Where Did I Come From? (Family Roots)

Let me forewarn you.  I am not about to reveal life’s great mysteries to you.  I am not going to tell you the facts of life.  You will have to look elsewhere for tales of the birds and the bees.  However, I do want to help you find out where you came from and tell you what to do with the information.

Have you ever wondered about your family roots?  It can be a daunting task to climb the family tree.  It is particularly hard if your ancestors have not left sufficient breadcrumbs along the path.  Although tracing genealogy is sometimes difficult, it can be extremely rewarding when you find answers.  How do you begin, and how do you document your discoveries?

One of the most fascinating stories I worked on started with some photographs found under the bed in a guestroom.  My client is the youngest of four children and a first generation American.  She and her eldest sister are the only remaining siblings.  There are 13 years between them.  My client did not recognize anyone in the pictures, but knew they were her mother’s relatives.  Fortunately, her older sister was able to identify some of the people in photographs that dated back more than a few decades.  Very few of the pictures were marked with names or dates.  Those that had some writing were written in a language other than English.  And, so the task of making a history began for this family.

We started with the obvious.  We spoke to living relatives and interviewed them.  We showed them pictures and jotted down memories.  We visited websites such as Ancestory.com.  We were able to document some deaths from obituary notices and social security records.  We were also able to find some baptismal and marriage records by writing to churches.  Again, our client is a first generation American.  Her family immigrated to the United States in the 1950s from a country in Europe.  We were very limited in finding information in American databases.

The Mormons have assembled the largest collection of genealogy information and charge nothing to search their records.  Although their offices are headquartered in Salt Lake, UT, they also have research centers all over the world.  These research centers are staffed by volunteers who help the public search for their roots. They also have a searchable database at https://familysearch.org/.  We turned there to locate social security records and attempted to find documentation from the Census Bureau.  (Ironically, we did find information relating to the client’s paternal family in the 1940 census records.  However, we were focused on putting together documentation about her mother’s family.)

Our quest for records took us on a paper jaunt overseas.  We learned that many European countries require that families register with the local government.  We were able to establish different resident addresses.  These helped us to assemble a family tree.  It also enabled us to make educated guesses about the people featured in the photographs found under the bed.  The story came together further when another family member passed away.  It was my client’s great aunt, her grandmother’s sister.  The aunt had a collection of family letters written in another language.  Once translated, they provided the missing clues to the family saga.  I had the privilege of writing this family’s tale.  It is an unforgettable one that will stay with me for a lifetime.  It is a story of women and children hiding during World War II.   This family’s legend is not much unlike the famous Anne Frank.  It was an eye-opener for my client who had no idea of her own mother’s struggles in another lifetime.

These are the stories that are written from the heart.  They pull together life memories and weave the family’s tale.  Another client has asked us to document her family history.  She is able to trace her roots back to the times of American slavery.  Her relatives told her stories that came from their times as slaves.  The rules of inheritance should not just apply to passing on property or family jewels.  To some, the most important treasures are the legends themselves.

At Writefully Inspired, we recognize the importance of creating heirloom pieces from history itself.  Give us a call at 908 925-0167 so that we can help you assemble your personal saga.

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