Born and raised in England, Sarah Holdstock would sometimes look at family photos and think she was in the wrong picture.
She never thought someone in Frederick County would offer her the link she needed to appear in the “right” one.
After years of searching, Sarah, 42, found her birth family last summer, including her aunt, Ruth Taylor, who lives off Senseny Road.
Frederick County resident Ruth Taylor and her niece, Sarah Holdstock, began e-mailing last summer after Sarah discovered her biological American family. Ruth’s brother, Bill Hartman, never told his family he fathered a child while stationed in England in the 1960s.
A picture taken this summer thousands of miles from England finally puts Sarah’s face in pictures with people who share her features.
“Before I heard from Sarah, I didn’t know I had a niece in England,” Ruth said. “I think it’s wonderful, and I’m so glad she found us.”
Sarah was born on May 3, 1961, in Bedford, England. Her father was Ruth’s brother, Bill Hartman, a member of the U.S. Air Force stationed near Bedford. Her mother was Mary Carter of Bedford.
Bill and Mary, both 24 at the time, learned their affair led to a pregnancy. Unmarried, Mary said she would put the child up for adoption, and Bill returned to the States.
“Bill never said anything about having a child in England,” Ruth said. “I believe Sarah’s mother might have first changed her mind about the adoption, because I remember my mother talking about a lady from England writing her and asking for money to come to the United States. I don’t remember if she spoke to Bill about this or if he told her what it was about or if she wrote back.”
Mary did in fact place Sarah up for adoption, and her adoptive parents provided a loving home, Sarah wrote in an e-mail from her home in Isle of Wight, on the southern coast of England.
But she was curious about her birth parents, and began searching for her identity when she was 18.
She contacted the country’s adoption society and learned her mother’s name and her age at Sarah’s birth. She also learned that Mary, who died at 32 of a brain tumor, also had a 4-year-old daughter.
All the adoption society would tell Sarah about her father was he was in the U.S. Air Force, came from Virginia or West Virginia, and was 24 when she was born.
They refused to give Sarah his name, she said.
Bill Hartman ultimately had three daughters. Sarah met Beverly Jo and Melody during a reunion last summer.
Sarah continued to try to get more information about her father, but had no luck.
Sarah was married and had three children when her luck changed six years ago.
She found out she could have copies of all the papers pertaining to her birth. “I found sadly that my mum had died,” Sarah said.
Eventually, she also learned the identity of her father.
“I had a phone call telling me the information had been sent to the local social services children’s department and that I could go in on May 3, 2002, which was my 41st birthday, and get the rest of the information about my father,” she said.
After she learned Bill’s name, Sarah contacted Trans Atlantic Children’s Enterprise, a non-profit group designed to help GI babies find their fathers.
“They pointed me in the right direction and told me how to apply for his military records,” Sarah said. “That’s when I found out that he was dead, too.”
Bill, who lived in Winchester in the 1970s, was 51 when he died in 1988 in Las Vegas.
Sarah had already met members of her mother’s family, including her half-sister in England. She had learned that her mother was a gifted seamstress. Now she wanted to meet her father’s family.
“I obtained Bill’s death certificate and his obits,” she said. “I started making calls to his Hartmans in the United States. I wrote and called lots of Hartmans before I found his family.”
One of Sarah’s messages landed in Ruth’s e-mail box last February. Ruth replied and told Sarah she was Bill Hartman’s sister. Ruth also told Sarah she would find pictures of her brother and send them to her.
“Now we pretty much communicate through e-mails every day,” Ruth said.
Through e-mails, Sarah learned her birth father had married twice and had two daughters from his first marriage — Beverly Jo Sudol of North Carolina, and Melody Hartman-Patrick of Colorado.
Sarah met her new family in September, when she flew to the United States for the first of what she hopes will be many reunions.
“She was here for 11 days, and three of those days were spent at my brother Edward’s, house in Athens, W.Va.,” Ruth said.
At the reunion, Sarah met her aunts and uncles, cousins, and her two half-sisters.
“Everyone was so lovely,” Sarah said. “Never in my dreams would I have thought that this would be something that I could do and have a whole new family.”
During telephone interviews with Beverly Jo and Melody, both said they are happy to have discovered another sister.
“It’s been such a blessing,” Beverly Jo said. “Sarah is such a sweetie pie.”
She also said she noticed many similarities the sisters have. “For instance, the three of us all like mashed potatoes with slaw on them,” Beverly Jo said. “It’s funny we have that in common.”
Melody said she Sarah have similar mannerisms. “We use our hands to talk in the same way,” Melody said. “Everyone noticed that, and we also like to shop.”
Like Ruth, Melody communicates with Sarah regularly via e-mail.
“We’re getting to know each other really well,” she said.
Ruth said she hopes to fly to England next spring to visit Sarah. Melody also is planning to visit her sister next year.
“But if they can’t come, I will definitely visit them,” Sarah said.
Her long search over, Sarah said she doesn’t resent her birth father’s actions.
“I can’t resent it, because life’s too short,” Sarah said. “I would not want resentment to blight what I have now.”
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