• Paul Wilkins

How a Zimbabwean Dollar Note Can Help With your Family Tree?! 

Many years ago a manager of a care home in Birmingham contacted me about one of her elderly residents who had a special request. The resident had arrived in England as a teenager, leaving behind a family in Ireland who tragically disowned her due to an illegitimate pregnancy. Primarily she was interested in tracing a brother that she grew up with, and asked me if I could help. I said that I would try, but deep down I knew that it was unlikely considering how much time had passed, and how difficult Irish records can be to deal with. Regardless, I jumped down the rabbit hole and began investigating the leads and pouring over any records I could get my hands on. The obstacles and dead-ends were frequent and sometimes it would seem hopeless. Weeks turned into months, and I worked on many other projects in the meantime, but always had this dilemma in the back of my mind. Then one night I woke up at about 3am and felt a moment of clarity. I had exhausted all the reputable sources and triple-checked the records and censuses... But in my half-awake state, I felt compelled to simply type the surname into google and see what appeared. Initially there were too many results to check, but once I included the name of the relevant Irish county I found a reporter for a local newspaper with the correct surname. Well guess what? I reached out to him and it turned out that he was related to the brother that the resident was searching for! The brother was still living in Ireland, and he had spent years looking for his long lost sister… I struggled to hold back the tears as I revealed the news to the manager of the care home. She quickly arranged for the brother to come over to England, and after more than half a century, the brother and sister were finally reunited. A week later the sister passed away peacefully. I can't speculate about how she felt towards the unlikely timing of this discovery, but I'm inclined to believe that it was meant to be. To this day I still feel incredibly privileged to have been able to play a part in such a wonderful story. There are many lessons I can draw from this experience, but the most important has to be - never give up! It's also important not to underestimate the power of the internet when it comes to finding people. I had a similar experience when I was teaching a class in Leamington Spa several years ago. A lady was tracing her family tree but struggling to find a record for one of her ancestors. After learning from the previous experience I recommended that she try simply typing the surname and location into Google. 'Hey presto!' an announcement of her death came up, including details of when she died and her relations! There are approximately 100 trillion words on the internet, so try putting a couple of names in and you might be pleasantly surprised! In 2009, Zimbabwe printed a '100 trillion dollar' bank note. While when converted to dollars it was only worth around $30… but as part of your efforts to discover your family tree, the '100 trillion' words on the internet might turn out to be priceless! Do you have any similar experiences with using the power of the Internet to find someone from your family tree? Let us help you find someone today!

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