Dear half-sibling

I know it must have been a surprise to learn you have a secret half-sibling and I realise you must have many questions that will go unanswered because our parent is not here to answer them.  “Why didn’t I know?”  “Why didn’t they tell me? ”  “Why didn’t someone tell me?”  would be going through your mind.  Your life was going along just fine until now where this stranger turns up and blows it apart. Everything you thought you knew, you didn’t.  Your parent had a whole secret life that you didn’t know about and you question whether you knew them at all.

I get it!

What I don’t get is why you won’t reach out to me.  I too am an unwilling character in this story.  I was a wee baby with no voice and not asked what I need or want.  To be blunt I was the one abandoned by our parent not you so why are you taking it out on me?  I’m not harbouring any animosity for being given up for adoption, I too had a wonderful family who brought me up and I miss them with all my heart but I was on loan to them because they wanted to love and nurture a baby and I just so happen to be available at that time.

You might ask from ignorance “why is she bothering with a family she doesn’t know?”  “why is she turning up now and causing all this turmoil?”, “Why doesn’t she go away and leave us alone?”

Why?

Most adoptees will tell you that they grow up either knowing they are adopted or like me they didn’t  know.  Finding out blew my world apart.  “Why didn’t I know?”  “Why didn’t they tell me?”  “Why didn’t someone tell me?”.  Same questions.  The difference being is as soon as I knew I began to search for my true roots.  “Who are the people that made me?”  “Why didn’t they keep me?”  “Where are they?”  and after 10, 20 and 30 years “Why haven’t they come looking for me?”.

I had a passion to find my birth family and a unrealistic notion that if they are anything like me, they’d accept me with open hearts and open arms even though I had read on almost a daily basis adoptees being shunned by birth family and I just don’t get it. I just don’t get it and I never will!

Before you close your heart and arms forever just give me a chance.  I’m a good person, a loving caring person, just ask my family and my friends.  I’m not a trouble maker, I’ve never hurt anyone intentionally and I’m kinda funny, at least my grandkids think so and my best friend Karen.  Although I think she is funnier, but don’t tell her I said that.

If you’re worried that I’m going to teleport myself into your life whether you want me or not, don’t be afraid as I’m a busy working women with 3 adult needy kids and 3 grandchildren that I need to see on a regular basis because I want them to grow up with wonderful memories of me like I do of my grandmothers.

So what do I want?

Acceptance, that’s all any adoptee wants. Someone to say “hello sister”, “I’m glad we finally get to meet”.  Then you can go about your life as is was,  albeit with the odd email or phone call to say “hello, how are you?”.

This has been a 32 year search and I know I should be happy that I found and I know I’ve had 32 years to dream about this moment but I never once questioned that my family wouldn’t accept me and I guess that was naive notion.  I just ask you to consider getting to know me because I really think you’d like me!

Your half-sister with a full heart

 

I was a wee baby with no ability to say
Don’t give me away Mummy, I want you to stay

Please watch me grow to be clever and strong
And I’ll look after you when life does you wrong

Please keep me Mummy, I want to know you
And not meet one day through a camera lens view

Seven days later

After the emotional events of the previous week that started on the Saturday with a 1st cousin match, to discovering who my birth father was on the Sunday to the rest of the week meeting the 1st of many first cousins, talking to many more on the phone, video calls, emailing and Facebook messaging, I was well and truly tired out and in much need of a day off,  so come the Sunday MOTH and I walked to our favourite harbour-side café for lunch and a few too many wines that rendered me useless in the afternoon.  After lunch we returned home to relaxed in front of the telly watching re-runs of Escape to the Sun – England or Spain.  Spain being my pick after our wonderful month-long holiday there the previous September.

I was feeling rather content with my world as it was, happy that I had broken the 35 year drought of not knowing my birth family. To finish off my relaxing day, I decided to spend the night building ‘my’ family tree, at least half of it.  I was eager to find the Watkins-Williams connection the family told me about.  Of course it wasn’t lost on me or my cousins or my Aunt, that Watkins was most certainly in reference to the Watkins-Williams family connection.  I was also keen to find connections to distant cousins that I had communicated with over the last 2 years.

I began my new Kitty tree with me, then I added my father Donald then his father Herbert and his wife, my  grand mother, Doris Catherine.  Once I included Doris I noticed more Ancestry Hint leaves.

Hints are suggested records that are likely to contain information about the people to whom they’re assigned. Hints are signified by the green leaves that appear on people in family trees.

Using these hints I added Doris’s parent’s James and Caroline, then James’s parents William and Eliza, my paternal 2nd great-grandparents.  More and more leaves appeared with hints to the next ancestral generation.  From the list of hints I saw something that blew me away, my 4th cousin Kerry from New Zealand’s tree popped up as a family connection hint.

Bingo, another mystery solved!

I had been chatting with Kerry almost immediately after doing the Ancestry DNA test and uploading it to other sites such as FamiltyTreeDNA where I met Kerry.  Although she is a 4th cousin, she was the closest in location as most of my other 4th cousin were in the US.   Kerry roped in several of her cousins to do the DNA test to help narrow the search coverage. After several cousin tested and proved not to be related to me, the ancestral lines of my search narrowed then her uncle  tested and he was my 4th cousin as well further narrowing the search to one of four possibilities.

After messaging Kerry with my findings she figured out quickly the 3rd great-grandparents we shared. Our 3rd great-grandmother’s maiden name that was also the middle name of my father.

It’s all coming together – then!

Feeling very happy with myself I set about building my Grandmother’s maternal line when I got a message through Ancestry from Stephen.

Who is Stephen?

Stephen is the son of a 4th cousin Brian whom I’ve been in contact with just recently. Stephen is the administrator of Brian’s DNA kit. Brian popped up as my closest 4th cousin on the 17 February 2017 and I immediately sent my usual 1st message:

I noticed you popped up in my dna list today. You’re one of my closest matches. With the amount of DNA we share we probably share great great grandparents.

Just wondering if you’re interested in helping find how we’re related?

Regards

Kitty Leigh

A few emails back and forth with Stephen who was talking things over with his Dad Brian, I discovered they were from Ballarat.  At last, I finally found a connection in Victoria Australia, I feel the mystery could be unfolding but I don’t get too excited as a 4th cousin match still is a long shot chance of turning up anything concrete.

Another email from me identified a common cousin Sheryl.

Hi Kitty,

Dad and I have been discussing this tonight and he thinks that Sheryl  shares his paternal paternal great grandparents, Edmund K* and Johanna F*. They had quite a number of children in the late 1800’s. Edmund was definitely born in Australia but his father John came out from Ireland in the mid 1850’s. I’m fairly sure Johanna was born here as well but need to double check.

Stephen

More emails exchanged uncovered that Sheryl and Brian shared more DNA than I do so our common ancestor was one generation back but who will I go with, the maternal or paternal line?  I can’t remember why I picked the maternal line but I did and a large family tree emerged……..

Back to Stephen’s latest message

Hi Kitty, Stephen here. That is extraordinary after all these years, that finally you know who your father was.

I have been doing some sleuthing, and I have a possibility to offer you as to who ‘Anne’ was, assuming that it was her correct name. There is an Anne B*, who married a Michael H*, who appears on our family tree. She was born on September 1936, which would have made her 24 at the time of your birth. From what I can tell, she was also a nurse. She was not however born at Portland, however, her father was a railway employee who died in 1952 in Portland Hospital and is buried at Portland. His widow, Bridget lived in Portland at the time of her death in 1976. However, she has 6 siblings, not 2 and I also can’t find a record suggesting she has lived in Sydney. I actually can’t find any record of her at all. But I will keep digging.

In terms of the connection between Anne and Brian, Anne’s mother Bridget  was the daughter of David F* who was the son of Patrick F* and Johanna G*. Patrick and Johanna  also had a daughter called Johanna, who married Edmund K*. They had a son, Daniel who then had a son, John, who is Brian’s father, my grandfather. Sounds rather convoluted but when you draw it out it makes more sense.

Stephen

As I read through Stephen’s message several points sprung out:  Anne’s birth year, Portland, she was a nurse, her father had died before I was born and he worked on the railway – all these details Anne provided the social worker when she was going through the motion of filling out the adoption paperwork. What didn’t fit was the number of siblings she had but everything else screamed at me.

The lump in my throat and the squishiness in my stomach told me there were too many co-incidences here and this could be the end of my search.  But this was all to much, I was still reveling in the aftermath of finding my father.

Was it possible I’ve found my mother too?

I immediately entered the details Stephen gave me into the Ancestry search fields.  This Anne’s surname wasn’t Watkins but that wasn’t a surprise to me as I suspected as such for the past 20 years. There was one record that appeared, a death record of an Anne H*,  her married name. This Anne was born in Victoria in 1936 and died in the USA.  I wasn’t sure if this was the right Anne but finding out she was dead up front would be better than finding out later so I didn’t let that deter my search.

I engaged my daughter on the search.  As much as I’d like to tell you how we went from that information to our next steps but all I can say is my daughter is a great sleuth. In no time we tracked down possible links in Queensland and I was ready to make a phone call.

Many phone calls later it was confirmed that this Anne had a baby in 1961. It was also confirmed that Anne was seeing a man named Donald W* who was much older than her, in fact Anne’s sister met him on a visit to Sydney in 1959.  This meant that Donald and Anne were seeing each other one year before I was conceived.   The cream on the cake of this news was a picture sent to me of a poetry book with an inscription written by my father Donald to Anne.  Anne gave the book to her sister before she died and her sister is giving it to me and besides me, this book will be the only memento of my parents love for each other and I will treasure it forever and a day.

The circle was complete, I now know both my parents, Donald and Anne.  The 35 year search was over.

Dedicated to Stephen, a young man who took it upon himself to help me uncover my story – Forever grateful!

To Anne And Donald, my parents!

I may not have met you but you’ve always been
You live inside my head and my heart
I’ll try not scorn you for abandoning me
Scorn will only destroy and nothing achieved