Americanization of Polish names

Genealogy & Family History Asked by bkb105 on October 3, 2021

Does anyone have any idea how Polish immigrants to the US would Americanize their name?

I’m having trouble tracing my great-grandparents, because I presume they Americanized their names. They immigrated from Poland in 1885.

My great-grandfather was John Feltman. To me, Feltman doesn’t seem very Polish and I can’t find any Polish records with that name. It’s very generic, so there’s a lot of records to wade through.

Any ideas what Polish name would be Americanized to Feltman?

My father insisted his first name was really "Jno" (spelled that way), which would Americanize to John.

Is that possible?

My great-grandmother at least had the very Polish name of Niespodziany (my father carefully spelled it). I’ve found some records that list her first name as Antonia or Antoinette or Antonina. Her name here was Emma, so I don’t know if those records are even really her.

Is Antonia (or one of those variants) even a common Polish name?

2 Answers

Keep in mind, in 1885 Poland did not exist as an independent country, and the population was rather mixed between speakers of different languages. On top of this (and partly because of this), people did migrate internally, marry between different groups, and the family language (and later, own perception of their nationality) would change.

Feltman (and its other spellings, like Feldman) are most likely German or Jewish in origin. All forms were quite common in Prussia.

Niespodziany most definitely is Polish in origin, though it's the male form. Female would be Niespodziana. Could be that an American clerk didn't understand how names can differ slightly between genders or the family wanted to simplify their documents. The name is rare in Poland, with only 325 registrations in the national identity database (snapshot from 2002, newer data is protected by privacy regulations) - mostly clustered in Bydgoszcz and Piła - those were Prussia (so later, Germany) at the time.

Jno - this doesn't look like any German/Polish/Jewish names I know. Closest both in German and Polish is Jan, which translates to John.

Both Antonia and Antonina were common Polish names at the time, now mostly out of use. Also, Antonia could be shorthand for Antonina.

Correct answer by skolima on October 3, 2021

I have definitely seen the male name Jno on records. I always thought maybe it was a misspelling, but maybe it is correct. You can search for naturalization records, if doesn’t give original name, you may get date, ship name and town. Then you can search on and look up the ship and date, and check the manifest for all names, search for the town, or maybe first name, Jno.

Answered by Judi wagner on October 3, 2021

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