A WOMAN who lives in California has found an unbeknown family member from the Isle of Wight — a First World War hero.

After being gifted a collection of family photos by her grandmother 20 years ago, Sheila Lowe, 72, kickstarted a family history journey that led to her also discovering her grandfather, Alfred George Ahrens.

She dug into her grandfather’s remarkable wartime legacy through the genealogy website Ancestry.

She joined the site in 2001 to find out more about her grandmother's family, after moving to California when she was young and missing the chance to hear stories when she was growing up.

Sheila used the site to build her family tree and added details and connections as more users joined and new records appeared.

Eventually she was able to connect with cousins from her grandfather's side.

Sheila said: “All I had known about Alfred is that he had been a singer, but Ancestry helped me find out the group he had performed with.”

Speaking to her newly found cousins, she uncovered Alfred's military past and saw a replica of the medal he won for gallantry in the First World War when he was 25 years old.

Alfred won the medal for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.

At Vaulx Vraucourt, in northern France, on September 2, 1918, when all his company officers and senior non-commissioned officers had been either killed or wounded, Alfred led the men forward and at the point of the bayonet captured three enemy field guns.

It was noted that his gallantry and disregard of danger when facing heavy odds was a fine example to his men.

Sheila said: “It was amazing to learn how he led his men forward to capture three enemy field guns in France after his superiors had been killed.

"I’ve also met cousins on my grandmother’s side through Ancestry, and they have connections to the First World War too."

In 2019, Sheila travelled from California to visit her new family on the Isle of Wight.

Ahead of Remembrance Day, two billion UK historic wartime records are free to access on Ancestry until Friday, November 12.