Pandora’s Box – Thursday Thoughts

Family history research and people tracing can be a bit like opening Pandora’s box.

Photograph of an ornate blue box, Pandora's Box - Thursday Thoughts blogpost. Copyright freeimages.com/ Cecilia Picco.In Greek mythology Pandora’s box was a large jar given to Pandora containing all the evils of the world. When she opened it they escaped leaving just hope inside when she closed it.

So too with research into the lives of our forebears, once you lift the lid, you open up knowledge of their lives, their personalities and relationships. You learn of their gains and their losses, their successes and failures, their character and their foibles.

Delving into the past can be addictive detective work piecing together the jigsaw puzzle of historical sources and an emotional people tracing roller coaster of grown up hide and seek all rolled into one.

Our motivations can be fuelled by pure curiosity as well as personal necessity.

Where our ancestors’ lives tell stories of tragedy, despite the temporal and generational distance between us and them, we often still feel a sense of shock and grief as the details are revealed and we put ourselves in our ancestors’ shoes. Sometimes we have to find courage to address more recent historical family events and prepare ourselves for the potential information they may reveal – perhaps the records of a criminal ancestor or a tragic event.

The emotions are most raw and the stakes highest for the searcher when the individuals being researched are close family members who may still be alive. For example where adopted individuals are searching for birth parents, siblings, or grandparents and wider relatives. Other types of people tracing such as looking for estranged family members or missing persons ride profound emotions also.

It can be helpful to prepare oneself for all possible outcomes, the positive ones, but also the negative outcomes. Not only to think through the possible information which you might find out, but also how you might feel about each of those potential outcomes and what their implications might be for you.

It can also be helpful to find a trusted friend with whom you can share the search journey and who can support you once the search is carried out.

Only you will know whether you are ready to open the Pandora’s box of family history research and people tracing or how you might respond when you find what there is to be found. Your reactions may be quite overwhelming even with preparation and consideration in advance.

Once you have begun the search journey it is often quite hard to arrest its progress, as one piece of information can rapidly lead to another. But what when the box lid is tightly shut and nothing can be found? Disappointment and grief may overshadow the peace of mind that what could be checked has been and eliminated sources have been set aside.

Over time new sources become publicly available and in the future you may be able to take up the search again knowing where you last left off and what you have already explored. Only you can weigh up the risks of opening Pandora’s box and the personal value of outcomes, whether positive or negative.

Hannah, historytrace, 28/01/2016

Historytrace can help you to open up areas of family history research and people tracing which are highly personal with sensitivity and confidentiality. Do get in touch using the Contact page of this website if this could be of help to you.

You have been reading the historytracings blogpost “Pandora’s Box – Thursday Thoughts”. Copyright text: www.historytrace.co.uk, 2016; copyright image: freeimages.com / Cecilia Picco.

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