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
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.