I found the story of Magda Szubanksi’s family in the first episode of the new Who do you think you are? series quite moving. It focused on the lives of Magda’s Irish-born maternal grandfather and her Polish father and included poignant moments, surprises, tears and some valuable insights into the nature of genealogical research.

Magda’s grandfather, Luke John McCarthy was one of 13 children born in Ireland in the early 1900s, only 3 of which survived infancy. He fell foul of the law several times as a young man, was convicted for drunkenness and burglary and ended up serving 3 years in prison. After learning of her grandfather’s family circumstances (his father also died when he was young) during these years, I found it fascinating to hear Magda comment that “context is everything.” Sometimes there are more pieces to your family history puzzle than you think. It is worth spending the time researching different aspects of your ancestors lives to fully understand their choices and actions.

Zbigniew Szubanski, Magda’s father, was a leader of the Polish resistance in World War 2. He was only 15 when Germany invaded Poland in 1939 and later joined a famous underground unit called 993W that executed Nazi collaborators and informers in Warsaw. I really liked the moment where one of Zbigniew’s friends in Poland, Ryszard Bielanski, showed Magda a photo of her father which she had seen before.  Ryszard explained that the photo was taken at the Evangelist Cemetery on 1 August 1944, the first day of the failed Warsaw Uprising, when the Polish underground rose up to fight the German occupying forces to try and liberate the city. Magda viewed the photo with tears in her eyes as she now understood that her father was present at an extraordinary moment in Polish history. It was also Zbigniew’s 20th birthday.

Magda Szubanski

Magda Szubanski in Poland

The Who do you think you are? website has lots of features to explore including full episodes, image galleries and some web-exclusive scenes. You can also interact through an live chat session and the message boards so I recommend that you check it out. Former Australian cricketer, Rod Marsh is the star of next week’s episode.

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