Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Olejniczak’s Immigration / Poznan to Calumet

The Olejniczak’s Immigration from Poznan Province to Calumet, Michigan

K.R. Olen (

For well over two years I had been trying to establish the immigration paths taken by my grandfather, Frank Olejniczak, his three brothers: Leon, John and Anton, and a sister, Agnes, from the Province of Poznan, or Posen as it was known at the time, to Calumet, Michigan. What follows are the details of my efforts, which I hope will encourage others not to give up their searches too readily.

While discussing the subject of immigration with elderly members of my family I promised my father’s 93-year old cousin that I would find out how her mother immigrated to America. Agnes’ daughter is no ordinary cousin. She is Sr. Robertine Rybicki, a nun in the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis. The Order was founded in 1901 in Stevens Point, WI in response to the need to educate poor Polish immigrant families, and was originally known as the Polish Sisters of St. Joseph.

One just does not make a promise to a Polish nun and not keep it, as there are not enough indulgences in the world to compensate for lack of performance. I doubled my efforts!

The immigration of the youngest brother Anton Olejniczak was the easiest to document. The record of this trans-Atlantic passage was found on the Ellis Island website ( He sailed from Antwerp on the Finland, arriving Ellis Island, 6 June 1905. His last residence is listed as Klondau, the German name given to Chladowo, which is in the Gniezno District of Poznan Province. His destination was listed as Calumet, Mich., where he was to meet his brother Frank Olejniczak, my grandfather.

The record of my grandfather’s immigration was found in the Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1891-1937, through the Soundex Index to Canadian Border Entries through the St. Albans, Vermont District, 1895-1924 (M1462, Roll 293). The corresponding ship manifest (M1464, Roll 13) revealed that he sailed from Hamburg on the Bulgaria arriving Halifax, Nova Scotia, 19 June 1902. He was listed as Franz, the German form of Frank, with his last residence given as Klondau. His destination was given as Calumet, Mich. to meet his brother John Olejniczak. Some time later my grandfather’s immigration was also found on the Hamburg Passenger List, 1850-1934, through the Ancestry website (

The first of the Olejniczaks to arrive in Calumet was Leon, who married Katarzyna (Catherine) Krawczyk in Red Jacket on 21 July 1896. Selecting the All New York Passengers, 1820-1957, option on Steve Morse’s website ( entering an exact first name of Leon and the year of arrival between 1890 and 1895 produced 11,179 hits. Adding German as the nationality reduced this number to 419 hits, but no name resembling Olejniczak was found. Substituting Polish for German produced 1,280 hits. Reviewing this latter list for passengers with a surname starting with “O” revealed a Leon Olyneiczak, who sailed from Antwerp on the Westernland, arriving Castle Garden, NY, 4 May 1882. A close inspection of the hand written ship manifest very strongly suggested that this was indeed Leon Olejniczak.

Family lore suggested that John and Agnes had immigrated together, but the record of their trans-Atlantic passage seemed impossible to find through the usual sources. The U.S. Census records for John and Agnes indicated immigration between 1896 and 1899. On a 1913 Application for Employment with the Calumet & Hecla Mining Co. John listed his immigration date as April 1898. Selecting the All New York Passengers, 1820-1957, option on Steve Morse’s website, and entering an arrival date of April 1898 without any additional information produced 31,675 hits. The first portion of the listing had several unnamed passengers. When reviewing page 8 of the 9 page ship manifest for an unnamed passenger, who sailed from Bremen, I found Agnieszka (Agnes) Olejniczak listed on line 9, and her brother Jan (John) listed on line 11. What luck! Both had given Chladowo as their last residence and indicated that their final destination was Calumet, Mich. to meet their brother. They had sailed from Bremen on the Lahn, arriving Castle Garden, NY, 15 April 1898.

I then wondered how their names had been transcribed. Refining the arrival date on Steve Morse’s website to 15 April 1898 reduced the number of hits to 1199. Adding a nationality of German reduced the list to 19 passengers. It then became clear as to why I had so much difficulty finding the immigration record for Agnes and John. Agnieszka (Agnes) Olejniczak was transcribed as Aguiczka Dejnicrap, and Jan (John) Olejniczak had been transcribed as Pass Clejsciczak.

The above illustrates how important it is to read everything and persevere. The records may not be available, or, as is the case more often than not, may be simply cloaked by transcription errors. I had finally documented the immigration of all five Olejniczaks who had initially settled in Calumet. More importantly I was able to keep my promise to Sr. Robertine.