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  1. When did you first start working on your family history?

I haven’t spent much time working on my family history. On my mother’s maternal side, a second cousin did a fair bit of research into her family and, because my mother’s paternal side was aristocratic, we have some reasonable history there. It’s my father’s side I’m more interested to learn about, but do you know how many Hirschman’s passed through Ellis Island? The answer is, a lot! My nana and her family emigrated from Russia to the USA via Mexico, and there was a significant name change, so that’s rather hard to sort out too.

2. What was your most surprising discovery?

My second cousin discovered our Scottish heritage originates in France, so it gives me some joy to know my great grandfather, who was a xenophobic member of the Orangemen who hated the French (he lived in Ottawa), was in fact his own worst nightmare. 

3. Have you done a DNA test? Were there any surprises about countries of origins?

 I have not. 

4. What is the brick wall you would most like to break down in your family history?

I would love to figure out my Eastern European/Russian Jewish ancestry, but so many Jews came to the United States in the first two decades of the twentieth century, and so many of them had the same or similar names, it’s almost an impossible task.

5. What is your favourite part of researching your family history?

I don’t research it. I prefer to help others learn about their family members who were part of the Commonwealth radar program during the Second World War. As it was a secret program and its members were under the Official Secrets Act for fifty years, many families have no idea what it was their relatives did.

Speaker Spotlight: Maya Hirschman