When the first Wapienniks from the Galicia province (now the modern day state of Małopolska in southern Poland) of the Austro-Hungarian Empire headed toward unrivalled opportunity in the United States they left an entire culture and way of life behind them in Poland. Perhaps the most important thing they left behind was the correct pronounciation of their surname. In its anglicized form the name is simply pronounced “wah-puh-nick,” but in its native tounge it is pronounced “vah-pyey-neek.” In this instance, as translated from Polish, a “wapiennik” is an operator of a lime kiln or a limeburner.


The first Wapiennik to come to America from our line was Piotr (“Peter”) Wapiennik. Piotr was the son of Jan (“John”) and Regina (nee Kozioł). Piotr was born on July 7th, 1887. Piotr had a sister, Marianna (b. 1884). He was married to Tekla (“Tillie”) Magiera on Feburary 12th, 1912 in Krzyz. In 1958, Krzyz became part of modern day town of Tarnów. Jan was from Krzyz, but Regina Kozioł was born in Malbork, Poland.

Piotr’s father, Jan Wapiennik, was born on June 12th, 1851. His siblings were Agnes (b. 1848) and Michael (b. 1854). Jan Wapiennik was himself the son of Andrzej (“Andrew”) Wapiennik (b. 1822) and Katarzyna Usień (b. 1820). Andrzej’s siblings were Katarzyna (b. 1825), Regina (b. 1828) and Jan (b. 1830). Andrzej Wapiennik was himself the son of Tomasz (“Thomas”) Wapiennik (b. 1793) and Anna Usień (b. 1794). Tomasz was himself the son of Jan Wapiennik (c. 1763) and Agata Habel (c. 1763).

Piotr’s wife, Tekla Magiera, was the daughter of Jan Magiera and Katarzyna Rodak. Tekla was born on December 12th, 1891 in the town of Gorzyce, just northwest of Krzyz-Tarnów. Her mother, Katarzyna, was born in Poznań, Poland the daughter of Piotr and Małgorzata (nee Wrona). Her father, Jan Magiera, was born in Odessa, now part of Ukraine and was himself the son of Marcin and Maria (nee Gembis). She had a brother named Jożef Magiera, who was married and also lived in the Tarnów area.

Piotr and Tekla had four sons; Stanisław (eng. “Stanley,” d. 1968, sp. Lucille), Franciszek (eng. “Frank,” d. 1936), Joseph (d. 1992, sp. Mary) and Leonard (d. 1992, sp. Dolores), and five daughters; Helen (d. __, sp. Andrew Mastey), Lillian (d. 2008, sp. John Skurka), Sophie (d. 1994, sp. Eugene Balchack), Mary (sp. Leonard Baranowski) and Dolores (d. __, sp. Fred Dobis). Both Piotr (d. 1935) and Tekla (d. 1973) are interred in Holy Cross Cemetary in Calumet City, Illinois.


Piotr entered the United States during a time when there was a huge surge of other immigrants coming from Central Europe prior to the onset of World War I, during the Great Economic Migration. As all of them did, he passed through Ellis Island, New York, and then moved on to what was then one of the major industrial capitals of the world, Chicago and the bedroom communities located at the southern tip of Lake Michigan in Northwestern Indiana. Ellis Island records indicate that he arrived on November 4th, 1913, having traveled on a ship called Main, from the port of Bremen, in Germany, with sixteen dollars in his pocket (2010 equivalent to $349).

Piotr, however, was not the first from Krzyz, Galicia to come to the United States. The first documented entry through Ellis Island of a Wapiennik was in 1903. You can learn more about all the Wapienniks to come from Ellis Island by selecting the “Ellis Island Manifests” link below.
  • Ellis Island Manifests Copies and analysis of many different “Wapiennik” ship manifest entries into the United States through Ellis Island.

If you have questions or have something to add to this history, we are actively seeking to learn as much as we can and you should not hesitate to contact us.