One in four Brits regret not asking relatives more about their lives when they had the chance – as more than half only found out an interesting story after a family member had passed away, a study has found.
As Remembrance Sunday approaches, three in ten Brits (29%) say they have learned of a late relative's wartime experiences only after they passed away, according to a poll of 2,000 adults.
And a quarter say they regret not asking their relatives more about their involvement in the war – with one in five (21%) saying they knew their family member served in the war, but did not know what role they played.
Nearly half (45%) said these revelations helped them feel closer to their ancestor – with 32% feeling intrigued, 26% shocked, and 25% left feeling proud.
Other unknown tales of their late relatives included stories from their childhood (28%) and where they had travelled (23%).
These stories were uncovered through speaking to others who knew relatives when they were younger (49%), and discussions with the wider family (45%).
But more than half (51%) said discovering something new about a family member has just left them with more unanswered questions.
The research, commissioned by Ancestry.co.uk, found 43% discovered a revelation when clearing out their relative’s home.
The family history brand has teamed up with poet Nikita Gill this Remembrance Day to create an emotive new poem, “Who You Are” – recounting some of the untold personal experiences from the First and Second World Wars, found in records on Ancestry.
Nikita Gill said: “Both my grandfathers were in the Indian Army during the Second World War, so I felt like I had a real connection to the subject matter.
“I wanted to do justice to the stories of ordinary people who lived during a time of great change and uncertainty.
“My experience of using the wealth of UK and Ireland wartime records available on Ancestry as inspiration, demonstrated how even the simplest of records can tell such interesting and poignant stories.”
Simon Pearce, military history expert at Ancestry, said: “Britain’s wartime history is full of fascinating accounts that shed light on how our ancestors once lived – and yet there are still so many stories to be discovered.
“In fact, our research highlights how many people have unearthed a story about their own family’s history after a relative has passed, showcasing the importance of having those discussions now to ensure these stories live on.”
Among the top things respondents found from relatives after they passed were photos (28%), physical heirlooms (19%), and letters (19%).
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Of those polled, two in five (39%) also admitted they are not familiar with trench poetry – poems written by soldiers during the First World War to express their experiences.
But 31% feel finding their ancestors’ creative writing would help them feel closer to them.
And more than a fifth (22%) would love to discover an unknown war-related tale within their family history.
Other topics Brits wish they’d discussed more with loved ones included the hobbies they had growing up (20%), what jobs they had (19%), and where they met their partner (19%).
And when it comes to their ancestors’ experiences of wartime, people would be interested to know how their family members found rationing (18%), the role they played (22%), and who else they met during that time (17%).
Three in ten (29%) would like to discover a family story related to life on the front line, while a further quarter (25%) would enjoy hearing about a wartime love story.
And more than 40% of those polled, via OnePoll, admitted they don’t really know their family’s history.
Ancestry.co.uk is offering free access to billions of UK and Ireland wartime records from November 4th-8th, to help people discover their own family wartime stories.
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