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Research Rabbit Holes

Updated: Jul 23, 2021

When putting together a custom book about someone in the past, there are countless research rabbit holes to dive down. A few I’ve tracked down over time include the history of the Air Force units responsible for delivering new aircraft from North America to the War Front; a UK synagogue’s history and establishment; and the names of steamship lines in the early twentieth century.

As a recent custom book project I was exploring the history of a person who died at just 20 years old, near the end of World War II. I had gotten a hint that he was likely enrolled in a training camp in Abbotsford, BC: a remarkable coincidence given that he had lived his whole life in the UK, and many of his descendants now live in BC.

What was more remarkable, though, was the string of people who helped me find a photograph of this young soldier:

A group of dedicated volunteer researchers at Comox Air Museum

A thoughtful student at UFV

A historical curator and researcher at Reach Gallery in Langley; and

A singularly focused amateur historian based in Abbotsford, BC.

The amateur historian is named Michael, and he has been researching the history of RCAF training camps in Abbotsford for years. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of this period of history, as well as access to physical files and even photographs from those early years. He hosts a Facebook page : RCAF Abbotsford: if you’re curious about this tiny window into history, feel free to ‘like’ and you too will receive the updates.

The end result: Michael was able to share with us a photograph: the last image available of this young man before he died just a few months later.

Thanks to Michael and all those like him who bring life to the quiet corners of history.

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