Anne and Karen’s story reveals what is done by Birthlink

Anne (right) and her niece Karen. Picture: Contributed
Anne (right) and her niece Karen. Picture: Contributed
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The road to creating an adoption reunion can be long and winding

Classic adoption reunions are usually thought of as an adopted person meets their birth mother, however many of the meetings and contact that we arrange depart from this script. Anne and Karen’s meeting and coming together this year is one of those. No adoption reunion is straightforward, however the added complications in helping Anne and Karen meet were that neither party lived in Scotland – meaning that everything was done by ‘phone, email or letter, and we had to search English birth and marriage records. With the latter, unlike Scottish records that can be viewed in Edinburgh, the full details of English births, marriages and deaths are only accessible after purchasing the full certificate in question.

This is a brief account of another successful meeting we’ve had a hand in and hopefully the beginning of a long and satisfying relationship for Anne and her niece Karen.

Anne (on the right) was born in Peebles in 1947. Her birth mother worked for the Army then and after Anne was born, she visited her in hospital and fed her there. Her adoption was arranged privately so there were no records as to Anne’s mother’s motives except the facts that she was unmarried and there was no father’s name on Anne’s birth certificate. Anne was adopted at two weeks old and her mother returned to the north of England. Anne emigrated to Canada when she was 25. She now lives outside Vancouver. When she approached Birthlink in February this year she had only her original birth certificate giving her birth mother’s name.

She registered on our adoption contact register but there was no-one else registered. That’s when she asked us to begin searching and we found Karen, Anne’s birth niece living in Lancashire. We wrote our usual discreet letter. Within days the reply came. Karen was very welcoming and, like many families, there had been some rumours attached to Anne’s mother so news of Anne and her adoption was not so much of a surprise. Karen shared the news that Margaret, Anne’s mother, had died of a heart attack but went on to say that she had been very close to Margaret, had cared for her, and had many photographs and fond memories.

We put them in letter contact in May. Anne went first with a page-long letter about herself, her family and their travels that ended: “I’m just thinking of all the birthday presents and hugs you missed from aunty”. Anne had plans to visit Scotland with her family in June this year and Karen made it known that she would welcome the chance to meet with her.

In the weeks before they met, Anne and Karen exchanged emails, letters and photographs and they met halfway in Penrith at the end of June.

This is Anne’s e-mail to us after she returned home to Canada:

“We met up with Karen and her family a few days after we arrived and honestly I was expecting some awkwardness but it never happened! Karen gave me a box with pictures and some things that belonged to her Grandma plus a beautiful bouquet of flowers! Pretty emotional day to put it mildly! Anyway Karen and Simon drove up to Peebles and stayed overnight with us at our friends and we had a wonderful visit.

“The coincidences are unnerving! Our birthdays are on the same day to start with! We have become good friends and it looks like Karen is going to try to come over here so we can celebrate our birthdays together in November! Never ever did I think this would happen in a million years. So thank you soooo much for all the hard work you did on my behalf, you went over and above what was required.”

Anne and Karen’s story reveals much of both the bread and butter of what is done week in, week out by Birthlink, the careful and tactful searching and approaches, the respectful initial go-between work and throughout the advice that is calibrated to the sensitivities of family secrets. What cannot be known and probably never will be, is the story of the mother that cared for her baby for a short time then left, and the name and identity of Anne’s father. What we do have though, and take great satisfaction from, is a successful search and meeting. And the picture to prove it.