Scottish Trips and Family Connections

A mountain top with dark grey skies overhead.

It had been two years overdue, but finally we were doing it. We were driving up to Scotland to meet the “new” family. I had been just a year before the pandemic, and we had intended to go up as a family the following year but…well…

First some background…

Mum passed away in 2018. A few years prior to her passing, and before her health seriously declined, she had finally tracked down her birth mother. She had been adopted and had never been told who her real parents were. That question was always there in her mind throughout her life, and finally she had got some answers. Half of the answer anyway.

For us, I never really felt connected to mum’s side of the family, given she was adopted and her “brothers” never really paid any of us much attention. For all intents and purposes, dad’s family was pretty much all we had. We knew there was more out there, but we kind of accepted that we would never discover what the “more” actually looked like. So we paid it no mind, whilst all the time it was constantly on our mother’s.

Eventually, after the divorce, she hired someone to dig around and try to track down her parents. They succeeded and a letter was sent to the daughter of her brother to make initial contact. Mum’s real mum (the person who was successfully tracked down) had sadly already passed away (I later discovered on the same day as my wedding), but she had left a son behind and a number of grandchildren. It seems that the best way to approach this is not to contact the closest surviving relative, but one removed. And so a letter was sent to the brother’s eldest daughter to make initial contact.

Initially dismissing it, they read the letter and found that it included things they knew to be true. The connection was made. Mum visited the family and her brother and his wife visited her, at which point I first met him.

For me it was weird. We’d got used to only having one side of the family, and so suddenly discovering new relatives was a bit weird. Initially I found it difficult to connect with the idea that they were our relatives. But in time I got over that and gradually have been trying to connect more and embrace the fact that our family is largely than we had come used to.

If it was weird for me, I can’t imagine what it must have been like for them. For us, we always knew there was a family out there to which we were connected, we’d just got used to never knowing them. For them, they had no idea there were family members out there that they didn’t know about. Suddenly discovering that your grandma had another before your father must have come as a bit of a shock. Suddenly secrets are partially revealed and more questions are raised.

We still have no idea who the father is or the circumstances around the relationship that led to the birth of our mother (other than it being out of wedlock in a judgemental, highly religious society), perhaps we will never find out (there are no surviving family members who were around at the time). It is something to tread carefully around, because we have no idea how the circumstances will affect any of us, particularly for those who grew up with mum’s birth mother in their lives. But for us there is a need to know and try to discover more about mum’s background. There are tiny breadcrumbs, but right now we are working out which are clues and which are actually herrings.

For example, one of mum’s middle names was Oliver. We had always thought it an odd middle name for a woman. At the end of our trip, after visiting my uncle, I learnt of a family friend called Jim Oliver and it was posited that maybe Oliver was a reference to a surname and perhaps a clue as to the father. Maybe it’s a clue, maybe it’s another dead end. Either way, it’s a thread that perhaps needs to be picked up and pulled (sorry, my metaphors are all over the shop).

Maybe we will never get to the bottom of events, but I guess we’ll have to keep persevering to see what we can establish about our mother’s history...

As to the here and now, it was good to connect with new family, for our kids to meet them and to start to build the family connections that had been carefully erased over seventy years ago. We can just about make out the lines left by the pencil on the paper, we just need to trace them to try to reconstruct the full picture…

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