I enjoy a bit of family history research, as you may have gathered, and having recently joined my local family history society I’m looking forward to breaking through a few brick walls in the coming months.
One of the most recent things I’ve done is send off for both my Grandads’ World War 2 service records, which are held by the MOD and are available to next of kin (or with the permission of next of kin) for a search fee of £30. As the department is so busy, the records could take up to 12 months to arrive, but I’m glad I’ve applied as I think they will really help me fill in some blanks about what my Grandads did during the war and open up some research avenues. Although service records only show sparse information about where a serviceman or woman served, with very little information fleshing it out, it can guide you toward things such as regimental war diaries which are held at the National Archives at Kew and detail what a regiment was doing day to day.
My one regret with this, though, is that my Grandad died a year ago and while he wasn’t dismissive when asked about his war service, he by no means told us everywhere he’d served and now when I’m able to afford to obtain his record, he’s not here to discuss it all with. This is a regret that many family history enthusiasts share and shows how important it is to ask questions of your relatives while you have the chance.
Self-publishing platform Blurb have undertaken some research which has shown that up to a third of children are uninterested in their parents’ and grandparents’ stories so risk their experiences and memories of national an personal events being lost forever. I’ll admit, when I was younger I never asked questions about these things and deeply regret it now but it’s really tricky to get young people interested in that kind of thing, I realise. This is why Blurb have come up with the Nation of Storytellers Campaign to try and record family stories and compile some of them into a book.
If you have a family story to share, you can visit www.nationofstorytellers.com and submit a short synopsis. The judging panel will then select twenty of the most inspiring stories for publication and each winner will receive five copies of the final collection of stories to share with family and friends, as well as a voucher worth £250 to make books of their own in the future. Entries close on 31 May 2012. The book will be published in September 2012.
So what is your most treasured family story? Do you know where your grandparents served during the war – or are they even old enough to have served??