Karen Fry, a MyHeritage user from the U.K., took it upon herself to help her mother-in-law Sheila solve the mystery of her origins. Born shortly after World War II in the U.K., Sheila was placed for adoption immediately after her birth, and didn’t know the identity of her birth parents. It was only when her daughter-in-law decided to take on the case that she was able to make progress, but there were many obstacles along the way. Karen was not deterred, and finally, thanks to a MyHeritage DNA test, not only did Karen discover the identity of Sheila’s father, she found that Sheila had a half-sister — born just a few months after Sheila — living in the Netherlands!
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Searching for clues
Sheila Fry’s adoption file included her biological mother’s full name, but her birth father’s name was not listed. Her adoptive parents told her that her biological father was a Canadian soldier who was sent to Europe to fight the Nazi occupation, and returned to his country some time after the end of the war.
“When I originally started the search, Sheila’s adoptive parents were no longer alive and there was no way to verify the information,” says Karen, who is married to Sheila’s son. “The information we had was quite limited. Sheila was born in September 1946, a few months after the end of the war. We had no way to verify the information — whether the father was indeed a Canadian soldier.”
Finding the biological mother, as it turns out, was also a difficult task. The sources of information available on the Internet over a decade ago were limited, and locating a woman who may have changed her name after marriage can sometimes prove impossible. Years ago, Karen found a record on an Australian passenger list with the birth mother’s maiden name. The record showed that this woman left England and traveled by boat to Australia in 1948 together with a baby boy, another child. Karen located the child’s descendants in Australia and gave them a call. Bingo: the details matched exactly, and a DNA test confirmed that the baby boy — now, of course, a grown man — was indeed Sheila’s half-brother. Sheila’s birth mother had been identified.
But her birth father hadn’t. “8 years ago we stopped the search. We felt we ran into a brick wall,” says Karen.
A similar plotline
While Sheila and Karen were trying to solve a 75-year-old mystery, Annie Ijpelaar from the Netherlands was also hoping for similar results. Born 75 years ago, just a few months before Sheila, she grew up with her birth mother and her stepfather.
Annie didn’t know that her stepfather wasn’t her biological father. “In those days it was shameful to talk about,” says Annie’s son Marc. “One day she overheard a conversation between relatives and realized that something was wrong. She went to the closet in the house where documents were kept and looked for information and found documents indicating that she was adopted by her stepfather. Later, she found out her birth father’s name from gossip she heard.”
Her biological father was a Canadian soldier who was sent to the front and participated in the liberation of Holland from the Nazi occupation. “We knew his name,” says Marc. “We knew he was a Canadian who fought for the liberation of the Netherlands in World War II, and that he probably returned to Canada, but beyond that we knew nothing about him.”
When Annie was 40 years old, she decided to try to locate her father. “She searched and found someone who might have known him,” says Marc, “but he refused to help her and all efforts were in vain. At some point she gave up and accepted the unfortunate fact that she would not know who her father was.”
The joke that cracked the case
The turning point for Marc came from an unexpected place: a joke between cousins that led to a DNA test. “My cousin and I always used to laugh about the situation,” says Marc. “That I am the grandson of a hero, who freed the Netherlands. Until one day he brought me a DNA kit and told me it was time to find my hero grandfather,” Marc laughs.
Marc took the test and waited for the results, which arrived several weeks later. A surprising message arrived in his email inbox: a DNA match was found. “I look at the results and I can’t believe it: wow, there is a very close match. I realized that Sheila can only be my aunt — my mother’s sister.”
To protect his mom from feeling hurt, Marc decided that as long as he didn’t have a definite answer, he would keep it a secret. “My mother had been looking for her father for years, so I didn’t want to tell until I knew for myself what was going on, so as not to cause her disappointment again.”
In the meantime, he tried to contact Karen through MyHeritage, but for several weeks he did not hear back from her and was about to give up. Then, finally, he received an email notifying him that he had received a message through MyHeritage. It was Karen.
“I suddenly see a message from a person I don’t know, who lives in the Netherlands, asking me about his mother’s father, who was probably a Canadian soldier who fought in the Netherlands,” Karen recalls. “He left a phone number, so I immediately called: ‘This is exactly the information we also have!’ I told him excitedly. ‘There is a match!’”
“Very quickly the subject of the Canadian father came up,” says Marc. “It turned out that we have many parallel lines in the plot — our stories overlap.”
At this point in time, he decided to tell his mother about these developments. “I went to her after everything was clear. I tried to explain to her what happened and she was just amazed. At first she had a hard time believing it was real. It took a while to explain to her how it works scientifically and why I think we are close to solving her mystery.” Marc and Karen decided to test both sisters’ DNA to make absolutely sure that this was indeed the connection. “The result was unequivocal: sisters,” says Marc.
At this point, they decided it was time for a video call. It was an emotional moment — one both sisters had longed for for many years. “The situation was special, an amazing conversation,” says Marc. “There were challenges because they both had trouble hearing and the communication between them was funny, but they look the same, they have the same hobbies. It was amazing.”
Matching blue dresses
The next step was a real meeting, face to face. Marc and Annie invited Sheila and her family to Holland. What happened at the moment of the meeting, none of the family members expected. When the door opened, the two sisters, who had never met before, discovered that the outfits they had chosen to wear that day were almost identical!
Watch their first-ever embrace below:
“The meeting between the families was a highlight,” Karen concludes. “As soon as they saw each other, and despite the language barrier, they acted as if they had known each other all their lives. Since then we have been in regular contact and I am glad that I had the privilege of helping them close a circle after so many years. I knew I would find her.”
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Source: My Heritage