Polish Language/barski's origin


my mother's maiden name is barski and she's mentioned that her paternal grandfather's last name was shortened from a 12 letter name to barski when he came over from poland (i don't remember where in poland, but he ended up settling in mocanaqua, pa.) and we can't seem to find any records of the original 12 letter name. if there's any information or backing to/of barski, then i'd love to know about it! could you please help me with that??

dorothy callahan.

Today (Oct. 30, 2015) I have added some more resources to the original answer of June 2015.

Dear Dorothy,

I think that you expect me to be omniscient. Well, I am not. How could I possibly know the answer to your question? Sorry for having disappointed you.

I should have rejected your question, with "This is beyond my expertise", as I have done before, so many times, with questions expecting me to have the faculties of the Holy Ghost (or at least of some fortune teller), but I decided I will answer you by pointing out the false presuppositions you are making, thus preventing others from making similar errors. (How naive I am believing that this would help others, only the Holy Ghost knows!)

So, here you have some remarks:

Although you use passive voice "was shortened", which suggests that the act of shortening of that surname was somehow an objective act (maybe a customary act), in fact it was an individual act concerning one person - the paternal grandfather of your mother. No matter, whether he himself shortened his surname, or whether someone else did it for him. Two things are certain to me: 1) there isn't (and there never was) any custom of shortening long surnames in Poland, 2) the act of shortening of the surname of the paternal grandfather of your mother happened in America. And it was done for the pupose of the American neighbors, or local authorities only, not for himself (as being of Polish origin he was perfectly able to pronounce his long surname). Many linguistic changes and transformations that happened to Polish surnames (and other words) while in America have never been known in Poland - and not all the factors that lie behind those changes are known.

Mentioning "mocanaqua, pa." is of no importance - at least for me, maybe it is for you, but then you can go there yourself and check the archives, the registers, the census records etc.
I don't even know where "mocanaqua, pa." is. I have no information that "mocanaqua, pa." was a specific destination for emigrants from a specific village/municipality/county/region of present day Poland. Maybe it was - but I have no idea about it. There are no direct links between the areas of origin in Poland and the destination areas in the USA. At least, no list of such connections is available anywhere.

You seem to think that Poland was always there where it is now, like the USA. Well, USA happened to grow, become larger by annexing different territories. Poland (since the beginning of the 15th century) has shrinked, it is now about one 10th of what it was in ca. 1450, and in 1945 it shifted its area westward by some 150-200 km in some areas (losing at the same time territories in the east). Remember, that in the times your great-grandfather arrived from "Poland" to the USA, either Poland had different borders than it has now, or even it was a formally non-existent country (1795-1918), although it was a country alive in the hearts of many of its inhabitants (and subsequent emigrants). So - maybe he was an emigrant from somewhere within the larger area of the pre-1772 Poland? Most of this area lies now out of the borders of the present day Poland, parts of it within the borders of Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia and even Slovakia and Russia. Or maybe where he came from were the areas of the Poland 1919-1939? Half of it is out of Poland now. If you "don't remember where in Poland", how could I possibly divine it? You don't even metion the year he came to America, how could I possibly guess it?

Maybe you think that I am a computer and
1) I have all possible Polish surnames in my head
Alas, I don't.
2) I can sort all the information in my head by any factor, e.g by the length of the word. Alas, I can't.
What more, you give me no hint whatsoever as to which way the surname was shortened. Assuming that "-ski" was the original ending, maybe "-barski" was the full original ending of a longer surname, beginning with some other letters and sounds, like "Kalabarski" (no, it's only 10 letters long), or the letters "bar-" were dispersed somewhere inside, like "Kabalarski" (no, 10 letters again). Or else, was the original surname beginning with "B" or "Ba" or "Bar"? Like "Biłgorajski" (no, 11 letters), "Błagowieszczeński" (no, 17 letters), "Bałaganiarski" (no, 13 letters), "Bajdarski" (no, only 9 letters), or "Bartmiński" (10), "Barcikowski" (11), "Barcisławski" (finally 12 letters!), "Barciszewski" (12!), "Bartoszewski (12!) ....

Check the last three:

The possibility is however that the original surname was ending in -cki (pronounced -tski) or -dzki, and even that was simplified for the sake of the English speaking environment.

I suggest that you

1) download the file http://www.futrega.org/etc/nazwiska.html
(containing the 20,000 most popular surnames in Poland in the beginning of the 1990-ies, as registered in the PESEL database), then sort them by the length of the word (now they are sorted by the popularity index, the number in front of them givin the number of the bearers), and then sort those 12-letters long by alphabet. If this doesnt't help, in the bottom of that webpage you will find a link to a file containing 400,000 surnames of Poland.

REMEMBER, these are the surnames in use in about 1990, not about the time your ancestor left "Poland". Some of those in use then, have become obsolete by 1990; some new ones have appeared; some might have changed their spelling. There was an important spelling reform in 1933, but surnames are the most conservative parts of the language. The registry keepers in the countryside were mostly only half-litterate, so the spelling might have been written wrong. Before 1918 there were different "customs" of spelling Polish surnames in the Austrian, German and Russian parts of the pre-1772 partitioned Poland.

2) If the original surname was written with the initial "B", you open the "Ba" surname webpage (http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/ba.html) in the 'MoiKrewni' (i.e. 'MyRelatives') website and following the "next surname" links (near the right arrows in the bottom of each webpage) you check all the surnames, from "Ba" to "Bżykot" (http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/b%25C5%25BCykot.html). Wish you courrage!

Remember - these are the surnames after the 2001 census, not in the time of emigration of your great-grandfather.

3) You check the Ellish Island records at
or else

In the results page of the first link, click the "filter" and mark all (or some) of the options,
For example the search of "Barski{" (with no first name entered) with all options checked, gives the following results:
Contains 904
Exact Matches 133
Close Matches 154
Sounds Like 10000
Alternate Spellings 2

Next click the "wizard" to change other options (e.g. narrow the search by the year of arrival, married status, town of origin etc.), or uncheck the "Sounds like".

Of course, enter the first name, if you know it (in its Polish version rather than the English one).

And don't forget to read this article before:

> if there's any information or backing to/of barski

Some resources (mostly in Polish):

1) http://www.sejm-wielki.pl/n/Barski
Osoby o nazwisku „Barski” w Genealogii Potomków Sejmu Wielkiego (People with the surname "Barski" in the "Genealogy of the descendants of the Great Sejm deputies), see also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Sejm

2) http://www.genealogia.okiem.pl/powstanies/index.php?nazwisko=Barski
Genealogie Polaków - Osoby o nazwisku Barski związane z Powstaniem 1863r.
(Genealogies of Polish people - People with the surname "Barski" in the January 1863 Uprising)
see also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/January_Uprising

3) http://www.genealogiapolska.pl/surnames-oneletter.php?firstchar=B
Genealogia Polska - Lista nazwisk: Rozpoczyna się na B
(Polish Genealogy - all surnames beginning with B)

4) http://rcin.org.pl/Content/38217/WA243_18877_2631016_SLO-NAJ-NAZW_0000.pdf
Słownick najstarszych nazwisk polskich - ich pochodzenie - t. I
(Dictionary of the most ancient Polish names - their origin - vol. I)

5) Present day (2001 cenzus) repartition of this surname in Poland by county:
males: http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/barski.html
females: http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/barska.html

Hoping this would help

All the best,


Polish Language

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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.

Awards and Honors
2012 Golden Medal of Civil Service of Poland; 2012-13 Taiwan Fellowship - Tunghai University (Taichung)

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