I have just finished the book No Surrender by Chris Edmonds and Douglas Century. The book is about Chris Edmonds quest to learn about his father’s Roddie Edmonds World War Two experiences. While he knew the broad-brush story, the real story with complete details was a hidden and almost lost story. It is a story that could have been lost forever, if not for a school project his daughter was assigned. She was to make an oral history of a family member about a notable experience in their life. She was to pick her deceased Grandfather, Roddie Edmonds. In his efforts to help his daughter with the oral history project, he came to realize how little he knew about his dad. Confessing to his wife about his lack of knowledge, he said, “I feel like I’m letting Lauren-and her sisters-down. I should know more, but I just don’t, and I can’t even tell you why I don’t. Had I not cared enough to ask him? I hardly know anything about Dad’s childhood during the Depression or what he was like in high school. Or even his military service. It was like Dad lived an entire lifetime before I was born.”
Chris started to discover his father’s story and learned that his father had faced an angry Nazi POW camp commandant who had held a pistol pressed to his forehead. He also was to learn much more about his family, that he never knew. All of this information was just one generation, and in reality, only a few short years from being lost forever. The steps and methods used by Chris to research his father’s story are what genealogists use every day in their research. I was struck how, in many ways, this captivating story was almost a textbook on how to do field research on our family history. Also, it is a good insight into how he put his father’s story together and put real flesh and blood on the few bare-bone facts that he had at the start of his journey.
I highly recommend this book. It is one of the best reads I have had in a while. It is a story of human strength and endurance in the face of evil in its worst manifestation. It is, at the same time, a story of love, faith, and family. It is well worth your time to read this book, and when you do, you will soon be lost in the story.
As family historians, we all should be digging for our own family story. While the story we find may not be as grand as the one in “No Surrender,” I am willing to bet many could come close and may even surpass it in many ways. Some of your stories could be just under the surface just waiting to be discovered, just like Roddie Edmonds’s story, while other stories are buried deeply and could take great effort to find and bring to life. But finding these stories and researching the details, and then writing about them is what we should be doing. Anything less on our part is not doing a complete job. So, dig deeper, ask more questions, learn the history of the events you uncover. Be prepared to find stories and new information that may both delight and shock you. Whatever the outcome, shine a light on it and tell the story.