Friday, August 12, 2016

Tapping Into That Root System

Sometimes, the answer to our genealogical questions seems so close, we can almost feel it. And yet, delving deeper, we realize how tangled in myriad details the answer seems to bealmost as if we are no closer than when we first began.

When I realized that, in 1998, Poland redrew their boundaries for their counterpart of what we call provinces, those leads from the helpful Herby website didn't seem so promising, after all. Now I had to figure out where those locations might be in the current scheme of geo-political things.

There were some other tools to use, of course. I took my hint from the surname mapping entry on ISOGG's wiki, and headed to the resource they listed under the heading for Poland. This brought me to a website's page nazwisk.

Okay, so that's "Map names." Thank you, Google Translate. You are my Best Friend Forever.

By now, I had already learned that "Szukaj" means "Search," so I entered "Gramlewicz" in the dialog box beside that term, and came up with the results at

They weren't helpful. While I had already learned at Herby that my key targets in Poland would be Katowice and Bydgoszcz (if you have no idea how to pronounce that jawbreaker, you can listen in to a quick demonstration here), this new site advised me to look to Warsaw and Żnin.

With all these new Polish city names swirling in my headand twisting my tongueI didn't feel like I was making any headway. I did, though, take the time to read up on each place in hopes of gaining a sense of their relative location in respect to each other within the boundaries of Poland. And I noticed one thing: there might be something in common between some of the regions that were popping up.

Time to use one more surname mapper, though. I had found this third resource while researching my husband's Irish surnames and realized that it was a site that was international in its scope. So, trying Public Profiler's World Names site, I compared the other results with this third option.

Entering Gramlewicz in their search bar, I saw results showing me that there was no other country on earth boasting that surname other than Polanda surprise, considering so many former residents of Poland now live in North America, not to mention those recently emigrated to other nations within the EU.

I clicked through on the map of Poland to zoom in on the specific regions in the country with highest frequency of occurrence of my target surname. According to the World Names utility, there were three regions of interest, although only one of them had a moderately high incidence of the surname.

That region was calledget ready for another jawbreaker hereKujawsko-Pomorskie. Of course, I copied and pasted that one right into my search engine to see what I could find. Besides my customary stop to read up on the topic at Wikipedia, I discovered that the State University of New York at Buffalo hosts a website called infoPoland, which includes a section on that very (unpronounceable) region.

According to infoPoland, Kujawsko-Pomorskie is a province which includes a region known as Kujavyhence the reason the place is also known as the Kuyavian-Pomeranian province. You can imagine my ecstasy when, checking into this location further, I stumbled upon the name Bydgoszcz once again, and realized all these differentand very unfamiliarnames all were encircling that same city in Poland. Could this be the location for my family's roots?

Another encouraging sign was when I clicked further into the website at the Public Profiler's surname utility and brought up yet another page in their resources: a listing of the top surnames in Kujawsko-Pomorskie. Among them was Zielinski, yet another surname on this side of my family treeone which had intermarried into my Laskowski line more than once, apparently.

All this might seem quite exciting, except for one thing. Remember that distant Gramlewicz cousin who found me online and with whom I had exchanged quite a bit of family research? Well, according to her, the family was actually from another location: Żerków. Whether that city was within the shifting boundaries of any of these other locations or not, it was a sure thing that I needed to brush up some more on my Polish geography. Or try to uncover whatever the discrepancy might have been.

Above: The map from the Public Profiler readout for the name Gramlewicz, showing the highest concentration of that surname (in the darker blue) in the province of Kujawsko-Pomorskie.


  1. Zerkow is about 2 & half hours south of Bydgoszcz, so they're at least close enough in distance if the family was from somewhere between the two cities, they could have moved from one to the other at some point. Have you tried looking at

    1. Patrick, what a gift that website is! Thank you so much for sharing that resource. I spent some time, first thing this morning, taking a look around. It wasn't long before I was finding some significant leads regarding my own family--but I'll save the details for an upcoming post. Can't tell you how much I appreciate that tip!


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