Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Discovering Your Estonian Heritage

Since the early 1990s I have been researching my family history. I began when there was no such thing as the Internet and had to rely on traditional snail mail to receive information. I remember it took six months to receive a copy of my grandmothers birth certificate but once I had a copy of it in my hands I was ever so pleased. Every document I received started putting the pieces together.

It's hard tracing your family history when your immediate family don't have all the answers. Both my Estonian grandparents died when I was young - my grandfather died when I was two years old and my grandmother passed away eleven years later when I was thirteen. Both my grandparents were only children which means my father has no aunts, no uncles and no cousins.  We would have remained a small family had my father not had six children of his own.

My father and uncles have been helpful with the information they have supplied me but it was when I hired a researcher in Estonia that I really started to discover facts about my Estonian family. The Biographical Centre in Tallinn is a must for anyone wanting to discover their Estonian roots. I first contacted them in 2003 and they have supplied me with invaluable information. Through them I have been able to trace my family history back to 1755 and was amazed to discover that many members of my family have followed in the footsteps of our ancestors by pursuing similar career paths.

Through the information the Estonian Biographical Centre has given me, I have been able to contact distant relatives I never knew existed. I was fortunate to meet one branch of my family who still lives in Tallinn today. They are my grandfather's cousins children and their descendants. I met three generations of that side of the family during a very pleasant afternoon tea. It was amazing meeting them for the first time, seeing the similarities between us and sharing stories. None of them remember my grandfather but I was stunned when one of the older women remembered his father, my great-grandfather when he came to visit her father when she was a young girl. I was thrilled by that revelation! She had a first hand account of my great grandfather who I only know through a series of old photographs and documents. I wish I had known him because he was a professional photographer by trade. He passed his skills down to my grandfather who then passed them on to my uncle. I am a keen photographer also.

The Estonian Biographical Centre is located at Tiigi 10-51, Tallinn 51003 Tel: +372 742 0882