1. Shellie’s Family History and Tour to Ancestral Places.

Like many people, I was not interested in my roots when I was a teenager.  I always knew my family was from Poland and that my grandfather came to the US when he was three years old, but I never probed for more information.  He had many brothers and sisters, but I never really got to know them well and of course, I was not interested in hearing about our roots while they were all still alive.

My exploration of my roots began about 10 years ago, when I did an internet search of my surname KOLAVIC and found only a few results.  My grandfather always said that our name had a K at the end, but googling Kolavick was even less fruitful.  Since my grandfather had already passed away, I wrote to his youngest sister Dutchie for help.  What she told me was a complete surprise – the original spelling of our name was KULAWIAK – but she did not know the reason for the change.   We discussed several possibilities and finally I decided that if someone had sloppy penmanship and scribbled the name very quickly, the spelling might indeed look like Kolavick.  This is probably not the true reason, but it sounded good to me!

For 10 years I put away my family history research.  Last fall, I finally went back to my genealogy efforts and asked Dutchie to work with me. Dutchie was the last surviving child of Polish immigrant parents, and unlike her oldest siblings, she was born in the US.  At 88-years old, she was sharp as a tack and remembered lots of stories from her mother and older sisters.

Dutchie and I became long-distance research buddies.  Although I did most of the physical research, she was an invaluable source of family memories and my biggest cheerleader.  We also pulled in my cousin Sissy, the daughter of Dutchie’s oldest sister Stella.  Stella was the matriarch of our family and the unofficial keeper of the family history.  I don’t know why, but I always assumed that Aunt Stella had collected and preserved our family history.  I soon found out that I was probably the first in our family to research our roots.  Now that I knew I was starting from scratch, I decided that I would travel to Poland and find our ancestral village – this sent my work into overdrive because I wanted to collect as much info as possible before I departed on my journey.

Next part soon…



  1. Shellie,
    My father ( Jan Piekelnik )came over from Piekelnik before WW 1 and served here in the Army. My mother came over after the war apparently in 1920,( I believe) She came from Lipnica Weilka and they were married in Cleveland, Ohio in 1922. Both have passed and I am trying to connect with andyone over there that might be related. I too wanted to go over as a younger person but Mom died in 1933 and left Dad with 5 little ones and money as you know was tight so it was just a dream and still is. Would love to hear from you and maybe meet somewhere. There are also others that are looking for relatives in the same area. Dad americaized his name so if looking for him– John G. Pekelnicky here.

  2. Julia, Thanks for the nice message. I would love to talk with you further. Have you visited the village page I created for Piekielnik?

  3. Hi Shellie,
    My name is Ewa Gal, I’m not from Odrowaz, I’ve been there a couple of times visiting my mother-in-law. I found your site by accident and got sooooooo exited that I even called my father-in-law (in the middle of the night) to ask him about all those people that you’ve mentioned in your posts. Most of the last names are very familiar to me because we have friends with those last names. Honestly he does not think you’re related because Gal is a very popular last name there, but he promised to call his elder mother in Poland and ask her. Let me tell you what I know about my husband’s family which I hope will help you in some way. My husband’s name is Stanislaw Gal he was born in 1979 in Odrowaz, he’s one of 5 children of Jozef and Bronislawa (Kulawiak) Gal. He was born in Odrowaz but lived in a nearby village Zary, which now is part of Odrowaz Pdh. His grand parents names are (father side)Jozef and Maria (Zachemska) Gal, (mother side)Jan (my husband does not know his 1st wifes name) and Stefania Kulawiak. If you find this information helpful in your search let me know, send me an email and I would be more than happy to help you out in any way I can. If you think you have any info related to my husband’s family I would appreciate it as well. Thanks and good luck

  4. Hi Ewa,
    Thank you for contacting me. It has been my greatest wish to be contacted by someone with direct ties to Odrowaz! You have made my wish come true. You have both Kulawiak and Gal surnames in your family! I would like to talk with you some more – I tried to find you in the member list, but I don’t know your user name! Please leave me a private message with your email address (not here, I want you to keep your contact info private). I have much to tell you and much to ask you. Best Regards,

  5. My grandfather comes from Zaluczne and grandmother (Laska(i)) from Stare Bystre. THe Kalec family records are in the Odrowaz parish and was hopeful someone could tell me how to access them. I have a list of the Kalec family members born and baptized in the parish in 1860-1879 and was hopeful there is more info. Other family names mentioned were Komperda, Jasien, and Lopata.

    The earliest record (I believe) is of my great grandfather Andrej Kalec born in 1840+/-. Andrew married Regina Lopata.

    I enjoy researching family history and would like to hear if any of these names are recognized.

  6. Dear John Kalec I havent been on this site in a long time I read your letter with interest all of the names that you mentioned were also on my great grandfathers babtism papers that I had copies of Andre Kalec and Regina Lopata were the names listed for his parents.
    My Great grandfatahers name was Jacob Kalec he was born 1869 He came to the US in 1904 I believe that he had a brother named William that also came to the Us But unable to obtain any info on him Its possible that ther my be a connection to us

  7. Darleen,…. William and Jacob Kalec were brothers of my grandfather Mathew. I would love to hear more about their parents Andrew Kalec and Regina Lopata. Tomasz Kalec and Rozalia Komperda were Andrew’s parents and Jan Lopata and Roozalia Jasien were Regina’s parents. They all lived in Zaluczne and came to the US at various times. My grandfather settled in Braidwood, Illinois where I am from and my parents still live today. William and Jacob both moved to Utah I believe. Martha was their sister and she settled in Oregon. There were 4 other brothers and sisters.

    I have visited Zatuczne 2 times and the mayor of the village found these church records in Odrowaz.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    John Kalec [email protected]

  8. Dear John Great I was hopeing that I would hear from you again I usually have a hard time geting into this site I kept looking for a John Kalec on Google forgot to get your email address when I first saw your message on this site I would llike to just E mail you or calll to talk to you I did not know that my great grandfather had any other brothers. Willliam and jacob were in Wyoming and Colorado a t various times .
    Thought that Their sister was in Chigago Illinois at one time It would be great if We could exchange some information looking foreward to hearing from you again Receive E mail on my husbands site [email protected]

  9. Hi Shellie,
    Love your site and the photographs. Just what is the derivation and history of the name “Hellion?” I know that the translation of Pekelnik means hellish or devilish.

    What are the chances of viewing the actual church records? I am at a complete standstill with my family history without knowing what is in those records.

    I have had my complete mitochondrial DNA tested (Family Tree DNA). It is not so good for recent family connections, but still very interesting. Other DNA is at 23 and me, and there they search with somatic DNA. So far, 3rd to 7th cousins have been reported. I really urge everyone to get into the DNA testing. Of course, Y-DNA is really great for recent family connections.
    (My dad’s has been tested – but he’s Slovak/Ukrainian.)

    Thanks again for the delightful photos and commentary.

  10. Hi Carolyn,
    I’m so glad that you enjoyed my blog and photos and I’d love to help you if I can. This section where we are now communicating is not the best place to exchange information because it was designed for comments and not long conversations (which I think we will be having). Are you a member of PolishOrigins (it’s free) – if so, you can easily find me there and send me a message. I’ll also check with Zenon, this site administrator and creator of PolishOrigins to help me find you so we can continue to talk. I look forward to talking with you! Shellie

  11. Hey shellie its interesting to explore this site and I’m so addicted to it now. I live in Chicago but parents are from Zaluczne basically they came here very young and just wanted to say that my mom is very good friends with kulawiak and zachemska couple. They are also here in Chicago but are from odrowaz original.
    Their last name is kulawiak but her friends maiden name Was kulawiak. So I talk and meet with them a lot.and an interesting thing here in Chicago we do are get together dinners and picnics with all people from odrowaz or surrounding.villages. I know.think u are from atl but If your interested with anything I said please feel free to leave a message or something like a.reply.

    Hope to hear from you soon,
    Joe Grela , Zaluczne.odrowaz town member of our club in chicago.

  12. Hi Joseph!
    Thank you so much for the message. I am very very interested in talking with you and will contact you to talk further. Would love to meet you some day. Shellie

  13. Hello Shellie,
    Loved seeing the pictures from Pekelnik.
    My grandmother, Maria Krafcik Vaganek came from Pekelnik in 1909. Other family names are Rychlik and S’tafira. What is confusing me is that my grandmother and all family and friends that came here from Pekelnik, all spoke Slovak and called themselves Slovaks. I am assuming that Pekelnik was given to Poland after WWI. Yet I see old gravestones from Pekelnik written in Polish.
    Can you help me solve this?
    Thank you Jeff

  14. Hi Jeff! Thanks for the message. Are you a member of Polish Origins? I reposted this conversation over to the Piekielnik thread at: http://forum.polishorigins.com/viewtopic.php?p=3546

    The reason I want to move your comment is that it is so interesting and our conversation might help some others with ancestors from Piekielnik. Also, I’m not sure whether I can give you an answer yet – I’d have to look into this, or ask some other members to coments.

    Comments posted here on my trip blog are great, but the messages on the forum, like the one’s here get a much bigger audience: http://forum.polishorigins.com/viewtopic.php?p=3546. I look forward to hearing back from you!

  15. Hello, My family came from Pekelnik around 1901. My grandfather’s name was Josef Rychlik. If anyone has any information on the Rychlik’s from Pekelnik, I would be very happy to hear from you! Thanks, Doreen

  16. My name is David Krolak. I was born in Elmira, NY the son of Casimir Krolak and grandson of Joseph Krolak and Angela (Kalec) Krolak.

    I have a copy of Angela’s “testimonium ortus et baptismi” from the year 1888. It shows that it came from Parochia Odrowaz Zaluczne. There are several names written in script on this certificate. It shows that her fathers name was Thomas or Thomaz and her mothers name appears to be Thecla (or something like that) Babicz. Other names are difficult to decifer.

    I am looking for any help with this.

  17. Hello! My grandparents were born/raised in Czarny Dunajec, Poland and immigrated to the USA.
    Ferdynand Baniecki b. 6/5/1883 m. 1906 d. 4/4/1969
    Rosilie Barbara Stopka b. 10/29/1886 d. 8/26/1962

  18. Hi Fred – thank you for leaving a message here. I know some others who have Baniecki ancestors. If you are a member of Polish Origins, send me a private message to establish contact… My member name is Shellie. I look forward to hearing from you!

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