In order to find information about my ancestors, I accessed a Catholic church register of a village in the upper part of Silesia, via Family Search. The village, Śmicz, was Polish but was part of Prussia (and, from 1871, the German Empire). The records are from the 1820-1939 time period.

All the records are in German, which is not surprising, considering it was the official language.

What is however more surprising, is that while there is traces of Polish family names, there is absolutely no trace of Polish given names to anyone in the village.

By Polish given names, I mean all the series which ends in -sław, but also other typically Slavic names such as Boris, Marek, Casimir, Lech, etc...

Most given names were extremely unoriginal names that could be used in all languages, such as Joseph, Maria, etc... Not only that, but also some German names, which I do not think can be translated in Polish, were frequent, such as: Georg, Franz, Franziska, Cecilia, Emmanuel, etc...

So, how to explain that? Was there a law that prevented people giving Polish surnames to babies, or were the typical Slavic names just not in fashion in the 19th and early 20th centuries?

  • 1
    Two links to look at are: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – C R
    Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 1:36
  • @rozkosz Those article are not of very good quality and doesn't tell anything about names, as such they don't answer my quesiton.
    – Bregalad
    Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 9:50
  • 1
    @Bregalad Yes, they don't answer your question they provide context; that is why I posted them as a comment.
    – C R
    Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 16:56
  • 1
    You could also be looking at germanised names. Franciszka and Cecylia were quite common for Polish girls at the time.
    – skolima
    Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 22:43
  • @skolima : Thanks I didn't know about that. Perhaps I should remove this question and have another one which is "What is the polish equivalent of the following german names : x, y, z, etc..." But I'm still puzzled by the absence of names ending in -slaus, which are so prevalent in modern-day Poland.
    – Bregalad
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 9:04

1 Answer 1


The most likely reason is that the Catholic priest was German. Back then the baby's names had to correspond to a canonized saint's name. So whatever name the parents gave the child, the priest would write in the German or Latin variation of the saint's name.

During this time period, I've seen German babies in France baptized with French names, and German babies in Texas baptized with Spanish names. The foreign names were never used outside of the church books.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.