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…