BARYCZ – OWCZARZAK
To: Michelle Owczarzak <[email protected]>
… I am looking for any information on the surnames Owczarzak or Barycz. Thank You.
Owczarzak is pronounced roughly “off-CHAH-zhock,” and consists of the noun owczarz, “shepherd,” plus the diminutive suffix -ak. So it would mean literally “little shepherd,” but more often as a surname would be used in the sense of “shepherd’s son, shepherd’s kin.”
As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, “Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland,” which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,340 Polish citizens named Owczarzak. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz 476, Konin 93, Pila 105, Piotrkow 105, Plock 125, and Poznan 861. So this name tends to be most common in central to western Poland.
As for Barycz, pronounced roughly “BAR-itch,” Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1412 and can come from the noun barycz, “marketplace, trading center,” or from any of several places named Barycz, or from the personal name Barycz (which would mean basically “son of Bar”), or from a Proto-Slavic root barych that mean “bog, marsh.” So there isn’t just one possible derivation, but several; it would take detailed research into a specific family’ history to find any clues as to which one was applicable in their particular case.
As of 1990 there were 92 Polish citizens named Barycz, scattered all over Poland but with some concentration in the southcentral provinces of Bielsko-Biala (12) and Krakow (26). Unfortunately I don’t have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can’t tell you how to find that info.
Teresa <[email protected]> asked:
… Could you tell me what the name Blicharz might mean?
According to Rymut’s book on Polish surnames, Blicharz and Blecharz are both names coming from the noun blicharz or blecharz. It is a term for an occupation, a “bleacher.” A Blicharz family presumably got that name because it had an ancestor who bleached or whitened cloth or clothes. Rymut says it appears in records as early as 1561. By English phonetic values Blicharz would sound kind of like “BLEE-hosh,” but the “ch” sound is a bit more guttural than English H, yet less guttural than German “ch” in “Bach.”
As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, “Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland,” which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,446 Polish citizens named Blicharz. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Biala Podlask 136, Lublin 198, Rzeszow 135, Tarnow 170, and Zamosc, 560. Unfortunately I don’t have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can’t tell you how to find that info. This data tells us the name is found all over Poland, but is particularly common in the southeastern quarter of the country.
Blecharz, by contrast, was the name of only 251 Polish citizens, with the largest number, 128, in the province of Krakow, and the rest scattered in small numbers all over Poland, especially southwestern Poland. I’m not positive, but this distribution suggests the word for “bleacher” was pronounced one way (with a short E sound) in southcentral to southwestern Poland, and another way (with the longer EE sound written in Polish as I) in eastern and southeastern Poland.
Incidentally, “bleacher” is an example of an English word that has come to mean something entirely different from what it once meant. At one time it was used primarily to mean “one who bleaches clothes.” These days you never hear this word, but the plural form “bleachers” is common. It means “an often unroofed outdoor grandstand for seating spectators” — rows of seating, sometimes outside, sometimes in a gymnasium, for people to sit on as they watch a sports event or other activity. Apparently it came to mean that by comparison to the bleaching effect the sun has on linens hanging outside to dry.
To: Brian <[email protected]>
… I am trying to learn anything about the name: Bronicki. Do you know anything about its origin or anything else?
In Polish Bronicki is pronounced roughly “bron-EET-skee.” This name would usually refer to the name of a place where the family lived at some point centuries ago, a place with a name beginning Bronic-. If they were noble, they owned an estate there; if they were peasants, they lived and worked there, or had occasion to do business there frequently. This name can also be a variant form of the very similar surnames Broniecki or Bronecki — names that close were often confused — in which case places with names
beginning Broniec- or Bronec- or even Bronka or Bronki could also be involved.
There are several places in Poland and the neighboring countries this surname could refer to. Genealogical research is the only way to pin down which one your particular Bronickis came from. If you can locate the area they came from, you can search in that specific area instead of all over eastern Europe.
As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, “Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland,” which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 758 Polish citizens named Bronicki. There was no one area in which they were concentrated; a Bronicki family could come from practically anywhere.
I’m afraid the vast majority of Polish surnames just don’t give you much in the way of useful clues as to exactly where a given family came from. I estimate fewer than 5% are concentrated in any one area, or have some aspect of their meaning that helps you trace them.
To: M. Pietras <[email protected]>
… I am looking for information on the following surnames: Pietras & Brozinska. Any information you could provide on the origins and meanings would be greatly appreciated. These are the names of my paternal grandparents who immigrated to Canada in the early part of the last century. I am attempting to do a family genealogy. Unfortunately, their personal paper were thrown away years ago and I am starting from scratch.
Pietras, pronounced roughly “P’YET-ross,” is a moderately common surname by Polish standards. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, “Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland,” which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 9,007 Polish citizens by that name, as well as another 806 named Pietras~ (using the tilde ~ to indicate the accent over the S) and another 1,022 with the similar form Pietrasz (both those names sound roughly like “P’YET-rosh”). All three names come from the first name Piotr, the Polish version of the first name “Peter.” They would mean little more than “Peter’s kin,” indicating that somewhere along the line there was an ancestor named Piotr or Pietr (Peter). As with most surnames derived from popular first names, this one is common all over the country; the name itself gives no clue where a specific family named Pietras would have come from.
Brozin~ska is a feminine form of Brozin~ski (accent over the N) — most Polish names ending in -ski change the ending to -ska when referring to a female. That name is pronounced roughly “bro-ZHEEN-skee.” As of 1990 there were 92 Polish citizens by that name. They were scattered all over Poland, with the largest concentration, 43, in the southeastern province of Tarnobrzeg. Unfortunately I don’t have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can’t tell you how to find that info.
A very similar name, Broz*yn~ski (with a dot over the Z and an accent over the N) is pronounced “bro-ZHIN-skee,” and is therefore very, very similar in pronunciation. Considering how variable spelling used to be, it is entirely possible you might see the same family called Brozin~ski one time, Broz*yn~ski the next.
Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions both names in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. Brozin~ski most likely comes from a short form of the first name Ambroz*y (dot over the z), the Polish form of “Ambrose.” Broz*yn~ski can come from the same origin, or it can come from the noun bro~g, “stack, rick, haystack.” So the name could mean “kin of Ambrose” or “one from Ambrose’s place,” or it could mean “one from the place of the haystacks.” Only detailed research into a specific family’s background might uncover information that would let one establish more; the name itself just doesn’t tell us more than that.
[Posted to Herbarz-L in response to erroneous comments about the origin of the name Falkiewicz]
In his book Nazwiska Polakow, volume 1 (Instytut Jezyka Polskiego PAN, Krakow, 1999) Kazimierz Rymut lists a number of Polish surnames from the root Chwal-, then comments “z dawnym malopolsko-mazowieckim przejsciem chw- w f-“ and proceeds to list a number of surnames beginning Falk-, including Falkiewicz. Thus in Malopolska and in Mazowsze there was long ago a tendency to simplify the consonant cluster chw- in names to f-. Chwalkiewicz/Falkiewicz may be the best known example of this phenomenon, but there are others: Chwailbog vs. Falibog, Chwast vs. Fast, Chwial~a vs. Fial~a, etc. (Incidentally, a number of different Polish onomasts have noted this tendency of Chw- to simplify to F-, not just Rymut. From what I can tell, it is generally accepted as a proven hypothesis among Polish name scholars.)
The patronymic Chwalkiewicz would have meant “son of Chwalek or Chwalka or Chwalko.” Those names, in turn, began in most cases as affectionate diminutives of ancient Slavic dithematic names which, in Polish, took the forms Chwalisl~aw (praise-renown), Chwalimir (praise-peace), Chwalibog (praise-god), etc. A name such as Chwalek or Chwalko could also develop directly from the noun chwala, “praise,” or the root of the verb chwalic~, “to praise,” so that Chwalek or Chwalko could have originally meant something like “little praiseworthy one, son of the praiseworthy one” or “little one who praises, son of the one who praises.” But in most cases it is thought they began as nicknames or short forms of those ancient names Chwalisl~aw, Chwalimir, etc., just as “Eddie” developed from “Edward” in English by truncation of the original name and addition of a diminutive suffix.
So it is perfectly appropriate to interpret Falkiewicz as “son of Falek/Falka/Falko = Chwalek/Chwalka/Chwalko.” In such cases the name would indicate origin in Malopolska or Mazowsze… Of course it’s true a name ending in -ewicz can refer to a place name; that is not out of the question, by any means. But the prime hypothesis in such a case is that the name means what it appears to mean, “son of Falek or Falka or Falko.” One should turn to toponyms only if the patronymic derivation proves inapplicable.
Names origins are seldom as simple as they appear, however, and as <[email protected]> wrote in his original question, Falkiewicz could indeed come from a German root. Rymut has an entry for Falk, “od niem[ieckiej] nazw[ej] os[obowej]
Falk(e), ta od s~rwniem. [s~rednio-wysoko-niemieckiego (Middle High German)] falche, ‘soko~l~,’ lub od im[ion] sl~owian~skich na Chwal-.” Thus in addition to the link withChwal-, Falk or Falke can exist as a name of German origin meaning “falcon,” much as Soko~l~ can exist as a Slavic name meaning “falcon.” Falkiewicz could be an instance where that Germanic name came into use among Slavs, and the patronymic suffix -ewicz was later added to indicate “son of the falcon.” While one must be careful about postulating the addition of Slavic suffixes to German roots, there is no question that did happen at times, when people of German descent lived and worked in a Polish linguistic environment. If a German was named Falke and lived among Poles who grew accustomed to his name, his descendants might well come to be called Falkiewicz by his neighbors.
I don’t know on what basic the original questioner says Falkiewicz is of German origin. If he did so on the basis of sound genealogical research, and thus had good reason to make this assumption, we can only accept what he says and proceed from there. But it would be wise to remind ourselves that Falkiewicz cannot be ASSUMED to come from the German name unless one has evidence to that effect. All things being equal, we’d normally expect Falkiewicz to be Polish, a variant of Chwalkiewicz. But if the evidence is there that the name does derive from German Falk- and not Polish Chwalk-, that is certainly a tenable position to take.
To: Lisa Blyshak Thomas <[email protected]>
… I have a question regarding the origin of my maternal grandfather’s name. He traveled with his parents from Poland to the United States around 1896. The surname he used as an adult was Deren (Daren on a SS form). One of my aunts said that he may have changed his name as a young man and that the family name was something such asDerensky. Can you shed any light on the origin of this name?
In Polish the basic name is Deren~, with an accent over the N, pronounced roughly “DARE-rain.” As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, “Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland,” which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,974 Polish citizens named Deren~. They lived all over Poland, but with the largest numbers in the souther part of the country, especially the provinces of Krosno (191), Opole (313), Rzeszow (156), Tarnobrzeg (281), Tarnow (180), and Walbrzych (331). I’m afraid this doesn’t shed too much light, however, on where a specific family by this name might have come from.
Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the noun deren~, “dogwood(Cornus mas), dogberry.” Thus the name probably started as a nickname for an ancestor whom people associated with the dogwood for some reason. Perhaps he lived in an area where there were a lot of dogwoods. In any case, we can feel sure there was some link that was obvious enough to make the name seem appropriate.
Deren~ski is a pretty rare name these days — as of 1990 there were only 17 Polish citizens by that name. The numbers suggest Deren~ should be treated as the main form of the name. But I’d add that you should keep your eyes open for either form. Poles instinctively recognize Deren~ and Deren~ski as closely related names — one means “dogwood,” the other means “of the dogwood.” So if a person or family was called Deren~, it would be pretty common to refer to them or their kin also as Deren~ski, or even Dereniewicz (son of Deren~) or Dereniowski (of the Deren~s). Of all those names only Deren~ is very common today. But until the last century or two there wasn’t any great emphasis on using the same form of a surname consistently, and in most Polish villages everybody knew everybody else, so there wasn’t all that much attention paid to surnames.
In other words, odd as it seems to us, you might see the same family called Deren~ in one record, Deren~ski in another, Dereniewicz in another, and so on. The Poles all recognized the people involved, and the names were all so closely related that they saw no reason to act like some Prussian screaming “You vill use ze same name every time or ve vill punish you!” That frame of mind was foreign to Poles. They didn’t make a big deal out of surname consistency. Thus your Deren~ might well have been called Deren~ski sometimes. But at least in modern usage Deren~ is the main form of the name.
To: Donna Campbell <[email protected]>
… My name is Donna Campbell (nee: Marud). I’m curious to know about the last names Marud and Dobrowski.
None of my sources mention the derivation of Marud, but I think there’s a pretty good chance it comes from the term maruda, seen in both Polish and Ukrainian and meaning “procrastinator, dawdler, dull (irresolute or tedious) person, grumbler.”
As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, “Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland,” which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 224 Polish citizens named Marud, plus another 233 named Maruda. They lived all over Poland, with no really significant concentration in any one area, although the largest number of both names lived in the southeastern province of Radom (42 Maruds and 37 Marudas).
The name Marut, borne by 1,754 Polish citizens, may sometimes come from this same word, although it can also have developed from other roots. Marud would be pronounced roughly “MAH-root” (which is why Marut is a plausible alternative spelling), and Maruda would sound more like “mah-ROO-dah.”
Dobrowski, pronounced roughly “dob-ROFF-skee,” is a rare name; as of 1990 there were only 18 Polish citizens by that name, scattered all over the country. Dobrowskicould come from the names of villages such as Dobrow, Dobrowo, etc., of which there are several. The only way to determine which one a given family was connected with at some point centuries ago would be through genealogical research that focused on exactly what part of the country that particular family came from.
I should add that Dobrowski could also be a simplified form of the name usually seen as Dombrowski or Da~browski, using A~ to stand for the Polish nasal vowel written as an A with a tail under it and pronounced usually like “on,” but before B or P like “om.” In other words, Da~browski and Dombrowski are two slightly different ways of spelling the same name, pronounced roughly “dome-BROFF-skee.” That could sometimes be simplified by dropping the nasal “om” sound, leaving Dobrowski. So while this name certainly could mean “one from Dobrow or Dobrowo,” I can’t overlook the possibility that it’s a variant of Da~browski. That is a very common name, just meaning “one from the place of the oak grove,” and both forms of the name are common all over Poland, as are places named Da~browa (“oak grove”).
To: Michael J. Nevadomski <[email protected]>
… Before his immigration from Poland, my great-great-great grandfather’s last name was that of Niewiadomski, or Niewiaduemski, (something of that nature), which was changed to “Nevadomski.” My grandmother’s maiden name is Domin, however I do not know the original variation: she is Polish as well. I haven’t the slightest idea what either name means or the family history behind them. If you could make inquiries regarding their meanings, I’d be eternally grateful.
It’s highly likely the name was Niewiadomski, which is pronounced roughly “n’yev-yah-DOM-skee,” and comes from the adjective niewiadomy, “unknown.” Niewiadomskimeans literally “of the unknown one.” It’s hard to say exactly what this would mean in a given case, but the name could, for instance, refer to the kin of one about whom his neighbors knew very little. In most villages everyone knew everyone else, so a mystery man who moved into the area might be called the “unknown one,” and his descendants might bear this name. Or the name might be given to the kin of a man whose father was unknown, i. e., an illegitimate child, or to the kin of a foundling of unknown parentage. It’s hard to say precisely how the name got started, since in different cases it might have gotten started different ways. All we can say for sure is that it means “[kin] of the unknown.”
However, if one did detailed and successful genealogical research on a given Niewiadomski family, one MIGHT find documents that give a clue what the name originally meant. There are no guarantees, but that would be just about the only way to establish exactly how and why this name came to be associated with a given family.
As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, “Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland,” which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 13,220 Polish citizens named Niewiadomski. They lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area. Very few Polish surnames give us any useful clue as to exactly where a given family by that name came from, and this is no exception. Families by this name could come from practically anywhere in Poland.
As for Domin, it is pronounced roughly “DOUGH-meen” (first syllable rhymes with “go”). As of 1990 there were 3,145 Polish citizens by that name, and they, too, lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area. This shows that Domin could be the original name; that is, at least, a legitimate Polish surname. Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1403, and began as a short form
of the first name Dominik, which comes from Latin dominicus, “of the lord.” So all this surname indicates is that an ancestor was named Dominik, or Domin for short.
The name may have been changed after the family came to America. But if it was, I’m not psychic and I have no way of knowing what it was originally; there are many, many possibilities, including Dominski, Dominiak, Dominiec, Dominik, Dominikowski, Dominiuk, Dumin, Duminski, etc. Only successful genealogical research might uncover documents that would establish what the name originally was.
To: Liuda Balcius <[email protected]>
… I am interested in only one document at this point and that is the one of Antonina Drazdauskaite (perfect Lithuanian spelling today_, however I feel perhaps on records then, where she was born, her name is corrupted by Russian or more likely, Polish. The information I know is:
Father: Juozas Drazdauskas.
Actually the name is probably Polish or Belarusian in origin and has been modified to suit Lithuanian linguistic preferences. In other words, it was probably Drozdowski, and Lithuanians changed that to Drazdauskas. The ending -aite simply means that was her maiden name; surnames ending in -us in Lithuanian change to -aite when referring to unmarried females.
Drozdowski is a fairly common name, borne by some 9,476 Polish citizens as of 1990, living all over Poland. It means basically “one from the place of the thrush,” referring to any of a number of places named Drozdo~w, Drozdowo, etc. It is pronounced roughly “droz-DOFF-skee” in Polish.
Since Polish and Russian have been the languages of record in Lithuania for most of the last three centuries, the name probably would appear in records in either Russian or Polish form. So I would expect it to appear as Drozdowski or, in feminine form, Drozdowska or Drozdowszczanka. I’m afraid I have no idea how to convey the Cyrillic spelling that would be used in Russian. But the good news is that workers in the Archives are used to dealing with name forms like these. They would almost certainly recognize Drazdauskas as a Lithuanian form of Drozdowski, and would recognize the Russian spelling of the name, as well, if they see it. So I’m hopeful that they will be able to give you real assistance in your search.
To: Nancy Lee <[email protected]>
… I am trying to help my husband find out about his heritage and family. I would like any info on: Galkowski, Szczepkowski, Sokolinska. Any info appreciated.
Regarding Szczepkowski, Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut it in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surname of Poles]. He says it can come from two different roots: 1) that seen in the noun szczep, “tribe, sowing, seedling, log” and szczepa, “chip, sliver”; or 2) the first name Szczepan, “Stephen.” Either way, it breaks down as Szczep + -k- + -owski. The -k- is from the diminutive suffix -ek or -ko, and -owski is a suffix meaning “of, from.” So the name means either “of, from the X of the little tribe/sowing, etc.” or “of, from the X of little Stephen.” Usually that X is a word obvious enough it didn’t have to be mentioned, either “kin” or “place.”
That’s as to the literal meaning and derivation. In practice, most of the time you’d expect Szczepkowski started out meaning “one from Szczepki or Szczepkowo.” There are several villages in Poland by those names, which come in turn from the roots mentioned above, and this surname could refer to origin in any of them. If the family was noble, they owned the villages or estates by these names; if they weren’t noble, they probably worked the land there. There was a time centuries ago when -ski names were the exclusive property of the nobility, formed from the names of their estates. But since the 1600’s such names have come to mean little more than “of, from such-and-such a place.”
As of 1990 there were 2,381 Polish citizens named Szczepkowski. There was no one place or area with which the name is particularly associated, a family named Szczepkowski could have come from virtually anywhere in Poland.
The surname Galkowski is usually spelled in Polish with a slash through the L, which I represent on-line as L~. Gal~kowski is pronounced roughly “gaw-KOFF-skee.” As of 1990 there were 2,529 Polish citizens named by that name.
As I said, surnames in the form X-owski usually refer to the name of a place with which the family was connected at one time; if they were noble, they owned it, and if not, they lived and worked there. So we’d expect this surname to mean “one from Gal~ki, or Gal~kow, or Gal~kowo” — something like that. There are a number of villages by those names in Poland, and without detailed research into a specific family’s past there is no possible way to tell which one they came from. Your research, however, might enable you to do so.
Sokolin~ska is simply the feminine form of Sokolin~ski (accent over the N) and is pronounced roughly “so-ko-LEEN-skee.” As of 1990 there were 664 Polish citizens named by that name, living all over Poland with no concentration in any one area. (Incidentally, that’s the norm — I estimate fewer than 5% of all Polish surnames are concentrated in any one area, to the point that a researcher can afford to focus on that area.)
To: Stephanie M. <[email protected]>
… I am doing some genealogy research for my aunt. She is of Polish decent, and the last name that she is inquiring about is: Gomolka (apparently the “L” within the name had a slash or squiggle through it). Her family used the spelling Gomoke since they have been in the United States. I was wondering if you had any information on these names so that I could let her know if I have found anything.
In Polish this name is spelled with the slashed L (which I indicate online as L~) and with an accent over the second O (ó). Thus when I spell it Gomól~ka, that means you’d write it with an accent over the 2nd O and a slash through the L. The accented o sounds like “oo” in “book,” and the L~ sounds like our W, so Gomól~ka sounds like “go-MOOW-kah.”
You can see how “Gomoke” would be a plausible phonetic spelling of this name for people speaking English, and that probably explains why the spelling was changed. Immigrants often simplified or changed their names to make them easier for Americans to deal with, or to help them “fit in” better and seem less “foreign.”
Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the basic root seen in the wordgomol~a, “without corners or edges,” but more particularly from the noun gomól~ka, which can mean “a roundish lump of something soft” but is especially used as a term for a kind of homemade round cheese. Presumably the name began as a nickname for an ancestor whom people associated with this kind of cheese for one reason or another — perhaps he made this cheese, or was very fond of it, or his shape somehow reminded people of it (I suppose a chubby, round-bodied fellow could conceivably be called this as a humorous nickname).
As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, “Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland,” which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 1,750 Polish citizens named Gomól~ka. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Biala Podlaska 250, Kalisz 233, Katowice 285, and Nowy Sacz 106. Unfortunately I don’t have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can’t tell you how to find that info. This data indicates that the name is most common in southcentral to southwestern Poland, with another significant concentration in the area near the border of Poland with Belarus and Ukraine. But the name is not concentrated anywhere to the point we can assume a family by that name came from such-and-such a place. Only genealogical research might turn up info that would enable one to say that with certainty.
One last point: this name also appears sometimes spelled as Gomul~ka or Gumul~ka. That’s because the Polish accented O is pronounced the same as U, and this sometimes causes names to be spelled phonetically with O or U. So you might see the same family referred to in one record as Gomól~ka, in another as Gomul~ka, and in another as Gumul~ka. Spellings in older records are often very inconsistent, so that almost any phonetically possible spelling may show up. It can be helpful to know this so you don’t automatically assume those other spellings are necessarily different families; sometimes they are, but not necessarily always.
To: Kathy Kope <[email protected]>
… Does anyone know the meaning of the surname Gruzlewski?
In Polish this name is normally spelled with an accent over the Z, and is pronounced
roughly “groozh-LEFF-skee.” Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it comes from the archaic noun gruzla, which mean “ulcer, growth, blister.” Gruz~lewski means literally “of the ulcer, growth, blister,” and presumably began as a name for the kin of someone who had a disfiguring ulcer or growth or blister.
Names ending in -ewski often come from place names, so that Gruz~lewski could also mean “one from Gruz~le, Gruz~lew, Gruz~lewo,” etc. But I can’t find any places by those names. It’s possible they were or are too small to show up on most maps; or the name may have changed over the centuries; or they may have disappeared, or have been swallowed up by other communities. It’s impossible to say without knowing exactly where a given family came from and studying the history of that area in detail. So this surname could mean “one from Gruz~le/Gruz~lew/Gruz~lewo,” but it may have simply meant “kin of the guy with the big blister.”
As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, “Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland,” which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 358 Polish citizens named Gruz~lewski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Ciechanow 29, Gdansk 25, Olsztyn 37, Torun 178; the rest were scattered in tiny numbers all over Poland. Unfortunately I don’t have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can’t tell you how to find that info. But this data indicates the name is found most often in northcentral Poland.
To: Amy Jashinski <[email protected]>
… I’m hoping you can help me with the meaning of my surname: Jashinski. I’ve found almost nothing on this or any other spelling of the name. Would you be so kind as to e-mail me back with whatever you can find?
Since Polish doesn’t use the letter combination -sh-, it’s immediately clear we’re dealing either with a non-Polish name or a name that is Polish but has been Anglicized. Without a lot more info there’s no way I can say for sure, but it’s reasonable to believe this probably is a slightly modified version of the Polish name JASIN~SKI (n~ stands for an N with an accent over it). It is pronounced roughly “yah-SHEEN-skee.”
As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, “Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland,” which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 35,545 Polish citizens named Jasin~ski, living all over the country. The name is not associated with any one part of Poland, a Jasinski could come from practically anywhere. It’s also pretty clear there isn’t just one huge Jasinski family, but rather a number of separate families that came by the name independently.
In his book on Polish surnames Prof. Kazimierz Rymut says Jasin~ski is connected in many cases with the first name Jan (John), or with other first names beginning with Ja-(such as Jakub, Jaromir, etc.). The Jas- comes from nicknames or short forms of Jan,
Jakub, etc.; the -in- is a possessive suffix; and -ski is an adjectival ending, meaning “of, from, connected with, pertaining to.” So Jasin~ski breaks down as meaning “one of, belonging to, connected with Jas.” It might refer to kin of a fellow with that name, or to people coming from a place owned by such a fellow.
However, we can’t rule out a connection in some cases with the old Polish term jasin, in more modern Polish jasion or jesion, “ash tree,” or any of the numerous villages named Jasien, Jasiona, etc. These places could generate the surname Jasien~ski which could then be simplified to Jasin~ski. So this connection is also one that must be considered when dealing with this surname.
Only genealogical research might uncover information that would shed light on exactly how the name came to be associated with a specific family. With one Jasin~ski family the surname might refer to an ancestor who was a relative of a guy named Jas; with another it might refer to origin in a place named Jasin or Jasien. The name could develop in different ways, so all I can do is give general info on its most basic meaning, and leave it to individual researchers to fill in the details as they discover them.
To: Art Klinger/Kotlowski <[email protected]>
…Almost exactly one year ago, on 06-May-2000, you replied to my questions about our great-grandparents names Trepski or Trepki, and Katlowski… Anyhow, these new records still give variations, but not quite so widely different. Our great-grandmother was apparently a Trepp, or Treppa, or Treppe. And very oddly, on three of the birth-baptism records, her last name was consistently shown as Rode! … Inspection of the LDS films showed many Rode (and some “Rhode”) in that area through the years of the films contents, about 1830-1880. In her records, she was shown first as Trepp etc, then Rode, then I think for the last one or two kids she was again shown with the nameTreppe or such. What is that all about? Our knowledge of her age, marriage and Kotlowski kids’ birthdates strongly indicates that she had never been married before, and that Kotlowski was her only husband. Although I suppose it would be possible for her to have been married for a year or maybe 2, when she was quite young (under age 18 or 20).
Actually, it’d be a miracle if there weren’t some variation in the records. What you describe is definitely par for the course.
There’s just no way I can tell you what significance that has. People run into this sort of thing all the time, and the explanations can be many and varied. What they have in common is, if you ever do discover what it’s all about, you realize there was no way to have predicted it reliably. You might have had a good notion what the explanation was, but the only way to be sure is by finding evidence in the records. And I’m sorry to say in many cases people never do figure out what the heck was going on.
… Our great-grandfather, as you had suspected was a Kotlowski, although the church also spelled it as Kottlowski (with two “t”) and Kotlewski (with an “e”). Would I be asking too much to ask for your definitions and origins for these (3?) names, as high-lighted above? Your previous email had touched on Kotlowski, but you had replied mostly in regard to the name Katlowski, with an “a”.
Kotl~owski (using L~ to stand for the slashed L pronounced like our W) is pronounced roughly “cot-WOFF-skee.” Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles], and adds that Kotlewski and Katlewski are both forms also seen of the same name; Poles don’t normally double letters, so Kottlowski is probably a German-influenced spelling. All these spellings are well within the bounds of normal variation of name forms.
According to Rymut this surname, like most ending in -owski and -ewski, refers to the name of a place with which the family was associated at some point centuries ago. One good candidate is Kotlewy, Dobryszyce district of Piotrkow province; but there certainly could be others. The surname could come from almost any place with a name beginning Kotlow- or Kotlew-. Those names, in turn, probably come from the noun kociol~, “boiler, kettle,” so that Kotlowski would mean “one from the place of the kettle.”
But that’s really a secondary issue; the main point is that this surname probably refers to the name of a place where the family lived long ago. If you’d like to see maps of some of the possible candidates, go to this Website:
Enter “Kotl” as the place you’re looking for, select “Poland” as the country to be searched, and select “All towns starting with this precise spelling.” Click on “Start the search,” and after a moment you’ll see a list of various places in Poland with names starting Kotl-. You can skip the ones that don’t begin Kotle- or Kotlo- or Kotly-, as those three forms are the only ones likely to generate a name Kotl~owski. For each place, click on the blue numbers (latitude and longitude) and you’ll get a map showing that location. You can print the map, save it, zoom in and out, etc.
This will show you there are several possible places the surname might refer to. All things being equal, we’d expect the one nearest to Gdansk and Oliwa to be the best candidate, but that’s making assumptions that prove unjustified. Unfortunately, unless your family was noble and owned an estate at Kotlowo or Kotlewy or whatever, it’s unlikely any surviving records go back far enough to let you make a positive connection. Still, it may give you something to go on.
As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, “Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland,” which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 2,269 Polish citizens named Kotl~owski. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Gdansk 1,059, Slupsk 261, Lublin 187, and Torun 98. Unfortunately I don’t have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can’t tell you how to find that info. But this data suggests your Kotl~owskis come from the area where the name is most common.
Trepp, Treppa, and Treppe are all variants of the same basic name. It might be from Polish trepa, “stairstep,” or trepy, “clogs.” But those spellings suggest German influence, and I’m sure Polish trepa comes from the German noun Treppe anyway — it means “step, stair.” And trepy surely comes from German Trippen, which are clogs, a kind of wooden shoe. So the most likely interpretation is that the family was of German origin — hardly rare in western Poland! — and an ancestor was associated with clogs. Perhaps he made them, perhaps he wore them, perhaps there was some other connection less obvious to us today.
Rode is also a German spelling, sometimes seen as Rhode; in Polish it would be spelled phonetically Roda, and that makes me think this name, too, should be interpreted as German. In German Rode is usually a variation of standard German rot, “red,” and thus a Rode was one with red hair. If the name were Polish it would have something to do with the root rod- meaning “birth, family.” But if it’s consistently spelled Rode, that’s a pretty good hint that it was German, and suggests an ancestor was red-haired.
As of 1990 there were 222 Polish citizens named Trepa (15 in Gdansk province), and 114 named Treppa (104 of whom lived in Gdansk province); there was one named Treppe, also somewhere in Gdansk province. There were 634 named Rode; they lived all over Poland, but the larger numbers were in the provinces of Bydgoszcz, 95; Gdansk, 85; and Katowice, 81. I should add that some 4 million people of German descent fled Poland after World War II to resettle in what was then East Germany, so the stats from 1990 on distribution and frequency of names of German origin are not really all that representative of the situation before World War II.
To: Susan Marszalski Keeling <[email protected]>
… Once again I write to you with a request, the surname I am searching is Mozdzien. I do not know if this is the correct spelling, but I hope you can help me.
Fortunately, this spelling is recognizable. In Polish this name is most often spelled Moz*dz*en~ with dots over both Z’s and an accent over the N, pronounced roughly “MOZH-jane.” But the sounds represented by the dotted Z and by ZI, while distinguishable to the Polish ear, are very similar and therefore easily confused. So it’s not at all odd to find this name sometimes spelled Moz*dzien~, because both spellings would be pronounced almost exactly the same. Thus Moz*dzien~ is a perfectly plausible
variant spelling of Moz*dz*en~. This also suggests that in your research you should keep an eye open for Moz*dz*en~, as the name may often appear in that form.
This surname is thought to come from the moz*dz*en~, a term for a kind of drill or a wooden tenon. Perhaps it began as a nickname for one who used such a tool, or one whose shape somehow reminded others of a drill(?). It’s hard to say how nicknames get started — sometimes they make no sense at all unless you were there when they originated, and then they make perfect sense. But it’s pretty clear the name comes from that noun, so there must have been some association people noted between a person or family and this type of drill that made the name seem appropriate.
As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, “Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland,” which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 20 Polish citizens named Moz*dzien~. They lived in the following provinces: Biala Podlaska 6, Czestochowa 1, Koszalin 1, Lomza 3, Opole 2, Plock 4, Poznan 2, and Radom 1. Unfortunately I don’t have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can’t tell you how to find that info.
Moz*dz*en~ is more common — 1,758 Polish citizens spelled the name that way as of 1990. This form was found all over Poland, with no really significant concentration in any one area, although the name is somewhat more common in the south than in the north.
To: Mark Okopny <[email protected]com>
… My name is Mark Philip Okopny. I live in Chicago Illinois, United States. My grandfather Maksym and his brother Peter came from Narajow Austria in 1913. I believe this is now Narayiv Ukraine.
In general I would agree we’d expect Polish “Narajów” to be “Narayiv” in Ukrainian. However, I notice in Brian Lenius’s Genealogical Gazetteer of Galicia, he says there were two places named Narajów, Narajów Miasto [i. e., the town of Narajów] and Narajów Wies’ [the village of Narajów]. Lenius says in both cases the modern Ukrainian name is Naryiv, which looks like this in Ukrainian Cyrillic:
H A P Ï B
That is, the 4th letter is an I with dieresis (two dots) over it. So according to Lenius (who says he used official Ukrainian sources), the “town of Narajów” is called simply Naryiv, and “the village of Narajów” is Naryiv Selo. Lenius lists both in the district of Brzezany (dot over the second z), and says Narajów was served by on-site Roman and Greek Catholic parishes.
Most sources I saw mentioning either of these places did use either the Polish form Narajów, the Russian form Narayev, or the Ukrainian form Narayiv. So I’m not sure what the “correct” version is; in fact, in the case of some places there is still disagreement over exactly what the “correct” form is. It might be helpful to have that other form, Naryiv, just in case it shows up in your research sometimes.
… There are 30 Okopnys in Canada and United States. Via the internet, I have found 1 person with the name Okopny in Poland (Wroclaw), Germany, Ukraine, Russia, Australia, and Brazil. All seem to be from this western Ukraine location. I have been told my family originates from Krakow area. I understand that in Russian this surname indicates “one who digs military style defensive trenches”. But this was not a professional opinion.
To get to the point, have you ever seen this surname in your work? Could you help me in discovering it’s origin? Or point me in the right direction?
This is a pretty rare name in modern Poland (unfortunately I have no sources for Ukraine). Okopny is adjectival in form, which means a male would be called Okupny and a female Okupna. As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, “Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland,” which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 19 Polish citizens named Okopna, scattered in tiny numbers all over Poland. There were 25 Poles with the masculine form Okopny, and they, too, were scattered all over (neither form of the name showed up in Krakow province). Unfortunately I don’t have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can’t tell you how to find that info.
The root okop- comes from the verb okopac~, meaning “to dig in, entrench,” etc., and is also seen in the noun okop, “trench.” The same root appears in Ukrainian, meaning almost exactly the same thing. So an Okopny may very well have been one who dug trenches or earthen fortifications. I would add that there is also a Polish dialect nounokopnik meaning “worker who works on roads, digs trenches or ditches, gravedigger.” So it seems highly likely an Okopny worked as a digger — it’s just a question of exactly what kind of work it was. He may have dug graves or trenches, or he may have helped dig out and maintain roads.
… My surname is Slowik (the L has a line thru it). I am trying to trace in what part of Poland this name may have originated. The only information I have available is that my grandfather emigrated to the USA about 1918. I have been told that he came from somewhere near Glazcia. It does not appear to be a very common name. Any help or direction to its origin would be helpful. I will visit Lodz, Poland on business this summer. Seeing my ancestral land would be special.
As you say, in Polish this name is spelled with a line through the L, which I indicate online as L~. That letter is pronounced like our W, and Polish W is pronounced like our V, so that Sl~owik is pronounced roughly “SWO-veek.”
Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as far back as 1377 and comes from the noun sl~owik, “nightingale.” It suggests an ancestor was called this as a nickname because people associated him with nightingales, for any of a number of reasons. Perhaps he lived in an area where these birds were common, or his clothes were colored like a nightingales, or he could imitate a nightingale — almost any association could cause this name. The most we can say is that an ancestor surely got this name because something about him brought nightingales to mind.
As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, “Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland,” which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 10,615 Polish citizens named Sl~owik. They lived all over Poland, with no significant concentration in any one area. A family by this name could have come from anywhere in Poland.
I’m pretty sure there’s no place called Glazcia in Poland. There is at least one village named Glazica, and this could be a misspelled form of that name. But there’s another possibility that came to mind, one I thought I should mention. This might be a mangled version of Galicia, which was the name of a region comprising what is now southeastern Poland and western Ukraine. This area was ruled by the Austrian Empire from about 1772 till after World War I, and a great many of the Poles living there emigrated to North America. If it turns out that is the place your ancestors came from, I’m afraid you have a lot of work ahead of you. Saying an ancestor came from Galicia is like an American saying his ancestor came from New England — it covers a lot of ground, and you’ll have to find records giving a more specific place of origin before you’re likely to have much luck locating the family in Europe.
For your sake, I hope it turns out not to be Galicia, but Glazica. That’s a village in the Gdansk area, 12 km. south of the town of Wejherowo, in the district of Szemud. If that was your ancestors’ home, at least you’d have a specific place to search for traces of them. But your best bet is to continue research on this side of the Atlantic, hoping to find some record that pins down exactly where they came from, or gives you a reliable spelling of the name of their ancestral town or village.
To: Joyce <[email protected]>
… I was looking through your names for something that might come close to Soliwoda or Soliwada. On the marriage certificate the place of birth given is Russia, could you be so kind as to tell me if either of these names are Polish.
The original Polish form was probably Soliwoda, not Soliwada. Polish O and A sound rather similar, and in handwriting they are easily confused; so it’s not unusual to see names variations with O or A. But this particular name was probably Soliwoda.
As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, “Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland,” which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were no Polish citizens named Soliwada, but 959 named Soliwoda. The largest numbers lived in the following provinces: Warsaw 103, Olsztyn 206, and Ostroleka 342 . Unfortunately I don’t have access to further details such as first names or addresses, so I can’t tell you how to find that info.
This data tells us the name is found all over Poland but is most common in the northeastern part of the country. That region was seized by the Russian Empire during the partitioning of Poland, so immigrants born there during the 19th century or before World War I would be described, officially, as born in Russia. This infuriated Poles, who hated the Russians and the Russian occupation of their country; but since no such country as Poland existed, officially speaking, they had to be categorized as Russian citizens, like it or not. The name itself is almost certainly Polish in origin.
It comes from sol, “salt,” and woda, “water,” and thus means literally “salt water.” Presumably it began as a nickname — perhaps for one who a sailor and had spent much of his life around salt water. But I suppose there are other ways it could develop, perhaps as a reference to an individual’s habit of salting his water. It’s hard to say for sure exactly what the name meant in a given instance; the most we can do is note that it means “salt water,” and for the name to develop and “stick” that must have seemed somehow appropriate. To me it seems most likely as a nickname for an old salt, a sailor; but I’m sure there are other plausible interpretations.
This name comes from the noun soko~l~ (accent over the second O, slash through the L), which means “falcon.” Sokolin~ski would mean “one of the falcon.” It could refer to the kin of a person nicknamed the Falcon, or it could refer to someone who came from a place named for falcons, such as Sokolin, Sokolina, Sokolino, Sokoliny, etc. So as with the others, I can only tell you what it means generally; the only way to pin it down further is through detailed research into your specific family, since this Sokolin~ski familky might have the name from one connection, that one might have it from another.