Do you see that girl in the center? That’s my grandmother. This photo was taken in 1936 and published in a newspaper. The girls were being named “Goddesses of Olympus” by the students in their high school. The award acknowledged their outstanding character, sportsmanship and athletic ability.
I recently decided to research my family history. I thought it would make a nice gift for my parents, so I went and created an account at ancestry.com and started digging. I didn’t know very much about either side of my parents’ families, just the scattered details I had picked up over the years. So I started with the few details I knew I could nail down- the names of my grandparents and the cities I knew they lived in at some point. I found census documents, draft registration cards, death certificates, grave sites, photos, etc. I poured over the original documents, comparing dates and names and little by little, my family history began to open in front of me. From the census documents I was able to pull addresses, and I entered many of them in Google Maps Street View, and instantly I was standing in front of the very houses that housed so much of my heritage. From the draft registration cards, I was able to learn that my great grandfather had the same handwriting as my father. I learned that my 5th great grandfather on my father’s side was actually born in the same county that I grew up and now live in.
I followed rabbit trails that took me to grave yards. I put out a request for my grandfather’s grave and within 24 hours a complete stranger had gone to the cemetery he was buried in in California, took a photo, and uploaded it.
I learned that one of my great uncles was in the army during WWII and had been captured in Tunisia and sent to a Nazi prisoner of war camp where he stayed in captivity for 827 days before being liberated. I tracked down the battle he was in and the camp he stayed in. I found first person accounts of both, which detailed the same experiences he would have had.
I traveled over to newspapers.com and found articles detailing my mother being accepted into college, my grandmother leading a lesson at her church, and my grandfather writing a letter to the editor extolling the virtues of owning a dog. I found want ads, birth announcements, and obituaries that all linked to my family. I found the photo from above- the earliest image I have ever seen of my grandmother, but the moment I saw it, I knew it was her!
I traced my mother’s side to the mid 1800’s and my father’s to the 1680’s. I learned I’m a good deal Slovakian, with a healthy combination of British, Irish, and German.
It was such an amazing experience to finally have a better understanding of where I come from and I loved that I could share that with my own family!
If you have ever thought about doing it, you should definitely give it a try and if you have researched your lineage- what’s the most interesting thing you uncovered about your family?