Joined: 22 Oct 2010
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 11:01 pm
Post subject: Rolczynski, Rolczyński, Rólczyński
I've become a member on here mostly so that I can share the info I've collected recently about my surname Rolczynski.
Here is the first message I sent to William F Hoffman.
I got your email from polishroots.org. I have had great difficulty trying to find out where my family came from as it appears that Rolczynski (although I am not certain, I believe that it may be spelled Rolczyński or Rólczyński). I checked the herby.com database and it showed that there were only 66 people living with either of the two names. Today in the US, that number is even smaller.
It's my understanding that much of the name consists of suffixes such as "ski" and "czyn" but I am interested in what the root word may be. Any information you could provide would be much appreciated.
Christopher J. Rolczynski
Los Angeles, CA
If it is helpful, I have been able to find the following Ellis Island records:
First Name: Ian
Last Name: Rolczynski
Last Place of Residence:
Date of Arrival: Jul 16, 1895
Age at Arrival: 19y Gender: M Marital Status: S
Ship of Travel: Weimar
Port of Departure: Bremen
Manifest Line Number: 0180
and his nephew:
First Name: Wladyslaw
Last Name: Rolczynski
Ethnicity: Russia, Polish
Last Place of Residence:
Date of Arrival: Jun 20, 1905
Age at Arrival: 20y Gender: M Marital Status: S
Ship of Travel: Potsdam
Port of Departure: Rotterdam, Holland
Manifest Line Number: 0024
Last edited by chrisrol on Sat Oct 23, 2010 4:52 pm; edited 1 time in total
Joined: 22 Oct 2010
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 11:02 pm
This is his email back. I was blown away with how informative it was:
On October 19 you sent me a note asking about the surname ROLCZYNSKI. As you noted, it can be spelled more than one way. Poles would usually spell it with an accent over the N, sounding roughly like "role-CHIN-skee." It could also appear with an accent over the O as well as the N, sounding more like "rule-CHIN-skee." The spelling with no accents is foreign; English and other languages don't have an accented N character, so the accent was simply dropped.
Also, the form ending in -ski is the traditional masculine form, regarded as the standard version of the name. Females traditionally use the same name but ending with -ska. Again, that distinction is dropped in other languages that don't distinguish masculine and feminine forms. But in any Polish-language source, you'll see accented N and the -ski/-ska distinction.
As you said, the name is not very common. The 1990 database you consulted is easy to search, but there is 2002 database that is preferable, because the 2002 data was more accurate -- but it is harder to search if you're not familiar with Polish. You can see the data for these forms, including the masculine and feminine forms, on these pages, which include color maps that illustrate the data. First, plain O, accented N:
Then the forms with accented O and accented N:
The 2002 data showed 14 Rolczynskas and 26 Rolczynskis (plain O). The name tended to show up most often in the central city of Lodz, either in the powiat (much like our county) of Lodz city itself, or in the powiat of Lodz (the areas near the city but outside the city limits). There were 3 Rolczynskas in Lodz city powiat, and 3 in Lodz powiat; there were 10 Rolczynskis in Lodz city, and 3 in Lodz powiat. The rest were scattered in tiny numbers all over.
The forms with accented O were born by 18 Rolczynskas and 15 Rolczynskis, with the largest numbers (7+6) in the powiat of Wroclaw city, in southwestern Poland. The rest were scattered in tiny numbers all over.
Note, by the way, that the 1990 data lumped together Rolczynskis and Rolczynskas. This produced problems with certain names, and the 2002 data kept the masculine and feminine forms separate. That makes the 2002 data a little harder for us to work with, but it avoids certain problems that the other approach caused. I won't bore you with the details -- they're the kind of thing only a specialist would really care about.
As is often the case, this data doesn't give a clearcut picture of where a family by this name would have come from. The version with plain O tends to show up mainly in the Lodz area, the version with accented O in the Wroclaw area. But that doesn't mean your Rolczynskis necessarily came from there. Most of the time, the only reliable way to find out where the family came from is to trace them back in records on this side of the Atlantic. Somewhere -- in parish records, census lists, naturalization papers, passports, ship passenger lists -- there might be a notation that tells exactly where the family came from in Poland. Once you have that, you have a decent chance of picking up their trail in Poland. Then local records may tell you a lot more, and may even shed light on exactly how and why this family got that name. That's why I tell people, if they do good research, they can end up being much more of an expert on their name than I will ever be!
The late Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book _Nazwiska Polakow_ [The Surnames of Poles]. He says ROLCZYNSKI usually comes from a German personal name Rolz (with umlaut over the O), which developed as a nickname or short form of various German given names with the root Hrod-, "famed," showing up in names such as Roger, Roland, and so on. Germans have been settling in Poland for centuries, so it's not at all uncommon to find Polish surnames that actually came from German names. Over time, the German names may have been Polonized, with changes in pronunciation and spelling, and with endings added. So it's not at all farfetched to suggest ROLCZYNSKI started out meaning "of the kin of Rolz."
I should add that because Polish accented O sounds the same as Polish U, and names were often spelled phonetically, with no particular regard to the "correct" spelling, you might also see ROLCZYNSKI with accented O spelled RULCZYNSKI, because ROLCZYNSKI with accented O and RULCZYNSKI sound the same. Rymut doesn't specifically mention ROLCZYNSKI with accented O, but he includes RULCZYNSKI under the same root as ROLCZYNSKI. So either way, whether with accented O or plain O, the name probably meant pretty much the same thing: "of the kin of Rolz," or possibly "one from the place of Rolz."
Rymut also mentions that RULCZYNSKI can come from a rare word _rula_ meaning "pipe, tube," or from German names such as RUHL and RULAND. We can't rule that out. But unless you see the name spelled stubbornly with accented O instead of plain O, I think the first derivation makes more sense. Centuries ago, a German nicknamed Rolz settled among Poles. Over time, his name was Polonized as Rolc, and then it could produce Rolczyn, "[son/kin] of Rolc," and then ROLCZYNSKI, "of the son/kin of Rolc" or possibly "one from the place of Rolc." I can't find any place in Poland with a name beginning Rolc-, so I'm inclined to go with "of the son/kin of Rolc" as the most likely derivation.
Still, you never know for sure with surnames until you learn as much as possible about the history of your specific family. There may be some circumstance in their past that affected the meaning of the name, something even an expert like Rymut couldn't possibly know about. That's why I tell people the story of a surname is incomplete until you put linguistic analysis together with facts about the family history. Sometimes you find an old record somewhere that sheds light on exactly what the name was understood to mean originally -- and it might have nothing to do with a German named Rolz!
There is, for instance, an old Polish name ROLEK that came from "Roland"; it would mean something like "little Roland, Rollie." When you add suffixes to a name root ending with K, as here (Rolk-, once the -e- drops out), the K usually changes to the "ch" sound that Poles spell CZ. So "son/kin of Rolek" could be expressed as ROLCZYN, and then the general adjectival suffix -ski, "of, from, connected with, pertaining to," could be added to produce ROLCZYNSKI -- "of the son/kin of Rolek" or "one from the place of Rolek." That is at least plausible, although it's not the derivation Rymut regarded as the most likely one.
What seems clear is that the name probably means "of the son/kin of Rolc/Rolek," referring to an ancestor called either Rolc or Rolek. The ancestor could have been a German named Rolz; also possible, though perhaps a bit less likely, is that he bore a nickname or shortened form of the given name Roland. Even less likely is a connection with _rola_, "field, soil," or with _rula_, "tube, pipe," or the German names Ruhl or Ruland. Still, only research into the family history might uncover facts that allow you to determine which of those possible derivations applies to your family. The name, by itself, just doesn't give us enough to work with. To make things more difficult, we can't afford to assume that all ROLCZYNSKIs are related. They may all be descendants of one ancestor; but they might be separate families, each of which came by the name a different way. Again, the name itself just does not tell us enough to be sure.
You might want to post this name on the PolishOrigins Surnames Database at http://surnames.polishorigins.com . This database has not been up and running all that long, but it's already got a respectable list of names. It might be an easy way to make contact with others researching the same name.
That's about all I can tell you. I hope it's some help, and wish you the best of luck with your research.
Fred (officially "William F.") Hoffman