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Zenon
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Joined: 28 Apr 2007
Replies: 1470
Location: Poland

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Post Posted: Sat Mar 08, 2008 7:35 am      Post subject: Article: Name Changes - Jankowski or Jannowski?
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Name Changes - Jankowski or Jannowski?

Post your question, share your own experience and discuss about this arcitle.
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Shellie
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Joined: 18 Feb 2009
Replies: 975
Location: Atlanta, GA

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Post Posted: Fri Feb 20, 2009 11:08 pm      Post subject: Name Changes
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20FEB2009 - I think this is an interesting subject. My surname is Kolavick and although I knew we were from Poland, I could never find our name when I searched family history records. A short time ago, an elderly relative informed me that our original name was Kulawiak. After that, I finally found some records for my family and was especially excited to find my family in the Ellis Island database with the name of thier village ODROWĄŻ.

I have spent many hours searching the internet for the name Kulawiak on Polish websites, but I do not speak Polish, and usually rely on Google's translation feature to help me. One of the most interesting finds was radio Krakow:

http://www.radiokrakow.pl/www/home.nsf/ID/zest_audycje_nauka

On this site, I found an audio file of an interview by Prowadzący Jan Stępień with Jozef Kulawiak, who owns a foundry in ODROWĄŻ-ŻARY koło Czarnego Dunajca and makes bells. This was exciting to me because ODROWĄŻ is also the name of my family's village! I listened to the interview, even though I could not understand the language. Halfway through the interview, I suddenly heard someone say the name KULAWIAK. It was the first time I ever heard our name spoken by a Polish person. It was very exciting! I have emailed Jan Stępień to see if I can get in contact with Jozef Kulawiak, but I have not yet received a reply. I'm still hoping to hear back from him. I would like to post the MP3 file with the interview, but I don't know if there are copyright restrictions that prohibit this.

Recently I have seen the name Kulawyck and other variations and I wonder if this represents the same family name.

Thank you for making this forum available to us.
Shellie
Atlanta, Georgia
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Zenon
PolishOrigins Team Leader


Joined: 28 Apr 2007
Replies: 1470
Location: Poland

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Post Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 5:35 am      Post subject:
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Yes indeed, it is a very interesting and broad subject. As Jayme writes at the beginning of his article "One of the most frustrating concepts that the family genealogist has to contend with is the constant variations or changes in tracing a surname". I would add that it is often also the greatest challenge to overcome. Example? Would you every guess that surname Kopier only 50 years before its 'modification' was Kupijaj Question And the change didn't take place at Ellis Island but in Church records in Catholic parish in Poland.

The process looked like this:
- Originally: Kupijaj (meaning literally in Polish "buy eggs" or "(he or she) will buy eggs".
- Modification: Kopiej
- Current (final?) version: Kopier

And the whole process had followed within two generations only. In addition, not only spelling is different but also Polish pronunciations of this two names versions don't have too much to do with each other.

Yes, we are all aware that the names changes often took place at Ellis Island in ports of departure when immigrants were registered. Most often those people were illiterate, didn't know how to spell their surnames, and at the same time clerks who recorded their surnames weren't Polish and they recorded the names phonetically in English, just what they heard.

But sometimes people, not necessary immigrants were just ashamed or embarrassed by their names. Would you like to be called: Zmora - (literal translation) "phantom", Gorzałeczka - "booze", Cieliczka - "calf", Oszust - "fraud" or Gamoń - "gawk" Wink Question These are only a few "interesting" surnames I have encountered on my searches.

Others, after landing in the New World, just wanted their surnames to be easier to pronounce in English, examples Janiec to Janice, Czuba to Cuba or, most probably your case Shellie, from Kulawiak to Kolavick.

And there may be other reasons, for example, allegedly it is better to do business when you bear surname Wellner, than Welna (in Polish "wool") Smile.

All of the above are real examples I have encountered while doing genealogy research. I am sure there are many other examples you encountered during your family searches; you can write about them here Smile.
Shellie wrote:

Recently I have seen the name Kulawyck and other variations and I wonder if this represents the same family name.


It may be Kulawiak, may be Kulawik, also very popular surname in Poland, or... it may be something else..........

Shellie wrote:
I have spent many hours searching the internet for the name Kulawiak on Polish websites, but I do not speak Polish, and usually rely on Google's translation feature to help me.


A little off-topic question, but we are currently working on a new tool for you all and we are going to use google translate. I know that quality of translations made by using this tool google.com/translate from English into Polish is rather poor. How about Polish into English? Would you tell me, does it allow to understand clue of the content, is it more or less understandable in English after translation?


Last edited by Zenon on Sat Mar 17, 2012 4:20 am; edited 2 times in total
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1/2pint



Joined: 11 Nov 2008
Replies: 36

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Post Posted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 11:28 pm      Post subject:
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The Big Myth
"My family's surname was changed when they arrived to Ellis Island." Probably not true!

The Passenger Arrival document, which contains a spelling of your ancestor's name, was actually completed by the Steamship Companies at the PORT OF EMBARKMENT (departure) most before the ship even sailed, others while on board. The passenger was asked for his name and it was then written on the document. The spelling error occurred for many reasons. A shipping officer at a German port translates a Russian name with the way he heard and understood it using his German alphabet, or using Latin letters. These unfamiliar names were spelled as best as the officer could by phonetically. Many of our ancestor's could not read and write these Latin languages and therefore could not correct the spellings. When the passenger arrived at the US port, the US Immigration Officers only verified the information that was already provided on the document by the shipping companies.

So when looking for your ancestor's surname on arrival documents, or any document for that matter, keep in mind various spellings. It is also important to know that women often used their maiden names even if they were married.
http://www.infoukes.com/genealogy/primer/arrival.html



Ellis Island had Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, etc. translators to process the arrivals. Name changes did occur but more as a request from the immigrant.
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Zenon
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Joined: 28 Apr 2007
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Post Posted: Sat Oct 17, 2009 6:24 am      Post subject:
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While reading archives of Donna Pointkouski genealogy blog "What's Past is Prologue" http://pastprologue.wordpress.com I came across an interview with the authority of Polish names subject William "Fred" Hoffman.

The part of the interview about names changes is an excellent piece of advise for all researching their Polish (and not only Polish) names. Just read the beginning of this interview:
---
"Donna Pointkouski: What do you think is the biggest myth or misconception about researching Polish names?

Fred: I'd say the biggest misconception I've encountered consistently is that surnames (not just Polish, all surnames) are etched in stone - that they're unique, utterly stable, and indispensable in research.

Of course, a correct surname can help enormously in tracing your family roots. But anyone with significant experience quickly realizes that very few surnames are unique; they are vulnerable to misspelling and outright mangling; and they aren't necessarily all that helpful. I tell people all the time that the correct place name can be far more valuable than a correct surname. Records are kept locally, so if you can find the village where your ancestors lived and get access to the local records, you can often spot your family while looking through those records, even if you have the surname wrong, by matching up names and dates and places. If all you have is the surname, even if it's correct, you're in the same position as a person wandering through the streets of Kraków or Warsaw yelling "Does anybody know who my family is?" Good luck with that!

You have to remember: surnames are human inventions. Humans do not usually do things perfectly and logically and consistently; we tend to do the best we can at the time with what we have. A surname is not a graven image. It's more like a snapshot, a picture of something that was appropriate to an ancestor at the time. There is no guarantee it remained appropriate. An ancestor might have gotten the name BYSTRON (from _bystry_, "quick, rapid") because he was quick, he moved rapidly. The name stuck, and his descendants were called by it. They might have been a pack of slugs, but once the surname was in place, it tended to hang on. What started out as a perfect description of an ancestor could become downright misleading within a generation or two!

Plus there could be a hundred other families in various parts of Poland who also went by that name because they, too, had quick ancestors. So much for unique and reliable! We know very well that a name like Smith or Jones is hardly unique - why are we surprised when Kowalski or Jankowicz, which basically mean the same things in Polish, are not terribly helpful in tracking down a given ancestor?

As for stability, what bothers me most about researchers and names is that people don't apply their everyday experience to this question. We've all had our names misheard, misunderstood, misspelled - why are we astonished when this also happened to our ancestors? My colleague Jonathan Shea tells me I wouldn't believe how many ways people have mangled his name. It's four letters, for God's sake!

So I advise people to keep an open mind about surnames, especially their spelling. Bring your own experience to bear, and you'll realize names are not unique, they're subject to change, and therefore they can only be of limited help. That may depress some folks; but with no false notions, they'll be in a better position to deal with what they actually encounter in the course of their research.(...)"
---

Click here: http://pastprologue.wordpress.com/2008/08/24/interview-with-william-f-hoffman-part-1-encountering-polish-names/ for the first part of interview about surnames, and here: http://pastprologue.wordpress.com/2008/08/25/interview-with-william-f-hoffman-part-2-more-on-polish-surnames/ for the second part.


Last edited by Zenon on Sat Mar 17, 2012 4:22 am; edited 1 time in total
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edouglaspratt



Joined: 05 Dec 2009
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Post Posted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 12:02 am      Post subject:
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Our family has been "Pogorzala" at least since the first tombstones were cut for my great grandparents who had emigrated from a rural area near Poznan in the 1890s. How can it be that I get no results, not even close results (no close dates or Poznan-area origins) from my computer searches, even for the variant spellings? At some point, someone may have really butchered our true name.

Well I'm frustrated but persitent, and my patience will return with some support. Thanks!

Doug Pogorzala [email protected]
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Terese
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Joined: 10 Sep 2013
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Post Posted: Wed Sep 11, 2013 8:53 pm      Post subject:
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Re: "The handwritten signature clearly shows Barbara Jannowskaja"..... the handwriting tells me it is Jankowsk/aja as I've seen this "lazy k" before. After a long while reading manuscripts and lists, you get to recognise what is likely and what is erroneous. I've lost count of the number of records I've had corrected in respect of my own research range.
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rsowa



Joined: 09 Nov 2013
Replies: 169
Location: Dundee, Michigan, USA

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Post Posted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 10:25 am      Post subject:
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As I have been tracking my Polish ancestors in Chicago, one of the most common issues is the wide spelling variation in all the records.

One consistent theme, however, is that they are often spelled exactly (or close to) the way they are pronounced. When I realized that, it opened a whole line of research that had alluded me.

For example, our surname "Sowa" is found in some records as "Sova". Similarly "Peszek" is frequently spelled "Peshek", and in fact the generation of children born in Chicago all assumed the spelling "Peshek" in all their records. Just the way it should be pronounced.

It has helped me a lot to look for actual Polish records (or church records in Polish). Then when I get the original spelling, I use Google Translate and have it "speak" the name. That solved a dilemma for me with the name "Kuc", which I discovered is pronounced "Koots", which low and behold, led me to several records with the spelling "Koots" and "Kutz" that I would have never found otherwise.
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southern_dude21



Joined: 03 Jan 2012
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Post Posted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 11:52 am      Post subject:
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I've also found that Kotz, Katz, Kates, and Coates have been variations of this too!
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