Getting in Step
5/1/2007
Falling out of step while trying to find your Polish ancestors? Get back in line by avoiding these four common research pitfalls.

Surprise spellings

Polish names are often misspelled in records created outside Poland, so be prepared for your ancestor to assume a variety of identities. Names on passenger lists may reflect the influence of Russian or German-for example, a German-speaking ship purser might've rendered your ancestors' surname using German rather than Polish phonetics (Andruschkewitz vs. the Polish Andruszkiewicz). You may find first names translated, such as Ivan or Johann for Jan. In US records, the misspellings were English-influenced. Equip yourself to over come this challenge by learning Polish language basics, including the sound values of all the letters. If you know what letters and letter combinations aren't used in Polish — and how names got Anglicized - it'll be easier to do “linguistic surgery” on misspelled names.