Who Do You Think You Are?
I was adopted and did not discover my birth mother until I was 28. My birth father has been identified following an AncestryDNA test just this year. I am now 72. As far as I am aware the two sides of my birth family were quite separate, one living in London and the other living in Retford. I was brought up in Redcar. But my investigation into my family history has shown that the three families have an incredible link.
My adopted family were landowners, and owned an extensive farm here in Skelton in Cleveland where I live. They were sympathetic to the ironstone miners and from 1872 onwards lent their fields for the Miners’ Annual Gala, as well as sitting up on the platform with the speakers.
My birth mother’s family were from Hackney, but a great grandfather had been a Congregationalist minister. While working near Doncaster he championed the miners’ cause, fighting for better pay and conditions and running a soup kitchen for miners thrown out of their homes for striking. For several years he worked in Eston, just five miles from Skelton, and in 1889 he came to the ironstone miners’ gala day as a speaker.
My biological father was from
East Retford, as were his family for many generations before him. However, I was amazed to learn that his wife’s family was from the next village to where I live, and her grandparents married in the church next door to my house.
The family were all miners.
So in 1889, the miners’ gala was held on a field lent by my adopted family with several of them in the crowd and behind the scenes. Speaking from the platform was the great grandfather of my biological mother, and in the crowd were the grandparents of my biological father’s wife, not to mention his future father-in-law.
Josie Bland, by email
EDITOR REPLIES: You have discovered some wonderful surprises, Josie! We always love to hear about the coincidences that researchers have uncovered while investigating their family histories.