Friday, December 16, 2016

Będargowo - Part II: What the Prussians tell us

By Michael Pionke

Welcome back to our second journey into the past. Did you enjoy our first flight? Then please take a seat. We have to apologize for the long waiting time, but due to the increased interest Mary and I had to enlarge the seat capacity of our time machine. We have also added life jackets. You never know what can happen on an adventurous flight through time. Now the time machine is refueled, cleaned and ready for departure.

Before we start, we want to give you a small briefing.

Our first flight led us to the Roman Catholic parish of Strzepcz in North Poland in the early 1700s. We visited Adam and Eve Pionk, our very first grandparents from the small village of Będargowo. As promised, we will visit today the families of Adam and Eve’s adult children in 1773.

A unique historical document, the so-called West Prussian Land Register, will give us a spectacular insight into the village population and life in Będargowo at that time. For a better understanding, we need to give you a small history lesson first.

In the early 1700s the Kashubian area around Gdańsk (Danzig) belonged to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. However, towards the end of the 18th century, three partitions of Poland took place and ended the existence of the state, resulting in the elimination of the sovereign Poland for 123 years.

During the first partition of Poland, King Frederick the Great of Prussia, a state in the German empire, took over the Kashubian area which became part of the newly formed province West Prussia.

After the occupation of West Prussia in 1772, the “Geheime Finanzrat” Rembert Roden was ordered by Frederick the Great to prepare a land survey of these territories. The land survey should produce the necessary foundation for the introduction of the Prussian taxation system in the new territory. In the years 1772/73 three commissions with about 60 officials and 40 surveyors were occupied with this work. For each town a land register was established. Also the small village of Będargowo was visited from one of the commissions on 20 March 1773.

OK, enough dry theory for the moment. We want to start now. The GMS coordinates for our time machine are 54°25'33.5"N 18°07'37.0"E. The display of the onboard computer shows us following map (Fig. 1):

Fig. 1: Google Earth view of Będargowo.,18.1240585,1292m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en

Now we also type in the target date: 20 March 1773. Let’s count down together: 3-2-1-Go!

Our time machine runs perfectly again, even with the increased number of passengers. Ok, prepare for landing. We are already there.

It is Saturday morning and pretty cold on this first day of spring. We take a look around and enjoy the Kashubian landscape although the fields and meadows are rather barren at that time of the year (Fig. 2 and 3).

Fig. 2: Kashubian landscape at Będargowo
(photo taken in October 2016).

Fig. 3: Kashubian landscape at Luzino 12 miles north of Będargowo
(photo taken at the farm of Marek Pionke in October 2016).

Now we look in front of us and see Będargowo. It is a small village. We only count about twenty houses. It is rather a loose cluster of buildings than a compact village. Most of the buildings are simple houses (Fig. 4). Only one house looks better and bigger than the others and is surrounded by some stables and sheds. That is the manor farm of the noble landlord Ludwig (Louis) Donimierski.

Fig. 4: Old Pomeranian houses (presumably 19th or early 20th century).

Although it is early in the morning, the village people have gathered in the middle of Będargowo. We count 63 persons in total, thereof 43 adults and 20 children. It seems to be a special day. Even though it is not Sunday, the village people wear their best clothes (Fig. 5). They are very excited and speak all at once. Lord Donimierski tries to calm them down. We look around for familiar faces. Can we identify Adam and Eve’s adult children? Is the sturdy middle-aged man at the tree their first son Martin? Or is the pretty woman over there Adam and Eve’s youngest daughter Marianna who had her birthday only two days before?

Fig. 5: Traditional Kashubian costumes.

Suddenly, one person cries “look, they come” and points at a dark spot at the horizon. We are also very excited. It takes a while until we can see the approaching caravan of people. It is the commission of the new sovereign Frederick the Great, which was assigned to prepare a land survey of the new Prussian territories.

The caravan consists of about 1-2 dozen people on horseback, on foot, and with wagons. We can see Prussian clerks in their civil uniforms (Fig. 6), a group of land surveyors with their assistants (Fig. 7), and a small group of Prussian soldiers (Fig. 8) who protect the caravan.

Fig. 6: Uniforms of Prussian civil servants (1813): dress
uniform on the left side and work uniform on the right side.

Fig. 7: Land surveyors (presumably 18th century).

Fig. 8: Prussian Dragoon regiment.

Finally, the caravan approaches the village. Lord Donimierski welcomes the commission. The Prussians react in a friendly but military manner. Lord Donimierski invites the Prussians to his house. The chief officer and some clerks follow him. The rest of the group has to wait outside. The land surveyors begin to unpack their devices.

Lord Donimierski leads the high-ranking visitors to his living room. That is the only room in the house with a fireplace. The fire is burning and it is pretty warm.

Lord Donimierski is 49 years old. According to the old church books of Strzepcz, he was born to Michael and Johanna Theresa Donimierski on 15 September 1723 in Będargowo. He was the second of four children. On 20 March 1773 he lives together with three farmhands and two servant maids on his manor. He is single. We don’t know if he has lost his family or if he was unmarried.

The Prussians and Lord Donimierski take a seat. The chief officer asks the secretary to take down the minutes. The interview starts. We look over the shoulder of the secretary and make notes on the protocol which is listed below.

Records for the noble manor of Będargowo - 20th March 1773

During the inspection of the manor the landowner Lord of Donimierski provided following information:

General Information

1. The name of the manor is Będargowo. It is located in Pomerelia.

2. In the past the manor had belonged to the starosty of Schoenek and to the regional court of Mirachowo. (Note: In the early Middle Ages, the starosta was the head of a Slavic community)

3. The manor belongs to Mr. Ludewig of Donimierski. He lives on the manor.

4. He was born in Pomerelia. He and all inhabitants of the manor are of Roman Catholic confession.

5. The privilege for the manor is dated 1344. It was confirmed by the King of Poland Sigismund II Augustus in 1569 as a knight's estate under Polish legislation. A copy of the document will be attached to the records.

6. The landowner cultivates an outlying estate on the manor.

7. The manor is 4 miles away from Lębork and 4 miles away from Gdańsk. (Note: 1 Prussian mile = 4.68 U.S. miles)

8. On the manor live

1 land owner
1 blacksmith with land
1 carpenter with land
13 Instleute with land (Note: Instleute = agricultural laborers)
2 Instleute including the shepherd without land
whose number of persons, amount of seed, weight of hay and amount of livestock is recorded in attached table.

Special Information

9. The landowner does not know the exact area of the manor and its new settlements. The manor is adjacent to the administrative village of Głusino in district Mirachowo, to the manors Lewino and Lebno, and to Zęblewo which belongs to Żukowo.

10. There is no fallow land on the manor.

11. + 12. There are no churches, hospitals or free farmers living on the manor.

13. Land surveys do not exist.

14. The soil is calcareous, wet, and stony. It contains deep furrows.

15. Not all farm land can be cultivated due to the bad quality of the soil.

16. The yearly amount of seed on the outlying estate and the new settlements is 66 bushels of rye, 36 ½ bushels of barley, 58 ½ bushels of oat, 1 bushel of buckwheat, and 1 bushel of peas.

17. Tobacco is not grown.

18. The bushel of Lębork and the bushel of Gdańsk are used as measurement units.

19. The grain yield is from rye 2 grains, from barley 2 grains, from oat 2 grains, from buckwheat 2 ½ grains, and from peas 1 ½ grains.

20. - 23. The meadows partly lie in between the fields, partly in the bushes, and near to the border of Głusino. They are muddy, peaty and provide little grass.

The meadows provide in total not more than 16 four-horsed carts full of grass per year on average. Therefore, the landowner has to purchase further grass for the winter. This year he had to pay 40 fl. (Note: Florin = ancient currency)

24. - 26. The pastures are located within the manor, the forest and the bushes. The pastures do not allow for a larger livestock.

27. The yield of the garden is approximately 3 bushels for the outlying estate, 2 bushels for the Instleute in the village and ¼ of the sowing of barley for the Instleute on the new settlements.

28. Hops are not burnt.

29. - 33. To the manor belongs a small forest with beech trees, oaks, hornbeams, and spruce trees. The landowner does not know the exact area of the forest. The trees can be used for firewood. However, construction timber must be bought separately.

34. - 38. There is no pub on the manor. But the landowner has a brewery house, where he brews beer for himself and for the inhabitants. In addition, the landowner buys wine spirits in Gdańsk and gives it away to the inhabitants. 3 to 4 tons of beer and 40 Stof of wine spirits are drunk per year. (Note: Stof = older Prussian liquid measure)

39. - 41. There are no lakes on the manor but an artificial carp pond for bad times.

42. There are no pipes on the manor.

43. - 45. There is a mill on the manor which has collapsed some years ago. It is a water mill, which was used only by the inhabitants of the manor. The miller has paid 5 Reichstaler rent per year. The landowner is willing to reconstruct the mill.

46. - 47. There are no limestone quarries on the manor.

48. The inhabitants pay following duties per year to the landowner:

Jacob Pionke 3 Reichstaler 30 Gulden
Mathes Cimma 3 Reichstaler 30 Gulden
Mathes Hoenke 3 Reichstaler 30 Gulden
Joseph Zloch 3 Reichstaler 30 Gulden
Martin Pionke 3 Reichstaler 30 Gulden
Widow Slochowna 2 Reichstaler 30 Gulden
3 Instleute and the shepherd do not pay any duties. The 7 Instleute on the two new settlements pay 4 Reichstaler per person. (Note: Reichstaler and Gulden = ancient currency)

49. The 3 Instleute who don’t have to pay any duties have to work daily with 2 persons on the outlying estate from Easter to Michaelmas Day.

Each of them receives yearly 4 bushels of rye and 3 bushels of barley as wages in kind. However, if they don’t work on the outlying estate of the landowner, they have to pay 4 Reichstaler rent a year.

All other Instleute plow for one day and harvest grain for three days per year on a voluntary basis, since this duty is not fixed in their contract.

50. In December the priest in Strzepcz is given 4 bushels of rye and 4 bushels of oat from the landowner. The other inhabitants do not contribute to this donation.

51. The landowner does not know about any mandatory knight services.

52. The landowner pays a yearly Polish tax (“Poglowne“) of 2 Reichstaler and 36 Gulden per year. The other inhabitants do not contribute to this tax.

End of the report.

Signed by Leo

Phew, that was quite a long interview. However, we learned very much about the small village of Będargowo in the 18th century which was the homeland of our ancestors. And didn’t we already hear the name Pionke? But we need a small break now and decide to move to fresh air.

Outside again, the land surveyors have already started to measure the fields. While the soldiers are standing around bored, another group of clerks has started to go from house to house to interview the village people. We don’t want to miss that opportunity and follow undetected.

The clerks note down the name of each household’s head. In addition, they collect the number of household members, divided into men, women, sons and daughters (over/under 12 years), farmhands, and servant maids.

And now we meet them again one by one: Martin, Johann, Jacob and Peter Pionke. All four sons of Adam and Eve have survived their childhood. We are very happy to see those middle-aged men in the best of health. Martin is 47, Johann 45, Jacob 37, and Peter 34 years old. All of them are married, and all of them have children. In total they have 6 sons and 2 daughters at that time.

Unfortunately, we cannot be sure where Adam and Eve’s three daughters Catharina, Anna, and Marianna are. The clerks don’t ask for the women’s names.

At the end of the inspection the Prussian clerks have recorded the complete village population (Fig. 9). We are very impressed. Since it is getting dark, we decide to return to our time machine. We have seen enough for today and are getting tired. Fortunately, the Prussian soldiers have not yet detected our time machine. We take a seat and start the engine. Let’s return home.

We must be aware that all Pionkes from the area around the parish of Strzepcz descend from Adam and Eve Pionk, and subsequently from one of their four sons Martin, Johann, Jacob, and Peter. When the next generation of their children has grown up, the village of Będargowo became too small for them. From the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, the Pionke families started to expand to the adjacent parishes like Kielno, Luzino, and Przodkowo.

At the end of the 19th century, the Pionke families have spread out across the full area northwest of Gdańsk (Danzig). And they have started to migrate to the United States and to Western Germany. That was the peaceful campaign of conquest of the Pionkes into the world.

The next article will deal with the present times. We will walk on the trails of our ancestors in modern Poland.

At the end, I would like to thank my distant cousin Mary very much for the great opportunity to publish this third guest article in her blog. It is an honor and pleasure for me to work with her together.

Happy Christmas season!

Your Michael Pionke

Fig. 9: Overview of the village population in Będargowo in 1773,
obtained from the land records. Będargowo consisted of four parts,
the outlying estate of landlord Donimierski, the old village, and
two new settlements. Columns (from left to right): head of household,
number of men, women, sons and daughters (above/under 12 years),
farmhands, and servant maids.


I would like to thank Michael Pionke for sharing his research into the West Prussian Land Register and for his fascinating insight into our Pionke ancestors' lives in their home village. Michael, it is an honor to include your work in this blog and I very much enjoyed the time travel. I look forward to further collaborations.

—MaryWS of TreeQuest

Pionke Friday: We will post more about the Pionkes next Friday. Coming up next: Family of Jacob Pionk and Augustina Orzeszk.

Related posts:


We very much welcome your comments!

However, please be aware that comments are not posting on certain platforms. So far our testing shows your best chance of success is to post from your Google account using Chrome. (Please disregard below suggestion to consult the How-To page; those instructions are now obsolete.) Please use the Contact Form (right sidebar) if you want to contact us.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Ancestor profile: Helene Josephine Klawikowska

Helene Klawikowska Kunkel portrait c. 1910
Helene Kunkel née Klawikowska c. 1910

Helene Klawikowska was my great-great-grandmother. She had three husbands and eleven children. Her granddaughter Helen Pionke was my grandmother (see pedigree).

Helene Josephine Klawikowska was the youngest of eight children born to farm laborer Jacob Klawikowski and his wife Marianna Hebel. She was born on 8 May 1842 in Borek Szopy, a small settlement oustide the village Borek (Waldeck). At one week of age, Helene was baptized at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Strzepcz.

Helene's father died when she was nine years old; her mother died when she was sixteen. Helene remained in Borek Szopy, presumably residing with an older sibling, until she was married three years later.

Helene Klawikowska and first husband Julius Nagel

Helene Klawikowska married Julius Wilhelm Nagel in Strzepcz on 4 November 1861. She was 19 and he was 28. Julius Nagel, son of Johann Nagel and Anna Sarnowska, was a shoemaker living in Kętrzyno, a village in Rozłazino parish. I am very curious about how they met. Perhaps Julius was acquainted with one of Helene's older siblings who had moved from Borek Szopy to nearby villages within Rozłazino parish.

This map shows the location of Borek (Waldeck), a village which no longer exists. In 1869, the village population was only 88. Now, there is some sort of military installation at this location. Kętrzyno lies a little to the west of Borek. Some of Helene's siblings lived in Osiek, Nawcz, and Łówcz.

It is interesting to note that Julius Nagel's father Johann was Lutheran and his mother Anna was Catholic. Although Julius was baptized in the Bukowina (Buckowin) Evangelical parish, all records show that he was Catholic like his mother.

Leo Nagel about 1925
Leo Nagel c. 1925
Julius and Helene made their home in Kętrzyno. Among their neighbors were Julius' sister Emilia Stubbe and brother Gustav (who was also a shoemaker). Julius and Helene had four children, all born in Kętrzyno and baptized in Rozłazino Catholic parish. Sadly, two of them died very young.

Children of Julius Nagel and Helene Klawikowska:
  • Leon Franz Nagel was born on 7 November 1862.
  • Pauline Cecilia Nagel was born on 10 January 1865.
  • Martha Johanna Nagel was born on 6 May 1867 and died on 20 January 1868.
  • August Franz Nagel was born on 29 October 1868 and died on 7 January 1869.

Less than eight years after their wedding, Helene's husband Julius Nagel died of consumption on 8 April 1869 at age 36. Helene, who was only 26, was left a widow with two children.

Helene Klawikowska and second husband Johann v. Paschke

Ten months after her husband Julius Nagel's death, Helene (Klawikowska) Nagel married second husband Johann v. Paschke (Paszk, Paszki). Johann and Helene were married on 10 February 1870 in Rozłazino. Like Helene, Johann lived in Kętrzyno. He was 31 years old and this was his first marriage.

The v. Paszk family belonged to the szlachta, a Polish noble class. You can see the v. Paszk coats of arms on Polish Wikipedia here and here. Although this marriage was a step up in social class for Helene, don't imagine that she became rich overnight! Johann was not the owner of the village nor a large manor. Rather, he was a simple workman. Contrary to what we may have thought, this was not uncommon. In fact, the Kętrzyno entry in the Słownik Geograficzny (a Polish gazetteer compiled in the late 19th and early 20th centuries) says this:

Mieszkańcy po większej części uboga szlachta zaściankowa.

In English: Residents [of Kętrzyno] for the most part [are] poor parochial nobility.

A quick look through Rozłazino parish books confirms this. Living in Kętrzyno, a village with around 250-300 residents, were noble families v. Dombrowski, v. Studzinski, v. Dzinzelski, v. Pobłocki, v. Sychowski, v. Tuchlinski, v. Bichowski, v. Zelewski, v. Mach, v. Tempski, and more.

Shockingly, Johann v. Paschke died only two and a half months after his wedding. He died of heart fever on 26 April 1870 in Kętrzyno. And so Helene once again became a widow with two children under age 10.

Helene Klawikowska and third husband August Kunkel

About a half year after the death of her husband Johann v. Paschke, Helene became pregnant with her fifth child. Johann Joseph was born in Kętrzyno on 22 June 1871 and died only six days later. The baby's surname was recorded as Paschk in the Rozłazino parish baptism and death records. However, there is an annotation in his baptism record — August Kunkel's name was added to the field for father's name. The timing of events is odd: August and Helene married one month after this baby's death.

Helene (Klawikowska) Paschke married August Adam Kunkel, a tailor, on 30 July 1871 in Rozłazino parish. It was August's first marriage. Bride and groom were both 29 years old and residents of Kętrzyno.

marriage record of August Kunkel and Helena Pasz 1871 in Rozlazino parish
August Kąkol - Helena Paszk 1871 marriage record, Rozłazino parish

Friday, September 30, 2016

Będargowo - Part I: A different story of Adam and Eve

By Michael Pionke

We all know the story of Adam and Eve. But do you already know the story of Adam and Eve Pionk from Będargowo in Poland? If not, please follow me on an exciting journey into the past. The time machine is already waiting. Are you ready for departure? Then let’s start. Our target area is the Kashubian region in North Poland in the early 18th century.

According to my first article, it is very likely that all Pionkes come from only three places of origin in the Kashubian area, namely the small village of Będargowo in Strzepcz parish, 25 miles west of Gdańsk (Danzig) in the countryside; the area around town Puck, 35 miles north of Gdańsk on the Baltic Sea; and the villages of Słupsk and Łupawa, about 70 miles west of Gdańsk.

Furthermore, Mary’s and my research point out that the majority of all Pionkes worldwide seem to come from the first location, namely the Roman Catholic parish of Strzepcz. In the 18th and 19th centuries that parish comprised up to one hundred very small villages and hamlets within a radius of only ten miles. Therefore, the destination of our today’s journey into the past is St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Strzepcz. The GMS coordinates for our time machine are 54°27'20.9"N 18°01'27.9"E. The display of the onboard computer shows us following map:

But what is the target date of our journey through time?

When we search for the traces of our ancestors, church books are the most valuable source of information. With regard to the parish of Strzepcz, only one early baptism book from the 18th century has been preserved, which covers the years from 1712 - 1745. Scans of this baptism book can be accessed on:

Registration on this public genealogical website is free of charge. The baptism book can be found in folder GenBaza/AP_Gdansk/_Parafie katolickie/1254_24_Strzepcz/.

After having studied the old church book, we now also know the time coordinate for the first stop of our today’s time travel. In the onboard computer we type in the target date: 4 November 1725.

Our time machine runs perfectly. After a short and comfortable flight we directly stop in front of St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Strzepcz (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Old photograph of St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church
in Strzepcz (presumably 19th or early 20th century).

It is Sunday morning and the church bells ring. A young couple hurries into the church. They come from the small village of Będargowo six miles southeast of Strzepcz, and had a strenuous two-hour march through the hilly landscape. The woman carries a newborn boy on her arms, who was born just three days before. The name of the young man is Adam Pionk and his young wife is called Eva (Eve). They have married about one year before and the young boy on Eva’s arms is their first child. Adam and Eva wear the traditional Kashubian costumes on this special day (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2: Traditional Kashubian costumes.

The church is full of Kashubian people from the adjacent villages. The young family takes a seat in front of the altar (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3: In front of the altar at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church
in Strzepcz (presumably early 20th century).

Pastor Michael Stanislaus Trzęskowski celebrates the Sunday mass. The atmosphere is devout and the people listen to the sermon. Highlight of the mass is the baptism of Adam and Eve’s newborn son. Pastor Trzęskowski asks the young parents and the godparents to come with the baby to the baptismal font. The godparents are Thomas and Catharina Złoch, a befriended couple of Adam and Eva from Będargowo. The pastor starts with the naming ceremony which is held in Latin language. The boy is given the first name Martin. Adam and Eva are very proud of their son and heir. It is the only baptism on this Sunday morning. After the mass pastor Trzęskowski notes down in the church book (Fig 4):


4 November Idem (qui supra) baptisavi infantem nomine Martinum natum 1 November parentibus Adami Piąk et Eva legitimorum conjugum. Patrini erant Thomas Zwloch et Catharina Zwlochowna.

English: I have baptized a child named Martin, born on 1 November to the legitimate parents Adam Pionk and Eva. Godparents are Thomas Zwloch and Catharina Zwlochowna.

Fig. 4: Baptism of Martin Pionk on 4 November 1725,
son of Adam and Eva Pionk.

Please note that pastor Michael Stanislaus Trzęskowski writes the name Pionk in Polish special characters “Piąk“ which is explained in more detail in my first article regarding the origin of our surname. The pastor closes the book and we return to our time machine to continue our travel.

On our following journey, we have six further stops in Strzepcz every 2-3 years. It is always the same scenery. The church bells ring and Adam and Eva, who get older with every stop, hurry into the church. Eva carries a newborn baby on her arms and the proud parents are looking forward to the baptism of their newborn child. They are followed by the older children, and the row becomes longer with every new event. In total four sons and three daughters are born to Adam and Eva Pionk. Our logbook shows following entries:

  • Martin, born on 1 November 1725
  • Johann, born on 17 June 1727
  • Catharina, born on 1 April 1729
  • Anna, born on 19 March 1731
  • Marianna, born on 18 March 1733
  • Jacob, born on 25 July 1735
  • Peter, born on 24 May 1738

After our last stop we decide to travel home for today. We are tired and our time machine needs new fuel. Although our journey was very exciting, we don’t want to stay there forever. The life of the ordinary people was very hard in the poor Kashubian region.

We don’t know very much about Adam and Eva Pionk. They lived in the small village of Będargowo which belonged to the manor farm of landlord Michael Donimierski. The village population consisted only of a dozen of families, in total about sixty people.

According to the old baptism book, we know that Adam and Eve were the only Pionke couple in Strzepcz parish over decades. It is not clear where Adam came from. Maybe he came from one of the two other known home locations in the Kashubian area as described above.

Sometimes church books tell us interesting stories and thus much more than pure facts only. From the book we know that Adam must have been a charming man who liked the women very much. Before his marriage with Eva, Adam had fathered two illegitimate children with other women from Strzepcz parish (Marianna, born on 6 April 1724; and Johann, born on 8 June 1725).

Therefore it is likely that Eva was born in Strzepcz parish and did not come along with Adam to Będargowo from abroad. It seems that Adam became a faithful husband after his marriage with Eva because we did not find any further compromising records in the later church records.

We must be aware that Adam and Eva Pionk were our very first grandparents. All Pionkes with roots in that area very likely descend from that only one couple.

The next article will lead us again to the village of Będargowo. Our second journey in time will have the target date 1773. Now we will visit the families of the adult children of Adam and Eva. A unique historical document, the so-called West Prussian Land Register, will give us a spectacular insight into the village population and life in Będargowo at that time. More on this later…


I would like to thank Michael Pionke for contributing another informative and entertaining article. I very much look forward to future collaborations. Thank you, Michael.

—MaryWS of TreeQuest


We very much welcome your comments, but there is a problem with comments sometimes disappearing or not posting. So far our testing shows your best chance of success is to post from your Google account using Chrome. Please disregard below suggestion to consult the How-To page; those instructions are now obsolete. We hope this problem will be resolved soon. Meanwhile, our apologies if your comment disappears! Please use the Contact Form (right sidebar) if you want to contact us.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Family of Johann Pionk and Marianna Uzdrowk

This post is the eighth in a series examining the nine early Pionke, Pionk, Pionek, and Piontke family groups in Chicago, Wisconsin, and South Dakota.

Johann Pionk or Pionke was born around 1805, presumably in or near Będargowo or Łebno. He married Marianna Uzdrowk around 1833, most likely in Strzepcz parish (St. Mary Magdalene). Unfortunately, as the relevant parish records are missing, I do not know Johann and Marianna's birth dates or places, their parents' names, nor their marriage date.

As a newlywed couple, Johann and Marianna Pionke resided in Łebno, where their first two children were born. Around 1837, they moved to Mały Donimierz, about 4 km away. Five more children were born to them in that village. Later baptism records indicate that Johann was a Käthner, someone who rented a small piece of land with a house and a garden.

This map shows the parishes Strzepcz, Szemud, and Kielno and the villages Będargowo, Łebno, and Mały Donimierz. Mały Donimierz belonged to Kielno parish (St. Wojciech) and later to Szemud parish (St. Nicholas).

Interestingly, Johann Pionk's family must have moved to Mały Donimierz around the same time my ancestor Paul Pionk moved there with his family. This coincidence, together with some overlap in their children's godparents, makes me wonder whether they were closely related. Perhaps they were brothers, uncle and nephew, or first cousins.

Johann Pionk and Marianna Uzdrowk had seven children in 16 years. The first two were baptized in Strzepcz parish; the rest in Kielno.

  • Anna Pionk was born on 7 January 1834 in Łebno.
  • Johann Pionk was born on 11 January 1835 in Łebno.
  • Josephine Pionk was born on 16 October 1837 and died on 10 December 1840 in Mały Donimierz.
  • Michael Pionk was born on 29 October 1840 in Mały Donimierz.
  • Barbara Pionk was born on 3 June 1843 in Mały Donimierz.
  • Franciska Pionk was born on 17 January 1846 in Mały Donimierz.
  • August Pionk was born on 1 January 1849 in Mały Donimierz.

Johann Pionk died on 10 October 1872 in Mały Donimierz at age 67. He was survived by his wife Marianna and four adult children. I have not found a death or remarriage record for Johann's widow Marianna. Nor do I know exactly which four children survived him.

Johann Pionk, 1872 death record, Szemud parish

It is certain, however, that Johann and Marianna's two youngest sons were among those four. Michael Pionke married Marianna Rybandt in Strzepcz parish in 1869. They had at least four children. August Pionke married Wilhelmine (Amelia) Klotzke in Strzepcz parish in 1875. August and Amelia had two daughters before emigrating to the U.S.

August Pionke and Amelia Klotzke in Chicago

In 1879, August and Amelia Pionke came to Chicago with their two daughters and some of Amelia's relatives. Seven more children were born in Chicago.

Unlike the rest of the Chicago Pionkes, this August Pionke settled on the South Side, in St. Adalbert parish. St. Adalbert's was Chicago's third Polish parish. The family moved to St. Mary of Perpetual Help parish—which was closer to their home—when it opened in 1887. In the early years, both parishes include a notable number of Kashubs as well as other Poles.

The below map shows the locations of St. Josaphat parish (where my Pionkes lived) and the parishes of St. Adalbert and St. Mary of Perpetual Help.

Also distinguishing this Pionke family from the rest is their choice of surname spelling. As with all Pionkes, one can find a large varieties of spellings in the records—from Piąk in church records to Piontki on August's death certificate to the standard Pionke on his headstone. However, this family mostly used the unique spelling Pionkey, which is what August and Amelia's descendants are called today.

A future post will cover the family of August Pionkey or Pionke in greater detail.

Pionke Friday: We will post more about the Pionkes next Friday. This is the eighth post in a series about the Pionke, Pionk, and Pionek families here in the U.S. and back in the home country. Next week: a guest article by Michael Pionke.

Related posts:

© TreeQuest: An Unexpected Journey 2016.

  • Family History Library Films: 162398. Katholische Kirche Strepsch (Kr. Neustadt).
  • Family History Library Films: 742703, 529815. Kościół rzymsko-katolicki. Parafja Kielno (Wejherowo).
  • Illinois, Chicago, Catholic Church Records, 1833-1925 [must login to view images]
  • AP Gdansk, Urzedy Stanu Ciwilnego, Strzepcz (2098/4); Parafie katolickie, Szemud (1442/1). [account and login required]
  • PTG Pomorskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne (Pomeranian Genealogical Association) - birth, marriage, death indexes.


We very much welcome your comments, but sometimes there is a problem with comments disappearing or not posting. So far our testing shows your best chance of success is to post from your Google account using Chrome. Please disregard below suggestion to consult the How-To page; those instructions are now obsolete. We hope this problem will be resolved soon. Meanwhile, our apologies if your comment disappears! Please use the Contact Form (right sidebar) if you want to contact us.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Family of Franz Pionk and Josephine Perschon

This post is the seventh in a series examining the nine early Pionke, Pionk, Pionek, and Piontke family groups in Chicago, Wisconsin, and South Dakota. Today's post continues with the descendants of Johann Pionk and Marianna Małoszycka of Będargowo, focusing on their son Franz.

Franz Pionk or Pionke was, I believe, the second child and eldest son of Johann Pionk and Marianna Małoszycka. He was born on 21 March 1815 in Będargowo and baptized in Strzepcz Catholic parish (St. Mary Magdalene).

There appears to be an error in his baptism record; his mother's surname is recorded as "Łystowa" or maybe "Tystowa". Neither of these is a surname found in this parish. There were two different couples named Johann and Marianna Pionk in the early Strzepcz and Kielno baptisms; the two Mariannas had surnames Müller and Małoszycka. Further analysis reveals the connection of our Franz Pionk to the family of Johann Pionk and Marianna Małoszycka and thus I am confident that these are in fact his parents.

Franciscus Pionk, 1815 baptism record, Strzepcz parish

Franz Pionk was married twice—first to Franciska Ritt or Ritter and later to Josephine Perschon. Unlike many of his siblings, he did not remain in the vicinity of his birthplace for his entire life. This map shows the locations of the parishes Strzepcz, Luzino, Rozłazino, and Chwaszczyno; and the villages and towns Będargowo, Łebno, Barłomino, Bożepole Małe, and Mały Kack.

Franz Pionk and first wife Franciska Ritt

Franz Pionk's first wife was Franciska Ritt or Ritter, daughter of Paul and Anna (née Cierocka). She was born on 15 September 1815 in Łebno and baptized in Strzepcz parish.

Franz Pionk and Franciska Ritt were probably married in Strzepcz parish, about 1838. At first they lived in Łebno, where their first three children were born. Around 1843, they moved to Barłomino in Luzino parish. They had eight children in 15 years. Unfortunately, most of their children did not survive to adulthood.

  • Michael Pionk was born on 10 September 1839 in Łebno and died before 1844.
  • Marianna Pionk was born on 23 February 1841 in Łebno and died on 7 April 1847 in Barłomino.
  • Johanna Pionk was born on 11 October 1842 in Łebno. She died on 9 April 1864 in Bożepole Małe at age 21.
  • Augustina Pionk was born on 15 December 1844 and died on 5 January 1846 in Barłomino.
  • Franciska Pionk was born on 16 February and died on 27 March 1847 in Barłomino.
  • Emilie (or Wilhelmine) Pionk was born on 28 Sep 1848 and died on 30 August 1849 in Barłomino.
  • Eva Pionk was born on 7 July 1850 and died on 25 July 1852 in Barłomino.
  • Adam Franz Pionk was born on 28 April 1853 in Barłomino.

Franciska (Ritt) Pionk died in Barłomino on 1 May 1853, a few days after her last child was born. Her husband Franz was left with one daughter, Johanna, and baby Adam. At this point, I believe Franz moved back to Będargowo where his parents and several siblings resided, perhaps seeking help with the care of his infant son.

Franz Pionk and second wife Josephine Perschon

Franz Pionk married Margaretha Josephine Perschon (Perszon, Perszonka) on 7 October 1855 in Strzepcz parish. Both were residents of Będargowo. Franz was 40 and Josephine was 28 and single. Josephine was born in Dargolewo on 27 May 1827 to parents Mathias Perschon and Franciska Łaga.

Franz Pionk - Josephine Perschon 1855 marriage record, Strzepcz parish (item #16)

After their marriage, Franz and Josephine settled in Bożepole Małe in the Rozłazino parish, where their first five children were born. They moved to Mały Kack (Chwaszczyno parish) around 1865 and later to Gdynia.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Family of Joseph Pionke and Susanna Mrozewska

This post is the sixth in a series examining the nine early Pionke, Pionk, Pionek, and Piontke family groups in Chicago, Wisconsin, and South Dakota.

Today's post is our first look at the descendants of Johann Pionk and Marianna Małoszycka of Będargowo. Three of their children—Marianna, Franz, and Joseph—were parents of Pionke and Pionek immigrants in Chicago and Wisconsin. I will begin with the family of their son Joseph Pionke and his wife Susanna Mrozewska.

Joseph Pionk or Pionke was the fourth of six children born to Johann and Marianna. He was born on 28 February 1819 in Będargowo and baptized in Strzepcz Catholic parish (St. Mary Magdalene). His siblings were born in the same village, and his parents remained there until his father's death.

Joseph Pionk, 1819 baptism record, Strzepcz parish

Susanna Magdalena Mrozewska was the daughter of Adam Mrozewski and Marianna Belgrowa or Belgraf. She was born in 1825 and baptized in Sierakowice Catholic parish (St. Martin). By the time Susanna got married, her family had moved from Sierakowice parish to Strzepcz parish. After Susanna's father died, her mother married Johann Cyman (Ziemann), which is why Susanna's surname is recorded as Cyman in some records.

Joseph Pionke married Susanna Mrozewska on 26 January 1846 in Strzepcz parish. He was a day laborer, age 26, and she was 21. Both were residents of Będargowo. Their first four children were all born in this village.

Joseph Pionk - Susanna Mrozewska
1846 marriage record, Strzepcz parish (item #5)

Children of Joseph Pionke and Susanna Mrozewska

Joseph and Susanna had seven children in 20 years. All but Antonina were baptized in Strzepcz; she was baptized in Sianowo. Son Albert's baptism was recorded in both Strzepcz and Sianowo parish books. By the time their youngest children were born, Joseph and Susanna had moved from Będargowo to nearby Łebno.

  • Marianna was born on 23 March 1847 in Będargowo.
  • Martianna was born on 12 October 1849 in Będargowo.
  • Johann (John Pionek) was born on 1 November 1852 in Będargowo.
  • Adalbert (Albert Pionek) was born on 20 December 1855 in Będargowo.
  • Franz was born on 27 February 1860 in Łebno.
  • Antonina (Antonia) was born on 18 October 1863. (I have not yet seen her baptism record and thus do not know her birthplace.)
  • Rosalia (Rose) was born on 28 September 1866 in Łebno.

Susanna (Mrozewska) Pionke died on 19 March 1870 in Łebno of an apoplexy or stroke. She was only 45 years old. Joseph was left with seven children, three of whom were under age 10.

Joseph Pionke married second wife Julianna Leik on 1 October 1871. According to the marriage record, Julianna was about 40 years old and unmarried. Joseph and Juianna had one child:

  • Ignatz Joseph Pionke was born on 8 February 1878 in Gowino. He died on 5 March 1878 in that same village.

By the late 1870s, Joseph and his family had moved from Łebno to Gowino, in the Luzino parish. Between 1882 and 1892, Johann, Albert, Antonina, and Rosalia all immigrated to the U.S. Marianna and Franz both remained in Poland. I do not know what became of their sister Martianna; thus far I have not found her marriage or death record.

Joseph Pionke died on 28 August 1893 in Gowino at age 74. His wife Julianna died on 19 March 1906 in Gowino at about age 75.

This map shows the location of the parishes of Sierakowice, Strzepcz, Luzino, and Wejherowo; and the villages Będargowo, Łebno, Gowino, Rekowo, and Lisewo.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Family of Paul Pionk and Anna Bazowa

This post is the fifth in a series examining the nine early Pionke, Pionk, Pionek, and Piontke family groups in Chicago, Wisconsin, and South Dakota, and their origins in the old country.

Paul Pionk and Anna Baza (Bazowna, Bazowa) were my 4th-great-grandparents. Previously, I introduced their sons Valentin and Jacob, whose descendants migrated to Chicago and Wisconsin. Today I will look at this family's origins in West Prussia.

We know little about this family's beginnings. Not only is there no record of Paul's marriage to Anna, but there is also no record of either of their births. Therefore we do not know their birth dates, birth places, or their parents' names. But let us begin with what we do know.

Pionk family origin and missing parish records

As Michael Pionke discussed in his article about the Pionke surname, all of our Strzepcz and Kielno area Pionkes descend from our very own Adam and Eve Pionk. Adam Pionk and Eva (maiden name not known) lived in Będargowo in the 1700s. Paul Pionk was almost certainly their great-grandson.

Unfortunately, we will probably never know the exact connection because there are many years missing from the Strzepcz parish records. There are no baptisms available between 1745 and 1810 and no marriages or deaths before 1846.

There were numerous Pionk or Pionke families in both Kielno and Strzepcz during the time that Paul's family lived in those parishes. Some resided in the same villages as Paul—or very nearby—and it is intriguing to ponder which of these may have been his siblings. But at this point, there is too little information to truly know.

Bazowa or Baza family origin

From the Strzepcz baptism records, we know Paul Pionk's wife as Anna Bazowa or Bazowna. However, it is important to note that -owna and -owa are old-fashioned suffixes used to form feminine versions of a surname. In this case, the standard form of the name would have been something like Baza. The suffix -owna refers to an unmarried woman and -owa refers to a married woman. Thus Anna's maiden name was Bazowna and her married name was Pionkowa.

In contrast to the Pionks, there were not many families with the surname Baza in the Strzepcz parish. However, versions of the name can be found in the neighboring parishes of Kielno, Przodkowo, Luzino, and Rozłazino. Variations include: Barza, Basa, Base, Boza, Boża, and Bosa. So perhaps Anna's family originated in one of these parishes.

Nonetheless, it is likely that our Baza family was living in Strzepcz parish when Anna married Paul Pionk. We know this because the tradition was to marry in the bride's home parish. Unlike Strzepcz parish, marriage records for the relevant years survive in all of the parishes mentioned above. There is no record of their marriage in any of these parishes; thus it is logical to conclude that Paul Pionk and Anna Baza were married in Strzepcz.

Paul Pionk and Anna Baza family

Based on the birth date of their first child, Paul Pionk and Anna Baza were probably married in 1819 or 1820 in Strzepcz Catholic parish. They had five children in 10 years, all born in Zęblewo and baptized in Strzepcz. The family resided first in Zęblewo and later in Mały Donimierz (map).

Children of Paul Pionk and Anna Baza:
  • Eva Pionk was born on 21 February 1821.
  • August Pionk was born on 12 January 1823.
  • Valentin Pionk was born on 14 January 1825.
  • Francisca Pionk was born on 19 January 1828.
  • Jacob Pionk was born on 2 August 1830.

Paul Pionk died on 19 October 1842 in Mały Donimierz and was buried in Szemud. He was 50 years old and thus he was born about 1792. According his death record, Paul was a Käthner—a person renting a small piece of land with a house and garden and maybe a few farm animals.

Paul and Anna's three sons all married in Kielno and Strzepcz and had families of their own. Daughters Eva and Franciska, however, are something of a mystery.

August Pionk married Marianna Dosz in Kielno parish in 1847. They had seven children, two of whom lived to adulthood. Their family remained in Poland (West Prussia) and lived in Donimierz.

Valentin Pionk married Josephine Stefanowska in Kielno parish in 1852. Jacob Pionk married Franciska Leik in Strzepcz parish in 1853. Valentin, his children, and Jacob's children eventually migrated to the U.S. and lived in Chicago and Wisconsin.

It is my theory that Eva Pionk died as a child, while the family was still in Strzepcz parish. I believe Franciska was actually Anna Pionk who married Joseph Rhode in Kielno in 1847. A future post will discuss this in greater detail.

Mysteries and mistakes in Paul Pionk's death record

Paul Pionk's death record indicates that he was survived by a wife Maria and four minor children. As noted above, Paul's family began with a wife named Anna and five children. So what can we conclude from this record?

Paul Pionk death record, Kielno parish, 1842

First, it is possible that Paul's wife's name was written as "Maria" in error, and that Anna in fact outlived her husband Paul. Unfortunately, errors are fairly common in these parish records.

But if the record is correct as written, then Anna must have died before her husband, and he must have remarried while the family was still in Strzepcz parish. If Paul did remarry, he did not have any children with his second wife, which is a little unusual.

Either way, there is another significant question—what happened to Paul Pionk's widow? I cannot find a death record in Kielno for either a Maria or an Anna Pionk that exactly matches what we know about this family. Nor can I find a marriage record for a widowed Maria Pionk. Thus there is no evidence to prove whether Paul remarried or not.

Second, it is obvious that one of Paul and Anna's children died while the family was still living in Strzepcz parish—remember, there are no death records before 1846 in that parish. We know that sons August, Valentin, and Jacob all lived to adulthood. Therefore one daughter died before 1842. To be strictly accurate, that daughter must have been Eva because she would have been age 21 and thus not a minor when her father died. However, parish records are not so strictly accurate when it comes to age.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Family of Johann Pionke and Friderike Byzewska

This post is the fourth in a series examining the nine early Pionke, Pionk, Pionek, and Piontke family groups in Chicago, Wisconsin, and South Dakota.

Johann Pionk or Pionke was the son of Martin Pionke, a forester, and Franciska Klein. He was born on 23 October 1829 in Rzepecka and baptized in Strzepcz Catholic parish (St. Mary Magdalene). His siblings were born in the villages of Głodowo, Borek, Tępcz, and Zęblewo. By the late 1840's the family was settled in Miłoszewo Abbau. In this context, the term "Abbau" refers to a location outside the main village, which seems logical for a forester's family dwelling.

Friderike Byzewska (or Bisewska) was born in Pobłocie on 1 April 1836 and baptized in Strzepcz. She was the first child of laborer Joseph Byzewski and his wife Constantia Groth.

Johann Pionke married Friderike Byzewska on 19 November 1855 in Strzepcz. He was 26 and resided in Miłoszewo Abbau; she was 19 and lived in Pobłocie. After their wedding, the couple settled in Miłoszewo Abbau. Johann was a forester like his father.

Johann Pionk - Friedericke Bizewska marriage record, 1855, Strzepcz parish

This map shows the villages where the families of Martin Pionke and Joseph Byzewski lived and also their local parish in Strzepcz. Two locations are not named on the map: (1) "Unnamed Rd" is where Borek was located; (2) the location just north of Łebno is Głodowo. These villages are all located in the Pomerania region of Poland, but at that time the area was part of West Prussia.

Children of Johann Pionke and Friderike Byzewska

Johann and Friderike had five children. They were all born in Miłoszewo Abbau and baptized in Strzepcz.

  • Paulina was born on 29 August 1856 and died in Stara Huta on 2 August 1872.
  • August was born on 21 September 1858.
  • Johann was born on 21 February 1861 and died in Miłoszewo on 23 June 1861.
  • Franz Joseph was born on 15 June 1862.
  • Rosalia was born on 6 January 1865.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Pionke – The mystery of a name

By Michael Pionke

I am Michael Pionke from Germany. First of all, I would like to thank Mary very much for her kind offer to write this article in her blog. We have been working closely together during the last few years and complement each other very well with our research results.

I started my genealogical research about four years ago and became fascinated from the first minute on. Throughout my life I have wondered about the meaning and origin of my surname. In German, the ending “ke” makes the name sound German. Yet on the other hand, the first part “Pion” makes the name sound Eastern European. Pionke is a rare name in Germany and hence not a typical German surname.

We can neither find a German word Pionke in the dictionary nor a Polish word. In this article, I would like to introduce my personal theory regarding the name, which is based on several studies I have carried out during my genealogical research.

According to my research, all Pionkes come from a region in today’s northern Poland along the Baltic Sea coast that is called Pomerania. The region covers the area from Szczecin at the Odra River in the west up to Gdańsk (German: Danzig) at the Wisła River in the east. Moreover, if we go back in time to the 17th and 18th centuries, it seems that there are only three locations of origin, namely the small village Będargowo (Bendargau) in Strzepcz parish, 30 miles west of Gdańsk in the countryside; the area around town Puck (Putzig), 35 miles north of Gdańsk on the Baltic Sea; and the villages Słupsk (Stolp) and Łupawa (Lupow), about 75 miles west of Gdańsk.

The overall region is well-known as Kashubia and the people living there are called Kashubs or Kashubians. The Kashubs are of Slavic origin and have been settled in the area since the Migration Period in the early Middle Ages (6th century). They speak Kashubian, which forms its own language, similar to Polish with some incorporated German words, but more than a local Polish dialect.

In the late 19th century, several Pionke families migrated to the United States and to Western Germany for economic reasons. However, these countries have been targets for migration and not areas of origin. Therefore I have concentrated in my studies on Poland.

In order to find out more about the meaning and origin of our name, I have analyzed different name distributions in Poland. For my studies, I took different variants of our surname into consideration, i.e. Pionk, Pionke, Pionka, Piontk, Piontke, Piontek, Piątk and Piątek.

One can obtain graphical information about the name distributions in different countries from the following public websites:


In addition, I have carried out extensive genealogical research using another very helpful website, which was created by the Pomeranian Genealogical Association in Poland (Pomorskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, abbr. PTG):

This powerful website is a must for every genealogist with ancestors from Pomerania. It provides comprehensive search functionalities for baptisms, marriages and deaths.

Coming back to the results for present name distributions in Poland, it is remarkable that the names Pionke, Pionk and Piontke have a strong focal point in the aforementioned Kashubian area (see Fig. 1-3):

Fig. 1: Name distribution Pionke – Poland (number of households)

Fig. 2: Name distribution Pionk – Poland (number of households)

Fig. 3: Name distribution Piontke – Poland (number of households)

If we go back in time, the area of distribution would be extended further to the west, namely (at least) to the region around Słupsk and Łupawa as mentioned before. This area is also part of Kashubia. In contrast to the people from the surroundings of Gdańsk in former German West Prussia, these Pomeranian Pionkes were Protestants and were completely Germanized over the centuries. This was the reason why they had to leave the area after World War II, whereas their Catholic and Kashubian namesakes at Gdańsk could remain in their home country.

With regard to the name distributions, it is obvious that our surname must have a Kashubian origin. Otherwise I would have expected a different regional name distribution.

As you might know, all surnames have acquired their meaning from ordinary things, e.g. the occupation of people, the place of origin or personal characteristics. I do expect the same for our surname.

Yet it is obvious that Pionke is not a Kashubian word. Therefore the name must have undergone changes over time. For me these changes are due to German influence. The Kashubian area has had a turbulent past with changing authorities. In particular, the area alternately belonged to Germany (Prussia) and Poland.

Personally, I see two steps of Germanization of the name:

1) Germanization regarding writing the name in regular Latin letters instead of using Polish special characters.

2) Germanization by adding an "e" at the end. Pionke sounds much more German than Pionk.

Regarding the second step, the “e” was added by the Prussians in civil records, whereas the Catholic priests continued to use the older variants of the name Pionk or Piontk in church records.

Due to Germanization, the original meaning of the surname got lost. After this longer introduction, I will now provide evidence for my theory by looking at typical Polish surnames first:

According to name distributions, the surname Piątek is very common in Poland (see Fig. 4). Piątek means Friday and is of religious origin (Jesus Christ was executed on a Friday). About 22,000 households in Poland carry the surname in exactly that spelling using Polish special characters. If you listen to an audio recording of the surname provided by an online dictionary, the pronunciation will be "Piontek". That means the special character “ą“ is pronounced “on” (nasalized vowel).

Fig. 4: Name distribution Piątek – Poland (number of households)

Surprisingly, at the present moment there are another 2,200 households in Poland which carry the surname Piontek in Latin spelling without special characters (see Fig. 5). Yet a closer look at the distribution of this variant of name reveals that it is mainly located in the Silesian part of southwest Poland. The former provinces Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia belonged to Germany until the end of World War II. Therefore this kind of spelling is clearly due to German influence (see step 1 of Germanization). This observation of Germanization is also supported by present name distributions in Germany where we can find about 1,400 households with name Piontek in Latin spelling but none with Polish special characters.

Fig. 5: Name distribution Piontek – Poland (number of households)

Since Piątek and Piontek are common surnames in Poland, I would expect the same for the Kashubian area. Kashubian dictionaries show that the Kashubian word for Friday is written slightly different, namely Piątk (without "e"):

However, present name distributions do not show a surname Piątk with exactly that spelling, which is curious at first glance. In order to explain this result we have to make a journey to the past.

Indeed old Pomeranian church books of the 19th century show several dozens of records with name Piątk across different parishes and years. The following marriage record of Johann Piątk and Victoria Pastelenz from Strzepcz parish in 1853 is the best example for the Piątk/Friday theory. The record is written in ancient German. The additional information in the column of the groom's name is: Johann Piątk alias Friday, workman in Zemblewo.

Fig. 6: Marriage record of Johann Piątk and Victoria Pastelenz
(Strzepcz parish, 1853)

This is a direct connection of the Kashubian name Piątk with the day of the week Friday, made by a priest in a contemporary church record. But why is this surname such rare in old church books and extinct today?

In order to solve the mystery, let us now apply the two steps of Germanization to the original form of the name:

Step 1
In Latin letters (first step of Germanization) the surname Piątk is written Piontk. When looking at old church records the name Piontk can also be found across the parishes and centuries, mainly in the area of Puck. But in order to be scientifically correct, the spelling Pionk without "t" is dominant.

Step 2
The second step of Germanization (adding an "e" at the end) changes the name finally to Piontke and Pionke. Both variants of the name have today a significant distribution in Kashubia (Fig. 1, 3).

We have to note that old church books were either written in Latin (using Latin letters and Latin first names as default) or later on in German under German authority. This was the reason for the extinction of the original form over time.

Furthermore, my research results show that the oldest Pionke families in Puck (north of Gdańsk on the Baltic Sea) started with Piontk and then changed to Piontke, whereas the Pionkes from Strzepcz and Kielno parishes started with Pionk (and sometimes with Piontk) and today divide fifty-fifty into Pionke and Pionk.

Another example of the parallel and synonymous usage of the different variants of name is given by Adam Pionk, the brother of my great-great-grandfather Johann Pionk.

Adam was born as Adam Pionk in 1820 in Łebieńska Huta in Strzepcz parish. In 1846 he married his wife Augustina Grzenia in Będargowo. In the marriage record, he was named Adam Piontk (with "t"). Adam's first son Franz was born in 1847. In this church record, Adam is called Adam Piątk using Polish special characters.

In all subsequent church records until his death in 1871, Adam is named Pionk again (in Latin spelling and without "t"). Though in later civil records of his children, he is referred to as Adam Pionke (now with ending "e").

Therefore Adam is the best example of one and the same person who has undergone almost all known variants of our name: Piątk, Piontk, Pionk and Pionke.

In addition, my research results show that we are talking about only a few early Pionke families, which will be explained in more detail in a separate article:

The Pionk/Pionke families from Strzepcz and Kielno parishes descend from one primal couple named Adam and Eve Pionk who lived in the early 1700s in the small village Będargowo, whereas the Piontkes descend from 1-2 families in Puck and maybe the same accounts for the Pionkes from the villages Słupsk and Łupawa.

According to a research fellow of mine, Witold Pionke, who was born in Poland and now lives in Germany, the Kashubs near the sea (Puck area) have been different from the Kashubs living in the countryside. The dialect is/was different and there was no close contact between both fractions. In my introduction I have already explained the differences of the Pionkes from the Słupsk area in comparison to the Pionkes from the Gdańsk area.

Regarding all considerations, we have to bear in mind that Kashubia was not a country. The Kashubs were (and are) an ethnic group speaking their own language which was/is different from Polish. Throughout the centuries, Kashubian was a spoken language only. It was not written down in any dictionary. It was not taught in school. It was not an official language. And we know about different local Kashubian dialects.

That means there was no authority to define the correct spelling and pronunciation of Piątk. The pronunciation depended on the local dialect and the individual. It depended on what the priest understood. Think of the "gibberish" which is sometimes spoken by people from the deepest countryside. And imagine what the Prussian clerks may have understood.

Having this in mind, it is remarkable that we only have a few variants of spelling like Piątk (Piontk) and Piąk (Pionk).

At the end of my deliberations, I would like to comment about the variant name Pionka. Indeed Pionka with ending "a" is a typical Polish name. The name distribution shows two focus areas, namely one close to mid-Poland and one in Kashubia (Fig. 7).

Fig. 7: Name distribution Pionka – Poland (number of households)

At first this result is surprising because the variant name Pionka is not present in the Kashubian area in older church books and civil records. But my research fellow Witold Pionke was able to help explain this. After both world wars the Kashubian area was subject to Polonization.

Witold's family had to change the surname from Pionke to Pionka after World War II. It took many years before they could change back to their original name. I guess that not all Pionka families have undertaken this step because it meant expensive consulting of authorities and rewriting of documents.

In a nutshell, according to my research the name Pionke is simply deriving from the day of the week Friday but has been influenced by the local Kashubian language and has undergone further changes due to Germanization.

There are still other theories regarding the meaning of our surname, e.g. the name derivation from French/Polish “Pion” or “Pionek” which means pawn in chess game. But currently for me the Piątk/Friday theory is the most reasonable one.


I would like to thank Michael Pionke for his thorough and well-researched analysis of the Pionke surname. It is an privilege to include this work on my blog and I very much look forward to future collaborations. Thank you, Michael.

—MaryWS of TreeQuest

Pionke Friday: We will post more about the Pionkes next Friday. Coming up next: Family of Johann Pionk and Friderike Byzewska.

Related posts:


We very much welcome your comments, but there is a problem with comments sometimes disappearing or not posting. So far our testing shows your best chance of success is to post from your Google account using Chrome. Please disregard below suggestion to consult the How-To page; those instructions are now obsolete. We hope this problem will be resolved soon. Meanwhile, our apologies if your comment disappears! Please use the Contact Form (right sidebar) if you want to contact us.