I was 49 years old when I found out (and not from the two people who should have told me - as their intention was to take it to their graves) that the father who brought me up with my birth mother was not actually my biological father

To be 49 and realise you are not who you thought you were, had potential to be life shattering in itself, but what made this already extremely difficult information tough to digest, was that it was well known amongst other family members - that I was the family secret, the skeleton in the cupboard so to speak and I had absolutely no idea. But to put the ‘icing on the cake’ I was made to feel that the effect (the hurt and the shame) on my mother that me now finding out this 49yr old secret, was all my fault and that I had no right delving for more information or actually knowing anything at all - “It’s none of your business, it’s absolutely nothing to do with you” were painful words to hear from your mother.

Anyway moving on some what!

Although my mother at first decided I was to be told nothing, I was lucky enough to have her brother to turn to and answer some of the questions I had, which gave me a name, age and that my birth father was stationed at RAF Sculthorpe in Norfolk, the same base where my mother and family were at the time my parents met. My mother was 17 and my birth father was 21. They had a secret love affair, as my grandfather didn’t approve.

She found out she was pregnant with me at the same time my birth father’s posting in the UK was completed and he was sent back to the USA......and as there was then no contact between the two of them, she passed her affections onto Harry (a British airman also stationed at Sculthorpe). However, he was then posted overseas for a tour, so they wrote to each other and it was in one of their letters she told him she was pregnant and that my grandmother wanted to have me adopted but my mother wanted to keep me, so he replied to her saying to organise a wedding for when he was on his 2 week leave, which she did and they were married in May 1964 and I was born August 1964. Harry first laid eyes on me 8 months later when he came back to the UK.

With the information I found out when I reached 49 , I had no idea where to go until I came across GI Trace, where I sent a message for help in 2013 and I was put in touch Sally Vincent. I went to see Sally and miraculously she traced my birth father within months. Unfortunately, my birth father had died in 1990, at the age of 48, from complications from being paralysed after jumping off a cliff (I now know the full story but won’t bore you). Sally had also gathered other information about my paternal family and had located an uncle who was her first contact. She sent her famous letter out to Mr & Mrs McClain in Texas and he contacted me via email the morning of Father’s Day – I’ll never forget the relevance of that morning!

It was a lovely email, full of exciting news of the new family I now had, also saying how the family had known that my birth father Richard had a daughter back in the UK.

Then finally, after sometime, my mother decided to give me some information. The story that her brother had given me she repeated near word for word, obviously putting her personal touch on it, as well as other snippets, one being that when I was just 4 months old, her friend, who had gone to America to marry my birth father’s best friend, was back home in the UK and they bumped into each other in the town with me in my pram. She told her friend to tell my birth father that he had a daughter and give him my date of birth, which 49 years later would explain why my American uncle pull have known about me.

Since then I have learnt I was Richard McClain’s first born and his only daughter - he went on to have three sons, two with his second wife and one with his third wife. The third child was only 2 years old when he died and is a similar age to my daughter. I have only made contact with my middle brother, who when first getting in touch said he had remembered ‘our’ grandmother telling the two boys ‘they had a sister across the pond in the UK’,so was pleased I had finally got in touch!

I am so grateful, as I am sure we all are, to Sally & Niels, for finding my paternal family, my brother, uncle and so many 1st/2nd cousins, who I now have regular contact with via Skype and Facebook, but as yet have not met them in person!

Unfortunately the best unkept secret of my start in life and the fact I have found out about my roots and now have contact, has caused huge upset with my parents and two of the siblings I grew up with, which has sadly resulted in them cutting off all contact with me and my family, but that’s another story!

Lorna Dodman