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  • Jürg Nobs

Genealogy with a difference

In our usual work as professional genealogists, we assist our clients in researching their family's past and providing proof of ancestry. To do this, we usually start with certain information already held by the interested parties. Often it is worthwhile to ask around among the relatives what information is still available and does not need to be researched extensively (and/or expensively) before starting the actual historical research.

Once we have collected and recorded the knowledge already available in the family, the actual research begins. Using sources, whether from civil registration offices or archival sources such as church records, we work our way back further into the past, step by step, generation by generation. In doing so, we record all relevant data and their sources according to the criteria of historical science and finally create a family tree.

But while our researcher's gaze is usually directed to the past in order to determine the ancestors, in some cases we can also apply the same or similar procedures in reverse. Expertise on the arsenal of accessible sources for researching a family also helps when we want to research descendants starting from a historical person instead. This is what we do, for example, in heir tracing.

Either way, genealogical research is always exciting for us. Each case has its own peculiarities. In the following, we report on an experience that was somewhat unusual, even for us, and in this case I have explicit permission to talk about it here:

A film crew contacted us and asked to talk to us on camera. It was about a possible research assignment, they told us. A film was to be made, we were told. So that our reaction to the questioning in front of the cameras would be authentic, we were not told precisely what it was about at this point.

Our interest was thus aroused. Curious, we agreed and invited the film team to our office. We sat down at the table with the director, offered coffee, which I promptly spilled out of nervousness. So there we were, sitting at our table in the conference room, surrounded by a camera crew. A special situation for us.

The director then told her personal story. She is of Italian descent and came to Switzerland with her mother as a small child because she was looking for work. The two were taken in for a while by a Swiss family. The director herself remembers this time only very fragmentarily and her mother speaks little about it. That's why she started her research and we were allowed to help her find this host family.

We gladly accepted this challenge and started a month-long research. The first research steps took place spontaneously in front of the camera. The first results were also already achieved. Right at the beginning of the research there were emotional moments which gave this research project a special character. The result? Remains a secret at this point! But attention: Who would like to have it revealed, I recommend to look out for the film "Motherland" by Miriam Pucitta in the second half of 2022! It's worth it.

For more information, I recommend a visit to the site of the production company Mirafilm:

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