Dear masters of the universe,
Long story short, my mom is a result of a post-WWII relationship between a Japanese woman and an American soldier sent to "clean up" after the bombings in Japan. However, he had a wife back home, so when he left for America, he left my Grandma and my then-an-infant-Mom with a home, and some money. They never heard from him again. When my Mom finally came to America when she was sixteen, they still couldn't find him. A few decades ago, they finally located him. My Mom wrote him a letter, but it was returned -- he refused to accept it. Mom tried to find out more about him from his family members, but they refused to talk to her (most presumably because they thought she was a "love child" ... which is ridiculous, because it's not her fault at all). A few years ago, her father passed away, and we only know that because we were able to find his death certificate.
Here's the problem: we know nothing about him or what he was like. My Japanese Grandma refuses to talk about him. His wife and children won't talk to us. And the only people left who know anything about him are getting up there in terms of age. My Mom and Dad have been the only ones to try to connect with them.
Maybe I'm being foolish, but I'd really like to know what my biological grandfather was like or what kinds of things he did in life. I've exhausted all other research resources aside from actually talking to the family members.
So, here are my questions: how can I find out more about him? More specifically, how can I approach his relatives to try and get more information?
Thanks for your time!
A certain Tetris piece
Your mom and dad would be the best people to consult on this if you haven't already, since they know what they've done to try and establish contact, what has failed before, and what the wishes of your grandpa's family are.
I don't know what "all other research resources" involve, but my first thought was finding his obituary and what it says about him. The next was talking to people in his community he might've known, or investigating if there are any people he knew in the army who are still around.
I can't imagine how tough it is to be so close to the information and yet so far. You should try to keep in mind how your grandpa's family perceives the situation. To them, you could be seen as an outsider to the family, one who keeps dragging up skeletons from their beloved grandpa/husband/dad's past. I know that is a really harsh way of looking at things, but it would explain why they're so reticent about talking about him to you.
Maybe instead of general questions like "What was he like?" or "Tell me about him," that can be daunting for people who don't really want to discuss things, you could try asking for specific things you were wondering about, like "Was he a big baseball fan?"
Unfortunately, if his family specifically asks you to stop contacting them, you'll have no choice but to respect their wishes, since they are under no obligation to help you. So, my advice is take things slow, be polite, immensely grateful for anything they tell you, and keep your chin up. I think getting to know what kind of person your grandfather was (and respecting the wishes of the rest of his family) are righteous desires, the type of desires that the Lord will help you with if you seek direction in prayer.
Best of luck!