Why were there no Polish given names in Polish village (part of Prussia)?


In order to find information about my ancestors, I accessed a Catholic church register of a village in the upper part of Silesia, via Family Search. The village, Śmicz, was Polish but was part of Prussia (and, from 1871, the German Empire). The records are from the 1820-1939 time period.

All the records are in German, which is not surprising, considering it was the official language.

What is however more surprising, is that while there is traces of Polish family names, there is absolutely no trace of Polish given names to anyone in the village.

By Polish given names, I mean all the series which ends in -sław, but also other typically Slavic names such as Boris, Marek, Casimir, Lech, etc...

Most given names were extremely unoriginal names that could be used in all languages, such as Joseph, Maria, etc... Not only that, but also some German names, which I do not think can be translated in Polish, were frequent, such as: Georg, Franz, Franziska, Cecilia, Emmanuel, etc...

So, how to explain that? Was there a law that prevented people giving Polish surnames to babies, or were the typical Slavic names just not in fashion in the 19th and early 20th centuries?


Posted 2016-01-15T10:51:12.187

Reputation: 1 336

@rozkosz Those article are not of very good quality and doesn't tell anything about names, as such they don't answer my quesiton. – Bregalad – 2016-01-16T09:50:50.637

1@Bregalad Yes, they don't answer your question they provide context; that is why I posted them as a comment. – C R – 2016-01-16T16:56:43.097

1You could also be looking at germanised names. Franciszka and Cecylia were quite common for Polish girls at the time. – skolima – 2016-01-16T22:43:01.980

@skolima : Thanks I didn't know about that. Perhaps I should remove this question and have another one which is "What is the polish equivalent of the following german names : x, y, z, etc..." But I'm still puzzled by the absence of names ending in -slaus, which are so prevalent in modern-day Poland. – Bregalad – 2016-01-17T09:04:50.627

@Bregalad Can't say much about 19th century, but in the early 20th century "Joseph" and "Maria" were very popular in Poland. I have always considered these names indigenously polish. If "Georg" is "George" equivalent, then it translates to "Jerzy" which is also quite a common name here. As for "Boris", this is a russian name not polish. I would suppose there were a number of poles named so in the older days, I just haven't heard about any. – tsuma534 – 2016-03-03T13:56:31.947



The most likely reason is that the Catholic priest was German. Back then the baby's names had to correspond to a canonized saint's name. So whatever name the parents gave the child, the priest would write in the German or Latin variation of the saint's name.

During this time period, I've seen German babies in France baptized with French names, and German babies in Texas baptized with Spanish names. The foreign names were never used outside of the church books.


Rusty Erpenbeck

Posted 2016-01-15T10:51:12.187

Reputation: 3 576