Gwozdz

by Peter Gwozdz

Updated 14 Nov 2012

Gwozdz is a Polish family name.  Other Slavic countries have family names similar to Gwozdz.  The word gwozdz means nail in Polish.  It seems there is an archaic Slavic word gvozd meaning forest, so that may be the original meaning.  Accent marks are used for the Polish name Gwozdz.  It is pronounced Gvoozhj.  The oldest document I know of with the name Gwozdz is from 1386.  There are quite a few documents with Gwozdz from the 15th century.  I found microfilm records of Gwozdz vital statistics from the 17th century.  I trace my ancestors back to the end of the 18th century in Wadowice Gorne, a parish in the south.  I know of  14 parishes that have microfilm records of Gwozdz people before 1850.  No doubt my list is a small sample of the total parishes that could be found with old Gwozdz records.  I figure there are about 11 thousand people named Gwozdz in the world today.  That means the name most probably originated more than once.  Most of the 8,500 people in Poland named Gwozdz live near Katowice and Krakow, in southern Poland.  I conclude the name originated most often in the south.  Most of the originations were probably commoners picking the name Gwozdz around the year 1600.  I figure Polish microfilm records are good enough that  there is about 1 in 4 chance you can document your Gwozdz family tree back to the middle of the 18th century.  I figure there were about 70 Gwozdz family name originations before the end of the 17th century.  Considering the chances of family name persistence and the chances of family name changes, I come up with a very rough educated guess that 50 Gwozdz families might be ancestral to all living Gwozdz.  The chances are therefore slim that two arbitrary Gwozdz genealogists will find a common ancestor from the 18th century.  There are many towns in Poland with a name similar to Gwozdz.  If you are male with the family name Gwozdz, please consider having a Y-DNA test done to see if we are descended from the same male line.

Meaning of Gwozdz

Every Polish dictionary tells us that a gwóźdź is a nail.

My late cousin Eugene Iwanski had an eight volume unabridged Polish dictionary that was published about 1900.  Eugene looked up gwóźdź for me.  In addition to nail, it means a bung or spigot of a barrel or cask, the tang or tail of a knife that goes into the wooden handle, a metaphorical word for troubles or worries, and a card exchange between two card players.

There is also a little known archaic meaning of gwozdz:  forest.  I have a few sources for this meaning, which I discuss below in this web page, under multiple topics.  There is a summary below, where I express my opinion that the original Gwozdz people intended their name to mean forest, but I am not confident of this opinion - it’s hard to say for sure.

Gwozdz Accent Marks and Spelling

I avoid accent marks in most of this web page, in case your computer does not display accent marks.  The name Gwozdz in Polish is traditionally spelled with three accent dashes:  over the o and over both z’s.  All three dashes are like the French acute mark.

Like this:  Gwóźdź

However, Polish people often write the name without accents, or they use one or two dashes, or they use one or two dot accent marks, with or without dashes.

For example:  Gwoźdź, Gwóżdż, Gwózdź, etc.

There are other spellings and name variations.  I’ll return to more details about Gwozdz Spelling below, after I mention the Rymut Name Dictionary.

Other Countries with Gwozdz Equivalent

The word for nail sounds like Gwozdz in many Slavic languages.  No doubt there are equivalent names that originated in other Slavic countries.

“V” is not used in Polish.  The Polish language uses “w” for the “v” sound.  Most Slavic languages use the “v”, or use “v” when translated from the Cyrillic alphabet.

I know there is a Russian family name equivalent to Gwozdz.  In Russian, the word for nail is pronounced Gvozdi, with a y sound at the end.  I have asked a number of Russians if they have heard of a Russian name like Gvozdi;  many of them answered yes; some of them said they personally met someone with that name.  During a business trip to Russia I called myself Gvozdi and everyone assumed the name was Russian.  A web search for “Gvozdi” provides many hits:  A Moscow night club named Gvozdi came up on web searches, but it seems to have closed around 2005.  A 2003 Russian horror movie named Gvozdi was released in the US as “Nails”.

Many Slavic “g” words are pronounced and spelled with an “h” in Ukrainian, Slovak, and other Slavic languages.

My linguist cousin points out that the Ukrainian word for nail, possessive form, is written hvizd.  I found a Michael Hvizd on the web, and I once worked with a Mike Hvisdos.

Ed Gwozda contacted me by email in 2011.  Ed knew a Czech linguist who assured him that Hvozda is a Czech name meaning forest.  Ed speculates that his Polish family might be of Czech extraction, with the “Hv” changed to “Gw” in order to render the Czech sound into Polish spelling.  I asked my linguist cousin about this.  He found (Jan 2011) a Czech Wikipedia [http://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hvozd] entry that he translated for me:

“Hvozd is a deep, extensive, often boundary forest. The word comes from Old Slavic gvozd, which is a variation of IndoEuropean chvorst (chrast). The term hvozd is close to the words "les" and "hora" in its original unitary? meaning. The term hvozd is not currently used in contemporary Czech, it has been preserved primarily in local names for forested growth and hills such as Branzosky hvozd or Kralovsky hvozd, both in the Sumava mountains. Hvozd or Hvozdec is also the name of several Czech villages.”

Slavic language dictionaries make it more confusing:  the Slavic root for “whistle” is “gvizd”, and the root for “star” is “gviazd”.  We need to consider that a name may easily change from one spelling to another if there are known words with similar sounds;  for example a Polish name Gvizd or Gviazda might change over the centuries to Gwozdz.

My impression is that most Gwozdz people worldwide are of Polish origin.  I have not researched name dictionaries in countries other than Poland and US, but in Poland and the US the name Gwozdz dominates the “Gv”, “Gw” and “Hv” type names.

The common German name Nagel also means nail.

The name Nail is more common in the US than Gwozdz.  I know of a few Gwozdz people who changed their name to Nail.  I wonder how many of the Nail people in the world are Gwozdz people who changed their name.

Y-DNA

Y-DNA is the Y chromosome, carried by males and passed from father to son.  Just like a family name.  It will be neat to compare Y-DNA types for several Gwozdz men to get an idea of how many different Gwozdz male lines there actually are.  I figure there are about 100, but that is my very rough statistical estimate, explained below.

I already have my Y-DNA test results.  My Y-DNA group is E1b1b1a2 (formerly called E3b1a2), which is relatively rare.

I have a web site [about Polish Y-DNA].

There are quite a few web sites with a general introduction to the subject of genetic genealogy, for example [wiki], [Genographic],and [FTDNA].  There are a number of organizations and commercial companies on the web where you can order a cheek swab kit to mail in for genetic genealogy analysis, for example [Genographic Kit] and [FTDNA Products].

The National Geographic “Genographic Project” actually uses the FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA) laboratory.  At Genographic, you can register your results with FTDNA, and vice-versa.  It’s nice if you register your data with both.  Genographic is running a neat project to figure out the DNA of the world, but they do not compare your results to the results of other people.  FTDNA does.

I recommend FTDNA:  I am not associated with the company FTDNA;  I mention them because I make extensive use of their data;  check Google for competitors.  At FTDNA, click on “Products” to purchase cheek swab kits for DNA tests.  DNA results are confidential unless you register the data at a database;  at FTDNA, click on “Projects” to register your data into one of the many databases;  for example, I like to study the FTDNA [Polish Project].  Also at FTDNA you can join my “Gwozdz Project”, where you can compare your result to mine.  If you are a Gwozdz, be sure to [email me] for discussion.  If you are a Gwozdz you may ask me to do all the registrations and comparisons for you, since the links are not easy to find.

DNA test costs start at about $100.  If you are a Gwozdz and the cost is an issue, I can help.

If you already have your Gwozdz Y-DNA test result, or if you used a different lab, please [email me] for discussion.

Format and Contents

This Gwozdz web document is arranged as a series of topics about the name Gwozdz.  It is arranged to be read in order.  The style is a quick simple introduction first.  Details, data, and references come later.

Click on the links for detailed information if you do not want to read in order.  Use the links to find something you read last time you were here.  Most of the links jump around in this document.  Those links that leave out onto the web are marked with [brackets].

This is not an introduction to genealogy, so here is a link to a very simple introduction to [genealogy].  Here is a link to get started in [Polish genealogy], and a link for [“college level”] Polish genealogy.

I allowed myself to get very speculative toward the end of this long web document.  I separated the speculation to the end, so that you do not doubt the quality of the research that went into the bulk of this document.  That means there is a lot of repetition, where I return to topics for more speculative discussions toward the end.

If you save this web page on your computer, then open it using Word instead of your browser, you can use the bookmark links as an alphabetical index.

No Gwozdz Ancestors In This Document

This document is an overview about the name Gwozdz.  There are no family trees in this document.

I have done quite a bit of genealogy research about my Gwozdz ancestors.  I submit my data for my ancestors, and for other Gwozdz records that I collect, to the [LDS site].

If you are looking for your Gwozdz late 19th century ancestors, my data is unlikely to be of help to you.  I concentrate on the oldest records, mostly before 1820.  If you have traced your family back to 1820, then you know which microfilm has them and you do not need my help.  Tell me about your results, however, so I can add your parish to my list of Gwozdz parishes below. 

If your ancestors come from a parish within 50 km of Wadowice Gorne, then you should contact me.  I might have some information that helps.  Maybe we can work together in a search for a common ancestor.

Update

I wrote this Gwozdz document “name.html” in 2003.  I continually edit this document with updates.  From time to time I replace links that I notice no longer work but no doubt there are other expired links here.  My last update was 14 Nov 2012, including link update, but I only updated from the beginning to this sentence;  the topics below have not been updated for more than a year.

Polish Names

There are a number of good [books] on Polish family names.  Most large libraries have at least one of these books.  [PGSA] sells these kinds of books over the web.  For an introductory book in English, I recommend the [book by Hoffman].  More advanced name books written in Polish are discussed below.  The [RootsWeb] site has more information and links concerning Polish names.

Books do not tell you when and where particular Polish names originated.  Some noble names are exceptions, with well documented history.  For most Polish names, there is no historical record of origin.  I am confident with this statement, because I have discussed this issue with  people who study Poland and Polish names.  Hoffman, in his book, also points out that most Polish names do not have a history record.  One purpose of this web page is to document what I have learned about the name Gwozdz, and to document my reasons for concluding that the name is mostly from the south of Poland.

Heraldry and Coats of Arms

I have not found Gwozdz on published lists of Polish noble names.  I did locate a reference to a 1460 document that mentions a nobleman, Peter Gwozdz.

I found thousands of Gwozdz vital records on microfilm for the 17th through 19th century.  The ones I found so far are all clearly records for commoners, because personal status was usually written in records during those centuries.  Even the petty nobles (Szlachta) were recorded with a proper honorific.

“Heraldry” is the word used for the study of noble families, and for the study of coats of arms.  The Polish word is Herb, plural Herby, inflected form Herbarz.  There are a large number of books and web sites on the subject.  Look for “Coat of Arms”, or “Herald”, or “Herb” in a book title or web site for information.

I have seen purported Gwozdz coats of arms illustrations for sale on the web.  My aunt purchased one by mail order many years ago, and I have a color copy of that one.  I also saw a “Gwozdz Scroll” for sale on the web.  I am suspicious of these, so I did not pay the money to see what is being offered on the web.  My impression is that modern commercial products such as these may be based on flimsy evidence, and they usually do not provide references for the evidence.

No doubt many individuals named Gwozdz registered more than one coat of arms sometime in the past.  I understand it is difficult to distinguish vanity registrations from official noble registrations of coats of arms.

I spotted one web reference to a Gwozdz landowning family “of Belgium between the 11th and 12th centuries”.  I doubt it, but I’ll research that one of these days.

Rymut Name Dictionary

Kazimierz Rymut put together an alphabetical listing of all the family names in Poland.  For each name he provides the number of how many people in Poland have that family name.  He used a data base similar to the US Social Security data base, so almost everyone in Poland is included.  The result was published in 1992, and is available [on the web] (click on “Slownika Nazwisk”).  Rymut updated the listing in 2003 and published it [as a CD] that can be purchased from [PGSA].

The 1992 version, based on 1990 data, breaks down each name count by [province] (not the same as the most recent provinces in Poland).  The 2003 version, based on 2002 data, breaks down each name count by [county] and also male vs female.

Be careful using Rymut’s alphabetical lists.  An accented letter is alphabetized as a separate letter, after the unaccented letter.  For example, Gwóźdź comes 2 pages after Gwozdz, with names like Gwoździk on a page between.  For the web version of Rymut’s work, you can copy accented letters to the search engine.  You can enter a few letters to get a list of all names starting with those letters.

I used the 2003 CD to compile tables from Rymut.  The results are presented below in this document.  Let me briefly summarize the results right here:  There are 8181 people in Poland who spell their name Gwóźdź.  All the other obvious spellings and accents of Gwozdz together add up to only a few hundred people.  There are several distinct names that are definitely variations of Gwozdz, such as Gwoździk and Gwoździewicz that have over a hundred people each, but none with a thousand.  Two names, Góźdź and Gwiźdź, with a couple thousand each, look like they might be considered Gwozdz variations.  Details and discussion below.

I used the 1992 Rymut version to compile a table of where in Poland Gwóźdź people live.  Details below.  Summary:  most of them live in the south of Poland.  61% of the people named Gwozdz in Poland live in a cluster of 7 provinces around Katowice.  I presume that means that the name originated there, perhaps more than once.

US Census Names Sample

The US Census Bureau has a [web page engine] that allows us to type a name and determine how common that family name is in the US.  Their data base is a statistical sample from the census data.

Gwozdz ranks 25,550th in the US.

I studied the data base and determined that actually, the rankings from 24,960 through 25,873 are a reverse alphabetical listing of those names with exactly 22 people in the data base of 6,290,251 people.  In other words, Gwozdz is in a 914-way tie for a ranking around 25,000.

That means the percent Gwozdz in the US is 22 divided by 6,290,251 = 0.00035%.

That is 3.5 Gwozdz per million people.

22 people is not a very good statistical sample.  However, I can provide a sanity check on this percent.  About 35 years ago, while delayed at the Chicago airport, I found a room with a display of all the phone books of the large cities in the US.  I browsed for an hour or so and found at least one Gwozdz listing in many cities, and I found a few Gwozdz listings in most of the largest cities.  35 years ago, most families had a phone book listing, and only one listing, so a listing represented a family of a few people.  This informal study gave me about the same estimate for Gwozdz in the US, a few per million.

That web page data is from the 1990 census.  Assuming the same percent in 2004, with 292.4 million people in the US, I calculate that there are 1023 Gwozdz in the US (calculation done in 2004).  In other words, about a thousand.  I guess the statistical accuracy is plus or minus a few hundred.

I checked all the most common variations of Gwozdz.  None of them are in this US Census data base.  They are too rare.  Less than one per 6 million.  Accent marks of course are not used in the data base.

Web Search for a Name

As a quick sanity check on a name spelling, I enter it into one of the web search engines.  Google, Yahoo, etc.  Most of the spelling variations of Gwozdz come up with plenty of people.

Other Gwozdz Web Sites

[www.Gwozdz.com]  Dr. Paul Gwozdz, NJ.

[www.Gwozdz.net]  Used to be a Polish family site, but in 2007 just has pop-up ads.

[www.Gwozdz.de]  A commercial site in Germany.

[www.gwozdz.pl]  Takes you to metalurgia.pl home page, a company that produces nails.

[www.gwozdzie.com]   Advertisement.

[www.gwozdzie.pl]  Also goes to metalurgia.

[www.gwozdz.cba.pl]  Genealogy site on Gwozdz, in Polish.  Includes descendancy of Marcin Gwozdz, born about 1875 in Bojszowy Nowe.

Gwozdz Pronunciation

The name Gwóźdź is pronounced Gvoozhj.

The G is like the g in “game”.  Not like the G in “George”.

The w in Polish has a v sound, as in “violin”.

The Gv combination consonant is very difficult for English speakers.  Here is a way to sound it out:  Imagine a game of tag where everyone must play a violin while running.  I would call this game “tag violin”.  Say that over and over quickly:  “tag violin”.  Try not to add a vowel between the two words.  Do not say “tag-a-violin”.  When you can say it without a vowel, remove the “ta” and say “g violin”.  Then remove the “ionlin” for the “g v” sound.

OK, it is very difficult.  Most English speakers have to add a soft vowel between the g and v, making the sound gav or gev, with the vowel as brief as possible.  Polish speakers can combine the gv with no vowel sound at all.  We form the g but hold it back for a split second, then let it explode along with a v.

The oo is long, like in toon.  In Polish, the ó and u are identical sounds.  The o without the accent, however is soft, as in “dog”.  Gwoźdź without the accented o is pronounced Gvozhj.

The ź is pronounced soft, like the z in azure, usually indicated as zh in pronunciation guides.  Without the accent, the Polish z is the same as the English z.  So Gwózdź = Gvoozj.  With a dot accent, ż is also pronounced like the z in azure.  Few English speakers can hear the difference between ź and ż.  Pronounce ż with the tongue a little more forward toward the teeth;  pronounce ź with the tongue a little more to the back.

The dź is equivalent to the English j as in judge.  Or G as in George.  Polish dz, cz, rz, and sz are treated as single consonants.  In other words, the z is sort of like an accent mark when added after those letters. That is why Polish has so many z’s.  (English does the same thing with h, using h to change a sound to another one, usually unrelated to h, like ph, which is pronounced f.)  In our name, that first z is a normal z;  the second z modifies the d.  That makes dź doubly accented.  Without the accent, dz is as in English.  With a dot, dż has the tongue a little forward compared to dź.

The źdź combination consonant is very difficult for English speakers.  To practice, try “azure judge” and remove the “ure” for “azh judge”.  For this one, even Polish speakers “voice” the zh with a very tiny soft neutral vowel between the consonants.

Gwosc

In Polish, it is very common to pronounce a final dź as a ć.  That ć is pronounced ch as in church.  The Polish cz is equivalent.  So the name Gwóźdź (or the word for nail, gwóźdź) is often said as Gvoozhch.  That is a correct pronunciation.  Some books call it a rule that a final dź is always a ch sound, but I hear Poles say my name both ways.  The j sound is more common, in my experience.  I suppose this is an example of a language in the process of changing.

In Polish, it is very common to pronounce a final ź as a ś.  That ś is pronounced like the sh in shoe, except juicier, with the tongue more toward the teeth.  The Polish sz is equivalent.  I have never seen a Polish pronunciation book mention that a second-to-last sound ź might also be pronounced ś.  However, I have heard my name pronounced that way by Polish speakers:  Gvooshch.

I have seen it spelled that way.  Gwóść.  Funny, but the equivalent spellings Gwószcz and Gwuszcz are very rare.  I’ll drop the accents now for this topic comparing Gwosc to Gwozdz, in case your display is having problems:

In the 19th century microfilm records, I find my ancestors recorded both as Gwozdz and as Gwosc.  When I first started studying the microfilms, I was concerned that Gwosc might have been considered an entirely different name than Gwozdz.  I spent a lot of time putting together a proof that these two spellings are the same name.  I understand that Polish spelling had not been standardized until the 20th century.  I have seen many cases of both Gwozdz and Gwosc used for individuals that are clearly in the same family, for example with the same parents and the same house number.  Sometimes that happens on the same page of a record book.  There is a tendency for some record book sections (with the same handwriting ) to use only Gwosc and some sections to use only Gwozdz.  On the other hand, many sections use both, with a tendency for some families to use mostly Gwosc vs others mostly Gwozdz, like maybe the priest wrote how he heard the family members say the name.  I wonder if the word for nail was pronounced both ways at that time.  I have convinced myself that Gwosc is the same name as Gwozdz in the 19th century for my ancestors’ parish of Wadowice Gorne.  I understand that my conclusion may not be valid in other Polish parishes, and may not be valid at other times in Poland.

For that parish of my grandfather, I have a data base of Gwozdz and Gwosc records.  My data base has 101 records with the name written as Gwosc.  My data starts at the year 1777, with plenty of Gwozdz records, but the spelling Gwosc does not appear until 1807.  I wonder if that means that I caught the Polish language at the beginning of a change in that parish, or if I caught a change in record keeping spelling, or if maybe I just caught a change of priest.

I did spot a 1730 instance of Gwosc in the parish of Luszowice, 20 km southwest.

I find it very interesting that the o of Gwozdz usually has the accent, but I rarely see the o accented on Gwosc.  Recall that the accent changes the o sound to a u sound.  I suppose that means the tendency to change the pronunciation usually comes as a package:  Gvoozhj becomes Gvoshch but not Gvooshch.  I notice the same tendency in modern Poland per Rymut;  there are 54 Gwość but only 6 Gwóść.  I notice that both forms of Gwosc are rarer today compared to the 19th century.

I’ll ask my Polish linguist cousin if he has ever heard of an observation that óźdź at the end of a word often is pronounced ość but rarely óść.

Actually, there are a lot more variations.  The accent marks vary a lot.  I have data on accent variations below:

Gwozdz Accent Marks and Inflection

My Polish grammar is not very good.  My linguist cousin Joseph Armata pointed out to me that gwóźdź is the nominative case for the word “nail”.  The genitive (possessive) form “of the nail” in Polish is gwoździa.  “To / for the nails” is gwoźdiom.  The accent marks and the pronunciation change along with the inflection.  Polish family names are often considered genitive forms.  This is also true of place names.  In other words, accent variations are more than just spelling variations.  Inflections are part of the Polish language style.

Gwozdz Anglicized Pronunciation

I have to admit that my name is very difficult for English speakers.  I like to pronounce my name in the Polish manner, but when an English speaker tries to pronounce it, I have pity and drop that final j sound, and add a vowel after the G, for Gavoozh.

Most of my relatives use Gavoosh as the pronunciation.

Actually, people do not have that much trouble saying the name if they do not see it spelled.  Funny - seeing the name spelled out makes it more difficult to pronounce.

As you can imagine, I have heard many Anglicized pronunciations.  None of them is dominant.  The Gwozdz people that I have known do not seem to have a favorite as a whole.  I do not recommend any Anglicized pronunciation as particularly easy.

I suppose the most common anglicized pronunciation, in my experience, is gwahtz.  That’s what my family was called in high school.  I never understood how that one came to be.  I don’t particularly like it.  Something about it, however, seems to appeal to English speakers, as the easiest way to pronounce Gwozdz.

Gwozdz Anglicized Spelling

I know of Gwozdz people who have changed the spelling of their family name to Gush and to Gust.  I doubt however that many of the people in the world named Gush or Gust are descended from Gwozdz ancestors.

Vital Records

The [Polish records] of births, marriages, and deaths are not too bad.  Records for the 18th and 19th centuries are better in [the south], where Gwozdz families seem to have originated.  If you know the town of your Gwozdz ancestor, you should be able, with effort, to trace a Polish family tree.

Most if not all Gwozdz families seem to have been Catholics in the 19th century.  The Catholic Church took care of vital records in Poland during the 19th century.

[Parish].  It helps to figure out the parish to trace Polish ancestors before WW I, because that is where most Polish records were taken and kept.  I have visited or contacted about a dozen parishes in south Poland, and so far they all have at least some fragmentary vital records from the 19th century.  I found one that has original late 18th century records.  My experience is that there are more records in the south than in the north of Poland.

Microfilm Vital Records

[LDS Microfilms] are available with church records of births, marriages, and deaths in Poland. Not all records have been filmed, but microfilms make it much easier to trace a family tree.  Most of the microfilms of Polish vital records are from the 19th century.  My impression, from studying about 30 parishes in the south, is that more than half the parishes have 19th century microfilms available.  Type a parish name into the [LDS Place Search] to look for microfilm numbers.

In the south of Poland, many of the microfilm records start in the 1780’s.  It is my understanding that the Austrian government started to emphasize record keeping in Poland during the 1780’s.  My impression is that more than 1/4th of the parishes in the south have microfilm records available today that are more or less continuous from the 1780’s.

I have done a lot of research looking for Gwozdz people in these microfilms.  My vital records data for my ancestors are available elsewhere.

This document has detailed discussion of some general observations about the name Gwozdz. 

Name Books Written in Polish

I’ll next discuss Gwozdz data from [books] written in the Polish language.  My cousin Joseph Armata found 2 of them in the Pittsburgh library.  Joe, a Slavic linguist, copied the Gwozdz pages back in the 1990’s and helped me to understand the Polish abbreviations.  I later located these books at UC Berkeley.  I suppose other large libraries have these.  They are not on microfilm, because the copyrights are current.

Nazwiska Polakow.  By Kazimierz Rymut.  1991, Wrocław.  On page 129, the end of the G section, the last entry is Gwozd.

Słownik Staropolskich Nazwisk Osobowych.  By Witold Taszycki.  1965-67, seven volumes.  PAN, Wrocław.  On page 188 of the volume with G, the last Goź entry is Goźdź. 

Both works are alphabetical listings of family names.  The 1965 series of volumes is encyclopedic.  It seems to be a classic reference.  The 1991 book is dictionary sized, with much of the data obviously abbreviated from the 1965 series.  Both lump similar names together into one entry.  They cover family names and first names.

Both give the dates of old documents in which that particular name has been found.  Only the 1965 series also gives a code and page number for each quoted date, so that the document name can be located in the references.  Most of the references seem to be law records and ecclesiastical records.  The 1965 series provides a brief quote with the actual spelling of a few words surrounding the name.

The 1991 book gives the meaning of the root words while the 1965 series does not.

Both these references lump the Gozdz and Gwozdz type names together.  This surprised both Joe and me back in the 1990’s when we first saw this.  We never realized that the w was optional in some old Polish words.  More about Gozdz below.

The 1991 book gives the primary meaning of gozdz / gwozdz as forest or woods, with the polish abbreviation that indicates this is an archaic meaning, no longer used.  The secondary meaning is nail.  This also surprised us.  We were not aware of that old meaning.

The 1965 entry for Gozdz / Gwozdz starts with a brief summary, then subdivides the entry into two sections, the Gozdz type references and the Gwozdz type references.  Unfortunately, the 1991 book seems to copy most of its information from the brief summary of the 1965 series.  That summary is very misleading, because it lumps names of various spellings together.

The oldest reference is to a Gozdek, year 1222.

The oldest “zdz” type Gwozdz reference is 1386.  The person’s first name is Andree, an inflected Latin form for Andrew.  The reference abbreviation is Łęcz, which refers to law books from Łęczyce.  Someday I’ll try to figure out if these documents are actually available in a library in Poland.  There are quite a few Polish towns in my atlas with names like Łęczyce, Łęczyca, and Łężyce.  My cousin says this is the Łęczyce in central Poland.

Actually, our friend Andrew’s 1386 quote appears at the end of the Gozdz section, with the highly inflected quote “Contra Gozdzonem Andree”.  I am comfortable enough with Latin to recognize the “onem” as a grammatical inflection of Gozdz, not a name variation.  There are 1390 and 1392 quotes, also from Łęcz, catalogued in the Gwozdz section.  The 1390 quote is “Pro Andrea dicto Gwoscz”.  At first, I hesitated to conclude that this is the same person.  But I found excellent evidence in a 1451 quote that is listed in both sections:  “Iohanne Gwoszdz de Lappczicza … Johannes Goszdz”.  This hints to me that a person John Gwozdz has his name spelled two different ways in this document.  Another piece of evidence:  A Stanislaus appears in both sections:  one is Stanislaus Goszdz, year 1440, page 379 of source code AC, the other is Stanislaum Gvoszcz, year 1437, page 319 of source code AC.  There are only 5 total first names in the Gwozdz section, with 7 dates;  the fact that 3 of the 5 names match a name in the Gozdz section, with the same source code and with a close year really indicates to me that the two batches of names are mostly the same  people.  I don’t know if Taszycki missed this, or if his research group chose not to look for such matches.  Whatever, this is good evidence that at least during the 14th and 15th century the w in my last name was optional.  Please recall that Taszycki did combine these into one entry, but then divided it into 2 sections - Gozdz and Gwozdz.  I am objecting because it seems to me that the same people have been listed in both sections.

If my analysis is correct, then the brief summary in the 1965 series is very misleading, because it lists both an Andrew Gozdz and an Andrew Gwozdz.  The 1991 book copies this misinformation.

There are a total of 9 first names in the Gozdz section.  Fellows named Nicholas appear in both sections, but these seem to be 3 different people, not all similar years, with 3 different source codes, and two of them have a different town after the name.

My favorite is the 1460 quote: “Nobilis Petrus alias Gwoszdz de Lapczicza”.  First of all, this guy has my first and last name.  Secondly, that honorific “Nobilis” indicates nobility.  Actually, I would assume all these references are to people who are at least petty nobles, since I doubt peasants would be named in documents back then.  But I’m not sure of that assumption.  I have often found the Latin word “alias” in old Polish records from back when people were originating / changing their family name.

That Andrew must have been pretty important, because it looks like a total of 5 references, 1386 to 1400, refer to him:  2 at the beginning of the Gozdz section, 1 at the end of the Gozdz section, and 2 at the beginning of the Gwozdz section, all with the Łęcz source code.

The 1393 quote seems to name his town, with “Andreas dictus Gosdz de Odolino”.  My atlas does not have an Odolino type town next to a Łęcz type town, but I have not yet searched the gazetteer.  I often notice the Latin “dictus” in old records, probably meaning “called” for a name that was then recent - I’m not sure of this.

The 1400 quote also seems to name his town, with “Andreas Goszdz de Oczicze”.  Both the 1393 and the 1400 quote have the Łęcz source code.  I need to find out if there was an Oczicze town close enough to an Odolino, to verify this is the same person.

More confusion:  Taszycki actually provides two entries at Goźdź.  I have been discussing only the first entry, titled “Goźdź, Gwoźdź”, which has a brief summary and two sections.  The second entry is only one line, with “Goźdź c.f. Goszcz”.  In other words, Taszycki considers Goszcz a different name.  That seems confusing, since Goszdz names are included in the first entry, and a final dz could easily be pronounced cz.  I speculate that the reason for the second entry might be the Polish word gość, which is the word for guest, and sounds exactly like goszcz.  Perhaps the linguists feel it is imperative to have an entry for a common word.  This is in my notes from when I studied Taszycki’s books, but I do not see in my notes any details from the Goszcz section.

Regardless of how Taszycki categorizes all these names, this discussion puts me in a position to point out another possible confusion.  Let me present this point as a speculative example:  Suppose a person long before 1400 adapted a new name, Gość, intending to name himself as a guest.  However, the word gwoźdź, also pronounced goźdź, can mean either forest or nail.  Suppose back then there was, as now, a tendency to pronounce źdź at the end of word as ść or szcz.  After several generations the family might forget the original meaning, assume the name means nail, and permanently use the w.  (If you are clicking around, you might need to go back and read the topic above on Gwosc to fully appreciate this point.)

This is all a bit confusing.  I have a summary topic about the meaning of Gwozdz, coming up below.

            I attended a conference in Krakow in 2010.  I took the time to examine that Taszycki 7 volume set at the Jagiellonian University Library.  Professor Michal Kokowski kindly helped me to understand the introductory explanation at the front of volume 1:  Taszycki explains that he does not list all Polish surnames, because he compiled his index using only printed books.  Apparently, many if not most of his printed sources were legal opinions, which had been compiled over the centuries.  Kokowski and I found the books for a couple of these legal references (Gwozdz citations).  They look a lot like modern books that you see on shelves in the offices of lawyers - with brief summaries of legal rulings.  Each summary has a reference to more detailed legal records, but those more detailed records were not available at the Jagiellonian Library.  I suppose some of those detailed records might be available at archives, but I suppose many no longer exist.  Taszycki does not explain exactly how many libraries he searched for books with lists of names.  Those 7 volumes look like modern Google searches - with the name plus a few words before and after.  Apparently, Taszycki used index cards to put together an index of Polish names, very similar to what Google is making today (2010), using computers.  Google is doing all words from millions of books.  Taszycki's index is from a large number of printed books that he studied in unspecified Polish libraries.  I also found a wiki entry about Taszycki, who died in 1979.

Gwozdzikowiec

I found this word in a Polish encyclopedia.  It is a flower.  There is a picture, with a half column description, in Polish of course.

I do not claim this has anything directly to do with the name Gwozdz, but we cannot rule it out.

I point out this tidbit mainly to show a gwozdz type word being used in another context.  The more often a root word is used in different contexts, the more often I would expect it to arise independently as a family name.

The plant does not have thorns, so I do not see any relation to the idea of a nail.  I wonder if it was common in the primeval Polish forest.

This is an 1890’s encyclopedia, available on microfilm number 997506, volume VI, page 447.

I wrote this up some years ago.  My late aunt, Cecelia Olsztyn, phoned me when she read my report.  She told me that my grandmother used to grow this flower, and that the family called it gwozdzek, plural gwozdziki.  I suppose this word could be the source of the name Gwozdzek.

My aunt told me the English name for this flower is [Sweet William].

Gozdz

More discussion about Gozdz, mentioned above as an archaic spelling of Gwozdz:  I found one set of examples of the mixing of the two spellings Gozdz & Gwozdz, in records from the 1790’s.  This one example does not prove that in the 1790’s Polish people still considered Gozdz a correct pronunciation for the word for nail (or forest), because I have not seen any other instances.  This one example might have been a quirk associated with one priest writing records.  Indeed, by itself, this one example does not prove that Gozdz was ever an alternate spelling for Gwozdz, it is just adds assurance that such was the case.

Here are the details for the example that I found.  You might consider skipping these 4 paragraphs:  Film 1978299, Parish of Laczki Brzeskie.  Records from 1786.  (Parish founded 1957;  the records were actually recorded into a separate book in the Przeclaw parish from which Laczki Brzeskie split off;  records before 1786 for Laczki Brzeskie are in the Przeclaw microfilms.)

Josephus Gwozdz married Catharina Siwionka on 9 Nov 1788.  A child was born was born on 9 Aug 1795 to Josephus Gozdz and Catharina Siwionka.

Simon Gozdz, wife Lucja, has 2 children born in house 37:  21 Mar 1786 and 13 May 1788.  Then, another child is born to Simon Gwozdz and his wife Lucja, again house 37, 5 Oct 1790.  Those are the only 3 Gozdz or Gwozdz children born in town 1786 - 1791.  The maiden name of Lucja is scribbled in all 3 records, and even looks like a different name each time, but that is a common problem.  Simon Gozdz is a witness at the 22 Oct 1786 marriage of Thomas Gozdz.  Simon Gwozdz is a witness at the 27 Jun 1791 marriage of Franciscus Gwozdz.

By the way, this priest usually uses an accent only over the last z for both spellings, sometimes the first z, never the o, sometimes no accent.  Once, he used a double accent over the last z of Gozdz.

1880’s Gazetteer

This 12 volume set is a classic work, still used in Polish libraries.  It gives a description and brief history of every city, town, and little village in Poland.  Actually, the area of the former greater Polish empire.  It has a long name.  Many people just use the first 2 words of the title:  Slownik Geograficzny.

The end of the G section is the end of Volume 2, microfilm number 920958.

RootsWeb has a [guide] to using it.  The entire work is available [as a CD] that can be purchased from [PGSA].

I got blown away the first time I looked up Gwozdz back in the 1990’s.  This Gazetteer has  35 Gwozdz type names of places!  They take up 6.5 columns on 4 pages.  It goes from Gosc to Gwoznica.  Places like Gwozdawka and Gwozdziarinia are there, in addition to Gwozdz, Gwozdy and Gwozdowice, and many more.  My linguist cousin helped me figure it all out.

I am not a linguist, but it seems to me that if 35 places got Gwozdz type names, there was something about the word that appealed to people at the time.  That makes it reasonable, in my mind, that perhaps a number of different people independently took a name like Gwozdz back in the times when people were choosing names.  I have never seen this line of reasoning published in a name book, but then again, I have not looked very hard.

It also seems strange to me that words with a root meaning “nail” would be used for 35 place names.  Recall, however, that an archaic meaning of gwozdz is forest.  This is speculation on my part, but it seems more likely towns would be named something like “Forestville” rather than “Nailville”.  More discussion about this below.

Perhaps at least one person named Gwozdz set up a village long ago and it was named after him.  Or conversely, perhaps at least one person moved away from of one of these villages long ago, so the people in his new village called him Gwozdz.  It is logically possible that I am named after a town, with nothing to do with sharp spikes of metal.

My Poland road atlas has only 2 of these towns.  Gwoździany and Gwoździec.  Both are in the far south, but not as far south as the mountains.  Gwozdziec is on the Dunajec river, SE of Krakow.  Gwozdziany is SW of Czestochowa on highway 46.

The [LDS Place Search] yields 10 microfilm links for places that start with Gwo.  These are duplicate index entries for 5 towns.  One of them is in Germany, one is in the Ukraine and one is in Belarus.  The two from Poland are in southern Poland:  Gwozdziec and Gwoznica Gorna, near Strzyzow.

I checked out the records of Gwoznica Gorna.  Film 0766012.  I found no names starting with Gwo.  I found several Gwazdach birth records, 1800’s, children born to Bartholomew and Valentine.

Forest

This topic is a summary of evidence for my opinion that the name Gwozdz was originally intended to mean forest.  This is not a high confidence opinion.  I cannot be sure.  I discussed this in many topics above.  Here is my summary:

The best evidence is the 1991 book by Rymut, with forest as the primary meaning of gozdz / gwozdz, with nail a secondary meaning.  Here is the full entry:  “Od stp. gwozd, gozd ‘las’, także od gwoźdź, stp. też goźdź ‘gwoźdź, kołek’”;  stp. means old Polish, or an archaic meaning, not used any more;  las is the modern Polish word for forest or woods;  kołek is another word for nail.

I also mention the Czech wiki etymology entry above, where gvozd is described as an old Slavic word for forest, used today in Czech only for names of places.

My linguist cousin found “Bruckner's etymological dictionary of Polish cites ‘forest’ as an archaic meaning for gozd/gwozd.”  It is possible Rymut copied this from the older Bruckner reference, so this may not be independent evidence.

I have not found any reference to a Polish or Slavic document from centuries ago.  Over the years I have asked a number of Polish professors to point me to a comprehensive Slavic etymology reference that would give specific references to old documents using gozd or gwozdz or gvozd as a word for forest.  No one could help me yet.  I’ll keep asking.  If you the reader know of such a work, I’d appreciate an email.

The Taszycki series of 7 volumes on Polish names does not give meanings, but lists many men named Gozdz / Gwozdz, starting in 1386, with references, a couple of which I checked.  Taszycki nicely demonstrates how variable Polish spelling was back then, with multiple examples of what seems to be multiple spellings for the same man.  Since Gozdz / Gwozdz goes back that far, it is reasonable to consider archaic meanings for the root word as the original intention.

Slownic Geograficzny provides 35 places in Greater Poland with names similar to Gwozdz.  The Czech wiki entry mentions that gvozd is still used today in town names intended to signify forest.

It seems unlikely to me that so many places would be named after nails, but likely that many places would be named after forests.  Similarly, it is more reasonable to speculate that a Polish nobleman back around 1400, when noblemen were starting to use inherited family names, might consider Forest more likely than Nail as his name.

Back in 1993, I started my study with the simple assumption that Gwozdz means nail.  Rather than solidify my first assumption, I have added confusion, pointing out that gwozdz might mean forest, or it might even mean guest.  It might be a flower in the woods.  It might have been a whistle or a star if we consider that name spelling may change over the centuries to match a different common word.

Anyway, it might not matter.  There is no particular proof that I, or any of you readers named Gwozdz, descend from those noble gentry named Gwozdz who lived around 1400.  It is very possible, and even very likely, that our ancestors were commoners around 1600 who had no family name, and who took up the name Gwozdz meaning nail, not even knowing that long ago the word meant forest and used to be easily confused with the word for guest.  Or maybe my ancestor took the name to match his Gwozdz noble benefactor.  Or maybe people called him Gwozdz because he originally came from a town named something like Gwozdz.

Forest is my favorite speculation on the origin of my name, but I cannot be sure.

Years of Gwozdz Origination

It is likely the name Gwozdz originated more than once.  Here is an explanation for why I figure it originated mostly during the 16th through 17th centuries.  This discussion should apply to most family names in south Poland:

There is no definite exact date when Polish people took up the custom of inherited surnames.  [Hoffman], in the 2nd edition of his book, discusses the topic.  Hoffman on page 4 refers to Chapter 3 of a book written in Polish in 1959, by Prof. Dworzaczek.  Hoffman translated that chapter as an article for the [PGSA] newsletter, Fall 1985, Volume VII, number 2.  (Back issues only cost $5.)

I figure most Gwozdz name originations were in peasant families, but there may have been a few middle class.  I found a reference to a nobleman named Gwozdz.

Noble families took up the custom of inherited surnames before the commoners did.  The first nobles who took surnames did not consider the names inherited.  Their sons may or may not have used the same surname.  The custom of inherited names was practiced by some Poles as early as the 14th century, but the custom was not firmly established by nobles until the end of the 16th century.  (This paragraph comes distilled from Dworzaczek through Hoffman.)

In other words, Andrew Gwozdz of 1386 was probably aware that some contemporary noblemen used inherited family names.  He may or may not have considered his name Gwozdz to be inherited.

Hoffman on page 4 reports that “… peasant surnames did not become firmly fixed until about the 17th and sometimes even the 18th century”.

Dworzaczek says that peasants used family names only from the beginning of the 19th century.  That did not seem right to me, so I communicated with Dworzaczek’s translator, Hoffman.  Hoffman points out that Dworzaczek’s research was mostly on nobility, and he apparently did not trust peasant names from before the 19th century.  Hoffman assures me that subsequent scholarship has established earlier dates for peasant family names.

My understanding is that in the south, under Austrian influence, commoners picked surnames earlier than in the north.  I cannot find the references where I read that, so I need to go back to the library and find a source.  Meanwhile, I do have some personal experience from the microfilms.  I have seen late 17th century records without surnames only in the north of Poland.  No doubt the date of the surname custom varied between sections of Poland, and from village to village.

I have seen many 18th century and a few 17th century record book microfilms from the south of Poland.  I have seen no indication of any people without family names.  The oldest records I have studied, for only a few parishes, date from the 1660’s.  Although the records are too sketchy to figure out family trees, specific family names are used continuously in specific villages, so surnames sure look inherited to me, even in the late 17th century in south Poland. 

Therefore I conclude that Gwozdz name originations, in the south, started earlier than Poland as a whole.  A good guess would be that most Gwozdz originations were within 50 years of the year 1600.  A safe bet would be that most were within 100 years of 1600.

I have not tried to find name originations, so I do not know how difficult they are to document.  So far, I traced all my dozens of family tree branches back to villages without records from the early 17th century.

Name changing is one form of origination that continues to the present day.  I found a name change in 1805, in the north of Poland, in one of my mother’s branches - Banasiak.  I found a Gwozdz family (not my ancestors obviously) with clear documentation of a name change to Knap.  That means I found a Banasiak origination and a Knap origination.  These are rare.  I studied more than a hundred family trees to find these 2 changes.

I suppose it is unlikely I’ll ever spot a Gwozdz origination, but with lots of researchers looking someone might spot one.  Let me know if you find one, so I can mention it here.

Summary:  Noblemen using the name Gwozdz in the 15th and 16th centuries may or may not have considered that name an inherited family name.  In south Poland, most new peasant Gwozdz family names were probably chosen during the early part of the 17th century.  A few individuals may have changed their family names to Gwozdz anytime since.  How many times Gwozdz originated is a separate question.

Gwozdz Spelling and Accent Mark Variation

Reminder:  the style of this document is quick introduction first, more and more details later.  This topic is the start of the nit-picking details.  If you are still reading in order, then I guess that means you would like to see more details.  Here we go:

The next few topics are the results of my research using the Rymut CD.

I remember the nuns in grammar school insisting that I must use all three dashes when I write my name, or else my name is wrong.  (My school was in MA, and the students were all born in the US, but the nuns were fluent in Polish at that local Catholic school.)  The good sisters meant well to be sure, but the modern view is that an alternate spelling of a name is valid if people use it.  There are such things, however, as common unintentional spelling errors.  Lists of names have data entry mistakes.

I have heard Polish natives arguing about proper spellings of names, and arguing if a variant spelling represents a distinct name.  I enjoy Polish arguments, but there really are no general rules to distinguish spelling errors vs spelling variations vs distinct names.  It is the same in English.  Smythe is a different name from Smith for a family that has consistently spelled their name Smythe for a few generations.  On the other hand, there surely are families that use both spellings Smith and Smythe.  Very likely when a new name spelling emerged years ago, the family spelled the name both ways.  The process surely continues today.  So lists of spellings can be misleading.

That said, I nevertheless split my data from Rymut into 4 tables.  I used my personal judgment.  It came out as a nice presentation that way.  Please remember that I really made a single table, then noticed it was easier to understand if I broke it into 4 as follows.  The split worked well here, but in fact there is a continuous graduation from accent variations, to spelling variations, to name form variations, to names that might be distinct, to names that are obviously distinct.

The following table, from Rymut 2003, has the various spellings of Gwóźdź, for names that have 20 or more people in Poland using that name.  The second column is the number of people.

Name Spelling

Total People in Poland

Gwóźdź

8181

Gwoźdź

99

Gwóżdż

55

Gwosdz

49

Gwozd

28

Gwozdz

23

Gwózdź

23

Gwóźdz

20

There are at least 20 more spelling variations, and some hyphenated forms, each with fewer than 20 people.  That would be another 2 or 3 hundred. 

Conclusion:  Gwóźdź is by far the most common spelling.  This is the dictionary spelling for the word that means nail.  For all Gwozdz spellings, there are about 8,500 people named Gwozdz in Poland today.

Rymut, in the introduction to his work, points out that there are many errors in the data.  I wonder how many of these spelling variation counts are due to data input errors. I know they are not all errors, because I see such Polish spelling variations all the time.

Rymut has only 6 Gwuźdź people, with only that one name starting with Gwu.  That surprises me.  The u in Polish sounds exactly like ó.  I often see u and ó mixed in 19th century Polish record microfilms.  No mix today for Gwozdz vs Gwuzdz, I see.

As a sanity check, I typed Gwozd, Gwosdz, and other variations from Rymut’s list with fewer than 20 people, such as Gwuzdz, and Gwodz, into Google.  Each variation came up with real people web references.  These are all valid names.

Reminder:  If you compare these tables to the web version of Rymut’s work, the numbers are different.  The [web] version uses 1990 data;  the [CD] uses 2002 data.  I used the CD.  Rymut says he spent a lot of effort fixing errors for the CD version.

Gwozdz Variations

The following table, from Rymut 2003, has names that I judge to be distinct names that are variations of Gwóźdź, for names that have 50 or more people in Poland using that name.  The second column is the number of people.

Name

Total People in Poland

Gwoździk

476

Gwoździewicz

390

Gwozdowski (+ska)

222

Gwozdek

181

Gwoździński (+ska)

161

Gwozda

133

Gwoździowski (+ska)

129

Gwozdecki (+cka)

113

Gwoździej

98

Gwoździkowski (+ska)

73

Gwózdek

68

Gwoździewski (+ska)

61

Gwozdowicz

57

Gwość

54

Gwoździański (+ska)

54

There are many pages of more names like these with fewer than 50 people each. 

Rymut explains valid technical reasons for listing the masculine “ski” names separate from the feminine “ska” names, but for this table the ski totals were very close to the ska totals, so I added them and combined them into one line each.

No doubt Gwozdowski, Gwoździowski, and Gwoździewski are considered spelling variations of the same name by many of the 402 people that carry these names.  No doubt many of them consider their name to be distinct from Gwóźdź, although related.

Some of those 133 Gwozda may be errors, but not all.  Gwozda perhaps should be in the previous table;  this one is a close call.  I judge that most of them consider their name distinct from Gwozdz, though related.  Same with Gwozdziej.

Gwość has a separate discussion topic.  I show there that in my grandfather’s village long ago it was the same name as Gwóźdź.  I really don’t know, but I expect that today it is considered distinct but related, so I put it in this table.

Names that are not Gwozdz

The following table, from Rymut 2003, has names that look similar to Gwozdz but are definitely distinct, for names that have 1000 or more people in Poland using that name.  The second column is the number of people.

Name

Total People in Poland

Gwiazda

4518

Gwizdała

3379

Gościniak

2507

Goszczyński (+ska)

2199

Gwiazdowski (+ska)

1854

There are many pages of names with fewer than 1000 each.

The word Gwiazda means star.  Even though it looks a lot like Gwozda, I suppose it is a distinct name, with no relation expected to Gwóźdź.  Gwiazdowski is clearly a variant.

I judge Gwizdała to also be independent of Gwóźdź, although I’m not positive.

Therefore, I did not include many names starting with Gwi in my previous table of Gwóźdź variations.

The problem is a lot of names like Gwiazdz, Gwiaździński and Gwizdalski, which are not on my lists, but could derive from either star or nail.

The name Gość, which has a separate discussion above, has only 112 in Rymut’s list, so it did not make this table.  Goszcz has only 854.  I could only find those two Gość / Goszcz variants in the table with 1000+.  There are many variants with less than 1000.  As I point out in the earlier discussion of this word, it might have been confused with Gwozdz many years ago.  That is not the case today, so I did not include these names with Gwozdz variants in the earlier table.  There is the possibility, however, that some of these people carry names derived from common Gwozdz stock a long time ago.

Names that Might be Gwozdz Variations

The following table, from Rymut 2003, has names for which I cannot judge a Gwozdz derivation, for names that have 200 or more people in Poland using that name.  The second column is the number of people.

Name

Total People in Poland

Góźdź

2816

Gwiźdź

1989

Goździewski (+ska)

638

Gudz

600

Goździewicz

556

Goździak

294

Goździuk

232

There are many pages of names with fewer than 200 each.  These are names that might today be considered Gwozdz variants by the people who carry them, or they might not.  So they should be in either of the two earlier tables, but I am not qualified to place them into either.

As discussed earlier, Góźdź is an archaic form of Gwóźdź.  I doubt that many of those 2816 people even know that fact.  I suppose some of them have an ancient name that was split long ago into descendants with both names Gozdz and Gwozdz.  I suppose some of them have ancestors that took this name only a few centuries ago, with no intention of an association with the name Gwozdz.  I suppose some of them consider their name equivalent to Gość.  In other words, the count of people with this name perhaps needs to be split, with some going into the tables of Gwozdz names, and some going into the table of names that are not Gwozdz.  The same discussion probably applies to other names in this table.  I am now talking beyond my competence in the Polish language.  However, I doubt that an expert Polish linguist would argue with me.  More likely such an expert would take interest in the data that I present in this document, and provide tentative additional comments without any definitive conclusions.

I speculate that some of the Gwiźdź count may represent Gwóźdź names with data entry errors, where the keyboard typist read an ó on a scribbled form as an i.  This form may also be related to the Ukrainian use of an i for the genitive case.  The name Gwizdz comes up with real people on a web search.  Edward Gwizdz from Rzeszow contacted me by email awhile ago;  he pointed out in response to my questions that in Polish a gwizdz is a whistle.  I should have checked my dictionary before asking.  My dictionary spells it gwizd.

This is the end of my 4 topics with discussion of my study of Gwozdz name variations.  The next topic concerns the provinces where they live, still from Rymut.

Provinces Where Gwozdz People Lived in 1990

In this topic I show that most Gwozdz people live in the south, near Katowice.  It makes sense to conclude that the name Gwozdz originated mostly there.

For simplicity, this topic is restricted to the people in Poland who spell their name Gwóźdź, with all 3 accent marks.  That represents almost all the people in Poland considered Gwozdz today, but not the people with name variations that should be considered separate names today but may have descended from a Gwozdz family.

This topic is based on the 1992 version of the Rymut data.  Click on Rymut for the explanation of the two versions.  I used the 1992 version, because the totals are broken out only by [province], so it is much easier to work with.  The 2003 version has a much more detailed county break out, but it is more difficult to summarize.

There are only 6543 Gwóźdź in the 1992 version vs 8181 in the 2003 version.  That cannot be a population increase.  Rymut explains that he spent a lot of effort fixing errors for the 2003 CD version.  I assume the increase represents mostly corrections.  For my analysis on provinces, the count change should not matter, because we presume that statistically there should not be a significantly higher percentage of errors in one county vs another.  I return to the 2003 version in the next topic below, for county analysis.

Also, since I am trying to get a hint of where Gwozdz people originated, the older data is actually better, since people are moving around a lot more since the 1991 break up of the Soviet Union.

The following table arranges the numbers from Rymut.  The [provinces] are the pre-1999 provinces.

Code

Gwozdz People

Province

Location in Poland

Ka

2021

Katowice

South, border

Ki

532

Kielce

South, NE of Ka

Ta

436

Tarnow

South, S of Ki

Kr

359

Krakow

South, W of Ka

Op

334

Opole

South, border, NW of Ka

Pr

247

Przemysl

Southeast corner

BB

181

Bielsko Biala

South, border, S of Ka

Tb

156

Tarnobrzeg

South, E of Ki

Wr

151

Wroclaw

Southwest, NW of Op

Kl

140

Kalisz

Southwest, N of Op

Wb

113

Walbrzycn

South, border, W of Op

Lg

112

Legnica

Southwest, W of Wr

Ra

112

Radom

Southcentral, N of Ki

Rz

109

Rzeszow

Southwest, E of Ta

Cz

108

Czestochowa

South, N of Ka

Wa

105

Warszawa

Center east

ZG

103

Zielonia Gora

Southeast border, N of Lg

JG

99

Jelenia Gora

Southeast corner, S of ZG

Kn

99

Konin

Center, N of Kl

NS

99

Nowy Sacz

South border, W of BB

Lu

89

 

 

Ld

85

 

 

El

77

 

 

Ko

58

 

 

Ol

57

 

 

Sl

55

 

 

Gd

54

 

 

Sz

52

 

 

< 50

400

18 provinces

 

0

0

2 provinces

 

 

6543

49 provinces

Total

2,021 of the 6,543 Gwozdz people of Poland live in Katowice province.  Almost 1/3.  It looks like the Katowice area of southern Poland is a major Gwozdz homeland.

Katowice is on the Polish southern border with Czechoslovakia.  There are 5 Polish provinces that surround Katowice province.  Kielce to the north east is 2nd with 532, Krakow to the east has 359, Opole to the west has 334, Bielsko Biala to the south has 181, and Czestochowa to the north only has 108.

Tarnow to the east of Krakow is third with 436.

Most of the Gwozdz people are in this cluster of 7 provinces in the south of Poland.  The total for this cluster of 7 provinces is 3971, which is 61% of the total.  These pre-1999 provinces correspond to the post-199 provinces of slaskie, opolskie, and the western parts of swietokrzyskie and malopolskie.

On my map, I drew 2 overlapping circles of radius 100 km, one around Katowice and one around Krakow.  This elliptical area catches almost all the area of these 7 provinces plus a little of Czechoslovakia.

“Silesia” is a historical name for a region that is mostly in southwest Poland today.  Katowice is within that region, Krakow is not.  Wroclaw is more or less in the center of the region considered to be Silesia, according to Wikipedia.  It seems Gwozdz is a common Silesian name.

Silesia was split during the 19th century between Austria (east), Prussia (north), and Germany (west).  My research experience is mostly in the Austrian section, so my estimates of microfilm availability in south Poland may not be valid for the other 2 sections.

Summary:  More than half the people in Poland who carry the name Gwozdz live within 100 km of Katowice or Krakow.

Nine other provinces have 109 to 247 Gwozdz people;  these nine are all contiguous to this cluster of 7, to the east and west, not to the north.  All 14 provinces in southern Poland have at least 99 Gwozdz people except two on the east edge.  Poland has 49 provinces;  all the other provinces have less than 106 Gwozdz each.  Warsaw province with its millions of people only has 105 Gwozdz names.

The other spellings and versions of the Gwozdz name have similar distributions, with much smaller numbers.

This does not prove that all the Gwozdz people descend from one family of Katowice.  It is possible, in fact very likely, that the style of naming near Katowice was such that many families independently took the name Gwozdz.

Counties Where Many Gwozdz People Live Today

In the previous topic, I used Rymut’s Polish 1990 census data to show which section of Poland has the most Gwozdz.  The 1990 data is better for provinces, but Rymut’s 2002 data is better for counties.  A county is called a [Powiat] in Poland.

Code

Gwozdz People

County

Location in Poland

KaBe

300

Bedzin

South 12 km NE Katowice

KaTG

287

Tarnowskie Gory

South 24 km N Katowice

KamKa

265

Katowice

South 73 km W Krakow

KamBy

194

Bytom

South 12 km NW Katowice

RzJr

194

Jaroslaw

Southwest 50 km E Rzeszow

RzPw

185

Przeworsk

Southwest 35 km E Rzeszow

KamZb

176

Zabrze

South 17 km NW Katowice

KaPs

156

Pszczyna

South 30 km S Katowice

RzMi

151

Mielec

Southwest 48 km NW Rzeszow

KiBu

143

Busko-Zdroj

South 45 km S Kielce

KaBL

138

Bierun i Ledziny

South 20 km S Katowice

KamRu

135

Ruda Slaska

South 10 km W Katowice

KiSr

130

Starachowice

South 38 km NE Kielce

OpOp

124

Opole

South 88 km NW Katowice

OpSt

124

Strzelce Opolskie

South 57 km NW Katowice

KamGl

120

Gliwice

South 24 km W Katowice

RzDe

115

Debica

Southwest 32 km W Tarnow

KrTa

104

Tarnow

Southwest 144 km W Katowice

WaSc

101

Sochaczew

Center 52 km W Warszawa

This table has all the counties with more than 92 Gwozdz per the Rymut CD based on his 2003 analysis of 2002 Poland population data.

Most of these counties are near Katowice, as expected from the previous topic.  The top 4 are in the slaskie province, of which Katowice is the capital.  In fact, 9 of the 19 provinces in this table are in slaskie, 5 are in 3 adjacent provinces, and 5 are in provinces adjacent to those.

We expect that most if not all of these counties had Gwozdz people living there in previous centuries.  I figure most of if not all of these had originations of the Gwozdz name around 1700.

I expect most of these counties have Gwozdz records in the microfilms, at multiple parishes.  When a county name is typed into the [LDS Place Search] microfilm index, all the towns (parishes) with microfilm records are listed.  I tested the first 3 from this table in 2007:  Bedzin has only 2 hits, Bedzin itself and Wojkowice Koscielne.  Bedzin has records from 1636;  Wojkowice has records from 1618, so I suppose I’ll look at those someday.  Tarnowskie Gory has 12 hits - microfilm records for 12 different parishes in the county.  Katowice has many hits, but most of them are other information, only 2 are for vital records;  one is for the town of Myslowice;  the one for Katowice provides Jewish records from 1825 and Lutheran records from 1914;  I see no microfilms of parish vital records for the city of Katowice.

My Ancestors

My Gwozdz grandfather came from [Wadowice Gorne].  This is not Pope John Paul’s home city of Wadowice SW of Krakow.  This is a small town 100 km NE of Krakow, between Tarnow and Mielec.  I traced my Gwozdz ancestors back to the late 18th century in Wadowice Gorne.  There are no specific genealogy results in this document.  I submitted most of my ancestral vital records results to the [LDS Data Base].  My results are available on-line at the [LDS Web Search Engine], which directs you to CD #35 for more detail.  Copies of my on-line submission, along with more detail, and more genealogy research results not related to my family, can be found elsewhere by clicking from my [home page] associated with this document.

Gwozdz Documents, 15th and 16th Centuries

As explained above, there are Polish Language reference books, with lists of Polish names, giving references to documents where that name has been found.  The oldest Gwozdz reference that I located is for the year 1386, in a reference encyclopedia for Polish names through the 15th century, published in 1965, by Taszycki.

I do not know if Taszycki somehow had access to all known Polish documents through the 15th century, or if he only catalogued what was available to him.  I’m sure he explains (in Polish) at the introduction to his work.  I suppose it is possible that a document reference will turn up someday from before 1386 with the name Gwozdz.  I am certainly not going to look for documents that old.

Taszycki has another work, published in 1969, with references to documents from the 16th through the 18th centuries:  Wybor tekstow staropolskich XVI - XVIII wieku, 1969.  I have not checked it.  I know that one cannot be complete.  I personally studied books from the 1780’s at parish rectories.  Taszycki certainly did not catalogue those.  I personally found hundreds of microfilm records of Gwozdz people from the 17th and 18th centuries.  I correspond with a lady who found many instances of her name at the Polish National Archives, in obscure fragmentary 17th century census records.

I don’t know what to say about 16th century references to Gwozdz.  No doubt the reference works have a good sized list of name citations.  Maybe there are plenty additional 16th century dusty documents in archive libraries that have Gwozdz mentioned but have not been catalogued in the reference works.  I’m too busy - you go look.  Taszycki died in 1979.

The 1965 Taszycki series of books covers the 10th through 15th centuries.  All the Gwozdz references are 1386 -1480.  I already discussed these above.  These Gozdz / Gwozdz documents have reference codes:  Łęcz, AC, Hel, KW, Krak, U Prak, AGZ, DłBen, and KTn.  My cousin Joe figured these out.  They are, respectively:  Łęczyce in central Poland, Płock central, Krakow southeast, western Poland, Krakow again, Krakow diocese, Sanok southeastern, Krakow again, and Tyniec south of Krakow.  Please recall my analysis that most Gwozdz people in Poland today live in the south.  Glancing at the reference list, it seems like most Gwozdz people in the 15th century also lived in the south.  It is a long stretch to conclude, however, that these ancient Gwozdz are actually the ancestors of all the modern Gwozdz people.  It is possible, but I doubt it can be documented.  It is more likely that something about the regional preference for choosing names made multiple Gwozdz name originations through the years more likely in the south.

Gwozdz Microfilm Records, 17th and 18th Centuries

I have not studied the 17th - 18th century reference works.  However, I found Gwozdz family vital records in microfilms as far back as 1664.

It is difficult to arrange 17th century vital records into family trees for 2 reasons.  First, these old records tend to be fragmentary, with entire generations missing.  Second, these old records do not name parents at marriage, or grandparents at birth.  In some cases, age at marriage is not recorded, so matching a groom to a birth record can be guesswork at best.  Even in a village with very few Gwozdz records, the tendency is to remain very few, because population grew slowly back then, so it is not reasonable to place the Gwozdz records from a single village into a single Gwozdz branch unless there is some direct evidence.  After all, if we find two Gwozdz families having children in the same village, the fathers could be very distant cousins.

The same is true for most of the 18th century.  I have not been able to link any Gwozdz records into trees before the mid 18th century.  (I have only tried in a few parishes, however.)  I only have 4 trees started from before 1780:  3 in villages corresponding to modern parishes that were then part of Lubzina, and 1 in Luszowice.   In these cases, the Gwozdz births around 1750 seem continuous, and can be reasonably linked to later marriages with the age of the groom recorded.  Parents are named at birth, of course, so the named patriarchs were no doubt born around 1725.  These 3 have enough sons born in the 1750’s, and enough grandsons later, to assume that the line can be traced to modern times, although I have not traced these records past 1800.

For these old records in the south of Poland, both birth and marriage records are needed to document family trees.  If all the birth records exist, only fragmentary marriage records might work for a tree (with many branches lost).  Similarly, if all the marriage records exist, fragmentary birth records might be enough.  Usually, with most if not all of both marriage and birth records, nice family trees can be constructed.  The missing records are not a big deal, because a high percent of male lines disappear even from complete records (wars, migration, etc) so even 30% missing records do not make matters much worse.

Death records rarely help with tree construction, because rarely are family members mentioned in these old death records.

Birth records in the 17th and 18th centuries always name parents, although usually not the maiden name of the mother.  Records that start at a particular year, therefore, name males who we can assume were born about 30 years (surely 17 to 70 years) before the birth record.

The records really improve in the late 1780’s.  I figure more than 1/4th of the parishes in southern Poland have continuous records back to the late 1780’s.  When I say “continuous records” I mean “most of the birth and marriage records”.  Once continuous records are available, most families can be traced through the records, so the net odds of tracing your late 19th century Gwozdz ancestor back to the 1780’s are about 1/4th.

1772 is the year [Austria conquered the south] of Poland.  I have seen nothing special in the records at 1772.  1777 is a special year.  A new [table format] appears in south Poland on that year, in the Austrian style.  Columns are there for the age of bride and groom, and for house number.  All marriage records have the 2 ages and most have the house.  The 1777 tables are made by hand & ruler.  In 1784, a printed tabular form was introduced.  Many parishes have oldest microfilmed records that start in 1784.  Many parishes have records that start around 1787, using the 1784 form.  Daniel Schlyter published a nice short pamphlet about Polish genealogy that mentions this 1784 standardization in south Poland.  A book by Gerald Ortell has a lot more detail.  Both can be obtained from [PGSA Books].  I wonder what happened in 1787.  I noticed a few “Militaris” notes in the 1790’s, but no obvious record keeping changes during the 2nd and 3rd partitions of Poland in the 1790’s in the south where my ancestors hail from.  I do not have much experience with the microfilms closer to the Gwozdz heartland of Katowice, which was taken by the Austrians in 1795.  As I read the partition maps, Katowice is just barely on the 1795 side of the 1772 border.  My experience may not apply exactly to all the Gwozdz microfilm records.

I have been able to put together family trees for quite a few Gwozdz families, starting at the end of the 18th century.  In my ancestral parish of Wadowice Gorne, marriage records start in 1777, with excellent handwriting, and with fathers named.  House number is recorded.  Naming parents was unusual in marriage records back then, and the practice ended for many years when a new pastor took over in 1784.  Nevertheless, I was able in that parish to link multiple marriage records into siblings in a few families, with a named father who in some cases has a death record.  Some of these families have enough males to start continuous Gwozdz trees from the middle of the 18th century.  Unfortunately, my Gwozdz ancestor, married about 1795, is missing from the marriage records, so my line does not hook up quite that far back.  Fortunately, that inspired me to search for (and fail to find) his marriage record in the neighboring parishes, so I have a rough feeling for the percent of parishes with Gwozdz people.

You can find my family tree results elsewhere.  The Gwozdz family trees not related to me are not quite ready for posting on the web;  when they are I’ll post them, and I’ll change this sentence.

Gwozdz Microfilm Records, 19th and 20th Centuries

There are plenty of microfilm records available for Poland for the 19th century.  In the region of my Gwozdz ancestors, almost every parish has microfilms available.  I know that is not true throughout the south, because my paternal grandmother comes from only 50 km south, and in that region most parishes do not have microfilms of their records.  My cousin contacted the parish to start the work on my grandmother’s family tree, and I visited the parish to continue the work.  I roughly estimate that more than half the parishes of south Poland have useful microfilms available.

My experience is that most southern (not northern) parishes have at least some fragmentary records that have not been filmed, and dating from the 19th century.

Few 20th century vital records are available on microfilm for public research, for reasons of privacy policy.

Parishes with Gwozdz Microfilm Records

Here is a list of Polish parishes where I know there are Gwozdz vital records available on microfilm.  The parish name is actually the name of the town that has the parish.  The microfilm numbers are available on line by typing the parish name into the [LDS Place Search].

My research is biased toward my ancestral region, so may not be representative of the rest of south Poland.  This list has 14 Gwozdz parishes.  I suppose there might be as many as 100 parishes with microfilm records of Gwozdz inhabitants;  I don’t know.  The next topic below has more towns that I figure probably have Gwozdz people.

I submit my actual findings of vital records data elsewhere.

Comment added 2 Jan 2011:  I have found a few additional places with Gwozdz records since I last updated this document a few years ago.  I need to do another update.

I cannot help you find your immediate Gwozdz ancestors, because my Gwozdz name research is almost all before 1885, and most of it is before 1820.

The code “WG” below is Wadowice Gorne, my ancestral Gwozdz town, 100 km NE of Krakow, between Tarnow and Mielec.

Not all these towns are on English language map sites.  Here is a Polish map site: http://mapa.szukacz.pl/.  Type the name into the second box on the upper right of that Szukacz web page.  Not the top box - that’s for searching the web.  The Szukacz maps use the mouse to display map distances in km;  I used these for most of the distances that I give in this web page.

In the following notes, I mention if I know that the parish has more records not microfilmed, or if they informed me they do not.  If I do not mention, I do not know, because I did not visit that parish to ask.

The following parish paragraphs are arranged in order of the oldest Gwozdz records, with oldest date in boldface:

Przeclaw.  15 km SE of WG.  Records from 1660.  Oldest Gwozdz record that I have found:  marriage in 1664 of Catherine Gwozdz.  Gregory Gwozdz is a witness at 9 marriages from 1669 to 1678.  Although these 17th century people from Przeclaw Parish could have easily walked, in less than one day, to my ancestral parish, I have no documents connecting them to my Gwozdz ancestors.  We are lucky that Przeclaw marriage records survived for the years 1660 - 1679;  I studied them.  Baptismal records survive from 1667 - 1670 & 1749 - 1759;  I did not study the baptismal records.  We are unlucky that there are no other surviving records before 1786, so Gwozdz families cannot be traced back before 1786.  Starting in 1786, the records seem continuous for the parish, kept in several books, separate by village.  A few of the villages have modern parishes, so the corresponding books have microfilms indexed under those village names;  see for example Laczki Brzeskie, below.  It seems that there were already a few Gwozdz families before 1670, living in 3 villages just south of Przeclaw:  Laczki Brzeskie, Podole, and Korzeniow.  The records for Przeclaw 1786 - 1800 have a few Gwozdz.  There is a birth index 1863 - 1936 in the microfilms, with plenty Gwozdz listings, almost all from the village of Podole, which is still in the Przeclaw Parish.  I suppose it would be possible to make descendancies for a few Gwozdz families from before 1800 to modern times, but I did not attempt to do this.  I studied Przeclaw because I noticed 17th century microfilms in this parish close to where my ancestors lived.  I suppose there are many more south Poland parishes with 17th century microfilms that have Gwozdz records, but I have never done a search.  When I searched for Gwozdz at http://www.mikeburger.com/rzeszow.html, only one record came up, an 1834 birth in Tuszyma, which is a village in the parish of Przeclaw.

Olesno.  40 km NE of Opole.  Records from 1660.  I did not check these microfilms.  I noticed the data by typing “Gwozdz” into [IGI, Germany].  There are several Gwozdz records from 1680, with no source references.  The data is obviously from the microfilms.  Olesno is also indexed under Rosenberg:  Germany, Prussia, Schlesien Province.

Luszowice.  20 km SW of WG.  Records from 1686.  Marriages of Jacob Gwozdz in 1687 and Joseph Gwozdz in 1690, but those oldest marriage records are fragmentary.  Continuous Gwozdz records from 1750.  I noticed these Gwozdz records because my Kmiec ancestor moved from Luszowice to Wadowice Gorne.

Lubzina.  22 km SE of WG.  Records from 1634.  Marriage of Agnes Gwozdz 1698 in a village that has no other Gwozdz records.  Gwozdz families in other villages that are now separate parishes.  See the modern parishes of Paszczyna, Kochanowka, Pustkow, below.  No Gwozdz in the town of Lubzina until 1779.  The records are continuous, so obviously, Gwozdz people moved into this parish from elsewhere, and continued to move from village to village.  Or maybe someone changed his name to Gwozdz?  I studied Lubzina parish because I was hoping to connect my ancestors to the Gwozdz ancestors of Jarvis Gust, in Paszczyna.  I found no connection.

Kochanowka.  21 km SE of WG.  Records from 1634 with Lubzina.  Continuous Gwozdz records from 1721.  I suppose there might also be Kochanowka records with the closer parish of Ocieka.  Independent Kochanowka records from 1840.

Tarnowskie Gory.  25 km NW of Katowice.  Records from 1641.  I did not check these microfilms.  I noticed the data by typing “Gwozdz” into [IGI, Germany].  There are several Gwozdz people from 1723, with no source references.  The data is obviously from the microfilms.  Tarnowskie Gory is also indexed under Tarnowitz:  Germany, Prussia, Schlesien Province.

Paszczyna.  23 km SE of WG.  Records from 1634 with Lubzina, independent from 1786.  Continuous Gwozdz records from 1753.  This is not the same as Pszczyna.

Wadowice Gorne.  My ancestral parish.  Records from 1777.  Three Gwozdz records 1778.  About 10 Gwozdz families, with continuous records.  The village of Wampierzow has separate records, including Gwozdz families.  The villages of Wadowice Gorne, Wadowice Dolne, and Wola Wadowska are not separated in the oldest records.  (In most parishes the exact village is indicated for some records.)  Some of the Gwozdz people in this parish changed their name to Knap;  their records use either or both names.  It is not clear if all the Knap people were once Gwozdz.  What do you think - maybe the name Knap was easier for doing business with the Austrians?  My family line did not change (obviously).  I visited this parish a few times, and I studied the 19th century records that have not been microfilmed.

Laczki Brzeskie.  12 km SE of WG.  Records from 1786.  First Gwozdz record is Simon Gozdz, father at a birth in 1786.  This parish, founded in 1957, used to be part of the Przeclaw parish, mentioned above.  Laczki is one of the villages identified as a Gwozdz village in the 1660’s records from Przeclaw.  Laczki has plenty Gwozdz records;  it should be possible to make a few Gwozdz descendancies starting before 1800.

Mielec.  10 km E of WG.  Records from 1785.  Only one Gwozdziowski marriage, 1788.  All marriages checked 1785-1800.  There was only one church back then;  today the city has 4 parishes.  I studied Mielec because it is the largest city in the WG region of my ancestors.  I noticed that the family names in Mielec as a whole then were different than the names in WG and villages to the south and west.  I speculate that people did not move much over the river between Mielec and WG.

Zgorsko.  The parish closest to WG, just to the south.  Records from 1799, with a few Gwozdz families from the beginning.  Continuous Gwozdz records.  I visited;  the parish has 19th century records not microfilmed.

Brzeznica.  21 km SE of WG.  Records from 1821.  Continuous Gwozdz records.  There was no parish here in the 18th century.  I have not figured out where the older records are;  they may be in more than one neighboring parish.  The Gwozdz grandfather of Jarvis Gust (see Lubzina) was born here, but his family apparently moved in and out.  I visited this parish, which has 19th century records not microfilmed.

Pustkow.  17 km SE of WG.  Recent modern parish, with earliest records probably split among multiple parishes, not figured out.  It seems Pustkow was called Wolka Pustkowska back then, with Gwozdz records in Lubzina parish microfilms from 1826.

Zasow.  17 km S of WG.  I found Gwozdz microfilm transcription data at www.spuscizna.org, for the parish of Zasow.  Five Gwozdz marriages 1811 to 1857.  By the way, that spuscizna web site has excellent photos and other information for more than 100 parishes in southeast Poland.  Zasow is the only parish I could find at this site with transcriptions from the microfilms, apparently because Zasow is the ancestral parish of the webmaster.

Polish Towns That Probably Have Late 19th Century Gwozdz People

I suppose there must have been hundreds of towns with Gwozdz inhabitants at the end of the 19th century, but I really don’t know how many.

One way to get a partial list of 19th century towns would be to check modern phone directories for Polish towns with lots of Gwozdz names, particularly in those counties in my table of counties with many Gwozdz people.

Another way to get a partial list of towns would be to look at the US immigration data, where town of origin is usually listed.  Lots of Poles moved to the US at the end of the 19th century.  Ancestry.com provides 329 hits for “Gwozdz” in their data base of immigration records, but I have studied these yet.  In addition, our name is often misspelled as Gwuzdz, Gwozd, etc, but when I turned on the “soundex” option at Ancestry.com to include spelling variations, thousands of hits came up;  most of these are not related to Gwozdz.

Over the years I contacted a few Gwozdz people not related to me.  In recent years I started sending emails when I see Gwozdz genealogy data on the web, and about 5 have responded.  About 10 more people with Gwozdz Polish ancestors have seen my site and contacted me by email.  All told I have about 25 Gwozdz or Gwozdz descendant contacts.  Most of these have not figured out the home town of their Gwozdz ancestor.  Many are from the same town as another contact.  I respond to all, but I do not have time to help.  I worked on the leads that looked like my distant relatives.  Three turned out to be distant relatives of mine, one a 6th cousin.  Someday I’ll work on leads most likely to point me to Gwozdz names on microfilms from the 17th century.

The towns that I know have Gwozdz microfilm data are listed in the previous topic.  I suppose most if not all of those had Gwozdz in the late 19th century, although late 19th century microfilms are not as plentiful as mid 19th century.

The top of the previous topic has general comments and web links for maps  and microfilms.

Send me an email to add your ancestral Gwozdz town to this list.  If your town is already here, let me know if I should forward your email to my previous contact.

Bojszowy.  See Bojszowy Nowe.

Bojszowy Nowe.  24 km south of Katowice.  14 km NE of Pszczyna.  I made contact on the web.  http://www.gwozdz.cba.pl/.  A descendancy for Marcin Gwozdz, whose son Pawel Gwozdz is listed as born 13 Nov 1906 in Bojszowy Nowe, so I presume Marcin was born there about 1875.  I checked the LDS index and noticed that there are microfilms for Bojszowy parish, from 1824.  The webmaster, descendant of Marcin, responded to my email and informed me that the neighboring parishes of Wola and Miedzna also have lots of Gwozdz people.  Miedzna has microfilms from 1817, but Wola, a newer parish, does not.  I understand that the Bojszowy Nowe parish was founded in 1980, south of Bojszowy, so we do not know if Marcin went to church in Bojszowy or Miedzna or somewhere else.

Kielczyna.  See Wola Malkowska.

Koscielniki.  15 km NE of Krakow.  I  worked on the family tree of a family from Koscielniki because I thought we were related.  We are not.  No microfilms available.  This Gwozdz family was in the military, moving a lot.  I visited the Koscielniki church;  the priest quickly found the marriage of the Gwozdz grandfather of this family in the late 19th century records.  He was born 1883 in Kidalowice, a village in the parish at Jaroslaw, which is 50 km E of Rzeszow.  Jaroslaw has lots of microfilms, but none 1883.  I checked 3 birth record microfilms, for years just before the 1883 birth grandfather.  I found no Gwozdz names.  These are indexed as Austrian Army records.  That just means the great grandfather was not having children just before 1883, when he was at the military base in Jaroslaw.  As I type this paragraph in 2007, I checked the LDS index, and I see that there is a new film with 1883 records, but I’m no rush to check this film, because these people are not my family, and they probably moved into the military base from somewhere else.

Miedzna.  See Bojszowy Nowe.

Pszczyna.  30 km due south of Katowice.  A Gwozdz family in Gdansk emailed me.  Their ancestor lived in Pszczyna.  We met in Poland for a visit.  Microfilms are available for Pszczyna, from 1794.  This is not the same as Paszczyna.

Wola.  See Bojszowy Nowe.

Wola Malkowska.  110 km NE of Krakow.  11 km N of Staszow.  A Gwozdz noticed my web site and made email contact.  His Gwozdz ancestors came from the village of Wola Malkowska, parish of Kielczyna, 5 km to the east;  microfilms are available 1867-1884.

How Many People in the World Carry the Name Gwozdz?

If figure 11 thousand, as follows:

According to Rymut, about 8.5 thousand people in Poland spell their name Gwozdz with various accents, including less than 100 who spell the name with only one letter changed.

I calculate that there are about 1 thousand people in the US with the name Gwozdz.  That makes 9.5 thousand.

Here is a sanity check on my calculation of 1000 Gwozdz in the US:  The Polish Embassy [2004 web link no longer active] estimates that 12 million Poles live abroad, with 5.6 million in the US, vs 38.5 million in Poland.  That means Gwozdz in US vs Poland should be in the ratio of 5.6 to 38.5, or 1 to 6.88, which is pretty close to my ratio above, which is 1 to 8.5.  Maybe people named Gwozdz are more likely to change their difficult name, thereby increasing the multiplier from 6.88 to 8.5?

The ratio for the rest of the world vs US should be (12-5.6) vs 5.6, or close to 1 to 1.  In other words, about 1 thousand more, for 10.5.

I think there are a bit more.  After all, the region in Poland with most Gwozdz people is right next to Czechoslovakia and close to East Germany.  No doubt many Gwozdz descend from ancestors who moved there from Poland long ago.  Or descend from ancestors who lived there when those lands were part of Poland.  The descendants may not be considered Polish in the data used for that Polish Embassy statistic.  I would think Gwozdz people do not feel much pressure to change their name in Germany and in other Slavic countries, at least not compared to an Anglo Saxon country.

I have not carefully checked to see how many people use a Gwozdz name spelling for a name that originated in other Slavic countries, such as Russia.  We should add a bit for this.

Also, the way I did this estimate, a too low error is much more likely than a too high error.  I round up a half thousand to allow for these last 3 points.  That makes 11 thousand.

This estimate might be 1 thousand too large, or it might be a few thousand too small, but I don’t see any way the number could be less than 10 or greater than 15 thousand people named Gwozdz in the world.

This estimate is intended to be the number of people who consider their name equivalent to Gwozdz.  There are many variants, considered related but distinct names.  The most common variant, Gwozdzik, however, has only 476 people in Poland.  The close variants as a whole world wide probably add only about 10%.

Many of the variant names no doubt descend recently from a Gwozdz family.  Conversely, many of the Gwozdz count might be people whose recent ancestors carried a variant like Gwozdzik and changed to Gwozdz.  I bet most of the Gwozdz people who change their name choose a simpler name, unrelated.  I bet more people change away from Gwozdz than toward Gwozdz.  I see no need to adjust the estimate for name changes, since I am estimating how many people today use the name.

More than 40 thousand people should be interested in this web site, because everyone has 4 grandparents, so about 11 times 4 equals 44 thousand people have a grandparent named Gwozdz.

Informed Speculation About Polish Family Names

If you are still reading this document in order, you probably noticed a gradual transition from facts and data toward informed speculation.  That’s the style.  The remainder of this document continues to become more speculative, albeit with reasonable reasons given for the speculation.

Also, you may have noticed that the general method of the last topic could be applied to most Polish family names, not just Gwozdz.  The same is true with the remainder of this document.  I realized as I wrote this that I really should rewrite the following topics as an instruction web page for the general study of Polish names.

Can Most Gwozdz People Expect to Find Records of Their Ancestors?

Yes.  Most parishes in southern Poland have 19th century vital records.  Once you determine the parish of your Gwozdz ancestor, chances are you should be able to find birth, marriage, and death records for the ancestral family.

Check out [Polish genealogy] web sites for tips on finding ancestors, and for how to find the family parish using recent records, such as US marriage records and US immigration records.  Such web sites also have instructions for writing letters to Poland.

I have another web help site for details concerning the use of the [LDS Microfilms].  I estimate that microfilms are available for more than half the parishes in southern Poland.  For those parishes with microfilms are available, I estimate that more than half are good enough to trace ancestral families all the way back to the 18th century (late 1700’s).

It takes more work to write letters to the Polish parish, or to visit.  With that extra effort, almost all Gwozdz people should be able to find at least some ancestral data.

In that other web help site, I provide rough estimates of what [percent] of Polish parishes have microfilmed records.  In the southern Gwozdz region, the percent of parishes with microfilms is higher than in the north.  Also, people changed parishes less often in the south, so it’s easier in the south to create a family tree.  Here in this topic I provide a little more detail on those rough estimates for southern Poland.  These estimates are based on my personal research experience.  I did not take the trouble to do a proper statistical analysis, so please remember this topic is estimates.

I explained above that 1777 to 1787 are special years.  Many south Poland microfilm records start in a year between 1777 and 1787.  The chances are slim for finding records before 1777.  However, if you find the death record of an ancestor who died in the late 18th century, it will give his age, so technically you have a record to the early 18th century.

Even with good records, not all family trees can be documented.  Some pages are missing.  Some books are missing.  Some male descendants get lost from the documents.  Some males show up in the documents without connections.  For these reasons, working backwards, some family branches do not connect back to the oldest available records.  This does not happen too often in south Poland, in my experience.  I am only trying to come up with approximate estimates, so I do not need much of an adjustment for this.  Earlier, I said “more than half” of the parishes have 19th century records, then I said “more than half” of those have good records back to the late 1780’s.  For my rough estimate for tracing your ancestors then, I’ll drop the “more than” and say the odds are about 1/4th to trace a modern Gwozdz family back to 1780’s microfilm records.

My research is biased toward the region of my ancestors.  A book is available with the [1772 Parishes of Poland], alphabetically listed, and also marked on maps.  I tested map page XV, which includes the region around Katowice and Krakow, where I figure most Gwozdz families seem to have originated.  I do not know why Katowice itself is not listed.  I arbitrarily picked 10 parish names from that map in the region within 75 km of modern Katowice.  I typed those 10 names into the [LDS Place Search].  Four of the 10 do not have microfilms available, consistent with my estimate more than half do.  Of the 6 with microfilms, 3 start between 1830 and 1842.  The other 3 start in 1650, 1718, and 1735, with what look like more or less continuous records through the 19th century.  This small sample test is consistent with my experience that more than 1/4th of parishes have good microfilm records going back to the late 18th century.

As a case study example, let me explain what I found for my family.  I hope this example motivates some of you to search for your ancestors:  My paternal grandparents came from 2 different parishes in south Poland.  My maternal grandparents came from 2 different parishes in north Poland.  My impression from other studies is that my family results are typical of what is available in Poland, north and south.

I found the names of all 16 of my great-great grandparents.  Grandparents of my grandparents, 4 times 4.  Twelve are from microfilms.  There are no microfilms for the parish of my paternal grandmother from the south, but my late cousin, who writes fluent Polish, got those 4 names by writing to the parish in Poland.  The birth record books for both my grandfathers are missing, but I was able to find birth records for known siblings, which name their parents (and also grandparents in the south).

Previous generation:  I found the names of 24 of my 32 three-great grandparents, who were born in Poland between 1765 and 1802.  I found all 8 for my paternal grandfather from the south on microfilm;  only one moved in from another parish, but that parish has microfilms, too.  I taught myself to read Polish well enough to visit that parish of my paternal grandmother.    (It is difficult to get permission to study records, but my Polish 2nd cousin had cooked meals for the pastor when he was without a housekeeper, so I had a nice introduction).  I found that 4 of my ancestors all lived in that parish, and 4 lived in the adjacent parish, which also has no microfilms but which also has a pastor that let me study the records.  My maternal ancestors from the north changed parishes, so I had to study 5 parishes.  None of those parishes have records, but microfilms from the diocese archive have some records for 3 of them.  I found 8 of the 16 in these microfilms.  Two of those 8 are only a first name of a wife, with no maiden name or year.  I recently found what may be 2 more for this list, in microfilms for a 6th parish, where I found microfilmed birth records for two girls with the same name as my great-great grandmother, but I have not yet found any evidence that one of the pairs of parents go onto my family tree.

Previous generation:  I found the names of 35 of my 64 four-great grandparents, who were born in Poland between 1733 and 1770.  Grandparents of the grandparents of my grandparents = 4 times 4 times 4.  Two are only a first name of a wife.  Seven have no birth or death date.  Paternal grandfather’s ancestors:  15 of the 16, from the microfilms of those 2 parishes, but 4 of the 15 are highly speculative;  2 are based only on common house number, which is poor evidence;  2 are process of elimination where multiple individuals have the same name as my ancestor so I had to study multiple families for uncertain evidence.  Paternal grandmother’s ancestors:  15 of the 16, from the books at those 2 parishes mentioned above.  Maternal grandparent ancestors from the north;  from microfilm:  only 5 of the 32, although I may find 4 more if that recent lead pans out.

Previous generation:  I found the names of 16 of my 128 five-great grandparents, who were born in Poland in the early 18th century.  All 16 are from the microfilms.  8 from my paternal grandfather’s parish in the south and 8 from my maternal grandmother’s parish in the north.  Birth and death years are available from death records, but for only 3 in the south, and one of those is highly speculative, based on a 75 year old Gwozdz widow who died 1787 (first year of death records) in the house number where my 3-great grandfather Gwozdz  was having children, so I guess she might be his grandmother but of course she could be an aunt or great aunt.

Previous generation:  I found no six-great grandparent names.

I now have a total of 35 family names in my family tree.  However, it is not correct to say I traced 35 families, because many of those are just the maiden name of a wife with no connection to other people in that parish with the same name.  Actually, I have 33 names, with 2 duplicates, but no evidence of that those duplicates are relatives.  Someday, if I try to trace the maiden name families of my 18th century tree forward to the present time, I expect to succeed on “more than half” of them, based on the estimate that I gave above.

Here is a rare tidbit for my Gwozdz 3-great grandfather.  His marriage is missing from the record book where it should be.  I was able to prove that a whole year is missing.  The book is a copy.  The original is lost.  There were about 2 pages per year of marriages.  I figure the scribe accidentally turned two pages at once while copying, jumping from mid November 1793 to mid November 1794.  I could tell because marriage dates suddenly increased by 6 instead of 7 for mostly Sunday marriage dates.

In a search for distant cousins, I helped a few individuals who provided me with the names of their ancestors from my Gwozdz ancestral parish, and from neighboring parishes.  Again, my experience is that more than half of the family lines that I worked on connected back to the late 1780’s.  I found a 6th cousin this way.  Actually, he found me on the web, and I documented the family connection.  By the way, we both have Gwozdz ancestors in that parish, but there was no Gwozdz connection in the records.  One of our other branches connected in the mid 18th century.  It sounds like luck, but there are so many families in both our trees that I figure a family relation between any two people in that parish in the 18th century is about 50-50 probability.

Conclusion:  About 1/4th of researchers with a parish name and an identified Gwozdz ancestor from the 19th century should be able to trace that ancestor’s Gwozdz family in the microfilms back to the middle of 18th century.  Those who cannot trace a family through the microfilms might have luck by contacting the parish.

Once a family tree gets started, by the way, there quickly become several branches in the same parish, so the probability of documenting at least one of the branches back to the oldest parish records is almost certain.  That 1/4th probability was restricted to the consideration of a single branch, like Gwozdz, when it is not known yet if microfilms are even available.

Do Most Parishes in South Poland Have Gwozdz People around 1800?

No.  For years between 1787 and 1820, I found Gwozdz microfilm records in about 1/5 of the parish records that I checked.  My research is focused on the region around Wadowice Gorne, where my grandfather was born, which is on the northeast edge of the region where most Gwozdz people in Poland live today.  So my results are not exactly representative of the region of highest Gwozdz density near Katowice and Krakow, where we might expect Gwozdz people in a higher percent of the parishes.  My research is focused on parishes where I had prior evidence of Gwozdz inhabitants, so I suppose that biases my 1/5 finding toward the high side.  On the other hand, I only sampled the records for adjacent parishes;  surely I missed some Gwozdz records in some of those parishes;  that biases by 1/5 finding toward the low side.

My mother’s parents are from the region northeast of Warsaw, so I have also studied many microfilm records from the north.  I never found any Gwozdz records in the north.  That reinforces my conclusion that Gwozdz is a southern Poland name.  I have spotted only one Gwozdz variant in the north:  an 1805 birth record in Gasewo with the name Gwozdziewski.  However, that record is unusual, because the record mentions that the family also used the alias Szybonski.  Film 1417676, Item 2.  I would expect to find a Russianized variant like Gwozdziewicz in the north, but I have not spotted such a one in the microfilms yet.

Tentative Opinion:  I expect that the region around Katowice and Krakow in the southeast of Poland has microfilm Gwozdz records in more than 1/5 of the parishes that have microfilm records.  I expect microfilm Gwozdz records for somewhat less than 1/5 of parishes throughout southern Poland.  I expect Gwozdz type names to appear in very few parish record microfilms in the North.

Solid Conclusion:  The Gwozdz family name, though not generally common, was used in many villages of southern Poland by the end of the 18th century.

Ancestral Gwozdz People

The following table is my estimate of the Gwozdz ancestral population.  The explanation is immediately below the table.  This is a rough estimate.  Discussion of the accuracy of this table also follows below.

Year

World Population, Billions

Growth Factor

Ancestral Gwozdz People

2000

6.1

1.00

11000

1900

1.60

3.82

2882

1875

1.42

4.29

2563

1850

1.26

4.83

2280

1825

1.12

5.43

2028

1800

1.00

6.10

1803

1790

0.95

6.42

1714

1775

0.87

6.98

1576

1750

0.76

8.03

1370

1725

0.75

8.16

1349

1700

0.74

8.27

1331

1675

0.73

8.38

1313

1600

0.70

8.71

1262

1500

0.66

9.19

1197

1400

0.63

9.69

1135

1386

0.62

9.76

1127

1300

0.60

10.22

1077

1000

0.51

11.98

918

I have not yet found the population of Poland for previous centuries, so I used the web to get world population vs year.  I did that in 2004, but that web link is no longer active.  Assuming the “Ancestral Gwozdz People” increased about the same rate as the rest of the world, I scaled the Gwozdz population to the world population.

For example, the world population in 2000 was 6.1 billion.  In 1750 the world population was 0.76 billion.  Dividing, that yields a growth factor of 8.03.  Next, dividing the present Gwozdz population of 11 thousand by 8.03 yields 1370 Ancestral Gwozdz People in the year 1750.  Those are the numbers for the 1750 row in the table.

Technical details:  I used a spread sheet.  I entered the population for those years quoted by the world population web site.  Rather than read the web graph, I used exponential fits for short ranges of years to calculate the population for the in-between years for this table.  I calculated the Gwozdz population directly.  I added the growth factor column to help explain the results.  Please feel free to copy my column of “Growth Factors” to do calculations for your own family name.

Gwozdz Name Origination.  This is 2 separate topics.  When names were chosen is covered above.  Next, I’ll use this table to estimate the number of  Gwozdz originations, coming below.  I  made this table because most people find tables easier to understand than the equivalent statistical calculations.  Actually, I did the math first, then made the table.

Theory.  At first, think of this as a theoretical table.  There are several objections to the application of this table to the real world.  I would like to discuss those objections one at a time below.  I have good arguments that most of the objections do not have much of an effect on the numbers in this table.  Most objections do have an effect on my estimate of the number of Gwozdz originations.  I’ll discuss the objections, I’ll use this theoretical table to do the estimates, I’ll discuss the objections again, then I’ll estimate the adjustments needed to correct for the objections.

Tribe.  Think of this table as the population of the Gwozdz tribe.  If people lived as ideal patriarchal tribes, with females always moving to other tribes to marry, this table estimates the population of the ideal Gwozdz tribe.  Of course people do not live in ideal theoretical tribes, so we need to make adjustments, coming up below.

Male Y Chromosome.  For an ideal theoretical tribe the family ancestors are the same as the male Y chromosome ancestors.  However, in genealogy, we make a distinction between family ancestry and genetic ancestry.  In the real world, Gwozdz people do not all have the same genetic ancestors.

Adoption, Illegitimacy, and cuckoldry.  These are examples of simple objections.  However, if the male Y chromosomes coming into a tribe are about equal in number to the ones going out, the estimated number of male genetic ancestors would be the same as the estimated number of family ancestors.  Even if the numbers are not equal, this table does not need adjustment for adoption, illegitimacy, and cuckoldry, because it is a family name table, not a genetic table.  I suppose it is possible that someday some social scientist might provide evidence that peasant families grew faster or slower due to gene mixing from the upper classes, but right now there is no reason to expect simple gene mixing to have any effect on population growth of the Gwozdz family tribe.  These 3 are simple objections that we can forget about.  There are more complicated objections coming up below.  However, I’ll use that simple “equal in vs out” argument again below.

Polish Gwozdz People vs World.  A discussion about accuracy:  People in south Poland did not have a population growth rate exactly the same as the rest of the world.  In recent years, undeveloped countries are increasing in population faster than developed countries.  However, in the 20th century as a whole, Polish people, with their large families, surely multiplied faster than most developed countries.  Polish people multiplied much faster than the world at the end of the 19th century, but they multiplied slower than the rest of Europe at the very difficult end of the 18th century.  Even if good data for Poland were used, there are still problems.  The population of Jews and Germans in Poland decreased in the 20th century in the region of modern Poland, while the population of Catholic Gwozdz families surely increased significantly, so Gwozdz people multiplied faster than the population of Poland.  Historians do not really know if peasants or nobles increased faster in past centuries.  There are many reasons to increase the Gwozdz numbers in this table.  There are many reasons to decrease the Gwozdz numbers in this table.  All things considered, I do not know if the Gwozdz numbers should be a little bigger or a little smaller.  This table is a good enough estimate for my purposes, I judge.

Movement.  No adjustment is needed for people moving around, because that 11 thousand estimate is world wide.

People change their Names.  This table would not need adjustment if individual people changed to Gwozdz as often as people changed away from Gwozdz.  Change numbers are probably not equal for Gwozdz.  Probably during the 19th century people chose Germanic names to get along with the Austrians who ruled the south of Poland.    My table includes Polania outside Poland, so 20th century Gwozdz people switching to easier English, German and French names need to be considered.  I’ll estimate 10% for name changes but who knows, it might be 5% or 20%.  We need to increase the numbers in the table before 1800 to account for the net flow of people out of the Gwozdz tribe.  I’ll presume there was no net flow into or out of the Gwozdz tribe during the 16th through 18th century, because I see no reason for a net change.  As far as we know, changes to Gwozdz were about equal to changes away from Gwozdz from 1300 through 1800.

Gwozdz Extended Families

Year

Ancestral Gwozdz People

Net      Name Changes

Gwozdz Extended Families

2000

11000

1

550

1900

2882

1.05

151

1875

2563

1.0625

136

1850

2280

1.075

123

1825

2028

1.0875

110

1800

1803

1.1

99

1790

1714

1.1

94

1775

1576

1.1

87

1750

1370

1.1

75

1725

1349

1.1

74

1700

1331

1.1

73

1675

1313

1.1

72

1600

1262

1.1

69

1500

1197

1.1

66

1400

1135

1.1

62

1386

1127

1.1

62

1300

1077

1.1

59

1000

918

1.1

51

The “Ancestral Gwozdz People” column comes from the table in the previous topic.

The “Net Name Changes” column is a factor for the +10% adjustment before 1800 to account for the net Gwozdz people changing names, as just explained in the previous topic.  I multiplied the population by those factors.

At the same time, I divided each population by 20 to obtain the column on the right.  My intent is to define an extended family as the average size of a group that would choose the same family name.  I estimate that before 1700, when a family chose an inherited family name, about 20 people went along with the choice, on the average, including children, wives, and males who never had sons, and sisters unmarried at the time of name choice.  Even distant cousins who never chose a name and died without ever leaving a family need to be somehow included in the averages, by association with their closest relatives’ extended family, the way this table is defined.

Remember, 20 is my estimated average.  Sometimes one individual chose the name Gwozdz.  Sometimes a few brothers and cousins chose the same name for themselves and their families, in a very large group. 

I doubt people went to the effort to make sure all the 3rd and 4th paternal cousins picked the same name.  From my experience with Polish family arguments, I bet many families argued over the choice and split into 2 or more surname groups.  More discussion about this is coming up, below.

No doubt the average size of a Gwozdz group changing family name after 1700 was much smaller than the average size of a Gwozdz group originating the family name Gwozdz before 1700.  Those extended family numbers 1700 - 2000 should not be used for name changes.  I included them for complete visualization.

Don’t worry about my number 20.  Use a different number, like 10 or 40, if you like, for the average extended family size that picked a family name.  Your rough estimates will come out with numbers different than mine, but the theme will be the same.

The exact year for name choice was probably often vague.  I suppose in most cases there was no family meeting where the decision was made.  I found a name change in one of my family tree branches, where both the old and new name were used in the records from 1803 to 1816.  That does not matter for our theoretical table, because we can mentally group people together according to the final name choice, and arbitrarily consider that on some approximate year they consciously considered the chosen name to be inherited.

I realize that even theoretical counting of originations can be vague.  Suppose 3 brothers pick the name Gwozdz for their families in the year 1600.  Suppose their 5 paternal 1st cousins are already using the name Pietras, so they do not go along.  However, suppose a generation later, in 1625, the 1 of the sons of one of those 1st cousins, who lives next door to the Gwozdz clan and visits all the time, decides to change from Pietras to Gwozdz.  Is that a 1625 name change, or is it a 2nd Gwozdz origination, or is it a part of the original 1600 Gwozdz origination?  OK, I realize this exercise can be a bit vague, but I’m only looking for approximate estimates, coming up.

I bet you already anticipate my next paragraphs:

A glance at the table convinces us that all the Gwozdz tribe cannot have descended from one or a few name originations.

Theoretically, if all the Gwozdz ancestors picked the name Gwozdz in the year 1300, we estimate that 59 families are required to account for the current Gwozdz population.  Of course very few Polish people used inherited surnames in the year 1300.  In south Poland, family name origination was probably finished well before 1700.  If we imagine all the Gwozdz ancestors picked their name in 1675, the table tells us 72 originations are required.

Most likely, the name Gwozdz was chosen many times from 1300 through 1700, mostly from 1550 to 1650, when the majority of the population in the south of Poland was picking family names.  The table says 69 families in 1600.  I’ll round to 70 as my best guess for Gwozdz originations.  However, the concept of “originations” can be quite confusing.  Let me add a few topics of explanation and discussion.  I’ll summarize this 70 estimate below.

Discussion of Estimated 70 Gwozdz Originations

You can skip this topic if you figure family arguments have no significant effect on these estimates.  If you need to be convinced, please read on:

Family Arguments.  At the time of family name choice, if every Gwozdz ancestral family got together to make sure all brothers and cousins picked the same family name, this table would need no need further discussion.  It would just be an estimated population of all Gwozdz people including their ancestors.  Of course it was not that simple when names originated.  Not all brothers chose the same name.  In our mind, we can consider every brother who refused to go along with a family choice of the name Gwozdz, and match him off with a brother in another family tribe who choose the name Gwozdz while some of his brothers chose the name of that other tribe.  Here is an example:  Suppose in a family of 4 brothers, 3 get together and choose the name Gwozdz while the 4th already has been using the name Kowalski, and sticks with it.  Meanwhile, in another family, 5 brothers chose the name Szymanski and one of their brothers selects the name Gwozdz.  We can say that Kowalski balances Szymanski.  In the estimate of the originations, this family argument example counts as 2 independent originations of the name Gwozdz, not one.

Cousins.  This is really the same discussion as the previous “Family Arguments” objection.  If brothers and some paternal cousins get together and choose the name Gwozdz, but other paternal cousins do not go along, then again, we can consider the table to represent cousins switching tribes.

Distant Cousins.  Really, every family must have had a situation similar to this “Family Arguments” situation, even if they did not know it, back when names were picked.  Suppose all the 1st and 2nd paternal cousins in an extended family got together in the year 1600 and picked the name Gwozdz, for example. Suppose they knew for a fact that they had no 3rd or 4th paternal cousins.  Everyone has even more distant unknown paternal cousins.  These people in 1600 had to have a paternal line ancestor who lived way back in the year 1200.  Surely they could not know all his male line descendants.  In other words, let me combine these past three objections:  Family Arguments, Cousins, and Distant Cousins into one topic, Tribe Switching:

Tribe Switching.  Summary:  At the time of name origination, we can imagine that extended families were switching family tribes.  We can say that they were switching from tribes that had no name to tribes that have names.  All the nameless tribes disappeared and were replaced by surname tribes.  I know it’s silly, but believe me, I wasted a lot of effort trying to write paragraphs to explain what those numbers in the table mean for the years 1000 and 1300.  It’s mind twisting to think about.  Ancestors split up into fractions!  I finally deleted my complicated explanation.  Those are theoretical numbers.  We used them to consider how many families it would take to explain the Gwozdz population at different years.  Once we get the estimate for about how many families are required, there is no need to try to explain a meaning of the ancestor numbers before names were chosen, because the ancestors have been all mixed up by tribe switching.  There is no need to adjust the estimates for this theoretical tribe switching effect.  What we should do is just erase in our minds the numbers for the ancestors of people who chose family names.

Friends.  This objection is really the same as tribe switching.  If a close friend joined a few brothers in picking a common family name, we should consider that two simultaneous name originations - one for the brothers and one for the friend.  No adjustment is necessary to the tribe numbers.

Discussion.  Here is a drill.  You can skip down to the next topic if you like.  Read these 6 paragraphs if you are still a little uncertain of what I am saying, and would like to me say it all a different way.  Here is a link to that table for reference while you read the following.  Print a copy, if you prefer.

The first documented Gwozdz is from 1386.  That was back when very few Polish people had inherited surnames.  Suppose that individual, along with about 20 relatives, was deciding at that time to use the name Gwozdz as an inherited surname.  From the table in the previous topic, there should have been about 62 extended families ancestral to Gwozdz people in the year 1386 to account for the 11 thousand Gwozdz people alive today.  In our mind, we need to imagine erasing this individual’s ancestors from the table.  We can use the color red in our mind for the numbers representing him, his family, and his descendants in the tables, to separate them from the Gwozdz tribe ancestors who had not chosen family names.

Later, say in 1500 for example, we should imagine another family choosing the name Gwozdz, and turning red.  Repeat the process until the whole tribe is red, about 1650 or so.

I may sound like I am saying that a single extended family with the surname Gwozdz in the year 1386 is ancestral to 1/62 of the Gwozdz people alive today.  That is a good average guess, but it is very unlikely to be correct for a specific family.  Any one paternal extended family is very likely to disappear due to no male descendants in any of the future generations.  Meanwhile, some families are lucky and have a large number of male descendants in one of the future generations.  The probability that one family from the year 1386 is ancestral to exactly 1/62 of the Gwozdz people today is possible but very unlikely.  It is much more likely they disappeared, or they are ancestral to a larger fraction.  However, on the average, this 1/62 is a “best” estimate.

Let me say it another way:  Please look the 1386 row in the chart above.  We are considering those 62 extended paternal families in 1386 to theoretically be the ancestors of the 75 extended families in 1750.  That means some of those 62 families had about doubled and in 1750 could be considered 2 extended families, some about tripled, some stayed the about same size, while some others of those 62 paternal families had disappeared.  They all probably had more descendants through daughters, but those are considered different male tribes, whether they have family names or not, in this theoretical study.  I am trying to word this in a way that can be understood without statistics.  We are grouping people into male extended families within the Gwozdz tribe.  Individual families disappear, multiply, and split.  People in 1750 who descended from an extended family of the year 1386 would not even know they are related, so we might as well regroup them into new extended families.

I chose the year 1386 for this discussion, but the same discussion can be repeated at any year from 1300 to 1700 when Polish people chose family names.

Rough though they are, the numbers in the extended families table above have value for these topics at the end of my web page.  It seems obvious that there were a lot of Gwozdz people in Poland in the 16th and 17th centuries, when many people in south Poland were choosing family names.

Statistics

A discussion about precision:  For a common family name, with 100 thousand people today, a table like this should be statistically OK, with 10 times bigger numbers.  For a very rare name with only 100 people, a table like this is meaningless, because of the luck involved in the number of descendants for one family.  One prolific male with a large number of male grandchildren can have a big effect in a small population.  Gwozdz is in between.  The Gwozdz population is large enough for me to judge that the numbers in the table are pretty good, statistically.  That 918 ancestral people in the year 1000 may be statistically uncertain by a factor of 2 or more.  I judge it is statistically uncertain by a factor smaller than 5.

Another statistics point:  There is a statistical tendency for small tribes to disappear.  Some small tribes get larger and some small tribes get smaller.  Once in awhile a small tribe produces no males.  Once it is gone, it does not come back, in a theoretical study.  That means all other tribes, on average, tend to become a bit larger, statistically.  For very large tribes, this statistical increase is not significant.  The Gwozdz population numbers in the table above should be statistically adjusted a bit smaller for centuries in the far past.  This correction should not be a factor of 2, in my judgment.

Population scientists and geneticists do these kinds of calculations and publish the results.  I am not an expert on the subject, but I have read the articles.  You may remember all the newspaper articles a few years ago, when scientists used world wide mitochondria samples to calculate how long ago a single female lived who is the direct maternal line ancestor of the entire modern human population.  The actual scientific articles also explain how to calculate the statistical uncertainty of the answer.  Similar articles were published for paternal ancestry, but for some reason the newspapers were not very interested.  One of these days I might do a similar statistical analysis for this Gwozdz table and update these 3 paragraphs.  I know the result will not be very satisfying however, because to do the statistics, I need to make assumptions about things like birth rates, death rates, age of parents at birth, etc.  Besides, there are other objections coming up below that require adjustments that are much more significant than statistical adjustments.

Prior Publication

I could not find this type of “estimated calculation for name origination” in genealogy books.  Actually, I did not look very hard yet.  My calculation method should be valid for any family.  I suppose the reason I have not found this technique published is that 11 thousand is a “Goldilocks” number.  Gwozdz is not too hot, not too cold, but just right for this presentation.  For family names with much larger numbers, like 100 thousand, such a calculation is silly because of course a common name arises many times, from a large ancestral population.  For a family name with a much smaller number, like 100 people today, such a calculation yields only 12 people in the year 1400, which is statistically silly;  most likely a name with only 100 people originated only once or twice.  Even for a family name with 1 thousand people today, such a calculation yields only 115 people in the year 1400.  On the average, a number like 115 needs to be statistically adjusted much smaller.  (Most small tribes disappear statistically, so the ones that survive are mostly the lucky ones that grew quickly to get started.)  On the other hand, statistically, some reasonably large families decrease in number.  So a family name with about 1 thousand people today has a very high uncertainty in the number of ancestors;  it may have originated only once, or perhaps quite a few times.  Gwozdz, with 11 thousand, is in between, just large enough to be statistically reasonable but small enough to be interesting.

Here is a 2nd reason why I figure this kind of discussion cannot be easily found in genealogy books:  It’s new.  The Rymut CD just came out.  In the introduction to his 1991 book, Rymut laments the fact that there was no way to figure how many people have a particular name.  Well, I see he was preparing to fix that while he was writing his introduction.  The Rymut Name Dictionary was published in 1992.  In the introduction to the 2003 CD update, Rymut expresses pleasant surprise about the research being done using his data.  In other words, Rymut is the reason I am typing this web page.  Before Rymut, I had no idea if the number of Gwozdz people today is 3 thousand or 30 thousand.

Comment added 2 Jan 2011:  I wrote this discussion about my estimate of Gwozdz families in 2004.  Since then, I have still not found a publication that explains the statistics of how to estimate the number of different families with the same name.  However, recently I have become active in DNA.  I have a web page about Polish Y-DNA.  I have noticed quite a few articles discussing how many Y-DNA male line families exist. (Y-DNA is inherited much like a male line family name.)  Generally, these articles use the same statistical methods that I used here in 2004.  However, I have still not noticed a good review article appropriate as a reference for this method.

How Many Times Did the Name Gwozdz Originate?

Sorry about getting tedious, but I have 4 ways to answer this question:

First of all, the name Gwozdz may have originated a thousand times, back in the times before inherited family names.  We have no way to tell how many individuals called themselves Gwozdz, but their sons used different nicknames and surnames.

Secondly, it is not really known how rapidly families changed their names during the period around 1600 when family names were being decided.  Probably often.  It could be that a few hundred families picked the name Gwozdz as an inherited surname, used it for a few years, then decided to switch to a different name.  In fact, I realize a nit picker would point out that there really is a continuum between my first, second, and third definitions of  “originations”.

Third, there continue to be isolated name changes, even after everyone had inherited surnames, to modern times.  No adjustment is needed to estimated tribe size if the changes into the tribe are expected to be about equal to the changes out of the tribe.  I made a slight change to the Gwozdz tribe.

I proved that one of my mother’s family branches in north Poland changed to the name Banasiak around 1810.  Banasiak was already a very common name in north Poland then, but I have a list of all the people in this small unique early 19th century Banasiak clan.  The records show that they had been using the name Baytko in the late 1700’s.  (I figure they picked “Banasiak = family of Benedykt” because of their long deceased grandfather, named Benedykt Baytko.  I’m not sure, but I think “Baytko = fibber”;  perhaps the old man liked to tell tall stories and his family did not like the surname everyone used for them.  My speculations about their reasons do not matter here, but I inherited his pleasure of telling side stories.  This parenthetical remark is a side story embedded in a paragraph which is a side story.)  There were other families named Baytko in that town of Szelkow in the early 19th century;  I do not know if they were all related.  However, the name Baytko all but disappears from that town by the middle of the 19th century.  I realize some of them may have moved or died, but to me it looks like Baytko was just an unpopular name.  Someone doing a study like mine for the very rare name Baytko would never know about the people in this town who used the name, concluding it originated very few times.  Similarly, the name Gwozdz may have significantly increased or decreased anytime in the past.  I am correcting only for what I can think of, that is, net changes away from the difficult Gwozdz name during the 19th and 20th centuries.

In other words, the third definition of originations corrects for known net changes, but we need a fourth definition that includes all changes, coming up.  First, let me summarize the third definition result:

Estimate:  Please refer to the table, at the year 1600 row:  70 is a good educated guess for the number of permanent Gwozdz family name originations.  Surely this number is very uncertain.  I made a whole bunch of approximations to get here.  The biggest uncertainty is my estimate of 20 people involved per name origination.  That uncertainty is more serious than all the other estimates.  If you think the average should be 10, then you can double my estimate to 140.  Another big uncertainty is the adjustment for net loss (or gain) of Gwozdz people due to isolated name changes;  I used 10%, the 3rd column in the table .  All estimates considered, I guess that 70 number could easily be off by a factor of 3, that is, 23 to 210, for all I know.  I judge it unlikely to be off by a factor of 5, that is, almost surely more than 14 Gwozdz originations are required to account for the all the Gwozdz who live today, and almost surely less than 350.

Summary:  Based on the tables and discussions that start several pages back, we conclude the name Gwozdz most likely originated many times, perhaps about 70.  The fact that most Gwozdz today live near Katowice and Krakow is a hint that something about the regional preferences for name choice made Gwozdz more likely in the south.

This is getting pretty speculative, isn’t it?  Let’s get even more speculative for the end of this web page:

Fourth, we still need to estimate the actual name changes.  That net 10% increase due to name changes was needed in the last topic to get to the “true” origination number.  However, as far as family trees are concerned, a name change to Gwozdz in the past is considered another origination in this fourth and final meaning of the word.  We need to estimate not just net changes, but the actual changes to Gwozdz.

In this fourth meaning, I would think the extended families are smaller.  I suppose when families already have settled on a surname for a few generations, it would be smaller groups splitting off, perhaps of average size 10 instead of 20.

I am not considering adoptions here, although I realize there may not be a clear distinction between the adoption of a young adult vs a name change.  How about if a man moves, along with his wife and 2 infants, to live permanently with the extended family of his best friend, then 5 years later starts using their family name;  would that be a name change, or an adoption?  Let’s ignore such confusions.

Next I would just make a wild guess like 1% per generation.  With about 4 generations per century, that is about 4% of the population per century.

Wait a minute.  I really should use a different % for each century.  Maybe 5% in the 17th century and only 2% in the 18th century?

That 10% population adjustment for the 19th and 20th centuries is really each century having people changing to Gwozdz equal to something like 1% and people changing away from Gwozdz something like 6%.

This is too confusing for a table.  I’ll just pick a reasonable wild guess for the total.  I like 30, because then the total number of Gwozdz originations is a nice round 100, counting name changes since about 1675.

Guess:  100 is a good “wild but educated guess” for the number of Gwozdz family name originations including occasional incidents of people switching to the name Gwozdz.  This is my fourth and last definition of “originations”.  It does not include temporary originations before 1700 that were given up after a short use.

Late 18th Century Gwozdz Families

Year

Gwozdz Extended Families

Films

Families per   Parish

Gwozdz Parish Films

1900

151

10%

3

5

1875

136

60%

2.5

33

1850

123

50%

2

31

1825

110

40%

1.75

25

1800

99

30%

1.5

20

1790

94

30%

1.25

23

1775

87

20%

1

17

1750

75

16%

1

12

1725

74

14%

1

10

1700

73

12%

1

9

1675

72

10%

1

7

1600

69

5%

1

3

The Gwozdz Extended Families column is copied from the previous table.

The Films column is an elaboration on my earlier estimates of the percent of parishes that have microfilms.  These % estimates are for the % of parishes that have microfilm records for that date or more recent.  For example, in the 1825 row, I estimate that 40% of parishes in the south of Poland have microfilms going back to 1825.

Families per Parish column is an estimate of the number of Gwozdz people per parish, from my experience, where parish size has been growing over the years in Poland.

The last column is obtained by multiplying the numbers in the other 3 columns.  This is my estimate of how many parishes in southern Poland have microfilms available with records of Gwozdz people.

As a sanity check on these numbers in the last column, compare them to the list of Gwozdz parishes that I have found so far.  The list mentions that 9 of those parishes have continuous records, starting with the years 1721, 1750, 1753, 1778, 1779, 1786, 1799, 1821, 1826.  The table above has a maximum of 33, so my 9 seem to represent 27% of the total.  I found 3 parishes with continuous records starting before 1775, vs 17 in the table, which is 17.7%.  (Actually, those 3 modern parishes were all part of the parish of Lubzina back then;  you might say I only found 1 parish, but Lubzina town itself did not have Gwozdz, so I counted this as 3 finds.)

I made a comment in the Gwozdz parishes topic that perhaps the total number possible might be 100, because my research is concentrated on a small part of the edge of the Gwozdz region of Poland.  I could easily go back and slightly adjust all my estimates to make a better fit to my previous intuition.  I won’t.  Perhaps my ancestors are from a local pocket of Gwozdz people, and perhaps I really have found 17% to 27% of the old Gwozdz records.

Actually, I am quite pleased that all this speculative calculation came even into the same ballpark as my intuition.

How Many Gwozdz Ancestral Families Are There?

I estimate that about half the extended families that picked a family name in south Poland ended up with no male descendant at a date before today.  In other words about half the family name choices disappeared.

I am not sure.  The fraction might be 1/4 or 3/4.  Remember, I am defining extended families as 20 people, on the average.  However, this includes some very small families and some larger families.  I am sure anyone who has traced out a few family trees in the microfilm records would agree that quite a few families end up without males, even after a few generations.  Another researcher might guess a fraction different than 1/2, but I doubt many would argue with my rough range of 1/4 to 3/4.

This may sound like a contradiction to my earlier statement that the total Gwozdz count does not need much of a statistical correction.  It really is consistent.  Some families disappeared.  Some grew faster than average.  Because the Gwozdz tribe has a reasonable number of extended families, the estimated total population should not need much of a statistical correction.

I would use this same 1/2 persistence estimate for the families that changed to Gwozdz.  True, they changed in recent centuries, which improves the odds of survival, but they probably changed with smaller family groups, which decreases the odds of family name survival.

My estimate for the total originations of the name Gwozdz is 70.  My wild guess for the number of changes to Gwozdz is 30, for a total of 100 unique ancestral families.  If half of them persist to modern times, that means 50 families are ancestral to all living Gwozdz.  Of course most of those cannot be documented from the microfilms.  I bet about half can be documented by combining the microfilm records with the unfilmed records available at some parishes.

Summary.  This is my 2nd to last speculation.  It is very uncertain.  About 50 families are ancestral to all living Gwozdz people.  About half of these could be documented with a lot of research effort.  Therefore the odds of 2 random Gwozdz genealogists finding a Gwozdz common ancestor are about 1%.

How Many Actual Unique Gwozdz Common Ancestors Are There?

The way I have been doing my estimates, each family origination and each change is a group of people with a common ancestor.  So 50 families means 50 common ancestral parents.

That is not the same as the number of distinct Y chromosomes carried by Gwozdz males today.  Except for a brief comment, I have been ignoring gene mixing due to adoption, illegitimacy, and cuckoldry.  There is no way I can quantify these effects.  Most genealogists do not like to hear speculations about how many adoptions and illegitimate births are hidden from the official records.  Don’t even mention cuckoldry.  Remember, the chances of none of these things happening in one generation may be 95%, but for 20 generations you need to multiply 95% twenty times.  The answer is 36%.  If a generation is about 25 years, 20 generations is 500 years, or the year 1500, about the time people started picking family names.  So even for a modern Gwozdz male that belongs to a family tree going back to the year 1500, there would be only a 36% chance that he carries the same Y chromosome as the original patriarch of that tree.  Even using 98% for 10 generations, 250 years, the answer is 82%, for the year 1750.  The number of Gwozdz chromosomes might be double the number of ancestral families.

The subject of Y-DNA will soon get very interesting.  Many genealogists with common surnames are already getting together and purchasing genetic tests and posting results on the web.  Most of them are just trying to get lucky and find a distant relative.  Or they wish to test the accuracy of their genealogy charts.  However, even without even realizing it, they are also measuring the genetic effects of politically incorrect topics like cuckoldry.

Summary.  The number of Gwozdz originations is about 70.  About half of these families persisted to modern times, so there are 35 ancestors for most of the Gwozdz population.  The number of changes to Gwozdz is not known, but I roughly guess and additional 30, also with about half persistence, for 50 ancestors for all Gwozdz today.  The number of Gwozdz Y-DNA chromosomes might be more like 100 due to gene mixing.  Y-DNA testing provides a way to start counting Gwozdz male lines.

Web Document History

The original draft was posted 28 Oct 2003.  Continuous updates were posted about weekly during November during development.  The finished version was 5 February 2004, which has remained on the web with a few updates, minor changes in 2007 and 2008.

Pete Gwozdz

Hi. I'm the author of this web document. I live in the so called Silicon Valley in California.  My grandfather, Piotr Gwozdz, came to MA from Wadowice Gorne, near Mielec, [between Tarnow and Rzeszow]. I have a university [home page].

Send comments to pete2g2@comcast.net. 

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