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;
 

Page 6 of 10

My father's typewritten family tree includes this frustrated note: "There is a marriage record of a John Inwood marrying a Joanne Hall in Basingstoke 3.11.1717 but so far I have been unable to trace a link with the first named Richard Inwood above."

As far as I know, he never did.

Meanwhile, my mother had always told me stories of being brought up by her grandfather when her parents died after spending time in India.

This was no ordinary grandfather. Sir Owen Pennefather Lloyd had won the Victoria Cross, the highest medal for bravery issued in the British Empire and Commonwealth, she said.

In the mid-1990s, after living for more than two decades in Canada I was on a visit home to London and decided I needed to find out more.

I'd been told there were records kept at the Royal Army Medical College on Millbank, just down the road from the Houses of Parliament.

On a rainy October day, I showed up unannounced at the guard post and asked to see any records of my great-grandfather's valour.

An adjutant marched over and escorted me into a small, dimly lit museum next to the officer's mess.

He handed me a binder that contained a typewritten account of the Jan. 6, 1893 battle in the Kachin Hills of what was then known as Burma, now Myanmar.

Grandfather Lloyd, by then a Surgeon-Major in the Royal Army Medical Corps had been part of the Sima Post garrison of 275 men, which was attacked by 500 Kachins.

Lloyd's commanding officer, a Capt. Morton, had gone out to fight off the attack and was shot in the stomach about 80 metres outside the fort.

Lloyd ran out, under heavy fire, to help him and, helped by another soldier, carried his wounded captain back to the fort through a hail of bullets.

Morton was shot in the abdomen for a second time and died as they reached the post.

Lloyd then took over command of the fort until the garrison was relieved.

I laboriously copied down the account and then was shown, hanging high up on a wall, amongst dozens of paintings, a small, framed depiction of the battle.

As I left, the adjutant pressed an envelope into my hand with a photograph of the painting. I keep it with my personal papers, as a precious memento of a journey back to my family's past, a journey that probably wouldn't happen today, as all the information about my great-grandfather is now available online.

When Suzanne Fournier was growing up on the outskirts of Calgary, her father's family history was always shrouded in mystery.

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