Polish Family Names of Nebraska Relatives
While today most adults carry around picture identification, generations ago were not as particular about name spelling and birth dates. Many of the records of our ancestors show variations in spelling, and it was not rare to find inconsistent ages recorded in various records. While this was true for people of every ethnicity, it was even more common for Polish immigrants and their families.
The people who wrote the records often wrote what they heard as best they could, but did not necessarily know the proper spelling. The closer to Poland ancestors were, the more likely they were to use their Polish names. That’s why I try to determine original Polish given and family names before looking in the old country for connections.
One of the resources I often use to research Polish surnames is the book Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings by William “Fred” Hoffman, from the Polish Genealogical Society of America in Chicago, Illinois. Originally published in 1993, I used the large Second Edition (2001) for years before upgrading to the two volume set of the Third Edition (2012). While Volume I includes historical and linguistic explanations, Volume II is arranged by root names and includes derivations and translations as well as information about the number of people bearing each name in Poland.
Wojciech Siuda and Katarzyna Kalinowska Siuda immigrated from Prussia to Lemont, Cook. Illinois, and then to Saint Libory, Howard, Nebraska. In some records, the family name was written as Szuda, Schuda, Shuda, or Suda, and their daughters married people named Greenwald, Grajek, Kowalski, and Sonnenfeld.
Kalinowska is the feminine form of the Polish name Kalinowski. Kalinowski is a topographical name, that is, the bearer of the name references a place, such as Kalinów, Kalinowa, or Kalinowo. The place may have been named because of the kalina, “guelder rose, cranberry tree” growing there or derived from the Latin name Aquilina.
Siuda is derived from the root siud– as in siudać, “to chase, drive away, remove.” The Polish sound for the letter combination “si” is a “soft sh,” so the Polish name Siuda sounds like Shuda.
Sometimes the name was written as Szuda, but its use seems to be a misspelling of the name Siuda.
Greenwald is a topographical name for Grunwald. Grunwald, in the historic region of Masuria, was the site of a famous battle in 1410 in which the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania defeated the German–Prussian Teutonic Knights. It began the rise of the Polish–Lithuanian union and has been a symbol of resistance against foreign invaders.
Grajek means “homegrown musician.” It is derived from the Polish verb grać, “to play.”
The name Kowalski is very common in Poland, analogous to the English name Smith. The noun Kowal is used for a blacksmith, smith, farrier, forger, someone who works metal by hand. Kowalski is the adjective form.
Sonnenfeld is derived from the German Sonne, “sun,” and velt “field, open country.”
While some of these names have been Americanized by their descendants, these are as close as I was able to find to the original Polish names.
Hoffman, William F. Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings. Chicago, Illinois : Polish Genealogical Society of America. 1993, Second Edition, Revised 2001. Third Edition, Revised 2012.
I also recommend Hoffman, William F. and Helon, George W. First Names of the Polish Commonwealth: Origins & Meanings. Chicago, Illinois : Polish Genealogical Society of America. 1998.