Working with Old Polish Church Records

Old Polish church records are usually written in narrative paragraph form versus using a columnar form with headings. Name spellings are often altered depending on their grammatical context. It can be a challenge to determine the 'normal' forms we typically use. Some of the spelling peculiarities in old records may be due to Latin language influences. Not only have spelling patterns changed over time but so have pronunciation patterns which affect spelling. Here's a rundown of some general observations I made as I worked with old church records:

1. The letter f sometimes takes the place of the letter s. A classical example of this is 'In Congrefs' which is 'In Congress'. Another example from Polish records is Lifsowski for Lissowski.
2. The capital I and J are often written the same way. We interpret it as 'I' before a consonant and as a J before another vowel. For example, INRI is a Latin abbreviation for 'Jesus of Nazareth, King [Rex] of the Jews'. From Polish records, an example is Jnda for Inda.
3. While i and j are usually distinctly written in the lower case, they sound the same. An example is Raieski which if we follow the rule above is Rajeski.
4. The letter y often takes the place of j. An example is Woytkowiak for Wojtkowiak.
5. The adding or dropping of w before an ski in a surname may happen. For example Nowakoski for Nowakowski or Kolawski for Kolaski.
6. Using scz instead of the more usual szcz. For example Grysczynski for Gryszczynski.
7. Polish words change endings depending on their grammatical function. The nominative form of a name (the one we commonly use) is not always used in Polish records. Surnames often are in the genitive case showing an 'of' relationship. For example, you might find Nowakow instead of Nowak to indicate a person was one of the Nowaks. The nominative form can often be inferred by dropping the ending but sometimes also requires the insertion of another vowel. This was done in preparing the index but not always-- you will have to be very flexible with the spelling. If we look at the words jump, jumping, jumped, or jumper we can infer the root word is jump. So we might see Kowal, Kowalski, Kowalewski, Kowalczyk, Kowalkiewicz, Kowalow, Kowalskich, etc. have Kowal as their root. You may want to focus on the root if you can. I said 'if you can' because a search engine could balk and say there are too many matches if you focus on a very common root. That could force you to try different forms.
8. Women's names often use additional endings like owna, onka, owa along with other variations that can make restoration of the 'normal' name difficult as well. It is a special case of issue # 7 above.

The above general observations can help you as you search for ancestors in older church records.