Family History Alphabet: W is for hoping


My theme for the Family History through the Alphabet is the Attributes we need as family historians: the skills, experience and talents we need to bring to our research. Only three more letters to go after this week’s W.

W is for WRITING:  This has to be one of our most important skills as we translate what we learn about our ancestors into a narrative form which reveals them as real human beings with multi-dimensional lives.  Blogging is a great way to become accustomed to writing these stories as we can do it in bite-sized chunks.  Those who don’t feel confident of their writing style (or grammar) can check out the training offerings at the local Writers’ Centre or an adult education class. We never stop learning and it’s partly about finding your own writing voice.

W is for WRITING SKILLS:  These are the skills we need to understand the cryptic writing of church clerks, immigration agents, clergymen and our own ancestors (assuming they knew how to write). Not to mention different writing styles like the old German scripts or secretary hand…definitely acquired skills… or skills to be acquired.

W is for WISDOM: It would be nice to think we can gain some wisdom and understanding about the complexities of life, so we don’t sit on judgement of our ancestors.

W is for WONDERING, always wondering: What happened to make them leave home, were they happy in their new country, did they miss their families, where did ancestor X come from, how on earth did they get to Australia (or US or Canada or..), were they glad to have made the decision to emigrate…question after question.

W is for WISHING (and HOPING): that we’ll find that missing ancestor or missing snippet of information. We never do seem to give up the wish that somewhere, some day that problem will be solved.

W is for WANDERING:  We wander through the collections in archives, haunt the library stacks and especially wander through every graveyard we can access looking yet again for that additional clue.

W is for WANTING our ancestors to have been as happy as possible in their lives. One of my hopes is that my 2xgreat grandfather didn’t regret his emigration when he died in the midst of the manic anti-German propaganda of World War I. I don’t know why it matters to me that he shouldn’t feel it was all a waste, but it does.

W is for WONDER: You know that sense of joy and astonishment when you learn something new about your ancestral family, their challenges and successes or actually seeing their handwriting for the first time. The sheer amazement that records exist centuries later.

W is for WEIRD: Have you ever noticed that your non-genie friends look at you like you’re ever so slightly weird about this obsession?

W is for WORTHWHILE: We firmly believe that this quest we’re on is worthwhile –how else to explain our determination to keep going. It means something in the longer term of lives to have contributed our own story and shed some light on those who’ve gone before.

What other W attributes, skills and knowledge do you think should be added?

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17 thoughts on “Family History Alphabet: W is for hoping

  1. Pingback: Family History Through the Alphabet – W is for … | Genealogy & History News

    • Thanks Alona. I started with a map of words against each letter but by the time I get to it, usually more pop out of my brain. There are tricky ones coming up though!

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  2. Thanks Pauleen… another wonderful post with lots to reflect upon.
    “Writing”… yes!!! I find that, after giving the topic some consideration etc., I HAVE to start writing for it to flow and “bite size chunks” sure is the way to go. As I once told my students, don’t try for perfect grammar/spelling at the start… just let it flow, and edit later.
    Your “wanting” tugged at my heartstrings Pauleen. The “manic anti-German propaganda of WW1″ was horrific indeed. So sad that your 2xgreat grandfather died whilst that hatred was raging around him and sure do understand your feelings. Please direct me to your writings about him.
    “Weird” made me smile cos most of my life many have viewed me in that way. HA HA HA
    “Worthwhile”? … yes INDEED!!! … even though it may well put me in the “poorhouse” :-D

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    • Love your comments Catherine. Totally agree about writing flow coming with just starting and then editing etc later. i don’t think I’ve done a specific post about George but I did do this one about the Anzacs with German ancestry ( a couple of MMs/MCs). I wrote about George in my published history so I suppose I just haven’t replicated it here. You missed another W….it could put you in the workhouse ;-) See I’m weird too.

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    • Indeed, there’s always one or two who keep us wishing and hoping and searching Kristin ;-) Sometimes, perverse souls that we are, I think it’s the troublesome ones that keep us going.

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    • Sure understand your frustration Kristin… I know where my maternal Grandfather, Frederick Alexander Allan, died/ when/why and where he’s buried but where/when was he born? … who are his parents, siblings and when/ how did he come to Australia? grrr…

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