Changed Surname List

About the Changed Surname List

Often our Polish ancestors changed their surnames or name changes were forced upon them by employers or schoolteachers. Surnames were “americanized,” letters were dropped or names were translated into English.

Here are some examples of common types of changes:

Americanization: Letters dropped for “ease of pronunciation” – CZERNISZ TO CERN

Often, some “americanization” occurs while the rest of the name remains in tact … in same name, such as CZAJKOWSKI to CHAJKOWSKI

Polish pronunciation with the English alphabet: CZAJKOWSKI to CHAYKOFSKI

Truncation: Parts of the name were eliminated and anglicized – ADAMCZYK to ADAMS LUKASZEWICZ to LUKAS

Orthographic or phonetic adjustments due to Polish diacritical marks:
DABROWSKI to either DOMBROWSKI or DAMBROSKI
DRZAŁA to DRZATA or BIAŁEK to BIATEK

Translation: MŁYNARZ to MILLER or KRÓL to KING or MYŚLIWIEC to HUNTER

Tenuous and vague resemblance to original name: At times, only the first or first few letters were the same. MOŚCICKI to MARSON or PROTOPOWICZ to PRESCOTT

Totally “new” name: No linguistic, lexical or phonetic connection to the chosen name.
ZIEZIULEWICZ to FOX or MALINOWSKI to HERMAN

Special Note: It is a common myth that names were changed at Ellis Island by the immigration officials. This is NOT TRUE! U.S. immigration officials usually worked from passenger lists that were initially created on board during the journey. Furthermore, the names were written down from passports or other written documents.

Today one needs to go through official court proceedings to have one’s name changed. However, earlier in the last century, people often changed their own names without any official paperwork. One day, the person simply started writing his or her name down differently.

We have created a database of changed surnames submitted by our members or taken from obituaries and gravestones. If you have having difficulty finding information on your Polish ancestor, maybe you have been searching for the “wrong” name.

If you know of any additional altered surnames, please e-mail them to us with documentary evidence of the change – include the surname, book number and page number with your request.