Oct. 13th, 2012

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A few months ago, I was puzzling over what to give my nephew as a bar mitzvah present. I wanted it to be meaningful, both now and later in his life.

Around the same time, I heard that those whose grandparents' German citizenship had been stripped in 1941 because they were Jewish could apply to have it restored. My mom still has all her parents' paperwork, and when I got to their "Certificate of Identity in lieu of passport for stateless persons", issues by the British government and stamped by the US with my grandparents' immigration visa lottery numbers, I knew exactly what my nephew's present would be.

I threw myself into a genealogical research project. My goal was to create a "photobook" of our family's history, telling the story with primary documentation as much as I could.

What I found amazed me. And even after I finished the book, I couldn't stop, because I kept finding more and more.

Sometimes, what I found was raw data -- names, dates, places. Sometimes, what I found was narrative -- the stories behind the raw data. And sometimes, what I found was a cousin from a branch of the family that we'd lost touch with. That was the most gratifying of all.

I intend to start writing up this experience in my blog. I think all of these types of narratives are interesting -- not only my family's story, and the story of making new connections, but also the nuts-and-bolts of how I applied the talents and techniques of a Mystery Hunt solver to a different kind of puzzle. (For what it's worth, I haven't done a crossword puzzle since mid-July.)

(If you're one of my relatives, don't worry -- I plan to preserve your privacy, except in those cases where you already have a highly visible online presence.)
rhu: (Default)
A few months ago, I was puzzling over what to give my nephew as a bar mitzvah present. I wanted it to be meaningful, both now and later in his life.

Around the same time, I heard that those whose grandparents' German citizenship had been stripped in 1941 because they were Jewish could apply to have it restored. My mom still has all her parents' paperwork, and when I got to their "Certificate of Identity in lieu of passport for stateless persons", issues by the British government and stamped by the US with my grandparents' immigration visa lottery numbers, I knew exactly what my nephew's present would be.

I threw myself into a genealogical research project. My goal was to create a "photobook" of our family's history, telling the story with primary documentation as much as I could.

What I found amazed me. And even after I finished the book, I couldn't stop, because I kept finding more and more.

Sometimes, what I found was raw data -- names, dates, places. Sometimes, what I found was narrative -- the stories behind the raw data. And sometimes, what I found was a cousin from a branch of the family that we'd lost touch with. That was the most gratifying of all.

I intend to start writing up this experience in my blog. I think all of these types of narratives are interesting -- not only my family's story, and the story of making new connections, but also the nuts-and-bolts of how I applied the talents and techniques of a Mystery Hunt solver to a different kind of puzzle. (For what it's worth, I haven't done a crossword puzzle since mid-July.)

(If you're one of my relatives, don't worry -- I plan to preserve your privacy, except in those cases where you already have a highly visible online presence.)

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Andrew M. Greene

January 2013

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