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Going Home: A Guide to Polish American Family History Research

Naming Methodology

My preference

After many years of researching my roots in Halychyna/Eastern Galicia and using genealogical software programs to do so, I have come up with a structured technique.  Of course, you do not have to use my technique in order to keep track of your own records and genealogy.  However, I do ask that you do the following three things:

  1. Choose a technique that works for you.  Most likely, you will develop a system over a period of time. 
  2. Whatever technique you choose, make sure that you follow it throughout your project.  So long as there is order and consistency, both you and your readers will be able to follow your work.
  3. At least read through my page below.  Even if you do not adopt each and every step, you will get ideas and thoughts that will help you.  I include not only my preferences, but also many variations, from which you can decide.

First Names

Iíd like to use the full name in the native language of the ancestor. Since my family is of mixed ethnicity and religion, I have adopted the following naming scheme.

For those baptized Roman Catholic, I give Polish first name.
For those baptized Ukrainian Catholic, I give Ukrainian first name.

I know that there were Ukrainians who considered themselves Roman Catholic (called latynyky) and Poles who considered themselves Greek Catholic. However, without proper documentation regarding the individualís ethnicity, I use this general rule.

In my software, program, Iíve assigned Alternate Name Fields for the Latin equivalent. This way someone without a foreign language background or someone who was not aware of the policies of the record keepers would be able to identify the correct person in connection with the correct Latin language document.

Whenever I produce a report of my data for someone not familiar with Slavic languages, I give them a brief explanation of the Slavic sound systems in the case of Polish and Ukrainian.  This helps them read and correctly pronounce such names as "Szczepan", "Krzysztof" and "Kayetan".

Visit my page on Common First Names for a list of some names translated from Latin into Polish and Ukrainian.

Other methodologies

Below are some other methodologies that you may consider.  Please note that I have pointed out these methodologies' disadvantages.

Using the Latin name:
Although this would make your listing consistent with the Latin language document, it loses the realistic point of our ancestry. Latin was used in the records since it was the language of the predominate church of the empire. The forms and language was made consistent by the multinational Empire to avoid nationalistic disturbances and expand on the readability of such documents throughout the Empire. These Latin spellings of the names carried no significance in the day to day life of your ancestor.

Using English:
This method may appear to be the easiest because the names would be familiar and easy to pronounce (at first, you know). However, like with the case with Latin, these ancestors, including the record keeping priests, would not have known the English equivalents. Many names doní
t have equivalents in English, such as Kunegunda, Bohdanna or Czesław.

Last Names

Last names are more difficult to resolve than first names. Iíve personally chosen to use the Polish spelling. This was done for the following reasons:

  1. I avoid confusion of various Ukrainian transliteration schemes:
    Matvijchuk, Matvichuk, Matviychuk
  2. Most of my ancestors were Polish, about 65%.
  3. The parish priest, though assigning Latin first names, used Polish spelling for last names.
  4. Iíve chosen the proper Polish spelling for my software program. If the priest used a variation spelling, I put that in the Variant Name Field
    Majewski (proper), Majeski (variation)
    Drabczak (proper), Drapczak (variation)
  5. I started to use the same methodology adopted for First Names for the Last Names. However, I immediately came up against serious problems and complications:

Daughters raised the faith of the mother carried a different last name than the father if the parents were of mixed faiths.

Father Ivan Havryshko (Greek Catholic) and wife Anna Hawryszko (Roman Catholic)
daughter is Maria Hawryszko, (Roman Catholic), so last name is Polish spelling

This caused confusion in searching the database for the individual by surname. Every time I had to search for someone, I had to look up by both the Polish and the Ukrainian spelling rules. 
Baluczynski and Baluchynsky
Olejnik and Oleynyk

Of course, if youíre family is predominately either Polish or Ukrainian, you can settle on one of the languages and simply make an Alternate Name Tag for those not following the normal pattern. For my family, which is so mixed, Iíve adopted the above system that may work for you too.            Questions and Comments to Matthew Bielawa
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