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Video:How to Uncover Polish Heritage With Surnames

with Jordan Auslander

Polish surnames contain clues that explain more about a person's genealogy. Learn how to uncover polish heritage with surnames.See Transcript

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Transcript:How to Uncover Polish Heritage With Surnames

I'm Jordan Auslander, a professional genealogist based in New York City here for About.com to talk about Polish surnames and how to start with them to uncover your Polish heritage.

Look into Polish Immigration Records

Many Polish immigrants came over during what is called the third wave of immigration between 1880 and 1924. The later someone naturalized the more information about their origin you are going to find on their documentation. If you can start with a relative who came to the United States in the 1920's and naturalized in the 1930's they are going to indicate probably that they came from Poland. The way to find out where they came from in Poland, or what that town is currently called is to find out the name of the town of origin using their naturalization documentation.

When they became a citizen, they had to indicate on their petition for naturalization the name that they arrived under, the date and place of their arrival, and where they departed from. This information is key. In many naturalization documents one might find that an immigrant came from Lemberg, Austria. Later immigrants from the same town said they were from Lvov, Poland. Today people who are coming from Lviv, Ukraine are all coming from the same place.

Notice Clues in Polish Surnames

Two types of surnames are good clues to a Polish-speaking origin. Toponyms, which are variations of a town of origin: Warszevski is someone who came from Warsaw, Tomaszevski is someone who came from the town of Tomaszov. One has to use the names of your ancestors in conjunction with a map of Poland. But this is not necessarily where someone was from, it's where they were when they got their surname.

Partronyms sort of blur the line. Someone named Stanislavski could either be from the town of Stanislav or have an ancestor who was named Stanislav. Many towns are named after individuals which does blur the issue. Surnames are a place to start: they are not conclusive, they evolve over time such as the map of Europe and Poland's borders.

These are just a few pointers to help you uncover your Polish roots. For more information visit us at About.com.

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