Genealogical research can sometimes hit a brick wall. But never despair, walls can fall.
Ancestors sit in my family tree, discovered through diligent research, usually online. These finds I verify by buying the registered documents, births, deaths and marriages etc. Census data, military and government records can then reveal more detail. But often the data raises more questions. I become like a detective, seeking clues into why, what, when and where of lives long gone. For me it is often at this point, I meet the wall.
One such instance, was about my grandfather Emil Heitmann. In 1911, why did he leave a secure job in the west end of London to return with his young family to Hamburg? I was beginning to feel I would never find the answer. To console myself, I rummaged through my records once more.
These were my grandfathers documents and letters, left to me when my mother died. The old photo copies are in German which I had translated. Sitting cross legged on the floor, surrounded by this ephemera, I spied a stamp written in German. It was on a copy of my grandfather’s birth certificate. I had not noticed it before. On closer inspection it proved to be from the German consulate in London. Eagerly I copied the words into a translator. This confirmed Emil Heitmann’s call to National Service in the German Army.
At this moment, a shaft of sunlight broke the gloom. My grandfathers story was clarified.
I have found retracing my steps can often help me move forward. So my advice to you? When you find a dead end, rummage once again through your records. Look at the information you already have. Your journey into knowledge may only now enable you to understand the clues.