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Tracing Your Roots - Wartime Losses

Tracing Your Roots, Series 4 Episode 1 of 5

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 31 August 2009

Sally Magnusson presents the series exploring the practice of researching family history.

For 60 years, Stella Collis has only known her German PoW father's name, but now she is united with her father's military records. This is just one of many wartime stories that Sally explores, in a programme marking the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War.

  • Stella Collis

    For sixty years Stella Collis has thought of her German Prison of War father with shame. Tracing Your Roots helps her to track down the family she’s never known – and to remove that shame. Her mother met her father, Gottfried Rabe, while working in a munitions factory in Wormwood Scrubs, London, after the war. Their relationship ended shortly after Stella was born, when Gottfried was repatriated back to Germany in 1948. With help from the Deutsche Dienstelle archives in Berlin, Stella has been united with her father’s military documents. After only ever knowing his name, Stella opens the documents to discover who her father was.

    Click here to see Gottfried Rabe’s PoW document (pdf)
  • Klaus Volkmann

    Klaus was born in Bad Dreibergen, Germany in 1947, where British soldiers stayed after the Second World War to oversee the reconstruction of Germany. Klaus never new who his father was until 1995 when his aunt finally told him that he was a British soldier who had been stationed in his mother’s town at the end of the war. Klaus tells of his sixteen year search to find out who his father was and track down his family in England. ‘Searcher’ Alistair Payne from Belfast, who helped Klaus with the UK leg of his search, shares tips of what to do when the dates of birth or names you have lead to a dead end.

  • Anne Gooden

    Two years ago Anne discovered that her biological father, Vernon, was a French Canadian solider. Vernon trained in one of the many transitory military camps near Icklingham, Suffolk in October and November 1943. Vernon and Anne’s mother Beryl met in the local pub and fell in love. But after a short romance Vernon was sent to the front line, while Beryl was away for the weekend, giving her no opportunity to find out his surname and address. After he left Suffolk, Beryl discovered she was pregnant with Anne. With only a first name to go by Anne contacted ‘Tracing Your Roots’ for help. Military genealogist, Sarah Patterson from the Imperial War Museum and British war veteran Tom Canning, who fought alongside Canadian soldiers, help Anne with her search.

  • Anne Gooden and her mother Beryl outside The Plough Inn in Icklingham, Suffolk

    Anne Gooden and her mother Beryl outside The Plough Inn in Icklingham, Suffolk

  • The Plough Inn where Beryl met Anne's father Vernon

    The Plough Inn where Beryl met Anne's father Vernon


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  1. Image for Tracing Your Roots

    Tracing Your Roots

    Inspirational family history stories and key genealogy advice. Sally Magnusson and Nick Barratt…

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