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Why did(do) Poles sometimes have German first names?


CuriousBanana
23 Mar 2017 #1
Hi guys, I've been a lurker on this forum for a little while now. Lot's of interesting stuff related to Poland's history - especially cool to me since I've always been interested in medieval central Europe so I learned a lot of valuable facts from some very insightful posters.

Anyway today I sort of have a history question (that maybe ties into genealogy a bit) of my own - and that is in the cases where ethnic Poles had German or German-sounding names. Granted, I know in some cases, when Poles were immigrating to areas within Germany, or in case there was a large German presence in Polish lands such as the case with Prussia, those certainly make sense to me. But in my case, I'm wondering why Poles would have German names in places like Galicia, Austria-Hungary when the German presence in those areas were not to high to begin with and there was really no need to "assimilate".

In my case, my great grandfather was named Andrew, who was from Austria Galicia. I had always assumed his name had been Americanized from something like Andrzej, but after researching his genealogy a bit, I actually found several sources, from his naturalization papers to a ship's manifest that his name actually was originally Andreas, which seems to be a pretty common German name (in addition, from some first name distribution websites I did not see it commonly distributed in Poland, at least today).

So, was it common for Galicians to give their children German names? Was their some sort of social or political pressure that may have encouraged them to do so, despite there not being that many Germans in the region to begin with? I asked an (unrelated) family friend about this matter who has a Ph.D in American History, but he is also Polish-American himself, so he is quite well informed. But in this case, he wasn't quite sure what to think and the only thing he suggested was that maybe the family were Germans that migrated from the western part of the dual empire, who would have continued with giving their offspring German names. Was this also a common occurrence? The part of Galicia they lived in was in a district called Sanok, and the town they came from was a place called "Lalyn" (not sure if I'm spelling that right). Was there a German presence in this area that would give credibility to this theory?

The family's last name is something of an oddity. It is mostly distributed in Poland (about 67% of people with the surname are in Poland) but the remainder is either in Germany or, in very small incidence, the Czech Republic. However, this surname seems to be very uncommon in all aforementioned countries, hence why I cannot track down it's origins.

I won't lie, I'd be a little dissapointed to find out if my family great grandfather's family weren't ethnic Poles, because I have a pretty even distribution of ancestry from all over Europe (25% English, 25% German, 25% Polish(?) and 25% Russian) so I can look in almost all the major regions of Europe and imagine what it would have been like for my ancestors in centuries past. But at the same time I thought it might be a good idea to ask this question since I've hit a brick wall when it comes to genealogical research and decided to maybe dig into some social history of the south-eastern Polish region instead to get some answers.

Again, sorry if this is not the proper place to put this question - I know it seems like it may be a question of genealogy, and I agonized a bit on which section to put it in, but like I said I chose to ask it from a historical perspective since it would perhaps shed some more light on my family history since genealogy as more or less failed me at this point.
Atch 16 | 3,296
23 Mar 2017 #2
Germans that migrated from the western part of the dual empire, who would have continued with giving their offspring German names.

As Galicia was very poor it seems highly unlikely that any Germans would want to migrate to it. There were plenty of rich cities in Germany where there would be far more opportunities. What I would do is look at other names in your great grandfather's family and see if there's a pattern of German names. This would indicate that perhaps one of the family married a German at some point and the naming reflected that. If Andreas seems to be an isolated case of German naming, then it could be that they named him after a friend or benefactor, somebody who was kind or good to the family. Or they felt the German name would be a help to the child in later life in his social advancement though that seems unlikely if the surname is obviously Polish, a bit pointless really. There is always the possibility that he was christened Andrzej but changed it to Andreas when going to America because it would be much easier for Americans to pronounce. Perhaps somebody advised him to do so.
OP CuriousBanana
23 Mar 2017 #3
Thanks for your suggestions! Unfortunately, beyond my actual great grandfather I know only his parents' names, which were Americanized to William and Catherine, so I'm not exactly sure what they would have been in the original country. What you suggested seems like that very well could have been the case, so thank you for that. Only thing I'm not sure about is his name being Andrzej originally because according to his naturalization record his birth name was indeed Andreas, although there could have been some mix up. He actually changed his name to Andrew from Andreas immediately, probably to avoid being viewed as an outsider or to make it easier to pronounce for the locals, as you suggested.
Atch 16 | 3,296
23 Mar 2017 #4
Now that's very interesting. So his father was 'William'. Well there is no exact Polish equivalent of the name William as far as I know, so this would suggest to me that your great-great grandfather may well have been Wilhelm and this would explain why he named his son Andreas, if there is a German or Austrian connection in your family. Great-great grandpa Wilhelm may have had a German mother, not necessarily father, and been named for her father perhaps. Who can say........however, you say that your family's surname is unusual/uncommon. In the absence of any other knowledge about your own branch of the family, I would start putting out feelers to find any other people with that surname in the area your great grandfather came from and see if you can find any German naming pattern. Catherine would be Katarzyna, a common Polish name for girls.
OP CuriousBanana
23 Mar 2017 #5
Hey, I really appreciate all your insight - really, truly. I was so busy looking for Polish equivolants of William (which I could not find, unfortunately) that I sort of neglected to look for German ones, and Wilhelm does seem pretty obvious.

Your suggestion for researching other people with the name is also a good one, and I have done that to some extent, but it lead me to the dilemma that the last name appeared in both Polish and German families. For example, I found quite a few family trees from people with Polish families, but then I did find a couple from German families too. There were also some publicly available WW1 casualties listings from the former German Empire where 5 different young men had the surname - whether they were brothers or unrelated I don't know, the whole thing made me pretty depressed though. :-(. Overall the older recorders seemed to belong more to German lines, while the newer ones to Polish - not sure if that really matters or not but I thought I'd mention it anyway. The area from where my grandfather came from, however, does not contain that name in any incidence as far as I can tell.

One thing that interested me was that you said "Wilhelm" may have had a German mother and Polish father. That seems pretty interesting, would you happen to know if intermarriage between such ethnic groups was common in these times? I was under the impression that 19th century folk were pretty clannish, but as I'm sure you can tell I'm not that experienced with these things. x_x

Thank you again
Atch 16 | 3,296
23 Mar 2017 #6
I did find a couple from German families too

What were the christian names like in either of those families? Any Wilhelms or Andreas's??

The area from where my grandfather came from, however, does not contain that name in any incidence as far as I can tell.

Where is the nearest area to that, where you can see a concentration of the surname and what are the christian names like in those families? People in those days didn't generally move that far from the place where they were born. I'm Irish, not Polish, but in my own family, on my maternal grandfather's side the largest concentration of his surname is in Limerick where the family first arrived from England in Norman times and you can see a clear pattern of migration eastwards with smaller and smaller concentrations of the name in each successive county in a westerly direction.

intermarriage between such ethnic groups was common in these times?

I don't know how common it was but German men certainly did marry Polish women in the Prussian part of Poland and I imagine that there is an even greather likelihood of it in the Austrian part as both would have been Catholic for a start and it was the least repressive administration. Usually though it seems to be the men marrying the women.
Lyzko 30 | 7,373
23 Mar 2017 #7
It was doutbtless common in centuries past for Poles to adopt the language of more powerful neighboring countries, whose culture was usually imposed upon that country:-)

For status reasons, it would not be uncommon for a Pole seeking greater mobility to assume the first name "Andreas" from "Andrzej", "Niklaus" from "Mikołaj" etc..

Family names are a different story! Many Jewish Poles aka Polish citizens/inhabitants of Jewish heritage, typically with Yiddish (not Polish) as their mother tongue to have adapted the place or village name of the location in which they settled.Many such names are instantly identifiable to other Poles, i.e. ordinary gentiles, that is, "ethnic" Polish Christians, such as "Markowicz", "Mankiewicz" etc..
OP CuriousBanana
23 Mar 2017 #8
What were the christian names like in either of those families? Any Wilhelms or Andreas's??

Not those exact names, but some ostensible German names like Horst, Gunther, Gustav, etc. There WAS another Wilhelm with the last name, that could have potentially fit with the time of my great grandfather, but he was far to the north in Prussia, and like I said, Andreas came from southwestern Poland in Galicia. In addition, like you said, people didn't move that far from their hometown in those times, and if he did it would, again like you said, be weird for him to move to a place like Galicia.

Of course then Polish families with that surname also had unmistakable Polish names, too. Kazimir, Zygmund, Ignancy, and that's just naming a few. These families seem to be found all over Polish lands.

For your other inquiry, there doesn't really seem to be an area where it is heavily concentrated, but the most common area I've seen it reported was what was called "Ostpresseun" according to ancestry, which I'm assuming is Eastern Prussia. Since, the area, I assume, was formerly mixed between Polish and German it again makes it rather difficult to put a proper ethnic background on the name. The first names in that case were mostly German however. In modern times however, whenever the name is looked up in a surname distribution engine, about 2/3 of the people with that name are found in Poland and the remainder is mostly in Germany, I believe.

In response to Lyzko, the idea of taking on a German name definitely makes sense for a status thing, certainly. I just don't know in my great grandfather's case - from my understanding Galicia was pretty much administered by ethnic Poles who probably wanted autonomy. In their perspective I would kind of have some hard feelings towards the Austrian monarchy, so in this instance it seems like it might almost be counter-productive to have a German name in that particular region where Poles made up the majority. But then again I have no idea how it was back then and you probably have waaay more insight than me on it, so I totally appreciate your suggestion.

I'll probably try running the name "Wilhelm" through a few Polish church records and seeing if anything comes up since I have yet to try that name - I'll post back with any findings.

Thank you again!
Ziemowit 13 | 4,382
23 Mar 2017 #9
Many Jewish Poles aka Polish citizens/inhabitants of Jewish heritage, typically with Yiddish (not Polish) as their mother tongue to have adapted the place or village name

I have a nice story to tell you. Do you know that "Kwiecień" is a Jewish surname in Poland? I had not known until recently, but the older generation in Poland does! When I went to visit my aunt who lives in Wrocław two years ago, she started to tell me family stories and she reminded me in connection with some story she was telling that another aunt of mine who lives in Kraków is Jewish. She thought I knew she was Jewish, but I did not! So she told me that the maiden name of that other aunt was Kwiecień, but she seemed to think it was obvious for everyone that a person with the surname Kwiecień was Jewish by origin. By that that time I already knew this as shortly before that meeting I read an article on the internet about a large group of Jewish people in Poland who converted to Christianity in the 18th century and were given surnames such as Kwiecień or Maj depending on the month in which their conversion took place. This is how I have discovered by pure chance a "Jewish" aunt (although a devoted Catholic) in my own family!

As Galicia was very poor it seems highly unlikely that any Germans would want to migrate to it

It is not that unlikely at all. You will come across quite a lot of German-sounding surnames in Kraków, for example. Many would arrive from Vienna or other provinces of Austria-Hungary to serve in Galicia as officials or clerks (more of them should be met in Lwów, at least until 1945, as Lemberg was the capital of Austrian Galicia). Their descendants would have been polonized over time. The most striking example of that is the famous Polish actor Jerzy Stuhr (the one starring in "Seksmisja") who even wrote a book on his truly Austrian origins.
OP CuriousBanana
23 Mar 2017 #10
Okay - so I looked up just the first name "Wilhelm" in Geneteka's records in the county my great grandfather lived. I got 3 different results - all of them were more or less in the proper time frame where it could have been my great grandfather's dad - albeit either a little younger or older than what is considered "normal", at least these days. Only thing was the surname wasn't the same. There was one, that was maybe, vaguely phonetically similar to the actual surname, but maybe that was just wishful thinking on my part. That leads me with the ideas: 1) My grandfather was the son of one of these gentlemen but was given his mother's surname because he had died before he was born/some other reason. 2) He wasn't related to any of these gentleman at all. I'd most likely go with the latter. Still, it's definitely a start.

Many would arrive from Vienna or other provinces of Austria-Hungary to serve in Galicia

Funny you brought this up. I had also just looked up "Germans in Galicia" on Google and found this.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephine_colonization

Then, one thing that occurred to me, that I never thought of until now, was my grandfather's World War 2 draft card. If you're unfamiliar with how draft card information works in the US, it's not automated or recovered by any other means, it's actually filled out by the individual in question, so it's one of the more accurate pieces when it comes to genealogy - at least that's what my research has told me. Under his place of birth and "country of allegiance" he had put "Austria" which struck me as odd since this was several decades after the collapse of the dual monarchy. I thought it was him just being unfamiliar with the geopolitical situation in Europe, but after reading this maybe identified or was an ethnic Austrian rather than Polish/Galician? I honestly don't know. My great grandfather died very young and was incredibly reclusive and didn't really talk to his kids, so nothing is certain.

Honestly, to me it's starting to look like my great grandfather might have at least been a mix of Austrian/German and Polish lineage. Is this also the conclusion you guys reached as well, or is it just me? Honestly, I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the answers and tips I've gotten, it's nice to perhaps get close to at least getting some sort of final answer.
Ironside 50 | 11,036
23 Mar 2017 #11
was originally Andreas,

Hmm, Given the fact the German language was an official language of the country he emigrated from, I'm not surprised.

Wilhelm is not a very popular name in Poland and I suppose it never was but is not unheard off. i.e. Wilhelm Czerwiński.

Actually many people don't realize such a name is technically a Polish name as well.

formerly mixed between Polish and German

I don't know what you are looking for. What he said he was? That Andreas of yours? Did he declared himself Polish or not? That is what ultimately counts.

If you looking for some 'pure' ethnicity as it is a case with many Americans you might be for a surprise. Poland for about 400 years of her history has been a melting pot of different ethnicities and people. Not unlike USA today. Even before that there was immigration of Germanic people into cities . Then you have partition with included influx of Austrians, Czech and whatnot in this part of the country your ancestor came from.

Also you're focusing on a surname. Its helpful but it doesn't mean that all people with the same surname are connected or a family.

that 19th century folk were pretty clannish

Rather they were class, money and religion conscious.
Lyzko 30 | 7,373
23 Mar 2017 #12
The age of the person in question will surely be a factor, being as first names in particular are such a generational thing:-)

Although perhaps there are indeed some Poles out there named "Wilhelm" or "Gustav" for instance, if they're anywhere under seventy or so, I'll eat my hat!

And in Germany especially, such names would be those of someone's great grand dad (not even grandfather), since "multiculti" given names have become all the range, in particular "Angela", small wonderLOL
Lyzko 30 | 7,373
23 Mar 2017 #13
Just an addendum, but I remember reading somewhere that traditional, older Polish male first names aka "Bogumil", may in fact be loan translations of equally antique-sounding German names like "Gotthold" etc.
Ironside 50 | 11,036
23 Mar 2017 #14
Nah, that name actually exist in Russian, Czech in local version. Translation? lol!
Lyzko 30 | 7,373
23 Mar 2017 #15
Interesting aside, thanks Ironside!
:-)
Paulina 10 | 1,855
23 Mar 2017 #16
The part of Galicia they lived in was in a district called Sanok, and the town they came from was a place called "Lalyn" (not sure if I'm spelling that right).

It's a village called Lalin:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lalin,_Poland

Was there a German presence in this area that would give credibility to this theory?

There's been a German presence in that area since the 14th century:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanok#History

"Marcin Bielski states that Bolesław I Chrobry had settled some Germans in the region to defend the borders against Hungary and Kievan Rus', who later turned to farming. Maciej Stryjkowski mentions German peasants near Przeworsk, Przemyśl, Sanok, and Jarosław, describing them as good farmers. "

As for the village Lalin - during the Middle Ages the village was divided into two settlements: Lalin Ruski (Ruthenian Lalin) and Lalin Niemiecki (German Lalin).

So I guess this gives you an idea about the German presence over there :)

However, this surname seems to be very uncommon in all aforementioned countries, hence why I cannot track down it's origins.

Maybe you could give us the surname (if it isn't a secret)?

Btw, I've discussed on one internet forum with a German man living in Berlin whose family have lived in Poland since sth like 17th century or longer (I don't remember exactly), he has family both in Poland and Germany, his mother is Polish and his Polish language is pretty much perfect.
OP CuriousBanana
24 Mar 2017 #17
Hey guys, first I just wanna extend a huge thanks to all of you - you've been a tremendous help. To be honest I never imagined I'd get so many different people eager to help me with this - about 2 years ago I posed a similar question on ancestry.com and I didn't get a single response. You guys have been super, super helpful. Now, to reply to some of the things you guys have brought up.

Also you're focusing on a surname. Its helpful but it doesn't mean that all people with the same surname are connected or a family.

Yeah, I actually saw someone say something similar to this not long ago, and I definitely agree with it. Surnames can take on an entirely different culture on the drop of a dime just by one marriage. The only reason I really clung to the idea is because its really the only lead I had.

Did he declared himself Polish or not? That is what ultimately counts.

Again, I agree 100%. Unfortunately, my great grandfather never really talked about the old country to his kids, and died quite young as I said. The only thing I really have that by him personally, was the WW2 draft card as I said, where he lists himself as a "former subject of Austria" or something along those lines - and a 1940 census that lists him as "Austrian". Naturally it's helpful for when he was declaring a nationality, but not necessarily an ethnicity - but as I said and have come to realize, maybe he was reflecting part of his ethnic background when listing these? No idea.

If you looking for some 'pure' ethnicity as it is a case with many Americans you might be for a surprise.

I kind of chuckled at this because it's true, and it probably seems silly to someone who isn't American (or perhaps Canadian) since is a phenomenon only really observed in these places. I guess the best way I can explain the desire, at least for me, is because America is really absent of a distinguishable culture so it feels a little "shallow". On top of this, whether we acknowledge it or not, before the US, there was a land and group of people far away that gave life and support to our bloodlines, and I guess I'm sort of trying to "honor" that by digging into genealogy.

It's a village called Lalin:

wiki/Lalin,_Poland

Thank you for this!!!

There's been a German presence in that area since the 14th century:

Then that explains a lot, really. Still, I tried checking both Roman and Greek Catholic church records close to that area after seeing this, and still nothing relating to my ancestors. I thought either that my great grandfather's records had not been indexed, maybe he wasn't baptized at all, or maybe he belonged to a different denomination (Orthodox or Protestant) where the records are not indexed on geneteka.

Thank you so much for this link though, it more or less starts giving me closure on this project since it's sort of a "final stop".

While it seems likely to me now that my great grandfather may have had a few German ancestors, this whole experience so far has taught me that a lot of times people didn't always stay in place like I had believed for a long time, and it's entirely possible that on my German side of the family there are a few Poles who migrated and mixed with my German ancestors, so it would in a way "balance" out the extra German I have on my Polish side. Don't get me wrong! There's absolutely nothing wrong with being German, it's just that, like I said, I liked the idea that I was 1/4 of every major region of Europe, and medieval Poland and Poland-Lithuania has always been a topic of interest for me, so I like to feel connected to it, I guess.

Really, lots of valuable information has been revealed to me with this post and I'm so glad I asked for help from this community. If anyone has any other insight I would very much like to hear it! I think I'll register on these forums now, and perhaps give a rep or "gold star" to all those who helped me though, if its possible to do so?

Thanks again!
Paulina 10 | 1,855
24 Mar 2017 #18
I guess the best way I can explain the desire, at least for me, is because America is really absent of a distinguishable culture so it feels a little "shallow".

I know that Americans think that but I disagree - you have a distinguishable culture even if it's young. You would come to appreciate it more if someone tried to take it away from you, trust me...

Thank you for this!!!

You're welcome :)

Still, I tried checking both Roman and Greek Catholic church records close to that area after seeing this, and still nothing relating to my ancestors.

I don't know much about genealogical research but I'm not sure how much you can find online - probably the best way would be to come to Poland and go to that parish and ask in the church so they would search the records for you (at least that's what my aunt did when she was researching our family genealogy).

maybe he belonged to a different denomination (Orthodox or Protestant)

It is possible. He could be a Protestant if he was German or Orthodox if he had, for example, Lemko roots. You never know with these regions, I guess...

and medieval Poland and Poland-Lithuania has always been a topic of interest for me, so I like to feel connected to it, I guess.

Well, if your family comes from Poland then you are always going to be connected to it through this :)
CuriousBanana 1 | 3
24 Mar 2017 #19
Well, if your family comes from Poland then you are always going to be connected to it through this :)

Thank you for saying this - it means a lot to me.

You're definitely right with the unavailability of certain things online, especially with things that are over 100 years old. Hopefully someday I will have the opportunity to retrieve any records that may be available from any churches (be it Roman or Greek Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox) as your aunt did.

I just realized that you were the same one to post the very helpful "Polish surname suffixes" thread that I saw a few days prior to posting this thread. Definitely very well made. My own great grandfather's surname ended with the suffix "chra" - not sure if that's helpful or anything, but I thought I'd post it anyway. Honestly, I'm more than satisfied with the answers I got in this thread, so it really doesn't matter either way. Thank you!
Ziemowit 13 | 4,382
24 Mar 2017 #20
Maciej Stryjkowski

"It was not until the advent of modern historiography that his chronicle started to be criticised and disputed, mainly due to his favour of the magnates, lack of distinction between legends and historic accounts and his theory on the Roman origin of the Lithuanian ruling families." - says Wikipedia on M. Stryjkowski.

Marcin Bielski states that Bolesław I Chrobry had settled some Germans in the region to defend the borders against Hungary and Kievan Rus'

This is pure fantasy. Sources from the 10th and 11th centuries on Poland are more than extremely scarce. Marcin Bielski lived 400 years later. Even if it was true, there were no surnames in the 10th century, so those surnames could not survive until today.

Many mediaeval writers confounded reality with their own imagination putting it all this together in their books for readers to believe.
Paulina 10 | 1,855
24 Mar 2017 #21
Thank you for saying this - it means a lot to me.

No problem, I meant it. I myself am very attached to the land where I was born and where my family comes from. For me it's a bond probably as strong as bloodline.

Definitely very well made.

Thank you, although I'd say it's a bit "sketchy", a lot more info could be put in there...
Btw, can you imagine that only thanks to this thread I found out that it's possible that I have some Lithuanian roots? I always wondered about my surname, because it didn't sound terribly "Polish" and it turned out that, judging by the suffix of my surname, my grandad could have Lithuanian ancestry. I was told that he came from "somewhere from the East" - I think that could mean Kresy (Eastern Borderlands) - so I guess "the Lithuanian connection" makes sense... Funny thing, when I was preparing for my First Communion every kid was getting a necklace with a cross or medallion with Mary and baby Jesus, one you wear for the rest of your life - my mum wanted to buy me one depicting Black Madonna from Częstochowa, but they run out of those in the shop so she bought a random one. It turned out that the medallion she picked for me depicted Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn (Matka Boska Ostrobramska) from Vilnius in Lithuania with the coat of arms of Lithuania on the other side of the medallion :) Maybe it was some kind of a sign :)))

Anyway, someday I intend to do a research of my own and get to the bottom of this.

Hopefully someday I will have the opportunity to retrieve any records that may be available from any churches (be it Roman or Greek Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox) as your aunt did.

Good luck, I hope you'll find something :)

My own great grandfather's surname ended with the suffix "chra" - not sure if that's helpful or anything

It doesn't look German... But I really have no idea, I would have to read into this stuff and I don't have time for this these days, I'm sorry...

This is pure fantasy.

Well, it says that Maciej Stryjkowski "states that...", it doesn't necessarly mean it's true ;)

Even if it was true, there were no surnames in the 10th century, so those surnames could not survive until today.

As far as I understood CuriousBanana's great grandfather's surname doesn't seem to be German (he wrote that it's "mostly distributed in Poland").

Many mediaeval writers confounded reality with their own imagination putting it all this together in their books for readers to believe.

Yeah, true... Either way, according to an article about Sanok in Polish Wikipedia, Bolesław-Jerzy II granted on the 20th of January 1339 "przywilej lokacyjny" (settlement rights?) to Sanok and to Germans, Poles, Hungarians and Ruthenians who were already living there. So I guess it's true that there's been a German presence in that area since the 14th century.

Please avoid excessive quoting
CuriousBanana 1 | 3
25 Mar 2017 #22
I agree with both of you regarding the last name - it's probably not that important, and given the fact that it's so hard to identify as to a clear nationality, and the fact the name has such a small incidence - I've come to believe that it as probably changed by the family sometime in the past, either to assimilate with a new culture or as a result of misspellings over the years.

Btw, can you imagine that only thanks to this thread I found out that it's possible that I have some Lithuanian roots?

Lithuania has such a rich history, too! I'm glad I could maybe inspire you to do genealogical research into your family! It really is quite fun - frustrating at times when you hit a brick wall - but still fun, especially when you are able to get help from nice people online, as I did here.

It doesn't look German... But I really have no idea, I would have to read into this stuff and I don't have time for this these days, I'm sorry...

Don't worry about it! Like I said, I've been convinced for a while that the surname underwent a sort of "evolution" to what it is now, so it was probably originally something very different, so research into it would probably be useless anyway.

This is pure fantasy. Sources from the 10th and 11th centuries on Poland are more than extremely scarce.

Yeah, it seems that way with every country in central Europe, at least to me. However, one thing I did find which was kind of interesting to me at least, was this:

pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C5%82uchoniemcy (Hope this link works, if not it's a page called 'Gluchoniemcy' on the Polish wikipedia.

It seems there was some recorded settlement of Germans in the later middle ages in the same region my great grandfather. Incidentally, the town he came from, Lalin (Lalin Niemiecki, in this case) is listed as one of their many settlements on this page. The Polish version of this wikipedia page has far more information than the English version, so I chose to use that one, but unfortunately I am not fluent in Polish (yet) so I had to use google translate, and as I'm sure you guys know, that can be kind....ehhhh...

But what I did find interesting, at least if the information is accurate, is that there was a recorded presence of these people all the way up to the late 1850s, which would fit around the time of my great grandfather's parents, roughly. According to the not-so-good translation, these people, while ethnic Germans, more or less identified as Polish and spoke only the Polish language - but the way the researcher was able to identify them was that they sometimes had "contemporary German names" I don't know if its refering to first or last names, (according to the page most of these people Polonized their last names, so it leads me to believe its referring to first names) but in the case of the former, it could explain my great grandfather having the first name Andreas, and, presumably, his father having the name Wilhelm. Like Atch said, maybe Wilhelm had a German parent(s).

It turned out that the medallion she picked for me depicted Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn (Matka Boska Ostrobramska) from Vilnius in Lithuania with the coat of arms of Lithuania on the other side of the medallion :)

I like this story! It made me think that since Gluchoniemcy roughly means "forest people" (or Germans?), at least from what I understand, maybe, somewhat similar to your situation, it would explain why I always, always, loved hiking in the woods and generally just being around them, hehe. =P

I hope I can help you with your own research someday to repay you!
Crow 147 | 9,295
25 Mar 2017 #23
Ah, German first names among Slavs? Its kind of sado-mazo approach. It come to us sometimes and then fade away same way as it appeared.

In my country, German names are now popular for dogs and cows.
Paulina 10 | 1,855
28 Mar 2017 #24
It really is quite fun

Yes, I think it's quite interesting and you can find out sth not only about your family but also about the history of the country or region :)

so it was probably originally something very different

It could be, I guess. Either way, I tried to think of some surname that would end with "-chra" and I googled "Czuchra" and here's what I found on a site with etymology of Polish surnames:

"CZOCHRA < czochrać 'czesać len, wełnę' Sstp (SSNO Czuchra, Czychra) 1448, odap., s. 186"

It comes from a word for "brushing flax or wool".

So your great grandfather's surname could very well be a Polish one, maybe it even means something in Polish. You could try to find it on this site:

stankiewicze.com/index.php?kat=44&sub=892

"Nazwiska na literę" means "Surnames starting with the letter...".

pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C5%82uchoniemcy

That's an interesting find, good job! :D

they sometimes had "contemporary German names" I don't know if its refering to first or last names

If you mean this fragment: "Władysław Bełza, podając wiele współczesnych mu nazwisk o niemieckim brzmieniu." then "nazwiska" in modern Polish means "last names".

Like Atch said, maybe Wilhelm had a German parent(s).

I guess it's possible. If one parent was Polish and the other German, for example, they could decide to give their child a German first name if he had a Polish surname anyway in order to honour also his German roots or a German grandfather or sth. An example from today's Poland - Bronisław Wildstein - he had a Jewish father, hence the surname and a Polish mother and probably that's why he got a very Polish first name (unlike his father, I'm guessing - Szymon Wildstein).

It made me think that since Gluchoniemcy roughly means "forest people" (or Germans?)

"Niemcy" means "Germans" :) According to an article in English Wikipedia 'Głuchoniemcy is a sort of pun; it means "deaf-mutes", but sounds like "forest Germans'. The name for Germans in Polish (Niemcy) comes from the word "niemy" (mute). They were called this way because they didn't speak Slavic languages and in this sense German tribes were "mute" to Slavic people. According to an article on Polish Wikipedia about Głuchoniemcy that you linked people described by Maciejowski called themselves "głuchoniemcy" ("głuchy" means "deaf", so it could mean "deaf Germans") because they didn't hear nor understand German language but at the same time they weren't the same as local people.

it would explain why I always, always, loved hiking in the woods and generally just being around them, hehe. =P

The first part of this name (głucho) could be derived from the word "głusza" which means "a desolate place" and is most often associated with big, desolate forests. So, yeah, I guess it could mean "Germans who don't understand German language and live among forests" :)

The region where your great grandfather came from, Podkarpackie Voivodeship (or simply "Pokarpacie") is full of forests and mountains. ("Podkarpackie/Pokarpacie" means "by/under the Carpathian Mountains").

So I guess you have forest in your blood :)
You'd probably love it there - look (Sanok is shown in first video):

youtube.com/watch?v=PI-bg3VnMWg

An evening flight:

youtube.com/watch?v=qJH4CPlGSxw

And during winter:

youtube.com/watch?v=JNBWojGlMaM

youtube.com/watch?v=SHiYdhRI630

Btw, I also love forests (minus spiderwebs and spiders... and ticks... and mosquitoes, haha ;D). I live in the Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship (Holy Cross Province - it takes its name from the Świętokrzyskie (Holy Cross) mountain range). My city is surrounded by those small old mountains covered with forests. Mu mum comes from the countryside and she would always take us to walks in the forests, we would pick wild forest mushrooms (mushroom hunting is popular in Poland, btw) and we would hug birches ;D According to folk knowledge/tradition, I guess, hugging birches drives out toxins out of your body or some bad energy, I don't know, either way, it's supposed to be good for you ;) It definitely was relaxing - each of us would hug one tree, relax and listen to the sound of the forest :) My Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship borders with your great grandfather's Podkarpackie Voivodeship so we're basically kin! ;)

So next time when you're on a hiking trip in the woods find a birch tree, hug it and think of Poland ;D

I hope I can help you with your own research someday to repay you!

Oh, thank you, that's kind of you :) But for now I think it would be enough if I simply moved my ass and dig up some documents in local archives ;)

In my country, German names are now popular for dogs and cows.

Oh, go away, Crow...
CuriousBanana 1 | 3
29 Mar 2017 #25
Holy moly, thanks for all this information Paulina!

I actually found a surname that is VERY similar to my great grandfather's - so if it was changed then it likely was this one, at least that's my gut feeling. Thank you so much for this!!

Also, thank you so much for translating the passages from the Wikipedia article for me! I hope it wasn't too much trouble, but I really appreciate it immensely!

What you said about giving the child a German name also makes a lot of sense too - I actually saw a few articles of it happening in the inverse (German child was given a Polish name because he had a Polish mother). Incidentally, the same thing happened with me - I have a German last name but my mother (who is half Polish) gave me a Polish name (or at least nickname - it's Katie, but everyone on her side of the family calls me Kasia) so I could definitely see the same thing happening with my great grandfather - which would make this whole process an interesting "family tradition". ;)

Thank you for your explanation on all these Polish terms haha - I feel so ignorant having to ask all this, but someday I hope to learn Polish myself.

Oh and thank you for all these beautiful videos! I really, really, really would like to go to Poland, and I'm attracted to these more rural, out of the way destinations, so it gets my really excited to look into it! And I will definitely hug any birches I see there! Funny I actually heard a similar thing about them having some sort of vibrant properties from my own father, whose family came from the Black Forest.

Also, I think I will follow your approach and look in local Church archives for stuff relating to my family when I go to Poland. ^^
Atch 16 | 3,296
30 Mar 2017 #26
Have been meaning to mention this to you CB. He most definitely would have been baptised whatever his family's religion. Quite apart from the fact that most people back then were sincere believers, it was the social and cultural norm. However, it's most unlikely that he was Orthodox. But what religion was his son, your grandfather??

Regarding records, although he was certainly baptised there's no guarantee that the priest recorded it in any register, they didn't always you know.

By the way, if it's an unusual surname, it's always worth contacting other people who are researching the name, as even if you're not related, they may have turned up some information on your own family during their research.
Caring2u
23 Jan 2018 #27
Curious Banana, have you ever heard of Germans from Russia? I would look in that direction. I helped an elderly lady find the names of her grandparents who she knew were from Russia. To make a long story short, that German line moved to what is now Ukraine (Volhynia), but for about one generation, lived in Poland where her grandfather married a Polish woman, who later died in Volhynia when she was very small. She was adopted by a German couple there. The husband identified his home as Galicia, which was not far from Volhynia, and also part of the Austrian empire. In fact, he lived in Volhynia since he was young. Why he said he was from Galicia is not clear. It's not unusual for a location to go by 2 or 3 names in this part of the world because the history is so complex. These German families traveled through Poland from Germany to Ukraine for obvious reasons, so going this route is a good idea.

You can try this: odessa3.org, FEEFHS, AHSGR, Germans From Russia Heritage Collection at North Dakota State University in Fargo, Germans From Russia Heritage Society. At Odessa3.org, click on Collections then St. Petersburg Archives, for example, to get straight to transcribed records of Volhynia. I am not as familiar with Galicia since I didn't research her adoptive father. I'm not sure that Odessa3 has anything for you but want to let you know about it anyway.

ALSO, consider sending your DNA to Family Tree DNA since we found my elderly friend's 2nd cousin there. They are from western Canada. These Germans From Russia migrated in large numbers there, as well as Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Dakota and other Plains states. To my knowledge, Ancestry doesn't accept samples from customers outside the United States, although this may be outdated information. Still, Family Tree would definitely have the most extensive database of people from Europe. Finding this 2nd cousin catapulted our research since she was doing the same thing for 7 years already. The beauty of social networking. The adoptive family settled in Michigan, first SE lower Michigan (another population concentration), then Upper Michigan, and they also had close familial connections in Pennsylvania for some reason.
kaprys 3 | 2,503
23 Jan 2018 #28
Andreas is the Latin version of Andrzej and the church records in Galicia were kept in Latin. That doesn't explain Wilhelm or William, though. However, it might have been used as an Anglicised version of a name like Władysław similarly to Stella and Stanisława - just a guess, though.

Or they were actually of German/Austrian origin.


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