Starting My First Family Tree

I became interested in my family heritage at an early age, around ten years old. Way before the internet generation! My mother had told me that she was born in England and that my father was American with a little Indian in his blood. That statement got me wondering about my grandparents and great-grandparents. I knew very little about them, much less where they had been born or lived.

In my later years, I always remembered what she had told me. By the time the internet came around, I had started my first family tree. I used Ancestry.com, which costs a fee, but you could use a free site like FamilySearch.com. I chose Ancestry.com because I could search and view records, plus build my family tree. If you are not interested in seeing the actual documents, you could try the free WikiTree.com site.

I started my tree from information I had on my father. We already had the birth, marriage and death records, but I was looking for more than that. My mother did not tell us much about his younger years.

On Ancestry.com I was able to find a 1940 US Census Record that showed him and his parents living in Dixon, Illinois. Other records I came across were yearbook pictures, newspaper articles, and military history. After saving all these documents to my tree, I then added some photos. I included a picture of him as a toddler, a graduation picture and one of him a few years before he died.

I considered myself somewhat of a perfectionist. I wanted to include as much information as I could on my family tree. I asked my mother to fill in the blanks about his childhood. She told me that his grandmother had raised him after his parents divorced. They had fought back and forth for custody of him and his sister. After graduating high school, he enlisted in the Army where he served in Germany until 1962.

In 2016 we received a call from his sister about a footlocker that belonged to my father. After his ex-girlfriend’s mother had passed away, she had found it in the attic. The items were in pristine condition and looked new, even after so many years. Included in the locker were his uniform, a graduation book, and letters.

My father was the starting point of growing my family tree. As it was, I was unable to find documentation of his “Indian” blood. I continued down the line on Ancestry.com until I could go no further (i.e., no records or information). I was able to go back six generations to Daniel Wakenight (1792 Maryland to 1866 Illinois).

I also found that there was more on the internet than the family tree sites for my research. I viewed other websites that had information on my father’s ancestors. One website, created by Sharon Strow, was very beneficial in my search. On this website was a section entitled The Descendants of Daniel Wakenight. I used Sharon’s site to verify, add and correct information that I had on my Ancestry.com family tree.

At the end of my search, I found that my father’s ancestors had come from Germany, most likely the Baden area. There were many different ways to spell Wakenight, including Weichneicht, Weidkneicht, Whytkneicht. I, myself, wonder if it could have been Weinacht, meaning Christmas, but this is speculation.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I would love to hear from anyone who might know where I could find more information on this German name. Please feel free to post a comment or send me an e-mail.