Surname Saturday – Szczerba Family of Małopolskie, Poland

Szczerba Coat of ArmsThis is the Szczerba Coat of Arms of our Polish family, associated with the Rawa (Rawicz) families. It is a very ancient crest with over 460 Polish names. My grandmother’s father was Piotra (Peter) Szczerba (1840-1882), born in Brazna, Malopolskie, Poland. Kraków, is the capital, but our Polish family comes from little villages south of the second largest city, Tarnów. Piotra Szczerba married Apolonia Olszewski, and her maiden name also belongs to this clan.

When my sister and I collaborated with another family researcher, André Szczerba, we were able to bridge the gap in our research from Brzana to their ancestral village in Staszkowka, and thereby find records much further back in time.  Here’s a description of the Rawa coat of arms, from Wikipedia:

Shield Or (gold) with a bear (probably ursus arctos) Sable (black) facing dexter (right) with a maiden on its back. The maiden, vested in royal attire Gules (red) and a crown Or, with flowing hair and hands upraised a little and expanded, all proper. Out of the crest coronet, between two antlers proper, a bear facing dexter. His left arm in front is lowered, and another one holds a rose on a stem, all proper, which the bear carries to his snout.”

My sister, Veronica, has done most of our Polish research, searching through rolls of microfilm at her local LDS Family History Center. She found that Piotra (Peter) Szczerba was born 16 May 1840. He died in the nearby village of Berdechow, Poland [Source: LDS #2067946 – Marriage record to Apolonia Olszewska, Peter’s mother is noted as Elisabeth Meta and his father is Joannis Szczerba].

What I enjoy are the family photographs from Poland that our mother saved, with the cryptic Polish notes scrawled on the back. I’m ever hopeful that we will receive a message from a long lost Polish cousin. Our grandmother had a brother, Pawel Szczerba, that came to the USA in 1905, but then shortly returned to Poland. He was born 24 October 1871 in Berdechow. His wife was Agatha Sliwa, and they had at least six children:  Jan, Karol, Piotr, Jacob, Ludwig, and Casmir. We have photos from at least three of his sons – Jan, Ludwig, and Jacob. This first photo is of Jan Szczerba dated from 1954, most likely sent after he heard of his aunt’s death in 1953. Jan was born in 1909. I love how he is shown in the family fields guarding his sheep. It could be that since he was the oldest, he was the one to inherit the ancestral home.

JanSzczerbaOn the back of the  photo below, translated from Polish is written, “I am here with my wife and daughter.” This photo of Jan Szczerba is undated.

Szczerba7Another picture saved is of a groom and bride. The couple look so solemn and sweet, and they are standing on a sheepskin. Most likely this was to show the family’s historic occupation as sheepherders. These sheepskins used to be used as a form of money. The note on the back translates as, ” A wedding photo with my wife”. I wish it was at least dated.

PolishWeddingWe have a few photographs of cousin, Jacub Szczerba, with his wife, Ludwika, and family. We know Jacub married in 1948. Could the wedding portrait above have been taken in 1948? Here below is one taken the summer of 1951. There are already four children in this photo, so possibly the marriage photo above was one of his brothers?

Szczerba2From another picture we know the first name of one of their children. This photo shows the Holy Communion day of their handsome son, Leszek. He was eight years old and in second class of primary school, according to a note on one of the pictures. The second photo shows Leszek Szczerba standing in the second row on the right next to the priest. I remain hopeful that someone will recognize the priest, or another of the boys, and be able to locate where this was taken.


Leszek SzczerbaThis next photo was dated Summer 1961, and it shows Jacob with his wife and family. They have eight children (all looking very cheerful). From the writing on the back, most likely it was sent after they heard from our family that their aunt’s husband, Jozef Mirota, had died.

JacubSzczerbaFamily1961JacubSzczerbaWe also have some photos from our second cousin Ludwik Szczerba, and his wife, Marya, and daughter, named after her mother. The first one is from 1951, and the second one from 1949.


This one below simply reads in Polish, “This is my daughter when she had Holy Communion.” I love this photo, because the young girl looks so serious holding her first rosary and flowers. From the girl cousins above, I’m curious if other folks can pick her out.

Szczerba6This last photograph has nothing written on the back, yet the man looks like the Szczerba brothers above. He isn’t Jan, because Jan has a more weather-beaten face. Possibly this is the wedding couple’s anniversary photo years later.

Szczerba PortraitMy family is so lucky that we have these beautiful photographs. Although none of the pictures has a photographer’s mark on them, some look to be studio portraits. My mother was first cousins with the Szczerba brothers, and corresponded with them in Polish until her death. The surname was so important to my family that my grandmother’s burial gravestone includesd her maiden name. Although so many Poles were relocated after World War Two, our memories are that they stayed in the same area, close to their ancestral villages.

This is what my family knows of our grandmother’s birth in Poland, from LDS microfilm #2090065. The Baptism record shows Zofia Szczerba was born February 3, 1879. She is the first child born that year in Berdechow ad Bobowa to Peter Szczerba, son of Joannis and Catherine (or Sophia) Mysliwice, and Apolonia – daughter of Thomas Olszowski and Marianna Filip. Her godparents are Andreas Job and Sophia Job. Her parents are farmers. She is born in house #24 which is where her grandfather, Joannes Szczerba, also lives with his second wife. The midwife is Sophia Gucwa.

Surname Saturday is a blogging prompt suggested by GeneaBloggers to show how a surname fits into our family research. The surname Szczerba is sometimes shown as Zerba or Sterba, among other variations, in American records. In Polish the szcz  sound is pronounced somewhat like the st in suggestion, or the ending and beginning sounds of fresh cheese. I always seem to add a little whistle, which could be wrong, but that’s how my mother said it, too. Good luck researching your surname!

2 thoughts on “Surname Saturday – Szczerba Family of Małopolskie, Poland

  1. Hello! I’m a descendant of the Ravich-Shcherbo clan. It was an old Polish noble family. I have information about them. Perhaps these are our common ancestors!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s