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Part Qallunaaq
Chapter 18. The Second Photograph


When I finally sat down to write my uncle a letter, I was surprised at how easily the words came. I took care not to clutter the letter with a lifetime’s worth of statistics and detail. I enclosed the copy of Inuktitut magazine, with my search story in it, as well as a photograph of my mother with her three oldest sons, taken by the Rev. Earl Gerber in 1955. There was no agony, no pain, in doing this.

After three paragraphs of basics, the gist of my message was this: “My family would dearly love to obtain a photograph of William Mackenzie Peter, and learn anything about him and his life that his descendents might willingly share with us. We do not wish any harm or embarrassment on the Peter family. We only seek to share the human bonds that connect us to each other through this man.”

Putting this letter in the mail lifted a huge weight from my mind.

If I were ever to write a guide to finding long-lost relatives, the section on making contact would contain the following: “Once you have the address or telephone number of your subject, write a letter directly to the one you’re searching for, with these points in mind: A) Do not agonize over finding a “third Party” to make the contact. Direct lines are best. B) Make the letter short, and concise. Statistics and details can always follow later. C) Don’t try to disguise the search as something else. There’s nothing like honesty and directness. If you fail, you will have given it your best.”

Nine days later, a reply came by e-mail from Jess Peter, my uncle’s wife. They had received my letter seven days after I sent it, but had taken two days to digest it. This was actually a very short time to take in such a major revelation. Quite understandably, they had been stunned by its contents. But they replied openly, positively, and quickly.

There was a pleasant, fulfilling threshold of accomplishment crossed here. This was the beginning of the end of my Great Search, and it felt wonderful!

Attached to the e-mail was a black and white photograph, taken in 1966, of my uncle William James Peter, his mother Mary, and my grandfather, William Mackenzie Peter. This photo was clear, and the facial features of all three were confirmation of the 1954 photo sent by the Menzies’.

In an e-mail simply titled “Hallelujah!”, I sent this photo to three of my siblings.


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