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Last name History or help please: BREJ surname

dbray6714 1 | 1
14 Jun 2012 #1
If anyone has any information regarding a family with the last name of BREJ who lived near Dobrynie around the turn of the 20th century, I'd love to hear from you.

The names I have are:

Michal Niezyje
Josef Brej (my Grandfather)
Pawel Brej

Janina Brej (She's the daughter of either Pawel or Michal)

Thank you for your time...
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,446
16 Jun 2012 #2
BREJ: from breja (mush, porridge, thick soup); also known as bryja.

NIEŻYJE: not living, dead, not alive
las name
20 Aug 2012 #3
Could you post your email adress, maby I have any info for you. regards b_r_e_j
boletus 30 | 1,366
20 Aug 2012 #4
It is not clear what village you have in mind, as there are three villages DOBRYŃ in Gmina Zalesie, Biała Podlaska County, Lublin Voivodship (Dobryń Duży, Dobryń Mały, Dobryń-Kolonia) and village DOBRYNIA, Gmina Dębowiec, Jasło County, Subcarpathian Voivodeship. But statistically, the latter seems to be a good choice, since the distribution map of surname BREJ in Poland[/url] points to Jasło County as the county where most people with surname BREJ currently live - 243 out of 371 overall.

Dobrynia is a small village, population 562, picturesquely situated on the border of Jasło Foothills and Low Beskid, 16 km South of Jasło. It was first mentioned in 1363 as Dobrinina lanka, Cloppothnycza, 1399 Dobrznyowa, 1412 Dobrina, 1426 Dobrinija, 1470-80 Dobrynya, 1483 Dobrin, Dobryn, 1493 Dobrzina, 1496 Dobrinia, 1526 Dobrinya, 1530 Dobrynija.

It was originally a king's property, and since 1363 it has become a gentry village. In 1363 King Casimir the Great exchanged with knights Piotr, Stanisław, Świętosław, Izajasz, Jelm, Jan and Wrocław his part of the forest near Cieklin in Kraków Land for their part of Osiek estates with intention to build a city there.

Although it is part of the £emko land there is no evidence that the village was ever purely £emko or mixed. It has its own Roman-Catholic church, built in 1989, and it belongs to Parish of St. Michael the Archangel, situated in village Cieklin, 2.5 km to the west.

So, assuming that your BREJ ancestors were Poles and Roman-Catholics (£emkos are Uniates, Greek-Catholics) their vital records are very likely in Cieklin Parish (unless archived somewhere else).

Parafia Cieklin p.w.: Św. Michała Archanioła, Cieklin 327, 38-222 Cieklin, Podkarpackie, Poland (Polska) ,
Phones: (13) 479 17 30 - curacy, (13) 479 18 00
Webpage (accepting messages):

A website devoted to Cieklin and vicinity, , has the following entry to its guest book,

The Parish Book in Cieklin church is the invaluable mine of information. I corresponded with Americans, who specially flew to Poland to look for their roots in Ciechlin. If someone were to make the books available electronically or if someone volunteered to provide such information for a fee or a donation to the parish they would find many Americans willing to pay for such information.

So, the Parish Books are in Cieklin.

  • Dobrynia
jwbray - | 2
31 Dec 2012 #5
Hello Don,

I am a Bray (originally Brej). The furthest I have gotten on the ancestry website while researching my family tree is my great grandfather Frank John Bray (again originally Brej), born 1891 in Dobrynia. He must have emmigrated to the states in the early 19teens - as he married Sophia Helen Retzior from Whitehall, Michigan and had eleven children - one of which was my grandfather (paternal), Joseph F Bray born 1924 in Hart, Michigan, where Frank John stayed until his passing in 1974.

I have not come across much at all in my research of our fine surname in any Polish records. My theory is that our ancestors were not actually Polish in origin, but perhaps Czech - as Dobrynia lies so close to the border.

I hope this is of some help and I would love to know more of what you have found.

Your potential relative,
Jason Bray
Portland, OR
Zibi - | 336
31 Dec 2012 #6
My theory is that our ancestors were not actually Polish in origin, but perhaps Czech

because that would make you more happy?
kcharlie 2 | 165
31 Dec 2012 #7
Here's a map of where Polish Brejs live.

I've googled the net, and I can't find many Czechs with "Brej" as their surname. It definitely appears to be far more common in Polish.
jwbray - | 2
31 Dec 2012 #8
No - please, I don't mean any disrespect - I was merely offering a theory as to why Brej seems, in my limited research, to be an uncommon Polish name. It doesn't make us/them any less Polish...just perhaps further back we come from somewhere else.

Also, this forum will not yet let me post links or send personal emails. In some of my google searching (the phrase "Brej Surname"), I have come across a similar map (myheritage dot com), which states that 60% of People with the surname of Brej live in The United States, while 20% live in France, and 20% are in the Czech Republic - and there's no mention of Poland. There's no arguing that there are many Brejs in Poland - I just haven't been able to uncover much info on them, save for a little bit on my direct ancestors that emmigrated here.

Please, if anyone has further information I am very eager to learn more about my heritage. And again I mean no disrespect to anyone.

All the best,
Jason Bray
Portland, OR US
Zibi - | 336
31 Dec 2012 #9
BREJ: from breja (mush, porridge, thick soup); also known as bryja.

I somehow doubt that this is the origin of the name. One has to remember that in medieval times that area of Poland witnessed substantial German settlement, and although all those Germans eventually assimilated their names continued to be in use even if in Polonised form.

And by the way, the word "breja" is itself of German origin anyway. Cf.:

niem. Brei[1][2], niem. Brühe[2]
2 Feb 2013 #10
Hello Don,
My name is Kathleen. My grandfather's name was Paul Bray. He had a brother named Joseph. They came together through Ellis Island in 1906. Their names are listed as Pawel Brej and Jozsef Brej. Their residence was listed as Dobryniec, Galicy. My family thinks they were going to Michigan to another brother's home, but we are not sure about this.

If this sounds like we might be related please contact me at katand1220@yahoo and I can give you some additional information.
Sincerely, Kathleen
22 May 2013 #11
Hello dbray6714,
My father was Josef Brej born in 1945 I think in Dobrynia, but I don't now he. Regards. D.
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,446
22 May 2013 #12
NIEŻYJE: this means 'not alive', so it's difficult to imagine how this nickname-turned-surname might have arisen; unless as a toponymic tag for someone from Nieżywięc.

BREJA: Polish word for mush, mash, porridge or caudle, a borrowing from the German Brei.
5 Jan 2014 #13
Hi Don:
My name is Christine. I am familiar with the Family name Brej . I live in Michigan, a few miles where the Brej's settled. I would love to hear what you know. Also Stanley Brej is one of last that resides in Dobrynia Poland. We exchange letters. Christine A. Piatkiewicz Tedeschi
2 Feb 2014 #14
Hi Don,
My name is Kathleen Anderson. My mother was Margaret Bray and was born in International Falls, Minnesota in 1911. Her father (my grandfather) was Paul Bray. He came through Ellis Island in 1906 from Dobryniec, Galicy as it states on his passenger record. His name was spelled Pawel Brej age 27. He traveled with his brother Jozsef Brej age 26. Their destination was Vulcan, Michigan to stay with their brother Michal. I don't know much else except that Pawel went to International Falls, MN, got married to Mary Martin (Margit Martin from Hungary) whom he met when he was in the polish army, then raised a family. His children were Margaret, Victoria, Mary, Joseph, and Helen (Katherine.) He died in 1969 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
26 Feb 2014 #15
My grandfather, Michael Bray (Brej) went to Vulcan, Michigan, from Poland; he had a brother Paul. They immigrated from Dobrynia, Cieklin, Poland around 1905. He married Angeline Popciak. My dad was one of 10 children, all born in Vulcan. Michael's parents were John Brej and Mary Wyzkiewicz. If you have any other questions or want to correspond directly, my email is
OP dbray6714 1 | 1
26 Feb 2015 #16
Hello Again... I'm back with more info and Yes, more questions.

Here's what I have determined since I last asked if anyone had any information of Brej's from Poland.
My Grandfather's name was: Wojciech Brej b:1890 (changed to George Bray sometime between 1908-1917).
His parents were: Jozef Brej and Anna Gombienna (sp) or possibly (Anna Porembski).
George immigrated with his younger brother (Lawrence) sometime before 1908 because I have a Western Union wire from him to a Michael Brej in Dobrynia dated 1908 from Iron Mountain/Hurley, Michigan.

The story goes that George's and Lawrence's real parents died and they were sent to be raised by an Aunt on a farm (I'm assuming in Dobrynia) whom they hated and they ran away - George making several unsuccessful attempts to come to US before he finally succeeded with Lawrence. They made their way to Iron Mountain, MI where they worked in an Iron Mine. Lawrence was engaged to a Victoria Kowalkowski but was killed in a mining accident and George married Victoria instead.

Later in life (1960's), George received letters from Janina Brej still in Dobrynia talking about land that George was owed as of the result of some death in the Brej family. The letters reference a Pawal Brej as well as Michal Brej. Apparently my grandfather received many of these types of letters over the years but they have been lost and I only have 1 in my possession through which these names appear.

So - if any of this is familiar to anyone or if you have any information that could help me, I would very much appreciate hearing from you.


Polonius3 1,000 | 12,446
27 Feb 2015 #17
Michal Niezyje
Josef Brej

NIEŻYJE: (he/she) is not alive; origin uncertain, possibly originated as a nick given to someone born after his father had died or mother died in childbirth; alternatively a topo nick from Nieżywięc.

BREJ: possibly from breja or bryja (mush, thick porridge); originally from Gemran Brei (mush, porridge).

For more information please contact me.
RicBray2012 - | 1
31 Dec 2017 #18

I came across this website by accident and noticed a few post about the Brej family here. My name is Richard Bray and I am originally from Hart Michigan where my grand parents, Frank John Brej and Sophia Retzior lived. My father is Francis E. Bray who died in 2004 at the age of 71.

I had the opportunity to travel to Dobrynia Poland and met several of our relatives. I was able to visit the house in Dobrynia where Frank was born and raised. His brother Martin Brej married Anna Martin and they had 6 children one of which was Stanislaw Brej who still lives in the house. Stanislaw Brej had 9 children. I was able to obtain some records from the local Catholic church. I am happy to share any additional information.

The region is considered Silesians and therefore the nationality of the Brej name will vary depending on the time when the individual was born as the borders in Europe have frequently changed. I believe the origin of the name Brej has often been considered Austrian because of the Austrian Hungarian rule.

I am particularly interested in hearing from Jason Bray in Portland as I believe your relative Joseph F. Bray and Vivian (Filer) Bray are my uncle/aunt.

I am meeting his sisters Mary Bray Cory and Barber Bray Fruliani on Tuesday here in Fort Lauderdale.

Richard Bray
31 Jan 2019 #19

My grandfather was Wojiech Albert Brej born in Dobrynia Poland April 21 1895 and immigrated to the US in 1912. He was married to Mary J. Jasiorkowski and resided in Caspian Michigan US, they had 7 children (one of whom is my mother Katheryn). I know when his parents stayed behind, and I believe he came to the US with a couple relatives.

I am attempting to research his polish ancestry, his parents, siblings, etc and even further back - but I have thus far been unsuccessful in part due to the common surname of Brej.

I thank you for any assistance you may provide - you can reach me at,

Best regards,
Mike Dallavalle (Son of Kay Brey)
20 Apr 2022 #20
My father was Benedict Francis Bray, he was born in Vulcan MI. In 1932. He was one of nine sons born to Jacob Bray and Anna Gnody Bray. My grandparents died when was very young and all the boys ended up in Catholic Orphanage in Marquette MI. I'm recently retired and just starting to research my ancestry and stumbled on these posts. It seam this maybe part of family. The family lore has always been the name bray comes from Bradowski or some variation of that, but Brej makes more sense. Also, the maiden names I've found from Poland are my great grandmothers Katherine Krykoski and Mary Kultaka Furmanek both from the Jaslo Poland area.

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