The text below repeats with a few words addes my posting sent to the ZIEMBA board and ZIEMBA-L list.
ZIEBA (ZIÃŠBA) surname is a very popular one in Poland but on
the interent genealogy lists I can only find the 19th century spelling of this surname i.e. ZIEMBA, now becoming obsolete in Poland (but which seems to be prevalent in the USA until recently). On the contrary in the present day telephone directories of the USA you can frequently
find the surname ZIEBA. So, please remember, that these two are in fact one surname (on the condition that the surname ZIEBA is of Polish origin, of course).
The reason for this double spelling is that in Polish we use a special letter "ÃŠ / Ãª". It looks like letter "E / e" but with a c-like hook (called "ogonek" i.e. "small tail") under the right part of the letter "E / e", which is similar to an inversed "cedille" of the French or Portuguese special
"C / c".
1) You need to set your browser to display characters according to the Central European ISO-8859-2 character set to see these and other Polish letters to be
displayed correctly (or alternatively - in the case of
"Ãª" "Â¹" - set your browser to Windows-1250, but this will not work correctly for all Polish special letters).
If you cannot do that imagine "ZiÃªba" as being written similar to: "Zie,ba".
2) In Polish there is also a second nasalised letter
with "ogonek" - "Â¥ Â¹" ("A a" with a hook, but pronounced like "ong" / "om" / "on" ) - therefrom you have the alternativee spellings like "DÂ¥BROWSKI" (DABROWSKI) /
Whichever way you write it (the special "E e", I mean) especially in your handwriting, it gives to the letter a sound of nasal "e" (similar in pronounciation to French "in"), prononoced more-or-less like "eng" [in "Bengal"], before "b" or "p" pronounced more like "em" [in "empty"], before "t" or "d" more like "en" [in "end"], in the end of the word pronounced almost like simple "e" [in "let"].
The nasalised letters were finally introduced into the Polish alphabet as early as 16th/17th century, but the process of giving surnames in some rural areas continued until the second half of the 19th century, during the period of partition of Poland, when the Southern part of Poland
(Galicia) was under Austrian rule. The local officials often did not know Polish language well so they registered surnames with an incorrect spelling (the correct one being "ZiÃªba" as this was the name of the bird which was the source of the surname).
Therefore there were two spellings in use in the 19th century, "ZIEMBA" and "ZIÃŠBA", the pronounciation being closer to the first one, so that one was mostly used by the uneducated (undereducated) people, which made the biggest part of those who emigrated. Also probably, at least sometimes, people who emigrated wanted their surnames to be pronounced correctly in the other country (America) so
they changed their spelling to the alternative spelling, what gave it sound more alike to the origin if read by their
English-speaking neighbours and officials.
"Zi" in the beginning is pronounced a little bit like "zh" (or "s" in "leisure"). These two letters form a digraph which is a positional variant [written before a vowel] of the letter "Â Å¸" or "Z z" with an accute
accent above. This is the "soft" one of the two "zh-like" sounds in Polish, the other one ("hard") being
written "Â¯ Â¿" or "Z z" with a dot above, or alternatively "Rz rz" in words of different ethymological origin. The English equivalent of "zh" ("s" in "leisure") is pronounced just in between the two Polish sounds.
Joining "ie" in pronounciation as one vowel ["Zeem-ba"] is incorrect from the point of view of the language of origin, but maybe less incorrect than separating them and pronouncing as two vowels ["Zee-em-ba"]. The correct pronounciation of the name is "Zhem-ba".
The spelling reform undertaken in the 1920-ies and lead until 1938 did not convert all the spellings of ZIEMBA found in Poland into the CORRECT form of ZIÃŠBA. Sometimes even a third form appeared "overcorrect" - keeping both "Ãª" and "m" - "ZIÃŠMBA" - but its quite rare and is invisible if you drop the hook and keep only 26 Latin letters.
Nowadays, about 85% of those having the surname in Poland have the spelling "ZIÃŠBA" and the other 15% use the spelling "ZIEMBA".
"Zieba" / "Ziemba" is a very popular name throughout Poland
(and it seems to show different origins in parts of Poland: A. region of central-west Galicia, between Rzeszow and Krakow/Cracow. B. region of southern Podlasie, east and south-east of Warsaw till the present-day eastern Polish border (near Lukow, Kock, Radzyn Podlaski). C. region of Piotrkow Trybunalski and Kielce, between south of Lodz to south of Warsaw).
The meaning of the name "ziÃªba" is "chaffinch" (a small bird, singing very nicely, living mostly in the mountains and in bigger park-areas, met also), Latin: fringilla coelebs coelebs Lin., French: le pinson, German: der Vinke, Dutch: de vink, Russian: zyablik, Esperanto: fringelo, finko ...
Therefore - for all those who would like to discuss here the
name "ZIEBA", please remember: you can find much information about your name or the related ones at the ZIEMBA board or at the ZIEMBA-L@rootsweb.com
dr Maciej St. Zieba
owner of the ZIEBA list and board