The search for family roots 

Seeking out our ancestors is becoming a global phenomenon

click to flip through (6) Douglas family picture 1911. In this Douglas family picture, John Barker's mother is the one-year-old seated on the ground on the left next to her sister, Margaret, with the bow in her hair — third from the left on the bottom row;
  • Douglas family picture 1911. In this Douglas family picture, John Barker's mother is the one-year-old seated on the ground on the left next to her sister, Margaret, with the bow in her hair — third from the left on the bottom row;
 

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The Florians saw the concentration camp's grisly exhibits, including piles of hair, spectacles, canes, shoes and brushes as well as the empty cans of Zyklon B, the deadly gas used on prisoners.

But it was when the family was taking a tour of Block 11, in Auschwitz, that a mind-boggling coincidence took place.

As their tour group was being led through by a guide, McInnes broke away to look at an exhibit.

"I looked at this one display case and happened to look at this one-page manifest of the arrival of prisoners in Auschwitz," said McInnes. "Nick's going, 'Rod, over here,' telling me to come and listen to the tour guide. I'm looking down at this document and I see this name."

Out of the 1.3 million people estimated to have gone through Auschwitz, the page of 30 names included that of Nick Florian's grandfather.

"We knew it was him because his prison number matches the one on the picture we have and it showed his birth date, that he was born in Trebic and that his job was a furrier," added McInnes. "All of a sudden there was this document of the day he arrived in Auschwitz. It was pretty crazy."

The discovery was too much for everyone.

"We were all crying," said Stephanie. "It was an accumulation of all this stuff. It was like a really stark feeling."

When Stephanie gave birth to her second son, Presley, 19 months ago, she gave him the middle name Fritz, in honour of her great-grandfather.

"It's like you've passed on this thing too, when you pass on a name like that, a name that carries so much weight," she said. "Presley's such a happy little soul that it just blows me away that any person could be put through this, let alone a member of your own family."

Every clan has a member who is the keeper of the family tree.

In my case it was my father, Thomas Inwood, who went searching for our ancestors.

After he took early retirement from his London job as a municipal manager, he decided it was time to add a few roots to the family records.

Because he was operating in the pre-Internet age, that meant travelling to churches across the south half of England, and searching through parish registries for records of births, deaths and marriages.

He tracked his family back to 1790, when a Richard Inwood was born in Basingstoke, and who went on to become a sawyer in Chatham Dockyard in Kent.

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