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Genealogy: Library Article

Family Surname Suffixes
by Joseph R. Armata
January 2001

There are a lot of variation in suffixes for family members. Here are some common ones:

Wife's name:

    -if name is an adjective, change the ending to feminine
    (Mr. Kowalski, Mrs. Kowalska; Mr. Stary, Mrs. Stara)

    -owa if name is a noun (Mr. Kowal, Mrs. Kowalowa)

    -ina/yna for names ending in -a that are nouns (Mr. Cebula, Mrs. Cebulina)

Daughter's name:

    -o~wna (Mr. Kowal, Miss Kowalo~wna)

    -anka/onka for names ending in -a, -y or with a -g as last consonant, it also softens the preceding consonant (Mr. Broda, Miss Brodzianka)

Son's name:

    -Sons' surnames are sometimes diminutives of father's surnames, though this seems to be used more colloquially than in church records: Mr. Kowal, young Master Kowalek, Kowalczyk, or many other variations

Village Examples:

    To thoroughly confuse us, here are some village examples from Stanislaw Rospond's book on Polish surnames, some of which don't follow the rules (why make things easy when you can make them hard?!):

    DymekDymkowaDymko~wnaDymecek or Dymk~ow

    The daughterly name "Dembosconka" above is a good example of regional pronunciations being shown in surnames. This example is from near Wieliczka in southern Poland, where

    "szcz" is pronounced as "sc",
    and some "a"s are pronounced as "o",

    so the expected Demboszczanka is spelled here as they pronounced it: Dembosconka.

Joe Armata

Related resources:

  1. Polish Alphabet - Compares Polish versus English alphabet. Includes audio files.
  2. Surname Meanings/Origins - Explains Polish naming conventions.
  3. Poland Subject Library - Links to additional resources.
  4. US Immigration and Naturalization Service - Changing Immigrant Names.

This article is provided here with permission of the author.