Within probably 30 after our first class period, and just having created my own ancestry.com account, I became enthralled with the history of my family. It’s amazing that just one site can help connect all the documents throughout history to a single name. After beginning this tree and finding out so much valuable information already, I’m more than eager to continue this journey through my family history to learn more about where I am from and how these people may have influenced my family.
Over winter break, when I began thinking about my family and asking my parents questions about their parents, I was disappointed because even they didn’t know much about our ancestors. A few names here and there helped me to begin my family tree, but my parents tend to keep the knowledge of their family background under wraps, intentionally or accidentally, I still do not know. However, with the few names of my grandparents, I have been able to extend my tree through to the first relatives who originally immigrated from Ireland and Poland. The hardest part so far has been the challenges with the last names. On my mother’s side, the Irish side, we have names like Walsh, McGraw, and O’Brien, pretty common names coming from Ireland. This has led me to find many more people who aren’t related to us at all. Along with the common last names, are common first names as well. Names like James, John, Joseph, Mary, Charles, and Margaret fill my tree, making it hard to distinguish exactly who is who. The most shocking story I have found through my search so far is the death of my 3rd great grandfather, John McGraw, who died in 1880. He immigrated from Ireland and was struck by a train in Philadelphia. Through ancestry.com, I found a newspaper article announcing his death and a letter from the railroad company.
On the Polish side of my family, I’ve hit a wall earlier than I had thought I would. My dad has always told me that our last name, Gaid, was shortened when my ancestors came over from Poland, but as I read in Who Do You Think You Are?, I realized that this story might have been false. Just recently my father informed me that my grandfather, Eugene Gaid, grew up with the last name Gaidamowicz and shortened it at some point in his life. I have found records of some of his siblings, but not all of them, and continue to wonder if there is a bigger story to this simple name change.
As for now, I’d say I’m slowly getting there in my research. I haven’t learned much beyond the names and places of many relatives, but I hope to expand my knowledge of exactly what each individual did and any interesting stories of their lives as I continue my search.