Notes on Selected Polish Surnames – 2


… I am trying to find the origin and history of my surname, Antoszewski, I have read a few messages in Genpol and thought you may be able to help…

I probably can’t tell you as much as you’d like to know, but I can tell you a little, and will be glad to do so.

Names ending in -owski or -ewski usually started out designating a person who came from a place by a similar name. In this case, we’d expect Antoszewski to mean “guy from Antoszew or Antoszewo or Antoszewa,” something like that. It doesn’t always have to mean that, -ew- and -ow- are possessive suffixes in Polish, so that Antoszewskireally means no more than “one connected to some thing, person, or place connected to a fellow named Antosz.” But in practice, the connection is of a person with a place with a name ending in -ew(a/o) or -ow(a/o) . Note that the -ow- or -ew- can be appended not only to personal names (as in Antoszewski or Janowski) but also to other nouns, e. g.,Kowalew or Kowalewo, from the root kowal, “smith,” = ” place or thing connected with smiths.” That in turn yields a surname such as Kowalewski, “guy from Kowalew/o.”

The ultimate root of this name is Antosz, which is a kind of nickname for Antoni (Anthony). Thus Antoszew/o/a, if it existed, would have meant “Antosz’s place.” It might be a village or estate owned by an Antosz, or founded by Antosz, or Antosz was a prominent citizen — hard to tell exactly what.

Often these place-derived surnames refer to some local name for a place, and that place may be too small to show up on maps. I read a letter from one fellow who was visiting Poland and was looking for a village called Iwany that wasn’t on any map. He and his guide were driving on a little road through a field near where they thought the village should be, based on other info he had, so they stopped to ask some peasants where Iwany was. The peasants were surprised and said “This is Iwany!” It was a bend in the road with one house! Apparently there once was a village there, but now it’s mostly just farmland, and the name is one only the locals would even recognize. So it can be very tough finding the precise place a surname referred to centuries ago. (Imagine if your name is Iwanowski and you’re looking for this place!)

I did find one place called Antoszew in a 19th-century Polish gazetteer. It was located in Samogitia, a region of what’s now Lithuania, near the town of Poniewiez (Lith. name Panevezys). Here’s what the entry said:

Antoszew, in Samogitian Antosava, a small town in Poniewiez county, about 40 km. from Poniewiez. It has a Catholic church, St. Jacek’s, built of wood and built in 1782 by the Antoszewskis, a branch of the Wobolniki parish church. There is a manoral farmstead by this name 8 km. from the town.

I found this village in an atlas of Lithuania; it’s now called Antasava. It’s northeast of Panevezys, northwest of Kupskis, and nearby is Vabalninkas, which is the Lithuanian equivalent of the Polish name Wobolniki. There is a parish church in Antasava, so it is possible there are some parish records available for research. If the Family History Library in Salt Lake City doesn’t have them on microfilm, you may need to write the Lithuanian State Archives. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

You see, this does not have to be the Antoszew your family’s name came from. But the gazetteeer entry indicates there was a family named Antoszewski that built the local church — chances are they were minor nobility, since their name is connected with the name of the estate near the town. So this is at least one possible candidate for the right place.

One reason I caution you about this is that as of 1990 there were 1,910 Polish citizens named Antoszewski, spread out all over the country. Usually when a surname is that widely spread, it suggests it got started in many different places; so even though only one Antoszew shows up in the gazetteer, there were probably many others too small to appear in gazetteers or maps… Of course, that Antoszew/Antasava might be exactly the right one, but it might prove to be a costly and disappointing error to jump to the conclusion that that has to be the right one.

As of 1990 the Polish provinces with the most Antoszewskis were Warsaw (176), Ciechanow (151), Ostroleka (108), Poznan (130), Torun (95), and Wloclawek (126). (I have no more detailed info, such as addresses, first names, etc. — what I give here is all I have). The nobles tended to move around, it’s possible all these Antoszewskis came from the family with its estate in Lithuania — but it seems pretty unlikely. A fair number of those Antoszewskis are probably connected with the ones from Lithuania, but odds are a lot of them aren’t. They were probably peasants who came from or worked on other, small estates named Antoszew/Antoszewo/Antoszewa scattered all over Poland that were just too small to appear in the gazetteer.

I wish I could give you a definitive answer that would tell you just where to look, but I think you can see that’s just not possible without a lot more info on the family. I hope, however, that this info will give you something to work with, so that when you combine it with your own research it will give you good leads.

I wish you the best of luck with your research!

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


In a message dated 97-10-21 01:57:36 EDT, you write:

… I just received your new book. It is wonderful. In your book you cover the root bart-. I did not see the name Bartochowski. Could you please E Mail me the definition? …

I’m very pleased you like my book. As for Bartochowski, it was a tough call whether to include it: the name was borne by 349 Poles as of 1990, which means it’s not all that common, but it’s hardly rare. Since space limitations were definitely a factor, I generally listed the more common name with a particular root and omitted the less common one, unless I could fit it in without using another line. In this instance I had a more common name with the same root, Bartocha (1,055), so I didn’t list Bartochowski. I hoped in cases such as yours people would contact me if they had questions, and you did, so that worked out all right!

As I tried to explain in the book, surnames ending in -owski or -ewski are almost always derived from a place name. Thus we’d expect Bartochowski started out meaning “person from Bartochow/Bartochowo/Bartochowa/Bartochy”; there are several possibilities, as suffixes tended to drop off before the adjectival ending -ski was tacked on, and thus several different place names could all end up as “Bartochowski.” The place name, in turn, would come from a personal name, in this case Bartoch or Bartocha, presumably because a fellow by that name once owned or founded the place in question.

That is almost certainly the case here. Most Bartochowskis probably took their name from some connection with the village of Bartocho~w in Sieradz province, 4 km. south of Warta. (There is also a village Barszo~w in Legnica province that has also been called Bartocho~w in the past; some Bartochowskis may trace their origin to that place name instead). So the surname means “person from Bartocho~w,” and that place, in turn, got its name from an owner or founder named Bartoch or Bartocha; and his name, in turn, came from the roots mentioned in my book under Bart-.

It’s always interesting to look at the distribution of a surname when it comes from a place name, to see whether there is a pattern. In this case, the 349 Bartochowskis lived in the following provinces as of 1990: Warsaw 54, Biala Podlaska 7, Elblag 3, Gdansk 31, Jelenia Gora 1, Katowice 4, Kielce 3, Krakow 15, Krosno 1, Lodz 36, Olsztyn 14, Ostroleka 3, Plock 33, Przemysl 1, Radom 1, Siedlce 5, Skierniewice 18, Slupsk 7, Szczecin 5, Tarnobrzeg 101, Walbrzych 1, Wloclawek 1, Wroclaw 4. So they were spread out all over Poland. That concentration in Tarnobrzeg province is puzzling, however — why so many there? It’s conceivable that there was once a place in that province with the name Bartochow or something similar, and that it also gave rise to the surname, but has long since changed its name so that none of the more modern sources list it. But that’s just a guess, I don’t really know the answer.

If you would really like to know more I would suggest contacting the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow — the address is on p. 177 of my book (the 2nd edition, that is) [for more information see my introduction, or click here for the address: Institute address]. They would probably tell you about the same thing I have, but might be able to add some insights as to the Tarnobrzeg connection; then again, they might not. But the basic derivation is pretty certain: Bartochowski started out meaning “person somehow connected with or coming from the village of Bartochow.”

I hope this answers your questions, and I’m very glad you’re enjoying my book.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


From: Kevin Spaulding [email protected]

… One branch of my wife’s family came from the area near what is now Sierpc, Poland. (Although the borders shifted a number of times, they considered themselves to be Germans…) A cousin has been searching some of the microfilmed records from this area and there are two entries in these that we suspect might be the same person since they have their husbands have the same name, and some other facts seem consistent:

Theophile Borowska


Gottlieba/Bogumila Birkenhagen

As we understand it, Theophile means “God’s love” as does Bogumila and Gottlieba, which would seem to give some credence to this. Can anyone tell me whether Borowska (or perhaps Bonkowska) might be a Polish substitute for Birkenhagen? Does anyone know the meaning of either of these names?

From the responses that I have gotten, I have learned that “Birkenhagen” means “birch grove” and that “Borowska” has the root “Bor” which means forest, so it sounds fairly plausible that they could be the same person. Particularly when taken together with the rest of the evidence we have. (Both of these people were married to a man of the same name/age/village, and both had a son with the same name/age.)

I would be interested to know if you would have an opinion to add to this discussion?

It’s a pleasure dealing with someone who’s already made the effort to learn as much as possible — it means I don’t have to waste my time going over the obvious. I’m always glad to help in such cases.

As you’ve learned, Theophile is an exact equivalent (French, but ultimately of Greek derivation) of German Gottlieba and Polish Bogumila, all meaning “dear to God” (“God’s love” is also a reasonable interpretation, but “dear to God” looks a little more correct to me).

Birkenhagen is not an exact match for Borowska — usually German Birken- tends to equate to Brzez- in Polish, since that root means “birch” — but the semantic link of “forest, woods” is pretty firm. There is no question that if you search the records you find cases where Polish names were often translated into German; as in this case, the translation is not always exact, but there is a clear link in meaning. And, for what it’s worth, the village Poles called “Boro~w” near Swiebodzin was called “Birkholz” by the Germans; so clearly Polish Bor- and German Birk- can be linked, even though bor- has more of a general meaning of a forest, not specifically a stand of birches.

So it is entirely plausible that Theophile Borowska and Gottlieba/Bogumila Birkenhagen are different names for the same person. It is all the more likely because of the history of Poland, which at various times has made it advantageous for Poles to modify their names to sound more French (e. g., around the time of the French Revolution and Napoleon) and especially to sound more German (the time from Napoleon’s defeat to World War I). Poles living in German-ruled areas frequently found that insisting on going by Polish names caused made them the targets of special repression by the German authorities, so they often “passed” by assuming German equivalents of their native names. Since most of them weren’t linguists or onomastic experts, it’s not surprising that sometimes the equivalents weren’t exact.

If you proposed this identification without any evidence, I’d say “It’s very possible, but be cautious about jumping to conclusions; what’s plausible doesn’t always turn out to be correct.” But since in this case you have good evidence to back up your theory, I think you’re justified in your conclusion. The odds are overwhelming that you’re right.

Good work! I hope I’ve helped you a little, and I wish you the best of luck with your research.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: [email protected]

… I am busy researching my family surname Borucki. What I would like to know is where does this name come from and is it a Polish surname or is it Austrian… I would like to know the Meaning and Origin of the surname, if anybody could help me….

In terms of linguistic origin, Borucki is a Polish name, and a pretty common one — as of 1990 there were 3,958 Poles with this name, living all over the country. In form it is an adjective, usually connected to the place name Boruty, of which there are several in Poland; Borucki probably started as meaning “person of or from Boruty.” That place name, in turn, probably came from the old pagan first name Boruta, and the villages involved got the name because they were owned or founded by a man named Boruta. The ultimate origin of Boruta is from an ancient Slavic root meaning “battle, fight,” and such a name would be given a child in hopes he would grow up to be a great warrior. So the pagan first name gave several villages their name, and that name in turn was modified to become this surname.

Because it is a pretty common name, found all over Poland, it is also seen in the southeastern part of Poland (formerly called Galicia) that was seized by the Austro-Hungarian Empire when Poland was partitioned, beginning in 1772. A person emigrating from that area would be asked where he came from, and officially he would have to answer “Austria.” This is usually the reason some Poles are categorized as “Austrians.” But the name itself has nothing to do with Austria.

Unfortunately, the name is much too common to trace it to one particular place or family and say “this is the one you want.” This is not at all unusual with Polish surnames, many came from place names that were used by more than one village, so the surnames ended up spreading all over. The Borucki name probably arose independently in several different places at different times, and thus not all Boruckis are related. Only specific research on your particular family will give you any details — the name itself is not much help.

Sorry I couldn’t be more help to you, but maybe this information will be of some use. Good luck with your research!

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


… I’m getting a copy of your book for xmas and I can’t wait to look up some of our surnames. I’m sure mine won’t be there even though I’m 100% Polish. …

I hope you like the book! I tried to include all the most common surnames, but I also tried to write it so that people whose names aren’t there will at least learn some useful things. What I’ve heard back from those who bought the book suggests they found it interesting and helpful, even when their specific names don’t show up.

… There are also two other surnames that probably won’t be there. On my mother’s side, the surname is Budarz. All the Budarz’s I found in the censuses and ships passenger lists are related. They all came from Gorno or Kamien (about 4 km apart). All the deceased Budarz’s, origonal emigrants, believed they and their anchestors were always Polish. As a kid I remember them always speaking Polish and sending packages back to Poland. The other surname is Charamut. They came from from Wolkowie. Again they always believed they were Polish for ever. Charamut looks French.

Budarz is in the book, but as of 1990 there were only 11 Polish citizens by that name, living in the provinces of Lublin (6), Rzeszow (4), and Tarnobrzeg (1). I didn’t usually include names that rare, but when I was already discussing the root anyway and there was enough space, I went ahead and included such names. The name could derive from several roots, including bud-, to feel, sense, awaken, or buda, a shed, stall. My guess is Budarz probably refers to the shed or stall. There is a word budarz which has several meanings, including one who lived in a shed or small stall; one who kept a stall and sold things from it (very common!); one who worked out of a small building (such as a sentry or watchman); one who built sheds and stalls, a carpenter; or one who dug up ore. As you can see, a lot of Poles lived in or worked out of small sheds, and there are many words and names that refer to that, including Budarz and others that are more common.

Charamut does look French, but if pronounced as Poles would pronounce it, “har-AH-moot,” it might be Polish, although probably not of Polish linguistic origin. Keep in mind that CH and H are pronounced exactly the same in Polish, so you may also find this name spelled Haramut. I think I’ve run into this name before (I can’t remember where) and I’ve never been able to pin down what it comes from. It sounds like a Polonized version of some old Germanic name, and for instance there is a German name Harmut that is a variation of Hartmut, which means something like “person of strong disposition.” I don’t have enough info to be sure, but I suspect that’s what Charamut comes from, a Polonized version of Harmut/Hartmut. As of 1990 there were only 13 Poles with this name (it’s not in my book), living in the provinces of Olsztyn (4) and Ostroleka (9).

This is more info than I have in the book, obviously, but as I say, by E-mail I can give a bit more detail than I could in the book — as long as folks don’t overdo it. When they overdo it, they get my standard reply: “For $20/hour you’re welcome to everything I can find out.” And those who want more info than I can provide are welcome to write the Polish Language Institute (see page 177 for the address, when you get your copy).

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: [email protected] (Deborah Fox)

… I am researching the name Burdalski. I have done nationwide searches (myself and by paid researchers), and can find only one family in the US with that name (my group of cousins). In your book, you list BurDELski as derived from burda or burdel, but not BurDALski. Do you think these names are interchangeable? I don’t understand Polish linguistics enough to make that judgment. I have found BurDELski to be very uncommon also. Again, thanks for your thoughts. …

Burdalski isn’t in my book because it’s not all that common — as of 1990 there were some 259 Poles with this name, scattered around but with the largest numbers in the provinces of Ciechanow (68), Elblag (36), Gdansk (21), and Olsztyn (54).

The -ski suffix makes one ask whether it is a surname derived from a place name, and that could be, but none of my sources show a place with a suitable name — it would probably refer to a village or other locality named Burdal~y or something like that, and I can’t find any such critter. That doesn’t mean it isn’t from a place name, sometimes surnames refer to places so small that the name was used only by local residents and would never show up in any map or gazetteer. Still, this may have nothing to do with a place.

In that case, I’m inclined to think it comes from the root burda, which means “row, brawl,” and also “brawler.” The -al- suffix is one typically used to show that a particular kind of behavior was habitual, so burdal- might have started as a reference to a guy who was always getting into a fight. If so, Burdalski probably was a way of referring to “the kin of that brawler fellow.” This seems plausible, although we have no real proof.

The name could come from burdel, which can mean not just “brothel” but also an old building that’s falling apart. When it comes to Polish vowels it’s not wise to get dogmatic — it’s certainly not out of the question that Burdalski might derive from burdel. But I kind of think not, in this case. There is a perfectly reasonable interpretation for the name that doesn’t demand presupposing a vowel change, so why not go with the obvious? I think the link with burda, brawler, is the most likely.

… ps, I have found some Burda’s in the census in Philadelphia who claim Hungarian ancestry. I thought that was interesting. …

Yes, it is. We often see that certain words appear in different languages, sometimes wholly unconnected. And some Hungarian-based names do show up among Poles. However, that -alski suffix is very Polish-sounding, and usually names of foreign origin have to be pretty Polonized before they start taking Polish suffixes. Burdalski could be ultimately Hungarian, but that’s reaching a little bit. It’s generally best to stick with Polish roots to explain Polish names, and only take foreign roots into account if no likely Polish derivation is indicated.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the subject. I certainly could be wrong, but this is what seems most likely to me. And if you’d like some input on the subject from experts who might be able to give you a definitive answer, I’d suggest writing the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow. They can handle correspondence in English, they have excellent sources on name origins (they don’t do any genealogical research, however!), and $20 is usually enough to get a good analysis of a name or two. The address is on p. 177 of the 2nd edition of my book, p. 137 of the first edition. [for more information see my introduction, or click here for the address: Institute address]. This is the one Polish organization I feel comfortable recommending to people, and I’ve heard back from quite a few folks who were very satisfied with the results. So if you’d really like to hear from the folks who are best suited to give a definitive answer, that’s who I’d contact.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: [email protected]

… I realize you probably have many people sending you emails about their surnames from the Genpol group, but I have one that’s stumping me, and I thought perhaps you could shed some light. The surname is Ciborek, and a friend has your book, and said he couldn’t find it in there. The family came from the Posen region in the mid-late 1800s. I have a copy of a marraige from the original register in Szamotul~y, and this is the correct Polish spelling. However, my g-grandmother spelled it Cziborek on the ship coming over, but it remained Ciborek again in the states.

Ciborek isn’t in my book, but Cibor is, and the -ek is a diminutive ending. Cibor probably comes from either an old Polish first name Czcibor (from roots meaning “worship, revere” + “battle”) or from the noun cibor, the cyperus. Of the two, I think the old name Czcibor is the more likely source, in most cases. The pronunciation of Czcibor is rather difficult, and it is quite credible that it would often be simplified to Cibor (which sounds sort of like CHEE-bore). Then the addition of the -ek would make Ciborek mean “little Cibor, Cibor’s son.” A great many Polish surnames originated just this way… Cziborek is not possible or correct in terms of proper Polish spelling, CZ cannot be followed by I (only ci or czy- are possible letter combinations); that doesn’t mean you’d never see it, but you’d expect to see the “correct” spellings Czciborek or Ciborek more often.

I listed Cibor and Ciborowski and Ciborski in my book because they are very common names. Ciborek is less common; as of 1990 there were only 308 Polish citizens with that surname. Here, from the 10-volume Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland [Sl~ownik nazwisk wspo~l~czes~nie w Polsce uz~ywanych] is the breakdown of how many people lived in each province:

Ciborek: 308; Warsaw 127, Bialystok 3, Gdansk 2, Gorzow 2, Katowice 3, Lodz 5, Lomza 22, Nowy Sacz 1, Opole 4, Pila 2, Poznan 80, Siedlce 14, Skierniewice 3, Suwalki 19, Szczecin 16, Zielona Gora 3

Obviously Warsaw province, the area immediately around the capital city, is where you find the biggest concentration of Ciboreks, but there are some scattered throughout the rest of the country too. It’s interesting that the second biggest concentration is in the province of Poznan, which fits in nicely with the info you have.

You might be able to get the address of some Ciboreks in Poznan province by writing to the Polish Genealogical Society of America, 984 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago IL 60622, and asking how much it would cost to have them search the Poznan province telephone directory for listings of Ciboreks. This isn’t a sure bet — phones in private homes are far less common in Poland than here — but it’s the only way I know of you might get the address of some relatives in Poland. The Polish provincial telephone directories are not available on-line, you have to order them, and they’re expensive — I think each one is $40 or so. The PGSA has copies of many of them, and I’m sure they have the Poznan one; I don’t think the search would be terribly expensive. It costs less to have just one place searched, because the directories are organized poorly; you can’t just look up all the Ciboreks in the province, it’s not listed that way. You have to go through each individual town and village listed separately. So if you just ask for Ciboreks in Poznan itself, rather than the whole province, that will make the search much cheaper — perhaps something like $10 or so. But it’s best to write and ask them before you have it done. And there is no guarantee any Ciboreks will be listed.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


From: [email protected] (james v cupedro)

I have been researching the meaning of my name for about a year now, and with the help of the Instytut Je~zyka Polskiego in Krakow I have reached conclusion.

The surname is originally Ciupierdo (1680 – 1812) and was changed rather abruptly to Ciupidro. Mrs. (pani, pana??) Janina Szymowa of the Instytut offers two possible derivations 1. the Polish verb ciupac meaning to strike or to chop. i.e. derived from someone who was a woodsman. or more likely 2. from the Polish noun czupiradl~omeaning: A. a frightening looking person or B. a scarecrow. (as I understand, peasants were employed to frighten birds out of the fields) Hey, we can’t all be Jagiell’s and Radziwill’s.

Mrs. Szymowa further explained that the noun czupiradl~o can be regionally or dialectically prnounced as either ciupieradl~o or even ciupidral~o. This could certainly explain why the surname may have have changed in 1812.

I’m relating all of this to illustrate the depth that the Instytut Je~zyka will go (if possible).

The people at the Instyut Je~zyka work on these projects on their own time (not by the Institute itself). If anyone is interested, do not send a check payable to the Institute. You will be asked to forward funds to the individual who worked on your project. This is from experience, I did it wrong… The standard fee is $20.00 U.S. (at the time of my project).

If interested, click here: Institute address

Mr. Hoffman, thanks for the time and energy you expend on all of this.

Jim Cupedro ([email protected])


[email protected] wrote:

… I am searching my family’s Czyzewski name and have come across a town by the name of Czyzew on a library map of Poland. (It looks like it is about 60 miles southwest of Bialystok, between Sokoly and Kossow.) Now it just seems too simple to suspect that my family was ‘from the town of Czyzew’ and hence are named Czyzewski ! And please – stop me before I go to far with this too, too simple explanation of my name’s derivation !

At this point you’re probably saying (or should be saying), “Oh, hell, here comes Mr. Know-it-all to spoil my fun.” I don’t really mean to be constantly complicating things, but sometimes the answer isn’t simple, and I’d be a liar if I said it was.

The good news is, yes, it can be just that simple: Czyz|ewski can, and often does, mean “person from Czy|zew.” (I’m using Z| here to stand for the Polish dotted z, which computers in America are not normally configured to reproduce without a certain amount of effort).

The bad news is, not only is there more than one Czyz|ew, but this name might also be “person from Czyz|ewo” or even “person from Czyz|o~w or Czyz|o~wka.” When Poles add a suffix such as -ski to a place name, it is customary for final vowels to drop off; so a name -owski or -ewski can, in theory, come from places ending in -ow, -owo, -owa, -ew, -ewo, and so on. And in older Polish even suffixes such as -owice and -owiec and -owka often simplified to -ow- before adding -ski. Furthermore, names that are plural forms and end in -e, -y, and -i can also sometimes generate adjectival forms ending in -owski or -ewski. (I’m not even going to get into the whole question of when it’s -owskiand when it’s -ewski, unless of course you want to read a dissertation on the significance of hard and soft consonants, orthographic representation of palatalization, and so on)… The bottom line is, Czyz|ewski may come most often from “Czyz|ew” or “Czyz|ewo,” but there are other possibilities we really can’t rule out.

And I’m afraid several different places exist with all those names that could yield the surname Czyzewski. There isn’t just one Czyzew; the Euro-Reiseatlas Polen shows one in Konin province and one in Plock province, as well as a whole cluster of places in Lomza province with double names (Czyzew-Osada, Czyzew-Siedliska, etc.) — if I’m not mistaken, one of these is the one you found, probably Czyzew-Osada, the largest. The Slownik geograficzny gazetteer also mentions a couple of places named Czyzewo. And there are several Czyzow’s, Czyzowice’s, Czyzowka’s, and so on.

I’m not trying to make you give up in disgust here. I’m just trying to make the point that folks can’t say, “My name’s So-and-So, where did my ancestors come from in Poland?” The vast majority of the time there are too many possibilities. But if you’ve done some research and say “I’m researching Czyzewski’s who came from the area southwest of Bialystok,” then all of a sudden we can ignore a lot of those other places: there is a place with the right name in the right area, odds are good it’s the right one. Most surnames don’t offer enough clues to let you zoom right in on the correct spot. They’re not like a treasure map — but they can be the X that marks the spot on the treasure map. The key is to get enough info to let you focus on a specific area, rather than having to comb through all of Poland and deal with a dozen different places that all have the right name.

… Does the town of Czyzew have many people named Czyzewski ?) …

That’s an interesting question, too, and I don’t know the answer. But think of it this way. Surnames arose as a way to distinguish people — so what good would it do if everybody in Czyzew started calling himself Czyzewski? That’s like everybody in Houston taking the surname Houston. I’m sure there are some folks named Czyzewski in Czyzew and Czyzewo (etc.), but common sense suggests a name like this wouldn’t be much good until after you left Czyzew. If your ancestor was born in Czyzew but moved to, say, Sokoly, then it would make perfect sense for the locals to call him “Czyzewski — the guy from Czyzew” … That’s what common sense says. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

Thanks for asking some very interesting questions, and I hope my explanations haven’t just confused you worse!

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: J. Berger [email protected]

The Webmaster for the Polish Genealogical Society of America forwarded to me your note:

… Hi, I’m looking for the origin of the name Domalik. The only reference I have found was in Polish so I am wondering if it is a Polish surname. Do you have any records of it being a Polish surname? Thanks for any information you can give me. …

I’ve written a book on the origin and meaning of Polish surnames, so when a question comes up on this subject the PGSA usually asks me to handle it.

Domalik definitely can be a Polish surname; I can’t say for sure whether it might also be found among other ethnic groups, because many Slavic names are very similar and it might be this name also occurs among Czechs or Ukrainians or someone else. I tend to doubt it, however — the formation and structure definitely seem Polish to me.

Most Polish surnames beginning with Dom- come from the ancient root dom, “house, home” (common also in other Slavic languages), either in its own right as a noun or as a root in ancient pagan compound names such as Domamir (“peaceful home”) or Domasl~aw (“famous house”); such names, which arose as a kind of prophecy or way of giving a child a name of good omen, often were shortened into nicknames by taking the first syllable, chopping off the rest, and adding suffixes. One such name, Domal~a (L~ stands for the L with a slash through it, pronounced like our W), appears in Polish records as early as 1339, and Domalik looks as if it was formed by adding the diminutive suffix -ik to that name. So it’s tough to say whether Domalik should be interpreted as meaning “little stay-at-home” or “son of stay-at-home,” or as just “son of Domal~a,” with that name meaning no more or less than nicknames such as “Ted” or “Fred” or “Jack” in English.

Domalik is not a particularly rare or common surname in modern Poland, it’s kind of in between: as of 1990 there were some 343 Polish citizens by that name. Of those by far the most, 211, lived in the southcentral province of Nowy Sacz, southeast of Krakow. Several other provinces had a few Domalik’s living in them, but only Jelenia Gora (10), Katowice (35), Krakow (16), and Slupsk (10) had 10 or more. Often Polish surnames don’t have any particular distribution pattern, but this strongly suggests the origin of most families named Domalik was in southcentral Poland near Nowy Sacz.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


[Response to a question from Tom Milke, [email protected]]

OK, let’s translate the entry first. “Blaseia Dula (g. sg.) z Maniow 1610” is probably “Blasei Dula (genitive singular) from Maniowy, 1610,” which means someone namedBl~az~ej (English Blaise, in Latin Blasius) is mentioned as coming from Maniowy in a legal entry from 1610. Grammatically z Maniow must mean “from Maniowy” rather than “from Maniow” — there is a Maniowy in Nowy Sacz province, maybe about 20 km. east of Nowy Targ. Then it says there is mention of a Dulka, a feminine form, in 1616, and of a Dulka (but in the genitive singular form Dulki) from Maniowy in a 1622 entry. It says the name is derived from the noun dula, which means “1. a kind of pear, or 2. a thick or swollen nose.” The basic root dul- means “swelling, thickening,” so the kind of pear got the name because of its shape, and the link with the nose is not hard to see (do any of your folks have swollen noses?).

“LW (NT)” is an abbreviation for Ksie~ga sa~du wojtowskiego lawniczego miasta Nowego Targu Archiwum Powiatowe w Nowy Targ”

As you know, peasants were almost never mentioned in any kind of record before the Church started requiring pastors to make records of baptisms, deaths, marriages. So when we can trace a name back earlier than, oh, about 1700, it’s usually because the name appears in land and legal records dealing with the nobility. In this case, it is very difficult to translate these terms because we don’t have any legal equivalent, but the title of the book is basically Legal book of the wo~jt‘s aldermen’s court of Nowy Targ, preserved at the State Archive office in Nowy Targ. The wo~jt was a kind of village chief or headman, and often headed a kind of local court with alderman sitting on the bench (the root l~aw- means, basically, “bench”). So some folks named Dula had legal dealings with the aldermen’s court of Nowy Targ.

I didn’t include Dulan~ski in my book because as of 1990 there were only 32 Poles with that name. The breakdown by province is instructive: Bielsko-Biala 2, Katowice 2, Nowy Sacz 28! Sounds to me like the Dulanski is a rare name, almost always found somewhere near the Maniowy area! In some ways that’s tough, it’s hard to find anything on a family with such a rare name — but the good side is, if you find a Dulanski, odds are he/she’s a relative! That’s a lot easier to deal with than 220,000 Nowaks!

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: James Huratiak [email protected]

… I received your book on Friday and I am very happy with it. Of course I haven’t had time to read it yet. Of course I immediately looked up my surnames and found the root for both names. Now come the questions.

… 1) The original Rusyn Cyrillic transliteration of my name from the Shematizm for Greek Catholic Diocese – Lemko from 1787 was: H u r e j t j a k. I have the marriage records of my 2 Great uncles from this country in 1898 and 1908, and my father’s baptism record from 1905 and the name is spelled H u r e t i a k. My Grandfather’s tombstone and Great Uncles’s tombstone both spell the name H u r a t i a k. The root of my name is Hur-, as your book suggests. Am I correct? The biblical version is listed as Khur, since I can only find Hur in my biblical reference books, should I assume Khur and Hur are the same? Should I use H u r e j t j a k in trying to search for relatives in Poland, Slovakia, or the Ukraine? If not what spelling would be used today? My Grandfather came from the village of Uscja Ruskie, Horlyci county, Galicia. Today that village is Uscie Gorlickie, Poland.

With names transliterated from Cyrillic it can get awfully tough to know for sure the “right” spelling and even the right root. I will say that Khur and Hur can be the same — the original sound is most often spelled kh in English to indicate a guttural much like that in German “Bach”; but it is also sometimes spelled h — the original Hebrew letter looks a lot like the letter for h, and is often rendered as an h with a dot under it, and the dot can easily get forgotten. So think Khur and Hur are probably the same. But given the East Slavic confusion of h and g sounds, even origin from a root Hur- or Go~r– is not impossible.

Having said that, I have to waffle even more on you. It is very hard to say for sure what the ultimate root of your name is. The problem is that last syllable -tiak or -tjak — I don’t see how it fits into any of the possible roots. Huratiak, Hurejtjak, Huretiak, these are all just variant spellings trying to capture in letters the sound of the name, which probably sounded almost like “Hurray-chok”; the key question is, what’s the source of the first part of the name? It could come from a East Slavic-influenced form of Polishgo~ra, mountain (? “son of the mountain-man”?), or from the Khur/Hur name, it might even be an East Slavic-influenced name from Horacy, “Horace” (son of Horace?). None of these is certain, and I don’t have anything that would give me reason to favor one over the others as the most likely.

I hope you won’t get disgusted with me if I suggest this is a prime case for discussing with the folks at the Pracownia Antroponimiczna [Anthroponymic Workshop] of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow (for more information see my introduction, or click here for the address: Institute address). I knew my book would not be able to answer everybody’s questions, and that’s why I want people to know the Workshop exists — for those who really want to know the answer, the Workshop’s staff are the people best suited to supply it.

… 2) My Grandnother’s name was Kuziak. I have the birth records of the Kuziak family back to the 1780’s. In fact I have found a second cousin in Poland who I communicate with via email, so the name is not the problem. My question is: In your book the root is Kuz, Kuziak is listed after the meaning of carabus beetle. Is that the meaning of the name?

Kuz- is also tough because kuz- itself doesn’t seem to be a popular root in Polish. I noticed in the Slownik Warszawski (an 8-volume Polish-language dictionary) that most words (as opposed to names) starting with kuz- were dialect variants of words with guz- in standard Polish. If this applies to names as well — and generally that’s a reasonable assumption to make — Kuziak would be a variant of Guziak, a fairly common name from a root meaning “bump, swelling, button.” If the K is right, however, not just a variant of G, then my best guess is that the name derives from kuza, old cow, or kuzaka, the carabus beetle.

I’m sorry I couldn’t give you a straighter answer, but a lot of the time a simple, straight answer just isn’t possible — there are too many variables, an honest man can’t ignore them. As you probably know, anyone who claims to have all the answers is usually a charlatan. The notions I discuss above are my best insights, but if you’re not satisfied with them (and I won’t blame you if you’re not), it would probably be pretty cheap to contact the Anthroponymic Workshop in Krakow and see if they can help. If they can’t, well, I don’t know who can. But I think they’re worth a try.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


From: Kaszubik [email protected]

Hello Genpolers,

In a message dated 97-12-14 07:05:53 EST, Fred Hoffman writes:

I think I have learned enough about Slavic linguistics and onomastics to say this much, however. I don’t think it’s exactly right to call -ik the Czech counterpart of Polish -ek. I think it’s closer to the truth to say both -ik and -ek are suffixes used in many Slavic languages, including Polish and Czech. I think -ek, -ik, -ka, etc. all started as diminutives, often used in names to mean “son of …,” and I have some reason to think that’s true in Czech as well as Polish. Regional preferences may — I stress may — have made -ikmore common in Czech than -ek; I just did a quick scan of some Czech names, and it seemed -ik appears more often in Czech than does -ek.

KK> For What It’s Worth (Buffalo Springfield 1967), my ancestral surname of Kaszubik and its origins may be of interest to the subject of this discussion.

KK> At the beginning of my research, the surname Kaszubowski appeared to me to be obviously connected somehow with the Kashubians in Northern Poland. Kaszubowski appeared to mean, “from Kashubia” or “from the Kashubians.” (Which came first, Kashubia or the Kashubians? – the chicken or the egg…). The original surname of Kaszubik (before 1857) appeared to be a patronym: “son of a Kashub” or a diminutive: “little Kashub.” In fact its origins in my family are in the village of Kaszuba in the southern Kaszuby region (also recorded as Koszuba). A small village in the parish of Lesno in Bydgoszcz province where the surname Kaszubik is recorded as early as the year 1666. In the late 17th century the spelling of the surname of those “from” that village alternated back and forth between Kaszuba (rarely) and Kaszubik. In the 18th century and into the beginning of the 19th century, the surname alternated back and forth between Kaszubik and Kaszubowski. Kaszubowski became the more standard version of the name. There are only two Kaszubiks in Poland today, but there are thousands of Kaszubowskis. At any rate, I believe that the suffix -ik, as applied to my family name before 1857, is in this case a more archaic suffix used to indicate someone who was “from” the village of Kaszuba. Parish records in the surrounding area show this same evolution of the surname of those families who left the village in the past. Another interesting aspect to be considered is that: In the northern Kaszuby region there are fewer surnames which end with the suffix -ski (e.g. Bialk instead of Bialkowski, Konkol – Konkolewski). Father Rekowski – a Kashubian scholar of note – writes that the Kashubians love to make their surnames as short as possible with lots of consonants. I believe that the suffix -ski may have some connections due to the influence of the Polonization of the Kashubian region to the south.

Another factor in which to consider is that priests of higher education than the masses recorded the surname more properly in Polish. It is also possible that the suffix -ik in my ancestral surname could mean “son of someone from the village of Kaszuba.” Kaszubik and Kaszubowski are certainly toponyms in this case. This gives another view to Professor Rymut’s explanation for surnames which begin with the root Kaszub-. Not all surnames with the root Kaszub- have their origins in the Kaszuby region. Kaszub+ek versus Kaszub+ik is almost certainly an influence of Germanization in my family. Today in Germany, those Kaszubiks who emigrated there before the surname was Polonized to Kaszubowski (1880’s-1890’s), are now known by the name of Kaschube[c]k.

Standard Disclaimer: No generalization is worth a damn including this one.

Keith A. Kaszubowski

Note: for more information on the Kashubs, see the Website of the Kashubian Association of North America (KANA) at these addresses: or — Fred Hoffman


From: Florian Speer [email protected] Subject: Re: What’s a “Ka~thner”? Date: Thu, 13 Mar 1997 00:34:42 +0100

Tom Milke wrote: “it’s difficult to read, a co-worker who was raised in Germany believes one entry to indicate that she was the daughter of a “kathner” (umlaut over the ‘a’).

Kätner (Kaetner) is someone which lives in a Kate, a small farmhouse without or with little farmland. The Kätners were often at the same time farmers on their own land and farmworkers/day-labourers or earned their money with handicrafts. The word Kätner is used in different regions, similar like Kötter or Häusler in other parts of Germany.

Florian Speer


To: [email protected]

… Your Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings, Second Edition is a real hit at our house!

Delighted to hear it! If people pay good money for the book, I want them to feel they got their money’s worth. It’s gratifying when folks tell me the book really did them some good.

… Lo and behold there is Kiel~ton on page 289. We have never seen that name anywhere!! We found about three Kieltons in the People Search of the US. John’s mother’s maiden name is Kielton. Now, I have a question. There is the number (8) next to the Kielton name. If I understand this correctly – that is the number of Kieltons living in Poland???

That is correct, as of 1990 there were 8 Polish citizens by the name of Kiel~ton~: 1 in Krakow province, 7 in Nowy Sacz province… Actually, it was sheer luck that name appears in my book. I noticed there were 1,518 Poles named Kiel~tyka, so I resolved to include that name, especially if I could find any good sources on its derivation (in general I wanted to include any name with more than 1,000, unless I had absolutely no idea what the name came frm). Then I noticed Rymut had an entry on Kiel~tyka, giving its derivation, so that meant that name was definitely going in! When I typed that entry, I noticed there was room in the line for another name; and I believe I remember I had seen somewhere that a PGS member was researching the name (presumably you!?). I felt fairly sure Kiel~ton~ comes from the same root, so I went ahead and included it. That name got in there simply because there was enough room in the line for another name! I was trying to hold the size of the book down, I might not have included it if it had required a second line… The funny part is, now I notice that Kiel~t has 304 bearers, and if I had noticed that I would have included it, and maybe omittedKiel~ton~, and you’d have missed out. So let’s be glad things worked out the way they did!

……Where would I find these Kielton names? John’s grandfather listed Poland-Austria as his birthplace on the 1900 Census. We have no other info about him except that he came to South Bend, Indiana about 1910.

Ah, that’s the tough part. The organization that maintains the database from which those figures are taken will not share any other data with anyone. Part of the deal with Rymut was “Yes, you can use our totals for each surname and our breakdown per province — but nothing else!” So we know 1 Kiel~ton~ lived in Krakow province, and we know 7 lived in Nowy Sa~cz province — but that’s as far as we can go. Frustrating! For what it’s worth, Nowy Sa~cz was in Galicia, so “Poland-Austria” fits; the Kiel~ton~s in the Nowy Sa~cz region are very likely to be relatives.

What might be worth a try is to take a look at a telephone directory for Nowy Sa~cz province. Phones in private homes are far less common in Poland than here, so there’s no guarantee any of those Kiel~ton~s would be listed. But it’s the only thing I can think of, and with 7 of them, just maybe 1 will be listed! The problem with Polish directories is, they are organized by province, and they go through each community, one at a time. So you can’t just consult a master list for “Kiel~ton~”, you have to check this village, then the next one, then the next, and so on, to the end. It makes it a long and tedious process; but it can be done, and it just might pay off.

The Polish Museum of America Library has some of the provincial phone directories, but I don’t know if it has Nowy Sa~cz province. If not, the PGS-Connecticut/ Northeast has the complete set. I don’t know how much they’d charge to look through the Nowy Sa~cz directory for Kiel~ton~ listings, but it might be worth asking. I think you have their address (if I remember right, you’re a member, aren’t you?) but in case you don’t, it’s PGS-CT, 8 Lyle Rd., New Britain CT 06053.

This is not a sure thing, it may lead nowhere. But I’m afraid I can’t think of anything else to do. I hope some day the Polish government will realize the benefits of sharing info, and maybe then getting in touch with relatives will be easier. But for now we have to use what resources we have, even though they leave a lot to be desired.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: [email protected]

…I have been researching the origin of my mother’s maiden name Kilar and found no reference to it in your book Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings. She came from Obertyn, which was located in eastern Galicia at the time of her birth. We were told by an uncle that its origin is Swedish. Any suggestions or help would be greatly appreciated.

I imagine you looked in the first edition of my book, because in the second edition I did mention Kilar. I could not find any source that gave firm info on he name’s derivation, but it was too common to ignore, so I mentioned it and speculated it is a variation of the name Kielar; as of 1990 there were 2,994 Polish citizens named Kielar, 611 named Kilar, and 654 named Kilarski. Referring to a 10-volume set that gives names and frequencies (but no first names or addresses), we see that the name Kielar appears all over Poland, but with the largest numbers in the provinces of Krosno (590), Przemysl (282), Rzeszow (377), and Zamosc (299). These are all in southeast Poland and thus would have been in Galicia. As for Kilar, they too live all over, with the largest number in the province of Krosno, 196. With Kilarski the largest numbers are in the provinces of Warsaw (50), Opole (38), Tarnobrzeg (52), and Wroclaw (115); the frequency of this name in other parts of the country may have something to do with the forced relocation of Ukrainians after World War II. It certainly appears these names were most common in what used to be Galicia.

As I said, I don’t have a firm indication of what the name derives from. I do note that there is or was a village called Kielary in Olsztyn province (northern Poland) which was “Kellaren” in German. This suggests the name Kielar/Kilar may derive from German Keller, “cellar,” as a surname often meaning “cellarer, one in charge of the wine-cellar.” Since there were large numbers of Germans living throughout all of Poland and Galicia and Ukraine, this derivation is plausible. Also worth mentioning is the root kila, a measure of grain in the Caucasus; it is possible Kilar could also come from this, especially in eastern Galicia. But I don’t have enough information to say for sure.

If you’d like to get a more informed opinion on this, I recommend writing the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow. [For more information see my introduction, or click here for the address: Institute address].

I hope this information helps — and if you do write the Workshop and get some info, I’d be very interested in hearing what they say. Most of the time they confirm my theories, but every so often they come up with something I’ve never heard of. I would love to know for sure what Kilar comes from, if I have this info I’ll put it in the next edition of my book.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings