Rodney Times : January 6th 2011
3 RODNEY TIMES, JANUARY 6, 2011 NEWS Display Suite, 1 Parkside Drive, Kensington Park, O REWA BEACH Open daily 11am to 3pm or call for an appt on 0800 57 67 392 www.kensingtonpark.co.nz Location, Location, Location • Freehold titles/Unit titles give peace of mind and future investment advantages. • A genuine community lifestyle in a traditional neighbourhood, a short walk from Orewa beach. • Exclusive facilities for residents include a heated Pool, Sauna and Gymnasium - close to the Orewa shopping and bush walks. • A variety of homes to choose from. It doesn't get much better than this! • 2 bdms + large living area • Liftaccessto2carparks •Highqu alitym ode r nftout •Fr e eholdu nittitle • Ready for occupation now! 31 Parkside Drive. $669,000 Superb one level living Fri, Sat & Sun 1-2pm • Just metres from beautiful Alice Eaves Reserve and Nukumea Stream • North facing - Enjoy all day sun • 3 Bedrooms + 2 Carparks + Storage • Superb quality with high specs throughout • Internal lift access • Freehold unit titles with limited stock available NEW RELEASE OPEN HOME ENQUIRE NOW! Surprises in search for family Reporter Michelle Cooke uncovers tales of discoveries, reunions and magical moments from people who have delved into their family's past. Sorting through the past: Genealogist Jan Gow has helped numerous people reconnect with lost relatives and discover things about their family's history they never would have known otherwise. Photos: FIONA GOODALL A long road: Tony Sullivan was an only child until he was in his 60s. He discovered he had a half-brother and half-sister when he finally tracked down his biological mother. THERE are three large photo albums at Tony Sullivan's home, full of pictures of his mother, sister, brother and cousins -- people who he only met six years ago, at the age of 65.When Mr Sullivan first called his half-brother from his St Heliers home in 2001 he was met with sus- picion. He was staggered. He thought I was either a conman or someone from the IRD.'' His biological mother Charlotte had never told her son or daughter about her past. So when his sister asked her mum: Did you have a son before us?'', she quietly replied yes'.'' It took another three years before the mother and son would finally be reunited. Charlotte was 91 years old and Tony was 65. Mr Sullivan has always known he was adopted. A couple who couldn't have children of their own made him part of their family. Raised as an only child, the family moved from Britain to New Zealand when he was 16. He had a positive upbringing and only thought of searching for his biological mother when his adoptive parents died in the late 70s and early 80s. It was 15 years until he finally found her. He started with just a couple of clues. His adoptive parents had documents which told him his father was in the motor trade industry and a letter sent via the adoption society from his mother, which was signed Char- lotte. A chance encounter with old school mates led him on the right path and he obtained a copy of his birth certificate. His mother's name was listed -- but his father's was stated as unknown''. Mr Sullivan eventually got in touch with one of New Zealand's leading genealogists, Jan Gow, and taking her advice, hunted through hundreds of marriage certificates from the United Kingdom in search of the name Charlotte. He finally found it. It listed her husband as working in the motor trade industry -- so Mr Sullivan dis- covered his parents had married. He later found out Charlotte had tried to get him back a few months after he was adopted. When Mr Sullivan was born in 1939, the only people who knew about him were the doctors, his mother and grandmother. Charlotte had hid her pregnancy from her seven siblings and her strict father for fear of being shunned for having a baby out of wedlock. Mr Sullivan says he may never have found her if she hadn't mar- ried and if his father's last name wasn't unusual. He looked in the white pages for anyone with the same last name and found one person. After being put in touch with numerous other family members in the UK, Mr Sul- livan was finally on the right track. From 1984 to 2001 I got nowhere. Then suddenly in four days the whole thing fell into place.'' Mr Sullivan's father had returned from World War Two shell shocked and died in 1975. His mother Char- lotte had remarried, had two chil- dren and was living in Peterborough, in east England. It was pretty scary to speak to someone and say: Hello I'm Tony, your son from New Zealand', and not knowing the response I may get,'' he says. The response was hesitation. Charlotte wanted to leave the past in the past. She was traumatised by giving up her baby, the war and how it affected her first husband. He took some photos that his half- sister had given to him and Char- lotte helped him identify people. Mr Sullivan has met with Char- lotte once since and talks to her over the phone. He's also regularly in touch with his cousins and siblings. The old photos that she helped identify -- along with newer ones taken on his two trips -- are now neatly tucked inside the family photo albums, which have swelled as a result. Bringing people together and reconnecting them to the past is all in a day's work for Mrs Gow. She gave up a career in account- ing and bank work when she dis- covered genealogy 30 years ago. The Glendowie resident has helped people trace their parents, ancestors and create family trees. But her favourite encounters are those special, random moments she describes as serendipity''. One of the most incredible stories Mrs Gow has heard of is from a lady, also named Jan. Jan was writing a book about her family's genealogy and had tracked down every family member except for one second cousin. This cousin had moved to Eng- land where she had lived most of her life. When she returned to New Zealand she got a job at the post office sorting mail. She noticed one of the letters that had jammed the sorting machine was addressed to her -- but with one mistake -- such as Joanna, instead of Joanne. Jan's second cousin was intrigued and jotted down the sender's name and address. She called Jan and asked if she was connected with her family, as she had been estranged with her father's family for years and was keen to reconnect. The long-lost cousins were reunited and Jan now had that one missing piece to the puzzle. It turned out Jan had sent the letter to a niece, with nearly exactly the same name as her second cousin. That letter had been jammed in the machine for two years. Mrs Gow encourages everyone to delve into their family's past and says it is so easy now there are free online programmes. Type in the things you know and you'll soon be surprised,'' she says. You get on such a high when you find them.'' One small discovery she made was that one of her husband's ancestors married a 21-year-old man and listed her own age as 35. But we knew she was 43. So she must have been quite a lady,'' she says. All the things you find -- it brings them to life.'' Go to www.familysearch.org to check out your own family history. Got a story to tell about your family and this area's history? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with information and photos.
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