Meeting My Own Long Lost Family

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Written by: David Oates – Head Research at Relative Connections & Joanna North Associates

For over 10 years now I have been helping people find and connect with their lost relatives and friends. In that time, I have never really considered myself or who might be missing from my own life. However, this weekend I experienced meeting my own family, not seen for over 40 years.

This all stems from my dads’ side of the family. My grandad died when he was quite young and before I was born and my dads mum just after I was born. So, I never knew them.  My dad had quite unusual family in that he was the middle child, with a brother 10 years older and a brother 10 years younger. The younger brother, born unexpectedly one day as my grandma apparently was unaware of her pregnancy! But that’s a story for another day!

My dads elder brother joined the RAF as a young man and as a result travelled the world living and working in other parts of the UK as wells as Asia and the USA. Upon leaving the RAF he and his wife decided to emigrate to California. As a result, we saw little of them over the years meeting on a rare return trip to the UK around 1980.  My uncle had 3 daughters and a son, all older than me and my brother. My uncle has returned a couple of time since on his own but has not returned for many years and he is now in to his 80s. He separated from his wife and remarried and has since been widowed. Contact in the past few years has been very limited between my dad and his US based brother. We have had no contact with our cousins and were unsure where their lives had taken them.

So fast forward to this weekend and I went to see my dad, just a check in visit as he’s had a major operation recently. My dad’s a pretty laid back in nature so just happened to casually say, oh your cousin is over from the USA, but she’s going home today. WHAT?! Was my immediate reaction. It transpires my cousin along with two of her adult children had decided to travel over to Europe. Given the current circumstances this was something of a challenge. They were intending to go to London, but having caught the Eurostar from Paris, decided to catch a train at Kings Cross and come to their hometown of Leeds. They had no contact details for anyone but managed to find my dads youngest brother on Facebook. From this they were able to connect and meet up on Friday.

I got to meet my cousin and her two daughters on Sunday afternoon. It all happened very quickly, and I learned so much about their lives in a small space of time. However, this feels like the tip of the iceberg and has now piqued my curiosity to know more about all the family in the USA.

When I reflect on this, I have always been curious to know more about them.  As a family we have been geographically close to my mums’ side. This has meant we have kept in regular contact and kept updated on each other’s lives. I’ve always enjoyed such family interactions, meeting at family parties, christenings, weddings and sadly some funerals. My dad’s side of the family are much more of an enigma. Living in the USA their lives have likely taken a very different route and so I have always been curious to know more.

The question I suspect people reading this will be asking themselves is, you do this for a living, why didn’t you find them? Good question, I certainly had the ability so why didn’t I?  I can’t say for sure, because its certainly not that I didn’t want to. Perhaps its just one of those things we intend to get around to, but as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.

For my cousin, I could see it meant a lot to be with family and likewise for my dad. It has also encouraged my dad and uncle to make that long talked about trip to the USA to see their brother. The invitation remains open to our other family in the UK to join them too.  It’s really down to my cousins spontaneous decision to come to the UK and try and connect that all of this has happened. Thinking of the work we do that’s how it nearly always is. Some one has the thought to find someone or do something about it. But it’s the positive action taken to take that next step that makes these things happen. My experience has been a really positive one. Our families never fell out, but as can happen the geographical distance and passage of time has just meant contact was lost for a while.

My cousin and her daughters have now returned to the USA. But we have all made a promise to stay in touch and take up that offer of a trip to California when circumstances allow once more.

I think for many people, I include myself in this and generally speaking people who use our service, feel a strong connection to family and although you may not know someone, you can still feel drawn to want to know more about them. I guess that’s why there is a need for the service we provide and why it continues to be so popular.

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