a moderately common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 2,876 Polish citizens named Piekarczyk. When you think about the meaning of the name, it could be used anywhere they spoke Polish and bakers had sons, i.e., anywhere in Poland, and in fact there are Piekarczyk's living all over the country. However the largest numbers of people by this name lived in southcentral and southeastern Poland, in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (148), Katowice (572), Krakow (278), Lublin (275), Nowy Sacz (195), and Tarnów (260). I wish the data would let us be more specific, because that's a lot of area to search, but that's what the numbers say, and I pass it on in case it might prove useful. (I don't have any further details such as first names and addresses, just a total of how many there were by any specific name and a breakdown of how many lived in each province).

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


KRAKOWSKI

… In using some of the information you provide your viewers, I noticed that no record of my last name - Krakowski - could be found. Originally, the name was Krakovski or Krakovsky but it apparently changed over time. What can you tell me about it?

Well, as of 1990 there were over 800,000 surnames borne by Poles, to say nothing of those that have died out in Poland after families emigrated. Now granted, a lot of those names are minor variants -- kind of like "Johnson" vs. "Jonsson" in English -- and most of them are very rare. But the sheer numbers may explain why there are still a few (a few thousand, in fact) I haven't gotten to yet! That's why I post my E-mail address there, so folks can contact me for info on the many that aren't listed.

The original spelling of your name would be Krakowski -- Poles don't use the letter v, they use w for that sound, but obviously when emigrants left Poland the spelling could easily change to Krakovski or Krakovsky to better fit English phonetic values and make the name easier to pronounce. This is one of the more common names, as of 1990 there were 6,062 Polish citizens named Krakowski. They lived all over the country, with larger numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (285), Bydgoszcz (260), Kalisz (315), Katowice (309), Konin (218), Lodz (281), Poznan (317), Sieradz (254), Suwałki (252), and Tarnow (556). It's interesting that the name is connected with the city of Krakow, yet Krakow province only has 124 Krakowski's -- this is the kind of little twist you run into all the time with names.

Names ending in -ski are adjectival in origin, they mean "of, from, pertaining to, connected with X" where X is the first part of the name. In this case, the surname would mean little more than "person from Kraków or Krakowo or Krakowek" -- in other words, more than one place name could generate this surname. However, in the overwhelming majority of cases we'd expect Krakowski to mean "one from Kraków," referring to the major city in southcentral Poland. But some Krakowski's might come not from that Kraków, but from the one in Sieradz province, or even possibly from Krakowek in Bydgoszcz province. That's one of the big problems with surnames derived from place names -- in Poland very few place names are unique. If there's one, there's usually at least 3 or 4, sometimes 30 or 40! So as I say, you'd expect most Krakowski's got that name because they came from the famous Kraków -- but there are probably exceptions, a few who go back to those other places.

Kraków/Krakowo/Krakowek actually all mean more or less the same thing, "the [place] of Krak." Krak was the name of the legendary founder of Kraków, but there were probably other folks named Krak, he's just the only one we ever heard of. The root of the name is krak, "crow." So Krakowski literally breaks down to "one from Kraków/Krakowo/Krakowek" = "one from the place of Krak" or "one from the place of the crow."

Unfortunately, this name is so common and is found in so many parts of Poland that it doesn't offer you too much in the way of solid leads or clues to help trace the family. This is actually true of probably 90-95% of Polish surnames -- they just don't tell you enough to help much. I know folks are sometimes disappointed I can't offer them more assistance, but that's just the way it is.

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


Surname 7 Combined File

OLENDER - OLĘDER

...My maiden surname is Olander, formerly Olender. I know nothing about my heritage except that my Great-Grandparents immigrated from Poland years ago. I am interested to learn as much as I can about this name. 

In Polish there is a letter written as an E with a tail under it; this letter is pronounced much line "en" in most cases. Almost any time you see a Polish name with an "EN" preceding a consonant, it will usually turn out that it can also be spelled in Polish with this letter Ę. So the name you're asking about is Olender or Olęder, pronounced roughly "oh-LEND-air." 

This name comes from German Holländer, "Dutchman," and is a term used by Poles to refer to the German and Dutch colonists who came to settle in Poland over the centuries, often at the express invitation of nobles who valued their skills in crafts and farming and wanted them to settle on their land and increase their revenues. If you pronounce German Holländer (roughly "HOLE-end-air") you can hear the similarity in sound; Olender or Olęder is just a slightly Polonized version of this term. In fact, there are a number of places in Poland called "Olędry" because they started out as settlements founded by these Germans and Dutch immigrants. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 3,961 Polish citizens named Olender. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 227, Katowice 279, Lublin 262, Olsztyn 303, Ostrołęka 486, and Suwałki 244. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. This data just shows that the name is found all over Poland, but is particularly common in northeastern and eastern Poland. 

There were also 80 Poles named Olęder, with the largest number living in the provinces of Chelm (14), Gdansk (12), Radom (16), and Siedlce (21). This is a bit unusual in that when you have names that can be spelled with either Ę or EN, the form with Ę is usually the more common or standard form. I was actually a little surprised to see that Olender is so much more common than Olęder; I would have expected it to be the other way around. But with surnames, you always have surprises!

If you'd like to learn a little more about these Holländers, there is a translation of an article on the subject at this Web address:

../../history/dutch_populace.htm 


DZIATKOWICZ

... please see if you can find information on the name dziatkowicz.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 65 Polish citizens named Dziatkowicz. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 22, Nowy Sacz 26, Zamosc 10. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. This data indicates the name is scattered in small numbers all over Poland, since Bydgoszcz is in the northwest, Nowy Sacz is in southcentral Poland, and Zamosc is in southeastern Poland.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it is a variant of the name Dziadkowicz; that name is actually pronounced as if the second D were a T, so that it can easily be spelled phonetically Dziatkowicz; both names sound like "jot-KO-vich," so that Dziadkowicz and Dziatkowicz are essentially just different ways of spelling the same name. 

The suffix -owicz means "son of," so the name means literally "son of Dziatko or Dziadko." That, in turn, is an old first name (which has also come to be used as a surname) coming from the root dziadek, "grandfather, old man"; it may have been used in its literal meaning, but it may also have come from nicknames or short forms of ancient Polish pagan names such as Dziadumil, "dear to grandfather," or Milodziad, "dear grandfather." The suffix -ek or -ko is diminutive, meaning "little" or "son of." 

So Dziatkowicz can be interpreted two ways: 1) as "son of the little grandfather" or "son of grandfather's son," or 2) as "son of Dziatko," which in turn can be a name meaning "little grandfather, son of grandfather," but can also be a nickname from those ancient names I referred to earlier, Dziadumil, Milodziad, or something similar.


PONIEWAZ

... I would like to have information on the Poniewaz surname as what it may mean and where in Poland that it was found.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 417 Polish citizens named Ponieważ. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Ciechanow 36, Lublin 198, Olsztyn 32; the rest were scattered in small numbers all over the country. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. This data indicates the name is found all over Poland but is concentrated in two areas, one near Lublin in east central Poland, the other in the area north of Warsaw.

In Polish this name is pronounced roughly "pon-YEAH-vosh." None of my sources discuss its origin, and it's a little perplexing. There is a word in Polish ponieważ, and it seems likely a surname that matches it so closely must be connected with it. But the word is a conjunction, meaning "inasmuch as, although." I suppose it's possible the surname began as a kind of nickname making fun of someone who was always using that word, but that seems pretty tenuous. 

It's also possible the surname comes from the archaic verb ponieważyc', "to hold in contempt," and referred to a person with a snotty attitude, or one who was regarded with contempt. I also cannot rule out some connection with the Lithuanian city of Panevezys, which is called Poniewież in Polish. So I have several possibilities, but none of them is obviously correct; and without more facts, I can't establish which is right.

Since I don't have the time or resources to do more detailed research on names, all I can give is "quick and dirty" analysis. If you would like to get an opinion from the real experts and don't mind spending about $20, you can write the
Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow. The staff consists of Polish scholars specializing in name origins, with access to large collections of material on the subject; there is surely no one else in the world better qualified to answer questions on Polish names. They can correspond in English, and the charge for researching a single name is seldom more than $20-30. You write to them with your request, and the individual who does the research will reply, and will tell you how much he/she is charging and how best to send payment. It is usually quite painless, and most people I hear from are very satisfied with the results; but the staff has been a bit slow lately in answering letters -- they have lots of other work to do, after all -- so patience is advisable.

If you do write the Instytut, I would be very interested in hearing what they have to say, so I can include the information in the next edition of my book on Polish surnames, and thus pass it on to others interested in this name.


WEYNA

... Hello, My name is Dianne Weyna and this is supposed to be a polish last name. I have heard my name means "war" in polish and have also met a person named Wojna in which he also said his name meant "war". I am wondering if you have ever heard of this name before in Poland, or any ideas as to what it derivation is. I did not find this name on your list. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 277 Polish citizens named Weyna. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 175, and Gdansk 24; the rest were scattered in much smaller numbers all over the country. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. There were also 26 Poles who spelled the name Wejna, all living somewhere in the province of Bydgoszcz. This data tells us the name is found primarily in northwestern Poland, especially in the area around Bydgoszcz.

This name is a hard one to figure, because there are too many possibilities. The Polish word for "war" is wojna, pronounced "VOY-nah," whereas Weyna is pronounced "VAY-nah." Could it be a variant from that word for "war"? Yes, it's possible. But it seems a little too much of a stretch to accept without some sort of corroboration.

It might also come from the Polish word wejna, which means roughly "Look at that!" It could have started as a nickname for one who was always going around saying that. Also possible is derivation from German Wein, "wine," or Weiner, "waggoner, carter." All these are possible, but I have no information that would let me pin it down and say "This is the right one in your case." Only extensive detail on the family's background would shed light on the historical, linguistic, social, and geographic context in which the name developed and came to be associated with your family.

That's all I can tell you with resources at hand. If you would like to get an opinion from the real experts and don't mind spending about $20, you can write the
Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow. The staff consists of Polish scholars specializing in name origins, with access to large collections of material on the subject; there is surely no one else in the world better qualified to answer questions on Polish names. They can correspond in English, and the charge for researching a single name is seldom more than $20-30. You write to them with your request, and the individual who does the research will reply, and will tell you how much he/she is charging and how best to send payment. It is usually quite painless, and most people I hear from are very satisfied with the results; but the staff has been a bit slow lately in answering letters -- they have lots of other work to do, after all -- so patience is advisable.


BUDA

... The family name is Buda. my parents both came from the town of Scherps (sp). any information on family name would be appreciated.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as far back as 1424. It can come from several sources. Names beginning Bud- can be short forms of ancient pagan names such as Budzislaw, where the first part comes from the root budz-, "to build." Or such names can come from that root, meaning something along the lines of "one who builds." 

But most likely this name comes directly from the noun buda, "stall, shed." It might refer to a worker who went into the forest, set up a small shed to work from, and proceeded to clear land or cut down trees for other uses, or some other kind of laborer who worked out of a shed. It can also refer to one who set up a small stall in a marketplace and sold goods out of it. I can't be sure, but that's probably what the name refers to here, an ancestor who sold inexpensive goods from a stall in the marketplace.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 4,444 Polish citizens named Buda. They lived all over Poland, with no really helpful concentration in any one area. 

"Scherps" may be a phonetic spelling of the Polish town Sierpc, which sounds like "sherpts." Sierpc is perhaps 30 km. or so north of the city of Płock, a little north of the center of the country. If so, this name is unusually rare in that area -- as of 1990 there were only 10 Polish citizens by that name living in the province of Płock. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find them. 


KORZEŃSKI - KORZYŃSKI

... I would greatly appreciate any help with my family name: Korzynski. Apparently, it is rather rare, there are only a few of us here in America, and I can't get any of the remaining older family members to give me any information about our origins except that they think we are from Białystok. Thank you for your help in this matter. Paul.

In Polish the name would be spelled Korzyński. It would be pronounced roughly "ko-ZHIN-skee." Two of my sources give this name as a variant of Korzeński, which comes from the basic root korzeń, "root." The name might just mean "of the root," referring perhaps to one who dealt in roots as a source of food or materials, or to one who lived in an area where roots were especially easy to find. 

But I think more often it would refer to the name of a place, and the place, in turn, got its name because of a perceived connection with roots. Thus my sources mention Korzeński/Korzyński as referring to such places as Korzenna in Grybow district, Korzeń in Gąbin district, and Korzeniec in Warka district. So there isn't just one place the surname might refer to. Only successful genealogical research might enable one to find exactly where in Poland a family by this name came from, and then would shed light on which of the possible places it originally referred to in their particular case.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 287 Polish citizens named Korzyński. They were scattered all over the provinces of Poland, although the largest number, 37, lived in the province of Białystok. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. This data tells us the name can come from anywhere in Poland, but if your info suggests a link with Białystok, that is quite plausible. (By the way, the number of Korzeński's in Poland was 188, also widely scattered.)


ARĘDARSKI - ARENDARSKI - HARENDARSKI

... I was wondering if you would be able to help me out with any information on the name Arendarski. I haven't been able to find anything even near it and I am really interested in find out the history of my name.

Polish scholars say this name comes from the noun arendarz, "lease-holder, publican." That term started out meaning "one who leases a property," but since the kind of property most often held in that kind of lease was either a tavern or a mill, the term gradually came to be more closely associated with those properties, especially taverns. So it could refer to one who leased any property, but was especially likely to refer to one who leased a tavern from a nobleman who actually held the title to it (the nobles actually owned most property).

The -ski is adjectival, so that the name means literally "of, from, connected with, pertaining to the lease-holder." In practice it would usually mean either "kin of the lease-holder" or "one from the place of the leaseholder." I can't find any places offhand with names that would fit (such as Arendarz, Arendarze, etc.), so I suspect most of the time, practically speaking, the name would boil down to "kin of the tavern-keeper." 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 924 Polish citizens named Arendarski. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Katowice (136) and Kielce (326). Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have.

One last thing I should mention. The noun arendarz has been used in other, slightly different forms, and those forms are reflected in surnames that can be regarded as variants of the basic name Arendarski. Sometimes you see the -en- replaced by the Polish nasal vowel written as an -e- with a tail under it, because that vowel is pronounced much like "en." Sometimes the name also has an initial H stuck onto it. So don't be surprised if you happen to run into variant forms of the name such as Arędarski or Harędarski or Harendarski. Consistent spelling of surnames is a comparatively recent development, and in records you often see names spelled a number of different ways. 


MURDZA

... Would you have any information as to the meaning and origin of the surname Murdza.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 516 Polish citizens named Murdza. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Katowice 48, Kielce 40, Krakow 39, Tarnobrzeg 100, and Tarnów 31. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. This data tells us the name is found all over Poland but is most common in the southeastern and south-central part of the country, in the region Poles call Malopolska, "Little Poland," which used to be ruled by Austria as the western half of the crown land of Galicia.

None of my name sources mention this one, so all I can do is make an educated guess on the meaning. But I notice that murdza is mentioned in an extensive Polish-language dictionary as a variation of murza, a dialect term meaning "dirty, disheveled fellow." Also of interest as possibly relevant are the Ukrainian terms murga, "dirty fellow, black ox, churlish person"; murda, "sheep with black circles around its eyes"; and murza, "dirty-faced child." The common thread in all these cases is some association with blackness or dirt, and that's why I think the Polish dialect term murdza/murza may be relevant -- it would suggest the name started as a nickname for one whose appearance was rather dirty. Not the most complimentary name in the world, I admit; but compared to some Polish names I've seen, it's really not that insulting.


CURYŁO - CZURYŁO - SYRYŁO

... Mr. Hoffman I am running down my Family Line and I seen your Area, maybe you can help? The name is Curylo, father was John Stanley, don't know Granddad or Great-Granddad. Also some of the nom de plumes, I have come across are: Czurylo - Cyrylo - Crylo - Syrylo's. I have been in touch with the only KNOWN Family in Poland, Michalska from Mogilno, e. of Posen. Any info you can get me would be Greatly Appreciated. 

The short answer is, this name means "Cyril," deriving from various forms of that name, from Greek Kyrillos, from a word meaning "of the lord, belonging to the lord" (if you're Catholic and old enough, you may remember the prayer "Kyrie eleison" in the old Latin Mass -- that phrase is actually Greek, and kyrios is Greek for "lord"). This name came into different languages in different forms. In English it's Cyril, in modern Polish it's Cyryl, in modern Ukrainian it's Kyrylo. But in earlier times, before it became standardized in Polish as Cyryl, it also appeared sometimes as Curylo, Czurylo, Kiryl, etc. These forms existed in the Middle Ages, about the time surnames were starting to develop, and came to be used as surnames as well. So the name means basically "kin of Cyril." The various spellings are not unusual, this name has several sounds that are subject to variation in spelling.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,463 Polish citizens named Curyło (the Polish L with a slash through it, pronounced like our W). There were 162 named Cyrul, 92 named Cyryl, 2 named Cyryło, and 6783 named Czuryło. They lived all over Poland, so one cannot just look at the name and say, "Oh, a family by that name must have come from this place right here." People by these names could come from almost anywhere, although they're somewhat more likely to come from southeastern Poland and western Ukraine.

You might find interesting the note I've pasted in below, which I recently sent to another researcher looking into the same basic name.


... Working on my mother's ancestry for 6 years now, I found more information and living relatives through the internet, which is still very new to me, than I've found through writing letters etc. Any information you can give me about the name Syrylo or possibly Cyrylo will be a great help to me. It is my mother's maiden name and for years all my leads never amounted to anything.

Without an absolutely certain form of the name, there are limits to the information I can give, and how sure I can be that it's accurate. Syrylo and Cyrylo could be two very different names, of different origins. However, I think it likely Syrylo and Cyrylo are variants of the same basic name, from Cyryl, which is a form of the first name "Cyril." Cyrylo would be pronounced roughly "tsi-RILL-oh," and that initial TS sound can easily be simplified to a plain S. So the most likely derivation of the surname is that it originally was a kind of short way of saying "Cyril's kin." Cyril is an honored name among Slavs because it was Sts. Cyril and his brother Methodius who originally brought Christianity to the Slavs; we see his name used a great deal as a first name among Poles and other Slavs, and any first name could easily give rise to a surname in the way I mentioned, as a kind of short way of referring to a family as "Cyril's kin."

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 92 Polish citizens with the surname Cyryl, and 2 named Cyryło (the Polish L with a slash through it, pronounced like our W), one living somewhere in Wroclaw province, the other in Tarnów province. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

There were 55 named Syryło, living in the following provinces: Katowice 4, Krakow 2, Przemysl 46, Rzeszow 3. This shows the name is found mainly in southeastern Poland, near the border with Ukraine. This is interesting because Syryło or Cyryło is kind of a hybrid between the Polish form of that first name, Cyryl, and the Ukrainian form, Kyryllo.

As I say, it's possible the name could derive from something else, including the noun syr, "cheese." Without detailed research into the family' past, there's no way to know for sure. But I feel pretty confident the name does in fact come from the first name "Cyril," and most likely indicates origin somewhere in southeastern Poland, or possibly Ukraine.


STASIEŃKO

... Very, very interesting site, I enjoy reading it. Could you tell me how and where the name Stasienko was developed or derived from

Stasieńko, pronounced roughly "stah-SHENK-o," comes from a nickname for the first name Stanisław, which is usually rendered Stanislaus in Latin and English. It comes from ancient Slavic roots (used not just by Poles but also Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, etc.) meaning "be, become" and "fame, glory," so that giving a child this name expressed the parents' hope it would grow up to be famous and glorious. 

Poles and Ukrainians often formed nicknames by taking first names, keeping the first few sounds, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes. So from Stanislaw they took Sta-, added the suffix -s (with an accent over it), to give the nickname Staś (sounds like "stosh" to English-speakers), which is still a very common nickname for males named Stanisław. Once the name Staś existed, it could have suffixes added to it, and -enko is basically a diminutive, so that Stasienko means something like "little Staś, son of Staś." 

The suffix -enko is used by Poles, but is more often associated with Ukrainians; this surname may have originated among Ukrainians rather than Poles, although that's not absolutely certain. Because Poles ruled Ukraine for a long time, it was often regarded as Polish territory and people from there were called "Poles." That explains why it might be regarded as a Polish surname even if the people bearing it had roots in Ukraine rather than Poland.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 234 Polish citizens named Stasieńko (with an accent over the n). The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Przemysl 67, and Wroclaw 64. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data shows us the name is found primarily in southern Poland. It's very possible those 64 Stasienkos in Wroclaw province lived farther east, nearer the Ukrainian border, before World War II, because after that war millions were forced to relocate from east to west. If we had data from before 1939, I strongly suspect you'd see this name mainly in southeastern Poland. But we don't have data from then, and I have no data on how common the name is in Ukraine these days.


CZAPSKI

... I have been directed to address through a relative that is working on a family tree with me. I am trying to located information on my mother's side of the family. Could you please check out for me information and meaning for the name Czapski. It was my mother's maiden name. I'm not sure what area of Poland they originated from. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 4,577 Polish citizens named Czapski. The name is found all over Poland, with no particular concentration in any one area, so that a family named Czapski could have come from anywhere.

Generally you'd expect this name derives ultimately from the term czapa or czapka, "cap." Czapski just means "of, from, connected with, pertaining to the cap," and thus might have started as a name for one who wore or made caps, or his kin. It might also come from the name of a place where the family lived centuries ago, when surnames were developing, a place with a name beginning Czap-. 

I should add, however, that some sources say the name can refer to places named Czapla and Czaple, which actually come from the noun czapla, "heron." If all went according to the rules, the surname referring to these places should be Czaplski or Czapelski; but apparently sometimes the L got dropped, so that it could sometimes end up as Czapski. In any case, there are too many possibilities to know which place the name refers to in a given instance without detailed research into a given family's background. (This is the case with most Polish surnames referring to the names of places.)


MROZIŃSKI - RADZIŃSKI

... My name is Patricia Sweeney. My maiden name was Radzinsky (Radzinski). My mother's name was Mrozinski. The Mrozinski's came from Warsaw, Poland. Do you have any other information? 

In Polish Radzinski is spelled with an accent over the N; so the name is spelled Radziński and pronounced roughly "raw-JEEN-skee." It refers to the name of a place where the family lived at some point several centuries ago. Unfortunately, due to changes in spelling and pronunciation over the years, the surname could refer to any of several places with different names, such as Radzie and Radzyn and Radzyny. Without detailed info on the family, there is no way to know which place the name refers to in a given instance. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 830 Polish citizens named Radziński. They lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area.

Mroziński, pronounced roughly "m'raw-ZHEEN-skee," also refers to the name of a place beginning with Mroz-, from the root meaning "frost." The place name would mean something like "the frosty place" or "place of the frosty one," and Mroziński would mean "one from the frosty place or the place of the frosty one." As of 1990 there were 4,083 Poles named Mroziński, and they, too, lived all over Poland, with no concentration in any one area that's any help in tracing a family.


KOLBA, KOŁBA, KOLBE

... My last name is 'Kolba', myself and my family are from Poland. I've heard that this surname is of Austrian origin, though I've been unable to confirm this as there are many Polish people who have this name. However, I've yet to find anyone who is Austrian with this name. Basically, I just want to know whether my name is Polish, Austrian, or whatever. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 251 Polish citizens named Kolba. There was no significant concentration in any one part of Poland, a Kolba could come from anywhere. 

There were 326 more Poles who spelled the name with a slash through the L, and which is pronounced like our "w," so that Kołba would sound like "KO-bah" with a distinct W sound at the end of the first syllable. The largest number, 140, lived in the province of Kielce, with the rest scattered all over. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. There were also 127 Polish citizens by the name Kolbe, scattered all over Poland.

Unfortunately, with many names there is no way to determine the meaning, or even the language of origin, without detailed genealogical research. That's because the same words and names can develop in different languages independently. Thus if Kolba or Kołba is of Polish origin, it would probably come from the noun kolba, which means "anything roughly round in shape, such as a butt end, cob, spadix, flask (used in chemistry, for instance)." But the same word, of completely different origin, was also used an archaic term for "quarrel, fight, tourney, tournament" -- it came from the Czech word kolba. 

Kolba could just as easily be a Polonized spelling of the German name Kolbe, which German name expert Hans Bahlow's Deutsches Namenlexikon defines as "a club used in battle, cudgel"; he adds that in East German and Silesian dialect it can mean "head of hair." Many, many ethnic Germans came to live in Poland over the centuries, so we find names of clear Germanic origin all over Poland, often borne by people who'd punch you out if you suggested they were German!

So this is the problem -- without detailed info on a family's background, there's no way to know if their name came from the word for something rounded, or from the archaic word for "fight, tourney," or from the German word for "cudgel" or "head of hair." The only way to find out is to dig through the oldest records one can find, in hopes of noticing some note somewhere that sheds light on the derivation. If, for instance, the early family members bore German first names or were Protestant, that would tend to support the German derivation. If their names were purely Polish and they themselves were Roman Catholic, that would argue against a connection with the German word and point toward one of the other meanings. 

I should add that there was a Polish saint named Rev. Maksymilian Kolbe (born Rajmund Kolbe), who was martyred at Auschwitz during World War II. He was canonized in 1982 by Pope John Paul II. If you say the name Kolba or Kolbe to most Poles, he is the one they would probably think of immediately. I'm not sure where he was born, but he attended the seminary in Lvov, which is now in Ukraine, and I believe this territory was included in Galicia, the part of the old Polish Commonwealth seized and ruled by Austria from the late 1700's to World War I. He was born in 1894, so one could say with perfect accuracy that he was Austrian, even though he considered himself, and is considered by others, a Pole.

I'm sorry I can't answer your question about the ethnic or linguistic identity of the name, but there's no point pretending to you that the answer's clear when it isn't. It could be of German or Czech or Polish linguistic origin, and there are probably other possibilities I haven't even thought of. As for national identity, in view of the partitioning of Poland and the fact that it was ruled for a long time by Germany, Russia, and Austria, determining even that becomes a challenge.


OLEJNICZAK

Any information about the name Olejniczak?

It is pronounced roughly "oh-lay-NEE-chock," and comes from the archaic term olejnik, "oil container; one who makes or sells or works with oil" (referring to olive oil, sunflower seed oil, etc., rather than petroleum). The -czak suffix means "son of," so the surname means more or less "son of the oilman." As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 17,327 Polish citizens by this name. They lived all over Poland, with no real concentration in any one region.

 

  

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

MIELAK

… My name is Jason Mielak, and I am inquiring whether you have any information about the meaning or history of the name Mielak. I had ancestors who came over to America at the end of the 19th century from Tarnow, Poland.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 28 Polish citizens named Mielak. They lived in the following provinces: Czestochowa 2, Radom 9, Tarnow 17. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. But this data does indicate the name is found most often in southeastern Poland, especially near Tarnow. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as far back as 1425, and comes from the root seen in the verb mleć, "to mill," and the noun mielnik, "miller." The suffix -ak is used as a diminutive to show some close connection with the word it is attached to, so Mielak would probably mean something like "little miller, son of the mill guy." It would be pronounced roughly "M'YELL-ock." 


GRZYB - POPIOŁCZAK

… I am interested in finding out more information about two surnames. The first one is Popolchak.  This was my mother's maiden name. Her mother's maiden name was something like Gryzp, or Gribbe. I've seen it those two ways on two documents: the first (1953), on my mother's Certificate of Age from her church, required for marriage, and the second way (1967), on the death certificate for her brother.  

It's almost certain both of these spellings are mangled forms of the original names, if the names were Polish. Popolchak makes no sense as a Polish name, but is probably a phonetic spelling of Popiołczak, which would be pronounced roughly "pope-YO-chock," with a distinct W sound at the end of the second syllable. (The slashed L pronounced like our W). As for Gryzp or Gribbe, my best guess is that it would be a mangled form of Polish Grzyb, pronounced roughly "g'zhipp" (using "zh" to stand for the sound of "zh" in Zhivago, or the "s" in "measure"). I could be wrong in both cases, but those are the forms that strike me as most likely -- and in cases where folks don't supply me with firm, verified, correct name forms, educated guesses are all I can offer. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 9 Polish citizens named Popiołczak. They lived in the provinces of Katowice, 5, and Legnica, 4, in what is now southwestern Poland, an area long ruled by Germany. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 

This name would come from the noun popioł, "ash, cinder." The -czak suffix means "son of, kin of," so the surname probably started out meaning "son of the cinder guy." 

As for Grzyb, it's very simple: it comes from the noun grzyb, meaning "mushroom." As of 1990 there were 11,045 Poles by that name, with large numbers all over Poland. A family by that name could come from anywhere. (There were entries for Gryzp or Gribbe). 


GWIZDOWSKI - ZECMAN

… My paternal grandfather Gwizdowski was born in Gwizdow, Galicia in 1880. I have located two towns of this name in southern Poland that are within 50km of each other. I am guessing that the southern most of these is the one most likely to be within the Galician district at the time.

I have found only a few scattered occurrences of the Gwizdowski surname.  Perhaps a small handful in Poland, another small handful in Germany, Austria and France, and my own family in America along with another Gwizdowski "tribe" in a different state. I wonder if the town of Gwizdow would have derived it's name from the family, or would the family have taken it's name from the town?  Perhaps it is impossible to say? My maternal grandfather Zecman remains the most enigmatic of my ancestors.  All I know is that he claimed to be Russian-Polish on his 1910 Census and 1918 Draft registration.  I believe his wife - my grandmother - was from the area of Pyzdry, about 100km west of Warsaw, and assume that he must be from that area as well.

Generally surnames ending in -owski refer to place names. There are at least four places the surname Gwizdowski could refer to. One no longer insists, a Gwizdów in Miedzno district of Czestochowa province; but it did presumably exist back when surnames were developing, and thus Gwizdowski could have started as a way of referring to one from there. Also there's a Gwizdów in Lezajsk district of Rzeszów province, and also one in Modliborzyce district of Tarnobrzeg province -- I imagine these are the two you found. There was also a Pogwizdów that apparently was once called Gwizdów, but the multi-volume set from which I'm taking this info hasn't gotten up to the P's yet, so I can't tell you more about that. 

As a rule you'd expect the surname Gwizdowski to come from the name of the place. The basic root gwizd- means "to whistle," and one source explains that a place might come to be named Gwizdów because it was located in an area open and bare, so that all you heard there was the whistling of the wind. But apparently some records do show Gwizd as a personal name -- perhaps originally a nickname for one who whistled -- and it's conceivable Gwizdowski could have started as a way of saying "kin of the Whistler." 

I'm afraid only very successful, detailed research into a specific family's history might uncover facts that would establish the exact origin of the surname. As a rule we'd expect names in the form X-owski to mean "one from X," and thus from places with names like X-ów or X-owo or X-y or X-owice. So I would normally figure the surname just referred to a family from one of those places named Gwizdów. But there could be exceptions. Only solid research would settle the matter, one way or the other. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 162 Polish citizens named Gwizdowski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 13, Bielsko-Biala 10, Kielce 16, Krakow 30, Legnica 16, Tarnobrzeg 18. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 

As of 1990 there was only 1 Pole listed in the Surname Directory named Zecman, living somewhere in Warsaw province -- again, I have no info on exactly where. Names ending in -man are usually of German origin, and I feel fairly certain this is a Polonized spelling of a German name; it certainly sounds German. Exactly what the German name was is hard to say. German Setzmann would be the most likely phonetic equivalent, because that initial S is pronounced like Z, and German TZ is spelled C by Poles; so German Setzmann would be spelled Zecman by Poles. But I can't find any info on that name, and it's not the only possibility. The German name could conceivably have been Sitzmann or Saetzmann or Zetzmann or Zitzmann, etc. There are so many possibilities that the only really good way to find out the original name is in an old record. 

If Setzmann was the original, the root setz- means "set, place, put." A similar Yiddish name, Zetzer, can mean "typesetter, compositor," also "one who puts bread into the oven." So the name might have meant "man who sets or places or puts something." But as I say, there are other possibilities. 


STRĄK - STRONK

… My mother's maiden name is Stronk.  She was told by her mother that the last name was changed here in America, but she didn't know what it was changed from.  All the relatives from my mother's side of the family are deceased.  I can't seem to get any info anywhere on what the previous name could have been.  I am also uncertain as to when the change happened.  I am under the impression that the change happened here in Illinois, US before my grandfather was born, which was about 1900. Can you give me any help?

Without detailed research into the specific family's history, I can't say anything for sure. And I don't do genealogical research, just observations on the origins of names. 

I can say this. If you have reason to believe the family was Polish, the name may originally have been Strąk. The Polish nasal vowel A with a tail under it is pronounced somewhat like "own." Thus Strąk is pronounced roughly like Stronk, and we often see names with Ą also spelled with ON. So it is perfectly plausible Stronk is a phonetic spelling of Polish Strąk

That name is thought to come from the noun strąk, "pea, pod, hull." As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 1,922 Polish citizens named Strąk. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 281, Czestochowa 155, Katowice 182, and Kielce 108. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data indicates the name is found all over Poland, with no real concentration in any one area; a Strąk family could come from anywhere. 

There were also 122 Poles who spelled it Stronk; the largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 19, Czestochowa 20, Katowice 54, and Kielce 13. 


GLISZCZYŃSKI

… What a wonderful thing that you might do this!  I would appreciate any information about my family name:  Currently we use Glisczinski, however, it seems as though my great-grandparents used Gliszczynski or a variation.  From what I have read, does it make sense that the name implies we came from a town named something like Glesno?

There are a couple possible original forms in Polish. One is Hliszczyński, pronounced roughly "glish-CHIN-skee." But Gliściński (accent over the first S and the N) is also quite possible; that name is pronounced roughly "gleesh-CHEEN-skee." Either of these could have been Anglicized into the form you're using; but it seems more likely Gliszczyński is the relevant form in your case. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions both names in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says Gliszczyński comes from the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago, a place with a name such as Gliszcz. He mentions in particular a village Gliszcz, Sicienko district, Bydgoszcz province. Gliszczyński makes perfect sense as meaning "one from Gliszcz." 

He says Gliściński, however, comes from the noun glista, which is a term for a kind of worm, the nema. Thus Gliściński would mean literally "of a glista"; it can also indicate origin in a place called Glista or Gliscin or something similar. 

Without detailed research into a specific family, there's no way to know for sure which derivation is appropriate, or which place the name refers to. I can only supply "quick and dirty" analysis, and leave it to you to do research which will fill in the blanks. With a little luck you'll uncover facts which will establish the correct origin. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 84 Polish citizens named Gliściński. They lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers in the following provinces: Lodz 29, Olsztyn 13, and Piotrkow 14. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 

As for Gliszczyński, there were 1,986 Poles by that name. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 306, Gdansk 208, Lodz 108, Piotrkow 137, Slupsk 258, and Wroclaw 216. So this name is found all over Poland, especially western Poland. 

I should add that the names Gliszczyński and Gliściński sound similar, and it is entirely possible they have been confused in some cases. In other words, you may very well find the same family called Gliszczyński in one record, Gliściński in another. Ideally, this shouldn't happen -- they are two distinct names with different pronunciations. But in an imperfect world names are sometimes confused, and it wouldn't surprise me if these were sometimes. 


DZIEWULSKI

 

… Curious if you have any information on Dziewulski surname

The name is pronounced roughly "jeh-VOOL-skee." As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,524 Polish citizens named Dziewulski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 478, Chelm 123, Lublin 186, Ostrołęka 151, and Siedlce 482. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it refers to the name of a place where a family so named lived at some point centuries ago. One good candidate is Dziewule near Zbuczyn Poduchowny in former Siedlce province; there may be others, but that's the one Rymut specifically mentions. Certainly "one from Dziewule" makes perfect sense as the original meaning of Dziewulski


KUBIACZYK

… Let me know something about surname Kubiaczyk. How many people live in Poland with that surname? Where? What's origin of it?

It comes ultimately from Kuba, a short form or nickname of the first name Jakub (in English "Jacob"). Most likely this particular surname developed by adding the suffix -yk to Kubiak = Kubiaczyk, meaning "kin of Kubiak, son of Kubiak." That name Kubiak, in turn, meant "son of Kuba (=Jakub), kin of Kuba." So Kubiaczyk means basically "son of Kuba's son" or "kin of Kuba's sons." In other words, all it tells us is that this family had an ancestor named Kuba. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 860 Polish citizens named Kubiaczyk. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Kalisz 86, Katowice 44, Konin 43, Lodz 56, Poznan 214, Sieradz 90, Wroclaw 45. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is found all over Poland but tends to be most common in the western part of the country. 


FUJARCZUK - PRYPUTNICKI

… I wonder if you could tell me what these two names mean. I hope they are spelled right because they have been translated by English-speaking Canadians. The names are Fujarchuk and Pryputnicki.  These people were originally from Galicia.

Actually, these names are probably Ukrainian, which makes sense -- the eastern half of Galicia was what is now western Ukraine.

The -chuk suffix (spelled -czuk by Poles) means "son of," and typically appears on names of Eastern Slavic origin (i. e., Belarusian, Russian, or Ukrainian). The term fujara means "piper, one who plays a shepherd's pipe or fife" or, in a transferred sense, "a useless, helpless, ne'er-do-well." So the surname Fujarchuk (or Fujarczuk if spelled by Poles) would mean "son of the piper" or "son of the ne'er-do-well." 

Pryputnicki is definitely Ukrainian, and would refer to the name of a place the family came from at some point centuries ago. It means roughly "one from X" where X is a place name beginning Pryputni-. Only research into a specific family would establish exactly which place this is, as there may be many little villages with names that qualify. 


GLEBA - GŁĘBA - KRYCKA - ANKIEWICZ

… The first is Gleba. At first it seems to be an exact translation of the Polish word for "earth" or "land", but after reading a few entries on your page about "Glembin" it may have originally referred to "cabbage" and could have been twisted to get away from the connotation to "cabbage head". Also, in the English dictionary "gleba" referrs to the soft, fleshy part under a mushroom where the spores grow.  So regardless it seems to either refer to a profession or looks and not a village name. . .would you comment on this further?

There are two different Polish names that must be distinguished. Gleb or Gleba with normal L and normal E and pronounced roughly "GLEH-bah," may come from the term "soil," from Latin glaeba. The root meaning "stalk" or "depths" has a slash through the L and a tail under the E , which means Głęba is pronounced roughly "G'WEM-bah." In some forms it has the nasal A instead, which I indicate as Ą, so that gląb is pronounced roughly "g'womp." 

These are totally different words in Polish, and the difference is crucial. You have to establish which root your name comes from. If your name was originally Gleba with normal L and E, it probably comes from the word for "soil" and the cabbage head and fleshy part of the mushroom has nothing to do with it. 

I consider it likely your name was Gleba, not Głęba, because Głęba is a much, much rarer name. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 774 Polish citizens named Gleba. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Łomża 92, Olsztyn 174, Ostrołęka 179, and Suwałki 95. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data indicates that name is found primarily in northeastern Poland. There were 3 Polish citizens named Głęb, and no data on any named Głęba. So I believe you can concentrate on the "soil" derivation. The exact nature of the connection between a given family and this word is something that could be determined only through detailed genealogical research into that particular family's past. 

… The second is Krycka.  This is a lot less common in the US than Gleba and may have been twisted for easier pronunciation or to get away from bad connotations. It seems to have Ukrainian origin and reading your entries the root "Kriv" means "crooked" and Krzykwa refers to "storm". Is this name related in any way?  I have not discounted that it could refer to a village name. . .would you comment on this?

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it can come from several different roots. It can come from the participle kryty, "covered" (which also means "covered" and "secret" in Ukrainian) or from dialect kryca, "wrought iron," or from the Ukrainian first name Hryts (derived ultimately from the same name we use as "Gregory"), or from the German name Kritz, or even the noun kryczka, a term for "cabbage." I would add that in Ukrainian kritsya means "steel"; and krytka can mean "unmarried woman." So there are a lot of possibilities. Genealogical research into a specific family would be the only hope of finding information that would establish which derivation was applicable in that particular family's case. It's not likely the name would be connected with the roots meaning "crooked" or "storm," however. 

As of 1990 there were 630 Poles named Krycki (pronounced roughly "KRIT-skee"), of which Krycka can be the feminine form. They were scattered all over Poland, with no concentration in any one area. There were also 2,283 Poles named Kryczka, which in some areas could be pronounced and therefore sometimes spelled Krycka ("KRITCH-kah"); they, too, were scattered all over. There were also 16 Poles who spelled the name Kryćka, using the accented C; they lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 2, Katowice 1, Piortkow 8, Radom 5. 

… The last is Ankiewicz. This seems to be the least common of the three in the US and I could find no similar references on your web page.

The suffix -ewicz means "son of," and the first part of the name can come from diminutives of Anna or Jan. So the name means "son of little Anna" or "son of little John." Polish surnames generally come from male rather than female names, so the more likely derivation is "son of John," but we can't rule the other one out completely. As of 1990 there were 707 Polish citizens named Ankiewicz (pronounced roughly "onk-YEAH-vich"). The largest numbers were in the following provinces: Warsaw 41, Ciechanow 121, Gdansk 65, Olsztyn 139, and Torun 58.


MIKOŁAJEWSKI

… I wish to know any Info on the name Mikolajewski. My heritage wasn't taught to me and I wish to build it again for my future children since my brother and I are the only males left to carry the name on.  Thank you for your time.

In Polish the name we call "Nicholas" takes the form Mikołaj. The Polish L with a slash through it, is pronounced like our W, and Mikołaj sounds like "mee-KO-why." 

The suffix -ski is adjectival, meaning "of, from, connected with, pertaining to." The suffix -ew- is possessive. So Mikołajewski, pronounced roughly "mee-ko-why-YEFF-skee," means literally "of, from, connected with, pertaining to the _ of Nicholas." In practice that blank is filled in with something so obvious it doesn't need to be spelled out, usually either "family, kin" or "place." So most times you see Mikołajewski it started out meaning either "kin of Nicholas" or "one from the place of Nicholas." Surnames ending in -owski and -ewski are especially likely to refer to names or places, such as Mikołajew, Mikołajewo, Mikołajewice, sometimes also Mikołajki, Mikołajow, etc. There are a lot of place names this surname can come from, and there are a lot of villages in Poland by those names. 

So all we know from the surname itself is that it means either "kin of Nicholas" or "one from Nicholas's place," and the latter could be any of a large number of places in Poland with names beginning Mikołaj- because of some historical association with a fellow by that name. Only genealogical research into the history of a specific family might uncover facts that would help establish exactly what place the surname refers to in their particular case. This Mikołajewski family might come from here, that one might come from there, and so on. There is no way to tell without tracing each family. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 4,189 Polish citizens named Mikołajewski. They lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one place -- which is to be expected, since there are places by those names all over Poland.

 

  

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


SZWEDA - WASIKOWSKI - WĄSIKOWSKI 

… Origin and meaning of my name Szweda and the name of Wasikowski. My granddaughter is doing a genealogy  of her name in school.  

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 4,554 Polish citizens named Szweda. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 421, Gdansk 838, and Katowice 1,737. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, what I've given here is all I have. This data tells us the name is found all over Poland, but is particularly common in southcentral Poland, with another sizable concentration in the northcentral to northwestern part of the country. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the noun Szwed, "Swede." People from virtually all European countries resettled in Poland over the centuries (and vice versa), and there was a particularly big influx of Swedes in the mid 1600's, when Sweden invaded Poland. So this is not a particularly rare name. It might have originally applied to an actual Swedish immigrant, but I suppose it might also have been used as a nickname for one who looked Swedish, i. e., tall, blond, with a ruddy complexion. The name is pronounced roughly "SHVADE-ah." 

As for Wasikowski, in Polish it is pronounced "vah-she-KOFF-skee." As of 1990, according to the Slownik nazwisk, there were 180 Polish citizens by that name. They lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw, 76, and Szczecin, 39. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it, along with many other surnames beginning Was-, derives from nicknames of first names beginning with Wa-, such as Wawrzyniec (Lawrence), Iwan (John), Wasyl (Basil), etc. Poles often formed nicknames from popular first names by taking the first few sounds of the name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes. So they would take Wa- from those first names, drop the rest, add -s, and that gave the nickname Was. Add the suffix -ik and you have a name meaning basically "kin of Was, son of Was, one connected to Was." 

The -owski means "of, from," so this surname just indicates that an ancestor was kin of, or came from a place owned or founded by, a man with a nickname from a first name beginning Wa-. Without detailed research into a specific family's history there's no way to know any more about it. Generally, though, surnames in the form X-owski come from a place name beginning X, so we'd expect this to mean "one from Wasiki or Wasikow or Wasikowo" or some place with a similar name. 

I should add that there is another name in Polish spelled Wąsikowski with a tail under the A. When people by that name came to English-speaking countries, the tail was often just dropped, leaving the name spelled Wasikowski. This name is pronounced roughly "von-shee-KOFF-skee." As of 1990 there were 867 Poles by that name; the largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 169, Bydgoszcz, 152, Krakow 79, Torun 68. It comes from the word wąs, "moustache," and means something like "kin of the guy with the moustache" or "one from the place of the guy with the moustache," i. e., Wąsiki or Wąsików or Wąsikowo, etc. 


GĄGOLA - GĄGOLEWICZ - GONGOLA - GONGOLEWICZ

… I am interested in my mother's maiden name: Gongolewicz. I have "met" online someone who is interested in his family name: Gongola. I understand that -ewicz means "son of".  I hope you can help both of us.

The names in question are usually spelled in Polish Gągola and Gągolewicz, using the nasal vowel written as an A with a tail under it. This letter is usually pronounced much like “own,” or as in French bon, and thus names with that letter are often spelled phonetically with on. But in most cases the standard or "correct" spelling is with the nasal vowel I'm representing as Ą. Thus Gągola is pronounced roughly "gone-GO-lah," and Gągolewicz is "gone-go-LAY-vich." 

The -ewicz suffix does mean "son of," and Gągol- comes from the noun gęga (another nasal vowel, an E with a tail under it, pronounced roughly "en"). That noun means "goose," and a related noun is gągor, a dialect term meaning "gander." So Gągola probably started as a nickname meaning something like "Goosey," and Gągolewicz would have originally referred to the son or kin of one who bore that nickname. "Goosey" sounds rather silly in English, but in Polish it's not necessarily ridiculous. It could be an affectionate nickname for one who tended geese, bred and raised them, lived in an area where there were a lot of geese, sold them, or somehow made a noise or had a way of walking that reminded people of a goose. Nicknames are often very ingenious, and these names developed a long time ago, so there's no way to say exactly what the name signified in a given instance. The most we can do is note what it means and then make plausible suggestions on the nature of the association that caused people to start calling someone by that name. 

I should add, however, that in Polish there are two L's, one normal and one with a slash through it, pronounced like our W. There is also a term gągoł that means "a kind of duck or duck-like bird," Latin name clangula glaucion (apparently the duck called the "golden-eye" in English is a member of this family). So in some instances the surname might refer to a perceived connection between a person and this duck. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), here's how many Polish citizens bore the names Gągol, Gągola, Gągolewicz, Gągoł, Gągoła, Gongola, and Gongolewicz

Gągol: 300; largest numbers in the following provinces: Krakow 50, Lublin 33, Siedlce 33, Slupsk 51
Gągola: 225; largest numbers in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 26, Nowy Sacz 30, Tarnobrzeg 21, Tarnow 42
Gągolewicz: 39, living in the following provinces: Warsaw 3, Elblag 1, Gdansk 13, Lodz 7, Piotrkow 9, Szczecin 6
Gągoł: 302; largest numbers in the provinces of Lublin, 187, and Torun, 22
Gągoła: 0 [this means the name was in the database but data was incomplete, so we don't know how many there were or where they lived -- presumably there was only 1, and the form may well be a misspelling of one of the other forms]
Gongola: 18, living in the following provinces: Krakow 1, Rzeszow 5, Szczecin 1, Tarnobrzeg 11
Gongolewicz: 6, in the following provinces: Białystok 1, Gdansk 4, Lodz 1 

Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 

As you can see, it's of some importance to determine the original spelling of the name in Polish. It was probably Gągola, if the numbers are any indication, and thus came from the word for "goose." But it could be a form of Gągoł, in which case the meaning and distribution are different. 


KOZŁOWSKI - ZAWACKI - ZAWADZKI - ZAWASKI

….. Hello I am a 19 year old college student inquiring about the history of my name.  I was the queen of the Polish American Cultural Club last year and have since been looking for information about the origin of my name.  My family name is Zawaski. Any info on this name would be appreciated.  My mother's maiden name was Kozlowski - any info on this name would also be great.

In Polish the name Kozlowski is written with a slash through the L. The surname is pronounced roughly "koz-WOFF-skee." It is one of the most common Polish surnames; as of 1990 there were 72,368 Poles by this name, living in large numbers all over Poland. So we can't point to any one area and say "That's where a Kozłowski family came from"; people by this name could come from anywhere in Poland. 

The name means "one from Kozłowo" or other, similar place names from the root kozioł, "he-goat." In other words, it means literally "of the he-goat," but usually referred to places with names from that root, places named Kozłowo or Kozłów or something similar. The problem is there are a great many places in Poland by those names, so without the kind of detailed background information produced by successful genealogical research, there is no way to know which place the surname refers to in a given instance. 

Zawaski is almost certainly a variant of the name more often spelled Zawadzki or Zawacki. Both those names are pronounced roughly "zah-VOTT-skee." They come from the noun zawada that means "obstacle, impediment," and in archaic usage "fortress," because soldiers often set up fortified positions in places where some natural feature of the land would block the way for enemy armies and make them vulnerable to attack. The surname Zawadzki or Zawacki means "of the zawada," and thus could refer to a person somehow connected with such an obstacle or fortress. 

More likely, however, the name refers to a family's coming from any of a number of places named Zawada or Zawady because of a connection with such an obstacle or fortress. There are literally dozens of places by those names, and the surname could refer to any of them. Only genealogical research into the history of a specific family might enable one to determine which of those places the name refers to in their particular case. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were no Polish citizens named Zawaski, but there were 35,225 named Zawadzki and another 751 named Zawacki. They lived all over Poland, with no real concentration in any one area. So a family by these names could come from almost anywhere in Poland.


BARYCZ - OWCZARZAK 

... I am looking for any information on the surnames Owczarzak or Barycz. Thank You. 

Owczarzak is pronounced roughly "off-CHAH-zhock," and consists of the noun owczarz, "shepherd," plus the diminutive suffix -ak. So it would mean literally "little shepherd," but more often as a surname would be used in the sense of "shepherd's son, shepherd's kin." 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,340 Polish citizens named Owczarzak. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 476, Konin 93, Pila 105, Piotrkow 105, Płock 125, and Poznan 861. So this name tends to be most common in central to western Poland. 

As for Barycz, pronounced roughly "BAR-itch," Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1412 and can come from the noun barycz, "marketplace, trading center," or from any of several places named Barycz, or from the personal name Barycz (which would mean basically "son of Bar"), or from a Proto-Slavic root barych that mean "bog, marsh." So there isn't just one possible derivation, but several; it would take detailed research into a specific family' history to find any clues as to which one was applicable in their particular case. 

As of 1990 there were 92 Polish citizens named Barycz, scattered all over Poland but with some concentration in the southcentral provinces of Bielsko-Biala (12) and Krakow (26). Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 


BLICHARZ 

... Could you tell me what the name Blicharz might mean? 

According to Rymut's book on Polish surnames, Blicharz and Blecharz are both names coming from the noun blicharz or blecharz. It is a term for an occupation, a "bleacher." A Blicharz family presumably got that name because it had an ancestor who bleached or whitened cloth or clothes. Rymut says it appears in records as early as 1561. By English phonetic values Blicharz would sound kind of like "BLEE-hosh," but the "ch" sound is a bit more guttural than English H, yet less guttural than German "ch" in "Bach." 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,446 Polish citizens named Blicharz. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Biala Podlask 136, Lublin 198, Rzeszow 135, Tarnow 170, and Zamosc, 560. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is found all over Poland, but is particularly common in the southeastern quarter of the country. 

Blecharz, by contrast, was the name of only 251 Polish citizens, with the largest number, 128, in the province of Krakow, and the rest scattered in small numbers all over Poland, especially southwestern Poland. I'm not positive, but this distribution suggests the word for "bleacher" was pronounced one way (with a short E sound) in southcentral to southwestern Poland, and another way (with the longer EE sound written in Polish as I) in eastern and southeastern Poland. 

Incidentally, "bleacher" is an example of an English word that has come to mean something entirely different from what it once meant. At one time it was used primarily to mean "one who bleaches clothes." These days you never hear this word, but the plural form "bleachers" is common. It means "an often unroofed outdoor grandstand for seating spectators" -- rows of seating, sometimes outside, sometimes in a gymnasium, for people to sit on as they watch a sports event or other activity. Apparently it came to mean that by comparison to the bleaching effect the sun has on linens hanging outside to dry. 


BRONICKI 

... I am trying to learn anything about the name: Bronicki. Do you know anything about its origin or anything else?  

In Polish Bronicki is pronounced roughly "bron-EET-skee." This name would usually refer to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago, a place with a name beginning Bronic-. If they were noble, they owned an estate there; if they were peasants, they lived and worked there, or had occasion to do business there frequently. This name can also be a variant form of the very similar surnames Broniecki or Bronecki -- names that close were often confused -- in which case places with names beginning Broniec- or Bronec- or even Bronka or Bronki could also be involved. 

There are several places in Poland and the neighboring countries this surname could refer to. Genealogical research is the only way to pin down which one your particular Bronickis came from. If you can locate the area they came from, you can search in that specific area instead of all over eastern Europe. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 758 Polish citizens named Bronicki. There was no one area in which they were concentrated; a Bronicki family could come from practically anywhere. 

I'm afraid the vast majority of Polish surnames just don't give you much in the way of useful clues as to exactly where a given family came from. I estimate fewer than 5% are concentrated in any one area, or have some aspect of their meaning that helps you trace them. 


BROZIŃSKI - BROŻYŃSKI - PIETRAS 

... I am looking for information on the following surnames: Pietras & Brozinska. Any information you could provide on the origins and meanings would be greatly appreciated. These are the names of my paternal grandparents who immigrated to Canada in the early part of the last century. I am attempting to do a family genealogy. Unfortunately, their personal paper were thrown away years ago and I am starting from scratch. 

Pietras, pronounced roughly "P'YET-ross," is a moderately common surname by Polish standards. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 9,007 Polish citizens by that name, as well as another 806 named Pietraś (using the tilde ~ to indicate the accent over the S) and another 1,022 with the similar form Pietrasz (both those names sound roughly like "P'YET-rosh"). All three names come from the first name Piotr, the Polish version of the first name "Peter." They would mean little more than "Peter's kin," indicating that somewhere along the line there was an ancestor named Piotr or Pietr (Peter). As with most surnames derived from popular first names, this one is common all over the country; the name itself gives no clue where a specific family named Pietras would have come from. 

Brozińska is a feminine form of Broziński (accent over the N) -- most Polish names ending in -ski change the ending to -ska when referring to a female. That name is pronounced roughly "bro-ZHEEN-skee." As of 1990 there were 92 Polish citizens by that name. They were scattered all over Poland, with the largest concentration, 43, in the southeastern province of Tarnobrzeg. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. 

A very similar name, Brożyński (with a dot over the Z and an accent over the N) is pronounced "bro-ZHIN-skee," and is therefore very, very similar in pronunciation. Considering how variable spelling used to be, it is entirely possible you might see the same family called Broziński one time, Brożyński the next. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions both names in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. Broziński most likely comes from a short form of the first name Ambroży, the Polish form of "Ambrose." Brożyński can come from the same origin, or it can come from the noun bróg, "stack, rick, haystack." So the name could mean "kin of Ambrose" or "one from Ambrose's place," or it could mean "one from the place of the haystacks." Only detailed research into a specific family's background might uncover information that would let one establish more; the name itself just doesn't tell us more than that. 


CHWALKIEWICZ - FALK[E] - FALKIEWICZ 

[Posted to Herbarz-L in response to erroneous comments about the origin of the name Falkiewicz] 

In his book Nazwiska Polakow, volume 1 (Instytut Jezyka Polskiego PAN, Krakow, 1999) Kazimierz Rymut lists a number of Polish surnames from the root Chwal-, then comments "z dawnym malopolsko-mazowieckim przejsciem chw- w f-" and proceeds to list a number of surnames beginning Falk-, including Falkiewicz. Thus in Malopolska and in Mazowsze there was long ago a tendency to simplify the consonant cluster chw- in names to f-. Chwalkiewicz/Falkiewicz may be the best known example of this phenomenon, but there are others: Chwailbog vs. Falibog, Chwast vs. Fast, Chwiała vs. Fiała, etc. (Incidentally, a number of different Polish onomasts have noted this tendency of Chw- to simplify to F-, not just Rymut. From what I can tell, it is generally accepted as a proven hypothesis among Polish name scholars.) 

The patronymic Chwalkiewicz would have meant "son of Chwalek or Chwalka or Chwalko." Those names, in  turn, began in most cases as affectionate diminutives of ancient Slavic dithematic names which, in Polish, took the forms Chwalisław (praise-renown), Chwalimir (praise-peace), Chwalibog (praise-god), etc. A name such as Chwalek or Chwalko could also develop directly from the noun chwala, "praise," or the root of the verb chwalić, "to praise," so that Chwalek or Chwalko could have originally meant something like "little praiseworthy one, son of the praiseworthy one" or "little one who praises, son of the one who praises." But in most cases it is thought they began as nicknames or short forms of those ancient names Chwalisław, Chwalimir, etc., just as "Eddie" developed from "Edward" in English by truncation of the original name and addition of a diminutive suffix. 

So it is perfectly appropriate to interpret Falkiewicz as "son of Falek/Falka/Falko = Chwalek/Chwalka/Chwalko." In such cases the name would indicate origin in Malopolska or Mazowsze... Of course it's true a name ending in -ewicz can refer to a place name; that is not out of the question, by any means. But the prime hypothesis in such a case is that the name means what it appears to mean, "son of Falek or Falka or Falko." One should turn to toponyms only if the patronymic derivation proves inapplicable. 

Names origins are seldom as simple as they appear, however, and as wrote in his original question, Falkiewicz could indeed come from a German root. Rymut has an entry for Falk, "od niem[ieckiej] nazw[ej] os[obowej]

Falk(e), ta od śrwniem. [średnio-wysoko-niemieckiego (Middle High German)] falche, 'sokół,' lub od im[ion] słowiańskich na Chwal-." Thus in addition to the link with Chwal-, Falk or Falke can exist as a name of German origin meaning "falcon," much as Sokół can exist as a Slavic name meaning "falcon." Falkiewicz could be an instance where that Germanic name came into use among Slavs, and the patronymic suffix -ewicz was later added to indicate "son of the falcon." While one must be careful about postulating the addition of Slavic suffixes to German roots, there is no question that did happen at times, when people of German descent lived and worked in a Polish linguistic environment. If a German was named Falke and lived among Poles who grew accustomed to his name, his descendants might well come to be called Falkiewicz by his neighbors. 

I don't know on what basis the original questioner says Falkiewicz is of German origin. If he did so on the basis of sound genealogical research, and thus had good reason to make this assumption, we can only accept what he says and proceed from there. But it would be wise to remind ourselves that Falkiewicz cannot be ASSUMED to come from the German name unless one has evidence to that effect. All things being equal, we'd normally expect Falkiewicz to be Polish, a variant of Chwalkiewicz. But if the evidence is there that the name does derive from German Falk- and not Polish Chwalk-, that is certainly a tenable position to take.


DEREŃ - DEREŃSKI 

... I have a question regarding the origin of my maternal grandfather's name.  He traveled with his parents from Poland to the United States around 1896.  The surname he used as an adult was Deren (Daren on a SS form).  One of my aunts said that he may have changed his name as a young man and that the family name was something such as Derensky. Can you shed any light on the origin of this name?

 In Polish the basic name is Dereń, with an accent over the N, pronounced roughly "DARE-rain." As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,974 Polish citizens named Dereń. They lived all over Poland, but with the largest numbers in the southern part of the country, especially the provinces of Krosno (191), Opole (313), Rzeszow (156), Tarnobrzeg (281), Tarnow (180), and Walbrzych (331). I'm afraid this doesn't shed too much light, however, on where a specific family by this name might have come from. 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the noun dereń, "dogwood (Cornus mas), dogberry." Thus the name probably started as a nickname for an ancestor whom people associated with the dogwood for some reason. Perhaps he lived in an area where there were a lot of dogwoods. In any case, we can feel sure there was some link that was obvious enough to make the name seem appropriate. 

Dereński is a pretty rare name these days -- as of 1990 there were only 17 Polish citizens by that name. The numbers suggest Dereń should be treated as the main form of the name. But I'd add that you should keep your eyes open for either form. Poles instinctively recognize Dereń and Dereński as closely related names -- one means "dogwood," the other means "of the dogwood." So if a person or family was called Dereń, it would be pretty common to refer to them or their kin also as Dereński, or even Dereniewicz (son of Dereń) or Dereniowski (of the Dereńs). Of all those names only Dereń is very common today. But until the last century or two there wasn't any great emphasis on using the same form of a surname consistently, and in most Polish villages everybody knew everybody else, so there wasn't all that much attention paid to surnames. 

In other words, odd as it seems to us, you might see the same family called Dereń in one record, Dereński in another, Dereniewicz in another, and so on. The Poles all recognized the people involved, and the names were all so closely related that they saw no reason to act like some Prussian screaming "You vill use ze same name every time or ve vill punish you!" That frame of mind was foreign to Poles. They didn't make a big deal out of surname consistency. Thus your Dereń might well have been  called Dereński sometimes. But at least in modern usage Dereń is the main form of the name.

   

  

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


DĄBROWSKI - DOBROWSKI - DOMBROWSKI - MARUD - MARUDA - MARUT

... My name is Donna Campbell (nee:  Marud).  I'm curious to know about the last names Marud and Dobrowski.

None of my sources mention the derivation of Marud, but I think there's a pretty good chance it comes from the term maruda, seen in both Polish and Ukrainian and meaning "procrastinator, dawdler, dull (irresolute or tedious) person, grumbler." 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 224 Polish citizens named Marud, plus another 233 named Maruda. They lived all over Poland, with no really significant concentration in any one area, although the largest number of both names lived in the southeastern province of Radom (42 Maruds and 37 Marudas). 

The name Marut, borne by 1,754 Polish citizens, may sometimes come from this same word, although it can also have developed from other roots. Marud would be pronounced roughly "MAH-root" (which is why Marut is a plausible alternative spelling), and Maruda would sound more like "mah-ROO-dah." 

Dobrowski, pronounced roughly "dob-ROFF-skee," is a rare name; as of 1990 there were only 18 Polish citizens by that name, scattered all over the country. Dobrowski could come from the names of villages such as Dobrow, Dobrowo, etc., of which there are several. The only way to determine which one a given family was connected with at some point centuries ago would be through genealogical research that focused on exactly what part of the country that particular family came from. 

I should add that Dobrowski could also be a simplified form of the name usually seen as Dombrowski or Dąbrowski, using the Polish nasal vowel written as an A with a tail under it and pronounced usually like "on," but before B or P like "om." In other words, Dąbrowski and Dombrowski are two slightly different ways of spelling the same name, pronounced roughly "dome-BROFF-skee." That could sometimes be simplified by dropping the nasal "om" sound, leaving Dobrowski. So while this name certainly could mean "one from Dobrow or Dobrowo," I can't overlook the possibility that it's a variant of Dąbrowski. That is a very common name, just meaning "one from the place of the oak grove," and both forms of the name are common all over Poland, as are places named Dąbrowa ("oak grove"). 


DOMIN - NIEWIADOMSKI

... Before his immigration from Poland, my great-great-great grandfather's last name was that of Niewiadomski, or Niewiaduemski, (something of that nature), which was changed to "Nevadomski." My grandmother's maiden name is Domin, however I do not know the original variation: she is Polish as well. I haven't the slightest idea what either name means or the family history behind them. If you could make inquiries regarding their meanings, I'd be eternally grateful.

It's highly likely the name was Niewiadomski, which is pronounced roughly "n'yev-yah-DOM-skee," and comes from the adjective niewiadomy, "unknown." Niewiadomski means literally "of the unknown one." It's hard to say exactly what this would mean in a given case, but the name could, for instance, refer to the kin of one about whom his neighbors knew very little. In most villages everyone knew everyone else, so a mystery man who moved into the area might be called the "unknown one," and his descendants might bear this name. Or the name might be given to the kin of a man whose father was unknown, i. e., an illegitimate child, or to the kin of a foundling of unknown parentage. It's hard to say precisely how the name got started, since in different cases it might have gotten started different ways. All we can say for sure is that it means "[kin] of the unknown." 

However, if one did detailed and successful genealogical research on a given Niewiadomski family, one MIGHT find documents that give a clue what the name originally meant. There are no guarantees, but that would be just about the only way to establish exactly how and why this name came to be associated with a given family. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 13,220 Polish citizens named Niewiadomski. They lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area. Very few Polish surnames give us any useful clue as to exactly where a given family by that name came from, and this is no exception. Families by this name could come from practically anywhere in Poland. 

As for Domin, it is pronounced roughly "DOUGH-meen" (first syllable rhymes with "go"). As of 1990 there were 3,145 Polish citizens by that name, and they, too, lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area. This shows that Domin could be the original name; that is, at least, a legitimate Polish surname. Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1403, and began as a short form of the first name Dominik, which comes from Latin dominicus, "of the lord." So all this surname indicates is that an ancestor was named Dominik, or Domin for short. 

The name may have been changed after the family came to America. But if it was, I'm not psychic and I have no way of knowing what it was originally; there are many, many possibilities, including Dominski, Dominiak, Dominiec, Dominik, Dominikowski, Dominiuk, Dumin, Duminski, etc. Only successful genealogical research might uncover documents that would establish what the name originally was. 


DRAZDAUSKAS - DROZDOWSKI

... I am interested in only one document at this point and that is the one of Antonina Drazdauskaite (perfect Lithuanian spelling today_, however I feel perhaps on records then, where she was born, her name is corrupted by Russian or more likely, Polish. The information I know is:

Antonina Deazdauskaite
Father: Juozas Drazdauskas

Actually the name is probably Polish or Belarusian in origin and has been modified to suit Lithuanian linguistic preferences. In other words, it was probably Drozdowski, and Lithuanians changed that to Drazdauskas. The ending -aite simply means that was her maiden name; surnames ending in -us in Lithuanian change to -aite when referring to unmarried females.

Drozdowski is a fairly common name, borne by some 9,476 Polish citizens as of 1990, living all over Poland. It means basically "one from the place of the thrush," referring to any of a number of places named Drozdów, Drozdowo, etc. It is pronounced roughly "droz-DOFF-skee" in Polish. 

Since Polish and Russian have been the languages of record in Lithuania for most of the last three centuries, the name probably would appear in records in either Russian or Polish form. So I would expect it to appear as Drozdowski or, in feminine form, Drozdowska or Drozdowszczanka. I'm afraid I have no idea how to convey the Cyrillic spelling that would be used in Russian. But the good news is that workers in the Archives are used to dealing with name forms like these. They would almost certainly recognize Drazdauskas as a Lithuanian form of Drozdowski, and would recognize the Russian spelling of the name, as well, if they see it. So I'm hopeful that they will be able to give you real assistance in your search. 


GAŁKOWSKI - SZCZEPKOWSKI - SOKOLIŃSKI

... I am trying to help my husband find out about his heritage and family. I would like any info on: Galkowski, Szczepkowski, Sokolinska. Any info appreciated.

Regarding Szczepkowski, Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut it in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surname of Poles]. He says it can come from two different roots: 1) that seen in the noun szczep, "tribe, sowing, seedling, log" and szczepa, "chip, sliver"; or 2) the first name Szczepan, "Stephen." Either way, it breaks down as Szczep + -k- + -owski. The -k- is from the diminutive suffix -ek or -ko, and -owski is a suffix meaning "of, from." So the name means either "of, from the X of the little tribe/sowing, etc." or "of, from the X of little Stephen." Usually that X is a word obvious enough it didn't have to be mentioned, either "kin" or "place." 

That's as to the literal meaning and derivation. In practice, most of the time you'd expect Szczepkowski started out meaning "one from Szczepki or Szczepkowo." There are several villages in Poland by those names, which come in turn from the roots mentioned above, and this surname could refer to origin in any of them. If the family was noble, they owned the villages or estates by these names; if they weren't noble, they probably worked the land there. There was a time centuries ago when -ski names were the exclusive property of the nobility, formed from the names of their estates. But since the 1600's such names have come to mean little more than "of, from such-and-such a place." 

As of 1990 there were 2,381 Polish citizens named Szczepkowski. There was no one place or area with which the name is particularly associated, a family named Szczepkowski could have come from virtually anywhere in Poland. 

The surname Galkowski is usually spelled in Polish with a slash through the L. Gałkowski is pronounced roughly "gaw-KOFF-skee." As of 1990 there were 2,529 Polish citizens named by that name. 

As I said, surnames in the form X-owski usually refer to the name of a place with which the family was connected at one time; if they were noble, they owned it, and if not, they lived and worked there. So we'd expect this surname to mean "one from Gałki, or Gałkow, or Gałkowo" -- something like that. There are a number of villages by those names in Poland, and without detailed research into a specific family's past there is no possible way to tell which one they came from. Your research, however, might enable you to do so. 

Sokolińska is simply the feminine form of Sokoliński (accent over the N) and is pronounced roughly "so-ko-LEEN-skee." As of 1990 there were 664 Polish citizens named by that name, living all over Poland with no concentration in any one area. (Incidentally, that's the norm -- I estimate fewer than 5% of all Polish surnames are concentrated in any one area, to the point that a researcher can afford to focus on that area.) 


GOMOKE - GOMOLKA - GOMÓŁKA - GOMUŁKA - GUMUŁKA

... I am doing some genealogy research for my aunt.  She is of Polish decent, and the last name that she is inquiring about is: Gomolka (apparently the "L" within the name had a slash or squiggle through it).  Her family used the spelling Gomoke since they have been in the United States.  I was wondering if you had any information on these names so that I could let her know if I have found anything. 

In Polish this name is spelled with the slashed L and with an accent over the second O. Thus when I spell it Gomółka, that means you'd write it with an accent over the 2nd O and a slash through the L. The accented o sounds like "oo" in "book," and the Ł sounds like our W, so Gomółka  sounds like "go-MOOW-kah." 

You can see how "Gomoke" would be a plausible phonetic spelling of this name for people speaking English, and that probably explains why the spelling was changed. Immigrants often simplified or changed their names to make them easier for Americans to deal with, or to help them "fit in" better and seem less "foreign." 

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the basic root seen in the word gomoła, "without corners or edges," but more particularly from the noun gomółka, which can mean "a roundish lump of something soft" but is especially used as a term for a kind of homemade round cheese. Presumably the name began as a nickname for an ancestor whom people associated with this kind of cheese for one reason or another -- perhaps he made this cheese, or was very fond of it, or his shape somehow reminded people of it (I suppose a chubby, round-bodied fellow could conceivably be called this as a humorous nickname). 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 1,750 Polish citizens named Gomółka. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Biala Podlaska 250, Kalisz 233, Katowice 285, and Nowy Sacz 106. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. This data indicates that the name is most common in southcentral to southwestern Poland, with another significant concentration in the area near the border of Poland with Belarus and Ukraine. But the name is not concentrated anywhere to the point we can assume a family by that name came from such-and-such a place. Only genealogical research might turn up info that would enable one to say that with certainty. 

One last point: this name also appears sometimes spelled as Gomułka or Gumułka. That's because the Polish accented O is pronounced the same as U, and this sometimes causes names to be spelled phonetically with O or U. So you might see the same family referred to in one record as Gomółka, in another as Gomułka, and in another as Gumułka. Spellings in older records are often very inconsistent, so that almost any phonetically possible spelling may show up. It can be helpful to know this so you don't automatically assume those other spellings are necessarily different families; sometimes they are, but not necessarily always. 


GRUŹLEWSKI

... Does anyone know the meaning of the surname Gruzlewski?

In Polish this name is normally spelled with an accent over the Z, and is pronounced roughly "groozh-LEFF-skee." Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the archaic noun gruzla, which mean "ulcer, growth, blister." Gruźlewski means literally "of the ulcer, growth, blister," and presumably began as a name for the kin of someone who had a disfiguring ulcer or growth or blister. 

Names ending in -ewski often come from place names, so that Gruźlewski could also mean "one from Gruźle, Gruźlew, Gruźlewo," etc. But I can't find any places by those names. It's possible they were or are too small to show up on most maps; or the name may have changed over the centuries; or they may have disappeared, or have been swallowed up by other communities. It's impossible to say without knowing exactly where a given family came from and studying the history of that area in detail. So this surname could mean "one from Gruźle/Gruźlew/Gruźlewo," but it may have simply meant "kin of the guy with the big blister." 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 358 Polish citizens named Gruźlewski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Ciechanow 29, Gdansk 25, Olsztyn 37, Torun 178; the rest were scattered in tiny numbers all over Poland. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. But this data indicates the name is found most often in northcentral Poland. 


JASIEŃSKI - JASIŃSKI - JASHINSKI

... I'm hoping you can help me with the meaning of my surname:  Jashinski.  I've found almost nothing on this or any other spelling of the name.  Would you be so kind as to e-mail me back with whatever you can find?

Since Polish doesn't use the letter combination -sh-, it's immediately clear we're dealing either with a non-Polish name or a name that is Polish but has been Anglicized. Without a lot more info there's no way I can say for sure, but it's reasonable to believe this probably is a slightly modified version of the Polish name JASIŃSKI (an N with an accent over it). It is pronounced roughly "yah-SHEEN-skee." 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of  Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 35,545 Polish citizens named Jasiński, living all over the country. The name is not associated with any one part of Poland, a Jasinski could come from practically anywhere. It's also pretty clear there isn't just one huge Jasinski family, but rather a number of separate families that came by the name independently. 

In his book on Polish surnames Prof. Kazimierz Rymut says Jasiński is connected in many cases with the first name Jan (John), or with other first names beginning with Ja- (such as Jakub, Jaromir, etc.). The Jas- comes from nicknames or short forms of Jan, Jakub, etc.; the -in- is a possessive suffix; and -ski is an adjectival ending, meaning "of, from, connected with, pertaining to." So Jasiński breaks down as meaning "one of, belonging to, connected with Jas." It might refer to kin of a fellow with that name, or to people coming from a place owned by such a fellow. 

However, we can't rule out a connection in some cases with the old Polish term jasin, in more modern Polish jasion or jesion, "ash tree," or any of the numerous villages named Jasien, Jasiona, etc. These places could generate the surname Jasieński which could then be simplified to Jasiński. So this connection is also one that must be considered when dealing with this surname. 

Only genealogical research might uncover information that would shed light on exactly how the name came to be associated with a specific family. With one Jasiński family the surname might refer to an ancestor who was a relative of a guy named Jas; with another it might refer to origin in a place named Jasin or Jasien. The name could develop in different ways, so all I can do is give general info on its most basic meaning, and leave it to individual researchers to fill in the details as they discover them. 


KOTŁOWSKI - RODE - TREPPA

...Almost exactly one year ago, on 06-May-2000, you replied to my questions about our great-grandparents names Trepski or Trepki, and Katlowski... Anyhow, these new records still give variations, but not quite so widely different. Our great-grandmother was apparently a Trepp, or Treppa, or Treppe. And very oddly, on three of the birth-baptism records, her last name was consistently shown as Rode! ... Inspection of the LDS films showed many Rode (and some "Rhode") in that area through the years of the films contents, about 1830-1880.  In her records, she was shown first as Trepp etc, then Rode, then I think for the last one or two kids she was again shown with the name Treppe or such.  What is that all about?  Our knowledge of her age, marriage and Kotlowski kids' birthdates strongly indicates that she had never been married before, and that Kotlowski was her only husband.  Although I suppose it would be possible for her to have been married for a year or maybe 2, when she was quite young (under age 18 or 20). 

Actually, it'd be a miracle if there weren't some variation in the records. What you describe is definitely par for the course. 

There's just no way I can tell you what significance that has. People run into this sort of thing all the time, and the explanations can be many and varied. What they have in common is, if you ever do discover what it's all about, you realize there was no way to have predicted it reliably. You might have had a good notion what the explanation was, but the only way to be sure is by finding evidence in the records. And I'm sorry to say in many cases people never do figure out what the heck was going on. 

... Our great-grandfather, as you had suspected was a Kotlowski, although the church also spelled it as Kottlowski (with two "t") and  Kotlewski (with an "e"). Would I be asking too much to ask for your definitions and origins for these (3?) names, as high-lighted above?  Your previous email had touched on Kotlowski, but you had replied mostly in regard to the name Katlowski, with an "a".

Kotłowski (the slashed L is pronounced like our W) is pronounced roughly "cot-WOFF-skee." Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], and adds that Kotlewski and Katlewski are both forms also seen of the same name; Poles don't normally double letters, so Kottlowski is probably a German-influenced spelling. All these spellings are well within the bounds of normal variation of name forms. 

According to Rymut this surname, like most ending in -owski and -ewski, refers to the name of a place with which the family was associated at some point centuries ago. One good candidate is Kotlewy, Dobryszyce district of Piotrkow province; but there certainly could be others. The surname could come from almost any place with a name beginning Kotlow- or Kotlew-. Those names, in turn, probably come from the noun kocioł, "boiler, kettle," so that Kotlowski would mean "one from the place of the kettle." 

But that's really a secondary issue; the main point is that this surname probably refers to the name of a place where the family lived long ago. If you'd like to see maps of some of the possible candidates, go to this Website: 

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

Enter "Kotl" as the place you're looking for, select "Poland" as the country to be searched, and select "All towns starting with this precise spelling." Click on "Start the search," and after a moment you'll see a list of various places in Poland with names starting Kotl-. You can skip the ones that don't begin Kotle- or Kotlo- or Kotly-, as those three forms are the only ones likely to generate a name Kotłowski. For each place, click on the blue numbers (latitude and longitude) and you'll get a map showing that location. You can print the map, save it, zoom in and out, etc. 

This will show you there are several possible places the surname might refer to. All things being equal, we'd expect the one nearest to Gdansk and Oliwa to be the best candidate, but that's making assumptions that prove unjustified. Unfortunately, unless your family was noble and owned an estate at Kotlowo or Kotlewy or whatever, it's unlikely any surviving records go back far enough to let you make a positive connection. Still, it may give you something to go on. 

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,269 Polish citizens named Kotłowski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Gdansk 1,059, Slupsk 261, Lublin 187, and Torun 98. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. But this data suggests your Kotłowskis come from the area where the name is most common. 

Trepp, Treppa, and Treppe are all variants of the same basic name. It might be from Polish trepa, "stairstep," or trepy, "clogs." But those spellings suggest German influence, and I'm sure Polish trepa comes from the German noun Treppe anyway -- it means "step, stair." And trepy surely comes from German Trippen, which are clogs, a kind of wooden shoe. So the most likely interpretation is that the family was of German origin -- hardly rare in western Poland! -- and an ancestor was associated with clogs. Perhaps he made them, perhaps he wore them, perhaps there was some other connection less obvious to us today. 

Rode is also a German spelling, sometimes seen as Rhode; in Polish it would be spelled phonetically Roda, and that makes me think this name, too, should be interpreted as German. In German Rode is usually a variation of standard German rot, "red," and thus a Rode was one with red hair. If the name were Polish it would have something to do with the root rod- meaning "birth, family." But if it's consistently spelled Rode, that's a pretty good hint that it was German, and suggests an ancestor was red-haired. 

As of 1990 there were 222 Polish citizens named Trepa (15 in Gdansk province), and 114 named Treppa (104 of whom lived in Gdansk province); there was one named Treppe, also somewhere in Gdansk province. There were 634 named Rode; they lived all over Poland, but the larger numbers were in the provinces of Bydgoszcz, 95; Gdansk, 85; and Katowice, 81. I should add that some 4 million people of German descent fled Poland after World War II to resettle in what was then East Germany, so the stats from 1990 on distribution and frequency of names of German origin are not really all that representative of the situation before World War II.

   

  

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

 


WLAZŁOWSKI

... Please help! I have been wondering about the origin of my surname Wlazlowski and would appreciate any information at all. 

In Polish Wlazlowski would normally be spelled with a slash through the second L. That letter is pronounced like our W, while Polish W is pronounced like our V. So the name sounds like "vloz-WOFF-skee." As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 502 Polish citizens named Wlazłowski. There was no one area in which the name was concentrated; a family by this name could live almost anywhere in Poland. 

The basic root of this name is probably the noun wlazło, which Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut defines as "ubiquitous person, meddler, uninvited guest." So it's possible the surname might mean "kin of the meddler." But most of the time the suffix -owski refers to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago. In other words, it means "one from Wlazłowo" or some similar name beginning Wlazł-. Thus the surname could be interpreted as "one from the place of the meddler."

I can't find any places with names beginning Wlazł- on modern maps, but that's not unusual. Polish surnames often came from the name of a field or hill or little settlement, names used only by locals, that would be unlikely to appear on any map or in any gazetteer. So the place this name refers to may be quite obscure, or may even have disappeared or renamed or absorbed into another community centuries ago.


KOCIENIEWSKI - KOCINIEWSKI - KUBISIAK - KUBISZAK

Last time we analyzed the surname Kocieniewski you thought it might be from the root Kot or even a reference to kitten. However, you also thought it could have been derived from a place name. Since then I have done my homework and found references to a couple of places that start with Kocie nearby. One is a village to the west called Kocien Wielke and another to the north called Kociewie.

The longer I study Polish names, the clearer it becomes that names ending in -ewski usually -- not always, but usually -- derive from names of places. The name Kocieniewski would therefore mean in most cases "one from X" where X is a name something like Kocien or Kocieniew or Kocieniewo. One source that discusses the name Kocieński says Kociński is a spelling variation of that name, so I think you're right -- Kocien- or Kocin- is the same thing, possibly developing because of a spelling error, or even because of a slight difference in the way people pronounced the name. Thus the surname could also refer to places with names beginning Kocin-.

None of my sources discuss this specific name, so I can't pin its derivation down with certainty. But you know the region your ancestors came from, which simplifies things -- we can pay more attention to places somewhere near there, as odds are the family name refers to a place fairly nearby. Kocien Wielki seems to me a very good candidate. As a rule we'd expect that name to yield the surnames Kocienski or Kocinski, but it wouldn't be unusual for Kocieniewski to come from it as well. Literally, Kocieniewski would translate more or less as "of, from the _ of the Kociens." That fits pretty well with Kocien Wielki. But I suggest you keep looking: often if there's a place named X, one finds other places nearby with names in the form X-ewo or X-y, and then surnames such as X-ewski can easily develop from those names. So Kocien might be the right place, or it might point to a smaller place nearby with a name like Kocienie or Kocieniewo.

I wish I could tell you what those place names mean, but I have no information on that. The Polish Language Institute is publishing a series that gives lots of info on the meanings and origins of place names, but so far they've only got as far as the letter I. So it may be another year or two before they get to the K's and I can see what their research indicates about the basic meaning of place names beginning Kocien- or Kocin-.

In addition I read an article in the PGSA Journal that referenced a group of people from centuries ago known as the Kociewacs or something on that order. I can't find anything on the internet about them however. I think you may have even been involved with that article. It even included a map with that name located just to the northwest of my ancestral towns. I have not been able to find that article again. It was from a couple of years ago. 

That's not likely to be relevant. The root of the name would be either Kocien- or Kocin-, and that -n- is an integral part of the name. The other name (I think it was Kociewacy) would have nothing to do with it, except in that it may have come ultimately from the same linguistic root.

I know your book includes Kociniewski but not Kocieniewski. My spelling, Kocieniewski is the older of the two names from my research. I can trace it back to the early to mid 1700's. It seemed like the Kociniewski spelling developed around the early 1800's in an adjacent town. My guess is that it was an error that just stuck, so as to differentiate two distinct branches of the family. I tend to think the two names are related and may try and prove it some day through my research.

As I said, I think you're right. We often see such spelling variants, forms with -in- and -ien-. That's very common, and can have a lot to do with the way people pronounced the names.

Let me know if you have any new opinions on my surname. Also how can I check if there is a coat of arms for my family? As you can see I enjoy doing the research so just point me in the right direction when you get a chance. I am not in any hurry. Just looking for some ideas and hoping to borrow some of your expertise. Thank You.

I can't tell you a thing about coats of arms. But you might be able to learn more if you post a question to the mailing list Herbarz-L. It is frequented by gentlemen with access to various armorials and libraries, and very often they are able to provide some information on specific noble families and their coats of arms.

To subscribe (which costs nothing), send an E-mail message with just the word SUBSCRIBE to this address:

HERBARZ-L-request@rootsweb.com

No one reads this note -- a computer will process it automatically, add you to the mailing list, and send you a brief note explaining procedures. Then you can post a note to the list itself, where it will be read by the members, at this address:

HERBARZ-L@rootsweb.com

I also have another family name not covered in your book, Kubiszak. This was my great grandmother's maiden name. 

That is basically the same name as Kubisiak, and is pronounced almost the same, much like "koo-BEE-shock." The "sh" sound of SZ is a little chunkier than the sound of SI, which is lighter, more hissing, with the tongue arched higher in the mouth. The -ak here is almost certainly a suffix meaning "little, son of," and Kubiś and Kubisz are both nicknames from Jakub. So Kubisiak or Kubiszak would both mean something like "Jake's son, Jake's kin."

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 4 Polish citizens named Kubiszak, living somewhere in the provinces of Torun. Unfortunately I don't have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can't tell you how to find that info. But this suggests Kubiszak is just a rare variant, found in the Torun area, of the more common name Kubisiak.


GOTFRYD

... I am interested in more information than it seems is readily available from here. My grandfather, Joseph Gotfryd, came from the area somewhere around Jaslo in the province of Galicia somewhere around the turn of the century. At that time, of course, the area was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  I have been contacted by Gotfryds in Belgium and in New york, each seeking to know if we are related. The Gotfryds in Belgium seem to be ethnic Poles, while the Gotfryds in New York are jewish, having come from Spain during the Inquisition. They changed their names to Gotfryd. Why? What is the derivation of Gotfryd, which seems Scandinavian/Germanic, and then is a given name?  My parents and I believe that we are ethnically Slavic/Polish and are Roman Catholic.

Gotfryd is a Polish phonetic spelling of a name of Germanic origin, seen in modern German as Gottfried, and in English as Godfrey and Jeffrey. It comes from ancient Germanic roots meaning "god" and "peace," modeled after pagan names that combined two basic words as a kind of prophecy or name of good omen for a child; naming a child Gottfried expressed the parents' hope it would grow up to live in God's peace, or something like that. 

Some of these two-part names, such as Alexander (from Greek, "defender of men") and Polish Stanisław ("may he become famous/glorious) date back to pagan times, and thus have no hint of Christianity about them. I'm not sure if Gottfried is that ancient; if it is, it originally referred to the peace of the gods or peace in the gods. What's certain is that its use in the last thousand years or so would be colored by Christian beliefs, expressing a hope that one would have peace in God. 

However, the basic sentiment expressed is compatible with Jewish beliefs -- Jews have many names that use the Hebrew roots for "God" or "peace," so