A Worthing great-grandmother has been reunited with her long-lost brother after searching for him for more than 50 years.
Rosemary Ray spent decades combing through records without success and had almost given up hope in tracking down her sibling, who she last saw when she was six years old and he was three.
“I kept coming up against a brick wall.” the 76-year-old said. “I had more or less given up hope.”
A history enthusiast, Rosemary has spent 30 years researching her family tree, some branches of which she can trace back to the 1100s – but her brother remained the missing piece of her family story.
So she was shocked when, ‘totally out of the blue’, she opened her emails one day to find a message from her brother’s wife.
“I just sat and looked at it,” she said. “It was absolutely unbelievable.
“It was a bit like if you win the lottery, you sit there and think, I really can’t believe it.”
She discovered that her brother, Stuart, a father of three, had changed his surname in the 60s – making it very unlikely she would ever have managed to find him.
Ironically, Stuart’s wife Maria managed to track down Rosemary through ancestry.co.uk just a week after joining the site.
Two Sundays ago, Stuart travelled from Essex with Maria to meet Rosemary for the first time in 70 years at her home in Bruce Avenue, Worthing.
Rosemary said they were all ‘a bag of nerves’ ahead of the day but when they finally met, she said: “It was amazing. It was almost like we had known eachother all our lives.”
She said it was an emotional meeting as they swapped stories and tried to fill in the gaps in their ‘complicated’ family saga.
Rosemary, who was born during the war in 1942, never knew who her father was.
Her mother had Stuart with her first husband but, in 1948, for reasons Rosemary still does not quite understand, she left.
It was from this moment that the siblings’ lives took different routes.
Stuart went to live with his father where, unfortunately, he ‘didn’t have a very nice life’ and spent time in two different children’s homes, Rosemary learned.
“That made me feel very sad,” she said.
Rosemary was brought up by her maternal grandparents, who were very wealthy.
“I had a totally different life to him. I was very lucky,” she said.
Rosemary did not see her mother again until she made contact when Rosemary was 21.
She had moved to Bolton with her second husband and had six children.
Rosemary never spoke to her mother about why she left, and said: “It was probably such a painful memory for her, she didn’t want to relive it.”
Rosemary moved to Worthing with her late husband in 1965, where she did various jobs including working for a solicitors for 20 years.
She had two children and now has four grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Rosemary said finding her brother had brought ‘a sense of closure’ to her family.
She is keen to share the results of her family history research with him.
She said: “We have so much catching up to do. It’s almost a bit overwhelming.”