Alain Van Wayenberge

I will never know who makes the most of my genealogy research, my customers or me.

At each step, at each generation, I keep diving in a forever-frozen past. I respectfully discover names and dates that have counted in their lives. But a tree, was it genealogical, is not a mere combination of inert roots and branches. A vital fluid keeps flowing from the smallest rootlet, keeps mixing with others to finally arrive at the complex being that we are. And in our turn, we will perhaps add some drops to this fluid and transmit it further down. This heritage is a blessing and a responsibility for each of us. It can not be neglected.

My real work, the one I derive so much pleasure from, is to find characters behind those names and dates, human beings with all their qualities and shortcomings. I must expose the facts, put them in perspective, colour them if possible, confront them with their time, without judging them. Only then I feel that I have brought something to them, and I am most happy.

After a career in language teaching, I was at last able to fulfil my dream and dedicate my life to genealogy and historical research. Inquiries started to come in from all corners of the world, from America, Australia, New Zealand and Russia as well as Belgium, France, Italy and Britain. They came from families who had been abroad for 2 or 3 generations and who now wanted to find out about their Belgian ancestors, or from families who had been separated and wanted to find an estranged brother or a distant cousin.

I was lucky enough to work with the American TV channel, CNN, to find the ancestors of one of their star journalists who had their roots in Liège. And the reactions are always the same ; it is incredibly emotional to see where they live, to put yourself in their shoes, to witness the enormous gratitude for the things that they have accomplished, the surprise and the tears at all the difficulties that have been overcome.

I’m thrilled about this collaboration, which continues with Héros modernes, as it gives me the opportunity to do what I love most ; transform the dusty records into portraits of the men and women who have humbly and patiently made us what we are today.

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