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Alternative Surnames List

For the Polish researcher, beginner and avid alike, the task of effectively tracing your roots can be severely hindered by the common surname misspelling and alteration. With most families, especially those in Orleans County, there was one widely accepted surname spelling for each family despite the numerous errors that occured within census, vital and even church records.

Over the course of my research into Polish genealogy and history, I have divide surname alterations into two groups:

1.) Voluntary
2.) Involuntary

Voluntary Name Changes:

On occasion, a family might adopt an alternative spelling or translation based on their own decision. Unless the family member who decided to change the name actually has told you or provided written proof as to the exact reason, there is no way to say for sure why the name change happened. However, the voluntary name changes seem to fall into three categories:

1.) Literal Translation
2.) Drop the Suffix
3.) Sound-alikes

The literal translation involves the use of a surname that is a literal translation from the original. For example, several members of the Kwiatkowski family changed their name to Bloom. Kwiat in Polish is Flower, Kwitnac being the verb for Bloom. This would be seen as a translated surname. Other names, such as Kaniecki to Crane, provide more of a strech, but are best attributed to a translation change

The dropping of the suffix is just that. Karlowski becomes Karls, Norkowski becomes Noreck. The -ski is dropped and the name changes.

Zwiewka to Zwiefka is an example of a sound-alike conversion. The -iew- would sound similar to -ief- depending on accent and pronunciation, leading to an altered surname. This could explain why surnames such as Radzinski have been accepted as Radzimski and Radimski, due to the pronunciation leaving sounds out.

Involuntary Name Changes:

These changes involve the misspelling and pronunciation of surnames by non-ethnic speakers; i.e. the census enumerator, Ellis Island/Castle Garden officials, church clergy, etc. Misspellings and variations occur even within the Roman Catholic Church. Although the priests were of Polish ethnicity, priests from Austria typically used a different variation of letters to create certain sounds. For example, a German-Polish family may have historically used a form of their name that was more German in nature, however the priest would use a Polish style or form. (The best example is the use of J within surnames or the addition of -iego at the end of a surname).

I've started a list of known surnames and their alternative spellings. Occasionally a family would have elected to change their name based on their own decision or perhaps a they accepted a widely used mistake. The list will include the commonly used "proper" form which may be the form that appears most frequently or the surname as it was used prior to immigration. Misspellings will be provided and accepted translations and alterations will also be included.

The list will be far from complete and will be added as new variations are located. If you have encountered a new surname or variation/spelling, feel free to forward the information on to me!


Literal Translations
Original Surname
Bloom Kwiatkowski
Button Guzik, or Gurzinski/Gurzenski on occasion
Crane Kaniecki
Cucumber Ugorek
Friday Piontek, or Piatek on occasion
Littlebetter Malolepszy


Dropping the Suffix
Original Surname
Banas Banaszak or Banaszewski
Daniels Danielewski
Janus Januszewski
Karls Karlowski
Lucas Lukaszyk
Ludwick Ludwiczak
Noreck Norkowski
Penasack Pieniaszek
Vick Witkowski
Vick Wykner


Sound-alike Replacements
Original Surname
Cotriss Koteras
Franklin Fraczak
Gottovi Gotowy
Gurney Gorna or Gorny
Kanieski Kaniecki
Levandoski Lewandowski
Levandowski Lewandowski
Levanduski Lewandowski
Major Mager
Nayman Nejman
Olshefski Olszewski
Orlowitz Orlowicz
Quiva Kujawa
Radzimski Radzinski
Rice Reis
Romanofski Romanowski
Rychlewski Rytlewski
Rydlewski Rytlewski
Salviski Salwicki
Shebanski Szybanski
Starch Sterczynski
Stucco Stuczko
Vick Witkowski
Vick Wykner
Wright Rytlewski
Zwifka Zwiewka