It all started with a British Columbia woman and a friend in the United Kingdom trying to track down the descendants of Charles "Tip" O'Neill, who flew a Lancaster bomber in World War II.

Kim Dowson teamed up with Jez Scott and have reunited the families of the crew of the Pathfinder squadron that died in 1944.

O’Neill’s last known address was near downtown Windsor. Tip's ancestors are not in the city anymore, but they have been found not far away.

Dowson says they were shot down over a small village in France. Her grandfather was the only survivor, but he didn't discuss it very much.

So Dowson embarked on an ambitious project, to find the other men who fought with him and discover more about her grandfather.

“These men were all under the age of 30, a lot of them knew they weren't going to come home, but they still did it,” says Dowson.

Scott, the British descendent of another soldier in the Pathfinder crew, helped Dowson search for a year and found each family, except for O'Neills.

“You just have to be very diligent with your searches,” says Dowson.

Diligent indeed, and a year of searching.

“We lucked out when we started searching for misspellings, so instead of two l's, just one at the end of the name,” says Dowson.

They found a birth certificate with the wrong spelling of one of Charles' brothers. That lead them to an obituary for Charles' sister-in-law.

It happened to list all of the grandchildren and the most recent location, which was Burlington, Ont.

They went to Facebook and messaged every O'Neill they could find in Burlington.

Richard O’Neill, charles' nephew, says when he came back and told them he was the nephew of Tip O'Neill, he says they couldn’t believe they found them all.

“I was always wondering about my uncle Tip, my dad never talked about him,” says Richard O’Neill. “His brother was killed in the war, at the same time he was in the war.”

Richard isn't just Charles' nephew, the men share the nickname Tip.

“Maybe I reminded my father of him, when I was a young child,” he says.


So what about that Windsor connection? Dowson uncovered Charles' death certificate, listing a last known address as 1285 Dufferin and there's the address,  written by Charles' mother Letitia on the back of this photograph from 1944.

“That was my fathers' parents’ home,” says Richard O'Neill.

Richard O’Neill remembers playing there and visiting his other grandparents on Indian Road.

“I was so happy that someone was actually searching for the families,” says Richard O’Neill.

Dowson says they were really excited.

“To us, it felt as though the crew was back together, they were reunited again,” says Dowson.

The group now has a private Facebook account, where they're getting to know each other and the ancestors that brought them together.

Dowson says they are now trying to find a picture of the entire crew together when they were overseas. Plus they're now looking through logbooks from France that detail every mission the crew took before they were shot down in May, 1944.

She wants to write a book, even if only for her family, about what her grandfather and his crew of friends did.

Now that the group is reunited online, their ultimate goal is to reunite in person in France, near the tiny village where their family members were killed.