Unfortunately, I grew up knowing next to nothing about my Dad’s side of the family. He moved from Chicago (and his family) to Arizona in 1984 and lost contact with most of his relatives. The only exposure I had was his parent’s wedding photo and a group picture taken around 1900. Then, a few years ago, I found boxes of old photos and papers in my dad’s storage. I started piecing things together and, with the help of places like ancestry.com, created a family tree going back as far as my great-great-great-great grandparents. As a graduation/Christmas present my Dad took me to Chicago so we could meet some of his cousins. I was really nervous… I thought it was going to be awkward and they would think I’m some weirdo. Instead I discovered I have a huge extended family of AMAZING people!! I seriously had the BEST time hanging out with them, even though it was only for a few hours. It was amazing to meet people with my same last name and that looked like my Dad! I grew up with a Dad that seemed to come from nowhere – no similar looking parents or siblings, or even aunts and uncles. Needless to say, it was bizarre to be confronted with this:
(please ignore the 1986 jacket I had to borrow from Scott, lol)
So, aside from spending time with my awesome new relatives, we did quite a bit. My dad drove us around so we could re-visit all the places of his and my mom’s childhood/teenage years. We visited many graves of relatives I’ve been researching, including my great-great-grandmother who is a hero of mine. I had so much delicious food (Italian Beef, gyros, Chicago pizza) that I almost burst. I even had my first White Castle slider! We went to the Sears Tower, of course, and rode the L. We also went to The Art Institute of Chicago where I saw artworks I’ve been studying for years. I spent WAY too much money in Little Poland on Polish books and paraphernalia.
As fun as all that stuff was, the best part was meeting my “new” relatives and visiting graves of relatives I never got to meet. Easily one of the best trips of my life!!