What Is In A Name ? — Polish Name Days #Polish #Genealogy

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Stanczyk wants to start the year with this blog.  So in Polish genealogy there is the concept of a name day. This day is celebrated as often as a person’s actual birthdate. Well it turns out that a name if often given from the Polish Name Day. So in actuality then the birthday and the name day are the same day in MANY cases.

Perhaps you have been looking through the family parish books for births (urodziny). Many times you will see a string of several Pawels (or any name) born in a row. This is an indication that name days has a strong influence in your village. Now if you look closely you will see that not all of those Pawels were born on the same day so technically not all were named on their name day. But you can expect the name is close by (+/- 1-2 days).

How does a name day work?

First let me introduce you to some good resources on the Internet.

  1. http://www.namedaycalendar.com/index.php/poland
  2. http://www.masterpage.com.pl/imieniny.html
  3. http://www.behindthename.com/namedays/
  4. http://diminutive-names.com/
  5. http://www.catholic.org/saints/

Number one (NameDayCalendar) is Comprehensive. It defaults to today’s date and names. You can search by date or month. You can also search for a name too. Number two (Imienny) gives you a concise box/table of name days. It goes across with month-name and downwards from 1 to 31 with 2 or 3 names per box. Number three (BehindTheName) is a comprehensive tool. Names, Name Search, Name Translation,  Name Popularity, Name Days (for 15 countries) and a few more. Number four (DiminutiveNames). You know Ted is a diminutive form for Theodore (Teodor). But have you ever wondered what a Polish Diminutive name is from? That is what Number Four does for you. I searched for ‘Czesiu’ and it said it was the diminutive for Czeslaw (which I knew because that is my father’s name and Czesiu was the term of endearment that my grandmother Walerya wrote in her son’s prayer book.  Number 5 is the other popular possibility of naming the child for a favorite saint whose feast day is the date of birth of the child (again +/- 1-2 days).

Okay so every day has more than one name. Some names (maybe all names) occur on more than one day in the calendar year. So if you are using the name day to figure out the birth date, please be aware that you might have to juggle several dates as possibilities. Of course many countries have name days. Consider, the rare name Dionizy [which occurs once in my family tree of Polish born ancestors], its names days are:

Poland: February 26
Poland: April 8
Poland: September 2
Poland: September 9
Poland: September 20
Poland: October 2
Poland: October 9
Poland: October 16
Poland: November 16
Poland: November 17
Poland: December 26
Poland: December 30

I would have to consider all twelve dates as possible birth dates for Dionizy Slawinski.

My grandfather, Jozef Elijasz had a brother born December 21st. His name was Tomasz Kanty. The ‘Tomasz’ came from the name day of the 21st (of December). The ‘Kanty’ came from the feast day of  saint Jan Kanty (John Canty) on December 23rd. Now I have plenty of Jan Kanty in my tree, but this is the first and only Tomasz Kanty. So we see the influence of both the name day and the saint’s feast day in one person!

What about Dionizy? His actual birth date was the 29th of March – no Dionizy name day there. But the record date is April 6th and this is often presumed the baptismal date of a birth record. Well now we have a name day for the baptism day (actually April 8th).  So you can see a certain amount of fluidity in the naming of a child.

It appears that naming a Polish child is akin to the complexity of naming a cat (T. S. Eliot, “The Naming Of Cats“). But  Polish Name Days or Saints Feast Days may provide a clue to a missing birth date. It appears Stanczyk’s first name is from his name day (or perhaps he was just named after his father). Something to think about.

Happy New Year Everybody!


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