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She Reunited with Her 94-Year-Old Grandfather. He Never Knew He Had a Daughter

Mandy Punton’s mother, Shirley, discovered as an adult that the parents who had raised her since her birth in 1952 were actually her grandparents — and her “sister” was actually her mother. Throughout the rest of her life, she expressed no interest in finding out who her father was.

However, her daughter Mandy was always curious about the identity of her grandfather. Her curiosity grew after Shirley’s death in 2010, and then again when Mandy took a DNA test and discovered that her ethnicity is about 50% Scandinavian. Since, as far as she knew, her mother’s maternal side is Irish, Scottish, and English, she assumed that her mother’s paternal line is the Scandinavian, and longed to know more.

After researching the matter, Mandy learned that MyHeritage is the strongest genealogy company for researching European and Scandinavian roots. So in April 2021, she uploaded her DNA data to MyHeritage and “immediately got so many DNA matches, and over a thousand of them were from Norway.” However, the strongest matches she received were second cousins, and she needed help to move forward from there.

A ‘search angel’ joins the quest

That’s where “search angel” Eli Reinholdtsen came in. An amateur but highly skilled genealogist from Oslo, Eli volunteers her time to help people research their family history. Mandy found Eli because they are distantly related, and Eli’s name kept coming up as the manager of many family members’ sites and DNA kits.

Eli and Mandy embarked on a joint journey to find out which of the men in the extended family might be Mandy’s grandfather. “The family is huge and when we started searching there were about 40 men we focused on, out of which 14 siblings’ children were possible candidates,” Mandy says. It took them months to gradually narrow down the options according to the possibility that one of the men was in Australia during the time Shirley was conceived.

“I was completely absorbed in the research,” Mandy laughs. “Every lunch break at work was dedicated to this and everyone around me was aware I was dedicated to finding out who my grandfather was.” Mandy emphasized the word “was,” because both she and Eli were certain they were looking for a grave, not a living person. Mandy’s grandmother was 30 when she gave birth to Shirley, so it only made sense.

Thoralf’s story

Eventually, they narrowed in on one man who was a seaman in Australia back in the early 1950s: Thoralf Stavem from Alta, Norway, born in 1929 — about 7 years younger than Mandy’s grandmother, Dorothy. After World War II, Thoralf worked as a merchant seaman. Upon arriving in Australia at the age of 21, Thoralf left the ship, hoping to become an Aussie. Then, he apparently met Dorothy, but because he had no visa to live and work in Australia, he was detained by law enforcement and eventually deported back to Norway.

Thoralf (right) as a 21-year-old seaman. Photo repaired and enhanced by MyHeritage

Thoralf (right) as a 21-year-old seaman. Photo repaired and enhanced by MyHeritage

Thoralf didn’t know that the young woman he left behind was about 6 weeks pregnant with Shirley. She might not have known herself at that point.

Thoralf went on to become a fisherman and later in life owned a fish factory. He also had 3 sons, 7 grandchildren, 8 great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren… and most importantly, he’s still alive! At age 94, he currently lives in a nursing home and is still sharp, with a great sense of humor, and a good working memory: he remembered Mandy’s grandmother.

A 40-hour journey to meet Grandpa for the first time

Eli contacted Thoralf’s wife (who has since passed away) through Facebook, and the response was immediately warm and welcoming — even before they confirmed the relationship with a MyHeritage DNA test for Thoralf.

In March 2022 Mandy made the 40-hour long journey from Australia to Norway to meet her grandfather.

Thoralf gives Mandy a tour of his nursing home in his wheelchair

Thoralf gives Mandy a tour of his nursing home in his wheelchair

Mandy and Thoralf having dinner. Thoralf is proudly wearing an Australia jersey Mandy gave him

Mandy and Thoralf having dinner. Thoralf is proudly wearing an Australia jersey Mandy gave him

She stayed at the home of Thoralf’s eldest son, her mother’s half-brother Karl-Tore, and became best friends with his wife, Irena. Mandy and Irena speak at least 3–4 times a week.

Mandy (right) and Irena enjoying the great Norwegian outdoors

Mandy (right) and Irena enjoying the great Norwegian outdoors

Mandy’s meeting with her grandfather was so special and heartwarming that Mandy didn’t wait long to quickly fly all across the world to see him again. In October 2022 she returned to Norway, this time with two of her daughters. A third, but definitely not the last, visit is in the works.

Thoralf shows Mandy some family photos

Thoralf shows Mandy some family photos

Many thanks to Mandy for sharing her incredible story with us. If you’ve also made an incredible discovery with MyHeritage, we’d love to hear about it! Please share it with us via this form or email us at stories@myheritage.com.

The post She Reunited with Her 94-Year-Old Grandfather. He Never Knew He Had a Daughter appeared first on MyHeritage Blog.

Source: My Heritage

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