Embrace The Gap In Your Past

Five Strategies to Seek Comfort, Encouragement and Guidance from Family History

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

Childhood curiosity got me interested in exploring family history. I was intrigued that my father’s family has been in America since the late 1690s. It was exciting to learn I descend from survivors of both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Father proudly boasted about his lineage and I pleased him by asking lots of questions. He had photo albums and family trees.

On the other hand, I irritated my mother by my fascination with her heritage. Her parents were immigrants to America in the 1890s. Grandmother came from Russia and grandfather from Germany. There were few heirlooms or photos. My eagerness to dig into the past was emotional. What happened to our family during the Holocaust?  I discovered there were family mysteries and I wanted to solve them. The strategies I used will help you too.

Identify your family truths

What facts do you already know about your ancestors? There are clues that surround you.  The color of your eyes and hair, your parent’s hobbies, the family photos on the walls or buried in boxes, birth and marriage certificates, and the stories you’ve heard from childhood.  Take note of what is known, write it down and treat them as treasures.

Uncover the mysterious gaps in family lore

Your last name sounds German yet you’ve been told that your grandparents came from Spain. Family history detectives are individuals who question the stories and seek facts. They look for more information rather than rely on assumptions or rumors. A misspelled name in a census record or an overlooked signature on the back of a photograph can change history.

Ask challenging questions

Everyone has a paper trail. Researching your past is easy if you start with strategy number one. Use existing clues. Prior to computers, family fact searching was daunting.  While information has always been around, there is now an avalanche of data available online. The facts can bring guidance to answering unsolved family questions and mysteries.

Move beyond the computer

Genealogy is a popular and satisfying hobby. There is a psychological component why some individuals feel passionate and others don’t care. The gap in one’s past may be rooted in a trauma, an embarrassment or a curiosity. The opportunity to travel and visit a country of origin can be exciting, satisfying and life changing. The idea of walking into the past offers insight into family beliefs and behaviors. There is comfort in these discoveries.

Seek out the experts

Encouragement from others is both validating and important in your family history search. Before I enrolled in genealogy courses, I hired professionals to do research. It was money well spent. The first skill I learned was to document family stories through interviews.  Although my mother was reluctant, I captured her voice on audio tape. Now that she is no longer alive, It provides a comfort to hear her laughing as she describes her childhood home and experiences.

Our family mystery was derived from a set of six small black and white photos with fancy German handwriting on the back. They puzzled and inspired me. One had the date of 1938 and the word Palestine. Another identified my grandfather’s brother as a Cantor in Berlin. Who were these people and what happened to them?

This gap in my knowledge of my past upset me. I embraced the challenge to find their fate.  What emerged has been life affirming. I have discovered living relatives who now embrace me. My family history gap has been closed, and a wound healed.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


We’ve Been Here Before: A Daughter of Holocaust Survivors Weighs in on the Border Crisis

by Debrah Lee Charatan

10 Ways to Take a Family Vacation Down Memory Lane

by Anna M. Clark
Get mindful and cope ahead before you leave your home.

“We often need to adjust our attachments to an outcome to feel better,” with Emily Roberts.

by A.N. Gibson

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.