If you don’t ask you can’t find out what you need to know!
The ‘Power’ was in the Letter
When I read the letter and took it to Guyana, I had a better idea about why I was researching my family heritage. And what I was seeking to find out about my ancestral identity.
Back in 1979 my mother wrote to her favourite brother Eustace and asked for more details about their family heritage. My mother’s memory is poor now so I can’t ask her why she did that, but I can only guess that she was homesick and wanted something to remind her of her heritage? Or maybe because she didn’t grow up with her siblings she was looking to reconnect?
Details of Family Unknown!
For whatever reason, he wrote back and gave her details about their maternal and paternal ancestry, back to their grandparents and great-grandparents. I am eternally grateful to her because that letter has been pivotal in many ways, in my own search for my ancestral family heritage.
I brought a copy of the letter for my cousin Emily who I met last year in Guyana for the first time. I didn’t think it would be useful as anything other than supplementary evidence. But what I found when I went back, was that this outlining of our family heritage by her father had also helped her to make sense of connections with other family members.
That letter was the Impetus for my Search
I have reconnected to unknown cousins and there has been an opportunity for my relatives to find out more about their family history. As a result, several cousins have asked for more information based on this letter. I have found a sense of belonging to a community, even if that community was in another land. And I have forged a stronger connection to my cousin Emily, who has introduced me to other members of the family (Emily’s father and my mother are brother and sister).
Connecting Parts of the Family Tree
When I took that letter to my cousin, she started to put the connections together to other parts of the family tree. And as I was introduced to new cousins that I hadn’t met before, she was recounting to them how they were related. “This was so and so’s father, you are his cousin through his marriage to…”
So there have been lessons for me, any piece of information that you can find can be a useful piece in your research. From this experience, I am now going to start recording the names in a family tree, something that I had started before but couldn’t continue. They were just names, without connection and meaning. Now that connection is alive, I can start to put the tree into place.
What you think is a small or insignificant fact or information, a letter, a journal, a picture. Look again and start to reconnect with your family, ask questions, seek advice on who that person is. You may find out that it becomes a central part of your connection to family heritage.
Until next time!
Sonya’s first published articles appeared in the Training and Development Methods and Coaching at Work journals in 2006. She returned to writing in 2019 with articles for the Systemic Constellations Journal, The Knowing Field and Counselling and Therapy Journal, Therapy Today. Sonya is currently writing a commissioned book, that explores Transgenerational Therapy and Ancestral Remembering in the African Diaspora.