Many families with ancestors who served in the First and Second World Wars now only have photographs to remember them by.

However, one Cape Breton family is feeling a sense of loss after priceless photos of their loved ones were stolen over the Remembrance Day weekend.

Rev. Andrew MacDonald, a minister in Whycocomagh, never met his great-grandfather Murdock, or great-uncle John, who both served in the First World War.

But he says he felt sick when he discovered the original portraits of the young solders, taken nearly a century ago, were stolen from a family home in Sterling, Richmond County Saturday.

Now, all he has are some photocopies of his relatives.

“It felt like someone punched me right in the stomach,” says MacDonald. “To come into our home and take these photographs that mean so much to us, but probably don’t mean anything to them.”

MacDonald’s great uncle never returned from the war; he was killed in battle at the age of 23 and buried in Passchendaele, France, where he fought.

The stolen photos were hung on the living room walls by his mother.

“The photos were taken just before they went over to the service and they’re most likely the last photographs we have of Uncle John,” says MacDonald.

Four photographs were stolen, after having hung on the walls of his family home for nearly 100 years.

Two of the photos are individual portraits, both oval-shaped and framed – one in gold, the second in wood.

The other two photos are group shots of their battle regiments.

MacDonald hasn’t contacted police but has been conducting his own search. He says he simply wants the photos back – no questions asked.

“I’ve been scouring Kijiji and eBay, just hoping on hope that I might come across them,” he says. “I’ve notified a couple of friends who own antique shops and they’re keeping their eyes open.”

MacDonald is especially disappointed at the thief’s timing. He says Remembrance Day just wasn’t the same for his family this year.

“Especially at this time of year, close to Remembrance Day, that they would steal something that represents someone who fought for their freedom.”

MacDonald says the photos can be returned by contacting the RCMP or his family, even if it’s just to arrange a safe place to drop them off.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Ryan MacDonald