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It appears my great-great-grandmother was named Thillmann, and was Silesian Polish, despite her name sounding German. I know many names and surnames have translations between both of those languages, and that the translation is not always obvious (for example Nowak = Neumann).

Does a Polish equivalent of this name exist at all? What could be the meaning of this family name?

Various spellings exists, such as Thielman.

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The site serwis heraldyczno-genealogiczny has a searchable database of names from the book "Słownika nazwisk współcześnie w Polsce używanych" (Dictionary of names in use in Poland) by well-known Polish philologist Kazimierz Rymut. This link should take you directly to the search page. Typing in Thillmann, Tilman and Tillman gives back numerous variants: Thillmann, Tilman, Tilmann, Tillman and Tillmann.

The list of Polish surnames at the Stankiewicz genealogy site which is based on work done by Maria Malec of the Institute of the Polish Language at the Polish Academy of Sciences in 1995 also gives several variants and states that their origin is the German name with that same spelling.

  • Why is there no description for names that are below Tężyński ? – Bregalad Aug 21 '15 at 21:20
  • The comment at the beginning of all of those names is "Names appearing in at the beginning of the nineties of the twentieth century". So it looks like the list is from a different source. – Christopher Rapcewicz Aug 21 '15 at 22:33
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There are large number of surname variants based on the German nickname "Till" (short for Dietrich, and similar names) -- T*L + various suffixes -- that are found in all German-speaking areas.

Thillman is included under Thiel and its variants in Bahlow's Schlesisches Namenbuch.

If you read German, "Schlesisches Namenbuch" has a summary of surname development in Silesia in the Introduction (Einleitung: Die schlesische Namenlandschaft).

With a mixed ethnic population going back centuries (there are tribes listed in ancient texts whose ethnicity is still disputed), surname development in the 14th and 15th centuries incorporated elements of many languages. Once surnames were regularly passed down in the father's line, the descendants (regardless of that one ancestor's own ancestry) might identify with whichever heritage was the most significant to them.

  • Cool, but that doesn't answer if a polish variant of that name exists (many names of the area seems to have both Polish and German variants) – Bregalad Aug 19 '15 at 21:25
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    I looked in the sources I cited for Polish variants - none were indicated. However, I have no expertise in the origin of surnames in Greater Poland itself. – bgwiehle Aug 19 '15 at 22:22
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Nowak = Neumann is nothing more than literal translation.

Hence Thillmann could be translated to "Dyszel", "Dyszelewski", "Dyszelewska", etc.

That's only a suggestion, though.

  • Unfortunately, "thill" (shaft of a horse-drawn wagon) is an (obscure) English word. "Dyszel" is the Polish word for the item, but the German word is "Deichsel" -- obviously similar to the Polish word but unconnected as a surname variant of Thillmann. – bgwiehle Jun 8 '16 at 23:55

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