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Author Topic: Polish/Russian surnames  (Read 5787 times) Average Rating: 0
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Tikhon.of.Colorado
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« on: December 11, 2010, 05:17:00 AM »

I was speaking with a woman who studied Slavic languages.  she said that, since my grandmother's maiden name was Markowski, and her mother's maiden name was Janowski, that I'm actually Russian in ancestry, not Polish.   my grandmother always pronounced it like Markovsky, and I saw a very old document with it spelled that way.

this woman also said that true Polish surnames end with -witz, and those ending in -owsky were actually from Russian families.

does anyone know about this?
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« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2010, 10:04:44 AM »

I was speaking with a woman who studied Slavic languages.  she said that, since my grandmother's maiden name was Markowski, and her mother's maiden name was Janowski, that I'm actually Russian in ancestry, not Polish.   my grandmother always pronounced it like Markovsky, and I saw a very old document with it spelled that way.

this woman also said that true Polish surnames end with -witz, and those ending in -owsky were actually from Russian families.

does anyone know about this?


Trevor, I don't think this woman was correct. Last names that end with -witz may belong to people who are from what is now Poland, but their origin is actually German (like in "Klausewitz," the famous Prussian military commander and strategist), or Yiddish (like in common Jewish names Rabinowitz, Horowitz etc.). You have to keep in mind that a rather large part of what is now Poland used to be Germany (Prussia, Pomerania, Silesia), so it is not surprising that there are many Geman names among Poles. Also, Poland all the way till the German occupation during the Second World War was one of the countries of the world that had a very large proportion of Jews.

Poles, however, are Slavs, so their genuine Slavic last names, indeed, end with -ski (or, less frequently, with -uk, -ov, and -ko). Markovsky and Janovsky certainly can be Polish names (although they can also me Russian, or Ukrainian - in the later case, the "s" sound is softened, which is conveyed in writing by an apostrophe, like Markovs'kyy, Yanovs'kyy).
« Last Edit: December 11, 2010, 10:05:38 AM by Heorhij » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2010, 10:21:28 AM »

That's pretty interesting.   Smiley  Thanks for posting.
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« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2010, 12:56:30 PM »

Trevor a more accurate method od determining your ancestral heritage on your maternal side would be to look up the immigration/ boat arrival records.

Or to begin with tell us when your grandmother immigrated to the USA and her religion.  Was she Roman Catholic, Eastern Catholic or Orthodox.   But quite often Eastern Catholics were just listed as Catholic., but at least it means she was either an ethnic Pole or an ethnic Ukrianian from Galicia.

For example, if it was before World War 1, it is highly unlikeley that she came from Russia because except for the Jews who usually paid to be smuggled across the border, people could not freely emigrate from the former Russian Empire.

But people could come to the USA from the parts of Poland that were under the German or Austrian empires.  The same goes for Ukrainians who were from either Galicia or Bukovyna, then part of the Austrian Empire.  Poland before World War 1 was split three ways between Russia, Germany & Austria.

Janowski is a Polish spelling for the surname.  I have know people whose families are Ukrainian and came from Galicia whose surnames were spelled either Janowski or Yanovsky.
Markowsky could be spelled Markovsky and could be Polish, Ukrainian or Russian for people who came before World War 2. 

For families who came before World War 1, the immigration man could even change the spelling of your last name when you arrived.
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« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2010, 01:12:28 PM »

In Polish it would not be Mrs/Ms Markowski or Janowski but Ms.Markowska or Ms.Janowska. The "j" is pronounced in English as "y" and the "w" as "v". The stress is on the first syllable.
 Janowski is a common last name in Poland because it denotes that your ancestors came from a village/town called Janów. There are many villages called Janów in Poland and they are sown all over. Jan is the Polish form of the English name John. Literally "Janowski" or "Jankowski" is similar to the English last name "Johnson" as it denotes the same. The Russian equivalent would be Ivanov.

Markowski is also a generally Slavic lastname, judging by its spelling, meaning "descendant of Mark".  There might be a couple reasons it was written Markowsky. It can be:
1.German transliteration of a Slavic lastname
2. Czech or Slovak lastname
3. a transliteration of a Serbian or Bulgarian lastname
Judging by the way you spell it "Markowski" I would say it is a Polish name.
Markowsky could be after an assimilated Pole/Czech who became German. Also take under consideration that the document writer was a German living in the USA. In Polish spelling, the last name suffix -ski is almost never ended with a -y.

Remember that Russian is not written in Roman letters but it Cyrillic. There exist many methods of transliteration of Cyrillic characters. I have mentioned some of them on the post about Bishop Yuriy/George. Also, in the past is was a common practice to transliterate words written in Latin alphabet to another Latin alphabet. example the city Kraków-(pronounced KRAK'UV), in Latin Cracovia, in German Krakau, in English Cracow.

Polish lastnames end in -ski/ska, -cki/cka (pronounced tski), -wicz, -ko, -iak, -ej, -aj, -ec, -ów(pronounced uv), -ch(pronounced "h").
 The ending -witz is a German transliteration of the Slavic last name endings -wicz(pl),-vycz(ukr.), -vych(bel., ukr),-wych(ukr., bel),-wycz(ukr, bel),-vić(srb, cro, bosn, mn),-vich(all of the above). This ending tells us nothing more than that that the last name is Slavic.

You cannot delineate between Slavs based on their last names. Your heritage is that which your parents and grandparents passed onto you. There are plenty of Russians with Polish ancestry and Poles with Russian ancestry. During Tsarist times, many Poles were sent to Siberia, many Poles moved to Petersburg, Kiev-Kyiv, Minsk-Miensk and Moscow-Moskva for university and they eventually stayed and became Orthodox Russians. The same is with the Russian officials who were moved under the Tsarist regime to Poland, the Whites who found refuge in Poland, who also became Polish and Roman Catholic. Tracking down which generation assimilated into what other culture is hard to measure. The only criterion is the culture which your family adheres to. The majority of people here associate their nationality with the land that their ancestors are buried in and the state whose citizenship they have.
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« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2010, 01:38:04 PM »

thanks, everyone, for helping me with this!  it's very interesting!

my Janowski side of the family were living in Pennsylvania when my great grandpa Markowski came from Poland.  we don't know much about the Janawski's other than that.  My great grandfather came from Goworowo, Poland in the 1880's.  Both were Roman Catholic, and my grandmother is very devout.

one more question:  So, Poles are Slavs, then?!  I've heard that they are and not.
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« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2010, 01:59:54 PM »

one more question:  So, Poles are Slavs, then?!

Yes, they are.

Quote
  I've heard that they are and not.

By whom?
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« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2010, 02:08:00 PM »

one more question:  So, Poles are Slavs, then?!

Yes, they are.

Quote
  I've heard that they are and not.

By whom?
from a few Serbs.  but, I'm sure that compared to Serbs, Poles may be quite western.
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« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2010, 02:26:02 PM »

Yes, the Poles are predominantly Slavic (with admixtures of Germanic and Baltic).  Polish is the only Slavic language where the accent routinely falls on the penult (next-to-last syllable); it's also the only Slavic language to retain nasals (ą, ę); thus Dąbrówski is pronounced Dom-BRUF-ski.  The surname also agrees with the gender of its bearerk so, Mrs. Dąbrówski is Pani Dąbrówska.
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« Reply #9 on: December 11, 2010, 02:31:50 PM »

Quote
from a few Serbs.  but, I'm sure that compared to Serbs, Poles may be quite western.

That is why Poles are part of the group know as "Western Slavs": Poles, Czechs, Slovaks etc.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Slavs

Eastern Slavs: Ukrainians, Russians, Belarusians
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Slavs

Southern Slavs: Serbs, Croats, Macedonians, Bulgarians, Slovenians.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Slavs
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« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2010, 03:40:29 PM »

Trevor, Being of Serbian background myself, I think I might have an idea why you heard a few Serbs say Poles weren't Slavic. Most Poles, with the exception of some in Eastern regions are Roman Catholic. Serbs have had a rather tense (to put it mildly) relationship with Roman Catholics over the centuries. To cite one example are the atrocities committed by the Croat Ustasi during WWII that imprisoned and killed Serbs. The Croats (Croatians) are predominately Roman Catholic. Because of this there are Serbs, especially those that tend toward being nationalistic are virulently anti-Roman Catholic. They refuse to recognize any Slav that is Roman Catholic as a Slavic brother..... and extreme woe to any Orthodox Serb who leaves the faith, especially for Roman Catholicism.

Granted, not all Serbs are like this. For the record: I, for one am not.  I do champion the Holy Orthodox faith and pray daily for the end of schism and the unity of all in the One Holy Orthodox church. I don't believe mean spiritedness, violence, argument, and mudslinging, and personal vendetta are the answers to achieving this. I follow the old Serbian proverb "Returning evil with evil, only makes you yourself evil". Lord, help me to see my own sins, and judge my brother not!

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« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2010, 03:43:39 PM »

There Quite a few Macidonijan names that end ski or sky....Why is that,, Not sure about Bulgarija though.....
When i hear a macidonijan last name i think polish........

Atanasovski....
Like this Macidonijan video......http://www.youtube.com/v/o6jJZiyfBkI?fs=1&hl=en_US
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« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2010, 06:09:07 PM »

thanks, everyone, for all of the useful information.  even if Poles weren't considered Slavic, I consider myself a Slavic American.  I love Slavic culture more than any other, which is partially from my Slovak grandfather, and partly from being exposed to it at Church.  I also believe that Slavs have the best food and folk dancing.  check out this beautiful Bulgarian video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKyHDv2bzOs&feature=related 
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« Reply #13 on: December 12, 2010, 11:28:34 AM »

while we're on the subject, can anyone tell me anything about the name "Churilla"?  it was my grandfather's, and he was from Slovakia.
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« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2011, 11:45:32 AM »

while we're on the subject, can anyone tell me anything about the name "Churilla"?  it was my grandfather's, and he was from Slovakia.

Is it the English transcription or is it the original spelling?
« Last Edit: February 04, 2011, 11:45:43 AM by Michał Kalina » Logged

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« Reply #15 on: February 04, 2011, 12:13:51 PM »

while we're on the subject, can anyone tell me anything about the name "Churilla"?  it was my grandfather's, and he was from Slovakia.

Is it the English transcription or is it the original spelling?

Do you mean "Transliteration". For example, maybe the surname is really Khuryla or Kuryla.

 Immigration men played havoc with surnames.  Also if your family immigrated before WW1, what is now Slovakia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and in particular under Hungarians.  There were people who did not have surnames as surnames came to the area very late in history and government officials assigned them surname.

My advice to you is to join the East European Geonialogical Society.  Pay your $10 or whatever membership for a year and post all your questions on their web site and in their newsletter.  People there are more qualified to answer your questions and help you than here.
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« Reply #16 on: February 04, 2011, 12:20:51 PM »

Do you mean "Transliteration".

Transliteration and transcription are different things (but similar to each other) (at least in Polish). Transcription means writing whole foreign words in a way they sound in your language and transliteration means writing foreign words while every single letter or digraph has its own equivalent in your language (you ignore the rest of the word but deal with letters one after another separately).

Quote
For example, maybe the surname is really Khuryla or Kuryla.

Yeah, that's what I am asking about. Or Čuryła...
« Last Edit: February 04, 2011, 12:21:23 PM by Michał Kalina » Logged

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« Reply #17 on: February 04, 2011, 12:27:46 PM »

Example: Russian Ходоркоoвский in an English transliteration is Khodorkovsky but in transcription it would be something like Khatharkavskeeye.
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« Reply #18 on: February 04, 2011, 01:02:57 PM »

Here is the web site I mentioned:
http://www.eegsociety.org/Home.aspx
Quote
East European Genealogical Society Inc. membership supports a registered non-profit organization identifying and marshalling genealogical resources for east European research. We invite membership from all persons interested in east European genealogy including all ethnic groups and religions. Members are encouraged to submit information about any resources which they have discovered to be of help to their research.

Notice Slovakia and the Former Austo-Hungarian Empire is mentioned:
Popular EEGS Current countries:   Austria, Belorus, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine.

Popular EEGS Ethnic groups:   German, Ukrainian, Polish, Czech, Slovakian, Jewish, Mennonite, Romanian.

Popular EEGS Religions:    Roman and Greek Catholic, Lutheran, Judaic, Mennonite, Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox, Bohemian / Moravian Brethren.

Surname Index: http://www.eegsociety.org/surnameindex/sK.html

In North America the Library of Congress transliteration rules used to apply in books and articles but immigration men used their own rules.
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