John Bayard imparted the Jameson sisters with much to be grateful for, despite the Victoria women having never met their eldest uncle.
Bayard gave his youngest sister, Sarah, security following their father’s death during the Great Depression and provided a symbol of remembrance with his service and ultimate sacrifice in the Second World War.
He also provided Sarah’s daughters with their only first cousin, a fact they only learned last month.
Mary, Margot and Megan Jameson were recently contacted by an orphaned woman from the U.K., Ann, who had discovered the lineage of her late father, John, after a 39-year search – 77 years after his death in Europe.
“We never had a first cousin. So when (Ann) got in touch with us, we were all thrilled,” said Mary, who burst into tears upon receiving Ann’s first letter.
Their mother, Sarah Jameson (Bayard), would have been thrilled to learn of her only niece before her death in 2000, Megan added. As such, the revelation was bittersweet.
“(Ann) had been looking half her lifetime – she’s been looking 39 years, and she was 39 when she started in 1980,” Margot said.
Ann asked to remain uncontacted for this story. The long-lost cousin was born in England in 1942 before being offered for adoption. When the U.K.’s adoption records opened to the public in the 1980s, Ann was quick to identify her birth mother, who had died before they could meet.
John was harder to locate, Meagan said, because his surname was misspelled on Ann’s birth certificate. A private investigator, DNA test and reality TV show would finally identify Ann as John Bayard’s daughter in 2020 – it was determined then that she had been conceived while John was stationed in Scotland, Margot said.
John was deployed there as an air officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
He and his brother, Richard, both lost their lives in the war; John after colliding with a hill in Fife, Scotland, and Richard as an aerial dogfight casualty.
“It’s been written that a very unfortunate and common cause of dying (as a Second World War pilot) was not being shot down, but your plane crashing,” Margot said, pointing to hasty wartime manufacturing.
John “was one of the ablest pilots in the squadron and a man of whom I had the greatest competence,” wrote his commanding officer to the brothers’ surviving family members in Canada.
They included an aunt and their youngest sister, Sarah, who was then living in Craik, Sask. The grain town of about 500 residents had become Bayards’ home during the Depression, after the passing of their father and the loss of their farm in Pennsylvania.
The Jameson sisters reported that between Pennsylvania and Craik, John enjoyed choir, instructing Sunday school and became a remarkable photographer.
Megan recalled that her mother often cried during Remembrance Day services at the Oak Bay Cenotaph on Beach Drive, “thinking of happier times with her brothers while growing up in Craik.”
The sisters plan to attend the same service in its limited capacity this Nov. 11.
They will also be thinking of their newly found family member, Mary said, who will be commemorating the day of remembrance with her four children and four grandchildren at her home in the midlands of Britain.
The Jameson’s fourth sister, Maura, is planning an upcoming visit to their cousin and the U.K., a trip that was previously postponed, and each plan to keep in touch as they have already over Zoom.
The sisters – each with matching initials and hair – said they were worried their introduction would be overwhelming for Ann, who they said had spent so much of her life looking for her paternal family. They were put to ease, Megan said, by the immediately recognized resemblance of their mouths.