Notes on Selected Polish Surnames – 13


To: [email protected], who wrote:

…HI, My last name is Kusmisz. My family is from Poland (Warsaw and Kaszimierz). The last name may have been changed, originally being Kaszimierz. Uncertain. Any info is appreciated, or help with how to find any information on my Polish relatives or where the name derives…

There are a couple of other names Kusmisz could conceivably come from, but if you have reason to believe it was originally Kaszimierz, that is certainly plausible. Actually the standard Polish spelling is Kazimierz, and it’s an ancient Slavic name dating back to when the Poles were pagans and gave their children names formed by joining two root-words to express a kind of hope or prophecy for their children. So Kazimierz comes from the root kazi-, “to destroy” + mir, “peace” — thus naming a child Kazimierz was expressing the wish that he would grow up to be a destroyer of peace, i. e., a great warrior (“peace” as ancient Slavs thought of it was not necessarily the wonderful thing we consider it, they gloried in war). Kazimierz is an extremely popular first name in Poland, and has been for a long time — it’s one of the few Polish names that is even used in English, in the Latinized form Casimir. It is not all that common as a surname — as of 1990 there were only about 202 Polish citizens with Kazimierz as a surname. But other names formed from it are extremely popular — for instance, Kazimierczak (5,095), Kazmierczak (28,198) [both of which mean “son of Kazimierz”), and Kazmierski (5,240). The latter basically means “of, pertaining to, belonging to Kazimierz,” and in many cases probably means “coming from Kazimierz” — there are several places by that name in Poland.So to some extent the questions in your case are, what was the original form, and when and where was it changed? As of 1990 there was no Polish citizen with the name Kusmisz, and only 8 with the name Kusmirz (in this case the RZ and SZ are pronounced the same, like our “sh”). I think you’ll have to answer those questions before you can make much progress. Part of the problem is, surnames from this name are too common for the name itself to do you much good.

OLSHEFSKI – OLSZEWSKI – STYPUL~KOWSKITo: Catherine Harper, [email protected], who wrote:

…You were so very helpful when I asked about my Puchiks, Moizuks, Judyckis etc, that I wondered if you could assist me with the origins and meanings of two more names: Olshefski and Stypulkowski

Like most surnames ending in -owski, both of these are probably derived from place names. Olshefski is an anglicized spelling of Polish Olszewski, which is pronounced roughly “ol-SHEF-skee,” so that spelling in English makes sense. The list of villages this name could refer to is pretty long, as there are quite a few villages named Olszew, Olszewka, Olszewo, so it’s not surprising there are a lot of Olszewski’s in Poland — as of 1990, some 44,638, living all over the country! The root of the place names, in turn, is the word olsza, “alder tree.” So Olszewski means basically “person from the place(s) associated with alder trees.” Stypul~kowski appears to derive ultimately from the rootstypul~a, “drumstick,” and there are several villages with compound names, “Stypul~ki” (literally “little drumsticks”) + a second name, e. g. Stypul~ki Borki, Stypul~ki Giemzin, etc., in Kobylin Borzymy and Sokoly parishes of Lomza province; there may be more elsewhere, too small to show up on my maps. It’s hard to say exactly why these villages got that name, perhaps there was a geographic feature that looked like a drumstick, or perhaps there was a family in the area that made drumsticks, or perhaps the places belonged at some point to a person with the nickname “little drumstick” — the names probably originated centuries ago, so it’s tough to say just how they got started. In any case, Stypul~kowski would mean roughly “person from the place associated with little drumsticks,” or just “family from Stypul~ki.”As of 1990 there were 1,636 Polish citizens named Stypul~kowski, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (176), Bialystok (344), and Lomza (551). The concentration in northeastern Poland is enough to make me wonder if most of the Stypul~kowskis did, in fact, come from the area of those villages I mentioned above, and then spread out. I don’t know if that’s true, or if there are other Stypul~kis in other parts of the country, too small to show up in my sources.

CHLEWIN~SKI – KLEVINSKI – KLEWIN~SKITo: Mark Klevinski, [email protected], who wrote:

…Could you please research my family name Klevinski. My father thinks the original spelling started with “Ch”. My grandfather came to America from Poland around 1890. Thank you in advance for your help.

The problem here is trying to figure out what the original form of the name was in Poland. The v is wrong because Poles don’t use v; but that’s not a big problem, Polish wsounds like v and thus is often spelled as v by non-Poles. So we can say Klewin~ski is the way the name would be rendered by Poles. But what about the first letter? Your father could be right, non-Poles often had trouble with the guttural ch or h sound in Polish and turned it into k, which is the closest sound in English. So we might be dealing with Chlewin~ski. But Klewin~ski is a recognized Polish name — as of 1990 there were 72 Poles named Klewin~ski, living in the provinces of Warsaw (18), Bielsko-Biala (5), Gorzow (16), Jelenia Gora (1), Leszno (3), Lublin (6), Olsztyn (22) and Opole (1). There’s no recognizable pattern to this, they’re scattered all over the country. But the point is that this name is possible. It derives most likely from Klewe, a German place name, and generally Klew- in German comes from a short form of the first name Niklaus(Nicholas); there is a village Klewinowo in Bialystok province.If the name was originally Chlewin~ski, it comes from the root chlew, “pigsty.” There were 238 Poles named Chlewin~skias of 1990, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Olsztyn (40) and Pila (52), in northcentral Poland, the area formerly called Prussia and ruled for a long time by the Germans.So either name is possible, and there’s really no way I can tell you for sure which is right in your case. I guess you’ll just have to hope you can find some record (immigration and naturalization papers, ship passenger lists, parish records in this country) that will establish what the original form was and where the family came from.

JAMROZ*YTo: [email protected], who wrote:

…I have been trying to find information on my maternal grandmother. She was said to be polish. Is the surname Jamrozy Polish?…

Yes, Jamroz*y is Polish (z* is the dotted z, pronounced like “s” in “measure”). It is actually a polonized version of the first name “Ambrose,” in Latin Ambrosius. In Polish the standard form of this name is Ambroz*y, but in medieval Polish records we also see it in the form Jamroz*y (pronounced “yahm-ROZH-ee”). It was back in that same time period it began to be used as a surname, also; and although it is seldom seen as a first name anymore (as I said, Ambroz*y is the standard form of the name these days), it has survived as a surname. In 1990 there were some 1,045 Polish citizens with the surname Jamroz*y (and 4,399 named Jamro’z, from another form!). There doesn’t seem to be any particular pattern to where they lived, so we can’t say this name is more likely to come from one part of Poland than another — but that’s usually the case with surnames derived from first names.

S~CISL~AWTo: Ken Scislaw, [email protected], who wrote:

…Yes, I have an odd surname. The name Scislaw has NOT been changed, shortened, etc from Poland to the US. (I have seen marriage documents-1890s- in Zuromin Poland for the name Scislaw.)The name has a mark over the Cap “S” or “c” (sorry I can’t remember) and a slash through the “l”. My grandmother pronounced the name “Shish Waff” or “Chish waff”The ONLY time I have ever seen the name in any form is from the town of Mstislav in Russia today. In the 1700s when Poland owned it…it was shown on a map as Mscislaw (same accent marks as mine…but with an M). I don’t know if that means anything but I do know that Mstislav is a first name and not a surname….but then again, there is an M in front… ANY CLUES???

This is an unusual name, no question, and I’m glad you’ve done a good job of documenting it. Your grandmother’s pronunciation is fairly accurate — in standard Polish the name S~cisl~aw (spelled as you indicate, the ~ is just a way of representing the Polish letters on computers not configured to show them correctly) would be pronounced roughly “SHCHEES-waff,” and could very easily be pronounced in everyday use as your grandmother did. As of 1990 there were only 9 Polish citizens with the surnameS~cisl~aw. They lived in the provinces of Ciechanow (8) and Torun (1). Unfortunately I do not have access to further details such as first names and addresses, but at least we know the name has not died out in Poland — and if you ever do find a S~cisl~aw in Poland, chances are excellent he/she is a relative!The name could fool us because it looks and sounds like a couple of the ancient pagan Slavic names formed by joining two roots to create a kind of name of omen or prophecy for a child. You mentionMs~cisl~aw (in Russian “Mstislav,” there is a famous Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich), from the roots ms~ci-, “avenge” + -sl~aw, “glory,” thus meaning “one famed for taking revenge.” But in that name the M- is such an integral part of the meaning and the name that it would be rare for it just to drop off. So it probably has nothing to do with your name… There are other names such as Czesl~aw, but these, too, probably have nothing to do with your name.What is likely is that this name derives from the roots~cisl~-, “compact, dense, exact.” There are several common names from this root, including S~cisl~o, S~cisl~owski, etc. Name expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions these and others, including S~cisl~awski (24 Poles by that name as of 1990), as coming from that root — he does not specifically mention S~cisl~aw, but if S~cisl~awski derives from it, it’s a good bet S~cisl~aw does, too. The suffix -aw- is adjectival, and we often see it added to roots (e. g., Bielawa < bial-, biel-, “white”). So strictly from a linguistic point of view the name probably originated as meaning “person with a compact, dense body,” thus someone who was short and thick and powerful. S~cisl~o is a more common one meaning the same thing. There is also a plant in the myrtle family called s~cisl~awin, Latin name beaufortia. I’m not familiar with it, but I’ll bet it got this name because it grows thick and dense. It might be connected with your name, but not necessarily — I mention it only because it proves that names can be formed from the root_s~cisl~aw-.So I can’t be 100% certain, but it is very plausible that this is a variant of other names from the same root that happen to be a bit more common. There is nothing odd or strange about a Polish name formed by taking a root such as s~cisl~- and adding the adjectival suffix -aw. This is all perfectly natural and plausible, and that’s my opinion as to how the name was formed. I could be wrong, but my gut feeling is this is right.

AMPUL~A – MYDL~OTo: R.F. & MJ Ampula, [email protected], who wrote:

…Could you please provide any available information on the following names: Ampul~a and Mydl~o?…

As of 1990 there were 167 Polish citizens named Ampul~a, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Warsaw (25), Ciechanow (24), and Kalisz (60). It apparently comes from the noun ampul~a, from Latin ampulla, a container used in church for wine or water at the Eucharist. In more modern Polish ampul~a means the same thing as the English term “ampoule” or “ampule,” a small glass vial. It’s tough to say how a person would get this surname — perhaps the family made or sold such items? Or I suppose it could be a nickname based on a person’s shape. Without going back several hundred years to the time and place of the name’s origin, it’s a little tough saying exactly how it got started. Mydl~o is a moderately common name, as of 1990 there were 472 Poles named Mydl~o. It comes from the noun mydl~o, “soap,” perhaps indicating a person who made or sold soap, or maybe even a nickname for a very clean person. Poles by that name live all over the country, but there is a definite concentration in the provinces of Olsztyn (80) and Ostroleka (192) in northcentral and northeast Poland.

FELENAK – STANCZEWSKITo: Michelle Tumacder, [email protected], who wrote:

…About the only information I have on them is their last name. If you could find the time to research these 2 names, I would appreciate it very much: Felenak andStanczwski

The name Felenak is either slightly misspelled or else very rare — as of 1990 there was no one in Poland named Felenak. There were 62 Poles named Felenczak, and 640 named Feliniak. It could be the name was Felenak and as such was a pretty rare variation of a name such as Feliniak, or perhaps somewhere along the way the spelling was accidentally changed. Either way, names beginning with Felen- and Felin- come from nicknames or short forms of such Polish first names as Feliks (Felix) or Felicjan (a name seldom used in English, we’d probably spell it Felician). Poles often took the first syllable of a popular first name, dropped the rest (much as we turned “Theodore” into “Ted”) and added suffixes. Felenak or Feliniak would both mean something like “son of Feliks or Felicjan.” Unfortunately none of these names shows any particular distribution frequency, so I can’t suggest a specific part of Poland where this name is most likely to be found — it could show up almost anywhere. Stanczewski also derives ultimately from a short form of a first name, in this case Stanisl~aw (in English and Latin Stanislaus), often abbreviated by Poles as Stan or Stas~; a name such as Stanczak orStanczyk means “Stan’s son,” so that may be where the -cz- comes from. However, names ending in -ewski usually derive from a place name such as Stanczewo, something like that, and those places names in turn meant “Stan’s son’s place,” referring perhaps to a man who once owned or founded the village. So Stanczewski probably started out meaning “person or family from Stanczewo, i. e., Stan’s son’s place.” I can’t find any such place on my maps, but most likely that just means it was too small or has since changed its name or been absorbed by another village. As of 1990 there were 242 Poles named Stanczewski, with the largest numbers showing up in the provinces of Pila (70) and Torun (39) in northcentral Poland. There were another 263 named Stan~czewski (with an accent over the n), with larger numbers in the provinces of Tarnow (26), Torun (43), and Wloclawek (36).

MAKOWSKI – SZTUKOWSKITo: [email protected], who wrote:

…Could you tell me the name origins for my great grandparents names? Sztukowski and Makowski

Names ending in -owski usually derive from a place name the family came from or was otherwise associated with. Typically, those place names end in -ow or -owo, although there are other possibilities. Thus Makowski means “person or family associated with Makow/Makowo”; if the family was noble, they probably owned the estate or village at some time, and if they were peasants, they probably lived and worked there. There are several Mako~w’s and at least one Makowo in Poland, so it’s tough to tell which of them your particular Makowski’s might have come from. As is usually the case when a surname can come from several different place names, Makowski is a very common name in Poland — as of 1990 there were 25,340 Poles by that name, with no apparent concentration in any one part of the country. Warsaw province has the most, with 3,155, but virtually every province has at least a few hundred Makowski’s living in it. The ultimate root of the name is mak, which means “poppy,” so that “Makow” or “Makowo” may have started out meaning “the place with lots of poppies.” In some cases it can also come from short forms of first names such as Maksym and Makary, kind of like our English nickname “Mack”; in those cases Makow or Makowo meant “Mak’s place.” So Makowski means either “person from Mak’s place” or “person from the poppy place.” Sztukowskiis less common, though still not rare; as of 1990 there were 1,011 Polish citizens named Sztukowski. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Kalisz (378) and Suwalki (232), with much smaller numbers in virtually every other province. The interesting thing is, I can’t find a place named Sztuko~w or Sztukowo or even Sztuki on the map, which surprises me. Of course, there could be several little villages by this name, too small to show up on maps or in gazetteers, or there may be one or more places that used to have this name and changed it, or were absorbed into other communities — since surnames typically originated several centuries ago, a lot can change and make it hard to find the place referred to. The ultimate root of the name is sztuka, “piece, part,” from German Stueck.

DRWIE~GATo: Rafal Drwiega, [email protected], who wrote:

…I was wondering if you can help me to find out a little more about the origins of my last name: Drwie~ga. I’m from Poland and I know that most of my family came from city Sanok in eastern Poland…

I’m surprised to find that none of my sources mention Drwie~ga — as of 1990 there were 669 Polish citizens by that name, so it is hardly a rare name, and I would have expected that somebody would have written about it. Your link to Sanok does make sense, in that of those 669 Drwie~ga’s, 383 lived in the province of Krosno. The others are scattered in small numbers all over Poland, with no other province having more than 40.That information may be a little help, but I’m afraid I just cannot find anything else. This is a case where I recommend writing to the Pracownia Antroponimiczna Instytutu Jezyka Polskiego in Krakow, especially since you can probably write them in Polish, and letters in Polish are easier and quicker for them to answer. They don’t do genealogical research, they just do research into the origins of names; from what others tell me, it’s rare to pay more than US$20 for their analysis, and I have heard from many who were very happy with their work. The address is:Instytut Jezyka Polskiego, Pracownia Antroponimiczna, ul. Straszewskiego 27, 31-113 KRAKOW, POLANDI’m sorry I could not help you, and I hope the scholars at the Pracownia can. If you do write them and they provide a good answer, I would be very interested in hearing what they say, so that I could include this information in the next edition of my book — and thus pass the information on to other people with Drwie~ga ancestors!

SOROCZYN~SKI – USCILUGTo: [email protected], who wrote:

…We are just beginning our search for the location of the town where our Father was born: Uscilug, Wolyn, Poland in 1905–family name Soroczynski

Uscilug is now called Ustilug, and it is in Ukraine (Wolyn is the Polish name of a region of Ukraine, called Volhynia in English); it’s about 120 km. north of Lvov (Ukr. name L’viv). Soroczyn~ski comes from the root soroka, “magpie”; the root is the same in Polish and Ukrainian. Specifically, names ending in -in~ski or -yn~ski usually refer to a family’s connection with a town or village, so that I would expect this name to mean “family from Sorocko, Soroczno,” something like that, and those names in turn would mean “place of the magpies,” i. e., an area notable because there were a lot of these birds around. I can’t pin it down as to which particular village the name refers to because there are a number of possibilities, especially if the territory now in Ukraine has to be considered. As of 1990 there were 978 Polish citizens named Soroczyn~ski (I have no data on how many Ukrainians might have this name). In Poland the people named Soroczynski were scattered all over, with some of the larger numbers in the provinces of Bialystok (56), Gorzow (80), Szczecin (102), Walbrzych (56), Wroclaw (91), and Zielona Gora (75) — all over the map.

MORYL – ROZ*YCKI – RUZICKITo: Kevin Mayer, [email protected], who wrote:

…I am researching my genealogy and I came across your page on the Internet saying that you might be able to tell me about my surname. The names I have are Moryland Ruzicki (I don’t know if this is the right spelling). If you could tell me anything about their origins I would greatly appreciate that. I believe they were from the region of Galicia (do you know if Galicia the same as Selisia)?…

Galicia was the name given the area ruled by Austria from about 1775-1918; it covered southeastern Poland (from about Krakow east) and western Ukraine. “Selisia” is probably Silesia, the name of an industrial region in southwestern Poland and the western part of the Czech Republic — it was called Schlesien by the Germans (who ruled it for a long time) and S~la~sk or Szla~sk by the Poles. So no, the two aren’t the same — both are in what is now southern Poland, but Silesia is west of Galicia. Moryl could come from two different sources: there is a term morela, “apricot,” and Morel was a sort of short form or nickname for the name Maurelius. So the name may have originated as a reference to the apricot (perhaps to someone who loved to eat them, or grew or sold them, or lived near a place where they were grown), but it might also mean nothing more than any other nickname — just as “Ted,” “Ed’, “Jack” don’t really mean anything in English, they’re just short forms of first names. As of 1990 there were 480 Polish citizens named Moryl, scattered all over the country but with larger numbers in the provinces of Lublin (86) and Tarnow (138), both of which are in eastern and southeastern Poland; Tarnow province would have been in Galicia, I don’t think Lublin province was, I think it was in the area ruled by the Russian Empire. Ruzicki comes ultimately from the Polish form of the word for “rose,” spelled as ro~z*a (accent over the o, dot over the z, sounding like our word “rouge” with a final -a tacked on). It’s a tough name to get a handle on because there are potentially so many different ways this root can be spelled. Ruzicki probably originated in most cases as meaning “person or family associated with a place named Ruzyce or Ruzice or Ro~zyce” — there are many, many places with names this could come from. Polish accented o~ and Polish u are pronounced the same, so almost any place with a name beginning with Ro~z- or Ruz- could spawn this name. The form Ruzicki is rather rare (only 42 as of 1990), but Ro~z*ycki was the name of 10,411 Poles as of 1990. So it’s rather important to try to trace the family back as far as possible and see if you can determine the original spelling. If it really was Ruzicki, there aren’t many of them left in Poland, they may be hard to track down but odds are decent they’re related; but if Ruzicki is just an anglicized form of Ro~z*ycki, there are thousands of them.

NIEUZYLAFrom: John Nieurzyla, [email protected], who wrote:

…I took your advice about contacting the Prof. in Krakow, in fact I went to see him at his office (after making an appointment of course). The attached file which I hope works is his written answer after 2 months, I would , and I presume he would not mind, is to put it on to your site for future reference, and hopefully other “Nieurzyla’s” will see it and maybe contact me. Hoping that you find this interesting.  Regards and thank you….  John Nieurzyla.(PS we are having a family gathering in Pawlow,Zabrze this August. I will be distributing this information to family attending from Germany,Poland, Russia, England & Israel. Numbers are at a guess 2-300 attendants (I am hoping). ????Krakow, November 6, 1997.Dear Mr. Nieurzyla,During your visit in the Polish Language Institute in Krakow, in September this year, we talked about the suspected origin of your surname Nieurzyla.  As I wanted to consult some additional sources in order to look for  the existence of different bases Nieurz- and Nieui- I promised you to  write to you, after some time. Now, I can surely say that such a base as *nieurz- does not exist in Polish.  In the book entitled: Slownik nazwisk wspoIczesnie w Polsce uzywanych (A dictionary of surnames borne at present in Poland), Vol.VI, Krakow 1993, published by professor Kazimierz Rymut, which I showed you, there are people who bear the same surname in different spelling, namely: Nieurzyla, Nieuzylla, Nieuzyla, Nieuzylla and Nieuz*yla.  All these variants belong to one and the same proper Polish form Nieuzy*la.  There are only 4 people in Poland who bear Nieurzyla as their surname.  They live, at present, in the Bielsko-Biala province (3 people) and in that of Katowice (1 person). thus in the historical province Upper Silesia (=Gorny Slask).  The surname in the form Nieuz*yla is borne in Poland by 347 people. Most of them (238 people) live also in the Upper Silesia, namely in the Katowice province. In the Lower Silesia (Dolny Slask), in the province of Opole reside till to-day 94 people named Nieu*zyla. The rest are spread all over Poland. This means that the surname Nieuzyla (the same refers also to other variants was borne mainly on the Silesian territory and that just there was the nest of this family.  As, in the past, Silesia was ruled successively by Polish, Czech and German princes and kings the Slavic etymology of your surname might be of both Polish and Czech origin. The base of the surname might come from both old-Czech past participle neuz^il or neuz^ily and old-Polish nieuz*yly, modern Polish: nieuz(*yty, in both languages meaning the same:’a hedgehog’.   The form ending in -a, thus Nieuz*yla instead of Nieu*zyly came into existence as a result of the so called “paradigmatic derivation”. During this process the verbal (participial) form nieuzyly was introduced to the substantival paradigm, in this case to the feminine grammatical paradigm ending in -a – Nieuzyla. In Polish there are a lot of surnames of men which are declined according to the feminine grammatical form. We must for example le say: nie widzialem dzisiaj pana Nieuz*yly – (To-day, I haven’t seen Mr. Nieuzyla) or Kupowalem te ksiatke z panem Nieuz*yla (I have, bought this book together with Mr. Nieuzla) and so on.Another interesting consideration. If the surname Nieu*zyla (Nieurzyla) were of Czech origin it would first to be Polonicized, as the original Czech form would have to be spelled Neuz^il. As you remember I found such a surname in a book devoted to the Czech surnames. Therefore, we may say that the form Nieuz*yla is either a Polonicized form of a Czech Neuz^il or an original Polish form Nieuz*yla.  To sum up it is to say that the form of the surname Nieurzyla, used by you, is an incorrect orthographic form of the proper Polish one: Nieuz*yla.  Such incorrectness originated therefore that from the 17th century the sound spelled in Polish rz and z* was pronounced with us in the same way, namely as z* (in English marked phonetically as this sound you can find in the English word “measure.” )  Till nowadays many people in Poland make mistakes in spelling, by writing rz instead of z* and vice versa. The newest example: At present, an American first name Jessica became very popular in Poland. It occurs that even in Polish Register Offices this name is registered against Polish rules of spelling, namely Drzesica, although the proper Polish counterpart of Americam Jessica should be spelled rather Diezika. In Polish linguistic circles, however, there is opinion that the names borrowed from those of foreign ones should be spelled according to their original foreign forms.  Alas, there are with us also some linguistic purists who want that foreign names were adapted to Polish spelling rules.  This is all I could tell you on the linguistic origin of your surname.With best greetingsKlimek

BIAL~OBRZESKITo: Jessica Bialobzeski, [email protected], who wrote:

…I am looking for the history of my last name. Bialobzeski, I have found so far that the correct spelling is Bialobrzeski. If you have any information at all please e-mail me back and let me know…

You’re right about the correct spelling, it is Bial~obrzeski (the l~ stands for the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our W, so that the name sounds kind of like “bee-yah-woe-BZHEH-ski,” with “zh” standing for the sound in the name “Zhivago” or like the “s” in “measure”). It is one of many names formed from the names of places; it could come from Bial~obrzeg, Bial~obrzegi, and Bial~obrzeskie, and they all mean basically “white shore, white coast.” Unfortunately there are more than a dozen places in Poland bearing these names, so the surname itself gives no clue which of those villages any one Bial~obrzeski family came from (and most likely there’s more than one family by this name). But such names usually originated because of a connection between a family and those places, so that the surname means “person/family from Bial~obrzeg/Bial~obrzegi/ Bial~obrzeskei,” or, to break it down further, “family from the place with the white shore.” If a family by this name was noble, it probably owned the villages at one point; if not, they probably worked the land there, or traveled there often on business.As is normal with surnames derived from common place names, this is a fairly common surname in Poland — as of 1990 there were 1,910 Polish citizens named Bial~obrzeski. There’s no one area where the name is most common; we see the largest numbers living in the provinces of Warsaw (507), Lomza (153), Ostroleka (286), and Wroclaw (110), but there are people by this name in virtually every province of Poland.

JABL~ECKI[E-mail address inadvertently deleted]

…I am writing to enquire if you can assist me in tracing the origin and meaning of the name Jablecki. My great grandparents were Felix and Susanne Jablecki and they remained in Poland. I have some details of family history and I would really like to learn more. I have recently discovered that the surname of jablecki was taken by some Jewish families, but to my knowledge, my ancestors were Catholic. Any help will be much appreciated…

The original spelling of the name in Polish would be Jabl~ecki, where l~ stands for the l with a slash through it, pronounced like our W, so that the name would sound like “yahb-WET-skee.” The ultimate root is the word jabl~ko, meaning “apple,” and there are a number of common surnames from it, including Jabl~on~ski, Jabl~kowski, Jabl~onka, etc. I suspect Jabl~ecki is likely to be associated with a place name, perhaps a village called Jabl~ko or Jabl~ek, something like that. I can’t find any such place on my maps, but that doesn’t mean anything; some of the place names that gave rise to surnames have since changed, or the places have been renamed or absorbed into other communities. Such place names would mean “place of the apples,” so they probably got the name because there was a stand of apple trees in the area. So you might construe the surname as “one from the place of the apples.”This is a fairly common name in Poland; as of 1990 there were 1,042 Polish citizens named Jabl~ecki. There were Jabl~ecki’s living in virtually every province, with larger numbers (more than 50) in the provinces of Warsaw (194), Katowice (69), Lomza (85), Ostroleka (94), Poznan (79), and Przemysl (97). As a map will show, these provinces are scattered all over Poland, so there is no one area we can point to and say “This is where the name came from.” Most likely, there were tiny communities with names like Jabl~ko, Jabl~ek, Jabl~ecko all over, so the surname originated as referring to families coming from any or all of those places.By the way, surnames of this type could easily be borne by Christians or Jews — there may have been Jews named Jabl~ecki, but you could hardly say it was a “Jewish” surname. Alexander Beider does not mention Jabl~ecki in his Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland,” which suggests it was not borne by many Jews, at least not in the eastern part of what is now Poland. And your ancestors’ first names were definitely Christian (although Susanna can be Jewish, it is normally seen in a form reflecting Yiddish origin and pronunciation, such as Szoszana). So if the family was Jewish, it probably converted several generations back — which was by no means rare.

PARASZCZUK To: Paraszczuk, who wrote:

…I have been researching my surname and its origins and was wondering if you had any information about it. … my family are originally from Buczacz in Galicia (now part of Ukraine). I really would be very grateful if you could tell me anything you know!…

While none of my sources specifically mention Paraszczuk, I think I can give you a pretty good idea of its origin. It almost certainly means “son of Paraska,” and Paraska (a variant of the Greek-derived first name Prakseda or Parakseda) is a feminine name far more common among Orthodox and Greek Catholics than among Polish Roman Catholics. This fits in well with your info — you’d expect a name like this to show up more in what is now Ukraine than in Poland. From a social standpoint, too, this makes sense — names derived from metronymics (mother’s names) are far more common among Ukrainians than among Poles, who generally preferred patronymics (names derived from the father’s name). So at some point in your family history there was a woman named Paraska who was prominent enough that her family came to bear a surname pointing to origin from her. In Ukrainian the Cyrillic spelling of this surname is very hard to represent on computers not configured for Cyrillic, but would look something like this: II A P A III Y K. It would tend to be spelled “Parashchuk” by our phonetic standards, but Poles spell the Slavic combination “shch” as szcz.This name is, as we’d expect, rather rare among Polish citizens — as of 1990 there were only 137 Paraszczuk’s in Poland, scattered all over (probably due to post World War II forced relocations of Ukrainians to western Poland). I imagine the name’s a lot more common in Ukraine, but have no data on that. You might visit <> to learn more about Ukrainian language, customs, history, etc.

KORNATOWSKITo: Matt Kornatowski,, who wrote:

…I would like to know more about my last name- Kornatowski. Anything that you would be willing to tell me would be great (better than I know know)…

The surname Kornatowski, like most names ending in -owski, almost certainly refers to a place name, meaning something like “person or family associated with Kornaty or Kornatowo.” In older times (not so much anymore) when Polish added the -ski suffix other suffixes had a tendency to drop off, so there are a number of names theoretically possible that Kornatowski could derive from. On my maps I see a village Kornaty in Konin province, perhaps 20 km. east of Wrzesnia, in west central Poland; also there’s a village Kornatowo in Torun province, about 30 km. north of Torun, not that far northeast of the other one. People coming from these villages, and others too small to show up on maps and in gazetteers, could easily end up being called Kornatowski as a reference to lands they owned (if they were noble) or worked on (if they were peasants). These place names, in turn, derive from Kornat, a variant of the first name we know as “Conrad,” so that the surname means basically “person from Conrad’s place.”This is a moderately common name in Poland; as of 1990 there were 1,280 Kornatowski’s living in Poland, in virtually every province. The largest numbers were in the provinces of Warsaw (218), Ciechanow (207), Gdansk (93), and Poznan (84), but as I say, the name is found in almost every part of Poland. This is not unusual — places were often named for their owners or founders, and surnames derived from those place names, so this name could show up almost anywhere they spoke Polish and had guys named Kornat, i.e ., almost anywhere in Poland.

DZIERZ*ANOWSKI – KOWALCZYK – PODOWSKI – RUTECKITo: Andrzej Dziezanowski (aka) Andrew Derzanski <[email protected]>, who wrote:

…I found your page on the net which explains name origins and am interested in finding the meaning or origin of my families original name. If you have time any assistance would be appreciated…

The name Dzierz*anowski, like most surnames ending in -owski, almost certainly began as a reference to a person or family’s connection with place names — in this case we’d expect it to mean “one from Dzierzanow, Dzierzanowo,” etc. In older Polish when they added the suffix -ski prior endings had a tendency to drop off, so quite a few different places could yield the same name. I see on the map a village Dzierz*ano~w in Kalisz province and villages Dzierz*anowo in Ostroleka and Plock provinces, and there could easily be more too small to show up on the maps. All these place names, in turn, derive from an old first name Dzierz*an, from a root meaning “to hold, keep,” so the villages originally meant something like “Dzierz*an’s place” (Dzierz*an was probably the name of a founder or owner at some point), and the surname means “person from Dzierz*an’s place. It’s a common surname in Poland, as of 1990 there were 1,526 Poles named Dzierz*anowski, scattered all over but with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Warsaw (241), Bialystok (138), Ciechanow (164), and Katowice (113). Kowalczyk just means “smith’s son,” and is very common — as of 1990 there were 87,690 Poles by that name, living all over the country. Rutecki is a moderately common name, as of 1990 there were 1,526 Poles named Rutecki. This is probably also derived from a place name such as Rutka or Rutki, and there are several villages by those names in Poland. The ultimate origin of the name is either ruta, “rue” (a kind of plant) or a variant of rudka, a place where iron ore could be found. Podowski is a tough one, I’m not sure what that comes from. If you write the Institute in Poland, this may be the one they can help you most with, if the form is correct — it may be the name was originally spelled otherwise, but it was mangled somewhat over the course of years or during immigration. As of 1990 there were 216 Poles named Podowski, so the name is not unknown in Poland; the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Warsaw (30), Ciechanow (53), Gdansk (20) and Olsztyn (48), with a few others scattered here and there. But I’ve never run across it before, and my sources don’t give any clues what it might come from.

… I will also take your advice and contact the institut in Poland…

That’s a good idea. But don’t waste their time with Kowalczyk, that’s just too common and they wouldn’t be able to add much to what I’ve said. Dzierz*anowski is probably also a little too common to be much good. But their notes on Rutecki and Podowski are especially likely to prove informative.

WYDRYCHTo: [email protected] (clark fuss), who wrote:

…I have been trying to locate any information on the above name, Wydrych. I know it is Polish…

Wydrych is a Polish name, as of 1990 there were 805 Polish citizens by that name. They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Czestochowa (93), Katowice (79), Kielce (181), and Krakow (81), which are all in southcentral Poland. Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book on Polish surnames, saying that names beginning with Wydr- usually derive from the word wydry, “otter”; perhaps because a person caught otters, or made a noise like one, or somehow otherwise reminded people of an otter. Many surnames started out as nicknames, and it can be tough to figure out why a nickname originally seemed appropriate (there was a character named “Otter” in the movie “Animal House,” and I haven’t a clue why that was his name). I should also mention that this name might also derive from the verb wydrzyc~, “to tear out or away, to pluck.”

DRZEWUCKI – DZERWUCKI – STARON~To: Terry Neuenhaus, [email protected], who wrote:

…Do you have any info on my maternal grandparents names? My grandfather was a Dzerwucki from the Poznan area. My grandmother was a Staron from the Lwow area…

How firm is that spelling of Dzerwucki? Because I’ve never seen that name before, and as of 1990 there was nobody in Poland named Dzerwucki. The combination Dzer- is rare in Polish, Dzier- is a bit more likely, but there wasn’t anyone named Dzierwucki either. Is there any chance the letters have been switched and it was Drzewucki? That is a moderately common name; as of 1990 there were 438 Drzewucki’s living in Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (99), Gdansk (34), Szczecin (33), Torun (37), Wloclawek (180). If Drzewucki is the original form, the name probably derives from the root drzew-, “tree, wood”… I’m not saying Dzerwucki can’t be right, it can; but it would be quite rare, and it doesn’t really look or feel right to me. I think verifying the original form could be pretty important here.As of 1990 there were 3,230 Poles named Staron~, living all over the country but with the largest numbers (more than 100) in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (244), Katowice (601), Kielce (100), Krakow (106), Krosno (154), Lodz (122), Rzeszow (166), Warsaw (115), Wroclaw (192), Zamosc (144). Most of these are in southcentral and southeastern Poland, but I don’t see any pattern more specific than that. The name comes from the root star-, “old” (in Polish and Ukrainian), so Staron~ probably began as a nickname meaning “old fellow” or something of the sort.

CIELE~CKI – CIELENCKITo: P. D. Cielencki <[email protected]>, who wrote:

…I would be interested in any information you could help me find on my surname, Cielencki. I have seen several variations of the spelling over the years and am unsure if this is correct…

Are you a member of the Polish Genealogical Society of Texas? With your family’s roots, it would seem a logical place to look for help with your research. For more info visit the Website: <>.As to the name’s origins, Cielencki would also be spelled Ciele~cki in Polish (because the nasal vowel written as e with a tail under it is pronounced much like en, so either spelling could be encountered). Either way, the basic root of the name would be ciele~, “calf,” i. e., a young cow; but chances are good the surname comes from a place name, which in turn comes from the term for “calf.” I see a Ciele~ta in Torun province, 4 km. SW of Brodnica; Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut says this place was named for a man named Ciele~ (probably the nickname of the founder or of a one-time owner) was also a first name used in medieval times. It would make perfect sense that Ciele~cki started out meaning “person or family associated with Ciele~ta.” There may be other places this surname could come from, too small to show up in any of my sources, or long since renamed. As of 1990 there were only 2 Polish citizens who spelled the name Cielencki, and 38 who spelled it Ciele~cki, living in the provinces of Warsaw (1), Bydgoszcz (21), Gdansk (2), Leszno (4), Rzeszow (1), Szczecin (2), Torun (7). The concentration around Bydgoszcz and Torun provinces in northcentral Poland makes me think the surname probably did start out in most or all cases as a reference to the village Ciele~ta in Torun province. I don’t regard this as proved conclusively, but it seems a fairly firm inference from the data.

CHECLIN~SKI – HECHLIN~SKITo: [email protected], who wrote:

…Hello, I am researching my father’s family name Hechlinski (Chechlinski originally I think. I am having a lot of trouble finding out anything about this name…

Since Polish ch and h are pronounced exactly the same (kind of like “ch” in German “Bach”), either spelling is possible. But as of 1990 there were only 13 Poles who used the spelling Hechlin~ski (I’m using the ~ to represent the accent that appears over n in proper Polish), living in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (8), Gdansk (3), and Katowice (2). On the other hand there were 109 Polish citizens named Chechlin~ski, living in the follow provinces: Warsaw 16, Gdansk 4, Jelenia Gora 3, Katowice 9, Koszalin 3, Krakow 9, Lublin 41, Lodz 5, Nowy Sacz 2, Poznan 4, Rzeszow 2, Tarnobrzeg 6, Zamosc 5. These suggests a concentration in southeastern Poland (Lublin, Rzeszow, Tarnobrzeg, and Zamosc provinces) but shows that it is found elsewhere. According to the Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut, the ultimate origin of the surname is the verb chechl~ac~, “to drench or to cut with a blunt instrument,” but it also is connected with place names such as Chechl~y and Chechl~o — those place names derive from the verbal root by way of the old word chechl~o, “damp meadow, damp area.” There are quite a few villages by those names, so without very detailed info on your family I can’t suggest which of them your particular ancestors were named for. But it probably suggested origin from a place with a name beginning Chechl-, and that place in turn got its name from the fact that it was situated on damp, marshy ground.

STRZELECKITo: Christie, [email protected], who wrote:

…If you would be so kind i would like information on the surname “Strzelecki…”

As for the name Strzelecki, in 1990 there were 11,467 Polish citizens by that name; they lived all over the country, with some of the larger numbers appearing in the provinces of Warsaw (1,061), Bydgoszcz (540), Katowice (620), Kielce (539), Lodz (714), Poznan (476), Radom (473), Torun (583), and Wloclawek (607) — in other words, the name appears to be fairly evenly distributed, with no obvious concentration in any one part of the country.The root this name derives from is strzelec, “shooter, marksman,” referring to someone who shoots a gun or, in older times, a bow and arrow. The name Strzelecki could come directly from this noun, thus meaning “[person or kin] of a marksman.” Also, there are a some 20 or more villages named Strzelce and at least one Strzelec, and the name could also refer to an association with those places, thus “person or family from Strzelce or Strzelec.” So this name probably arose independently in many different places, thus there is no such thing as one Strzelecki family — the name is borne by many separate families, coming from different parts of Poland.Common names such as this present their own problems — it’s not hard finding Strzelecki’s, but you can’t assume they’re related to your ancestors; rare names have different problems — it’s hard to find info on them, but if you do, chances are they are relatives. Some Strzelecki’s may be of noble descent, since surnames taken from place names originated when nobles took a last name from the name of the estates they owned; but in other cases Strzelecki’s are probably descendants of peasants who worked on those estates. Only detailed research will establish which case is relevant to your ancestors.

GRAJEWSKITo: jan witold and marja-terttu grajewski, [email protected] [Note: Mr. Grajewski?s original note, asking about his surname, was in Polish. My answer, in Polish, is followed by a translation in English.]Szanowny Panie Grajewski!Nazwiska na -ewski i -owski zwykle wskazuja na zwiazanie z nazwami miejscowosci, wiec Grajewskiprawdopodobnie znaczy “osoba lub rodzina pochodzaca z Grajewa lub Grajowa” — z miasta “Grajewo” w woj. lomzynskim, lub ze wsi “Grajewo” w woj. suwalskim, moze byc takze “Grajow” w woj. krakowskim. Jest takze mozliwe, ze inne miejscowosci istnieja lub kiedys istnialy, z nazw ktorych to nazwisko moze pochodzic, ale takich nie znalazlem w atlasie. Polski uczony dr. hab. Kazimierz Rymut pisze w Nazwach miast Polski, ze nazwa miasta Grajewa w woj. lomzynskim pochodzi z nazwy jeziora, nad ktorym miasto powstalo. Ta nazwa byla staropruskiego pochodzenia, a Polacy przejeli ja w formie “Grajwo, Grajewo” (1577 r.).W 1990 r. bylo 2,756 polskich obywatele o nazwisku Grajewski. Mieszkali w nieomal wszystkich wojewodztwach, z wiekszymi liczbami w tych woj.: warszaw. 107, bialostock. 119, bydgosk. 260, gdansk. 210, katowic. 110, poznan. 288, suwal. 313, torun. 189, i wroclaw. 98. — Z tego wynika, ze to nazwiska wystepuje rzadziej w Malopolsce, a czesto w innych czesciach Rzeczypospolitej.[English translation:]Dear Mr. Grajewski,!Names ending in -ewski and -owski generally indicate a connection with the names of localities, so Grajewski probably means “person or family from Grajewo or Grajo~w” ? from the town of Grajewo in Lomza province, or from the village Grajewo in Suwalko province, possibly also Grajo~w in Krakow province. It is also possible that other places exist or once existed from whose names this surname could derive, but I found none in the atlas. The Polish scholar Prof. Kazimierz Rymut wrote in Nazwy miast Polski that the name of the town of Grajewo in Lomza province comes from the name of the lake on which the town developed. That name was of Old Prussian origin, and Poles transformed it into the forms “Grajwo, Grajewo” (1577).In 1990 there were 2,756 Polish citizens named Grajewski. They lived in almost all provinces, with the largest numbers in those of Warsaw (107), Bialystok (119), Bydgoszcz (260), Gdansk (210), Katowice (110), Poznan (288), Suwalki (313), Torun (189), and Wroclaw (98). From this it appears that this name appears more rarely in Malopolska and ore often in the other parts of the Republic.

FILANOWSKITo: Tony Filanowski, [email protected], who wrote:

…My Grandparents came to America from southeastern Poland (Galicia) at the turn of the century. My Grandfather, Michael Filanowski, was from the town Brzoza Krolewska and after serving in the Austro-Hungarian Army. I would like to find his service records and any other information about the Filanowski name. Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated. I’ve been told that my last name is unusual. I can not speak Polish and I am finding the language barrier to be an obstacle in my admittedly awkward attempts to learn about my ancestors…

The name Filanowski is not extremely common, but you couldn’t really call it rare: as of 1990 there were 298 Polish citizens by that name. They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Lodz (48), Plock (39), Rzeszow (53), and Warsaw (21). As with most names ending in -owski, this probably originated as a reference to a place with which the family was associated, meaning something like “person from Filany or Filanowo.” I can’t find any such place listed in any of my sources, but often surnames refer to places that have since changed their names, or been absorbed into other communities. In theory, if you have good luck researching the area of Brzoza Krolewska you might find reference to some little hamlet or local subdivision called Filany or Filanowo. Those place names derive from “Filan-,” which is a kind of nickname formed from the popular first names Filip (Philip) or Teofil (Theophilus); Poles often took the first syllable of a popular first name, dropped the rest, and added suffixes, kind of like “Edward” and “Eddy” in English. So the surname could be interpreted as meaning “one from the place of Filan.”According to the War Archives in Vienna, records for people serving in the Austro-Hungarian army were usually kept locally, so if any military records survive, they’d probably be in a registrar’s office in whatever town served as the local recruitment center. I notice that Brzoza Krolewska was in Lancut administrative district, in what is now Rzeszow province, so that’s my guess as the best place to start. If they don’t have the records, I’d think odds are decent they could tell you where to look… Brzoza Krolewska had its own parish, so vital records were probably kept there. Unfortunately, the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City has had trouble getting authorities in southeastern Poland to agree to microfilming, so there’s no guarantee the FHL has the records for Brzoza Krolewska. Still, it would be worthwhile finding and going to the nearest LDS Family History Center — that’s always the first place to look, because if they do have the records you need, they’re by far the cheapest and easiest way to get them. If they don’t have them, then I’d suggest writing to the parish church in Brzoza Krolewska and seeing what they have. People often have good luck doing this — but the letter really needs to be in Polish, or you’re cutting way down on your chances of getting a reply.

KURASZTo: “Heil,Polly,EAUCLAIRE,NUSA” [email protected], who wrote:

…My family has been trying to find out more about our immigrant ancestor. I would very much like a quick analysis of this surname [Kurasz] as it SEEMS to be relatively rare. We are pretty sure this is not a shortened version of another name. What information can you provide?…

Kurasz is not a rare name in Poland — as of 1990 there were 1,647 Polish citizens named Kurasz. They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice (294), Poznan (196), Przemysl (567), and smaller numbers in almost every other province. Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut notes that this name appears in legal records as far back as 1485, and says it derives from the roots kur, “cock,” or kura, “hen”; I note that there was also a coat of arms Kur, in some cases the name might derive from that. A family could have gotten this name because it raised or sold poultry, or because a prominent member of the family got it as a nickname because something about him reminded people of a hen or cock. More than 500 years later, it’s hard to deduce just exactly how such a name got started, or why it would “stick” — those reasons might vary from one Kurasz family to the next. The most we can say is what it derives from, and then we have to make plausible suggestions as to just how it got started.

OKRASZEWSKITo: Linda (Okraszewski) Loudermill, [email protected], who wrote:

…The surname that I am interested in is Okraszewski. I have been lucky enough to find on the internet, a student in Poland with the same last name and we are now trying to find our ancestoral connection. I understand that this name is not very common in Poland, and I would like to be able to let him know the origin of our name…

Actually Okraszewski is not all that uncommon — as of 1990 there were 524 Polish citizens by that name. The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Warsaw (88), Elblag (33), Plock (134), Skierniewice (50), and Wloclawek (57), with smaller numbers in several other provinces… Names ending in -ewski usually started as references to a connection between a family and a particular place, and the place(s) usually have names ending in -y or -ew or -ewo or -ewa. If the family was noble, that might be the name of their estate or the village they owned; if they were peasants, they probably came from there, worked there, or perhaps traveled on business there often. In this case you’d expect the place(s) to have names like Okraszy, Okraszewo, something like that. I can’t find any such places on my maps, but that’s not unusual — sometimes surnames come from place-names that were used only by locals, or refer to places that have since disappeared, been absorbed into other communities, or changed their names. But if your research enables you to pinpoint the particular area your ancestors lived in, then you can try to find out more about the immediate area — if you find a place named something like Okraszewo, that’s probably the place they were named for.

…Is this the era when peasants added “ski” to their surnames to appear to be nobility?…

Well, the peasants started taking surnames about the 16th century, and the process went on into the 17th and sometimes the early 18th century. By then -ski names had become so common that they seemed almost universal. In most cases peasants weren’t really trying to fool anyone that they were noble — in small villages and parishes, where everyone knew everyone else, how are you going to con anyone about something like that? They took -ski names because such names were popular and they liked the sound of them. I mean, if you had a choice between a name such as “Peon” and a name such as “Knight,” which would you choose? Originally the -ski names just had a touch of elegance and class to them, due to that former association with noble estate-owners. But by the 17th-18th centuries they had become so common that they really didn’t have much of that connotation left; they were just names, and it seemed like most Poles you met had -ski names.