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My theory about my family history - thoughts? Piatek surname.

Piatek 2 | 1
23 Sep 2015 #1
I realize this is a long shot, and is only based on my public school education's influence, but help me figure if this makes sense and where the holes are in my theory. Please be nice, as I said, I'm not particularly learned on any of this. (not like anyone here has ever been unkind, but it is an online forum, so there's always those trolls)

Anyways, getting on with it. My grandmother has traced our family lineage through the Piatek name to the mid-to-late 1800's and it seems to have dropped off. She believes the records were lost in the war (entirely probable, I know) but I feel like there could possibly be more to it. From my very light research, I've come to understand that the name Piatek was a possible name given when one converted to Christianity (if they were baptized on a Friday?) or a name possibly bestowed upon Jews in Warsaw (I didn't find much on that line). Our family is from the very south of Poland, almost to Slovakia.

From this, I'm wondering if the reason the records dropped off is because the last name was changed and our family was not "really" Polish?

Also I wasn't sure if a Roma family would convert to Christianity and change their name for safety during turbulent times, that was a theory of my mother's.


**I'm going to add that this idea came about partially because my grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great grandmother do not look stereotypically Polish, or Slavic at all for that matter. My father's side is Polish as well but they look very different, blonde and green/blue eyed. That may mean nothing, I'm not sure.
DominicB - | 2,709
23 Sep 2015 #2
Basically, any speculation that is not backed up with firm documentation remains vain speculation. And without firm evidence to the contrary, there is no good reason to suppose that your family was originally Jewish or Gypsy rather than ethnically Polish. Piątek is a rather common Polish surname.

Records become scarcer as you go back in time, and, in Poland, many did not survive the wars and the ravages of time. Paper is rather perishable even under the best of circumstances. For many, if not most people from 19th century Poland, the only records that would have been kept are church and civil records of birth, baptism, marriage and death, and of military service, tax assessment or land transactions if you are lucky. No documentation remains at all of many, if not most people from 1800 or earlier. It's not at all surprising that your paper trail ends in the mid to late 19th century.

Also, most Poles did not use surnames until about the time of the partitions, and even then, some families didn't until the early 19th century, and sometimes later, until they were imposed on them by the authorities.

This is even more true of ethnic minorities, not only Jews and Gypsies, but also of Ruthenian mountaineers who lived in the "very south of Poland, almost to Slovakia".

While it's conceivable that the name Piątek was given to or adopted by Jewish converts, it is also a name commonly used by ethnic Poles, and probably a lot more so than by Jews. Like I said, there is no particular reason to speculate on possible Jewish origins in the absence of compelling documentation to the contrary, which very likely may no longer exist, especially for the area you describe, which was forcibly depopulated after WWII. Many of the churches where records may have been kept were abandoned to decay, records and all.

My grandfather's last name is Piatek, which from what I understand simply means "Friday". Is that a pretty common last name?

PIĄTEK: Friday, the day someone was born or maybe converted to Christianity. Quite common in Poland with some 19,000 users.
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,446
23 Sep 2015 #3

Aren't Gypsies Christian to start with? Why would they have to convert?
Re the surname's origin, you should not overlook the toponymic option. Someone might have got nicknamed Piątek because he hailed from some such village as Piątek, Piątki, Piątków, Piątkowo, Piątkowa, Piątkowiec or similar.

There seem ot have been nobles amongst some Piątek descendants. For more info please cntact: research60@gmail
lori hall
25 Feb 2020 #4
My maternal great grandfather's last name was Piatek. he originally came from Galicia, Poland. Many fled Galicia in the 1800s people were starving and suffering there.
5 Aug 2021 #5
My son married the daughter of my best friend. The family name of my best friend is Piatek. He heard I had researched my family name. He asked if I could research his family, Piatek. He only knew his grandmother and two uncles. Lots of dead ends.

His dad used Piatek. His two brothers used Piatkowski. His grandmother was married to a Johann Walenty Piatek. From what we can confirm, the father was listed as Jan Piatek on the ship Vaderland in 1909. He is kin to a Rodain in his old country, Russia. The ship lists his father as Andrzej Piatek. So we cannot explain why the brothers have the Piatkowski name. On the ship Manifest it lists Swiniary, Poland as the place he resided. But in where born, Austria is listed. When you look at the census in America, Johann lists Austria, speaks Polish. His birthday is listed as 14 Dec 1891. We are pretty sure he was a coal miner. We cannot find a death certificate.

The father Andrzej Piatek was born 20 Oct 1869 in Opole, Lubelskie, Poland. So was that once in Austria? He passed on 27 Oct 1960. We have found a record that he was buried in Kock, Powiat lubartowski, Lubelskie, Poland. We found that he came to America on the SS Finland from Antwerp, Belgium on 10 Sept 1912. It says he lived in Russia in Swiniary. His destination was Shenandoah, Pa where Johann Walenty lived. He is kin to Rodain? It is written that he is kin to a Walenty Prasak in the US. I figure that is supposed to be Piatek, just misspelled.

It lists his wife as Katarzyna. Her maiden name is Sajkiewicz. Her father is Antoni. Her death is listed as 24 Aug 1942. However, , another person by the same name is buried in the same cemetery wit a death date of 8 Dec 1941. We have her name on a detention list from the ship Auguste Victoria, unknown date. Says cause of detention is the husband. But we have another by same name from a different ship.

We know that there were two Piatek families in Pennsylvania during same years. Their names are John, their wives have same name. Very confused.

Any help in figuring all this out would be of great help to the Piatek family. When my friend asked his Dad about the brothers having different last names, he got angry and refused to answer. We think that when his dad joined the US Army fior WWII, he used the name Piatek, maybe because he did not know how to spell it. Also he would have been underage. His birthdate on the enrollment firm is different than his actual recorded birthday. He had like an 8th grade education and was working, nit going to school. The only jobs were in the coal mine. We assume his dad may have died from working in mines. Polish was spoken in the home. He was about 16 when Dad passed.
jon357 71 | 20,031
5 Aug 2021 #6
So we cannot explain why the brothers have the Piatkowski name

It sounds less Jewish than Piątek (which means Friday).

That name (along with others like days or months, musical terms, types of fish etc) was often given to Jewish people, I think by ETA Hoffmann when Warsaw was under Prussian occupation in the first decade of the 19th century. Some people may have later changed their name, perhaps if they were assimilated. Others didn't.

If they didn't have Jewish roots, the change may be simply because Piątkowski sounds posher than Piątek.

I know someone with that name, now sadly died. A retired journalist who ran a well known charity in Poland that her partner set up back in the 70s. JPII among others was a member of that charity.

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