The Brocket Babies

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1941

From Julie Bloomfield - received 17th October 2009

I was adopted by Maryon and William Gray and had an extremely happy childhood and didn't learn until I was 18 (when I wanted a passport to go abroad) that I had been adopted when I was three.   This didn't distress me at all because I had always loved them both very much and would never have considered trying to find out who my natural mother was as I considered it would have been too traumatic for her and my adopted parents.   Of course I always wondered what my mother was like and why I had been adopted.   When I married in 1966 both my husband and I thought it might be too risky to try and find out more about where and who my natural parents were, so I did nothing.   The only paperwork I had ever seen was the Adoption Certificate which named my mother as Iolanthe Whitburn and my birth name of Valerie Rosalind Whitburn.

The story starts in November 2004 when I received a letter from Australia, from a man called Gary Kent as follows:

‘My name is Gary Kent, and I live in Canberra, Australia.   Believe it or not you are my fifth cousin.   My great great great grandfather, John Riches Kent, emigrated to Australia from London in 1830.  His sister Sarah Ann was your great great great grandmother.   She married William Warden, hence your father’s middle name of Warden.   After years of searching, you are the only living descendant of Elizabeth Kent that I can find, and quite simply I was hoping you might know something of the family history  etc’

Of course he didn't know that I was not a blood relation and I didn't enlighten him because I couldn't really help him with his search for ancestors.   Anyway a few months later he unexpectedly came to visit me whilst he was on a trip to the UK and I then explained to him that I was not related in any way to the Gray family.   He then suggested that as he was into genealogy in a big way perhaps I might want him to investigate my family history.

I was a bit hesitant as I was not sure that I was doing the right thing and might be opening Pandorra’s box.   I told him that I would be glad if he could make further investigations and this he did saying he would handle it very carefully and sensitively.

I obtained a copy of my full birth certificate (I had only ever had the short version which showed me as being Julie Rosalind Gray) and on it I saw that I had been born at Brocket Hall Maternity Hospital, Lemsford on the 28th July 1941 and that my mother Iolanthe (Hotel Receptionist) lived at Hatch, West Tisbury, Wilts.   There was no father’s name on the Birth Certificate.   This was when I contacted Brocket Hall to find out whether they had been a maternity hospital during the war and they then told me about the Brocket Baby Day.

Now came the question of whether I wanted Gary to delve further into my past and after some thought I told him to find more information out if he could.   He came back to me with the birth and death certificate of my mother Iolanthe and on the death certificate was the name of the informant who had registered the death in March 1986 – this being Deborah Ann Kolombos – daughter.  Her father Maxwell Carter had died a few years previously.   The question now was should I contact her or would I let Gary investigate further, the latter option being the one I chose.

Gary in the meantime had found out much more information about the Kolombos family as Deborah had a husband called Alex (son of Andreas Kolombos, born in Cyprus) and a son called Max.

Anyway to cut a long story short, I plucked up courage and wrote to Deborah asking her to forgive me for writing if it caused her any distress, but requesting any details she could give me of my mother, such as a photograph.   She replied by e-mail the following day, saying how astounded she was to learn that she had a half sister and telling me that I had another half sister called Fay who lived in Kingsteinton, Devon.   She sent me a lovely photograph of Iolanthe when she was young and said she was going to arrange for us to have a conference call on the following Sunday.

Anyway we all met shortly after and they brought with them an album they had put together with family photographs and a chart of the family tree.   Items that are treasured possessions to me now.   When we met up, Fay showed me a small blue wallet that had been in our mother’s possessions when she died and in it was a photograph of me (they could never understand who the child of about three was) and coincidentally I had also seen the same photograph that my adopted mother and father had.   As you can imagine it was a very tearful and happy day for the three of us.  There was also a photograph of a man sitting cross legged on a bench and I have to assume that this might have been my father who I have never been able to find.