REFLECTING on Armistice Day, I am reminded of the profound costs of war, the lives lost, the potential unfulfilled, and the deep, often invisible scars left on society and individuals.

As someone who has an interest in genealogy as a hobby, along with my father, I feel that these reflections are not just historical, they are in fact quite personal and poignant.

With our shared interest in genealogy, my dad and I have walked through graveyards, piecing together the lives of ancestors who lived through the harrowing times of the first and second world wars.

We’ve traced their steps, attempting to understand their experiences, along with hours of internet research and paper trails. We are hoping to extend this journey across Europe, to physically go where they went, in an endeavour to comprehend the scale of sacrifice and loss that war entails.

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To honour those who fought thinking about us, the future children of their time.

As myself and my dad plan our trip, I am reminded that each step is a testament to their sacrifice. It’s a journey to understand not just who they were, but what they fought for – and what they lost. This understanding is crucial in ensuring that their sacrifices were not in vain.

The study of family ancestries and histories is a bridge between our present and our past. I feel it offers more than just names and dates, as when I read about their lives it provides me with a tangible connection to the lives, struggles, and stories of those who came before. It is like opening a time capsule, revealing a world that might otherwise be forgotten.

Each record, photograph, or letter is a piece of a puzzle that, when put together, paints a vivid picture of our ancestors’ lives. In understanding where we come from, I gain invaluable insights into the mosaic of people and experiences that contributed to myself, my children and my grandchildren.

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As a parent, I often find myself sharing life lessons with my children, hoping to spare them from the mistakes I’ve made, and I feel that genealogy offers me collective lessons from my ancestral past. It’s a reminder that our forebears faced challenges, made choices and, in many cases, sacrificed greatly.

By learning about their lives, we can understand the consequences of certain paths and make more informed decisions about our future.

However, just as children sometimes choose to learn from their own experiences rather than heed parental advice, societies can be equally reluctant to learn from history. I witness this reluctance and feel frustration along with many others, seeing the wrong choices being made which can lead to repeated mistakes and missed opportunities for growth and improvement.

The lessons from the past are particularly relevant in today’s discussions about immigration, a topic I will be addressing in Parliament this week.

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Immigration has unfortunately become a wedge issue, used by some to stoke fear and division.

Yet, if we look back through the lens of genealogy, we often find that our histories are richly intertwined with the blending of cultures. Many of us are descendants of immigrants who sought new lives, fleeing hardship or persecution.

In today’s world, where political rhetoric can quickly turn divisive, looking back at our shared history through genealogy can be a reminder that we share more similarities than differences. By acknowledging and embracing the stories of our past, we can build a more inclusive and compassionate society, ensuring that the mistakes of the past are not repeated, but can instead serve as lessons for a brighter future.

The legacy of war is not just a series of dates or events in a history book, it’s a profound human tragedy that ripples across generations. The concept of generational trauma is now a widely recognised phenomenon.

In Scotland, we are increasingly aware of adverse childhood experiences and their far-reaching impacts. Now, we are beginning to understand that trauma can be transmitted through generations, living in our DNA.

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As we remember those who fell in past wars, our duty extends beyond remembrance. It’s a commitment to do everything in our power to prevent future conflicts and to find peaceful resolutions to ongoing ones. The devastation of war is not just the immediate loss of life and infrastructure, it’s the enduring impact on survivors, on communities, and on nations’ psyches.

People power cannot be underestimated. Protests, advocacy, and public discourse are essential in shaping a world that prioritises peace over conflict. As politicians, it’s our responsibility to not only listen to these voices but to act.

It’s not enough just to talk about peace, we must actively work for it, in policy, in discourse, and in action. This means supporting diplomatic efforts, advocating for human rights, and ensuring that our foreign policies reflect our commitment to peace.

The concept of peace is often seen as an abstract goal, but it can begin with tangible actions. An education that fosters understanding and empathy, policies that address the root causes of conflict, and support for international institutions that promote dialogue and resolution are some examples.

This is quite the opposite of what we witnessed with the likes of Priti Patel and Suella Braverman, with their hostile rhetoric and shameful treatment of immigrants.

As I reflect on the sacrifices made by people in wars past, I hope to see a political system that can commit to a future where such sacrifices are no longer necessary.

A world where generational trauma is replaced by generational healing, and where the stories we pass down are not just of conflict, but of reconciliation and peace.

It’s a big task, but one that we owe to both past and future generations.

Remembering not only with silence and poppies but with a renewed commitment to peace – a peace that is active, enduring, and inclusive, encompassing all aspects of society.

It’s the least we can do to honour the memory of those who gave all in the hope of a better world.