I don’t know if you’ve been watching Long Lost Family, the program about people who have ‘lost’ their parents and/or siblings through adoption or the child being taken from the parent(s) for other reasons. The process of initial contact and then being re-united is usually an emotional roller coaster. Understandable given that the period of separation is often 30 years or more.
In 1978, my mother asked my sister (Melinda) and I to sit down at the kitchen table because she had something to tell us. It was obviously very important, whatever it was, as it was the first time something like this had ever happened. Mum then told us that after our father and she had separated (they separated in 1964 or 1965), she’d fallen pregnant and given birth to another child. She told us that our brother’s name was Peter, and she had to give him up for adoption. Back then many single mothers were forced to give their children up – it was what the community and the church expected. As she was single at the time with us two kids, very little income and nowhere permanent to live she was never given a choice. When we pressed her for more details, then and in later years, it was too upsetting for her to talk about. I know that she felt very ashamed and never forgave herself right up to when she died in 2002.
Melinda and I talked about Peter over the years, wondering what sort of upbringing he’d had, where he was and whether we would ever get to meet him. Was he still alive? Did he know about me and Melinda? I’d also done some searching on the Internet, but with a last name like ‘Smith’ it was difficult to know where to search and what to search for. I tried things like combinations of his name and my mother’s name and my mother’s maiden name just in case he had posted something somewhere, but to no avail.
On March 7, I posted a somewhat vague ad on a website I had discovered during my search called Oz Reunion–which has a section where adoptees and their relatives can submit information about who they are looking for–in the hope that Peter might see it some time.
Not long after I posted that entry, I also had a look at the Victoria Department of Human Services website and discovered that siblings of adoptees could request adoption records providing they could properly identify themselves as being a sibling. I figured that would be my next course of action; if there was no response to the Oz Reunion ad in the next 6 months or so, I’d see if I was able to access my brother’s adoption records.
On May 1 (Melinda’s birthday), a notification came through from the Oz Reunion website, which I actually missed. It had come into my personal email inbox, which I’ve had for 12 or so years, so I’m guessing I had a bunch of spam when I checked that mailbox in the morning and accidentally deleted it (I found it a week or so later). Then, on May 6, I received an email in another inbox related to my genealogy website. I’m glad I was sitting down, because the third line of the email said:
“According to my birth certificate, I was born Peter Smith to Lorraine Anne Smith (nee Harper)”
I was stunned and physically shaking. In the Oz Reunion ad I had only mentioned Ballarat, the years 1965-68 and the name Peter Smith, and I’d just received an email naming my (our) mother! I could scarcely believe it, even though I knew this HAD to be my brother. I rang Melinda immediately and replied back to Peter to let him know that our mother’s name was correct and to get his phone number.
Later that day I spoke to Peter for around an hour, and over the following days we’ve exchanged some rather lengthy emails and family photographs as we try to catch up on the 49 years that have passed since his birth. He too had been searching for some years (that’s how he found my ad) and wondering about his birth mother and family.
Besides re-connecting with our brother, we’ve discovered that Melinda and I have a niece, a nephew and a sister-in-law, and Peter has discovered that he has a brother (my sister’s name was mentioned in the adoption papers, but my name wasn’t) and a niece.
We still have a lot of years to cover, and we’ve not met in person yet. I’m sure we will soon though.
I don’t think it’s possible to adequately express in words how glad and excited Melinda and I are about being re-united with our younger brother who we wondered about for so many years!