AS a stay-at-home parent of six, the days could be quite long and stressful, so it was important to have a hobby. I would sit at my desk in a house that looked like a Tasmanian devil had ripped through it and be transported to a different time in my mind, searching out records and mapping out my family tree.

I would read about births, marriages, deaths and census records about what these family members were doing and where. My dad has always been a keen genealogist, so it was a hobby we worked on and talked about together. It is a shared passion I don’t really have much time for nowadays, but my dad keeps me up-to-date with his findings.

An important date in the calendar for us is Remembrance Sunday. My dad and I visit services together and since I became an elected representative, my dad will watch and take photos as I lay the wreath.

We often discuss members of our family who were killed in war, those who served and came home, and how it shaped their lives. We will retell the stories my paternal grandfather passed on to us, as we never want to forget. We don’t want these incredibly important life events lost and never spoken of again, they are far too essential to be thought of for one last time.

Two men we think of are my paternal grandfathers’ uncles, my great-great uncles, John and Frank Mellis. They were brothers from a family of eight, brought up in Duff Street in Keith. We have visited there a few times and pondered their lives, as two young men killed in the First World War. One year, we took their photos and held them by their names on the Keith war memorial, so we could almost bring them to life for a moment to say: “We see you.”

My dad, in particular, has gathered an incredible amount of information, from war records, personal records and online research. He has pieced together almost all aspects of their lives. I love to read the postcard in which Frank says: “… so we had rather a good time of it”. I can imagine from that his voice, his diction and the way in which people spoke in those days. He had a very swish moustache, curled up at the ends. John, his brother, had two tattoos, his initials and an anchor. He was in the Royal Navy Division and trained at Crystal Palace which served as an overflow for that purpose as the barracks couldn’t cope with the number of soldiers called up in 1914.

These men are a part of our family, as are all the ancestors we search for. We bring them to life, we talk about them and, as a family, pass information on.

I loved to watch my oldest adult children sit with their grandad and go through box files of family history. We were all reading and browsing photos, talking about their great grandad and reading the cheeky wee postcard he sent to my grandmother just before asking her on their first date.

From military records to love letters and trinkets he brought home from war, (he often swapped cigarettes for random things), we can build a picture in our minds.

We love a good rummage and delve into the past, for we wouldn’t be here without all that had preceded us. We acknowledge that and don’t want to forget those who have gone before. Those who sacrificed so much and who had their eyes open to the vast cultures and also horrors we all see from time to time on this Earth.

My grandfather was a proud military man who served in bomb disposal during the Second World War. We have the paperwork which he had to read and learn from, which showed how to defuse particular types of bombs. I just can’t imagine being handed that and not thinking about my mortality each time I read it. What a life they lived, what pressure they were under.

My grandfather, or Pa as I called him, was a very cultured man, and he spoke fondly of all the people he met during wartime. He travelled through North Africa and on to Italy as part of his time serving. Imagine that in 1940, pulled from a wee toon in Scotland and off to what would seem like a whole other world, full of people you only ever read about.

His enthusiasm for different cultures and people was so apparent when I was growing up. He taught me so much about the lands he served in and would excitedly mention if he bumped into somebody from another country, telling me all about them, their country, food and language.

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One of his good friends was a Polish man who lived across the back garden. They would meet at the fence and chat for hours. My Pa was a questioner; he was always seeking to understand others. The why was important, perhaps to put purpose to what he had lived through. The way in which refugees and migrants are treated by right-wing politicians today would absolutely horrify him.

We are often told to move on and not dwell on the past but I dismiss that notion. It is by studying the past that we gain answers to what we face now and potentially in the future.

We took time out on Sunday to remember our war dead. What was it all for if we do not honour the fallen by ensuring we create a peaceful world? That should be their legacy.

I hope, as the years pass, we never forget many hard lessons learned, for us, that do not have to be learned by us. As the quote says: "They gave their tomorrow so we could have our today”. A gift, surely to be cherished.