Family Tree My Story

12 Interesting Facts I Learned About my Family through Genealogy

Introduction

I have been crazy about Genealogy since 2010. All my life, I heard my maternal grandmother (Nani) Rosemary Anne Sarfaraz (1934- ) talk about her first cousin Robin Frederick Charles (1937-2015) with whom she had lost contact for over 50 years. In 2010, I was living in London and I decided to find him through my research. This is probably the most interesting story of my life. Here is the link to an article how I found my missing family (including Robin) through Genealogy.

My Nani’s first cousin Robin in 1960 and in 2010

One reason why I love Genealogy is because you learn so many interesting stories about your family. 

My Nani Rosemary (1934- ) with her father Gerald Wiliam Flynn Young (1907-1983) in 1941

Interesting facts I learned about my family

Today I will be sharing a little more on this exciting subject. Following are some of the most fascinating things I learned about my family through my Genealogy research:

1. No females in Desi family trees

One of the biggest shocks of my life was that women didn’t exist in Desi family trees.(???!!!!#$%^&). This is exactly why (even today), some desi men don’t acknowledge women.  These primitive men need to understand that they wouldn’t exist if there were no women in this world.

Ancestral records from Surag, Punjab, Pakistan showing no signs of women on this planet

When I got in touch with my elders who got me details about the ancestors (from various villages in Pakistan like Tamman, Lund & Pindi Gheb) of my grandfather Brig. Malik M. Sarfaraz Khan (1927- ), I came to know how male-oriented our Pakistani rural societies are. In the ancestral details handed over to me, family trees have only males in it.

This is the first time I saw family trees where women don’t exist at all. Men produce men and have only brothers.

I felt angry that their daughters, sisters or even mothers weren’t even considered worthy of being mentioned as part of their families. It’s so tragic! But in my effort to create a softcopy of it, I am trying my best to dig information of women.

2. My Nana’s Nana was murdered by his stepbrothers over property issues

My Nana Sarfaraz’s maternal grandfather Sardar Ahmed Khan (1864-1924) along with his two men were murdered by his step-brothers on some property matter as he won the case and the step brothers weren’t happy about that. Within 2 years, all three men who killed them were hanged by the government in India.
Written by my Nana Sarfaraz’s brother M. Mumtaz Khan Gheba (1942-)

3. A Dutchman who was never found

 I found that my (maternal grandmother) Nani’s maternal grandmother’s father (her great-grandfather) was a Dutchman from Utrecht, the Netherlands named Albert Leonard Smit (1857-?) who mysteriously disappeared on the night of the wedding of his favorite daughter.

It is assumed that he boarded a ship on that fateful night but there are no records of where he went and when he died. His wife Margaret Agnes Seaman (1869-1944) spent a lot of money trying to find his whereabouts. But neither she nor anybody else could ever trace him. I tried to find records of him too there was only a record of him embarking a ship but not reaching anywhere on it.

4. Three TB deaths in one family

Nani’s great-grandparents (maternal grandfathers parents) James Kilburn (1844-1888) and Mary Forge (1845-1888) both died from TB within months of each other along with a 14-year-old daughter Ellen Kilburn (1874-1888) leaving their other children orphaned at Heckmondwike, Yorkshire, UK in 1888. They were taken in by an aunt but weren’t very happy living there, so one by one they left to make it on their own.
James Kilburn & mary forge and Ellen view

 Details of Mary, James and Ellen respectively

 

5. Handwritten letters from 1902

I have a handwritten letter written by one of the siblings of my nanis nana to another in 1902.
The letter is from Samuel Kilburn (1877-1924) to his sister Elizabeth Kilburn (1879-1962) where he states how he admired his father and how he struggled after the death of his parents and sadly stated:
‘None of us has known a home’.
All his siblings were scattered across the globe. He really wanted to reunite with them.
 A picture of Samuel Kilburn (1877-1924) taken in 1905
He also wrote that he hadn’t seen his brother Fred Kilburn (my great great grandfather 1872-1918) in 12 long years as Fred was in the Army living in India. He probably never met his brother as Fred died in India.
The letter had a tone of melancholy and made me appreciate how lucky we are to have family with us. My tragedy of losing my father felt really small in front of their turmoil. They lost both parents and a sister at once while they were all really young.
Sam Kilburn 1904 Alaska

6. Famous horse-rider from India

My Nana Brig. M. M. Sarfaraz Khan’s (1927-) paternal grandfather Khan Bahadur Risaaldar Major Malik Gulsher Khan (est 1860-1913) was a very famous horse rider of India. The government gave him the title ‘Shahsawar-e-Hind’. He would ride 100 miles on a horse in a single day. At that time India was ruled by the British.

In 1911, at Coronation of King George V in England, there was a big contingent from India.  To participate in the celebrations, he was chosen to give a display of the Indian horsemanship in London. He rode 275 steps then his horse would dance, greet and bend in front of the king and queen. The function continued for 15 days. Later, the King visited Delhi which was the capital of India. The same Coronation function was repeated there and stairs were also fixed with fancy lighting. My Nani’s grandmother Ethel Grace Smit (1886-1958) also attended this function and told her family how amazing the horse-rider was. But little did she know at that time that his grandson would later marry her beloved granddaughter Rosemary (1934- ).

Malik Gulsher Khan Gheba Cropped    Khan Bahadur Risaaldar Major Malik Gulsher Khan (est 1860-1913)

7. My Nani & Nana’s marriage was unusual & special

My Nani maternal grandmother Rosemary Anne Young (1934- ) married my grandfather Brig Malik Sarfaraz Muhammad Khan (1924- ) on 25 June 1956 in Saidpur, Bangladesh. They have been married for about 62 years now Mashallah. If you want to read about their relationship, you can read it here.

Their marriage was extremely unusual as my Nani was from a British family and my Nana was from a village (Pindi Gheb) in Pakistan.

This is the reason their marriage was advertised in the newspaper too. It was probably the talk of the town then!

And by the way, my Nana’s youngest sibling was 22 years younger than him. He was serving in the Army, when his brother was born. 

My nana’s picture with his youngest 2 siblings

8. My Nani had a special bond with her grandparents (just like me).

My Nani’s maternal grandmother Ethel Grace (1886-1958) was only 16 when she married Sergeant Major Fred Kilburn (1874-1918) aged 30 on 5th January 1903 in Bangalore, India. Fred Kilburn passed away when he was only 44 years old in Delhi, India.
After two years ofhis death, Ethel Grace remarried Walter Erymin Louis Mabert (1887-1961). She was now 34 and he was 33. My Nani only knows these grandparents of hers and was very close to them. I have letters from both of them to her.
 Ethel Grace Smit (1886-1958) & Walter Mabert’s (1887-1961) letters to Rosemary respectively

9. My Nani’s Dadi was only 25 when she died

Nani’s paternal grandfather Edgar Mathew Young (1855-1917) was married to Anne Jones Reilly (1860-1904) on 16th May 1876 in Bottakhana, Bengal, India. At this time Edgar was 21 and Anne was 16. They had ten children, two of these died as infants. After Anne passed away around 1904, Edgar married Bertha Pritchard (1883-1908) around 1905.

This was pretty interesting as Edgar’s eldest son Arthur had wanted to marry Bertha Pritchard(1883-1908) but his father ended up marrying her. She also passed away soon after the death of their first son only when she was 25. 

Edgar at this time was 50 years old, and his new wife Bertha Pritchard (1883-1908) was only 22. There was 28 years age gap between their ages. They only had one child together Gerald William Young (1907-1983) who was my Nani’s father.

Bertha was only 25 when she passed away on 11th September 1908 in Calcutta, West Bengal, India leaving her 3 year old son with his father. According to Rosemary, Gerald was only 7 when his father also passed away on 30th January 1917 and he became an orphan. Then his eldest step brother Arthur (1877-) looked after him.

Learning about this made me respect my Nani’s father even more. Even though he was an orphan, he turned out to be such an amazing person.

Gerald william passport collage
My Nani’s father’s passport which expired in 1977

Later in 1949, his wife Freda Dorothy Kilburn (1910-1957) developed Multiple Sclerosis and had to be carried in a wheel chair. Gerald loved her dearly and took care of her in every way possible. When Freda passed away, people of Saidpur said that we have never seen a man love and look after his wife the way Gerald loved her. He didn’t remarry for 12 years after her death, although in those days people used to marry again very soon after the spouse died.

 

I also found the handwritten scanned marriage certificate of Nani’s parents Gerald William Flynn Young (1907-1983) and Freda Dorothy May Kilburn (1910-1957) on 12th Feburary 1934, in Asaurd, Bengal, India. That was very interesting as it had minor details in there that I wouldn’t have been able to gather otherwise; like their profession and which church they got married in. I also have marriage certificates of Nani’s grandparents and other close relatives.

Gerald William Flynn Young (1907-1983), Freda Dorothy May Kilburn (1910-1957) and Mavis Ellen Doyle (?)

10. More respect for my Nani’s grandfather

My Nanis (Rosemary) grandmothers (Ethel Grace) grandfather William Seaman (1813-1901) worked for the Royal Army. He was born in Norwich, Norfolk, UK, retired as a Sergeant Major and died in Bangalore, Madras, India. I have got his army papers from 1864 from The National Archives, London.
The papers state that he was an exemplary officer with a very good conduct and various badges and medals of merit were granted to him. Reading this gave me a sense of pride in knowing that my ancestors have been associated with such good qualities on professional level by the Royal Artillery.
It also states that his name is not recorded in the regimental defaulters’ book and has never had a court-martial. His height was 5 feet 11 inches, he had grey eyes and brown hair, fair complexion and had a deep scar on his right side.

11. Two suicides in the family

I also came to know about two suicides committed by people in my family tree. One of them was by James Cecil Kilburn(1894-1951) who was my great great grandfather Fred Kilburn’s (1872-1918) nephew. Cecil never got married and committed suicide in the same year as his mother died. His dad remarried and Cecil didn’t seem to like that.

James Cecil Kilburn (1894-1951)
Another suicide was committed by Robin Kilburn’s father named Cyril Leonard Kilburn (1904-1943) probably because of his wife who wasn’t a very good person. Following is their wedding picture.

Cyril Leonard Kilburn (1904-1943) on his wedding

12. Discovered our family’s county & surnames

Yorkshire, the largest historic county in the UK, turned out to be my Nani’s family county. A lot of her relatives moved back from India to Yorkshire in the 1960s. This was very interesting as Yorkshire was only 2-3 hours drive from my apartment in England. The Kilburns have been traced back in Yorkshire to John Kilburn (1646-?).
Yorkshire, UK
I realized that my (maternal grandmother) Nani’s family has the surnames Young, Kilburn, Seaman, Smit, Figures, Dunn, Webb, Drake, Lovegrove, Creak, Rimmer, etc

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What’s your story?

  • Are you inspired to know more about your ancestors?
  • Why not ask your grandparents your family stories before its too late?
  • Is there anything exciting you learned about your family?
  • I would love to hear any interesting stories you came to know through genealogy.
“If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten; Either write things worthy of reading, or do things worthy of writing.”
Benjamin Franklin (May 1738)
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Thank you for reading. Would love your comments or feedback.

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7 Comments

  1. Love your posts Nadiya! The entire research must have taken you so long. Great work nonetheless! So glad we have ours sorted out already (thanks to Papa and Nana)!

  2. Yes this hobby does take alot of time. I started in 2011 but only phases when Im actually busy with it. Good that your papa and nana made yours. Many families have no one interested these days. Glad you enjoyed reading. Tc

  3. This is such a great effort that needs appreciation and praise. Enjoyed reading it.
    I have known your nana and Nani since I was a little girl. I had visited them quite often in their Lahore house with my parents. Lots of love and prayers for them

  4. Im glad you enjoyed reading. Oh such a small world. Sorry whats your name and parents name so I know. My nani nana have recently moved to our place.

  5. My father col javaid Feroze from 8ff , v used to visit them in their Lahore defence house on and off. That's like 15 years ago I'm talking abut I think I had net you girls too once in a whole there . I even remember the doll house in the garden 🙂 regards to ur mum and ur grandparents x

  6. Amal Qureshi says:

    What an interesting family history you have Nadiya!😊loved it!

    1. Nadiya Najib says:

      Thanks a lot. I’m glad you liked this. <3 Thanks for your comment.

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