My aunt’s family history is convoluted, complex and interesting, the complexity providing a good training in genealogy. Some elements are stark and simple. The death of her mother’s first husband in WW1, the “Great War”, and of their son, her (half) brother in WW2… they were both killed in action. That’s pretty straightforward. You’d think.
It took a while, but now I know who’s who. I still know nothing personal about these men. Nor their lives before or during the wars that killed them. I am not really related to them (my mother’s sister-in-law’s mother’s first husband & son) in any clear way. But the centenary of the armistice in 1918 is a good time for a minding, and for me to mind them in particular. And some others. We are all connected. Me the writer; you the reader; and the dead. I know these soldiers’ bare details, a little general context, and something about what happened to those they left behind, but apart from that… their personalities, hopes and dreams? They are unknown to me. But here they are.