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Polish Language/surname Jeratowski


QUESTION: I have been working on some Jeratowski family history.
I have traced back my gr gr gr grandfather Adam Jeratowski who was born in 1840.  His son John was born in Pennsylvania in 1879.
I suspect a surname change at some point back then as I can find no other Jeratowski's.
I was wondering if you could shed some light on this for me.


ANSWER: Dear Deab
I suppose the original surname was Gieratowski (or Geratowski), but "g" before a front vowel (i, e) was pronounced in the 18th and 19th centuries like "j" (i.e. English "y"), hence frequent spellings like "jenerał" (generał - general), "jeografia" (geografia = geography), "jeometra" (geometra = geometrician) from that time.
I will try to research a bit later on, when I come back home, and send a follow up. I am just leaving for a few days - so for today, just this much.

PS. there is no such thing as "meaning" of a surname. One can only speak about its origin.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I've since learned there is a statue in the cemetary with this inscribed:
Ofiara I Pamiatka   Offering and Token of Remembrance
Adama I Marianny    Adam and Maryann
Iratowskich         Iratowski
Roku Panskiego 1908 Year of our Lord 1908

Their regular head stone put up much later by family, shows Jeratowski
is there a way to find out if Iratowskich was a name in Poland back in the 1850's ?

Dear Deb,

I have to disappoint you. No search in Poland has shown any record of the surname "Jeratowski" or "Iratowski" (well, I have not searched really in the 18th century documents, only with what is accessible via Internet; anyhow, this year I am in Taiwan, so the former would be impossible even if I's like to do it especially for you).
And even if you try to Google these names, you obtain only American results (When you use advanced search with Google, restricting the language to Polish and the domain to Poland, you obtain 0 (zero) results (well, you obtain 1 in each case, but these should be neglected as "Jeratowski" there is again related to USA, and "Iratowski" there is an adjective made from an abbreviation IRAT, denoting a kind of vocational certificate").

I have also checked for a theoretically possible another spelling "Hieratowski". With the same result.

So we have to go back to the original hypothesis: Gieratowski => Jeratowski. Iratowski would be a result of yet further phonetical contraction (simplification): gie => je => i (pronounced: gye => ye => ee)

And the surname Gieratowski is well attested, albeit now quite rare. See the present day repartition in Poland:
male: Gieratowski -
female: Gieratowska -

(Why separately male and female? See

The surname Gieratowski/-ka is already a result of simplification of the surname Gierałtowski/-ka, which in turn is quite common and attested as early as 1506.

("ł" sound, being pronounced nowadays like English "w", previously like a "dark" L, tended to disappead in certain dialects when making a cluster with another consonant - you can easily see where, from the comparison of the two maps - in modern common Polish you can see this effect in the word "jabłko" ("apple") most often pronounced "jabko" or in the ending of the 3rd person singular masculine of the past tence of certain verbs like "spadł, rzekł, wlazł, niósł", which are pronounced "spad, rzek, wlaz, niós").

How common is the surname Gierałtowski? See:

and the related form "Gerałtowski"

with a "hard" or Mazovian (Warsaw) and Western Polish pronunciation of "G" before "E" -> "GE" (like in English "gue" in "guest"); "gie" being the so-called "soft" or palatalised pronunciation, resulted finally in the shift towards "je" (English "ye"; compare to English shift of "g" in "general" being pronounced the same way as "j" in "jet"); now in modern Polish it is back again "gie"; "GE" was originally absent from Eastern and Southern Poland).

The etymology of this surname is as follows: 'the one from [the village of] Gierałtowice (one born there, probably within the noble family of the owners).

There are three villages of this name in present day Poland
The oldest one (attested 1506) is the first one from this list, but I am not sure if this is the origin of your family. If you follow the links in Polish Wikipedia, you'll find that the entries have also their corresponding English articles (but not the list itself; however you may creat one for the sake of the English readers).

The etymology of the name of the village is: '[founded] by one [bearing the name of] Gierałtowicz'. It means, the village was named after the founder/owner, who had the surname Gierałtowicz (original meaning: "son of Gierałt");

The owner probably himself was not the son of Gierałt, only Gierałt was one of his ancestors, (like not everybody bearing the English surname Johnson is actually "son of John"; that's the difference between the (actual) "meaning" and the etymology i.e. origin of the word traceable to the (original) "meaning" thereof. Personal names, surnames and place names only have the second one.

In Poland there are also two villages with the name of Gierałcice, which were more closely related to the original owner/founder - founded not by the (great-great-grand-)son of Gierałt but by certain Gierałt himself:

"Gierałt" is a name of Germanic origin, Ger-waldt, meaning "holder of the gear"

The famous "Gierałt" (probably the forefather of every Gierałtowski, Gerałtowski, Gieratowski, Jeratowski and Iratowski was a certain nobleman who was long a pagan, dind't want to baptize, but in 1386 he converted to Christianity in Rome and receives from the Pope his new coat of arms, composed from the elemnts of his older one, originally called "Cicierza" (or "Cietrzew" - meaning "Black grouw", the bird whom you can see now on the top), and of some new elements added, and was called "Ośmioróg" (or "Eight corners"), but which was later on called simply "Gierałt" after his original owner. According to the Polish tradition, this coat of arms was subsequently given to some Lithuanian noble families (Lithuanians didn't have coats of arms until their union with Poland), and to some families which obtained nobelty later on and became somehow related (e.g. by marriage) to the original family.

Some of his descendants used the surname "Gierałt", some "Gierałtowicz", some "Gierałtowski" (or maybe some of them were just his descendants' younger in-laws?)

Here you can find genealogy of one of the branches of the family, well off noblemen from Tuchów.

So all Gierałtowscy were originally noblemen (noblewomen). I suppose, Jeratowscy as well. You can find the name Gierałtowski in many famous Polish "herbarz"-es i.e. books of nobelty, registered according to their "herb" i.e. coat of arms.

Google has pointed to me
"Herbarz polski Kaspra Niesieckiego. Powiększony dodatkami z pomniejszych autorów rękopismów, dowodów, uręzdowych i wydany przez Jana Nep. Bobrowicza (1839) vol. VIII" The original book was from the beginning of the XVIIth century. I do not have time to look inside, but this is vol. 8, so maybe your name could be found also in other volumes (

The sources used by me include also:
Gierałt - 1386 od imienia pochodzenia germańskiego Gerwald, od gër ‘oszczep’ + walt ‘panować’. Imię znane w Polsce od XIII wieku.
Gierałtowicz - od imienia pochodzenia germańskiego Gerwald, od gër ‘oszczep’ + walt ‘panować’. Imię znane w Polsce od XIII wieku.
Gierałtowski - 1509 od nazwy miejscowej Gierałtowice (bielskie, gmina Wieprz).

I suppose that your ancestor, Giera(ł)towski/Jeratowski might have come to America with Kościuszko and Pułaski (so during America's fight for independence), or about 1802-04 (time when USA purchased Louisiana, where the Polish Legion used to be deployed by France of Napoleon Bonaparte); or after 1815 (the end of the Napoleonic Wars and fall of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw; so dissolving of the Polish Legion in France), but not later than 1830 (When the Polish legion was recreated in France). But if he originally appeared in Pennsylvania, I would opt for the first or the last date, not the second one. If he was a nobleman, he might have even been an officer.

The form "Iratowskich" found on the memorial is the Genitive plural (for the couple), like English "of the Iratowskis".

(I have made this table in Wikipedia today, especially for you, but also for others wbho might ask similar questions in the future. Genitive forms, used for "of ...", and Dative forms, used for "to ...", are very frequent in ancient documents, along the basic Nominative ones. Vocative is the form of address).

It should be correctly be transcribed and translated as:

Ofiara i pamiątka   Offering and memorial
Adama i Marianny    of Adam and Marianna
Iratowskich         Iratowski (= "the Iratowskis")

"Adama", Marianny" is Genitive singular (masculine and feminine respectively)
"Iratowskich" is Genitive plural.

Alle the best in your research


PS.1. There is also another famous Gierałt (written "Geralt") the main hero of the modern Polish fantasy series "Wiedźmin" ("The Witcher") by Andrzej Sapkowski (wonderful series of books, fine comics, awful tv series and a very good computer game).

PS.2. There is also a possibility that your ancestor was originally a simple peasant from the one of the villages bearing the name of "Gierałtowice" who was illiterate, that would explain why he didn't know how to write his name. The name could even not have been really his own, but "borrowed" or "stolen" (if one can say so that in the epoch of no copyright one could steal a surname - one could steal the coat of arm, i.e. use it as his own without right to it, but a surname
Everybody living in the village of Gierałcice might have been called "Gierałtowski" which would mean "belonging to Gierałt (and his descendants)".
Living in Gierałtowice (and having left it, e.g. with the army) he could refer to his place of origin (Gierałtowski would mean "born in Gierałtowice" or "coming from Gierałtowice" or to his master (the actual or original lord of the village).

PS.3. But remember that in the end of 18th - beginning of 19th century planty of Polish noblemen were also illiterate, they were poor, so called "szlachta zaściankowa", living from the work on their own small field (they had to own something, a small portion of a field; the peasants normally had only their house) - the difference between them and the simple peasants being only that they were the free men, could leave the village whenever they wanted, whereas the peasants could leave it only with consent of the village owner. But the level of literacy and even the level of life could be very similar. If they had no field, like simple peasants, they could even be working as a "client" to a richer nobleman, taking care of the house, of the horses etc.

It requires long, long research and studies to resolve all those hypotheses. But at least you (probably) know where to start from. Or maybe you don't? Maybe now you know less that in the beginning? Too much is worse than too little ;)

greetings :)

PS.4. I have found that in my notes I had also these two links, which I hadn't used in my description, they probably contain some information but I leave them to you to discover whoat kind of it they have. Gerałtowski under: JASTRZĘBIEC


PS 5.
I have seen that the letter ł always appears as ł - so wherever you see these numbers it should be L-bar, like in
Please excuse me that in my previous hasty answer I have misfigured your first name. I cannot change it now any more.


PS. 6.
Dear Deb

I have realised that in this website you can find genelaogica information about several branches of the Gieralt family - not only the one from Tuchów, but also those from other places. They are conducting a large genalogical research, you might consider writing to them (the e-mail and the phone numer to Father Stasislaw Pietrzak who is maintaining that website you can find at the bottom of that page;

You might also consider joining the Gieralt family social network at "Nasza Klasa" ("Nasza Klasa" or "Our Class" is a Polish social network, similar to Facebook in a way).

or contact there some of the people bearing this surname:



(no "Jeratowski/Jeratowska registered so far)

(I suppose that before searching / seeing the rsults of the search / being able to contact these people you will have to register yourself. Alas, in Polish - but maybe someone could help you back there, in the USA?

If you want to write me a private e-mail you may use the contact form at my university website.



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Maciej St. Zięba


I am native Polish and from time to time I teach Polish to foreigners. I know (passively of actively) more than 15 other languages - so I can answer many questions concerning Polish grammar, pronounciation, spelling, etymology and usage - as compared to English, French, German, Russian, Dutch, Esperanto or Norwegian. Also questions concerning other Slavic languages, Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan, or general linguistics, especially scripts (writing systems and transcriptions) - are welcome.


Teaching English, French, and Esperanto to Poles, Polish to foreigners, teaching Sanskrit, Mandarin Chinese, Classical Chinese and Tibetan. Tour Guide in English, French, Russian and German. Former President of the Regional Examination Committee for Tourist Guides (English and French)(1999-2005).

Polish Oriental Society (since 1979); International Association of Buddhist Studies (since 1986); Klingon Language Institute (since 1986); Learned Society of the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (since 1989); Polish Philosophical Association (since 1997); Universala Esperanto-Asocio (since 1978).

Books: "Origin of the World According to Rigveda" (Montreal 1996); "Our River Bug. Creating Conditions for Development of the Border Areas of Poland, Ukraine and Belarus through Enhancement and Preservation of Natural and Cultural Heritage" (Lublin 2008); "Migration - a Challenge to the 21st century" (Lublin 2008); "Migracja zarobkowa do Woch" (Job migration to Italy) (Lublin 2008); more than 100 articles in "Powszechna Encyklopedia Filozofii" (Universal Encyclopedia od Philosophy) vol. 1-10 (Lublin 2000-2009); many more in Polish, some of them available online, see: here and here (a list up to 2012.

Studying philosophy at Catholic University of Lublin (Poland) 1976-81; PhD in Philosophy (1989). Having learned languages in Gdansk and Gdynia (Russian, Esperanto, Latin, English - International Bacalaureate), Lublin (KUL - French, German, Dutch, Sanskrit, Latin, Ancient Greek; UMCS - Chinese, Japanese; elsewhere - Esperanto, Spanish, Italian), Paris (IIAP - French; INALCO - Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese; Sorbonne - Sanskrit), Asker (Norwegian, while working in a kindergarten!), Montreal (McGill - Chinese); Rome and Venice (Italian); Taichung, Taiwan (Chinese), Shimla, India (sanskrit). Self-taught: Slavic languages (other than Polish and Russian), Hungarian, Korean, Vietnamese, Klingon and several other.

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