Reunion uncovers family history
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STERLING — The Kroczaleski family hadn’t come together as a whole since 1978 but on July 18, more than 80 Kroczaleskis gathered for a family reunion at the Sterling Sportsmen’s Club from 3 p.m. until midnight and prepping for the get-together led a Sterling Kroczaleski down a road through Poland, Chicago and Arenac County.
According to Don, he and his cousin, Tim Kroczaleski had been researching the family’s ancestry for the past two years prior to the family reunion.
“It was 31 years since the last family reunion,” Don said. “So I thought it was time for another one. … [I spent] two years with Tim researching the ancestry of my grandparents and cousins. We wanted to find out about them and where they were from.”
Of his discoveries, Don learned his grandparents were originally from Poland — Joseph **Krsezalowski (as it was spelled before arriving in America in 1897), from Muczyna, and Maryanna Marchewka, from Lezyny — and lived in Chicago for 13 years before lowering the anchor in Standish in 1910.
Don says he visited Chicago in June to further delve into the **Kroczalowski (as it was spelled after Joseph and Mary came to America) ancestry.
“I found out they (grandparents) lived in Ward 17, which was a Polish ward,” Don says. “When I found out where they lived (1348 Augusta Street) in 1910 from the 1910 Census, I went to see if the house was still there. It wasn’t. 1348 [Augusta Street] was an empty little parking lot between two buildings.”
Don also says he visited the church — St. John’s Cantius Church — his grandparents were married in on Oct. 8, 1900.
“It’s just a beautiful sight,” he said.
Don also stumbled upon a long-lost uncle, Uncle John, who died just short of three-years-old.
“Nobody (relatives) had ever talked about him before,” Don says. “They talked about an uncle who died in a swimming accident but never Uncle John.”
After finding the news of the lost uncle, Don headed to the 255-acre Saint Adalbert Cemetery located close-by O’Hare International Airport in Chicago to see if he could locate a burial site.
“There wasn’t a headstone where he was supposedly buried,” Don said, adding some of the older sections of the cemetery were magnificent to behold.
“They have huge headstones bigger than [me],” he said.
Don says he also found a few other cousins and relatives he’d never known before leading up to the reunion.
When viewing pictures of his grandparent’s farm in 1955, which was located at the corner of Grove and Sterling roads, he noticed the land was completely different than it is today, Don says.
“There were no woods at all or any buildings close-by,” he said.
He says a lot of the family in attendance July 18 was local as well as from the Detroit area, with the furthest relative coming from Columbus, Ohio and the oldest being Lorraine Krozale (formerly Flowers), 90, from Livonia (formerly of Omer).
“We have a few other relatives from California and Florida, but they couldn’t make it this year,” Don says. He added he and Tim compiled the information they’d discovered during their research — which included birth, death and marriage certificates as well as old pictures, docking information from the immigration and old census information — into a PowerPoint presentation for the reunion.
“Everybody really enjoyed it,” Don says. “They all want a copy.”
He also says after taking a brief survey, the Kroczaleskis decided to have their next reunion in 2011.