Author Archives: Emily Gaid

New Discoveries

Throughout this class, I’ve been curious as to the young death of my mom’s sister, Patricia Marie McGraw.  I hesitated to ask my mom about it because I didn’t want to upset her by bringing up any sad memories.  After so much research, I only had a birth date and death date, along with the places of her birth and death, which seemed odd because I thought I would find something in a newspaper archive.  Last week Dr. Lawton even helped me look through all of the available databases to find anything on Patsy McGraw, and there was nothing!  How could there be absolutely no documentation of her death?!  Not even a social security death index?!  Then, right after class, my mom emailed me with some new photos and records I could look through, including a newspaper article about her sister’s death.

ImageAs I read this, I was shocked I never knew that my Aunt was struck by lightning.  It’s also interesting that I couldn’t find this article any time before.  When I finally learned more about her, I decided to search for her grave on find a grave.  It wasn’t indexed, and my mom had said that she was buried with my grandmother and grandfather.  I went ahead and added a memorial for her and my grandfather, James Francis McGraw.  After sending in photo requests for each of these graves, I just got notified that someone added the pictures.  I had never seen the headstones before, so I was interested to see them.

Other than the news of finding my Aunt’s cause of death, I also discovered a famous cousin! Francis Xavier McGraw, my first cousin 2x removed, was a World War II hero.  Born in 1918, Francis was only 26 when he went to war.  After asking my mom about more information, she directed me to a website dedicated to him.  I even found out he has his own Wikipedia page!  I was able to find out so much information about him, his home in New Jersey, where he went to school, and even that he played baseball.  The most exciting news was the fact that he was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor after his death for his courageous efforts in the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest in Germany.  He was also awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.  I couldn’t believe the story of such bravery he exhibited during this battle, and I am truly honored to have such character in my extended family.

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There are still some mysteries

Slowly but surely I’ve been expanding my tree each day, hoping to reach new breakthroughs in my research.  However, my dad’s side of the family is still a dead end.  I know all of my great grandparents besides one were born in Poland, which must be the reason I’m having so much trouble.  Even though I have the world version of, there doesn’t seem to be much from Poland at all.  It’s disappointing and a little discouraging to be at a stand still on this side of my family because I’m so interested in learning more about my Polish ancestry.  One recent discovery came just the other day when my dad remembered his grandmother’s maiden name, Mary Marciniak.  However, this new name didn’t lead me farther than finding just one more census record.  Even if I can’t find much past my great grandparents, I’m hoping to get some pictures soon from my Uncle or Aunt.

Back to the ancestry goldmine half of my family, my mom’s side.  I’ve been able to slowly fill in the complete families of my grandparents, extending this way instead of attempting to search back through hard to find and sometimes lost Irish records.  It’s interesting to find so many of my ancestors who served in World War I and World War II.  I knew my grandfather had served in the army because of his military funeral, but I didn’t know about my great grandfather and all of my great uncles and such.  I can now piece together certain aspects of my ancestors lives, like being able to see a picture of my great grandfather Charles Aloysius McGraw and his World War I draft card.

GG McGraw Young  Charles Aloysius McGraw Draft Card WWI

The mystery that has still yet to be solved is the early death of my aunt, my mom’s sister, Patricia Marie McGraw (Patsy).  She was only 19 when she died, and I’m still on the search for an obituary or funeral record.  However, I was able to find a picture of her when she was younger with the help of my mom. I can even tell that she’s most likely wearing her Catholic school uniform and probably a cross around her neck.


Throughout my work on ancestry, I’ve come across another tree quite often.  I think I’m going to email this person who has a McGraw family tree (my mother’s maiden name) to see who they are.  And just recently, someone copied my uploaded pictures onto their tree!  I hope I can find out more by contacting both of these ancestry users.

Halfway There

It’s interesting to talk to my parents every so often and find out so many new things that they just haven’t told me about my family.  At first, I really just thought they were clueless, but they had valuable connections and stories to tell me about my ancestors.  My mom, for example, led me to a first cousin that I didn’t even realize was my first cousin.  I knew Jennifer McGraw Kilburne, who had friended me and my siblings on facebook relatively long ago, had to be related to me somehow, but finding out she was a cousin surprised me.  With this discovery, I decided to add all of my cousins I knew about and their spouses to my tree just to expand a little bit more.  Another exciting part about finally realizing the connection to Jennifer Kilburne, was the news that she had started her own family genealogy quest not too long ago.  She currently runs a McGraw family history page that shows a tree much like my ancestry tree, and has many of the birthdays and birth locations of younger relatives that I probably wouldn’t be able to find online yet.  And while this was good and helpful, I’m still stuck with the grandparents who were born in Ireland.  I joined an Irish genealogy site, but not surprisingly, to actually get the records you have to pay.  I’m continuing to find records of several of these family members, mainly the McGraw side, as they moved into the United States and settled their families here earlier than the Walsh half of my mother’s side.

With the help of my mom, I was able to get some pictures of my grandparents and great grandparents to add to my ancestry tree, which definitely livens up the tree and allows me to actually remember who everyone is (pretty hard with such similar names).  I really loved a picture of my Anthony Walsh’s (my great grandfather) work badge at the Philadelphia Electric Company.  Unlike work badges and identification today, this was simply a piece of thicker paper on a tiny safety pin.  I tried to see if the Philadelphia Electric Company had any archives to look through personnel records, but didn’t seem to find any online.


I find it amazing to read what jobs my ancestors had and hope to highlight these finds in stories on their ancestry pages.  Most of them typically had low paying, manual labor jobs, and I’m doubting many of them had a lot of education.  Through each new find online and in old records or photos my mom has makes me realize how far my family has come and allows me to paint a clearer picture of these people.

Like usual, I’ve still been stuck on the Gaid side (my dad’s side) of the family.  It seems like I’m halfway there in both my family tree and in our interim class.  He helped me a little bit with giving me some information about when my great grandparents died and how old they might have been.  Francis Gaidamowicz, my great grandfather, most likely died in his mid 90s, which was definitely a surprise to me because most of my grandparents died relatively young.  I’m hoping that with these few dates and possible sites of burial I’ll be able to find more information for this side of my family.  It’s so hard to work on this side when I know I’ll just hit another dead end.  But I’m still determined to find anything I can about Eugene Gaid, Helen Zielinski, and the rest of the Gaidamowicz and Zielinski families!

Just Keep Searching

In my last post, just days after I had started my ancestry account, I was so thrilled to work on my tree whenever I could.  It seemed like ancestry had everything I needed to fill out whatever I needed or wanted to know about my relatives at the time.  However, I’ve reached a point in my searching that has slowed my progress.  I still want to expand my tree, but it just isn’t as easy as it was in the first few days, which is a little discouraging.

I’ve had the most trouble on my dad’s side of the family.  I think this is mainly because of the name change that I mentioned earlier (Gaidamowicz to Gaid).  Eugene A Gaid, my grandfather shortened his name at some point in his life, but I have yet to find when this was.  It really has become a mystery to me, and I’m hoping there’s some elaborate reason he did this (probably not).  Because of this name change, it has been difficult to find many records of him or of all of his siblings.  I think I have all of them, but I barely have any records for the Gaidamowicz family at all.  At this point, my great grandparents, Francis and Mary Gaidamowicz, have nothing but estimated birth dates and a few census records of them living in New Jersey.  Because Francis was from Poland, I thought to search the records of passenger lists and the immigrants who came through Ellis Island, but I have yet to find any record of him.  This is when I thought that Francis might have been Franz or Frank as he came over, but still nothing!  I’m now hoping to reach out to my dad’s brother and sister in hopes of finding out anything I can.  I even think my aunt lives in my grandparent’s old house in New Jersey, so surely she can help with my research.  I’ve also hit this similar problem in attempting to go past my grandmother’s parents on my dad’s side.  Helen Joann Zielinski (my grandmother) had 2 sisters and 2 brothers, one of which that died at an early age, but I haven’t found any record of these relatives yet.  I know Helen’s parents are John and Anna, but since they were born in Poland, I haven’t been able to find much information on them either.  When I first started this process I thought that having unique names like Gaidamowicz and Zielinski would help me, but they have just been interesting to look at so far.

My mom’s side of the family is a whole different story.  I’ve had so much success on ancestry with the McGraw and Walsh families.  On the McGraw side, I’ve been able to find all of my 3rd great grandparents, which is such a relief.  I was surprised when not all of them were born in Ireland, so I’m still wondering how late my family is in the United States.  On my mom’s side, I’ve used (or tried to use) to see if I could find a photo of my grandparents graves because I was so young when I last saw them.  Unfortunately, most of them don’t seem to be indexed yet.  Maybe sometime I will be able to take on the task of finding their graves in Virginia and taking the pictures myself.  In using, I actually found the grave of my  3rd great grandmother (Mary Snyder) by looking at her death record, and requested a photo to be taken.  This was such an exciting point in my research!


Here’s Mary Snyder’s death certificate that says she was buried at Fernwood Cemetery in Pennsylvania (actually listed in!)

I know I haven’t yet exhausted  all of my resources, and I hope to continue my search by contacting more of my family members like my aunts and uncles.  I will also look into my grandfather’s service in the military to see what I can uncover there.  I already found his draft registration card, which was pretty cool to see.  One of the more recent mysteries I hope to solve is how my mom’s sister, Patricia Marie McGraw, died at only 19 years old.  I know my mom really does not life to talk about the subject and bringing it up probably wouldn’t be a good idea.  Maybe with my new techniques in sleuthing I can find out all the mysteries in my family (or find out more about the Williams family mystery).  As for now, I’ll just keep working on finding more relatives through the use of new sites listed in Who do you think you are? and maybe start to contact churches or the states in which my ancestors lived.

Getting There

Within probably 30 after our first class period, and just having created my own 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, 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.