Geneablogy: An occasional Journal about our experiences exploring our heritage

Saturday, October 5, 2002

The new edition of The East European Genealogist has a fascinating article about Ukrainian surnames that happens to cover a number of the ones in my family. Ukrainian surnames are derived from four basic sources: personal names, geography, profession or social class, and personal characteristics. My great-grandmother, Wiktoria Mazur, gets this explanation of her surname:

People of believed Polish origin also had a special appellation in Ukrainian. They were often called Mazur after Mazovia, a central region of Poland from which many of them were believed to have come. In Poland, this name was actually applied to people from Mazovia, while in some Ukrainian lands it was used to refer to Poles generally. Mazur, Mazurenko, Mazurkevych, and Mazuryk are all common Ukrainian names.

Her husband, Józef Horbal, gets this:

Still others include Horban and Horbach from which we analogously get the Russian form Gorbachev -- all of which mean "hunchback". The last Soviet leader of this name was rumored to be of Kuban Cossack, and thus Ukrainian, ancestry.

My grandmother, Jozefa Zurbyk, gets this:

Prominent Ukrainian and Russian linguists agree that abstract nouns used as names is one of the peculiarities of Ukrainian nomenclature. Unfortunately, many of these are negative. Thus, we add... Zhurba as in "sorrow" or "hope that better thoughts will prevail in the future". I think I like the second definition better.

Associated family names that get mentioned include Melnyk (meaning miller) and an explanation of the -yshyn suffix on Karyshyn:

A third category of special interest to Americans and Canadians is a male name transferred into a female form and then turned into a family name. This kind of name has the typical ending -yshyn.

When I saw the article I thought it might be interesting, but I didn't expect it to have so much relevance to my family.

Posted at 4:29:42 PM Link to this entry