Monday, 16 July 2012

60 years of separation

In April I had a response from an advert I'd put on Gumtree outlining my services as a family history researcher. The gentleman had been placed in a children's home at a very young age. He had no memories of his birth parents, and while he'd been successful in tracing his mother's family he was keen to know more about his father.

He had a copy of his parent's marriage certificate which was our starting point. We knew from the certificate that his dad had been in the parachute regiment, but to get army records you need a death certificate and a date of birth, so that's where the hunt began.

The dates were all the wrong side of the 1911 census for that to be of any use, so the GRO Births/Marriages/Deaths Index was the way forward. By a process of elimination I whittled it down to a shortlist of eight possible birth records. With the sixth we struck lucky - the details matched the little we already knew. Armed with the date of birth I was quickly able to identify the correct death record.

The death certificate arrived today, and here we had our second piece of luck. A daughter was named as the informant. However an internet search told us that the address of the daughter was no longer valid as the property has subsequently been sold. Fortunately the daughter had a relatively unusual name. Searching the GRO Index I found a probable marriage entry for her, and discovered that the husband's name was even more unusual. Another trawl of Google ensued, leading me to the website of a church who have an organist of the same name. This was our third and final stroke of luck as his phone number was listed amongst the contact details on the webpage.

This evening my client called that phone number and spoke to a half-sister he never knew he had. She'd known about him but had been unsuccessful in tracing him. His half-sister is now ringing her other sisters, and tomorrow they're all going to meet.

Yesterday my client knew nothing of his father and had no blood relations. Tomorrow he'll meet three sisters armed with their family photographs and finally see a picture of his dad and hear all about him.

It was the advent of the internet that gave rise to the concept of six degrees of separation. How fitting then, that by following a tenuous trail of breadcrumbs across the internet, a family will be reunited across 60 years of separation.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The rainbow race

A thunderstorm was just chasing away the last vestiges of sunshine as I set off home this evening. Driving down the hill the car was bathed in sunshine and drenched in rain as the two weather systems collided.

I caught sight of a shallow arced rainbow, across a field to my left, I could see where the rainbow hit the grass, the end drifting across the field as my perspective changed. Turning a corner I saw the rainbow race ahead of me, the descending arc seeming to hang low over the road.

With the windscreen wipers working overtime to clear the storm hurled rain, I peered out, trying to keep the moving end of the rainbow in sight, trying to see where it made earth fall. Then just for a second I saw the rainbow stripes glowing up from the wet road directly in front of me. A brief wave of light washed through the car, and the rainbow vanished from sight.

What an amazing day. Portents and Omens. They don't get any better than this. I wonder whether I'll be visited by a leprechaun delivering a pot of gold?