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Jankowski (feminine: Jankowska, plural: Jankowscy) is the 13th most common surname in Poland (69,280 people in 2009).[1] There are, in fact, 12 separate and unrelated families with this surname as the result of many village estates being named Jankowa or Jankowice in 13th and 14th century Poland. The owners of these estates took their surnames from them in the typical manner by adding the suffix '-ski', meaning 'of', to the estate name. These families each used an additional identifier signifying their armorial crest, or 'herb' (see Boniecki, "Herbarsz Polski"). These herbs are as follows: Amadej, Bialynia, Cielatkowa, Jastrzebiec, Junosza, Korab, Kuszaba, Nowina, Ogonczyk, Poraj, Rawicz, and Strzemie. Each denotes a separate family originating in one of the villages named Jankowa located throughout Poland. Each family has its own history and line of descent. With the partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the subsequent Polish diaspora, these secondary identifiers were largely forgotten and descendants may no longer know which family they are connected with. Furthermore, the surname Jankowski can be phoneticized in a number of different ways, with even the same family varying its spelling. This all creates a daunting, but not impossible, task for researchers who simply need to know the region of Poland from which their ancestors originated.

The complexity of the evolution of these families can be illustrated well by the Jankowski h. Jastrzebiec family which is initially of Polish origin but has subsequently major Byelorussian-Lithuanian influences.

Origins of Jankowski h. Jastrzebiec[edit]

It is possible that a direct kinship extends from the forebears of the earlier Jastrzebiec lineage which itself was formally founded in the middle of the 10th century. The Jastrzebiec clan is the oldest in Poland and has the largest number of derivative 'branch family' names associated with it. The subsequent families adopt the same crest of the Jastrzebiec clan which is the blue shield with a gold horse shoe encircling a 'Maltese cross' and a goshawk above. The name Jastrzebiec has several synonyms representing regional descriptors for a goshawk; Accipiter, Bolesta, Boleścic, Jastrząb, Jastrząbek, Kamiona, Łazęka, Lubrza. During the 11th and 12th centuries the Polish state was 'in fragmentation' amongst the competing Royal Dukes causing instability. The nobility (termed szlachta) including the Jastrzebiec, in turn formed a stable and successful semi-feudal backbone allowing a decentralised state to evolve. This subsequently resulted in many new branches of the szlachta, in the 13th century, which now comprised up to 10% of the population. For example the subsequent 'Jankowski branch' of the Jastrzebiec descendants (written Jankowski herbu Jastrzebiec) were probably resident in the region of Lomza (North Eastern Poland), from the villages of Jankowo Młodzianowo and Jankowo Skarbowo. In the following decades the immediate descendants of this Jankowski family also held lands further north and east, south of Vilnius (now Lithuania), west of Minsk (now Byelorussia), and near the town of Suwalki (still in Poland). The nobility including the Jankowski h. Jastrzebiec were given special impetus by Casimir III the Great in the early 14th century who formally adopted them as 'leaders of warriors' to replace the levée en masse used by previous kings. It is likely that a proportion of Jankowski lands were in part granted to family members by the Kings of Poland following acts of military devotion to the state against the many hostile invaders including Germans, Teutons, Russians, Mongols and Tartars.

Migration of Jankowski h. Jastrzebiec[edit]

The Jankowski h. Jastrzebiec family members adapted to the local Eastern European customs and language and are now also known by the Lithuanian form Jankauskas and in the Russian Cyrillic form as Янковский. Progressive eastward migration was particularly prominent from the 15th century onwards, when the Treaty of the Union at Horodlo was signed, granting Polish nobility the freedom to settle in the vast underpopulated fringes of Lithuania and Byelorussia. This was further endorsed by the Union of Lublin a century later. The 16th century was also in many ways the golden age of Poland with the rural agricultural economy booming especially with grain exports to central and western European markets as well as Britain. In this period the Jankowski family consolidated their position and expanded their lands and with surplus income educating their families in the Renaissance style. In the 17th century the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was now the largest country in the whole of Europe and the decentralised nature of the country's government relied on semi-autonomous distinct regional principalities. Therefore while members of this family were predominantly owners of farms of all sizes, some undertook executive administration for the regional states including posts as privy councillors, judges, army reservists and regional politicians. In the 18th century the rule of both Augustus the II and III led to external wars and internal chaos impacting on all but the largest magnates who further expanded their lands. As a consequence even the members of the Jankowski family as nobility with means 'middle szlachta' (termed szlachta zamozńa) would have struggled to maintain their lands. By the 19th century, things would get even worse as Poland had ceased to exist as an independent state and was under foreign occupation. The new administration was frequently harsh sometimes even repressive making the long established feudal agricultural economy even more difficult and even uneconomic. Furthermore exploitation of the abundant natural resources, as a consequence of the industrial revolution spreading from the West, was hampered by an inefficient infrastructure. A small proportion of the Jankowski family moved west into continental Europe in the mid 19th century, predominantly France due to shared cultural, religious and military traditions. However, the majority of the poorer members of the Jankowski family emigrated predominantly to America via German and English ports. In the early 20th century the remaining progeny of this family with sufficient means diversified into the professions including civil and industrial engineering as well as the medical sciences.

World War II[edit]

In World War II, the members of this family suffered many military and ethnic-based casualties in the following incidents; the Polish Defensive War September – October 1939, Katyn and the related Smolensk region massacres, Nazi work camps, Soviet Gulags and military deaths in resistance movements or as anti-Axis members of the British, Soviet or French armies. This led to a collapse of the kinship by 20–50% in several branches of the family while some became extinct altogether. Furthermore, the loss of the heart of the Jankowski h. Jastrzebiec lands in the Polish Eastern borderlands (Kresy), to the Soviet Union, led to a large proportion of the surviving Jankowski descendants relocating west into new Poland. However, a second wave of emigration overseas also followed. This time, a sizable proportion went to the UK and its commonwealth, as many Poles including the Jankowski diaspora had fought with distinction in the Polish corps of the British Army during the war.


There are now members of the Jankowski h. Jastrzebiec family distributed throughout the world, especially, in descending order of numbers, in Poland, Byelorussia, Lithuania, UK, America, Canada, France, Germany, South America and Australia. The Jankowski h. Jastrzebiec have over 1,000 years of documented history dating back to Eastern Poland.

Jankowscy from various families including Jastrzebiec:


  1. ^ Ministry of Interior (Poland). Statystyka najpopularniejszych nazwisk występujących w Polsce in 2009 (The most popular surnames in Poland in 2009). Retrieved on August 19, 2013.

See also[edit]