For years Zena Barton would ask questions about her grandfather, only to be met with a blank.
Now, she is hoping readers of The Standard can help fill in the gaps in his story.
With the little information left to her by her grandmother, she knows his name was Samuel Ashley and understands he arrived in Britain from Sierra Leone to work at Billy Butlin’s zoo in Skegness in 1930.
She said: “In my young years my grandmother Dorothy (Burbage) visited us fairly regularly.
“I often thought about my grandfather as all my friends had one and I wanted to be the same. But when I asked, the subject would be changed or I was told that I did not have one.
“From what we understand Billy Butlin sent his team to Sierra Leone and possibly other African countries for the animals and their keepers. By 1930 he had set up the zoo featuring zebras and lions. One of the keepers was my grandfather.
“He met my grandmother while she visited the zoo and funfair. I can remember her telling me that she loved him very much but it was not possible for them to be together.
“My Mum has no memory of ever meeting her father.”
Zena’s grandmother promised to leave details about her life and of Samuel, but when she died there was very limited information.
Together with her mum Faith Matyszak, Zena, 60, has trawled the internet and other records to track down information about her grandfather.
She added: “We have tried contacting the Butlin’s family and some of the local press who worked in the Skegness area at the time but we have had little success in finding more information, although we did find pictures of some of the staff at the zoo – and a few more showing lions with the lion tamer. We decided that we would adopt him as my grandfather.
“It is on the top of my mother’s bucket list to find out some more information about her dad and although she realises that he will not be alive now, she wonders if she has any siblings or if she is an aunt to any of his children.”
Anybody who can help is asked to call Zena Barton on: 07908 946257