Recently I began researching my Polish heritage. Unfortunately none of the ancestors are still here to help with this family history.
All I have are faint memories of grandmother Czarnecki speaking in a "funny" language. Also, those wonderful dishes she prepared for special occasions. My favorite treat by far where the yummy Polish angel wings, or chrusciki.
My first step along the way was to find the meaning of Czarnecki. I have discovered websites with varying definitions for this surname.
One website offers the definition as one who came from Czarnecki which is a wooded place on the bank of a river. Another site says the name was derived from the Polish word "czarny" which means "black". It goes on to say the name was originally a nickname for someone with black hair.
Realizing further investigating was necessary I spent the day searching for resources. Here listed are some of the sites found with excellent information about Polish surnames.
PolandGenWeb - Rafat's Surname List
Polish name by Wikipedia
Polish Patronymics and Surname Suffixes by Susana Leistner Bloch from JewishGen ShtetLinks
Polish Research on Family Search by Ceil Wendt Jensen MA, CG
Polish Surname Meanings & Origins: Uncovering Your Polish Heritage by Kimberly Powell, About.com Guide
Polish Surnames - RootsWeb
What does my surname mean? by Polish Roots
Good luck with your Polish surname research and have a cookie along the way.