Surname Saturday: ZAWODNY

Surname – ZAWODNY

Meaning/Origin – The name ZAWODNY (hear it pronounced in Polish) is derived from the Polish word zawodny, meaning “unreliable” or “deceptive”.  The root zawod- comes from the word zawieść, which means to disappoint or deceive. (Source: Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings, Second Edition by William F. Hoffman and the University of Pittsburgh Online Polish-English Dictionary.)

Countries of Origin – The surname ZAWODNY is Polish.

Spelling Variations –  Other names derived from the same root include ZAWODNIAK, ZAWODNIK, or ZAWODZIŃSKI. (Source: Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings, Second Edition by William F. Hoffman)  in the U.S., the name can be mis-spelled as ZAVODNY because of the way it is pronounced in Polish. The feminine version of the surname is ZAWODNA.

Surname Maps – The following map illustrates the frequency of the ZAWODNY surname in Poland. There are only about 500 people with the surname ZAWODNY spread out over 67 different counties and cities.  My immigrant ancestor with this name came from the area just to the right of the upper red concentration.

Distribution of the ZAWODNY surname in Poland.

SOURCE: “Mapa nazwisk” database,, accessed January 8, 2010.

Famous Individuals with the Surname – Janusz Zawodny (b. 1921) is an author and historian.  He found in the Polish Army during World War 2 and is well known for his books Death in the Forest: The Story of the Katyn Forest Massacre and Nothing But Honor: The Story of the Warsaw Uprising, 1944.

My Family – My Zawodny family comes from the town of Dobrosołowo, Poland. My earliest ancestor so far with this name is Szymon Zawodny, likely born around 1820 and deceased by his son’s marriage in 1875.  He married Katarzyna Ratajewska.  My line of descent is as follows: Wawrzyniec (b. 1853 – d. 13 Dec 1917, Dobrosołowo) > Józef (b. 29 Jan 1880, Komorowo – d. 09 Jun 1944, Philadelphia, PA, USA) > daughter Marianna (b. 02 Aug 1907 – d. 30 Apr 1986 Philadelphia, PA).  Marianna, my grandmother “Mae”, had several sisters and two brothers to carry on the family name.  One brother changed the surname though – see my biography of Joseph Zawodny for more information.  From the brother who did not change his name, there are male descendants today.  My great-grandfather Joseph also had a brother, Stefan or Steve, who was born in 1882 and immigrated in 1903.

My Research Challenges -I need to continue my research. Although I have death records for Wawrzyniec Zawodny and his wife Katarzyna (Marianska) and their marriage record, I do not have birth records for either.  I only have their parents names from the marriage certificate.  Also, I need to find more information on my great-grandfather’s brother Stefan since he “disappears” after his arrival to the U.S.

Surname Message Boards – Ancestry has a very inactive message board.  There are some other Zawodny families in the U.S. in Ohio, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Massachusetts.

Links to other posts about my Zawodny family can be found here.

This post is #5 of an ongoing series about surnames.  To see all posts in the series, click here.

9 thoughts on “Surname Saturday: ZAWODNY

  1. hi donna, my grandfather’s name was louis. he had a brother named steve. that’s about all i know. they lived in toledo, ohio. i think there were some relatives that ended up in texas. i think grandfather was born in chicago. any info you have would be appreciated. some of the family goes by zawodni.

  2. Hi, Susan,

    There are a ton of Zawodny’s in Ohio. Unfortunately, I am not related to any of them unless that family came from the Dobrosołowo area in Poland prior to Ohio. If you check Ancestry (free at a library) you will find many in Ohio.


  3. Hi Donna.

    I’m the eldest of 4 boys born here in New Zealand to Polish parents who came over here after the war. I’m starting to put together a family tree but haven’t got far as not much is known about my father’s origins. Dad (Leon Zawodny) was born in Goczalkowo Poland on 29 May 1920 and married mum Jadwiga Michalina Biernat (born in Jaslo Poland 29 September 1929) in Wellington New Zealand on 26 December 1960. I know my dad had a brother but don’t know his name. Mum and dad are now deceased. Mum had 4 siblings; Tadeusz, Marian, Kristina and Irena. Mum’s parents were Stanislaw Biernat and Katarzyna Posadzka. My partner and I are planning a Europe trip next year and plan to be in Poland in the last 2 weeks of June 2011. I was hoping to find some of my long lost relatives!

    I’m lucky to have happened upon your blog.

    Cheers. Chris.

  4. Hi, Chris,

    It looks like Goczalkowo is only about 50 km away from the town my Zawodny family comes from – not very far at all! If you find out more info on your ancestors with more names, dates, and places, let me know. We might be related.

    I can recommend a researcher in Poland – if you are interested, email me at djpoint (at) gmail (dot) com.


  5. Hi,
    my father François Zawodny was born in 1916 in Poland,he had several brothers and sisters (Stanislas,Leon,….).
    The family came to France between 1st and 2nd World War (i guess).
    On his passport was written “Baersdorf” as the place of birth,but I have never found this place on a map in Poland.
    If someone cam help….

  6. Yes, occasionally names are altered with variations like that. In my case, last year I discovered that I could not find anything on Szymon Zawodny because his name was Szymon Ratajczyk! He died when his son was about 2 years old. His wife Katarzyna married a man named Józef Zawodny. When Wawrzyniec grew up and got married, he used his step-father’s surname in the marriage record. And, he named his son Józef, too!

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