Family Travel

Our new-found family in Canada.

Hi, Everyone! I wrote this post during my flight to Islamabad. So, I’m going to tell you how I met my mother’s family in Sylvan Lake, near Calgary. Especially the details of how we are related, and how we found each other. Then a a bit about Sylvan Lake,and finally,  my meeting with my friend Shib. My stay with Shib will be my next post. So stay tuned, you guys! ?


You may find it rather far fetched. But I guess, that’s life. We  are finding it unbelievable too. But then, isn’t life itself pretty much that? You realize that all those films are not so outrageous after all!  ?

I’m apologizing for the long post.  You can skip some parts if you like, but mostly, I’m sure you’ll enjoy.


Naturally,  I was reading the book ‘Wasa Wasa’ during the six-hour West Jet flight to Calgary from Halifax. The book (available on Amazon books)  was gifted  by Dave Schirru and Valerie along with many baby gifts posted to Halifax, Canada, on my grand-daughter’s arrival. The book was published in 1953, by Harry Macfie. It is a story about Harry’s search for his friend Sam Kilburn, (My great-grand father’s brother.)  The narration is simple and the adventures of hunting and explorations are exciting. A world opens up through their eyes, of life in Alaska and Canadian towns, almost a hundred years ago.

They had also sent this crochet shawl for Nyra, made by Marilyn’s mother Ruth:

I loved touching it, to feel the family history found in each loop.

Why Mahira-Rea and I couldn’t meet first:

Landing in Calgary, on Friday, the 4th of October 2019, I couldn’t believe, that I was in Calgary, and not meeting my childhood friend Mahira-Rea, who had sent me the  flight ticket As soon as Dave found out about this, he asked to meet up.

A couple of weeks after booking the ticket, my friend’s sister-in-law Diane passed away. Naturally, the family was busy with the funeral and family gatherings. So the alternative plan of my meeting Dave and his family first, worked out.

Dave Schirru at Calgary airport:

So, Dave Schirru picked me up at Calgary airport and drove hundred and fifty kilometers to his mother’s home in Sylvan Lake.

When I met Dave, his face was a big beaming smile. It was as if we were old friends. Later, he said, ‘you came in like a queen.’ (I have to ask for a wheelchair at the airport.) ‘Then quickly got up and was walking around confidently!’ He effortlessly picked off my luggage from the moving belt, got settled in his car, and chatted non-stop all the way.

He was interested in the Kashmir issue. ‘We really don’t  know the real story due to our media.’ So, I  filled him in with the facts which are all hushed up by the media.

I filled him in with the horrific genocide  taking place in Kashmir, India. How their 900,000 troops were supervising the curfew. Women  raped regularly, and young boys disappearing with government approval. I mentioned Imran Khan’s latest speech in UN, which  Dave was very interested in listening to.

My Facebook page and blogs:

As he drove, he looked at me saying, ‘your blogs are the only way I get to know what life in Pakistan is really like!’

His wife Valerie had asked him not to share any family details on the way, as she wanted to tell me herself.

So, he stuck to his promise, and we spoke about the different jobs he has had in this area, of Calgary, Edmonton and other parts of Alberta. Including a time discovering dinosaurs, millions of years old.The landscape was flat mostly, turning golden in the setting sun light.

Meeting Valerie and Marilyn at Sylvan Lake:


When we reached Sylvan Lake area, I found out that it was lovely, it was already dark, by the time we entered the home.  I was loving received by Marilyn and Valerie.


Valerie’s quests in genealogy:

They told me how they had been searching for the family of Fred Kilburn, Valerie had written about him in her book. Finding us has been the end of a long search for them. In fact, one family member from another sister of Fred Kilburn, had even made a futile visit to India to find out.

Here is Valerie  explaining how it happened:

During and after the delicious and lavish dinner, we sat chatting. Valerie was intrigued, what were Dave and I talking  about on the way, if we weren’t’ talking about our family connections! I assured her that her husband had stuck to his promise to her.


We moved to the drawing room and got settled with our books. I brought out our gifts for them. They were thrilled to see Allama Iqbal’s Tulip of Sinai, which I had illustrated, and the gifts Nadiya and I had got for Marilyn, Dave, Valerie and her mother.

That night we sat up till 1.30 am. Just exchanging our thoughts and feelings. It was as if we just couldn’t get enough from each other. I could see the resemblances too.

The interesting thing was that Marilyn shared the same rare blood type as my mother, which is found in only one percent of people in the world: AB negative.

Background of our mutual ancestors:

Fred Kilburn was one of seven children. (Marilyn and Nadiya know all the names.) His parents lived in England, near London and are mentioned in the Wasawasa book. Fred left for India after joining the British army, and soon after, his parents and eldest sister died of tuberculosis. The siblings were taken over by an aunt. Conditions were quite unbearable for them, and Sam who was in Scotland, left for Sweden where he met Harry Macfie. They were already family friends, now became best of friends.

Later, Sam and Harry moved to Canada. He was a hunter and loved adventure and travel. They went to Alaska during the gold rush. They loved the adventure, hunting and meeting indigenous people as well as the Eskimos up North.


Sam was missing his siblings, specially his favorite sister, Rebecca. He also knew they weren’t happy with their aunt. So, he wrote to Rebecca, (he called her Becky,) while he was in Alaska, and asked them to come over to Canada. This is also a very sad letter about the hardships they were facing as a family.  Rebecca came over with her other siblings and they landed in Halifax. (Their records were found at the Pier 21 where all records of arriving ships are kept.) Marilyn next morning showed me the diary kept by Rebecca while being on the ship from England to Halifax.

How Nadiya and Valerie got connected:

Valerie has mentioned in her video above how it all happened. She also showed me the hard copy of Nadiya’s letter to them asking them if they knew anything about our family background. That is when Dave Schirru wrote to Nadiya, confirming their relationship with our great grandfather.

So, Marilyn is the grand daughter of Sam’s sister Ada, and Jim is the grandson of Sam’s sister Ruth. So, Ada named her daughter Ruth, (After her sister Ruth) and Dave Schirru is her grandson. That’s how we are related. ?

Meeting the Kilburn clan during my first trip to Canada :

So, I got to meet the grandson of Ruth (Sister of Fred and Sam Kilburn); Jim with his wife Mary, in Halifax on September 7th, 2019. Then due to my trip to Calgary, I got to meet Marilyn, Dave Schirru and Valerie who are grand-daughter and great-grand-son of Ada respectively.

Valerie  printed a book about the family, and a page is designated to Fred Kilburn, and his time in British army.

Here is what she found out about his brother Sam Kilburn in Canada.

The power of intention:

One reality came to light. When your intent is strong enough, the entire universe aligns itself to provide it.

This is why I love Iqbal who put it so beautifully when he says:

Khudi ko kar buland itna, keh har taqdeer say pehlay

Khuda banday say khud poochay, bata teri raza kiya hai?


Make your intention so strong that before preparing your destiny,

God Himself asks you, ‘what is your intention?’

(God knows that you have such a strong mind, you will succeed in achieving what you want. – So, He decides to ask you first!)

We sat up till 1.30 am that night. So excited, chatting and talking. We had to call it a night when Dave and Valerie had to go home. I had a good sleep in the  comfy bed. The nice hot shower in the morning, and Marilyn’s delicious breakfast got me fresh in the morning. Then she gifted blueberry jams for Nadiya and myself.

Afterwards Marilyn drove me to Sylvan lake nearby.

Sylvan Lake:

It was beautiful. She told me it is quite shallow for quite a distance, this is why it is a very popular place for people with families, and she also swims here in the summers.

Dave loves fishing, on his yacht there.

There was  a light house there, and it is quite a popular tourist resort. We saw people fishing there, a girl caught a fish, but then threw it back into the lake, this is the trend  in Canada. They just ‘fish’ like this. But I feel even this can be avoided. Why injure the poor fish?

Finally, we went back after getting two flower pots of orchid flowers from the Sobeys’ (a popular chain of shops in Canada). One for my friend Shib and her family, and the other for Marilyn for her birthday.  When we reached home, Dave came out, a bit worried. (Marilyn had forgotten her phone at home, so he couldn’t contact us.) We had a quick lunch and then we went to his house for ten minutes to meet his daughter Alexandra. It was lovely meeting her, Valerie was in office, and I missed her.

In two days, Dave traveled over six hundred kilometers only due to me. They were keen for me to stay another day at least, so I could have more time with Valerie. Another time, hopefully.

I was dying to get to Shib’s home. I jokingly said, ‘otherwise, there maybe two funerals at their home today!

Marilyn and Dave dropped  me at my friend’s home in heart of Calgary, and  they witnessed our reunion after forty one years.

Of course, Shib and I screamed with joy and hugged each other tightly, meeting after such a long time felt great.

We didn’t cry, (we had already done that a year ago, when we had our first Skype chat.) Now, we were  simply overjoyed. Donald (Shib’s husband) walked up to me and said, ‘Oh, so you are real!’ I smiled, then Aisha  and Adam came (Shib’s children, ) and we all hugged tightly.

I turned, to say good bye to Marilyn and Dave, and thanked them for everything.

I went inside the home of my dear friend, Shib ….. I had reached my destination, after forty one years!

PS:  My next post is be about the blast Shib and her family gave me.

Meanwhile, look what I found in my autograph book, lying in my bedside table, something she wrote at ten years of age!

Stay blessed my wonderful Readers. ?

(Wait for the next exciting post! )

Note: All photos and videos taken by author, the historic ones shared by Valerie Schirru, I am extremely thankful for them.
















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