Wade Jewkes, Deseret Morning News
Geoff Baker holds the book that helped him learn the identity of his half-sister in Belgium.

Longtime Sandy resident Geoff Baker migrated to the United States from England with his wife, Dolly, in 1963 and has been a genealogy enthusiast for years.

But only recently — after his retirement seven years ago — has he engaged in a "treasure hunt" back through Great Britain of which he never could have dreamed.

This saga begins in 2004, when Baker received an article from an Internet friend printed in the Dumfries (Scotland) Standard. Baker's grandmother had died there in 1913 and lived in the King's Arm Hotel, and he wanted a picture of that building to put in his book of remembrance beside his grandmother's death certificate. The building now housed a pharmacy. The article, however, bore no relationship to anything Baker was looking for.

After reading the article several times, Baker felt impressed to write the Standard, requesting that the publication ask its readers if any knew of his grandmother.

"This appeared to be a ridiculous question," Baker said. "She had died some 91 years earlier. My head was saying nonsense, but my heart was saying write anyway."

On Christmas Eve 2004, Baker received an e-mail from a Margret Marshall, who turned out to be his half-sister. Margret goes by Peggy — as does their mother, who is 94 years old and living in London.

Why did she not tell Baker about his half-sister? His mother will not talk about some parts of her past, he said. And there was a lot more for Baker to discover.

Baker was born in 1939 in London, along with a twin brother, Derek. He also had grown up with a half-brother, Ken, who was born in 1947.

Half-sister Peggy is three years older than Geoff and Derek, and their mother already had given her to a family to take care of before Geoff and Derek were born.

After Baker found his sister, he was surfing the Internet and discovered a Carol Bryan who was looking for a sister born of a Peggy Baker of London. Geoff Baker made contact.

Bryan was living in Georgia while her father was an American soldier in England during World War II. He and Peggy Baker had a daughter in 1943. By that time, Geoff Baker's father was gone, and the twins were living in a nursery.

Baker and Carol Bryan are not related, but they were both looking for the same person — a younger half-sister. Bryan eventually did get in touch with the elder Peggy Baker and confirmed there is a half-sister living in Belgium.

But the information came with a pact: No one could tell Geoff any details about the half-sister until his mother dies.

Baker believes that while he, his twin brother and their mother were baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1951 in Herfordshire, England, Derek and Peggy later became antagonistic toward the church and don't want to help him. Bryan did send Baker a picture of their half-sister after blotting out her last name.

But the Lord can intervene, and Baker believes he did.

Last fall, Louise Manning, owner of the Benbow farm in Herefordshire, was in Utah for a symposium sponsored by the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation. Benbow farm is where Elder Wilford Woodruff baptized more than 600 people in 1840. Manning is not LDS, but allows church members to visit the historic site.

A photo of Manning and Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, was published in the LDS Church News. Baker clipped the article and mailed it to Manning, adding that he moved to Herefordshire at age 12 and was baptized.

Manning wrote back and included a book about the munitions factory in Herefordshire. In that book, Baker found the same photo that Bryan had sent him — only this time with a last name and enough information for Baker to find a telephone number on the Internet.

Baker called his half-sister Thelma, and they had a tearful talk on the phone, planning to meet later this year. Thelma was raised Catholic and has been an ardent genealogist for 15 years. Her adoptive mother moved to Canada in the 1970s and later joined the LDS Church.

Baker has already traveled to England to meet half-sister Peggy, who plans to visit the United States this spring.

Baker learned from his most recent discovery that there is one more sibling to find. His mother gave birth to another baby girl in 1945. He doesn't know her name, her father's name or where she lives.

But Baker believes in miracles: "Manning could have sent me any one of a number of books on the history of Herefordshire," he said. "But she sent me the one that had a picture of my sister in it."

E-mail: wjewkes@desnews.com