Finding Family: The Runaway


Meet Jeff, life-long Lansing area resident and amateur genealogist. Follow him as he enters his 19th year of researching his family’s path from the harsh copper mines of the Keeweenaw Peninsula to the conveniences of modern Lansing life. You’ll see the drive behind the long research hours, meet his family members and learn something about family life in the Upper Peninsula.

Well Walter I like you- you little soak I wish you was with me you wouldnt work in the mines if I had to say well goodby. Kiol, T.P.  – Tony Petlewski’s last known words to his brother Walter, 1912.

Every family has their family lore. Tony Petlewski is the very definition of family lore in the Petlewski family. You may remember Tony as the long lost son of John or the brother of my great-grandfather Walter. Tony proves that some lore can be confirmed and some lore, well, just can’t. Like any family lore, it is best to evaluate the story with evidence. All stories have a tiny grain of truth in them.  It’s up to you to find out what the truth is. And sometimes despite your best efforts, some riddles are not meant to be solved. Tony disappears from known public record after 1912.

There are three stories floating around about the fate of Tony Petlewski. One story states that Tony walked into Lake Superior and never came back. While it is possible that Tony may very well have walked into Lake Superior, it is unlikely. His last known postcard to his brother Walter was postmarked in Peoria, Illinois on Oct. 17, 1912.

Tony Petlewski’s last known correspondence . The postcard places him in Peoria, Illinois, in 1912.

Another story claims  he died in the Johnstown flood. Again, this is theoretically possible, but it is not likely. Another well respected family researcher has checked the death list for the Johnstown flood and Tony is not listed. Then again, he may not be if he was just passing through with the characters in the next story.

Some family members claim that Tony ran away with the circus. That’s right, the circus. Unfortunately, I have no evidence to confirm or deny the story, but it certainly makes for a great story!

My Next Post: Stanislaus & The Saloon

Resources Consulted

Petlewski, Tony. Postcard to Walter Petlewski. October 17, 1912

Petlewski, Grandma. Interviews with jantaya.

Family e-mails to jantaya.  2001

Petlewski, Anthony J. Employment Record. Calumet & Hecla Mining Company. Michigan Tech Archives & Copper Country Historical Collections, Michigan Technological University, Michigan.

If  You Like This Blog Check Out

The oral history workshop : collect and celebrate the
life stories of your family and friends by Cynthia Hart and Lisa Samson.

(c) jantaya 2012

One response to “Finding Family: The Runaway

  1. Love the blog and the fact that you’re keeping our family history alive!

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