I was aware that my birth mother had a brother who had emigrated to South Africa many years ago, and whose address had not been passed onto my brother. James had got on well with his uncle and I thought it was rather a pity that they weren’t in touch. I asked on the family history site whether anyone could advise on the best way to track down a relative in South Africa and I received an email from a really nice lady who said that it was pretty difficult to trace anyone over there, but that she would have a go if I gave her as much information as possible (she was herself South African but living in Portugal!). I told her as much as I knew, names, dates etc, and settled back for the long wait. I couldn’t believe it when I opened my mailbox just four hours later to discover a very excited message from her – she had found our uncle because he lived two streets away from her own brother. Frantic emails crossed the world and by that evening, I had spoken to my uncle and put him back in touch with James. After Uncle Bill had got over his initial surprise (his first words to me being ‘I thought you’d been a boy’!), he was thrilled to not only have contact with his nephew again, but to have an additional niece as well. I was told all about his wife and son, and he actually rang his wife to come home from work and read our emails. Once again, I received a very warm welcome to the family.
I then started my family history properly, as opposed to tracing my birth family, and I discovered a whole website devoted to people with the surname of my maternal birth family. I emailed the person who ran the site – there was no name given – and introduced myself, explaining the whole adoption situation. Imagine my surprise to receive an email by return from this person, informing me that she was in fact my aunt. It appeared that my maternal grandmother had also had an illegitimate daughter who was put up for adoption – my Aunt Jane.
This is another reason why I couldn’t possibly have any regrets about conducting this search. My aunt had only carried out her own adoption search a few years ago, although her birth mother was still living at that point. Due to her birth mother’s age, she thought it best to contact her half-sister (my birth mother) and had been treated in exactly the same way as me. Initial acceptance and nice letters, followed by an abrupt rejection. Aunt Jane had also contacted Uncle Bill and whilst he was very polite and kind to her, he just could not believe that his mother had had another child that he didn’t know about (of course, what had confused the issue was that Aunt Jane was actually the result of an affair and was born between her half-brother and half-sister). As I had been in touch with Uncle Bill for some weeks now and was on good terms, I asked Aunt Jane if she would like me to email him on her behalf, and she gratefully took up my offer. I was able to explain to Uncle Bill that she was definitely his half-sister, that I had seen her original birth certificate naming his mother as her birth mother, and giving him some details about the circumstances surrounding her birth. He made contact with her immediately and they are both thrilled to be in touch with one another. My more unpleasant experiences with Wyn have helped Aunt Jane to realise that she wasn’t at fault for being born, any more than I was. We are in regular contact and found that we have much in common, particularly our love of the arts. She has found her own past much easier to accept now that we have shared our experiences, and of course she too has a new, extended family.