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Kolis Family Celebrates 100 Years in Homestead Grandfather Built

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Grandson William Kolis, who grew up across the street, recounts some of the family's story at Saturday's reunion.  Behind him is his grandmother's 90th birthday proclamation signed in 1985. 
ADAMS, Mass. — More than three dozen members of the Kolis family stretching across at least three generations on Saturday celebrated 100 years in the home their dziadziu and babci built. 
 
Mateusz (Matthew) Kolis and Katarzyna (Catherine) Strzepek sought their futures in America in the early 1900s and found work in the mills. The big house near the top of steep Haggerty Street was built by Matthew Kolis as a home for their 13 children. Eleven of their children would give them 36 grandchildren and 57 great-grandchildren and numerous great-great-grandchildren.
 
"We lived across the street and my dad, like dziadziu, built the house we lived in," said William "Bill" Kolis. "For me crossing that street was like going to Poland. It was language I didn't speak, with people I didn't really understand."
 
Kolis said he's been looking into the history of the family as his sister, Gail Kolis Sellers, has been documenting the genealogy.
 
"In my mind, genealogy is the skeleton. We know where everybody is. History is the story and the story of this family is fantastic," he said. 
 
Matthew Kolis' shares a birthday with the nation he came to call home, though the July 4 date is a little iffy as its listed as his baptismal date. Bill Kolis, who was recorded as he shared the family story, said babies were usually baptized the day they were born because the death rate for infants in Poland was so high at the time. 
 
The family patriarch was 14 when he arrived in America in 1906, following his older sister, Zofia Kolis Les, who arrived five years earlier. The Kolises lived in a poverty-stricken region of Poland then under Austrian rule, and the massive textile mills here were recruiting thousands of workers overseas. 
 
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