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BARTOLD: What Does the Name Mean?

I started with a listing provided by a genealogical researcher in Michigan:

The Polish surname Bartold has its origin in a medieval given name from the Aramaic patronymic "bar-Talmay" (son of Talmay) meaning "having many furrows" i.e. "rich in land". As a given name in Christian Europe, it derived its popularity from the apostle St. Bartholomew, the patron saint of tanners, vintners and butlers, about whom virtually nothing is known.

Actually this is misleading. This is actually the origin of the Polish surname Bartol, and other similar names. The hard consanant ending sets Bartold (and Bartoldus, Bartholt, Bartholdi, and others) apart from those names deriving from Bartholomew.

So next, I asked William F. "Fred" Hoffman, Publications Editor, Polish Genealogical Society of America, and Author, "Polish Surnames: Origins & Meanings", if he had any further information on the name in Poland, and this is what he had to say. He didn't recognize it as a Surname, but he was a great source of information on it as a Given Name.

The best source on the name Bartold is a book by Maria Malec, "Imiona chrzescijanskie w Sredniowiecznej Polsce," published by the Polska Akademia Nauk, Instytut Jezyka Polskiego, Krakow, 1994. Malec used as her main source the very important onomastic collection called the "Slownik staropolskich nazw osobowych" [SSNO], which lists every mention of names in some of the oldest preserved Polish legal documents; when you wish to learn about Polish names in the earliest forms we know of, SSNO is the best source. Malec took the names mentioned in SSNO and tried to analyze the first or Christian names. It seems to me she did a very good job, and I will summarize what she said -- I would quote it, it's in Polish, but it is very difficult to try to reproduce on-line all the symbols and abbreviations she uses. But perhaps this summary of what she wrote will be useful:


BARTOL~T, B(I)ERTOL~T Various German name experts cite the Old High German forms _Berchtwald, Berthold, Barthold_, from Old High German _beraht_ 'shining, bright,' and Gothic _waldan_, New High German, 'to rule, administer,' in the form _Barthold_ we see the Lower German or East Central German transition from e to a, possible also is an analogy to _Bartl~omiej_. -- Saints include: Bertold, Benedictine, abbot at Garsten, died 1142; Bertold of Regensburg, Franciscan, a famous preacher, died 1272, and other saints.

The form Bartol~t is seen 12 times: earliest in 1408 (e. g. "Petrus Bartold" 1408, "Johannes Bartold," 1423); in Wielkopolska "Johannes Bartolt" 1449), Malopolska "Nikil Bartolt" 1495, in 5 entries from Mazowsze. The Latinized form _Bartoldus_ is seen about 25 times, the earliest in 1213. The form _B[i]ertol~t_ is seen 6 times, including one entry saying "Johannes dictus Bertold" from 1406). The Latin form _Bertoldus_ is seen 50 times, the earliest in 1173. The Latin form _Bertuldus_ is seen twice.

Also seen is the form Bartol or Bartol~ in Pomerania.

Derivative form Barta is seen in a Wielkopolska entry from 1204 "Bartha alias Bartholdus," but this may also come from other roots in _Bart-_ such as Bartl~omiej. Other possible derivatives are Bertoch, Bertok, and Biert.

Here are some of the other sources Malec used:

-- E. Foerstemann, Altdeutsches Namenbuch, I. Personnennamen. Muenchen 1996
-- H. Kaufmann Ergaenzungsband zu Ernst Foerstemann Personennamen, Muenchen-Hildesheim 1968
-- K. Linnartz, Unsere Familiennamen, Bd. II, 3. Aufl., Hamburg 195
-- J. Wiktorowicz, System jezyka niemieckiego ksiag miejskich, Krakowa w XIV wieku, Warszawa 1981.


So the essential points are that the name is clearly of Germanic origin, but came to be used in Latin and Polish because of saints who bore the name. It originally meant something like "brilliant ruler," and appeared in older German in several forms, depending on the dialect -- Berchtwald, Berthold, Barthold, etc. In German the standard form is Berthold (according to Hans Bahlow's "Deutsches Namenlexikon"); Barthold, a Low German or eastern German variant, is clearly the form that came into Poland. Since the German "th" was pronounced just like "t," it is easy to understand why Poles would spell it Bartold; also, final "d" is pronounced like "t" by Germans (and Poles!), so it would sound like "Bartolt" and could easily come to be spelled that way. From there, only a little Polish influence is necessary to turn the German hard L into Polish L~. We see a Polish form Bartol~t in old records, as well as Latin Bertoldus and Bartoldus, and even Bartol in Pomerania. As time went on the name came to be spelled in several different ways, including Bartol~t, Bartol~d, Bertol~t (perhaps influenced by the standard German form), etc. Other forms came from the original ones, giving such names as Barta and Bertoch -- but those might also have come from Bartl~omiej.

I want to thank Fred once again for this explanation, and encourage researchers to look to his books for help. But since I'm living in Poland now... I located Malec's book, and decided to add the original text here. Luckily the symbols are much easier to reproduce on a web page than to try and create something in email form.

Imiona Chrześcijańskie w Średniowiecznej Polsce, Maria Malec, Kraków 1994, Polska Akademia Nauk - Institut Języka Polskiego, str. 195-196:


Staro wysoko niemiecki Berchtwald, Berthold, Barthold, Fm 295, 296; Lin II 33 (: staro wysoko niemiecki beraht 'jasny, błyszczący', Fm 277, Kauf 59 i gocki waldan, nowo wysoko niemiecki walten 'rządzić, panować', Fm 1496; Kauf 379; w formie Barthold dolno niemiecki lub wschodnio środkowo niemiecki przejście e > a, porównaj Lin II 33; Wikt 55, 56, możliwa też analogia do Bartłomiej. -- Wśród świętych: Bertold, benedyktyn, opat w Garsten, + 1142; Bertold z Regensburga, franciszkanin, słynny kaznodzieja, + 1272 i inni święci, BHL 191; BiblSs II 106 i n.; Fros-Sowa 146.

I. Bartołt (12); 1408, XV Krpd 1 + [4] (np. Petrus Bartold 1408, Johannes Bartold 1423), Wkp [1] (Johannes Bartolt 1449), Młp [1] (Nikil Bartolt 1495), Maz 5; op; lat. Bartoldus (ca 25): 1213 XIII Wkp 2, Młp 1, Śl 2, Pom 1; XIV Wkp 3, Młp 4 + [1] (Johanni Bartholdi 1375); XV Wkp 5, Młp 1 Śl 2, Pom 2; cl, nb, op; B(i)ertołt (6): 1204, XIII Śl 2, Młp 1; XIV Pom 2; XV Wkp 1, Młp 1, Śl [1] (Johannes dictus Bertold 1406); nb, op; lat. Bertoldus (ca 50): 1173 XII Wkp 2; XIII-XV og.pol; cl, op; jako II okr.: XV Śl [1] (Johannes Bertoldus 1406 = Johannes Bertoldi 1406); (Bertułt), lat. Bertuldus (2): 1403, XV Krpd 1 Wkp 1 op.

II.1. Bartol // Bartoł (1): XV Pom 1 (= Bartołt) op.

2. Bart-a (1): (sub a. 1204) XV Wkp [1] (Bartha alias Bartholdus); por. dlasze możliwe przykłady z podstawą Bart- s.v. BARTŁOMIEJ II.; (Bertoch) (SSNO Bertok) (2): ca 1265 Śl (Bertochus, Bertocius); Biert (1): 1470-1480 Młp (Byert).

3. Porównaj też BAR-, BA- oraz BIE-.

One of the other great sources for Polish name is the SSNO, the "Encyclopedia of old-polish names of people". So what does this “Słownik Staropolskich Nazw Osobowych” (1965-1967) have to say exactly? An important difference between Malec and the SSNO is that Malec looked at given names, whereas the SSNO deals with either surnames, or before surnames were used, the only name. Anyway, I've found the reference, and it's long, and it's maily just hard to interpret references and abbreviations. Therefore, I'll be adding the entry on page 101 of volume one slowly.

Bartołt, B(i)ertołt, (Bertułt) formy: nom. sg. Bartołt 1420 U 1105, 1426 Warsz 177, 1448 Warsz 828, 1449 AS I s. 124, 1495 Kacz 8748; B(i)ertołt 1204 KŚl 104 s. 262, 1228 KMłp 395, 1406 PNZK 1739; ~ dat. sg. Bartołtowi 1445 Warsz 745; ~ acc. sg. Bartołta

, 1445 -745, 1425 -138, 1448 - 807

Here the abbreviations mean:

Warsz - Zapiski i roty polskie XV-XVI wieku z ksiąg sądowych ziemi warszawskiej. Wyd. W Kuraszkiewicz i A. Wolff. Polska Akademia Umiejętności. Prace Komisji Językowej XXXVI. Kraków 1950. ss. XXVIII + 557.
AS - Albumn Studiosorum Universitatis Cracoviensis.
I. Ab anno 1400 ad annum 1489. (Ed.) B. Ulanowski. Cracoviae 1887, ss. XII + 294.
II. Ab anno 1490 ad annum 1515. Editionem curavit A. Chmiel. Crakoviae 1892, ss. 160.
Kacz - Księgi przyjęć do prawa miejskiego w Krakowie. Libris iuris civilis Cracoviensis 1392-1506. Wyd. K. Kaczmarczyk, Wydawnictwa Archiwum Aktów Dawnych Miasta Krakowa V. Kraków 1913, ss. XXIV + 560.
KŚl -
KMłp -
U - Księgi sądowe wiejskie. I-II. Wyd. B. Ulanowski.
I. StPPP XI, 1921, ss XIV + 879.
II. StPPP XII. 1921, ss. XIII + 760.
StPPP - Starodawne Prawa Polskiego Pomniki (XI i XII - Kraków 1921).

Now to pull a kind of chronology out of that

First, a quick glossary of places in those days

Wkp: Weilkopolska = Greater Poland: the western region including Poznan.
Młp: Małopolska = Lesser Poland: Southern Poland, centered on Krakow.
Śl: Ślask = Silesia: south western, centered at Wroclaw.
Krpd: Karpady = Eastern Lesser Poland, now includes Tarnow.
Maz: Mazowsze = Mazovia, centered at Plock.
Pom: Pomorze = Pomerania, including Thorn/Torun.

And add in a bit of Polish history along the way

The earliest references to "Bertoldus" are in Greater Poland in 1173. In fact Bertoldus is refered to twice before the end of the century. At this time Poland was falling apart into lesser duchies of Silesia, Mazovia, Kuyavia, Greater Poland, Pomerania and Eastern Lesser Poland (Karpady) mostly ruled from The capital of Krakow in Lesser Poland.

Through the 13th century (beginning in 1204) there are many more references and some of them start to use a slash through the "l", although still uning the "e", more with the latinized form, and also references to "Bartoldus" in every Duchy in Poland. Poland was on a downward slide at this point, Mongols were invading, the dukes were unable to unify the country, but Krakow remained a sort of capital for all.

In the 14th century, we find Bartoldus in Greater and Lesser Poland, along with one in 1375 equating "Johannes Bartoldus" with "Johanni Bartholdi". Note: this is the first occurance of the name as a true surname in Poland. prior to this it is used mainly as a given name. There are also a couple more slashed "l" Bertolt in Pomerania. Poland was stabilizing, and finally reunified, although Silesia was given to Bohemia (1335), and Mazowsze remained a subject duchy. But peace was declared with the Teutonic Knights (1366). And in 1386 Poland was joined to Lithuania.

By the 15th century the name is well established throughout Poland, with notable references as a surname beginning in 1375, with a Johanni Bartholdi (aka Johanned Bertoldus, Johannes Bertoldi, Johannes "called" Bertold, Johannes Bartold, Johannes Bartolt) appearing in records in Silesia and moving to Lesser Poland in 1406, to Mazowsze by 1420, and then Greater poland by 1449. At this time in Poland, Jagiello is king of both Poland and Lithuiania, and his dynasty definitively defeats the Teutonic knights through a series of battles from 1410-1466.

For later information on the name in Poland, we need to look at the Polish Armorials, the Noble History Books, where Bartold first appears as a name of the Nobility at least by 1420. In addition, we also know that there was at least one town bearing the family name by 1356 in northern Mazowse, but close to the Teutonic realm. Later in 1446, another town bearing the family name was established closer to the Price's palace in Ciechanow.

Continue on to the Noble Histories in Poland

Have a look at Towns Bearing our name

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