Silverware Set

I once made the assumption based on the engraved "F" that this set belonged to my father's family, the Fells. My mother told me that actually, it belonged to her grandmother. But the “F?” Her grandmother had been a Piontek, then a Lewandowski. That's when I found out that the Pionteks had changed their last name after arriving in America from Poland in the 1880s. "Piontek" translates to "Friday," a name the family went by because according to my grandmother, "Polish names were hard to pronounce." Although "Piontek" is an exception, she jokes that in Medina, the small town in upstate NY where she grew up, "you weren't allowed in unless your last name had at least 10 letters!" My Piontek ancestors arrived in New York at Ellis Island. Was "Friday" suggested to them there? Were they pressured into having an “easy” last name? They never legally changed it, but "Friday" must have meant something to a family who may have been struggling to adjust. My grandmother said “times were tough …but because families of certain nationalities banded together in neighborhoods, they helped each other out as they made their way in a new world.” Living in a Polish town must have made things a little easier, but I wonder what struggles the Pionteks faced in a society where “Friday” might give a better first impression than something more ethnic. While Polish traditions were kept alive in Medina, they phased out as my family moved away. Is this the legacy that began when “Piontek” became “Friday?”

Year: 1885

– Julia Fell

Relationship:  unknown unknown