My mom Shireen Najib (1957-), me Nadiya (1985-) and my Nani Rosemary (1934-) on Eid in July 2014
In 2011, I had been living in London for almost four years, I hadn’t seen my Nani Rosemary even once during that time. I missed her terribly and wanted to buy her a present but nothing seemed to be good enough. Knowing she would be absolutely thrilled if I succeed, I felt the urge to search for Nani’s long-lost relatives.
My Nani Rosemary (1937-) with her mom Freda Dorothy May Young (1910-1957)
By this time it had been 50 years since she lost contact with all her cousins and relatives. Even then, of course my Nani was never able to forget her relations. There was hardly a day when she didn’t mention her parents, aunts and cousins. It is true that the family and cousins one grows up with can never be forgotten.
I secretly really hoped that one day I would find Nani’s long lost cousin Robin from whom she last heard in 1962 and see the excitement in her eyes before its too late.
I looked it up on the internet and bought membership of the biggest family tree website in the UK called Ancestry. The monthly membership was a bit costly but I thought it would be worth it if I’m successful in my mission and that’s when I started my research. Every time the website matches a person from your family tree to a person in someone else’s, it makes a leaf on it. You are then led to that person’s tree to make sure it is the same person as yours.
My Nani’s step-grandfather Walter Erymin Louis Mabert (1887-1961)
and her grandmother Ethel Grace Smit (1886-1958)
I then messaged people whose family trees entwined with mine and got in touch with so many strangers who turned out to be my relatives. Each one of these provided me with first-hand information about their side on my family tree which I updated in mine. We all shared our trees with each other and exchanged the difference in information. With their help, my oldest ancestor Robert Forge has been traced back from 1580. This is definitely an achievement which wouldn’t have been possible without the membership and help from newly found relatives.
I paid the membership subscription for 2 months, and within that time, I put an effort day and night (after long office hours) in finding my lost relations so I could unsubscribe once achieving my goal.
In this process, I made so many friends and we are hoping one day we will have a family get together. The venue would be hard to decide as there are branches of my family tree in literally all continents of the world now. Through Ancestry website, I got in touch with a lot of valuable people who I will be talking about now.
Initially, I met Kate Rimmer who is my Nani’s maternal great grandmother’s sister’s grandson’s granddaughter. Basically, her great-great-grandmother Frances Letitia Seaman (1843-1914) was the stepsister of my great great great grandmother Margaret Agnes Seaman (1869-1944). She calculated that she and I are half-fourth cousins once removed. I am not sure how that works out.
Keith Walter Young (1944-)
During this process, I connected with Keith Walter Young (1944-) who is my Nani’s paternal uncle’s grandson and gave me more information on his side of the family. He has been an interesting find. Many of my distant relations like him have already worked on their family trees. He is the one who gave me the dates of death of my Nani’s Aunts and Uncles whom Nani was so fond of and never had any news since 1962. Of course, they all had passed away.
We both were eager to share our trees with each other and thus connect the dots. He lives in Johannesburg, South Africa has 3 kids and is a grandfather of four baby girls. When I told my Nani about finding him, she was so happy to know that he is her uncle Bertram Young (1881-1936) as known as her uncle Berty’s grandson. Keith and I have been friends since then and keep exchanging notes on our relatives.
A little glimpse of Keith’s line
I also exchanged notes with a guy named David Brothwood. His wife’s great-grandfather Claudius Darlington Seaman (1850-) was the brother of my Nani’s great-grandmother Margaret Agnes Seaman (1869-1944). David was intrigued to hear about our connection. He also invited me to his house at Chester UK where he resides.
Valerie Schirru (1970-) with her family
During the process, my most important find is a beautiful and wonderful lady Valerie Schirru (1970-). She has two children and lives in Alberta, Canada. I messaged her on Ancestry saying that I can see that you are also interested in the same ancestors as I am. So we figured out how we are related.
Valerie’s mother-in-law’s maternal grandmother Ada Kilburn (1884-1941) is my Nani’s maternal grandfather [Fred Kilburn (1872-1913)]s’ sister. In other words, Nani’s mother Freda Dorothy May Kilburn (1910-1957) was the first cousin of Valerie’s husbands’ grandmother Ruth Edna Figures (1920-2010 as shown on the right). I know it is confusing to understand these relations which is why making a family tree is so important. Because Nani’s mother only had one sibling, other than Robin, these are her closest cousins by relation.
Ada Kilburn (1884-1941) (Nani’s grandfather Fred Kilburn’s sister)
Valerie and I have become good friends since then. She is also passionate about genealogy. She and her mother-in-law Marilynn Web (1941-) have been trying to find my ancestors for over 15 years. About ten years ago she finally found out that Gerald Young (1907-1983) and Dorothy Kilburn(1910-1957) had a daughter named Rosemary (1934-) but she had no more information.
We were the only blanks in her family tree so she was enthusiastic to find out where my grandmother Rosemary was and how she was doing. She told me that she has been so excited ever since I got in touch with her as she finally knows about her missing family from India.
David and Marilyn Shirru (Valerie’s husband and his mom)
She told me that her cousin Jim Dukes in Ontario, Canada has been on the hunt. Once Jim’s daughter even traveled all the way to India on a trip and tried to search in vain for relatives of Kilburns who might be alive as they knew there was a side of Kilburns left in India. Now they are all so happy and satisfied ever since they heard from me. I then sent Valerie pictures of my grandparents and her family was overjoyed to see them.
While we started discussing our family tree, I mentioned my search for Nani’s missing cousin Robin Kilburn (1937-2015). She told us that she had also been looking for him for years and that she is excited to have found him recently.
I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard that. It was like a dream come true, as I always had the dream to tell my Nani that I had found your long-lost brother.
Robin Frederick Charles in 1956 and 2014
I asked Valerie for Robin’s email address and emailed him instantly. I immediately got his reply and he was ecstatic to hear from me. We had so much to talk about. He said he couldn’t believe that I was Rosemary’s granddaughter. I wanted to know what happened after he left India and where had he been.
He was also so curious and had assumed we all moved to Australia as Nani’s dad Gerald had moved there after partition. Robin didn’t know about Gerald’s death. He told me that he left India after 1953 and spent a couple of years in the UK and then moved to Canada, mostly in Vancouver BC and spent 8 years in Puerto Vallata, Mexico.
Robin Frederick Charles Kilburn (1937-)
He was over the moon to hear about Rosemary being well and healthy. After the email exchange and confirmation that it was really Robin, it was time to tell Nani. I was so excited and couldn’t wait till Pakistan’s daytime to call and let my Nani know.
Robin Frederick Charles Kilburn (1937-)
I finally called up my Nani from England and said “Nani guess what? I have found Robin”. She couldn’t believe her ears. She laughed and cried out of joy and emotions. She told me that I had given her the best gift she could ever ask for. Nothing else in the world would give her this joy. This moment and the look in her eyes is what made it all worth it.
She had lost all her family after marriage so finally knowing about her relatives made her feel whole again. I told her that Robin is also really excited and is dying to hear from her.
Unfortunately, Robin never got married and has no children. He lived with his partner in Mexico but recently his partner had passed away. That made me realize why it is important to get married and have kids so we continue our legacy. Otherwise, a whole branch in the family tree is cut off. We would’ve had new cousins if he did have kids.
Robin couldn’t wait to see Rosemary’s picture and she couldn’t either. He added me and my family on Facebook as well. My Nani obviously couldn’t recognize the man in the picture. Apparently, 50 years change a persons appearance a lot but they both are pleased to know that they haven’t changed much from the inside.
Robin and my mom spoke to each other often too. She felt great to have got a new uncle whom she heard about all her life. My Nana is also happy to see the smile on his wife’s face. So, this has been the happy ending of my search. It has been nothing short of a miracle for our family.
My grandfather Brigadier Malik Muhammad Sarfaraz Khan (1927-)
Valerie Shirru also sent me a ‘Kilburn Story’ document which has a brief summary of the siblings of my great grandfather Sergeant MajorFred Kilburn (1872-1918). The entire life of your close ancestors in the family tree is summarized in one paragraph. That has inspired me also (my next project!).
Valerie and Keith are the ones who provided me with most of the priceless information regarding my ancestors. I am so grateful to them for this. I am unable to put my excitement into words. Valerie and I love to plan our family get-together. We both are excited to fly to the USA and meet up there on my next trip.
Right before I got married in August 2015, I woke up and casually facebooked when I saw Robin tagged. I opened the picture and was shocked to know that he passed away. May his soul RIP. I didn’t have the courage to tell my nani for a few months. When she was finally told, she was so emotional and upset. But at least they got to talk for some years after the reunion.
I hope these articles can inspire you to look for your relatives. I know this hobby requires a lot of hard work, patience and perseverance but its definitely worth it. Once you start learning more about your ancestors and find lost relatives, there really is an amazing feeling of satisfaction which no retail therapy could provide.
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