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Genealogy: Genealogy Hall

SURNAME MEANINGS/ORIGINS......

When doing genealogy, sooner or later, the question arises, "Where did my surname come from?". This is the purpose of this page. To help those who have this question that someone else may have already answered.

If you know the meaning of your surname and it is not listed here, please share it with us. Send an Email with a brief explanation and include "Surname Meaning" in the subject line.



Surname Help

In doing genealogy research on Polish surnames, it isn't long before one concludes that their surname of today may be quite different than their ancestor's surname. Prior to the 1600s, surnames were not very common among the peasants with only nobels using such a reference. It was sufficient enough back then to know your family member or neighbor by a given name which could be most anything. Surnames were not essential for their way of life, they knew who they referred to and they usually didn't encounter a lot of others using the same given names and records keeping wasn't a necessary practice to living during this time.

Examples of events that may have affected the spelling of Polish surnames:

  • Early naming conventions: Suffixes were typically added to names, i.e., "ski" for "son of" or "ska" for "daughter of" are two familiar ones. You can find more examples on the Polish Surname Origins page .
  • Records keeping: Even in the days of our ancestors, recorders of information made errors in records just like today! These handwritten records were also subject to error in transcribing. Errors in spelling or reading script has challenged many in doing genealogy.
  • Immigration: Being fluent in writing and reading was not the standard education. Speaking one's language was sufficient. Polish immigrants carried the problem of the Polish alphabet and it's sounds with them. It was not uncommon for Polish immigrant surnames to under go a change either through the process of getting here or in a short period there after. Surnames were at the mercy of the transcriber and of fitting into a different culture. It is helpful to have an awareness of the Polish Alphabet so that you can understand how the sound of letters are different from the English alphabet. This can help improve your chances of finding records on your ancestors.

  • BOJARSKI
    Submitted by: Polishma@aol.com

    Root word "Bojar" means "nobel".


    CIEKOT
    Submitted by: Cawise001@aol.com

    The surname Ciekot derives from the verb meaning "ciekac", which means to run fast, to escape or from the verb "ciec" which means to flow, to stream especially about water, with the suffix ot.


    KUSMIERZ, KUSNIERZ, KUSMIERS, KUSMIERCYCK, KUSNIERSKI, ETC.
    Submitted by: Marvin Kusmierz

    Kusznierewicz would mean "son of the furrier"; the suffix -ewicz means "son of," and kusznierz is one of several ways for spelling a term meaning "furrier" -- the standard spelling is kus~nierz, with an accent over the s, giving it an "sh" sound, but Polish sz is pronounced similarly, so it's not unusual to see names spelled Kus~nier- or Kusznier-, as well as Kus~mierz, Kuc~mierz, etc.


    SOROKOWSKI, SROKOWSKI
    Submitted by: Martin Serkowsky

    Sorokowski - could at one time been the Polish noble name of Srokowski (clan Jastrzebiec). Srokowski would mean the "lord or owner of the village Sroki" (situated around Lwow). Sroki translates to magpie (black bird) in Polish. In Ukrainian the spelling for magpie is Soroki. There are 3 Soroki villages in what is now Western Ukraine, the area where the large majority of Sorokowski(s) immigrated to Canada and the United States. These villages were in fairly close proximity to each other. The majority of North American Sorokowski(s) were descended from immigrants who were Roman Catholic and claimed Polish as their ethnicity, before WW II, they came from an area referred to as Eastern Galicia. In Eastern Galicia there were Sorokowski and Srokowski families living side by side, and in fact Roman Catholic priests would sometimes alternate these two spellings for the same family in parish records. It was the belief of the Polish Sorokowski(s) that their true spelling was Srokowski, and was corrupted over the years by their living so far east.


    TECZA, TENCZA, TENSA
    Submitted by: Katrina Lehrner
    Web Site: http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/l/e/h/Albert-B-Lehrner/index.html

    Tecza means "rainbow". It is pronounced "ten-cha". The hook underneath the c gives it an "n" sound. This "n" sound was why many immigrants to North America have the n in Tecza. The za give it the "cha" sound that can be mistaken for an "sa" sound in American translations.


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