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Polish Language/Last name Pierchoski

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Question
My last name is Pierchoski and I've never been able to find anything on it. Any information you could tell me on it's origin, meaning, or spelling would be appreciated! I've always just assumed it was Polish. Thank you.

Answer
Dear Kelsey,

"Pierchoski" does not seem to be a correct _Polish_ spelling of this surname. (Which does not
mean it is not a correct _Polish-American_ spelling). It does not appear anywhere in Poland
now, according to the 2002 cenzus (http://http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/). Yet it appears 3060
times in Google search https://www.google.pl/search?hl=pl&as_q="Pierchoski". All of the links I have checked lead to USA.
(Female form: "Pierchoska" https://www.google.pl/search?hl=pl&as_q="Pierchoska" gives only 1 = one result, also in the USA, which is clear to me why - females of Polish origin in the English speaking countries bear the masculine surname after their father, as the English language does not know separate surnames for males and females, like e.g. the Slavic languages do or else the Icelandic does. If you want to know more - read the Wikipedia article on Polish names: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_name .


The cognate surname would be "Pierchowski". It is quite common for Polish surnames to drop the
-w- before the ending -ski (female: -ska) - because in common pronunciation this -w-
(pronounced normally as -v-, but here, before voiceless consonants as -f-) is omitted, and this euphonic change is not considered an (orthophonic) error.
So in the former periods (let say: in the 19th century and the first three decases of the 20th
century, during the partitions period adn for some time afterwards) those who kept the registry books were not always having their level of education of Polish enough high to know the correct spellings and were following the pronunciation rarther than orthography. The same happened to those wo emigrated to America, usually they were poor people, with low level of education (if any). They recorded their names as they pronounced them (with a possible influence of English spelling of the person who kept the books).

So we have now pairs of surnames like:
Pulawski / Pulaski
Orlowski / Orloski
Kozlowski / Kozloski
(The first ones in each pair being much more common than the second ones. For your convenience
I have omitted writing "ł", and have put "l" instead everywhere).
Now, to continue with "Pierchowski", which also does not appear now in Poland. This time the
Google search https://www.google.pl/search?num=100&hl=pl&q="Pierchowski" gives only 58 results, https://www.google.pl/search?num=100&hl=pl&q="Pierchowska" gives two results, all in the USA, and the lower number is again quite well understood by me. The -wsk- cluster (either pronounced -fsk- or -vsk-, or even -wsk-) is hard for English speaking surrounding so the tendency to drop the -w- is even stronger in America than in Poland.

The "r", sounding strange to a Polish ear in this position, may be considered either a regional variant (Kashubian language/dialect in the north of Poland, Upper Silesian dialect/language in the south of Poland), or of the influence of Czech language (also in the south of Poland, especially near Cieszyn, Zywiec, Bielsko-Biala).

NB. the "ch" in those surnames above and below under I. and II. is pronounced like "ch" in
Scottish "Loch" or in German "Bach", unlike English "ch" in "church" (it is common to mark this sound as "kh" for the purpose of English phonetics. (For the other phonetic possibility - see below - under III.)

I. So I have been looking for the possible 'correct Polish' spellings of this surname, which
would keep the "r" letter, and couldn't find any any records that such surnames exist in
nowadays Poland. These include:

a) Pierzchowski
and b) Pierzchoski.

The "rz" is the result of palatalisation of the ancient "r", which is now pronounced as "s" in
"leisure" or "zh" in "Brezhnev"; but here, before a voiceless consonant "kh" (a digraph "ch")
it is devoiced and pronounced as English "sh" in "shut"; altogether "shkh" - an impossible
sound cluster for and English speaking person.

Yet the correct Polish pronunciation of this surname is [pyesh-KOF-ski] - "pyesh" whit "ye" as
in "yet" preceded by a "p" and followed by a "sh", "kof" as "cough" or "cof-" in "coffie" (or a "k" followed by an "aw" in "law" and then with a "f") ; "ski" you know how; the capitalized
syllable is stressed.

None result was found at http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/pierzchowski.html.
(A disclaimer to the search engine says that its is a beta version, so it is possible that some surnames were not included into the database, containing 300,000 surnames and that they are working on a newer version. Unfortunately I know that the original company had some financial problems and was sold, and the new owner does not continue the work on this database - since 2007 [so probably we will never see a new database at this site]).

Despite this, a Google search at https://www.google.pl/search?num=100&hl=pl&q="Pierzchowski"
gives 287 results and for females https://www.google.pl/search?hl=pl&as_q="Pierzchowska" gives
another 63 results (Google searches for both "Pierzchoski" and "Pierzchoska" give 0 results and offers a redirect to "Pierzchalski" / "Pierzchalska").

Some of the entries are obviously errors - like those which refer to "JERZY PIERZCHOWSKI - GRA
KRÓLÓW / KAZIMIERZ WIELKI", should refer to "Jerzy Piechowski", well known writer, author of
many historical books (among them "Gra królów" [The Game of the Kings] and "Kazimierz Wielki"
[Casimir the Great]), see: https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerzy_Piechowski ,
http://opac.pbw.org.pl/cgi-bin/wspd_cgi.sh/wo2_opbib.p?ID1=EJLFNIJMQMGNFDKHLRNM&
100&ID=851900314742&widok=-1&N1=&N2=&N3=&N4=

Yet others seem to refer to living people: like the owner of the small company "Kobplast" in
Kobylka: Przemysław Pierzchowski (http://www.firms.pl/mz/kobylka/53141,kobplast-p-
pierzchowski.html), captain Stanisław Pierzchowski "Bomba" a Polish underground soldier of the
WW2 in Ostroleka region (http://www.archiwum.moja-ostroleka.pl/wedrowali-szlakami-zolnierzy-
wykletych-zdjecia,1308770116,2.html), a traveller Grzegorz Pierzchowski
(http://warszawa.naszemiasto.pl/archiwum/uniwersytet-ludzi-ciekawych-swiata-piesz
santiago-de,1943782,art,t,id,tm.html), several Pierzchowskis and Pierzchowskas listed as the
inhabitatnts of the city of Poznan between 1870 and 1931 (http://e-kartoteka.net/index.php?
option=com_content&view=article&id=508:14923-pielucha-pierzynski&catid=9&Itemid=108), or else
Alice Pierzchowski from the USA
http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?gl=allgs&gsfn=Alice&gsln=Pierzchowski
and Brady Pierzchowski at Youtube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGO3HIFtQzc).

[It is obvious for me that in USA the -rz- would have tendency to be reduced into something,
maybe just -r-especially in the context of the cluster -rzch- about which no English speaking
person would have the slightest idea how to pronounce it.]

So we can safely say that the surname "Pierzchowski" ("Pierzchowska") is known to exist (only we don'tk now for sure in which regions of Poland now) - their origin is that they were
probably the owners of the villages of Pierzchów https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierzch%C3%B3w
and the neighbouring Pierzchowiec https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierzch%C3%B3w.
They were noblemen and the coat of arms they had was "Pierzcha" (aka "Perka")
http://www.genealogia.okiem.pl/glossary/glossary.php?lettertwo=Pie
http://genealogia.grocholski.pl/gd/herb.php?id=0244
http://wwww.clenodium.eu/pl/polish-crests/polish-crests/pierzcha-13760

(Pierzcha is a Kashubian word meaning a flat fish, flounder, common Polish "flądra",
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flounder, and this coat of arms belongs to the Kashubian nobelty
(https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heraldyka_kaszubska), so maybe the history is that the village
of "Pierzchów" in south of Poland was founded by them, not that they originated from there. I don't know).

Seeing that the alternative name for "pierzcha" was "perka" in Kashubian - maybe you should
adopt pronouncing your surname as [pyer-KOH-ski] - "pyer" as "yer" (common form for "your")
preceded by a "p", "oh" as "aw" in "law"; ski you know how; the capitalized syllable is
stressed.

There was also another coat of arms, much more frequent, with a similar spelling "Pierzchala" (aka "Roch") https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierzcha%C5%82a_coat_of_arms
and the owners of this coat of arms were bearing surnames Pierchała, Pirzchała, Pirch
and as the Polish Wikipedia says,
https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierzcha%C5%82a_%28herb_szlachecki%29
in some regions of Poland this coat of armas was called "Pierchała". (see "r" instead of "rz"?)

But these two coats of arms are not related, yet the phonetical phenomenon of a change of "Pierzch-..." to "Pierch-..." is attested.

If you think that "Pierzchała" coat of arms might be at your ancestry's origin, as this is much more common than "Piercha" - there is a forum of those who belong to it
http://www.pierzchala.fora.pl/szukajmy-sie,5/nasze-korzenie,6.html

NB. Being a nobleman in Poland before 1900 did not mean being a rich man. Polish nobelty /
nobility / szlachta in Poland covered 17% of the population and many of them were simple, poor
and uneducated people living on the farms, or as servants to the landlords, the only difference between them and the "peasants" before ca. 1860 was that "noblemen" were free people (theoretically could move wherever and whenever they wanted) whereas the "peasants" were not (were ascribed to the village, were supposed to live and work there, they formally werent't slaves but they couldn't leave it (move elsewhere) without a consent of the land owner, and even if they had their own piece of land by themselves, they were obliged to serve part of their time to the landlord in the neighbourhood).
See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Szlachta
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_heraldry


II. As another possibility I have considered to drop the "r" letter. Maybe this spurious letter was an "American" innovation?

So we have in Poland a similar, well known surname
c) Piechowski (female: Piechowska)
http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/piechowski.html (1528 males in 2002)
http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/piechowska.html (1741 females in 2002)

[NB. If you follow the right arrow in the bottom of the page for male surname, you will find
one compound surname "Piechowski-Józwiak" and then again with another arrow - another compound
surname "Piechowski-Leliwa".]


d) and the variant without -w- "Piechoski" (female: "Piechoska") - very scarce:
http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/piechoski.html
http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/piechoska.html

These surnames are so common in the version under c) that I have not made any Google search for them. You may do it by youself.


III. Finally I have assumed that maybe the -ch- was not the original Polish spelling but it has been "created in America" to reflect the Polish pronunciation.
Then instead of "ch" you would encounter "cz" in Polish.

The search for "Pierczoski"  http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/pierczoski.html
or "Pierczowski" http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/pierczowski.html give no results.
The same with the female surnames.


Google search for "Pierczowski"
https://www.google.pl/search?q=%22Pierczowski%22&num=100&hl=pl&filter=0&biw=1280&bih=876 gives 10 results - all of them related to genealogical searches.

(https://www.google.pl/search?num=100&hl=pl&q=%22Pierczoski%22 gives 0 results.)

Now, the choice is yours which of the versions you'd like to follow...

Why not check the books on Ellis Island with the approximate date of landing of your ancestor
and therein check both the spelling and the town/village/county/region of origin?

Why not try to contact those who have already searched for their ancestors with these surnames?
like those:
https://www.google.pl/search?num=100&hl=pl&q="Pierzchowski"+ancestry+OR+genealogy+OR+genealogia
similarily:
https://www.google.pl/search?num=100&hl=pl&q="Pierchoski"+ancestry
https://www.google.pl/search?num=100&hl=pl&q="Pierchowski"+ancestry
https://www.google.pl/search?num=100&hl=pl&q="Piechowski"+ancestry
https://www.google.pl/search?num=100&hl=pl&q="Piechoski"+ancestry
or the "Pierczowski" given above.

Try checking female forms (-ska) of the surnames yourself.

Hoping this would help I wish you succes in detecting your roots.

MAciej

PS. I was writing and editing this text for a long, long time, and I hope there are no
unfinished sentences and broken thoughts. If such a thing has happened or else if something
remains unclear, let me know with a follow-up.

Polish Language

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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.

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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).

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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).

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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.

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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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