To: George Fikus, [email protected], who wrote:
…I am interested in my surname: Fikus. My father (and mother) were from Poland, and the spelling was not changed in recent history. My father, Witold, was a concentration camp survivor, 1915-1996…
Fikus is a perfectly good Polish name; as of 1990 there were 1,138 Polish citizens with this name, so it is not uncommon in Poland. The Fikus’s lived all over, with larger numbers in the provinces of Gdansk (102), Kalisz (163), Katowice (139), Opole (281), Poznan (59), and Wroclaw (63), and smaller numbers in many other provinces. I don’t see a real pattern there, except that the name seems to be more common in western Poland, in the areas ruled by the Germans most of the last two centuries… None of my sources say definitively what the name derives from, but the most likely origins are from the noun fik, a variant of the word for “fig-tree,” or from the verb fikac~, “to kick, jump.” It’s quite common to see surnames derived from terms for trees, fruit, etc. — it might mean an ancestor lived by a fig-tree, or liked to eat figs, or sold them. Or the name could have originated as a sort of nickname for someone who was always jumping and kicking, a very active person, full of nervous energy. Those seem the most likely origins for this name, although all this is just educated guesswork on my part, since, as I say, none of my sources discuss the derivation of the name.
To: Dudley Naumowicz, [email protected], who wrote:
…Having read your web page on Polish names I didn’t see mine – Naumowicz – do you have any information on its origin?…
You must understand that there are over 800,000 Polish surnames — some very common, some extremely rare — so I rather doubt I will live long enough to list them all on the Web page. But I’m glad to add to the list as I can.
Naumowicz is a fairly common name; as of 1990 there were 1,564 Polish citizens by that name. The largest numbers of them lived in the provinces of Bialystok (195), Gorzow (120), Suwalki (290), and Zielona Gora (92), and smaller numbers were in virtually every other province. Suwalki and Bialystok provinces are in northeastern Poland, whereas Gorzow and Zielona Gora provinces are in far western Poland; but it’s possible that name was originally concentrated in eastern Poland. After World War II the so-called Operation Vistula forced millions of people to relocate from what had been eastern Poland to the western regions taken from Germany and given Poland; so we often see names of Ukrainian or Belarusian or Lithuanian origin showing up in large numbers in western Poland, far from where we’d expect them to be — all due to the post-war relocations.
I’m fairly certain that this name originated in eastern Poland (and Belarus and Ukraine, which were historically part of the Polish Commonwealth) because Naumowicz means “son of Naum,” and Naum is a name used mainly by Orthodox Christians; you don’t often see Polish Catholics using it. We have this same name in English, usually spelledNahum — it’s the name of one of the minor prophets of the Bible (see the Book of Nahum) and comes from a Hebrew word meaning “consolation, compassion.” For some reason this name never became all that popular among Roman Catholics and other Christians of western Europe, but it did become moderately popular among Orthodox Christians, and also among Greek-rite Catholics (so-called Uniates). So even though the spelling of Naumowicz is Polish, in most cases the families bearing the name will prove to be from eastern Poland and the lands adjoining it.
To: Sherrill Wiater Bjorklund, [email protected], who wrote:
…Hi. I would like a quick and dirty analyses for the name Wiater. My grandfather immigrated from the village of Tyczyn near Rzezsow in 1906. That is the area of my interest…
The name Wiater comes from the Polish word wiatr, “wind.” While it’s difficult to say now — centuries after the name originated and began to be applied to different families — exactly why such a name stuck, we can make plausible guesses. It could have been applied as a nickname to someone born on a windy day, someone who tended to be rather windy, possibly even someone who made or ran a windmill; and in the course of time it came to be used as a surname.
It is a common name in Poland; as of 1990 there were 1,658 Poles with the name Wiater, and another 3,815 with the name Wiatr. As far as distribution, the name seems to be common found all over the country, with no real concentration in any one area; this is not surprising, obviously no one part of Poland would have a monopoly on wind, so we wouldn’t expect the name to show up only in certain places.
To: Karen Stankivitz, [email protected], who wrote:
… looking for the family name of Stankiewicz. Please if you can help me find any info on this family name…
This one is fairly easy. The suffix -owicz or -ewicz means “son of,” so this name means “son of Stanek” or “son of Stanko.” These are both nicknames or diminutives of the name Stanisl~aw (in English Stanislaus), a very ancient and popular first name in Poland; Poles loved to take the first syllable of popular first names, drop off the rest, and add suffixes (not unlike our “Eddy” from “Edward”). So Stanek or Stanko would be kind of like “Stan” or “little Stan” or “Stan’s son” in English; and the sons of a man by either of these names would be referred to very often as Stankiewicz. Eventually it stuck as a surname.
Surnames derived from diminutive or affectionate forms of popular first names tend to be pretty common, and that’s true in this case. As of 1990 there were 19,826 Polish citizens named Stankiewicz, distributed more or less evenly all over the country. This makes sense, the name could and probably did get started anywhere they spoke Polish and had guys named Stanisl~aw, i. e., all over Poland.
To: Charlotte Babicki, [email protected], who wrote:
..The family tradition says that Babicki means “ladies’ man.” Can you confirm this? (My grandparents come from an area that is now Belarus)…
Well, it could possibly mean that. The root bab- in Polish (also Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, etc.) does mean basically “woman,” and several words from that root do mean “ladies’ man.” We can’t rule out the possibility that that’s what the name meant when first applied to your family.
In general, though, Babicki is more likely to have started as a reference to the name of a place the family was associated with; if they were noble, they owned it, if they were peasants they worked there, or if merchants, they traveled there often on business. There are several possible place names that could spawn the name Babicki, including Babica and Babice, and unfortunately there are quite a few villages by those names (not just in Poland). So the sound, scientific answer is to say that this surname means “coming from Babica or Babice”; and most likely later on, once people had forgotten what the true origin was, they proposed a perfectly simple and natural explanation based on what the name sounded like. And in individual cases it might even be right! But I’m afraid most of the time the truth’s a little more boring. Instead of “ladies’ man,” it probably just meant “one from Babica/Babice”; those places, in turn, may have gotten their names from some association with women, but there’s evidence that baba was sometimes used in names to mean “hill, elevation, free-flowing river” (supposedly by some rather far-fetched analogies with the female body!?).
Sorry to be a killjoy, but I’ll say this — compared to some names I interpret for people, this is a fine one. The other day I had to tell a woman her ancestral name means “pees crooked,” and I had to tell a man his name meant “manure.” In comparison with a lot of Polish names, this one is pretty nice!
To: [email protected], who wrote:
…My name is not listed. I wonder if you have any information that you could share with me or suggest where I may look…
Kochan~ski (n~ = the n with an accent over it) could come ultimately from several roots, but the most likely is kochany, “beloved,” or kochanek, “lover, sweetheart”; it appears in Polish legal records as far back as 1471. It’s hard to say whether the name came directly from those roots or from a place named something like “Kochany” (which, in turn, surely came from those roots); in theory, the name could have developed either way. 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 Kochano~w, but that name would tend to generate a surname in the form Kochanowski, notKochan~ski.
It’s a pretty common name, as of 1990 there were 5,266 Polish citizens named Kochan~ski. They lived in every province of Poland, with larger numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (523), Bialystok (291), Bydgoszcz (270), Katowice (273), Kielce (264), Lublin (226), Olsztyn (206), and Torun (224); but as I say, there were Kochanski’s living in every province, and there doesn’t appear to be any significant regional concentration that would let tell us anything useful about where it originated. Most likely it developed in many different places, so all Kochanski’s are not all part of one big family.
It’s worth mentioning that the chand hare pronounced the same in Polish (kind of like the ch in German “Bach”), and when a sound can be spelled more than one way you usually will see it spelled more than one way. So don’t be surprised if you occasionally run into the spelling Kohan~ski — it’s rare, but it could happen, and it wouldn’t necessarily indicate any real difference.
To: Robert Brytan, [email protected], who wrote:
…I was wondering if could assist me in establishing the origins of my surname, which is Brytan. all my family comes from Janow Jubelski in Poland.
I was a little surprised to see that as of 1990 there were 352 Polish citizens named Brytan — that’s more than I would have expected. They lived in many provinces, with larger numbers in the provinces of Elblag (30), Krakow (86), Tarnobrzeg (34), and Zamosc (63). The ones in Tarnobrzeg and Zamosc provinces are the ones most likely to be related to you, since that’s the general area of Janow Lubelski (which is in Tarnobrzeg province, near the southern border with Zamosc province). Still, the distribution data shows that the name does appear elsewhere.
None of my sources discuss the origin of the name, but it seems likely to come from the root Brtyan-, “Britain, British.” There is a term brytan that means a kind of large dog, and it comes from that root; all the words in the dictionary beginning with Brytan- have some connection with “Britain,” usually referring to something associated with the British. Sometimes people got place-derived names because they came from that place, sometimes because they traveled there on business, but that would have been quite a commute! So it seems reasonable to figure the Brytans generally had some British blood in their family tree. This is not unheard of, there were quite a few foreigners living in Poland over the years — the Scots, in particular, who often came to Poland to work as peddlers. It’s not out of the question that a Scot who settled in Poland might end up with the name Brytan, since to Polish peasants the distinction between Scot and British might be kind of nebulous. But a Brytan could certainly have had British ancestors; there were Germans, Swedes, Scots, etc. in Poland, why not a few British?
To Bob Kruse <[email protected]>, who wrote:
…I saw your name on the PGSA page and was wondering if you could help. I have been searching for information on 2 Polish surnames that do not seem to be very common. I am researching the names Sztermer and siebiedzinski. Could you give me any information on the origin and/or meaning? (Quick and dirty is just fine.)
Sztermer is a Polish phonetic spelling of the German name Sto”rmer (o” = 2 dots, the umlaut, over the o), so that either name sounds sort of like “shtare-mer.” This comes from the German root Storm, “storm,” and according to German surname expert Hans Bahlow, originated as meaning “man with a stormy disposition,” i. e., one who storms his way through life. While German-derived names are not at all rare in Poland, this one happens to be pretty rare: as of 1990 there were only 29 Polish citizens by this name, living in the provinces of Warsaw (1), Czestochowa (1), Kalisz (6), Legnica (2), Lomza (3), Ostroleka (1), Suwalki (6), Szczecin (1), Wroclaw (4), and Zielona Gora (4). (I’m sorry to say I have no access to further details such as first names or addresses).
Siebiedzin~ski is a good Polish name, but it, too, is rather rare — only 27 Poles bore that name as of 1990, living in the provinces of Warsaw (2), Krakow (3), Suwalki (21), and Walbrzych (1) — Suwalki province is in northeast Poland, near the border with Lithuania and Belarus. In form Siebiedzin~ski appears almost certainly to be one of many Polish surnames derived from place names, probably something like Siebiedzin or Siebiedzino. I can’t find any such place mentioned in my sources, but that’s not too unusual. Surnames developed centuries ago, and often the places they came from were tiny hamlets (the name may have been used only by locals and never would have appeared on any map), or have since been renamed, or absorbed into other communities. If you have any luck tracing your ancestors to a particular area of Poland, and you see any mention of a place named Siebiedzin or anything like that (most likely in the Suwalki area), that is probably the place your ancestors got their name from. But it may take a lot of digging to find it!
…Also, I saw your explanation of the name Danisiewicz, is the name Zdanowicz just a variation? Thank you in advance for any help you can provide…
No, Zdanowicz is a separate name, meaning literally “son of Zdan.” That, in turn, is a short form of an ancient Polish first name such as Zdamir, dating from pagan days, before the Poles were Christianized and starting naming their children after Christian saints. The original name meant something on the order of “gives peace,” as best I can tell; and Zdan would be a short form, kind of like “Ted” from “Theodore” in English. This name appears in legal records as far back as 1460, so it’s a good old Polish name. As of 1990 there were 3,994 Poles named Zdanowicz, living pretty much all over the country with no apparent concentration in a specific region, although the provinces of Bialystok and Suwalki in northeastern Poland had some pretty good numbers (616 and 121 respectively).
To: Steve Daskam, Stevedaskam.com, who wrote:
…I was just reading your page on the PGSA web site concerning the origins of Polish names. I have often wondered the origin and meaning of my family name and wondered if you could shed any light in this matter. The surname is Daszkowski…
The name Daszkowski, like most names ending in -owski, probably started as a reference to a connection between a family and a particular place, in this case named something like Daszko~w or Daszkowo. I found only one place with a name that fits: a village that no longer exists, which was called Daszkowo or Doszkowo. It was near Gasiorow and Biezdziechow in what is now Poznan province, apparently just a few km. west of the town of Wrzesnia in Poznan province. It’s possible other places existed with names this surname could derive from, but I can’t find any others, so this just might be the place. It was referred to in 159 records as Daszkowo, but in most other records it was called Doszkowo. It seems fairly likely that that’s what Daszkowski started out meaning, “person or family from Daszkowo/Doszkowo.” The name of the village, in turn, means “Daszko’s place” — Daszko is a name we see in old records, used as a kind of nickname for popular first names such as Daniel or David (kind of like “Ted” from “Theodore”). So there was apparently a fellow named Daszko at some point who owned or established this village, and it was named for him, and your family had some connection with that place — usually, it would just boil down to the fact that they lived there.
The name Daszkowski is moderately common in Poland, as of 1990 there were 1,084 Polish citizens named Daszkowski — which is why I can’t help but wonder if there were other small places named Daszkow or Daszkowo, which were too small to show up on maps, or changed their names, or were absorbed into other communities; it just seems odd that that many people could have gotten their name from one little village that doesn’t even exist any more. Still, who knows? That’s the only Daszkowo I could find. In any case, the Daszkowski’s lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (183), Bydgoszcz (78), Gdansk (185), Lodz (60), Slupsk (74), and Torun (104). It appears they’re more common in the northcentral and central part of Poland than elsewhere, but there isn’t enough of a pattern to let us pin it down any more precisely than that.
[Follow-Up On Daszkowski]
To: [email protected] (Steve Daskam)
…Thanks for the information. I have since learned that my family is of Polish nobility and comes from the town called Daszki, which was given to them when they became nobility. The town of Daszki (which I am not sure if it still exists) was near Gdansk. My family had a large estate there until my great-great-great grandfather sold it (or lost it somehow) and immigrated to America. I know that some of the family ended up staying in Poland and had many children. This could explain at least some of the Daszkowski population (at least in that region)…
This is an excellent example of what I mean when I tell people “If you do a good job researching your family, you’ll end up being far more of an expert on your names than I can ever hope to be!” None of my sources mentioned Daszki near Gdansk, and it’s not on any of my maps. But you got the information, and it sounds fairly reliable to me. For a lot of Daszkowski’s what I wrote would have been correct, but there’s always one in every crowd 8-).
So ignore what I wrote about the derivation — but at least the distribution data I gave you may be some help. And I’m pleased to hear you were able to come up with this info. It just proves, it’s smart to listen to the “experts,” but never take what they say as Gospel, and never stop digging on your own!
To: Jeffrey Winograd, Hawk [email protected], who wrote:
…I am trying to do research on my father’s family. Nobody seems to know much about them. I know that both of my father’s parents came from an area near Warsaw, in a shtetl named Bendzin. I’m wondering what info you could give me regarding each of their last names. One of them, Winograd, which is also my name, has been said to mean “vinyard” in several languages…
Winograd does indeed mean “vinyard” in Polish (and other Slavic languages, if you adjust the spelling slightly in view of each language’s phonetics). It’s difficult to tell in a given case whether an ancestor got this name because he lived near a vinyard, owned a vinyard, or worked in a vinyard — about the most we can say for sure is that there was some kind of connection with a vinyard… I was surprised to see that as of 1990 there were only 46 Polish citizens named Winograd, I would have expected a lot more (however, there were 526 with the related name Winogrodzki). The 46 lived in the following provinces: Bialystok (6), Bydgoszcz (11), Legnica (1), Skierniewice (1), Walbrzych (3), Wroclaw (13), and Zielona Gora (11), so they were scattered pretty much all over the country. (I’m afraid this data is all I have access to, I don’t know how to get details such as first names and addresses).
Alexander Beider mentions Winograd in his Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland (which included the Warsaw area), so it clearly is a name sometimes borne by Jews. But I haven’t run into it often enough to know whether it’s justifiable to conclude anyone named Winograd would probably be a Jew. In theory, it’s one of those names that could be used by any religion; in practice, sometimes such names do prove to be associated primarily with one or another. In view of Jewish dietary precepts, however, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if this name is primarily associated with Jews; if so, that might have something to do with why it’s less common than I expected, and it may have been considerably more common before the Holocaust.
Novletsky or Novlotsky is a bit of a problem. The form doesn’t really “sound” right to me, and as of 1990 there was no one by either name in Poland. Even if you adjust for phonetic differences, turning it into Nowlecki or Nowlocki (Poles write the sound “ts” with the letter c, and the sound “v” with the letter w), it still doesn’t seem quite right. However, an extra O can often get lost quite easily, and as of 1990 there were 12 Nowolecki‘s living in Poland, all in Warsaw province. I can’t be positive this name is connected with the one you’re asking about, but from a linguistic point of view such a connection is plausible, and the area seems to be about right… Oddly, Beider’s book doesn’t mention any of these names, and usually he is pretty good about listing any name borne by Jews living in the eastern 1/3 of modern Poland. As for the meaning, its form suggests it is derived from a place name, probably something like Nowolec or Nowolek. I can’t find mention of any such place in my sources, but this is not necessarily odd — surnames originated at least two centuries ago (although Jewish names are often of somewhat coinage), and the places they originally referred to might have been too small to show up in any official map or gazetteer, or might have been renamed, or absorbed into larger communities. Often we have a very hard time finding the places surnames came from.
If you would like more help, perhaps you can find some useful leads at the Website of the publication Avotaynu <www.avotaynu.com>, or from Miriam Weiner’s Routes to Roots Foundation <www.rtrfoundation.org>. These are connected with folks who have greater expertise in Jewish research than I, and you just might be surprised what you can find if you hunt for records of the Bendzin shtetl or other such sources.
To: [email protected], who wrote:
…researching family please help if you can thanks nancy…
The name Pyrtek does not appear in any of my books by Polish name experts, but it seems plausible that it comes from the root pyrt- or perc-; there is a Polish term perc~(conected with Slovak prt’) which means “a steep path along a mountain-side, a steep passageway.” If this connection is correct — and I can find nothing else in Polish that appears to be relevant — it probably belongs to the category of surnames derived from references to places. Perhaps an ancestor lived near such a path, or often traveled on such a path.
As of 1990 there were 348 Polish citizens named Pyrtek, living in the following provinces: Warsaw 6, Bielsko-Biala 3, Gdansk 11, Katowice 231, Koszalin 1, Krakow 37, Nowy Sacz 20, Torun 2, Walbrzych 5, Zielona Gora 32. It’s interesting that by far the majority live in provinces in southcentral Poland (Bielsko-Biala, Krakow, Nowy Sacz, and Katowice), near the Czech/Slovak border. This makes sense in terms of geography and also in light of the fact that this name may not have originated as native Polish — it seems more likely to have come from Slovak. That’s not to say your ancestors weren’t Poles, there are lots of Poles with names of non-Polish origin; but at some point there might have been some Slovak blood in the family. That’s guessing on some rather slender evidence, but the chances are good enough to make it worth mentioning.
To: Kim Cooper, [email protected], who wrote:
…Would like to know information about the surnames Gargasz, Zieba, Czeberowski, and Glozor…
Czeberowski is a rare name, as of 1990 there was no one in Poland with this name or any of the likely spelling variations such as Cieberowski. Names ending in -owskiusually refer to an association with a particular place, in this case probably a place name something like Czebero~w or Czeberowo, so that the surname means “person from Czeberow[o].” I can’t find any such places, although there are a couple of villages in Bialystok province in northeastern Poland named Czeberaki — that name comes from an old first name Czeberak, which is thought to be related to the term ceber, “bucket.” It’s not unusual to find that a name ending in -owski doesn’t match up with any village still in existence; sometimes surnames were formed from references to names used only by locals, names of very small villages or farmsteads that never appeared on any map, or have since been changed. But that’s my best guess as to what the surname comes from, “person from Czeberowo.”
Gargasz is also not too common, but it’s not unheard of. As of 1990 there were 419 Poles named Gargas, 140 named Gargasz, and 238 named Gargas~ (s~ stands for the Polish s with an accent over it, pronounced like our “sh,” and the sz is a similar sound — so all three of these spellings can reasonably be regarded as minor variants of the same name). While this name can be found all over Poland, it is a bit more common in southcentral Poland, especially the area around the cities of Krakow and Nowy Sacz; and Gargas~ shows up a lot in southeastern Poland, in the provinces of Tarnow (43) and Rzeszow (80). The name Gargasz appears in legal records of the Nowy Sacz area as far back as 1561. Name experts are not sure of its origin, but think it comes from an old German first name Garge, or perhaps from a verb gargulec~, “to decay.”
Glozor is a mystery; there was no one by that name in Poland in 1990, and none of my sources mention it. I’m afraid I’ve come up empty on this one.
Zieba is usually spelled Zie~ba in Polish (the e~ stands for the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under it and pronounced either en or em, in this case em, so that the name sounds like “ZHEM-bah”). The probable root is zie~ba, “finch,” although a connection with the root zie~b-, “chill” is possible. But many Polish surnames derive from the names of birds, and that’s probably the case here. It may have started as a nickname, perhaps because a person lived in an area with many finches, or perhaps because something about the person reminded people of a finch. As of 1990 there were 19,024 Polish citizens named Zie~ba, so it is a very common name. Because it is pronounced much like Ziemba, you may also sometimes see it spelled that way, that’s not unusual — there were 3,846 Ziemba‘s in 1990, so either spelling of the name is pretty common.
To: Julio C. Klafke, [email protected], who wrote:
…Klafki (1810, Ostpreussen), Klawki (1830, 1852 in Brazil), Klauki (1852, in Brazil), Klawke, Klaffke and Klafke (now-a-day). My ancestors came from Ostpreussen in 1852 but I think the name is not a German name but a Slavic name. One has suggest the meaning of the name may be Woodcutter, or Son of Klaus (Klauski).
The best evidence suggests that in most cases this name derives from Klawka, which is a Polish short form of the name Mikol~aj = German Nikolaus (short form Klaus) = English Nicholas. I believe you are right to think the name is Slavic rather than German, because German usually forms diminutives of names by adding suffixes with the letter-L (Haensel = “little Hans (John),” Gretel = “little Margaret”); but Slavic languages use suffixes with the letter -K-, such as -ek, -ka, -ki, -ko. There are many areas in eastern Germany and western Poland where Germans and Poles lived close together, and their languages influenced each other’s names, so that a Polish name might change somewhat to fit German phonetics. Thus we sometimes see the name Jahnke, which looks German; but it’s actually a Germanized form of Polish or Czech “Janek, Janko.” I think something similar happened with your name.
The root Klaw- is clearly a Slavic adaptation of German Klaus, so we have the following process: from Latin Nicholaus -> German Klaus -> Polish Klawek or Klawko -> GermanKlafke. We know the forms Klawek or Klawko appear in Polish legal records from as far back as 1391, and that they were regarded as short forms or nicknames of PolishMikol~aj (German Klaus). As time went on and Germans gained more power and influence, the name probably was modified slightly to German phonetics, and thus we finally get Klaffke or Klafke.
I should mention that this is not the only possible derivation of the name. It could conceivably come from Latin clavis, “key.” Although it seems unlikely, I cannot rule it out. But clearly it is far more likely in most cases that the name derives from the name Klaus. Klawek or Klawko can be interpreted as “little Nicholas,” which may mean an ancestor by that name was rather small, but more likely it was a patronymic, a name taken from one’s father’s name. Thus Klawek or Klawko probably meant “son of Nicholas.”
I’m afraid none of these names is very common in modern-day Poland; as of 1990 there was at least 1 person named Klawka, also 1 named Klawke, but I have no further information on where they lived. There was no one named Klawki. There were 32 Polish citizens named Klawek, living in the provinces of Pila (9), Walbrzych (21), and Wroclaw (2) — all areas with large German elements in the population. There were also 170 named Klawa and 123 named Klawe. So names formed from this root are not unknown in Poland, but they are not particularly common.
To: pwalters, [email protected], who wrote:
…Would you help me find the meaning of the name Karpinski? I was told that it was a very common name, much like Smith in America…
Well, it’s not quite that common, but it is a fairly common name. As of 1990 there were 19,174 Polish citizens named Karpin~ski (I’m using the n~ to represent the n with an accent over it). They lived all over the country, and the distribution seems to be fairly even — no pattern that tells us anything special.
The ultimate root is connected in most cases to the term karp, “carp” (the fish), which is the root of a great many surnames and place-names in Poland, Russia, etc. In some cases it might also come from the term karpa, “trunk, stem,” or from a short form of the first name Polikarp. I’m not sure, but I think in olden days Karp might also have been used as a first name or nickname, much the way we use nicknames such as “Catfish,” “Kingfish,” etc.
Names ending in -in~ski usually started as a reference to a place where a family lived or came from; in this case I would say the most likely candidates are the villages of Karpie in Legnica province, Karpin in Lodz province, and Karpiny in Elblag province. However, there could have been many more places named Karpin, Karpino, etc. that are too small to show up on maps, or have since changed their names, or have been absorbed by neighboring communities. But that is the basic meaning of the name: “person from Karpin/Karpino/Karpiny,” — or, to break it down further, “person from the place of the carp” (or in some cases “person from the place of Polikarp”).
To: Marie Hough, [email protected], who wrote:
…I am looking for information on Trojanowski…
Like most names ending in -owski, this one almost certainly started out referring to the place a person or family lived in or came from. In this case I’d expect the name of the place to be something like Trojanow, Trojanowo, Trojanowice, Trojany — and as it happens, there are a number of villages in Poland by those names. (Those names in turn, come from the Slavic root troi-, “three,” or from the first names Trojan or Trajan). I can’t say which particular village your family was associated with, but if your research leads you to a particular area in Poland and you notice a village nearby with a name beginning with Trojan-, that’s probably the place!
When a place name is that popular, the surnames derived from it are usually pretty popular too, and that’s the case here — as of 1990 there were 10,088 Polish citizens named Trojanowski. They lived all over the country, I don’t see any particular pattern to the distribution.
[Name and E-mail address inadvertently deleted]
…I would like to know if you have any quick information on the name Mikulski. It’s just and intrest so don’t put too much into it. If you do have something, please e-mail it too me. Thank you…
The root of this surname is Mikul~a (l~ stands for the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w), which is an archaic variant of the popular first name Mikol~aj = English Nicholas. If surnames were being formed these days you’d expect Mikol~ajski, formed from the standard version of the name (and in fact that is a reasonably common name in Poland). But most surnames arose centuries ago, and back then Mikul~a was still a pretty popular variant, and that’s why surnames were formed from it. There are other names from this form, including Mikulak and Mikulec, but Mikulski is by far the most common.
If you wanted to translate it, you’d say Mikulski means “of, belonging to, pertaining to, associated with Nicholas.” In practice it would normally mean just “Nicholas’s kin,” although in some cases it might possibly also come from places meaning “Nicholas’s place,” such as Mikul~owice, Mikulice, etc. But usually names derived from those places would be Mikul~owski or Mikulicki, so plain old Mikulski would usually just mean no more than “kin of Nicholas.”
Surnames formed from popular first names are usually quite common, and that’s the case with Mikulski: as of 1990 there were some 9,693 Polish citizens by this name. I don’t see any particular pattern to the distribution, it’s a moderately common name all over the country.
To: Thad Steward, [email protected], who wrote:
…As per your information on the Polish Genealogical Society Web page, I will appreciate it if you could provide some information about the meaning of the nameSuchodoslki. I still have relatives in Poland abd even they do not know the meaning of the name. Thanks much…
The standard form of the name would be Suchodolski, and it derives from places named Suchodo~l~ and Suchodol~y; I’m using o~ to stand for the Polish accented o, and l~to stand for the Polish l with a slash through it. These names are basically the same, Suchodol~y is just plural and Suchodo~l~ singular. Both come from the roots suchy, “dry” + do~l~, “pit, depression,” also sometimes short for dolina, “valley.” So these place names mean “dry valley” or “dry valleys.” Apparently sometimes places got this name because they were relatively dry, but in some cases the name may have been meant ironically, in fact the valleys were quite wet. But whether the name was meant with or without irony, “dry valley” is the basic meaning, and Suchodolski means “person or family from Suchodo~l~ or Suchodol~y = “person from Dry Valley(s).”
There are a number of places in Poland with the names Suchodol~y and Suchodo~l~ (quite a few on my maps, and probably more too small to show up on maps), so it’s not surprising this is a fairly common surname — 3,717 Polish citizens were named Suchodolski as of 1990. The name appears to be distributed fairly evenly all over the country, with Suchodolski’s living in virtually every province, and with the larger numbers tending to be in the more densely-populated provinces. As I say, this is reasonable — by its nature this place name could and probably did originate in many different areas all over Poland, so we’d expect the surname formed from it to have formed all over.
To: Tonia Keyte [E-mail address inadvertently deleted]
…The only information I have to go on is that he gave his name (on arrival in Australia) as Friedrich Wilhelm Miosge (Polish translation unknown) and that his sister Olga later married a Voight?. He also told my grandmother (his grandaughter) that he was of noble origin???…
Well, let’s do Voight first, because that’s easier. Voight is a Germanic form of a name that is common in German and Polish; in German it usually takes the forms Voigt orVogt, in Polish it’s Wo~jt (usually with suffixes added; the o~ stands for the Polish accented o, pronounced much like oo in “wood”). This name comes from a title of a regional administrator or supervisor; a Vogt or Wo~jt was usually an administrator in charge of a village, but could also be in charge of some larger community or area. The term actually comes from Latin advocatus, which gives us our word “advocate” and means “called to, appointed.” As of 1990 there were 500 Polish citizens named Vogt, 14 named Voigt, and 24 named Voit; as for Polish Wo~jt, there were thousands and thousands with names that derive from this root (although many of those names can also derive from the first name Wojciech, which has nothing to do with Voigt/Wo~jt). But the German forms Voigt and Voit and Vogt are the ones that probably interest you most, and as I say, they’re reasonably common in Poland and probably much more so in Germany (though I have no hard data).
Now, as for Miosge, this is a tough one. The name looks and sounds to me Lithuanian, but none of my Lith. sources mention it. If it’s Polish, my only guess is that it might be a variant of a name such as Miazga, borne by 2,905 Poles as of 1990; there is also a name Miozga, which I think is probably a variant form of Miazga, and it was borne by 680 Poles. Both appear to come from a term miazga, meaning “pulp, chyle.” If a Pole pronounced Miosge, it would sound similar to “Miazga,” so there could be a connection — but that’s just an educated guess, I have no proof whatever.
As of 1990 there was at least 1 person named Miosge in Poland, but the data on his/her file was apparently incomplete. There were 115 Poles named Miosga, and they lived in the following provinces: Czestochowa 31, Gorzow 3, Jelenia Gora , Kalisz 6, Katowice 50, Legnica 5, Opole 18, Wroclaw 1. This indicates the name is most common in south central Poland, as Czestochowa, Katowice, and Opole provinces are all right there, just a little west of Krakow. Unfortunately the source from which I got this data does not include further details such as first names and addresses, so what I give here is the only info I have access to. But Miosge and Miosga are so similar that I think they must be variant forms of the same name.
To: Sister Margaret, OSC (Margaret A. Mewhorter)
…Very recently I received some documents on my great grandfather, Antoni Zawadzki (b. 1834), from the Diocese of Drohiczyn, Poland. Through them I learned that my great grandmother had the name Joanna Wielowiejska. In one place it looks more like Wielewiejska. I could not find this name in your book. A friend in Poland tells me that this is a very important and rare name in Polish History, but over the phone did not give me any details. I am very curious, as the documents all mention that these ancestors were “szlachta” and “dworzanin”. This is a surprise to me. Have you ever come across the Wielowiejski name?
I didn’t list it in my book because it’s not very common, but I have seen it before. In the Polish Genealogical Society of America Journal we printed my translation of a genealogical bibliography by Wlodzimierz Dworzaczek, listing books he knew of that dealt with various noble families, and he included this book:
“WIELOWIEYSKI, of Polkozic arms: _Pamiatka po zmarlych s. p. Adamie i Henryku Wielowieyskich i Zofii z Deskurow Wielowieyskiej_ [A remembrance of the late Adam and Henryk Wielowieyski and Zofia nee Deskur Wielowieyski], published in Krakow in 1904 (contains a genealogy of the Wielowieyskis).”
So there was apparently at least one noble family named Wielowieyski, which is a rather old-fashioned spelling — the modern spelling would be Wielowiejski. This may not have been the only noble family by this name; I’m afraid my sources on the szlachta are rather limited. You might want to contact Leonard Suligowski, a heraldic artist with a sizable library of armorials and other sources on European and especially Polish nobility. Leonard charges a moderate fee for his services if he spends any significant amount of time on a project, but I know of no one in this country better qualified to find possible sources of information on a noble Polish family (he’s also the editor of the Journal of the Polish Nobility Association Foundation). If you would like to contact him, his address is: Leonard Suligowski, 218A N. Henry St., Brooklyn, NY 11222.
As for the name itself, it is an adjectival form of the place name Wielowies~, which means “big village” — there are at least 9 villages by that name in Poland, so it’s hard to pin down which particular one the surname refers to. But at least we can say the name means, in effect, “person/family from Wielowies~,” or to break it down further, “person/family from the big village.” As of 1990 there were 208 Polish citizens named Wielowiejski, and another 47 who spelled the name the old-fashioned way, Wielowieyski. I don’t see any real pattern to the distribution, the name is most common in the provinces of Warsaw (20), Bydgoszcz (30), Kalisz (18), Leszno (17), Poznan (18) and Wroclaw (16). Still, in your case that may not be a real problem — if your ancestors were members of the noble Wielowieyski family, you may be able to find some information on them that will tell you exactly where they came from.
All in all, I’m moderately optimistic that you will be able to find some info — it’s so much easier when dealing with nobles, because the records kept on them were far more complete, and go back much farther, than for peasants. It may not be easy to get hold of more information on this family, but I think it’s likely such information does exist. I hope Leonard or someone else can assist you in locating it. Good luck!
To: Joan Gallo, [email protected], who wrote:
…I am interested in any information you could pass on to me regarding the surname Kasprzykowski (“Kasper-kush-key”), the maiden name of my paternal grandmother, or Werra (GGM’s maiden name). Frank Kasprzykowski & Martha Werra emigrated to Milwaukee from Poland in 1892…
The name Kasprzykowski probably originated as a reference to a place the family came from or was otherwise connected with; I’d expect the place to have a name something like Kasprzyko~w, Kasprzykowo (meaning, essentially, “the place of Kasper’s son, probably referring to someone who founded it or owned it at some point). Offhand I can’t find any place by either name on the maps, but that’s not unusual. Often surnames were generated from the names of places that were quite small — the names may have been used only by locals, and never appeared on any map or in any gazetteer — or that have since changed their names. If your research leads you to a particular area of Poland and you find any reference to a nearby village or settlement with a name beginning Kasprzyk-, that’s probably the one your family’s name came from… As of 1990 there were 530 Polish citizens named Kasprzykowski, living all over Poland but with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (74), Katowice (55), Torun (92), and Warsaw (43). (Unfortunately, I don’t have access to further details, such as first names or addresses).
Werra is a tough one. It’s not rare, as of 1990 there were 490 Polish citizens by that name, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (78), Gdansk (155), and Slupsk (163), all in northcentral and northwest Poland, roughly in the areas that used to be the provinces of West Prussia and Pomerania under German rule. The origin of the name is not clear, however; there is a Werre river in Lippe, and the name used to be Werne; there is also a German surname Werres which comes from the first nameSeverus (Latin, “strict, stern, severe”). So the surname could well come from one of those two names; many names in those areas are of German origin, as Poles and Germans mixed to a considerable extent there. But none of my sources mention it, so I can’t give you a firm derivation, only my guess that it might be connected to one of the two names I mentioned.
(Of course, it might always turn out this is connected with the Slavic root vera, “faith, belief,” or Latin verus, “true.” This is possible if that -rr- spelling is not integral to the name, and Wera was the original form.)
To: Natalie Price, [email protected], who wrote:
…My surnames so far ar Wnek which if I remember from your book means grandson…
Yes, Wne~k (with the nasal e, sounding like en, written as an e with a tail under it) means “grandson,” and it’s a pretty common name — as of 1990 there were 3,2356 Polish citizens named Wne~k.
…Turek I have no idea what it means – I just found out about that one…
This name could come from several different roots, but in most cases the one that’s relevant is turek, “Turk.” Poland used to rule much of western Ukraine, and in medieval times there were frequent invasions of Turks into southeastern and southcentral Europe; some of those Turks settled there, married, and produced children. Turek generally suggests that one of them might have been an ancestor — or else that an ancestor looked like a Turk, followed Turkish customs, etc. This, too, is a common name, there were 13,066 Polish citizens named Turek in 1990.
…Tokarczyk – I just got the correct spelling for this one – again I don’t know what it means…
A tokarz is a “turner, lathe operator,” and -czyk means “son of,” so this name means “son of a turner.” It, too is fairly common in Poland, as of 1990 there were 3,525 Polish citizens named Tokarczyk.
To: Thad Steward, [email protected], who wrote:
…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 Stanisl~aw (the l~ stands for the Polish l with a slash through it, 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 Stas~ (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 Stas~.
The sz combination in Polish is also pronounced like “sh,” although it’s a chunkier, harder sh, whereas s~ is kind of light and hissing. You have to grow up speaking the language to really get the difference — but the point is, both Stas~ and Stasz sound pretty similar, and both started out as nicknames for Stanisl~aw. Then, once these names became common, Poles started adding suffixes to them. Staszak is basically a diminutive, meaning “little Stas~,” often = “son of Stas~.” So Staszak became a surname meaning “Stas~’s son” (not unlike Smithson or Alexanders in English). That’s the origin of this name.
Since Stanisl~aw 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 Stas~ who had sons.
To: Walter & Marie Allen, [email protected], who wrote:
…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!
To: James F. Lizewski, [email protected], who wrote:
…I saw your page (re subject), and your notes on the last name Slizewski (http://www.pgsa.org/nazw3.htm#slizew). 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 Sl~ownik Geograficzny gazetteer and only found a few places that might fit. There was a Liz* (I’m using z* to stand for the dotted z), 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 Liz*e 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!
To: Christina Pieknik, [email protected], who wrote:
…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 pie~kny (e~ stands for the Polish nasal vowel written as an ewith a tail under it and 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 Bialystok (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.
To: Joan Gallo, [email protected], who wrote:
…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.
To: Jeff Majtyka, [email protected], who wrote:
…I found your page on the pgsa site 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.