One of the hardest, yet most rewarding, aspects of compiling a family history is the actual investigations we undertake in the process. Investigating the people and the events of their lives can be a challenge but leaves a person with an awareness of where they came from that makes the difficulties worth it.
When I began to compile my family history, I learned quickly that the process was a long and difficult one. Gathering names, dates, and places; old photographs, anecdotes, and records, records, and more records; and then attempting to assemble it all together to build an accurate family tree proved to be a significant challenge for me, particularly since I knew few relatives at the time that were even remotely interested. As time went on, and my research skills and contacts developed, investigating my ancestry became more enjoyable. It became all the more so, or more like addicting, when brick walls would suddenly crumble with new access to records or when I would track down another distant relative that had important information that made all the difference.
Of all of the branches that I have investigated in my ancestry, my Hamilton family had to be the one that presented the greatest challenge and took many years and countless hours of investigation to finally trace. When I started investing this branch, I knew it would be particularly difficult, given the fact that my great grandfather changed his surname around World War I, and there was some confusion about the original spelling. Additionally, my great grandmother (his wife) could not completely remember certain details. Over the years, I used what information I could gather and began investigating for more clues. In 2009-2010, several new pieces of information, documents, and new contacts finally pointed me in the right direction, enabling me to trace my Hamilton branch back to my immigrant ancestor, my 3rd great grandfather Johann “John” Adam Heldman (1809-1883). Although investigating this branch was difficult, it was worth it as I was able to finally know where my maternal grandfather’s family came from and what their lives were like across the generations leading to my own.
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