So, as nights draw in on Hallowe’en, people will be telling ghost stories by candlelight in a bid to frighten others, but perhaps the spirit world may have much more to offer to family historians?
Ghostly figures of Anne Boleyn and Mary, Queen of Scots are almost common sights through-out the country, appearing in all manner of stately homes and castles. These women must be busier in death than they were in life.
However, amongst all these claims of other-worldly connections with those from beyond the grave, it makes me wonder – has anyone ever managed to further their family tree by participating in a séance or by enlisting the help of a Medium?
Perhaps that sounds like a stupid question? But when there’s so many claims that spirits communicate with the living in various ways, why shouldn’t some of these encounters involve a topic of conversation?
As a Spiritualist Medium for more than 30 years, and a Genealogist for over 20 years, Pat Peacock from West Sussex has found that the two areas have often complimented each other.
“Sometimes I think I should call myself a ‘Reunionist’ as I am able to connect people with their loved ones in the Spirit World and reunite them with family members on the Earth.” – Pat Peacock
Pat who is President at Chichester Christian Spiritualist Church, explains that she has been contacted by many people who are trying to research their family tree or to find a family member who has disappeared;
“…[They] tell me that they have consulted a Medium or Psychic who has given them some information. They usually say that I may find them strange asking me to check information obtained in this way and I respond by saying I am a Medium myself.”
Pat, as an experienced genealogist knows that consulting vital records is crucial, but does go on to say that “The information they have been given is mostly accurate and has resulted in further information being found through genealogy research.”
Perhaps this suggests that a medium or séance could be on par with oral interviews – scattered with truths and opinions, but useful for leading the researcher towards vital clues?
A Familiar Visitor
Sally Holmes, a Spiritual Sensitive from Cambridgeshire, recalls an encounter that briefly re-connected some of her family members:
“Many years ago one of my cousins ran to her mum telling her to get ‘the man with the dark eyes and the hat’ away from her. She never knew my mum’s grandad, but it was him that she was describing. He was blind and wore dark glasses, and he used to sit in the very same chair. We can only conclude that he was there watching over her.. just as he would have done if he was alive.” – Sally Holmes
This encounter was shocking at first for the youngster, but the feeling that a late relative was present in their lives became somewhat comforting in hindsight.
Was it really who they thought it was, or did luck simply turn up a description that stirred up a match for an identity and associated memories of a long-gone relative?
Walking through brick walls.
If there really are visitations from the spirit world, why do they rarely help to solve our family puzzles? Couldn’t they just give a hint where someone was born or where that great aunt moved to?
Maybe as Pat suggests, they do sometimes provide some pieces of information that can be corroborated with historical documents, leading a genealogist into new lines of research.
So, when you next hit that genealogical ‘brick wall’ and can’t find that elusive relative, just take a look over your shoulder.
Perhaps there is someone who could help you after all?