Family Mystery: Solved!

In every family tree there are squirrelly branches. There are stories, legends, secrets, and it’s hard to tell what is real and what was exaggerated for the sake of a better story. For me, one of those stories was the reputed last name of my great grandfather. My father’s, mother’s father’s last name was Delpino, but he had been adopted by his step father. According to family legend, his biological father was Polish and their last name was “Shibbiwubbish.”

Helen Garvey Performing at Assumption School Minstral

My grandmother, Helen Garvey, singing at the Assumption School

As kids, we found this name hilarious, but as I got older I thought this couldn’t possibly be true. It had to be some sort of whisper-down-the-lane situation where the actual name had been modified across four generations. I became so convinced of its inaccuracy I stopped telling the story and forgot about it.

My Aunt Peggy on my mom’s side is a genealogical genie. She’s worked for years on mapping out their extensive family history across the world and has now branched out to other parts of the family, like my Dad’s. A few weeks ago, Aunt Peggy was in town reviewing the 1920 census records and interviewing people. I asked her about the name and she gave me the spelling: Przybylowicz

Przybylowicz didn’t seem anywhere close to the family legend. My mom and I discussed how to find out the actual pronunciation and luckily, I work with a guy from Poland named Andrzej Borysewicz. Without telling him any backstory, I showed him the name and asked him how to pronounce it.

Here is the result:

!!! I couldn’t believe how close the passed down pronunciation was! Phonetically it’s something like “Shi-bee-WO-vich.”

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