To: Ed & Monica Wolkowycki, firstname.lastname@example.org,
...I would be grateful if you could tell me something
about the origin and meaning of Wolkowycki, my family name.
Also would my family have a family seal or coat of arms? My father
was from the Bialowieza area, his family had been there for generations...
This is a surname derived from a place name, any of
several villages or estates named something like Wolkowicze or perhaps
Wolkowysk (including a major town called Wolkowysk/Volkovysk in what
is now Belarus), etc. Those places in turn got their names from the
root wolk, "wolf," possibly from Wolkowicz meaning "son
of the wolf, Wolf's son." As of 1990 there were 338 Polish citizens
named Wol~kowycki (the L~ stands for the Polish slashed L, which
sounds like our W); the largest numbers lived in the provinces
of Bialystok (359) and Suwalki (25), with just a few scattered here
and there in other provinces. I have no source of data for Belarus,
most likely there are quite a few citizens of that country with the
same name, most likely modified slightly to fit the phonetic patterns
of Belarusian. But the form Wol~kowycki is definitely Polish,
and a great many Poles, including nobles, lived in Belarus; so it
is not odd to see Poles with surnames derived from places that are
now outside Poland's modern boundaries.
I'm afraid I know very little about the nobility --
all I'm qualified to discuss is the linguistic origin of names --
so I suggest you contact the Polish Nobility Association Foundation,
Villa Anneslie, 529 Dunkirk Rd., Anneslie, MD 21212-2014. The editor
of their journal, Leonard Suligowski, has an extensive library on
European and East European nobility and heraldry and might be able
to provide you with some leads.
DYLLA - PSTRA~GOWSKI - PSTRONGOWSKI
To: Michael Odahowski, email@example.com, who
... I've come across 2 more family names that I
have no idea where they originated from. If you have any spare
time, could you help me out. The two names are Pstrongowski and Dylla.
Dylla might not be Polish, but my Grandpa told me it was..
Dylla is a name that could probably arise
in other languages, but it definitely can be a Polish name. As of
1990 there were 160 Poles with this name spelled this way, with the
vast majority living in the province of Katowice in southcentral
Poland. There were also 1227 Dyla's -- Polish tends to avoid
doubled consonants, so usually a name with a double consonant is
a variant form of the same name with that consonant just once, thus
Dylla is probably just an alternate form of Dyla. Dyla is
also most common in Katowice province (488), with large numbers also
in the provinces of Czestochowa (261), Kalisz (120), and Opole (215)
and a few scattered in other provinces. All these provinces are in
southcentral and southwestern Poland. The name probably comes from
the Slavic root dyl, meaning "something long"; for
instance, the word dyl means "deal, beam, rough board," that
is, a long, thin piece of wood. There is also a term dyla~g meaning "long
fellow," and you'd figure most of the time a name like Dyl or
Dyla got started as a nickname for a tall, thin fellow.
Pstrongowski is an alternate spelling of Pstra~gowski,
where a~ stands for the Polish nasal vowel written as an a with
a tail under it and pronounced like on; Polish words or names
with a~ very often have alternate spellings with on,
that is not at all unusual; but usually the form with a~ is
the "correct" or standard form. As of 1990 there were only
35 Polish citizens named Pstrongowski (29 in Gdansk province, 6 in
Radom province), but there were 661 named Pstra~gowski, with the
largest numbers (over 50) in the provinces of Ciechanow (90), Gdansk
(98), Lomza (61), Ostroleka (65), and Warsaw (55). The surname, like
most names ending in -owski, surely originated as a reference
to a place name, something like Pstra~gi, Pstra~gow, Pstra~gowo.
My maps show a Pstra~gowa in Rzeszow province, and some Pstra~gowskis
probably came from there; but a gazetteer shows at least 4 other
places named Pstra~gi or Pstra~gowa or Pstra~go~wka, and the surname
Pstra~gowski could have originated, and very likely did, as a reference
to any or all of them. That probably explains why the name is so
scattered all over Poland, it developed independently from the names
of places all over. The root of all these names is the term pstra~g, "trout," so
presumably these were places where trout were caught and sold.
DZIEWEDIK - MIERZWA
To: Linda Krajnak Black, LBlack1950@aol.com,
?I am just beginning my search about my mother's
family. I found your articles and would like to know if you can
help me find information about her maiden name. In English it was
spelled Dziewedik. My grandmother's maiden name was Mierzwa.
Any help would be helpful. My grandmother died when I was very
young and any records disappeared when she died?
I'm afraid I can't help too much. With Dziewedik,
the problem is that that spelling seems wrong, but I can't imagine
what the correct spelling should be; usually I can look at or say
a name aloud and figure out what it would have been, but this one
has me stumped. It can't have been anglicized too much and still
keep Dziew-, a very Polish spelling, but the -edik part
sounds odd. The root dziew- means "maiden, young woman," but
again, that second part makes no sense; if we knew what it was originally,
that could change everything. As of 1990 there were no Polish citizens
with the name Dziewedik or any likely spelling variation I could
think of, so I'm coming up empty on this one.
Mierzwa is a name that amazes many people.
It comes from the word mierzwa, which means "matted straw,
the stable straw which needs to be mucked out when it gets too befouled
with waste," in short "manure" -- and it's a very
common name! As of 1990 there were 5,596 Polish citizens named Mierzwa,
living all over the country but with the largest numbers in the provinces
of Katowice (670), Kielce (247), Krakow (219), Lublin (261), Rzeszow
(351), Tarnobrzeg (737), Tarnow (275), and Wroclaw (244)... How this
name got to be so common is beyond me! But there have been some prominent
Poles and Polish-Americans who bore this name, so obviously it's
not a name to be ashamed of -- in fact, compared to some other Polish
surnames I've come across, this one is not bad at all. Most likely
this name was given as a nickname to farm-laborers who mucked out
the stables, and eventually stuck as a surname.
It's a shame these names don't offer you much in the
way of clues as to your family's place of origin -- Dziewedik is
too rare, Mierzwa too common -- but if it's any consolation, that's
the way it is with most Polish surnames. Comparatively few offer
any really helpful clues.
To: Nelda Bean, firstname.lastname@example.org, who wrote:
?I enjoyed reading your page on surnames in the
Polish Genealogy Society of Texas web page. My ancestors have the Szarafin family
name. If possible, I would really enjoy your name description?
Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut lists Szarafin among
the names coming from the first name Serafin, which is the
Polish version of the Hebrew word seraphim, one of the orders
of angels mentioned in the Bible (for instance, Isaiah 6:2). Seraphim never
really caught on as a first name in English-speaking countries, and
it's not all that popular in Poland, but it's not unheard of; as
of 1994 there were 508 Polish males named "Serafin." That's
the form of the name in modern Polish usage, but in old records we
see other forms, including Szarafin (pronounced something like "shah-RAH-fin").
Centuries ago when surnames were being formed it was pretty common
to refer to children by their father's name, and as time went on
those names often stuck as surnames; so this name probably started
as a way of referring to the children of someone named Szarafin/Serafin.
As of 1990 there were 371 Polish citizens with this
surname, scattered all over the country but with the largest numbers
living in the provinces of Bygdoszcz (40), Gdansk (192), and Zamosc
(65). That's pretty scattered, Bydgoszcz and Gdansk are in the northcentral
and northwestern part of the country, Zamosc is in far southeastern
Poland, so we can't say the name is concentrated in any one area.
However, that's typical of surnames formed from first names.
To: Theresa M. Ludlow, email@example.com, who
... I was wondering if you have the time could you
please derive my family surname? The surname is Sochacki.
My great grandfather left Borszczow, Poland in 1912 and came to
the United States. Through some research I have discovered that
Borszczow is a sub-district within a district called Peczenizyn.
This district is located in Ukraine. Boy! Is that ever confusing!
Any information would be helpful.
Sochacki appears to come ultimately from the
root socha, "a forkedstick, a primitive kind of wooden
plow." There is a term from this root,sochacz, "resident
of a village or an area near a town who has theright to bring meat
to market and sell it." Sochacki probably comes fromthis
term sochacz, or perhaps from a place name from this root,something
like Sochacze. I can't find any such place in my maps orgazetteers,
but that doesn't mean there never was such a village -- manysurnames
come from names of places that have long since had their nameschanged,
or disappeared, or been absorbed by other communities. So Ithink
Sochacki must have originated as a description of a family thatfit
this category, or from the name of a place where such people lived.
This name appears in Polish legal records as far back
as 1443, and as of1990 there were 7,569 Polish citizens named Sochacki,
so it's both oldand common. I don't see any pattern to the name's
frequency anddistribution, it's common in provinces all over Poland.
So it doesn'tprovide much in the way of clues where a given Sochacki
family mighthave originated; fortunately, you already have that info!
To: John J. Prusinowski, firstname.lastname@example.org,
? found your page while searching the web. If I
read your posting correctly Iassume you can help me. Looking for
any information on the surname Prusinowski...
Names ending in -owski usually derive from
the names of towns or villages, which generally end in -y, -ow,
-owo, -owka, etc. In this case there are at least 13 villages
the name Prusinowski could derive from, including 1 Prusinow, 4 Prusinowice,
1 Prusinowko, 7 Prusinowo. The Prusinowices are a little less likely
to be the source of the name, the Prusinow and Prusinowo are the
most likely; but really, the name could have been applied to a family
coming from any of these places. Those places, in turn, got their
names from the term Prusin, "Prussian," so you could
say Prusinowski means basically "person from Prussian-town." It
might also refer, in some cases, to descendants of Prussians, rather
than to residents of a place founded or inhabited by Prussians, although
that would be a bit less common. The one thing that's clear is that
the name is linked with Prussians somehow, and probably as a reference
to the names of the villages the various Prusinowski families came
Folks not acquainted with Polish history are sometimes
puzzled when I say such-and-such a name refers to Prussians, or is
Lithuanian, or Ukrainian, etc. Poland's history is such that Poland
has ruled many areas populated by people of non-Polish ethnic origin,
so it's not at all unusual to find Poles whose names come from another
language or refer to another ethnic group. For that matter, Hoffman is
about as German a name as you can get, and as of 1990 there were
over 12,000 Polish citizens with that name (in one spelling or another).
As of 1990 there were 1,849 Polish citizens named
Prusinowski. They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers
(100+) in the provinces of Warsaw (123), Ciechanow (118), Lodz (166),
Lomza (195), Olsztyn (153), Ostroleka (128), and Suwalki (138). These
provinces are scattered all over Poland, so the name can't be connected
with any one part of the country -- although it tends to be most
common in the northern parts of Poland that were long ruled by Prussia,
which makes sense!
To: Chuck & Kay Smalley, email@example.com,
... Do you or can you get information on the surname
Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut lists several
names beginning with Smus- as coming from the term smusz, "eelskin,
piece of cloth." He does not list Smuskiewicz specifically,
but it is likely the name comes from the same basic root. I note
there is a dialect or archaic word smusik that appears to
be relevant, it means "a lamb or ram's skin covered with wool,
tanned or unbleached." So any way you slice it, the name appears
to derive from a term meaning "piece of cloth or animal skin." The -iewicz suffix
means "son of," so this name means literally "son
of eelskin, son of cloth." Most likely the Smusik/Smuszyk or
whatever started out as a nickname for a person, perhaps because
he was always using or making such cloth, and then the -iewicz form
was applied to his offspring and stuck as a surname.
This is not a very common name in Poland, as of 1990
there were some 79 Poles named Smus~kiewicz (s~ = s with
an accent over it, pronounced like a soft "sh"). They lived
in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz (4), Gorzow (3), Konin (39),
Koszalin (8), Poznan (1), Szczecin (6), Walbrzych (4), Zielona Gora
(4). (I'm afraid I don't have access to any further details such
as first names, addresses, etc.). It's interesting to note that these
are almost all in areas formerly ruled by Germany, which makes some
sense, as the Polish words mentioned are thought to derive originally
from a German word. That doesn't mean the Smus~kiewiczes are ethnic
Germans, just that their name comes from a word thatwas borrowed
from German centuries ago.
CZERNER - TSCHERNER
To:Paul Czerner, firstname.lastname@example.org, who wrote:
...If you would please, I would like to know what
my Czerner surname means and its possible origin in Polish
history. I have heard that it might be related to nobility of the
14th or 15th century in current central Poland...
Czerner is a rather unusual name, because
the root czern- or czarn- in Polish (and most other
Slavic languages) means "black, dark," but the suffix -er is
rare in Polish -- it usually indicates German origin. Hans Bahlow's Deutsches
Namenlexikon mentions this name under the German phonetic spelling Tscherner;
the tsch in German is pronounced like cz in Polish,
like our "ch" in "church." Bahlow says that name
indicates place of origin, which makes sense -- in German -er is
often added to a place name to indicate "person from, native
of," as in Berliner, "native of Berlin," Hamburger "native
of Hamburg." Bahlow says Tscherner comes from place names such
as Tscherna, Tscherne, Tschirnau, and this is the final piece of
the puzzle: those names are German renderings of Polish place names
such as Czernow, Czarnow, and so forth. So the name means the family
probably came from a place that was ruled by Germans for a long time
but originally had a Polish name. Once the Germans had taken over
such a place, they would modify the Polish names Czernow, Czarnow,
etc. to German forms (Tscherne, Tschirnau) and then the -er suffix
could be added. This makes sense, and explains how a Polish root czern- could
end up with a German suffix -er.
We would expect such a name to be most common in areas
once ruled by Germans but now in either eastern Germany or western
Poland. I looked in a source that gives the total number of Polish
citizens bearing particular names as of 1990 and tells how many lived
in each province of Poland. As of 1990 there were 720 Poles named
Czerner, and the overwhelming majority lived in the provinces of
Katowice (377) and Opole (289), with a few scattered in other provinces.
Katowice and Opole are both in Silesia, the area of southwestern
Poland that was long ruled by Germany, so that all fits.
Unfortunately there are a great many towns and villages
with names coming from the root czern-, so it's impossible
to tell which particular one your family might have been associated
with, and my source for the info given above does not provide details
such as first names or addresses. So what I've given you is all I
I know very little about Polish nobility. When I have
questions on the subject, I contact Leonard Suligowski, Director
of Heraldry for the Polish Nobility Association Foundation and editor
of the PNAF's journal White Eagle. Leonard has a large library
on European and especially Polish nobility, and for a reasonable
fee he will search his library for references to particular families
in armorials. It seems to me he's the one most suited to provide
you with info on any noble Czerners. Please note that he does not
do genealogical research, he's a heraldic artist who simply consults
his library and passes on any info he finds. If you'd like to contact
him, his address is:
Leonard Suligowski, 218A N. Henry St., Brooklyn,
LIMANOWSKI - MICHALSKI
To: Richard Limanowski, email@example.com, who
...I ran across your site today and really like
what you've done. If it's not too much trouble, could you please
send some information on my last name. My father's side is Limanowski and
mother's side is Michalski...
I'm glad you like my site, and I'm glad to say I can
give you at least a little basic info on these names.
Both of these are fairly common names in Poland. Limanowski can
derive from two roots: from liman, "a lake or bay separated
by a narrow strip of land from the sea," or from a place that
takes its name from the old Germanic first name Ilman (with
the first two letters inverted, which is not uncommon). In either
case, then, we're talking about a surname that derives from a place
name. Most of the time Limanowski would have started as a
name for people coming from towns or villages named Limanow, Limanowa,
Limanowo, etc., especially the town of Limanowa in Nowy Sacz province,
in southcentral Poland. That town's name came from the old Germanic
name Ilman mentioned above, so Limanowski means "person associated
with the place of Ilman," or just "person from Limanowa." Ilman
is thought to be the name of the man who founded the town or perhaps
a noble who owned it at one point. As of 1990 there were 458 Poles
named Limanowski; they were scattered all over Poland, but with a
slight concentration in southcentral Poland, i.e., in the provinces
of Katowice (50), Krakow (50), and Tarnow (73) -- which makes sense.
As of 1990 there were 51,325 Poles named Michalski,
living all over the country. That's to be expected: Michalski just
means "of Michael," and could mean "kin of Michael," "people
from Michael's place," etc. You'd expect this name to show up
anywhere they spoke Polish and had guys named Michal~, "Michael" --
namely, all over Poland! And that's just what we see. (By the way,
the l~ stands for the Polish slashed l, pronounced
like our w; but it turns into normal l when the suffix -ski is
ANDRZEJEWSKI - JANUSZEWSKI
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, who wrote:
... I'm just beginning my search on my Polish roots
and since my grandfather changed his name to Andrews after he arrived
here... I think (but, not 100% sure) that the following is his
original polish name. I'd love to know anything you can tell me
about it: Januszewski. I wish I knew my grandmother?s name
(she was such an angel from Poland also) so hopefully, in my search,
I'll discover it.
Well, the Polish equivalents of "Andrew" are Andrzej and Je~drzej (with e~ standing
for the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under
it, pronounced sort of like en, so I would have expected the
original Polish name of someone called Andrews would turn out to
be "Andrzejewski" or something similar. However, these
things don't always work the way we expect. Maybe your grandfather
just liked the sound of "Andrews."
In any case, Januszewski comes ultimately from
the name Janusz, a variant form of Jan, "John." But
the endings -owski or -ewski usually indicate reference
to a place name, and generally Januszewski got started as
meaning "person from Januszewo," and that name in turn
means "place of Janusz," presumably referring to the founder
of the village or a noble who owned it at some point. So Januszewski
means "person associated with the place of Janusz" -- but
in practical terms that boils down to "person from Januszewo." Januszewski
is pretty common, as of 1990 there were 3,491 Polish citizens with
Unfortunately, there are at least 4 villages named
Januszewo, plus a few more with slightly different names that could
generate the surname Januszewski. So I can't pin down exactly where
the family came from. However, if your research helps you determine
the part of Poland the family lived in, and if you find on maps or
in other references mention of a place nearby with a name beginning
in Janusz-, chances are fairly good that's the place the surname
originally referred to.
KLOCKO - KLOCZKO - KL~ODZKO
To: Anthony J. Basinski, email@example.com,
...Dear Mr. Hoffman, you were kind enough to
provide me with a wealth of information about my own surname,
Basinski, and I am most grateful to you. With some trepidation,
therefore, I wish to impose upon you again with a request concerning
the origin of my mother's maiden name, Klocko. My understanding
is that her parents came from Bialystok. Any help will be much
appreciated. By the way, I think you are doing a wonderful service
to the Polish community...
I appreciate your kind words, and am glad you think
so! And you're not imposing on me -- people who ask politely about
one name at a time are welcome to any info I can give. It's the folks
who send me a dozen names, expect immediate answers, and never offer
to pay a penny -- they are the ones who impose, and they are the
ones I ignore.
Klocko is kind of a tough name to be sure
about, because it could come from a couple of different sources.
Prof. Rymut mentions it in his book on Polish surnames, saying it
appears in records as far back as 1385, and comes from the term kloc, "log,
large piece of wood." This is probably correct, but I can't
help thinking that if the L is the Polish slashed L (which
we represent on-line as L~), Kl~ocko sounds just like Kl~odzko,
the name of a fairly good-sized town in Walbrzych province. I can't
rule out the possibility that the surname might also have gotten
started as a way of referring to people who came from Kl~odzko. The
ultimate root is the same in either case, from the word for "log"...
Of course, if your ancestors came from the Bialystok area it's somewhat
unlikely their name would refer to a place clear across Poland (Walbrzych
is in southwestern Poland), so Rymut's derivation seems likely to
be right in your case; the other possibility would more likely be
relevant for Klocko's from southwestern Poland.
If the spelling of the name is Klocko with the normal L,
there were only 41 Polish citizens by that name in 1990; they lived
in the provinces of Warsaw (4), Bydgoszcz (2), Gdansk (5), Katowice
(5), Krosno (3), Nowy Sacz (2), Przemysl (4), Rzeszow (5), Siedlce
(1), Torun (4), Walbrzych (3), Wroclaw (2), and Zielona Gora (1).
None showed up as living in Bialystok province.
There is also a name Kl~oczko, and in Polish
the cz often is simplified to c, especially in Mazuria,
so this might be relevant. The name appears to come from the term kl~oczek, "hay-binder," although
I can't be sure of that derivation; if it's not from that, it, too,
is probably from the root meaning "log." This name is more
common, as of 1990 there were 845 Kl~oczko's in Poland, with the
largest numbers living in the provinces of Bialystok (90) and Suwalki
(362). I wanted to mention this one because it sounds as if it's
most common in the right part of Poland for you, and the others aren't.
And Kl~oczko = Kl~ocko is very plausible, especially in that part
of the country, where the local dialect has a definite tendency to
change the "ch" sound of cz to the "ts" sound
of c... If I were you, I'd keep my eyes open for Kl~oczko,
you may well run across that spelling, too, in some records.
To: David Kudla, firstname.lastname@example.org,
... I am e-mailing you with a request to find any
information on the surname Kudla. I have been able to find
the surname Kudla in various phone books and through certain resources,
but I have been unsuccessful at finding anything out about the
Kudla origin, meaning, family crest, etc. as it pertains to Polish
history. My father is a first-generation American and my grandparents
were born in Poland, but moved to the U.S. I am curious to find
out if the surname Kudla was "Americanized" and could
have been spelled differently in Poland...
Well, let me say first that even the greatest expert
can not look at a name such as Kudla and say for sure it has
never been shortened or anglicized. Only your research can establish
whether the name was altered somewhere along the line. However, I
can tell you that Kudla is a perfectly good Polish name in its own
right, and there's no reason to suspect that it's been changed. We
can't rule out the possibility that tomorrow you'll find a document
from the old country that proves it was originally, say, Kudlacik.
But there are thousands of Poles with the name Kudla, so the odds
are it hasn't been tampered with.
As of 1990 there were 3,761 Polish citizens with the
name Kudl~a; here l~ is how we represent on-line the
Polish l with a slash through it, which sounds like our w,
so that this name is pronounced roughly "COULD-wah." There
were another 383 with the name spelled Kudla (no slash through
the L, which is pronounced like a normal L). From a
linguistic point of view Kudl~a is probably the standard form,
and Kudla is the variant, perhaps due to slight differences
in pronunciation influenced by dialects, something of that sort.
The Kudl~a's lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers (over
200) in the provinces of Czestochowa (241), Katowice (430), Kielce
(260), Radom (215), and Tarnow (212). The distribution pattern shows
the name is somewhat more common in southcentral and southeastern
Poland; but it is not so pronounced as to be really helpful in any
Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions this
name in his book, saying that Kudl~a appears in Polish legal records
as far back as 1399, and it derives from the term kudel~, "mop
of hair." So it's one of many names that derived as a reference
to a particular physical characteristic; the name Kudl~a was likely
to be given as a nickname to someone with a fine, thick head of hair
(or, in some cases, to one with little or no hair, as we'd call a
big man "Tiny"). The name stuck and became a surname. It's
not surprising the name is fairly common all over Poland, since this
name could get started anywhere they spoke Polish and there were
guys with thick hair, i. e., anywhere.
I'm afraid when it comes to nobility and family crests
I can't be much help. There is a group you might try contacting,
the Polish Nobility Association Foundation, Villa Anneslie, 529 Dunkirk
Rd., Anneslie, MD 21212-2014. I believe they offer a service by which,
for a moderate fee, they will search their sources and see if a particular
family was ever recognized as noble. So I can't help you, but perhaps
the PNAF can.
To: Tom Przyzycki, TPrzyzycki@aol.com, who
...I have just begun my research in my family history,
I have reletive liveing in Chicago area. The name I would like
to learn more about is Przyzycki I think it was from Warsaw...
This is not an extremely common name, but not really
rare either. As of 1990 there were 341 Polish citizens named Przyz*ycki (I'm
using z* to indicate the z with a dot over it, pronounced
like "s" in the English word "measure"). Of those
341, the largest numbers lived in the provinces of Warsaw (66), Lodz
(33), and Skierniewice (164) -- that is, in the very center of Poland
-- with much smaller numbers living in a few other provinces here
and there. So it sounds as if your ancestors came from the part of
the country where this name is most concentrated. Unfortunately I
have no access to details such as first names or addresses, but this
is like narrowing it down to 3 counties in the U.S. -- it's not going
to tell you everything you want to know, but it might be some help...
By the way, in Polish RZ and Z* are pronounced exactly the same,
so don't be thrown if you ever happen to run across this name spelled
Przyrzycki. It's rare, as of 1990 there were only 2 people in Poland
who spelled the name that way, but it is a distinct possibility.
A name like this probably originated as a reference
to a place name. I can't find any place on my maps named Przyz*yca
or Przyrzyca or Przyz*yce, but that is the sort of place name you'd
expect Przyz*ycki to come from. However, I note that often names
with the root rzek- or rzec-, "river," can
be spelled with y instead of e, and that might be relevant
here. If Przyz*ycki is a variant of Przyrzecki, that
would make a lot of sense -- it would mean "by the river," thus
one who lived on or near a river. I can't be certain that's right,
but it is linguistically feasible, and it makes sense. I would guess
your ancestors got their name either because they lived near a river,
or because they came from a place named Przyrzyce or Przyrzecze,
which in turn got its name because it was located on or near a river.
I know this isn't a definitive answer to your questions,
but it may be some help -- and to be honest, very few Polish names
offer enough clues to let me say "Ah, you came from right here!" There
are too many places with the same name, too many factors that can
affect spelling, etc. So this is about the best I can do. I hope
it's some help.
To: Barbara House, email@example.com, who wrote:
...Any origin information on Sypniewski.....much
This is a common name in Poland -- as of 1990 there
were 3,225 Polish citizens named Sypniewski. It originated
as referring to some association of a family with any of several
villages called Sypniewo -- as a practical matter you can usually
translate it as "one from Sypniewo." The villages called
Sypniewo are mainly in the Pomerania region in northwestern Poland,
specifically the provinces of Bydgoszcz and Pila. The surname is
found all over Poland, but is most common in the provinces of Bydgoszcz
(429), Konin (400), Poznan (367), i. e., in west central Poland.
JA~KAL~A - JONKAL~A
To Michalina Jakala, firstname.lastname@example.org,
...I was wondering if you had any information on
the surname of Jakala?...
Yes, I believe so. The only question is, how was it
spelled in Poland? This is probably an anglicized version of Polish Ja~kal~a,
where a~ stands for the Polish nasal vowel written as an a with
a tail under it and pronounced like on, and the l~ stands
for the l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w,
so that the name sounds like "yon-KAH-wah." If so, it is
almost certainly from the Polish noun ja~kal~a, which means "stammerer." It's
not a very common name -- as of 1990 there were 147 Poles named Ja~kal~a.
They were scattered all over the country, but with a noticeable concentration
in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (10), Katowice (12), Krakow (16),
and Nowy Sacz (29) -- these are all in southcentral Poland, by the
Czech/Slovak border. So you'd expect people with this name to come
from that region, more often than not.
If subsequent research proves that this is not the
right form of the name, let me know and I'll see if I can find anything
else. But I'm fairly certain this is the one you're talking about.
By the way, the a~ is pronounced much like on, and
you often see names with a~ spelled with on. So either
Ja~kal~a or Jonkal~a is possible -- keep your eyes open for that
KORNECKI - MACEBULSKI
To: John Macebulski, email@example.com,
...I am trying to find information on the name Macebulski and Kornecki.
As far as I know I am the only Macebulski in this hemisphere and
Kornecki is said to have Swedish origins.Any help would be great...
I can't find a thing on Macebulski, not in
any of my sources! There was no one in Poland by that name as of
1990 (although there was apparently one person named Macebula, but
no data is available on where he/she lived). I don't often strike
out completely, but this one has me baffled. If you're really interested,
I recommend contacting the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language
Institute. They don't do genealogical research, just research on
name origins, and I think this is one they'd find challenging. They
can handle correspondence in English, and usually the charge for
researching one or two names is $20 or so. If interested, here's
Instytut Jezyka Polskiego, Pracownia Antroponimiczna,
ul. Straszewskiego 27, 31-113 KRAKOW, POLAND
Kornecki is not nearly so tough, as of 1990
there were 1,149 Polish citizens by this name, living all over the
country but with particularly large numbers in the provinces of Katowice
(109), Kielce (223), Krakow (171), and Wroclaw (82), all in southern
Poland in a kind of band from southwest through central to southeast.
There are three roots this name could come from: the less likely
ones are kornik, "bark-beetle," or korny, "humble,
submissive." But I would go for derivation from the first name Korneliusz, "Cornelius." It
makes excellent sense that Kornek would be a diminutive or
nickname of Korneliusz, "little Cornelius" or "Cornelius's
son," and Kornecki is just that name with an adjectival suffix
added. If I'm right about this, the name would mean roughly "kin
of Kornek," or else "coming from Kornek's place." I
can't be positive that's right, because the exact derivation could
differ from one Kornecki family to the next; but that's the explanation
that strikes me as soundest... If you write the Workshop, you might
as well ask if they can add anything to this. They're the real experts,
I basically just take the work Polish scholars do and make it available
to folks who don't read Polish.
If you do write the Workshop and hear from them, I'd
be very interested in hearing what they have to say about Macebulski! That
one's got me intrigued.
To: Richard Sochacki, who wrote:
...My family name is in fact Czeszejko-Sochacki,
although I only use Sochacki because of the daunting combination
that this presents in the Anglo-Saxon world... Nevertheless, I
am aware that the name still exists in Poland having out of curiosity,
and to my surprise, generated three pages of responses to it when
using the Polski Infoseek Web Crawler (an address for which I obtained
from genpol incidentally)... I am therefore interested to know
if you could shed any light on the name Czeszejko, or Czeszejko-Sochacki...
This is a fascinating name. Compound surnames are
not all that common in Poland, but you're right about yours: as of
1990 there were 501 Polish citizens named Czeszejko, and another
428 named Czeszejko-Sochacki! The latter lived all over Poland,
but the only provinces in which more than 20 lived were Elblag (223),
Gdansk (37), Gorzow (22), Legnica (23), and Warsaw (33). (Czeszejko,
by itself, has a similar distribution pattern). One would suspect
the name originated in the Elblag-Gdansk area, on the Baltic in northern
Poland, and perhaps those living in other provinces moved from there
over the course of time -- but I have no real proof of that, it's
only a logical hypothesis... Usually compound surnames in Polish
are associated with noble families and consist of the name of a coat
of arms plus a family name, as in "Nowina-Sokolnicki," distinguishing
the family Sokolnicki who were members of clan Nowina and bore its
arms. I am not aware of any clan Czeszejko, but I'm hardly an expert
on Polish nobility, and I can't help wondering if there is one. That
would explain a lot.
I've already talked about Sochacki in the note you
referred to. Czeszejko is a bit of a challenge, because it
could come from three roots. The verb root czes- means "to
comb (hair), hackle (flax); names in Czesz- also often come
from the root czech, meaning (surprise!) "Czech." Also,
such names can come from a root Czesz- which derives from
the Polish first name Czesl~aw (the l~ stands for the
Polish slashed L, which sounds like English w). Poles
often formed nicknames or by-names by taking the first few sounds
of a popular name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes. So Czeszek,
Czeszko, etc. often originated somewhat as "Chet" can be
a nickname in English for "Chester" (by the way, Czesl~aw
and Chester have nothing to do with each other except a coincidental
similarity in sound).
So Czeszejko could have started as a term for someone
who did a lot of combing or hackling; as a term for a Czech or descendant
of Czechs; or descendants of a fellow with the name Czesl~aw or a
nickname from that name. Of the three, I would think the Czesl~aw
is the likely link in most cases. But I have no firm information
on which to say so definitively. I also have no information as to
when and how the names Czeszejko and Sochacki came to be linked in
the case of what is, presumably, one family (?). My Polish encyclopedia
does mention that there was a Polish labor activist named Jerzy Sochacki-Czeszejko,
pseudonym Bratkowski, who lived 1892-1933.
If you're really interested, I recommend contacting
the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute. They
don't do genealogical research, just research on name origins, but
they may well have some sources that talk about the origin of Czeszejko,
maybe even something on the link with Sochacki. They can handle correspondence
in English, and usually the charge for researching one or two names
is $20 or so. If interested, here's the address:
Instytut Jezyka Polskiego, Pracownia Antroponimiczna,
ul. Straszewskiego 27, 31-113 KRAKOW, POLAND
I'm sorry I couldn't provide definitive information,
but perhaps what I've given you will prove useful. If you do write
the Workshop and learn anything, I'd be very interested in knowing
what they said, so I could add it to the next edition of my book, "Polish
Surnames: Origins & Meanings."
To: Laura Grzymkowski, SeaBrez721@aol.com,
...My friend Kelly should scan you the document.
We are trying to find our relatives Barciniak. What does
this name mean? This looks like an Americanized version. What do
you think it could have been originally? We can't find any links
for this surname. Thanks Laura Grzymkowski...
Barciniak looks like a perfectly good Polish
name -- I would have expected it to be rather common. Yet the Surname
Directory shows only one Pole by this name I 1990, living in the
province of Gdansk. This is very surprising, I would have expected
far more. The suffix -iak usually means either "son of" or "person
from," so this name may have started as meaning "son of
Bart" (a name that can come from Bartholomew or an Old Germanic
name Barta), or it might in some cases mean "person from Barcin,
Barcino," etc. There are several such villages, especially Barcin
and Barcin-Wies in Bydgoszcz province, and Barcino in Slupsk province.
I can't get over how rare this name is. Maybe I was
mislead because Marciniak (son of Martin) is such a common name.
Just going by that, I really thought Barciniak would also be fairly
common. But it's not, and that just proves you can never make assumptions!
To: Howard Motyl, firstname.lastname@example.org, who
...Can you tell me anything about my last name Motyl.
I know it means butterfly in Polish--but who would adopt this as
their last name, and why? ...
It can be tough sometimes to understand why a particular
name stuck, but since the name Motyl shows up in documents
as early as 1414, and since as of 1990 there were 4,120 Polish citizens
with this name, we have to assume at some point there was a good
reason. A lot of the time these names that seem odd started out as
nicknames, and nicknames can be baffling to those who don't know
the reason they were given. People are still arguing over exactly
what Groucho Marx's name came from, whether it was because he was
a grouch or because he always carried what used to be called a "grouch-bag"?
This question dates from earlier this century, and even his friends
are still arguing over which origin is right. So you can imagine
the difficulty trying to decipher a Polish name almost 600 years
A person might have been called Motyl because he liked
to catch butterflies, or lived near a field or area with a lot of
butterflies, or wore brightly colored clothes that reminded people
of butterflies. But the term motyl also is applied to humans,
in a transferred sense, as meaning a person who's rather flighty,
tends not to stay in one place and flit about -- in other words,
the person's character reminded folks of a butterfly's motion. So
the connection, in many cases, was probably figurative rather than
literal... And remember, people don't always choose a nickname, sometimes
one gets forced on them, often much to their displeasure. So your
ancestors may not have chosen to be called Motyl, they may have had
no choice in the matter.
I'm sorry I can't give you a definitive answer, but
I hope maybe these comments are a little help. And believe me, "butterfly" is
a wonderful name compared to some I've run into. In the last few
weeks I've had to tell people their names meant "manure, stable
straw that animals have befouled that needs to be mucked out," and "one
who pisses crooked," "the stutterer," and so on. There
don't seem to be a lot of Polish surnames that say nice things about
people -- as they go, Motyl may be one of the better ones!
To: Arlene Kalinowski, email@example.com, who
...Can you give me any information on the name Kalinowski?
I have been told it means "one who lives in a field of flowers" ...
Kalinowski probably originated in most cases
as meaning "one somehow associated with a place called Kalinow,
Kalinowo, etc." Usually that would just boil down to "person
from Kalinow, Kalinowo, etc." Unfortunately there are quite
a few villages in Poland with those names, so there's no way to specify
which particular one your Kalinowski's might have come from. The
place name comes from kalina, which means "guelder rose,
cranberry tree," also Kalina is a feminine first name.
So those villages probably got their names because they were near
a place with lots of those roses or trees, or, in rare cases, possibly
a place once owned or founded by a Kalina. So what you were told
is not far off; it's not exact, and wouldn't necessarily be true
in every case, but is probably not too far off the mark.
This is, by the way, a very common name in Poland,
as of 1990 there were 30,012 Polish citizens named Kalinowski.
PUZIO - TRELA - WOS
To: Chester Tuella, firstname.lastname@example.org, who
...I became interested in the PGS and I'm filling
out the form to join and I read further about what you do for people
and thought you could help me. I'm trying to research the following
family names: Aniela Wos, Adam Puzio, Antoni Tully or Trella.
Any kind of help would be appreciated...
Let's take them one at a time. As of 1990 there were
3,312 Polish citizens named Puzio, so it's a fairly common
name. The Puzio's lived all over Poland, with a particular concentration
in the provinces of Rzeszow (212) and Tarnobrzeg (925) in southeast
Poland. This name can be of Polish origin, from the words pyza and puza, "chubby-faced
person," but it can probably also be Italian in some cases.
I might be wrong, but I seem to recall talking to a member of the
PGSA who had Italian ancestors who lived in Poland and went by this
Polish tends to avoid double consonants, so the form Trella (251)
is less common than Trela (5,967). Poles by this name live
all over the country, but there are especially a lot in the provinces
of Katowice (644), Kielce (1,075), Krakow (485), Tarnobrzeg (683),
and Tarnow (318), in southcentral to southeastern Poland. The name
appears to come either from trel, "place for storing
lumber in the woods," or from trel, "trill," according
to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut.
It looks from your note as if you're not sure whether
Antoni's original Polish name was Tully or Trella. Of the two, Trella
seems more likely -- as of 1990 there was no one in Poland named Tully or Tuly.
If that form does prove correct, it could be an anglicized form of
Polish Tulej (396) or Tuleja (534), which probably come from the
term tuleja, "funnel." Tulej is especially common
in the province of Zamosc (136) in southeastern Poland, whereas there
doesn't seem to be any particular place where Tuleja is concentrated.
Wos is rare in Poland (only 123), but Wos~ (with
an accent over the s, making it sound a little like an "sh")
is quite common, with 6,697 bearers as of 1990. This name could come
from several sources. Rymut mentions that it can be a nickname or
short form of a first name such as Wojciech -- Poles often
formed nicknames by taking the first couple of sounds of a popular
first name and adding suffixes. It might also come from the word wos, "aspen
tree," or in some cases from German Voss, "fox." There
are a great many names in Poland that are ultimately of German origin,
especially in the western part where many Germans have long lived
and Germans even ruled the area for a long time. Without much, much
more detailed info it's impossible to tell which of those derivations
applies in your family's case.
To: Roman Bulkiewicz, email@example.com,
...Could you give me any clue to the origin of my
name, Bulkiewicz? Though I speak Polish (and my native language
is Ukrainian), I have no idea what it could be, except most trivial
speculations around the root "bul" or "bulk"...
It seems we originated from Volyn'. May be, some toponym there?
I could not find out...
The suffix -iewicz, whether spelled in Polish
fashion or in Cyrillic, is used by Polish, Russian, Belarusian, and
Ukrainian, and means "son of." So the name means "son
of Bulek" or "son of Bulko." This is a name that could
be Polish or Ukrainian in origin, but since your family appears to
have come from Volyn', we should look mainly for Ukrainian connections,
if we wish to understand what that first part Bulk- means.
There are names that Polish experts say derive from
Polish bul~ka, "bread roll" (I'm using l~ to
stand for the Polish slashed l, which in Russian and Ukr.
is usually l without the soft sign, thus not softened or palatalized),
and I see that that same term exists in Ukrainian. It is possible
that an ancestor was given this as a nickname, perhaps because he
loved to eat such rolls, or was very good at making them, or was
shaped like one -- after so many centuries, who can say for sure
how such nicknames started?
There is another possibility, however. Bulek or Bulko could
very easily have started as a nickname or by-name for Boleslav, Polish Bolesl~aw. Polish
name experts verify that the short forms "Bolek" and "Bolko" developed
from that first name, and that sometimes the o was modified
to the sound of u in some areas. So instead of "son of
bread roll," Bulkiewicz could very well have started as meaning "son
of Bolek/Bolko." Actually, this is the derivation that seems
more likely to me. We cannot rule out the chance that this name derived
from bul~ka, but the connection with "Boleslav" seems
much more convincing.
There is an organization with a website <www.infoukes.com> that
features much information on Ukrainian history, culture, etc. You
might wish to visit it and see if there is any information that will
help you -- perhaps you will even find others with this name who
can tell you more about it, or can share information with you. You
might also wish to write to Laurence Krupnak <Lkrupnak@erols.com>,
a gentleman with a great deal of interest in Ukrainian names; tell
him you've talked to me, I gave my ideas, and perhaps he'll have
something useful to add.
CHROBAK - ROBAK
To: Cathy Blystone, firstname.lastname@example.org, who wrote:
...I am requesting information on the surname of Chrobak.
This is my husbands grandmothers maiden name. She is deceased and
no one in the family knows what it means or where she came from.
Any light on the matter would be greatly appreciated...
According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut,
the name Chrobak is the same as the name Robak -- sometimes
the ch was added, sometimes it wasn't. I'm afraid it's not
a particularly flattering name, the root is the word robak,
which means "small worm or insect." However, I don't think
this was meant in a cruel way; we often see Poles and other Slavs
use some rather imaginative terms as endearments, and although "little
worm" doesn't sound flattering in English, I have seen similar
usages in German ("liebes Wuermchen") and Polish
that were clearly meant affectionately. I really think that's how
we should regard this.
This is a common name in Poland, as of 1990 there
were 4,110 Polish citizens named Chrobak (and another 6,788 named
Robak). I'm afraid there is no pattern to its distribution that will
help you much: Chrobaks live all over Poland, with the largest numbers
in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (629), Katowice (359), Nowy Sacz
and (418). These provinces are in southcentral Poland, so there is
at least some concentration in that region; but in terms of area
that is still the equivalent of several counties in the U. S.
To: Matt Lichucki, LIHOOTER@aol.com, who wrote:
...I am Polish and Lichucki is my last name.
Do you have any information on it? Could the name have been changed
or altered? The earliest relatives in America were my grandfather
and his brothers. Most of my family pronounces our name as "li-hoot-ski.'
Any information will help.
This is not a very common name -- as of 1990 there
were only 39 Polish citizens named Lichucki. They lived in
the following provinces: Warsaw (13), Gdansk (5), Lomza (1), Slupsk
(20). (Unfortunately, I don't have more details, such as first names
or addresses, this is the only data I have access to). The pronunciation
in Polish would be virtually identical to what you gave, something
The name almost certainly comes from the root lich-,
meaning "bad, miserable, wretched." There is a rather rare
word lichuczki (pronounced "lee-HOOTCH-kee) that means "very
bad, miserable, wretched," and it is so close to this name that
I think it confirms the derivation from that root lich-. There
is also a Polish name from that root, Lichuta, and if you
add the suffix that turns that into an adjective, you have Lichucki. The
name probably was given originally to a very poor, needy family --
there are a great many names in Polish that mean the same thing,
and in view of how impoverished many Poles were, it seems a plausible
KRAWIEC - KRAWITZ - RO~Z*YCKI
To: E J RUZICKI, email@example.com, who wrote:
...I would like info about my surname: Ruzicki,
Krawitz is a Germanized spelling of the Polish
name Krawiec, which comes from the word meaning "tailor." The
name Krawiec is quite common in Poland (much like Taylor or Tailor
in English) -- as of 1990 there were 11,270 Poles by that name. The
spelling Krawitz is rare in Poland, as of 1990 there was no record
of any Pole spelling the name that way. The natural tendency for
anyone living in Poland would be to correct the form of the name
to Krawiec. However, back when the Germans were running things in
western Poland, it would not have been at all unusual to see this
spelling; and since most Poles left Europe by way of German ports,
German officials sometimes changed the spelling, even without meaning
Ruzicki comes ultimately from the Polish form
of the word for "rose," spelled as ro~z*a (accent
over the o, dot over the z, sounding like our word "rouge" with
a final -a tacked on). It's a tough name to get a handle on because
there are potentially so many different ways this root can be spelled.
Ruzicki probably originated in most cases as meaning "person
or family associated with a place named Ruzyce or Ruzice or Ro~zyce" --
there are many, many places with names this could come from. Polish
accented o~ and Polish u are pronounced the same, so
almost any place with a name beginning with Ro~z- or Ruz- could
spawn this name. The form Ruzicki is rather rare (only 42 as of 1990),
but Ro~z*ycki was the name of 10,411 Poles as of 1990. So
it's rather important to try to trace the family back as far as possible
and see if you can determine the original spelling. If it really
was Ruzicki, there aren't many of them left in Poland, they may be
hard to track down but odds are decent they're related; but if Ruzicki
is just an anglicized form of Ro~z*ycki, there are thousands of them.
To: Babydok3@aol.com, who wrote:
...Have no knowledge of the origin of name Flis or
region from my grandparents emigrated. Arrived in states around
1909. Thanks if you can help. Margaret...
Flis probably comes from the Polish word flis or flisak,
meaning "raftsman." As of 1990 there were 9,580 Polish
citizens named Flis, living all over the country, with particularly
large numbers in the provinces of Lublin (1,785), Tarnobrzeg (1,582),
and Zamosc (734). Those provinces are all in far southeastern Poland,
so that is the area where the name is most common; but there are
Flises living everywhere. This makes sense, the name could get started
anywhere they spoke Polish and had rivers men could put rafts on
-- all over the country, really. So I'm afraid the name itself doesn't
give any clues as to what part of Poland any one Flis family came
To: Rosemarie Wnukowski Garrity, ComCrazy@aol.com,
...My maiden name was Wnukowski. I remember
an aunt tellling me it meant "son of the grandson"? My
ancestors place of origin was Suwalki, Poland and they settled
in Northeastern Pennsylvania (Wilkes-Barre-Scranton area)...
Your aunt was pretty darned close to right! The Polish
word wnuk means "grandson," and the suffix -ow- often
translates well as "of" -- Wnukowski is an adjective
that means literally "of, pertaining to something or someone
associated with a grandson." In practice, that might come down
to meaning "son of the grandson." In general, however,
names ending in -owski usually originated as references to
a place the family was associated with -- typically the place names
end in -ow, -owa, -owo, -ew, -ewa, -ewo, sometimes other endings
as well. So you'd expect Wnukowski to have started out meaning "person
or family associated with, coming from a village named Wnukow, Wnukowo,
etc." If they were noble, they probably owned the village or
estate; if they were peasants, they probably worked and lived there
at some point. The village or estate name, in turn, started out meaning "the
I can't find any places with the appropriate names
on my maps, but that probably just means the place your family came
from was too small to appear on maps, or has changed names, or has
since been merged with another community. It may be a name only locals
would know or use -- after all, "the grandson's place" is
a name that would make sense only within a fairly small circle...
As of 1990 there were 982 Polish citizens named Wnukowski; they lived
all over the country, with the largest numbers appearing in the provinces
of Radom (190), Suwalki (160), and Wloclawek (114). I'm afraid I
don't have any further details such as first names, addresses, etc.