Going Back, To Move Forward

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. 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.

2 thoughts on “Going Back, To Move Forward

  1. That’s ok if they stuck to the same spelling on all records. I have so many different spellings, going back to the one used by my grandfather from his birth in the 1870s. The variations seem to begin just before his birth. Worrod, Worrard, Worad, Woodward and many more!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean June. I have one family name, Henselück, that evolved into Henslick in the UK and USA. My name Lossl, is all so spelt Loessl, Lössl. It seems that in the 18th century, when census information was filled in by an official, the spelling of names could be miss interpreted. I think from 1911, the head of house filled in census details, but by then names had often evolved. Thank you for your valuable comment. I empathise:)


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