Based on Dutchie’s and Sissy’s memories and stories handed down over the years, we knew that my great-grandparents, Stanislaw Kulawiak and Aniela Kadlub were born in Poland – somewhere near Krakow. Dutchie said her father served in the Austro-Hungarian Army and married Aniela when she was 15 years old. They had 5 children in Poland and 3 in the US. My grandfather, and Sissy’s (Sis) mother were born in Poland and Dutchie, the baby was born in the US.
Dutchie told me that her father Stanislaw Kulawiak went to Export PA around 1910 to work in the coal mines and Aniela and 4 children followed a few years later. On a 1910 ship manifest for Stanislaw, we found a notation that he traveled to the US twice before – in 1898 and 1907. We also found out that although Odrowaz was listed as their birthplace, my g-grandparents residence was – Luslawice – and not Odrowaz. This was suprising news and we still don’t know what led them to this location.
On Valentines Day 2009, I traveled to Dutchie’s retirement home in Florida to show her all of the information we found and to pour over her photo albums. There, for the first time, I saw my great-grandparents Stanislaw Kulawiak and Aniela Kadlub, and Aniela’s mother Josefa Kadlub. It was also the first time I saw what my grandfather and his siblings looked like as children.
Dutchie had many stories that Valentine’s week, and luckily I brought my digital recorder and caught every minute of our visit together. I left for home with lots of precious memories and family information. The whole way home I beat myself up for letting so many years pass by and for not spending more with my own grandparents to learn more about my ancestors. When I got home I lit up the phone lines and called all kinds of relatives to beg for photos and info. I scoured the internet for email addresses and postal addresses of anyone with my family names trying to establish long forgotten connections. I found that there was little to no existing genealogy research on the surnames Kulawiak or Kadlub. Those who did have some research were not directly related to me, or we have yet to find our common ancestor.
Around this time I also stumbled upon Polish Origins and started posting some questions about my surname. I posted a query under “Origins of surnames” and eagerly waited for an answer. Zenon was quick to reply and told me that Kulawiak meant “lame” or “cripple” – not the elegant meaning I was hoping for, but nevertheless, it answered my question.
I wanted to start researching Polish records, but I was really at a loss and didn’t really know where to start… I knew that I wanted to go to Poland and find my ancestral village. I wrote to Zenon for advice and he graciously offered to help me. I was discouraged because I wanted to find my ancestral village, but didn’t know where it was – there were several villages named Luslawice and Odrowaz in Poland! The only clue that I had was that my family members always said they came from Krakow. Then one day when I was talking to Dutchie, I mentioned that the Polish Highlanders were called Gorale and she suddenly remembered that her mother referred to herself as Gorale. Zenon told me that it was almost certain that the Odrowaz that we wanted was the one near Nowy Targ in Malopolskie – in the Polish Highlands.
More details and stories coming soon!