On Christmas Eve I received what could possibly be the most unorthodox Christmas gift I have ever received, but it probably rate as one of the most important gifts I have ever received.
It was wasn’t a Christmas gift in the traditional sense of the word, there was nothing to unwrap, for this was a gift of information.
To most people the information hastily scribbled on the back of an envelope would seem insignificant, even if they knew what it was they probably wouldn’t get excited about it, but I could instantly see that the information would help solve one of the long-standing mysteries in my family tree.
The information consisted of four names and addresses from an old address book, revealing where my grandmother’s “adopted” sister Minnie had lived in Hampshire after she had married. Minnie’s full name and background had remained a mystery for years and without my grandmother to ask it seemed unlikely that it was going to be discovered any time soon, but all that changed this Christmas.
The week before Christmas I had been given the surname COLLINS, this in itself was a major breakthrough and given time might have enabled me to find out Minnie’s identity, but the extra information made that discovery a certainty. Within a couple of days I had begun to unravel the intriguing story of Minnie and her parents, establishing her relationship to my grandmother and raising no end of questions about their lives.
So whilst this information has set me on the path of solving one particular mystery it has also been a much greater gift. It was the spark that has re-ignited my passion for family history. Until then I had struggled to find any enthusiasm for my research but that changed almost overnight.
My free time has been filled with thoughts of little else as I put together plans to visit record offices, trying to work out where else I can find out information that is going to add to this story and gathering together all the information so far in preparation for making contact with a possible descendant of Minnie.
It is hard to put into words the impact of those few words, it reaches far beyond just the story of Minnie because I can now see the branches of my family tree starting to come to life again and urging me to explore them once more. Probably the best gift I could have wished for.