A woman who had no idea she was adopted until her teens has told how a home DNA test led to a reunion with her birth family.
Louisa Hale, 60, was finally able to meet her relatives 43 years after her search began.
She had no clue she had been adopted until age 14 when a friend’s mum “spilt the beans.”
Raised in Melbourne, Australia, she only spoke to her adoptive parents about the emotional news aged 32 – when she found out she had been born in England.
Three years ago, she then took a £68 ($120AUD) DNA test and says everything changed, adding: “I just had to know the truth.
Louisa has two children, Matthew, 22, who works on a fishing boat, and Joshua, 21, a university student, with her business partner husband, Jonny, 59.
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She said: “In 2019, I was back in Australia visiting family when I decided to do a DNA test with my brother and it revealed that we were not at all related.
“The Ancestry results came with other information about our heritage and what parts of the world I was descended from. When the results came back, I was shocked by what they said.”
Growing up, Louisa’s blonde hair and blue eyes had always stood out in family photos, in which she was surrounded by siblings with dark features.
Still, despite her burning desire to know more, she did not ask her parents about her origins until she turned 32.
Louisa’s dad would not discuss the adoption, but her mum revealed that she had been adopted in England while they were working there.
She said: “My father was a heart specialist at a hospital and my mother was desperate to have more children.
“They already had two children and my mum was pregnant with my sister, but she’d had a string of miscarriages and wasn’t sure if she would carry to full term.
“So, they adopted me and, after my mum gave birth to my younger sister, they brought the five of us kids back to Australia.
“I told my mum that I wanted to find my birth family and she warned me to be careful, as my birth mother may not want to be found.”
Armed with just a birth certificate, which revealed her birth mother’s name as Gayle, she discovered that her birth mum was a French Canadian woman living in England when she gave birth.
And so the long search for answers began.
Louisa said: “By then, I had children of my own, which made the search seem far more important.
“But I still only managed to confirm the few details I already had.
“A friend of mine who had a big interest in family history was able to use my mother’s name to search for shipping records and confirmed that she had traveled to the UK before my birth.
“I discovered this back in the late 1980s, but I’ve since had those same records come up on Ancestry.
“I was born in West London’s Hammersmith Hospital and my adoptive father trained there for several years.
“This new record had my birth mother listed as a medical photographer, which led some people to assume she worked there and could have possibly met my father there, but that didn’t lead anywhere.
“I spent years trying to trace my birth family with no luck and it was only when social media came about that I had any real place to start.”
During this time, Louisa met and married her husband Jonny and the pair set up home in Antigua in the Caribbean, raising a family of their own.
She said: “I would still wonder a lot about my heritage and family history. It felt like a piece of who I am was missing.
“Part of me always wondered if my adoptive dad was my real father, especially when I thought he had worked with my birth mother.
“Then both my adoptive parents passed away in 2011, just 10 weeks apart.”
At a dead end in her search, Louisa tried to move on with her life, only renewing her efforts in 2019 with her all-important Ancestry DNA test which, to her surprise, revealed links with Lithuania, where she was matched with distant relatives.
She said: “I started talking to distant cousins in Lithuania that I never knew I had and, within two weeks, they pointed me to a Facebook page of a man in Michigan, USA, whose father had dated my birth mother in 1960 and had no idea I existed.
“His father was obviously very shocked to learn about me, but it was amazing to be able to make a small connection.
“It gave me a window into my family that I’d never had before and he was able to tell me more about the time he spent with my mother.
“I also found another DNA match who turned out to be my mother’s cousin, who had been raised with her in Canada.
“My mother had passed away five years prior, but neither her cousin nor the children she’d had later had any idea about me.”
Spurred on by the sudden influx of new relatives, Louisa decided to meet them face-to-face.
She said: “My husband and I were supposed to go to a wedding in the UK in June 2019, but instead decided on a road trip to visit my family in Toronto, Canada.
“There I discovered my mother had confided in a few friends that she had met my father while on holiday in Europe.
“She discovered she was pregnant in the UK and what was meant to be a two-to-three-month holiday ended up being a year in the country as she was pregnant with me.”
Before heading back home from her trip in 2019, Louisa made a pitstop in Michigan to finally meet her birth father, half-brother and half-sister.
She said: “It was very emotional. As soon as I clapped eyes on him, I could see the resemblance to my son. Little facial features and characteristics that I never would have known were my father’s before this.
“All the family I have met have been so welcoming and loving.
“In recent months, my family in Canada have been looking through boxes of old photos my mother had kept and they actually found a couple of photos of my birth parents together.
“One of them, at a dance, I believe may have been taken the night I was conceived.
“They were both working at a summer camp together and had a fling. My father left the country when the season ended with no idea that my mother was pregnant.
“Still not much is known about the following year that my mother spent in England, but she put me up for adoption before returning to Canada.”
Now, Louisa is focusing on building relationships with her newfound siblings.
She said: “I’ve already had a girls’ weekend in New York, USA, with my sisters on my mother’s side and we are constantly in touch on a WhatsApp group.
“My brother on my dad’s side of the family even came to visit us in Antigua on his honeymoon, so we definitely have an ongoing family connection.
“When my birth mother died, they had her ashes put into pendants for necklaces. An extra one was made and no one ever knew why, but when I found my sisters, they gave the spare one to me so, even though I never got to meet my mother, I now carry part of her with me wherever I go.
“It made me cry when they gave it to me. I was very emotional. I had always wanted to find my mother and was so sad to hear that she had passed away before I could see her. With this necklace, in a way, we are reunited.
“For the first time in my life I felt a sense of closure. I now know who I am.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.