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Was my moms family (Kowalsky) Russian or Polish?


WhatAmI 1 | 11
29 Jan 2014 #1
Both sides of my moms family were from around the Minsk area of Poland in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and lived then immigrated from what's was then Imperial Russia around the early 1900's. Sur Names from my moms side of the family are Kowalsky(Americanized to Cowel) Friedman, Manischewitz. My mom and her sister converted to Roman Catholicism, and my ancestor is either Russian or Polish and I can't really tell
rozumiemnic 8 | 3,828
29 Jan 2014 #2
American?
a cousin of Simon Cowell?
Marek11111 9 | 816
29 Jan 2014 #3
Both sides of my moms family were from around the Minsk

you might be Jewish
OP WhatAmI 1 | 11
29 Jan 2014 #4
As far as Ik I'm not related to Simon Cowell
Monitor 14 | 1,820
30 Jan 2014 #5
Surnames ending with "sky" are Ukrainian (maybe also Russian). Polish surnames end with "ski". Although "Kowalski" is a common surname in Poland, so perhaps your surname changed during time and originally was Kowalski.
OP WhatAmI 1 | 11
30 Jan 2014 #6
Merged: Am I of Polish or Russian ancestry?

Poland is a unique country, as it has re-emerged several times from Russian control. If someone has ancestry that was in the area of modern day Poland, prior to the the partitions would that make them Polish or Russian since that was what on the immigration papers when they came to a new country

If my family emigrated from russia from what was poland prior to the third partition would that make me polish or russian
lunacy - | 73
30 Jan 2014 #7
Ah well, it's really simple. Poland was under occupation then, but people were cultivating the language and traditions of their ancestors. Russian was forced as official language, Polish and languages of other minorities were banned and discriminated, but people were still using their mother tongue at home. You have to remember that the territory of Poland was a real melting pot back then, full of different cultures and minorities. All have somehow survived.

In your case, you have to think whether your family was using Polish on a daily basis? Did they pass down Polish traditions, habits, cuisine etc.? Did they define themselves as Polish?

Look at Tibet (I don't know - is it a good example?). It officially belongs to the territory of China (as Tibet Autonomous Region), but no Tibetan would call him/herself Chinese.
Marek11111 9 | 816
30 Jan 2014 #8
If someone has ancestry that was in the area of modern day Poland, prior to the the partitions would that make them Polish or Russian

or Jewish
OP WhatAmI 1 | 11
30 Jan 2014 #9
They were Azkenazi Jews....which is dying out in my family because Half of my grandmothers kids are catholic (2) and 2 are Jewish and one of them married a Christian and my cousins are christian....Briscuit has been passed down the family line
Nickidewbear 23 | 583
30 Jan 2014 #10
They're still ethnically Jewish. Also, "Kowal" and "Manischewitz" are Polish Jewish in contrast to "Koval" and "Manischevitz", which are Russian Jewish.
OP WhatAmI 1 | 11
31 Jan 2014 #12
Another last name was Kaplan
OP WhatAmI 1 | 11
31 Jan 2014 #14
Kaplan is russian?
Nickidewbear 23 | 583
31 Jan 2014 #15
Nope. It's Ashkenazi Jewish and German for "chaplain" or "kohen".
OP WhatAmI 1 | 11
31 Jan 2014 #16
Isn't the polish way spelt Cohen?
Nickidewbear 23 | 583
31 Jan 2014 #17
No. "C" in Polish is "ts" or "tz". So, if your name was "Kac" or "Szomermicwot", let's say, then you might have a case. "Kac" is "Kohen Cedek" and "Szomermicwot" is "shomer mitzvot" ("keeper of mitzvot").
OP WhatAmI 1 | 11
31 Jan 2014 #18
Wexler is another last name that was in the family too
Nickidewbear 23 | 583
31 Jan 2014 #19
I'm not sure about that one. I know that it is definitely Jewish, though. By the way, you mentioned "Friedman" and "Manischewitz"? Are you related to Geraldo Rivera's mom or Milton Friedman (both with roots in DoĊ‚ginow) or the famous Manischewitzes?
OP WhatAmI 1 | 11
31 Jan 2014 #20
No I'm not related to the matzo and wine making family, I mean if you go wayyyyyyyyyyy back possibly I'd assume
Wulkan - | 3,251
31 Jan 2014 #22
Was my moms family (Kowalsky) Russian or Polish?

It's almost surely Polish
lunacy - | 73
31 Jan 2014 #23
Oh, I didn't know the context before these topics were merged-_-
It's almost certain that they were Polish Jews then. It's quite clear when I look at the spelling. Russified would be e.g. Kovalsky (Poland is quite unique as it comes to using "w"). Similar with Manischewitz. The "y" at the end of Kowalsky was probably changed from "i" by the American officials when your family arrived in States - it was quite common because Polish people wanted to make their names easier to spell for the Americans.

Also: you wrote that they converted to Roman Catholicism [main religion in Poland] - while main religion of Russia is [Russian] Orthodox. This is another point in favor of their Polish ancestry.
OP WhatAmI 1 | 11
31 Jan 2014 #24
It was Americanized to Cowel...my mom and aunt converted to Roman Catholiscm (they were raised Jews) my other aunt is jewish and has jewish kids, and my uncles kids are catholic

Merged: My background on my moms side

I'm confused to as what ethnically I might be....My moms maiden name is Cowel but it was changed from Kowalsky somewhere ..Her fathers side moved from what was Russia (Poland did not exist on the map) to England for a 10 year pit stop and then moved to New York in 1917 the name was Kowalsky after the pit stop in England but then it was changed to Cowel..my moms mothers side is from Minsk, Riga, and an area where people were called Litvoks...Basically what I'm asking is....am I Russian or Polish?
Dont gag me yo 7 | 156
27 Apr 2014 #25
I'm asking is....am I Russian or Polish?

Neither...you are American.
DominicB - | 2,709
27 Apr 2014 #26
Basically what I'm asking is....am I Russian or Polish?

Neither...you are American.

Spot on. If you have to ask, that means that any possible cultural ties that once existed have been irrevocably severed, and the question is totally irrelevant. What difference could it possibly make anyway?
Szalawa 3 | 248
27 Apr 2014 #27
Neither...you are American.

He's talking about ethnicity not nationality (Americans are divided by ethnicity such as African america, Indian Americans etc.)
Now I'm no expert but it is very possible that their is Polish somewhere there-even today there are many Poles living on the borderland regions of Belarus and Lithuania. Try asking your family members and doing some research etc.

But if it bothers you that much you can always do a genealogy test.
DominicB - | 2,709
27 Apr 2014 #28
He's talking about ethnicity not nationality (Americans are divided by ethnicity such as African america, Indian Americans etc.)

"Ethnicity" is totally irrelevant in his case. His ties to any ethnic group have been irrevocably severed, as I said, and ethnicity requires continuity. He has no "ethnicity". He will never be "Polish" or "Russian" in any sense of the word. He's an American, and that's it. Like many, many other Americans. Actually, I'd be willing to bet that his ancestors were Jewish, rather than Polish or Russian or anything else. Riga and Minsk?
Szalawa 3 | 248
27 Apr 2014 #29
Like I said he can always do a genealogy test.
DominicB - | 2,709
27 Apr 2014 #30
And what is that supposed to do? Certainly not distinguish between Polish and Russian. Perhaps confirm Jewish ancestry. And what difference would that make either way?


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