Monday, October 17, 2022

Comparing Names


In the process of delving into our family's history, we can collect quite a variety of names and surnames. Those family names, however, we presume will remain the same as we explore each line of our ancestors, the surname passing identically from generation to generation following the customary patrilineal progression. Not so, however, when it comes to the Polish, as I'm discovering while tracing my grandmother's Laskowski roots.

Anyone researching Polish family history has likely already learned that surnames change, depending on whether it is a man who is being identified, or his wife. My paternal grandmother's father was Antoni Laskowski, for instance, but his daughter would be referred to as Sophie Laskowska, the feminine form -a being utilized at the surname's suffix for women.

There is much more to this cultural tradition, of course, but when I first started researching the Laskowski line, I had to adjust to this Polish naming norm. Now, however, we get to dive deeper into this world of Polish surnames as I examine the "Theory of Family Relativity" presented for one interesting DNA match at MyHeritage. I'm in search of more training on that world of surname suffixes for my Polish ancestors.

When MyHeritage presents their reasons as to why my Antoni Laskowski's grandparents might be one and the same as my DNA match's ancestors, I run into many naming issues. The first problem, as I see right away, can be easily dispatched. The MyHeritage Theory is only 55% certain that my Andrzej Gramlewicz is the same person as my DNA match's tree entry for Andreas Gramlewicz. Checking my handy search engine, I easily see that the Polish form for Andreas—which name was likely found in a Catholic record, based in Latin—is Andrzej. Likewise, Andrzej's wife Katarzyna was likely recorded in Catholic records as Catharina, as my DNA match's tree had the name listed.

When I move down to the subsequent generation in my Polish DNA match's tree, however, I run into a problem far more difficult to simply explain away. In addition to my Elżbieta (Antoni's mother), Andreas and Catharina apparently had an older daughter they named after her mother, Catharina. While the spelling variation between Catharina and Katarzyna can easily be explained, it takes a bit more to piece together the story behind this daughter's maiden name. According to this DNA match's tree, that surname was not Gramlewicz, but Gramlewiczówna.

Same woman? Or not? We'll take some time tomorrow to break down the explanation.  

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