To: George Fikus, GFikus@aol.com, who wrote:
...I am interested in my surname: Fikus.
My father (and mother) were from Poland, and the spelling was not
changed in recent history. My father, Witold, was a concentration
camp survivor, 1915-1996...
Fikus is a perfectly good Polish name; as
of 1990 there were 1,138 Polish citizens with this name, so it is
not uncommon in Poland. The Fikus's lived all over, with larger numbers
in the provinces of Gdansk (102), Kalisz (163), Katowice (139), Opole
(281), Poznan (59), and Wroclaw (63), and smaller numbers in many
other provinces. I don't see a real pattern there, except that the
name seems to be more common in western Poland, in the areas ruled
by the Germans most of the last two centuries... None of my sources
say definitively what the name derives from, but the most likely
origins are from the noun fik, a variant of the word for "fig-tree," or
from the verb fikac~, "to kick, jump." It's quite
common to see surnames derived from terms for trees, fruit, etc.
-- it might mean an ancestor lived by a fig-tree, or liked to eat
figs, or sold them. Or the name could have originated as a sort of
nickname for someone who was always jumping and kicking, a very active
person, full of nervous energy. Those seem the most likely origins
for this name, although all this is just educated guesswork on my
part, since, as I say, none of my sources discuss the derivation
of the name.
To: Dudley Naumowicz, DudNaumowicz@email.msn.com,
...Having read your web page on Polish names I didn't
see mine - Naumowicz - do you have any information on its
You must understand that there are over 800,000 Polish
surnames -- some very common, some extremely rare -- so I rather
doubt I will live long enough to list them all on the Web page. But
I'm glad to add to the list as I can.
Naumowicz is a fairly common name; as of 1990
there were 1,564 Polish citizens by that name. The largest numbers
of them lived in the provinces of Bialystok (195), Gorzow (120),
Suwalki (290), and Zielona Gora (92), and smaller numbers were in
virtually every other province. Suwalki and Bialystok provinces are
in northeastern Poland, whereas Gorzow and Zielona Gora provinces
are in far western Poland; but it's possible that name was originally
concentrated in eastern Poland. After World War II the so-called
Operation Vistula forced millions of people to relocate from what
had been eastern Poland to the western regions taken from Germany
and given Poland; so we often see names of Ukrainian or Belarusian
or Lithuanian origin showing up in large numbers in western Poland,
far from where we'd expect them to be -- all due to the post-war
I'm fairly certain that this name originated in eastern
Poland (and Belarus and Ukraine, which were historically part of
the Polish Commonwealth) because Naumowicz means "son
of Naum," and Naum is a name used mainly by Orthodox
Christians; you don't often see Polish Catholics using it. We have
this same name in English, usually spelled Nahum -- it's the
name of one of the minor prophets of the Bible (see the Book of Nahum)
and comes from a Hebrew word meaning "consolation, compassion." For
some reason this name never became all that popular among Roman Catholics
and other Christians of western Europe, but it did become moderately
popular among Orthodox Christians, and also among Greek-rite Catholics
(so-called Uniates). So even though the spelling of Naumowicz is
Polish, in most cases the families bearing the name will prove to
be from eastern Poland and the lands adjoining it.
To: Sherrill Wiater Bjorklund, firstname.lastname@example.org,
...Hi. I would like a quick and dirty analyses for
the name Wiater. My grandfather immigrated from the village
of Tyczyn near Rzezsow in 1906. That is the area of my interest...
The name Wiater comes from the Polish word wiatr, "wind." While
it's difficult to say now -- centuries after the name originated
and began to be applied to different families -- exactly why such
a name stuck, we can make plausible guesses. It could have been applied
as a nickname to someone born on a windy day, someone who tended
to be rather windy, possibly even someone who made or ran a windmill;
and in the course of time it came to be used as a surname.
It is a common name in Poland; as of 1990 there were
1,658 Poles with the name Wiater, and another 3,815 with the
name Wiatr. As far as distribution, the name seems to be common
found all over the country, with no real concentration in any one
area; this is not surprising, obviously no one part of Poland would
have a monopoly on wind, so we wouldn't expect the name to show up
only in certain places.
To: Karen Stankivitz, KStankivit@aol.com, who
... looking for the family name of Stankiewicz.
Please if you can help me find any info on this family name...
This one is fairly easy. The suffix -owicz or -ewicz means "son
of," so this name means "son of Stanek" or "son
of Stanko." These are both nicknames or diminutives of the name Stanisl~aw (in
English Stanislaus), a very ancient and popular first name
in Poland; Poles loved to take the first syllable of popular first
names, drop off the rest, and add suffixes (not unlike our "Eddy" from "Edward").
So Stanek or Stanko would be kind of like "Stan" or "little
Stan" or "Stan's son" in English; and the sons of
a man by either of these names would be referred to very often as
Stankiewicz. Eventually it stuck as a surname.
Surnames derived from diminutive or affectionate forms
of popular first names tend to be pretty common, and that's true
in this case. As of 1990 there were 19,826 Polish citizens named Stankiewicz,
distributed more or less evenly all over the country. This makes
sense, the name could and probably did get started anywhere they
spoke Polish and had guys named Stanisl~aw, i. e., all over Poland.
To: Charlotte Babicki, email@example.com,
..The family tradition says that Babicki means "ladies'
man." Can you confirm this? (My grandparents come from an
area that is now Belarus)...
Well, it could possibly mean that. The root bab- in
Polish (also Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, etc.) does mean basically "woman," and
several words from that root do mean "ladies' man." We
can't rule out the possibility that that's what the name meant when
first applied to your family.
In general, though, Babicki is more likely
to have started as a reference to the name of a place the family
was associated with; if they were noble, they owned it, if they were
peasants they worked there, or if merchants, they traveled there
often on business. There are several possible place names that could
spawn the name Babicki, including Babica and Babice, and unfortunately
there are quite a few villages by those names (not just in Poland).
So the sound, scientific answer is to say that this surname means "coming
from Babica or Babice"; and most likely later on, once people
had forgotten what the true origin was, they proposed a perfectly
simple and natural explanation based on what the name sounded like.
And in individual cases it might even be right! But I'm afraid most
of the time the truth's a little more boring. Instead of "ladies'
man," it probably just meant "one from Babica/Babice";
those places, in turn, may have gotten their names from some association
with women, but there's evidence that baba was sometimes used
in names to mean "hill, elevation, free-flowing river" (supposedly
by some rather far-fetched analogies with the female body!?).
Sorry to be a killjoy, but I'll say this -- compared
to some names I interpret for people, this is a fine one. The other
day I had to tell a woman her ancestral name means "pees crooked," and
I had to tell a man his name meant "manure." In comparison
with a lot of Polish names, this one is pretty nice!
To: Gkochanski@aol.com, who wrote:
...My name is not listed. I wonder if you have any
information that you could share with me or suggest where I may
Kochan~ski (n~ = the n with
an accent over it) could come ultimately from several roots, but
the most likely is kochany, "beloved," or kochanek, "lover,
sweetheart"; it appears in Polish legal records as far back
as 1471. It's hard to say whether the name came directly from those
roots or from a place named something like "Kochany" (which,
in turn, surely came from those roots); in theory, the name could
have developed either way. I don't see any place by that name, but
some might have existed centuries ago, when surnames were being formed
-- there are several villages named Kochano~w, but that name would
tend to generate a surname in the form Kochanowski, not Kochan~ski.
It's a pretty common name, as of 1990 there were 5,266
Polish citizens named Kochan~ski. They lived in every province of
Poland, with larger numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (523), Bialystok
(291), Bydgoszcz (270), Katowice (273), Kielce (264), Lublin (226),
Olsztyn (206), and Torun (224); but as I say, there were Kochanski's
living in every province, and there doesn't appear to be any significant
regional concentration that would let tell us anything useful about
where it originated. Most likely it developed in many different places,
so all Kochanski's are not all part of one big family.
It's worth mentioning that the chand hare
pronounced the same in Polish (kind of like the ch in German "Bach"),
and when a sound can be spelled more than one way you usually will
see it spelled more than one way. So don't be surprised if you occasionally
run into the spelling Kohan~ski -- it's rare, but it could
happen, and it wouldn't necessarily indicate any real difference.
To: Robert Brytan, Braine@HASimons.com, who
...I was wondering if could assist me in establishing
the origins of my surname, which is Brytan. all my family
comes from Janow Jubelski in Poland.
I was a little surprised to see that as of 1990 there
were 352 Polish citizens named Brytan -- that's more than
I would have expected. They lived in many provinces, with larger
numbers in the provinces of Elblag (30), Krakow (86), Tarnobrzeg
(34), and Zamosc (63). The ones in Tarnobrzeg and Zamosc provinces
are the ones most likely to be related to you, since that's the general
area of Janow Lubelski (which is in Tarnobrzeg province, near the
southern border with Zamosc province). Still, the distribution data
shows that the name does appear elsewhere.
None of my sources discuss the origin of the name,
but it seems likely to come from the root Brtyan-, "Britain,
British." There is a term brytan that means a kind of
large dog, and it comes from that root; all the words in the dictionary
beginning with Brytan- have some connection with "Britain," usually
referring to something associated with the British. Sometimes people
got place-derived names because they came from that place, sometimes
because they traveled there on business, but that would have been
quite a commute! So it seems reasonable to figure the Brytans generally
had some British blood in their family tree. This is not unheard
of, there were quite a few foreigners living in Poland over the years
-- the Scots, in particular, who often came to Poland to work as
peddlers. It's not out of the question that a Scot who settled in
Poland might end up with the name Brytan, since to Polish peasants
the distinction between Scot and British might be kind of nebulous.
But a Brytan could certainly have had British ancestors; there were
Germans, Swedes, Scots, etc. in Poland, why not a few British?
SIEBIEDZIN~SKI - SZTERMER
To Bob Kruse <firstname.lastname@example.org>, who wrote:
...I saw your name on the PGSA page and was wondering
if you could help. I have been searching for information on 2 Polish
surnames that do not seem to be very common. I am researching the
names Sztermer and siebiedzinski. Could you give
me any information on the origin and/or meaning? (Quick and dirty
is just fine.)
Sztermer is a Polish phonetic spelling of
the German name Sto"rmer (o" = 2 dots, the umlaut, over
the o), so that either name sounds sort of like "shtare-mer." This
comes from the German root Storm, "storm," and according
to German surname expert Hans Bahlow, originated as meaning "man
with a stormy disposition," i. e., one who storms his way through
life. While German-derived names are not at all rare in Poland, this
one happens to be pretty rare: as of 1990 there were only 29 Polish
citizens by this name, living in the provinces of Warsaw (1), Czestochowa
(1), Kalisz (6), Legnica (2), Lomza (3), Ostroleka (1), Suwalki (6),
Szczecin (1), Wroclaw (4), and Zielona Gora (4). (I'm sorry to say
I have no access to further details such as first names or addresses).
Siebiedzin~ski is a good Polish name, but
it, too, is rather rare -- only 27 Poles bore that name as of 1990,
living in the provinces of Warsaw (2), Krakow (3), Suwalki (21),
and Walbrzych (1) -- Suwalki province is in northeast Poland, near
the border with Lithuania and Belarus. In form Siebiedzin~ski appears
almost certainly to be one of many Polish surnames derived from place
names, probably something like Siebiedzin or Siebiedzino. I can't
find any such place mentioned in my sources, but that's not too unusual.
Surnames developed centuries ago, and often the places they came
from were tiny hamlets (the name may have been used only by locals
and never would have appeared on any map), or have since been renamed,
or absorbed into other communities. If you have any luck tracing
your ancestors to a particular area of Poland, and you see any mention
of a place named Siebiedzin or anything like that (most likely in
the Suwalki area), that is probably the place your ancestors got
their name from. But it may take a lot of digging to find it!
...Also, I saw your explanation of the name Danisiewicz,
is the name Zdanowicz just a variation? Thank you in advance
for any help you can provide...
No, Zdanowicz is a separate name, meaning literally "son
of Zdan." That, in turn, is a short form of an ancient Polish
first name such as Zdamir, dating from pagan days, before
the Poles were Christianized and starting naming their children after
Christian saints. The original name meant something on the order
of "gives peace," as best I can tell; and Zdan would
be a short form, kind of like "Ted" from "Theodore" in
English. This name appears in legal records as far back as 1460,
so it's a good old Polish name. As of 1990 there were 3,994 Poles
named Zdanowicz, living pretty much all over the country with no
apparent concentration in a specific region, although the provinces
of Bialystok and Suwalki in northeastern Poland had some pretty good
numbers (616 and 121 respectively).
To: Steve Daskam, Stevedaskam.com, who wrote:
...I was just reading your page on the PGSA web
site concerning the origins of Polish names. I have often wondered
the origin and meaning of my family name and wondered if you could
shed any light in this matter. The surname is Daszkowski...
The name Daszkowski, like most names ending
in -owski, probably started as a reference to a connection
between a family and a particular place, in this case named something
like Daszko~w or Daszkowo. I found only one place with a name that
fits: a village that no longer exists, which was called Daszkowo
or Doszkowo. It was near Gasiorow and Biezdziechow in what is now
Poznan province, apparently just a few km. west of the town of Wrzesnia
in Poznan province. It's possible other places existed with names
this surname could derive from, but I can't find any others, so this
just might be the place. It was referred to in 159 records as Daszkowo,
but in most other records it was called Doszkowo. It seems fairly
likely that that's what Daszkowski started out meaning, "person
or family from Daszkowo/Doszkowo." The name of the village,
in turn, means "Daszko's place" -- Daszko is a name
we see in old records, used as a kind of nickname for popular first
names such as Daniel or David (kind of like "Ted" from "Theodore").
So there was apparently a fellow named Daszko at some point who owned
or established this village, and it was named for him, and your family
had some connection with that place -- usually, it would just boil
down to the fact that they lived there.
The name Daszkowski is moderately common in Poland,
as of 1990 there were 1,084 Polish citizens named Daszkowski -- which
is why I can't help but wonder if there were other small places named
Daszkow or Daszkowo, which were too small to show up on maps, or
changed their names, or were absorbed into other communities; it
just seems odd that that many people could have gotten their name
from one little village that doesn't even exist any more. Still,
who knows? That's the only Daszkowo I could find. In any case, the
Daszkowski's lived all over the country, with the largest numbers
in the provinces of Warsaw (183), Bydgoszcz (78), Gdansk (185), Lodz
(60), Slupsk (74), and Torun (104). It appears they're more common
in the northcentral and central part of Poland than elsewhere, but
there isn't enough of a pattern to let us pin it down any more precisely
[Follow-Up On Daszkowski]
To: Steve.Daskam@dalsemi.com (Steve Daskam)
...Thanks for the information. I have since learned
that my family is of Polish nobility and comes from the town called
Daszki, which was given to them when they became nobility. The
town of Daszki (which I am not sure if it still exists) was near
Gdansk. My family had a large estate there until my great-great-great
grandfather sold it (or lost it somehow) and immigrated to America.
I know that some of the family ended up staying in Poland and had
many children. This could explain at least some of the Daszkowski
population (at least in that region)...
This is an excellent example of what I mean when I
tell people "If you do a good job researching your family, you'll
end up being far more of an expert on your names than I can ever
hope to be!" None of my sources mentioned Daszki near Gdansk,
and it's not on any of my maps. But you got the information, and
it sounds fairly reliable to me. For a lot of Daszkowski's what I
wrote would have been correct, but there's always one in every crowd
So ignore what I wrote about the derivation -- but
at least the distribution data I gave you may be some help. And I'm
pleased to hear you were able to come up with this info. It just
proves, it's smart to listen to the "experts," but never
take what they say as Gospel, and never stop digging on your own!
NOVLETSKY - WINOGRAD
To: Jeffrey Winograd, Hawk Films@aol.com, who
...I am trying to do research on my father's family.
Nobody seems to know much about them. I know that both of my father's
parents came from an area near Warsaw, in a shtetl named Bendzin.
I'm wondering what info you could give me regarding each of their
last names. One of them, Winograd, which is also my name,
has been said to mean "vinyard" in several languages...
Winograd does indeed mean "vinyard" in
Polish (and other Slavic languages, if you adjust the spelling slightly
in view of each language's phonetics). It's difficult to tell in
a given case whether an ancestor got this name because he lived near
a vinyard, owned a vinyard, or worked in a vinyard -- about the most
we can say for sure is that there was some kind of connection with
a vinyard... I was surprised to see that as of 1990 there were only
46 Polish citizens named Winograd, I would have expected a lot more
(however, there were 526 with the related name Winogrodzki). The
46 lived in the following provinces: Bialystok (6), Bydgoszcz (11),
Legnica (1), Skierniewice (1), Walbrzych (3), Wroclaw (13), and Zielona
Gora (11), so they were scattered pretty much all over the country.
(I'm afraid this data is all I have access to, I don't know how to
get details such as first names and addresses).
Alexander Beider mentions Winograd in his Dictionary
of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland (which included
the Warsaw area), so it clearly is a name sometimes borne by Jews.
But I haven't run into it often enough to know whether it's justifiable
to conclude anyone named Winograd would probably be a Jew. In theory,
it's one of those names that could be used by any religion; in
practice, sometimes such names do prove to be associated primarily
with one or another. In view of Jewish dietary precepts, however,
it wouldn't surprise me a bit if this name is primarily associated
with Jews; if so, that might have something to do with why it's
less common than I expected, and it may have been considerably
more common before the Holocaust.
Novletsky or Novlotsky is a bit of
a problem. The form doesn't really "sound" right to me,
and as of 1990 there was no one by either name in Poland. Even if
you adjust for phonetic differences, turning it into Nowlecki or
Nowlocki (Poles write the sound "ts" with the letter c,
and the sound "v" with the letter w), it still doesn't
seem quite right. However, an extra O can often get lost quite easily,
and as of 1990 there were 12 Nowolecki's living in Poland,
all in Warsaw province. I can't be positive this name is connected
with the one you're asking about, but from a linguistic point of
view such a connection is plausible, and the area seems to be about
right... Oddly, Beider's book doesn't mention any of these names,
and usually he is pretty good about listing any name borne by Jews
living in the eastern 1/3 of modern Poland. As for the meaning, its
form suggests it is derived from a place name, probably something
like Nowolec or Nowolek. I can't find mention of any such place in
my sources, but this is not necessarily odd -- surnames originated
at least two centuries ago (although Jewish names are often of somewhat
coinage), and the places they originally referred to might have been
too small to show up in any official map or gazetteer, or might have
been renamed, or absorbed into larger communities. Often we have
a very hard time finding the places surnames came from.
If you would like more help, perhaps you can find
some useful leads at the Website of the publication Avotaynu <www.avotaynu.com>,
or from Miriam Weiner's Routes to Roots Foundation <www.rtrfoundation.org>.
These are connected with folks who have greater expertise in Jewish
research than I, and you just might be surprised what you can find
if you hunt for records of the Bendzin shtetl or other such sources.
To: email@example.com, who wrote:
...researching family please help if you can thanks
The name Pyrtek does not appear in any of my
books by Polish name experts, but it seems plausible that it comes
from the root pyrt- or perc-; there is a Polish term perc~ (conected
with Slovak prt') which means "a steep path along a mountain-side,
a steep passageway." If this connection is correct -- and I
can find nothing else in Polish that appears to be relevant -- it
probably belongs to the category of surnames derived from references
to places. Perhaps an ancestor lived near such a path, or often traveled
on such a path.
As of 1990 there were 348 Polish citizens named Pyrtek,
living in the following provinces: Warsaw 6, Bielsko-Biala 3, Gdansk
11, Katowice 231, Koszalin 1, Krakow 37, Nowy Sacz 20, Torun 2, Walbrzych
5, Zielona Gora 32. It's interesting that by far the majority live
in provinces in southcentral Poland (Bielsko-Biala, Krakow, Nowy
Sacz, and Katowice), near the Czech/Slovak border. This makes sense
in terms of geography and also in light of the fact that this name
may not have originated as native Polish -- it seems more likely
to have come from Slovak. That's not to say your ancestors weren't
Poles, there are lots of Poles with names of non-Polish origin; but
at some point there might have been some Slovak blood in the family.
That's guessing on some rather slender evidence, but the chances
are good enough to make it worth mentioning.
CZEBEROWSKI - GARGASZ -
GLOZOR - ZIEBA - ZIE~BA - ZIEMBA
To: Kim Cooper, firstname.lastname@example.org, who
...Would like to know information about the surnames Gargasz, Zieba, Czeberowski,
Czeberowski is a rare name, as of 1990 there
was no one in Poland with this name or any of the likely spelling
variations such as Cieberowski. Names ending in -owski usually
refer to an association with a particular place, in this case probably
a place name something like Czebero~w or Czeberowo, so that the surname
means "person from Czeberow[o]." I can't find any such
places, although there are a couple of villages in Bialystok province
in northeastern Poland named Czeberaki -- that name comes from an
old first name Czeberak, which is thought to be related to
the term ceber, "bucket." It's not unusual to find
that a name ending in -owski doesn't match up with any village
still in existence; sometimes surnames were formed from references
to names used only by locals, names of very small villages or farmsteads
that never appeared on any map, or have since been changed. But that's
my best guess as to what the surname comes from, "person from
Gargasz is also not too common, but it's not
unheard of. As of 1990 there were 419 Poles named Gargas,
140 named Gargasz, and 238 named Gargas~ (s~ stands
for the Polish s with an accent over it, pronounced like our "sh," and
the sz is a similar sound -- so all three of these spellings
can reasonably be regarded as minor variants of the same name). While
this name can be found all over Poland, it is a bit more common in
southcentral Poland, especially the area around the cities of Krakow
and Nowy Sacz; and Gargas~ shows up a lot in southeastern Poland,
in the provinces of Tarnow (43) and Rzeszow (80). The name Gargasz
appears in legal records of the Nowy Sacz area as far back as 1561.
Name experts are not sure of its origin, but think it comes from
an old German first name Garge, or perhaps from a verb gargulec~, "to
Glozor is a mystery; there was no one by that
name in Poland in 1990, and none of my sources mention it. I'm afraid
I've come up empty on this one.
Zieba is usually spelled Zie~ba in
Polish (the e~ stands for the Polish nasal vowel written as
an e with a tail under it and pronounced either en or em,
in this case em, so that the name sounds like "ZHEM-bah").
The probable root is zie~ba, "finch," although a
connection with the root zie~b-, "chill" is possible.
But many Polish surnames derive from the names of birds, and that's
probably the case here. It may have started as a nickname, perhaps
because a person lived in an area with many finches, or perhaps because
something about the person reminded people of a finch. As of 1990
there were 19,024 Polish citizens named Zie~ba, so it is a
very common name. Because it is pronounced much like Ziemba,
you may also sometimes see it spelled that way, that's not unusual
-- there were 3,846 Ziemba's in 1990, so either spelling of
the name is pretty common.
KLAFKE - KLAWKE - KLAWKI
To: Julio C. Klafke, email@example.com,
...Klafki (1810, Ostpreussen), Klawki (1830,
1852 in Brazil), Klauki (1852, in Brazil), Klawke, Klaffke and Klafke (now-a-day).
My ancestors came from Ostpreussen in 1852 but I think the name
is not a German name but a Slavic name. One has suggest the meaning
of the name may be Woodcutter, or Son of Klaus (Klauski).
The best evidence suggests that in most cases this
name derives from Klawka, which is a Polish short form of
the name Mikol~aj = German Nikolaus (short form Klaus)
= English Nicholas. I believe you are right to think the name
is Slavic rather than German, because German usually forms diminutives
of names by adding suffixes with the letter -L (Haensel = "little
Hans (John)," Gretel = "little Margaret");
but Slavic languages use suffixes with the letter -K-, such
as -ek, -ka, -ki, -ko. There are many areas in eastern Germany
and western Poland where Germans and Poles lived close together,
and their languages influenced each other's names, so that a Polish
name might change somewhat to fit German phonetics. Thus we sometimes
see the name Jahnke, which looks German; but it's actually a Germanized
form of Polish or Czech "Janek, Janko." I think something
similar happened with your name.
The root Klaw- is clearly a Slavic adaptation
of German Klaus, so we have the following process: from Latin Nicholaus -> German Klaus -> Polish Klawek or Klawko -> German Klafke.
We know the forms Klawek or Klawko appear in Polish
legal records from as far back as 1391, and that they were regarded
as short forms or nicknames of Polish Mikol~aj (German Klaus).
As time went on and Germans gained more power and influence, the
name probably was modified slightly to German phonetics, and thus
we finally get Klaffke or Klafke.
I should mention that this is not the only possible
derivation of the name. It could conceivably come from Latin clavis, "key." Although
it seems unlikely, I cannot rule it out. But clearly it is far more
likely in most cases that the name derives from the name Klaus. Klawek or Klawko can
be interpreted as "little Nicholas," which may mean an
ancestor by that name was rather small, but more likely it was a
patronymic, a name taken from one's father's name. Thus Klawek or
Klawko probably meant "son of Nicholas."
I'm afraid none of these names is very common in modern-day
Poland; as of 1990 there was at least 1 person named Klawka, also
1 named Klawke, but I have no further information on where they lived.
There was no one named Klawki. There were 32 Polish citizens named
Klawek, living in the provinces of Pila (9), Walbrzych (21), and
Wroclaw (2) -- all areas with large German elements in the population.
There were also 170 named Klawa and 123 named Klawe.
So names formed from this root are not unknown in Poland, but they
are not particularly common.
To: pwalters, firstname.lastname@example.org, who wrote:
...Would you help me find the meaning of the name Karpinski?
I was told that it was a very common name, much like Smith in America...
Well, it's not quite that common, but it is a fairly
common name. As of 1990 there were 19,174 Polish citizens named Karpin~ski (I'm
using the n~ to represent the n with an accent over
it). They lived all over the country, and the distribution seems
to be fairly even -- no pattern that tells us anything special.
The ultimate root is connected in most cases to the
term karp, "carp" (the fish), which is the root
of a great many surnames and place-names in Poland, Russia, etc.
In some cases it might also come from the term karpa, "trunk,
stem," or from a short form of the first name Polikarp.
I'm not sure, but I think in olden days Karp might also have
been used as a first name or nickname, much the way we use nicknames
such as "Catfish," "Kingfish," etc.
Names ending in -in~ski usually started as
a reference to a place where a family lived or came from; in this
case I would say the most likely candidates are the villages of Karpie
in Legnica province, Karpin in Lodz province, and Karpiny in Elblag
province. However, there could have been many more places named Karpin,
Karpino, etc. that are too small to show up on maps, or have since
changed their names, or have been absorbed by neighboring communities.
But that is the basic meaning of the name: "person from Karpin/Karpino/Karpiny," --
or, to break it down further, "person from the place of the
carp" (or in some cases "person from the place of Polikarp").
To: Marie Hough, email@example.com, who wrote:
...I am looking for information on Trojanowski...
Like most names ending in -owski, this one
almost certainly started out referring to the place a person or family
lived in or came from. In this case I'd expect the name of the place
to be something like Trojanow, Trojanowo, Trojanowice, Trojany --
and as it happens, there are a number of villages in Poland by those
names. (Those names in turn, come from the Slavic root troi-, "three," or
from the first names Trojan or Trajan). I can't say
which particular village your family was associated with, but if
your research leads you to a particular area in Poland and you notice
a village nearby with a name beginning with Trojan-, that's
probably the place!
When a place name is that popular, the surnames derived
from it are usually pretty popular too, and that's the case here
-- as of 1990 there were 10,088 Polish citizens named Trojanowski.
They lived all over the country, I don't see any particular pattern
to the distribution.
[Name and E-mail address inadvertently deleted]
...I would like to know if you have any quick information
on the name Mikulski. It's just and intrest so don't put
too much into it. If you do have something, please e-mail it too
me. Thank you...
The root of this surname is Mikul~a (l~ stands
for the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like
our w), which is an archaic variant of the popular first name Mikol~aj =
English Nicholas. If surnames were being formed these days
you'd expect Mikol~ajski, formed from the standard version
of the name (and in fact that is a reasonably common name in Poland).
But most surnames arose centuries ago, and back then Mikul~a was
still a pretty popular variant, and that's why surnames were formed
from it. There are other names from this form, including Mikulak and Mikulec,
but Mikulski is by far the most common.
If you wanted to translate it, you'd say Mikulski
means "of, belonging to, pertaining to, associated with Nicholas." In
practice it would normally mean just "Nicholas's kin," although
in some cases it might possibly also come from places meaning "Nicholas's
place," such as Mikul~owice, Mikulice, etc. But usually names
derived from those places would be Mikul~owski or Mikulicki,
so plain old Mikulski would usually just mean no more than "kin
Surnames formed from popular first names are usually
quite common, and that's the case with Mikulski: as of 1990 there
were some 9,693 Polish citizens by this name. I don't see any particular
pattern to the distribution, it's a moderately common name all over
To: Thad Steward, firstname.lastname@example.org, who
...As per your information on the Polish Genealogical
Society Web page, I will appreciate it if you could provide some
information about the meaning of the name Suchodoslki. I
still have relatives in Poland abd even they do not know the meaning
of the name. Thanks much...
The standard form of the name would be Suchodolski,
and it derives from places named Suchodo~l~ and Suchodol~y; I'm using o~ to
stand for the Polish accented o, and l~ to stand for
the Polish l with a slash through it. These names are basically
the same, Suchodol~y is just plural and Suchodo~l~ singular. Both
come from the roots suchy, "dry" + do~l~, "pit,
depression," also sometimes short for dolina, "valley." So
these place names mean "dry valley" or "dry valleys." Apparently
sometimes places got this name because they were relatively dry,
but in some cases the name may have been meant ironically, in fact
the valleys were quite wet. But whether the name was meant with or
without irony, "dry valley" is the basic meaning, and Suchodolski
means "person or family from Suchodo~l~ or Suchodol~y = "person
from Dry Valley(s)."
There are a number of places in Poland with the names
Suchodol~y and Suchodo~l~ (quite a few on my maps, and probably more
too small to show up on maps), so it's not surprising this is a fairly
common surname -- 3,717 Polish citizens were named Suchodolski as
of 1990. The name appears to be distributed fairly evenly all over
the country, with Suchodolski's living in virtually every province,
and with the larger numbers tending to be in the more densely-populated
provinces. As I say, this is reasonable -- by its nature this place
name could and probably did originate in many different areas all
over Poland, so we'd expect the surname formed from it to have formed
MIOSGE - VOIGHT
To: Tonia Keyte [E-mail address inadvertently deleted]
...The only information I have to go on is that
he gave his name (on arrival in Australia) as Friedrich Wilhelm Miosge (Polish
translation unknown) and that his sister Olga later married a Voight?.
He also told my grandmother (his grandaughter) that he was of noble
Well, let's do Voight first, because that's
easier. Voight is a Germanic form of a name that is common
in German and Polish; in German it usually takes the forms Voigt or Vogt,
in Polish it's Wo~jt (usually with suffixes added;
the o~ stands for the Polish accented o, pronounced
much like oo in "wood"). This name comes from a
title of a regional administrator or supervisor; a Vogt or Wo~jt was
usually an administrator in charge of a village, but could also be
in charge of some larger community or area. The term actually comes
from Latin advocatus, which gives us our word "advocate" and
means "called to, appointed." As of 1990 there were 500
Polish citizens named Vogt, 14 named Voigt, and 24 named Voit; as
for Polish Wo~jt, there were thousands and thousands with names that
derive from this root (although many of those names can also derive
from the first name Wojciech, which has nothing to do with Voigt/Wo~jt).
But the German forms Voigt and Voit and Vogt are
the ones that probably interest you most, and as I say, they're reasonably
common in Poland and probably much more so in Germany (though I have
no hard data).
Now, as for Miosge, this is a tough one. The
name looks and sounds to me Lithuanian, but none of my Lith. sources
mention it. If it's Polish, my only guess is that it might be a variant
of a name such as Miazga, borne by 2,905 Poles as of 1990;
there is also a name Miozga, which I think is probably a variant
form of Miazga, and it was borne by 680 Poles. Both appear
to come from a term miazga, meaning "pulp, chyle." If
a Pole pronounced Miosge, it would sound similar to "Miazga," so
there could be a connection -- but that's just an educated guess,
I have no proof whatever.
As of 1990 there was at least 1 person named Miosge
in Poland, but the data on his/her file was apparently incomplete.
There were 115 Poles named Miosga, and they lived in the following
provinces: Czestochowa 31, Gorzow 3, Jelenia Gora , Kalisz 6, Katowice
50, Legnica 5, Opole 18, Wroclaw 1. This indicates the name is most
common in south central Poland, as Czestochowa, Katowice, and Opole
provinces are all right there, just a little west of Krakow. Unfortunately
the source from which I got this data does not include further details
such as first names and addresses, so what I give here is the only
info I have access to. But Miosge and Miosga are so similar that
I think they must be variant forms of the same name.
To: Sister Margaret, OSC (Margaret A. Mewhorter)
...Very recently I received some documents on my
great grandfather, Antoni Zawadzki (b. 1834), from the Diocese
of Drohiczyn, Poland. Through them I learned that my great grandmother
had the name Joanna Wielowiejska. In one place it looks
more like Wielewiejska. I could not find this name in your book.
A friend in Poland tells me that this is a very important and rare
name in Polish History, but over the phone did not give me any
details. I am very curious, as the documents all mention that these
ancestors were "szlachta" and "dworzanin".
This is a surprise to me. Have you ever come across the Wielowiejski
I didn't list it in my book because it's not very
common, but I have seen it before. In the Polish Genealogical Society
of America Journal we printed my translation of a genealogical bibliography
by Wlodzimierz Dworzaczek, listing books he knew of that dealt with
various noble families, and he included this book:
"WIELOWIEYSKI, of Polkozic arms: _Pamiatka po
zmarlych s. p. Adamie i Henryku Wielowieyskich i Zofii z Deskurow
Wielowieyskiej_ [A remembrance of the late Adam and Henryk Wielowieyski
and Zofia nee Deskur Wielowieyski], published in Krakow in 1904 (contains
a genealogy of the Wielowieyskis)."
So there was apparently at least one noble family
named Wielowieyski, which is a rather old-fashioned spelling
-- the modern spelling would be Wielowiejski. This may not have been
the only noble family by this name; I'm afraid my sources on the
szlachta are rather limited. You might want to contact Leonard Suligowski,
a heraldic artist with a sizable library of armorials and other sources
on European and especially Polish nobility. Leonard charges a moderate
fee for his services if he spends any significant amount of time
on a project, but I know of no one in this country better qualified
to find possible sources of information on a noble Polish family
(he's also the editor of the Journal of the Polish Nobility Association
Foundation). If you would like to contact him, his address is: Leonard
Suligowski, 218A N. Henry St., Brooklyn, NY 11222.
As for the name itself, it is an adjectival form of
the place name Wielowies~, which means "big village" --
there are at least 9 villages by that name in Poland, so it's hard
to pin down which particular one the surname refers to. But at least
we can say the name means, in effect, "person/family from Wielowies~," or
to break it down further, "person/family from the big village." As
of 1990 there were 208 Polish citizens named Wielowiejski, and another
47 who spelled the name the old-fashioned way, Wielowieyski. I don't
see any real pattern to the distribution, the name is most common
in the provinces of Warsaw (20), Bydgoszcz (30), Kalisz (18), Leszno
(17), Poznan (18) and Wroclaw (16). Still, in your case that may
not be a real problem -- if your ancestors were members of the noble
Wielowieyski family, you may be able to find some information on
them that will tell you exactly where they came from.
All in all, I'm moderately optimistic that you will
be able to find some info -- it's so much easier when dealing with
nobles, because the records kept on them were far more complete,
and go back much farther, than for peasants. It may not be easy to
get hold of more information on this family, but I think it's likely
such information does exist. I hope Leonard or someone else can assist
you in locating it. Good luck!
KASPRZYKOWSKI - WERRA
To: Joan Gallo, GwydLir@aol.com, who wrote:
...I am interested in any information you could
pass on to me regarding the surname Kasprzykowski ("Kasper-kush-key"),
the maiden name of my paternal grandmother, or Werra (GGM's
maiden name). Frank Kasprzykowski & Martha Werra emigrated
to Milwaukee from Poland in 1892...
The name Kasprzykowski probably originated
as a reference to a place the family came from or was otherwise connected
with; I'd expect the place to have a name something like Kasprzyko~w,
Kasprzykowo (meaning, essentially, "the place of Kasper's son,
probably referring to someone who founded it or owned it at some
point). Offhand I can't find any place by either name on the maps,
but that's not unusual. Often surnames were generated from the names
of places that were quite small -- the names may have been used only
by locals, and never appeared on any map or in any gazetteer -- or
that have since changed their names. If your research leads you to
a particular area of Poland and you find any reference to a nearby
village or settlement with a name beginning Kasprzyk-, that's probably
the one your family's name came from... As of 1990 there were 530
Polish citizens named Kasprzykowski, living all over Poland but with
the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (74), Katowice
(55), Torun (92), and Warsaw (43). (Unfortunately, I don't have access
to further details, such as first names or addresses).
Werra is a tough one. It's not rare, as of
1990 there were 490 Polish citizens by that name, with the largest
numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (78), Gdansk (155), and Slupsk
(163), all in northcentral and northwest Poland, roughly in the areas
that used to be the provinces of West Prussia and Pomerania under
German rule. The origin of the name is not clear, however; there
is a Werre river in Lippe, and the name used to be Werne; there is
also a German surname Werres which comes from the first name Severus (Latin, "strict,
stern, severe"). So the surname could well come from one of
those two names; many names in those areas are of German origin,
as Poles and Germans mixed to a considerable extent there. But none
of my sources mention it, so I can't give you a firm derivation,
only my guess that it might be connected to one of the two names
(Of course, it might always turn out this is connected
with the Slavic root vera, "faith, belief," or Latin verus, "true." This
is possible if that -rr- spelling is not integral to the name,
and Wera was the original form.)
TOKARCZYK - TUREK - WNE~K
To: Natalie Price, email@example.com, who wrote:
...My surnames so far ar Wnek which if I
remember from your book means grandson...
Yes, Wne~k (with the nasal e, sounding
like en, written as an e with a tail under it) means "grandson," and
it's a pretty common name -- as of 1990 there were 3,2356 Polish
citizens named Wne~k.
...Turek I have no idea what it means - I
just found out about that one...
This name could come from several different roots,
but in most cases the one that's relevant is turek, "Turk." Poland
used to rule much of western Ukraine, and in medieval times there
were frequent invasions of Turks into southeastern and southcentral
Europe; some of those Turks settled there, married, and produced
children. Turek generally suggests that one of them might have been
an ancestor -- or else that an ancestor looked like a Turk, followed
Turkish customs, etc. This, too, is a common name, there were 13,066
Polish citizens named Turek in 1990.
...Tokarczyk - I just got the correct spelling
for this one - again I don't know what it means...
A tokarz is a "turner, lathe operator," and -czyk means "son
of," so this name means "son of a turner." It, too
is fairly common in Poland, as of 1990 there were 3,525 Polish citizens
To: Thad Steward, firstname.lastname@example.org, who
...My wife became jealous that I received this information
from you and would like to know her father's surname meaning which
is Staszak. We know that there are a lot of Staszaks in
the Poznan area but have no clue as to the name's meaning...
In the interests of promoting domestic tranquility,
I'll be glad to tell you what I can.
Poles historically loved to form nicknames and affectionate
variations of names by taking the first few sounds of a popular first
name, dropping the rest, and adding suffixes -- not unlike the way
we turned "Edward" into "Eddy." One of the most
popular names in Poland, as far back as we have records, is Stanisl~aw (the l~ stands
for the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like
our W), an ancient name coming from pagan times and meaning
something like "May he become glorious!" Poles formed a
great many nicknames and short forms of that name, one of which is Stas~ (accent
over the s, giving it a kind of an "sh" sound).
This is still a very popular name among Poles, I know several people
The sz combination in Polish is also pronounced
like "sh," although it's a chunkier, harder sh, whereas s~ is
kind of light and hissing. You have to grow up speaking the language
to really get the difference -- but the point is, both Stas~ and Stasz sound
pretty similar, and both started out as nicknames for Stanisl~aw. Then,
once these names became common, Poles started adding suffixes to
them. Staszak is basically a diminutive, meaning "little
Stas~," often = "son of Stas~." So Staszak became
a surname meaning "Stas~'s son" (not unlike Smithson or
Alexanders in English). That's the origin of this name.
Since Stanisl~aw and many of the names formed
from it are extremely popular, it's not surprising that the surnames
formed from them tend to be common. As of 1990 there were 5,562 Polish
citizens named Staszak. They lived all over the country, with some
of the larger numbers appearing in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (380),
Kalisz (693), Konin (927), and Poznan (845). But really, the name's
fairly common all over the country, which just makes sense -- it
could, and did, get started anywhere they spoke Polish and there
were guys named Stas~ who had sons.
To: Walter & Marie Allen, email@example.com,
...I am trying to find the correct spelling of a
Polish surname. It is pronounced Hyn-rick , but I believe it is
spelled Hnyjnrch or something similar, but I am having no luck
with my search using that spelling...
Well, it sounds as if you're talking about a surname
derived from the Polish first name Henryk, which is the equivalent
of our "Henry." Henryk is the standard spelling,
but it derives from the German Heinrich, and other spellings
are possible, depending on the degree to which the name has been
adapted to Polish phonetics. They include Hejnrych, Heinrych,
Hendrych, and Henrych. Henryk rarely appears as
a surname in Poland, but the other four forms I just mentioned do,
some more common than others. So I would guess you're looking for Heinrich,
Hejnrych, Heinrych, Hendrych, or Henrych. I have no way
of knowing for sure which of those forms is the exact one you're
looking for, but I hope this will give you enough info to make your
search more productive. Good luck!
To: James F. Lizewski, firstname.lastname@example.org,
...I saw your page (re subject), and your notes
on the last name Slizewski (http://www.pgsa.org/nazw3.htm#slizew).
In the spirit of your notes, and my last name being Lizewski,
I should look for villages in Poland such as Lizew, Lizewo, Lizewa,
Lizewice, etc.? Thanks for your assistance...
It is such a pleasure talking to somebody who actually
reads and understands what I have written! It makes me feel that
perhaps I'm not wasting my time after all!
Yes, that is the basic idea with a name like Lizewski.
You'd expect it, just judging by the form, to come from a place name
beginning with Liz-, and the names you mention are all reasonable
candidates. The only problem may be finding the place in question.
Some surnames were formed from the names of rather small settlements,
so the place names were never used by anyone by locals. Also, the
surnames generally originated at least 200-300 years ago, and names
can change. So there's no guarantee you'll find the right place,
unless you manage to get at records that are very localized and go
back a long way!
I looked in the Sl~ownik Geograficzny gazetteer
and only found a few places that might fit. There was a Liz* (I'm
using z* to stand for the dotted z), a manorial farmstead in Srem
powiat (near Srem in Poznan province), part of the Jawory estate.
There was a Liza Nowa served by Piekuty parish and part of Poswietne
gmina in Wysoko Mazowieckie powiat. There were a couple of Lizawy's,
one in Konin powiat, Slesin parish, and one in Stopnice powiat, Pierzchnica
parish (Lizewski < Lizawy is a bit of a stretch, but not too much
so). There was a Liz*e near Rossienie (now Raseiniai in Lithuania).
And there were 2 places called Lizowszczyzna, which might be relevant
-- the -szczyzna suffix usually was formed from names ending
in -ski, so we have a link with Lizowski, and that could well
be relevant, e and o often switch. Both these places were near Dzisna,
and thus are probably now in Belarus; one was about 14 km. from Dzisna,
the other about 50.
One of these might be the right place; or your Lizewskis
might have taken their name from another place that has since disappeared,
or changed names. I wish I could give you something exact to work
with, but I just don't have enough data. Still, maybe some of this
info will come in handy. I hope so! And I wish you the best of luck
with your research!
PIEKNIK - PUCH
To: Christina Pieknik, Piek@aol.com, who wrote:
...I would like to request information conserning
the surnames Puch and Pieknik. Both families came
from the Galicia region of Poland. My husband still has relatives
(Pieknik) in Jaslo. I am not aware of any relations by the name
of Puch currently residing in Poland, but the family original
came from an area near Stary Sacz...
As of 1990 there were 160 Polish citizens named Pieknik,
with larger numbers in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (16), Czestochowa
(14), Katowice (29), Legnica (15), Rzeszow (25), and a few scattered
in other provinces. This indicates the name is a bit more common
in southcentral and southwestern Poland than elsewhere -- most of
those provinces are a little west of Galicia proper, but Rzeszow
province was in Galicia. Pieknik probably derives from the root pie~kny (e~ stands
for the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under
it and pronounced much like en), which means "beautiful,
pretty, nice." The name probably meant something like "son
of the beautiful one." It might also come from the root piek- meaning "bake," but
that -nik suffix makes derivation from the root meaning "beautiful" considerably
Puch appears in records as early as 1381,
and is thought to derive from the root puch, "down, fluff" --
perhaps it referred to a person with soft hair or skin. As of 1990
there were 640 Puch's in Poland, with the larger numbers living in
the provinces of Bialystok (69), Katowice (52), Lublin (41), Nowy
Sacz (70), and Wroclaw (40), and smaller numbers in several other
provinces. The provinces mentioned are all over Poland, but Lublin
was in Galicia, and I believe Nowy Sacz province (which includes
Stary Sacz) was also. So the numbers fit in fairly well with the
info you provided.
SCHWERM - SZWERM
To: Joan Gallo, GwydLir@aol.com, who wrote:
...If you have an occasion in your studies to come
across any information on the name Schwerm, I would be most
grateful for it...
Schwerm is a German name, but German names
are often very relevant to Polish research; there are just too many
names borne by true Poles that originated from German expressions
or names! Schwerm appears to come from the same root as the German
names Schwermer and Schwa"rmer -- those names
mean "enthusiast, zealot," i.e., somebody who gets all
worked up over something. As of 1990 there were 51 Polish citizens
with the name Schwermer (most living in Pila and Poznan provinces),
but none named Schwerm. There were 24 who used the name Szwermer (which
is just Schwermer spelled by Polish phonetics), but none named Szwerm --
and you should keep your eye open for that spelling, because over
the course of time the names of Germans in Poland did often come
to be spelled according to Polish phonetics, particularly as those
people began to fit in and lose their status as "foreigners."
This might mean the original form of the name was
Schwermer rather than Schwerm, but I wouldn't jump to that conclusion.
There might be plenty of Schwerm's in Germany. Modern numbers on
German-sounding names in Poland can be deceiving, because so many
ethnic Germans decided to get out of Poland after World War II (being
an obvious German in post-war Poland was not a good career move!).
So there may have been Schwerm's in Poland before 1945; or people
named Schwerm/Szwerm may have decided to change their names to something
a bit less German-sounding.
To: Jeff Majtyka, email@example.com, who
...I found your page on the pgsa site and am interested
in any info you can turn up on the name Majtyka. I don't
know much except that my grandfather and his parents settled in
Detroit either just before or during WW1 after leaving Warsaw.
Also, I've heard several suggestions as to the origin of the name,
none of which has been confirmed...
Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions Majtyka under
names coming from the basic root majd-, "to move back
and forth, wag (a tail), dangle (legs)," so it appears to be
a name that originated (perhaps as a nickname) as a reference to
a physical characteristic. Perhaps your ancestor had a habit of moving
that way -- it can be tough, all these centuries later, to reconstruct
exactly how and why a particular name came to be associated with
an individual. All we can do is note what the words mean and try
to make plausible suggestions on why the name was appropriate.
Rymut is usually pretty reliable, but I can't help
wondering if this name might also be connected with the word majtek,
which means "ordinary sailor." This word could quite plausibly
generate a surname Majteka or Majtka or Majtyka meaning, basically, "sailor's
son." It's possible Rymut looked at this and rejected it for
good reason; but it strikes me as worth consideration.
As of 1990 there were 673 Polish citizens named Majtyka,
living all over the country, with larger numbers in the provinces
of Bielsko-Biala (69), Czestochowa (48, Krakow (84), Sieradz (130),
and Wroclaw (81). These provinces are all in an area of southcentral
to southwestern Poland, so that's the general area in which this
name is most common -- although it is found in smaller numbers in
virtually every province of Poland. Unfortunately I do not have access
to further details, such as first names, addresses, etc.