Originally written November 19, 2018
This is a difficult one. There are arguments for and against searching out the truth but for me at the end of the day, you are who you are and the more information you can find out and learn about where you come from the better. I think that the further back you go the easier it is to accept if what you find is not really what you expected.
So after the shock of finding out Mum was adopted, we talked about what she wanted to do next – search for her birth parents or just let it be. Well neither one of us could resist that urge to solve a puzzle.
Once we were told her birth mother's name we started the search – good old google! One of the first results was a family tree written by Don Ferguson Fergus(s)on of Moulin a mine of information and where I started from. I began to grow her mother’s tree on Ancestry.com. Years ago I had started a tree but never had the time or inclination to go much farther back than my Grandparents, that all changed. I now have 2 family trees for my Mum, her adopted family, and her birth family both with over 2000 names on them. I have also grown mine and my husband's family tree on both sides, again with thousands of names on it – it's addictive once you start.
It was very strange growing a tree that didn’t really feel like mine but knowing that these were my ancestors. What a fascinating bunch they turned out to be, from a groundbreaking eye surgeon, Richard Thomas Hunt, to the now notorious, thanks to Mike Leigh’s recent film Peterloo, Magistrate and High Sheriff William Hulton, who gave the order for troops to violently disperse a peaceful, pro-democracy protest in the centre of the UK’s first industrial city.
Whilst all of that kept me busy for quite a while, what we really wanted to know was if Mum had any brothers or sisters out there, so in between looking up old ancestors on the web I started looking for family closer to today. With the information, I gleaned from Don Ferguson’s website I managed to confirm that her mum, Jean, was buried in Melbourne and had emigrated there in the early 40s with a family. Within a few weeks of finding out she was adopted, we had made contact with her younger half-brother, Tony through his son Tony on Facebook. It apparently did not come as a complete surprise that a half-sister had come out of the woodwork.
Over the next few weeks, emails were sent back and forth, pictures were exchanged and suddenly mum’s family had grown from being an only child to having 4 half-brothers, a half-sister, and a step-sister, all on her Mum’s side. 5 of which were still alive and living in Australia. Sadly one of her half-brothers died very shortly after this. It was fascinating to learn what kind of lives they all had and also to share our lives with them. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that Jean was mum'sdon't mother, pictures dont lie!
In my mind, a plan started coming together (I love organizing surprises) – it was soon to be mum’s 80th birthday, and what better way to celebrate it than meeting her newly found family? So along with my sister and brother, we hatched a plan to visit Australia with Mum for her 80th birthday. My uncles Tony and Brian and their families were all in on the surprise, and they couldn’t wait to meet us all. The only problem was we had to keep it a secret for about a year. This proved to be impossible not only because we all knew that Mum likes to sort her clothes weeks in advance of any long trip and I couldn’t begin to pack a bag without her knowing but also when Uncle Tony visited us about 7 months later, to check we weren’t a scam (his words not mine), the first thing he said to me was, ‘I can’t keep it a secret anymore, I’m bound to blurt out something I shouldn’t!’ so over drinks on Tony’s first night, I revealed that she was going to be traveling across the world to see her brothers and sisters and not only that but both my sister and I were going to be going as well. As you can imagine it all got a little emotional. So…we were set for a big adventure at the end of 2017.
As for skeletons in the closet, well mum was certainly that for her siblings, yet all of them were so open and friendly and welcomed us with big arms into their family. I have always looked up to my mum and her outlook on life is one that I truly respect and admire. She is not angry that she was ‘given away’ when her siblings weren’t. She does not know the circumstances that made her mum make that decision but she knows that it would not have been an easy one to make. She also looks back on her life so far and has absolutely no regrets. She had a wonderful upbringing with loving parents – what more could anyone ask for?
“if you can’t get rid of the skeleton in your closet you’d best teach it to dance”
George Bernard Shaw