What does your Polish name mean?
By Robert Strybel, "The Polish Answer Man" What does your Polish name mean?

What does your Polish name mean?

By Robert Strybel, Polish/Polonian Affairs Writer

Have you ever wondered what your Polish last name means? Many surnames started out as patronymic nicknames to indicate who one’s father was. Andrzejczak, Tomczyk and Janowicz are the Polish equivalents of Anderson, Thomson and Johnson.

Other surnames described the inhabitant of a village: Grabowski (originally came from the village of Grabów [Hornbeamville]) and Piotrowski (from Piotrowo [Petersburg]). Still others were based on occupations: Piekarz (baker), Kmieć (farmer) and Kowalczyk (blacksmith’s son).

The noble Grabowskis were entitled to stamp their documents and property with the Jastrzębiec coat of arms. This heraldic device was shared by more than 1,100 families belonging to the Polish gentry. “Grabowski herbu Jastrzębiec” simply identified a Grabowski as belonging to “the Noble clan (or House) of Jastrzębiec.” Some noblemen would include their clan-names in their signatures thus:
Stanisław Jastrzębiec-Grabowski.

A family surname is a unique personal possession which didn’t just appear out of nowhere. It can tell your kids and grandkids who their distant ancestor’s father was, what he did for a living, where he lived or what he looked like. A custom-researched analysis of your Polish surname will be like passing your family heritage down to your younger generation. They will learn what their last name means and how it came about, how many other people currently share it, where they are from and whether a noble coat of arms accompanies it. If one is found, its image and the story behind it will be included. In many cases such knowledge can spark a new-found interest in family history and Polish heritage.

To order, kindly mail a $19 personal or certified bank (cashier’s) check or money order (adding a cut-rate $15 for each additional surname you wish to have researched) to Polonia’s long-standing Warsaw correspondent and onomastician (name researcher):

Robert Strybel
ul. Kaniowska 24
01-529 Warsaw

You will also get a useful contact sheet including links to Web sites, data bases, genealogical groups and professional researchers who can help you track down your family roots in Poland. Many Polish-American root-tracers have found it helpful in their ancestral exploration.
For more information please contact: [email protected]