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A tale of two siblings

Meet Helen and Jenny, two sisters who have finally been reunited after a lifetime apart. Jenny had been searching for her biological family for nearly 50 years.

Their upbringings couldn't have been more different despite sharing the same biological parents. Jenny Lee Smith, 63, a former British Open champion golfer, was adopted and enjoyed a happy childhood, while Helen Edwards, aged 61, was raised by her mother and the man she thought was her birth father.

Jenny discovered she was adopted at 14, and set about tracking her natural parents down, unaware she also had a younger sister. She knew nothing about her biological parents. Her adoptive father died when she was 12 and her adoptive mother refused to speak about the 'taboo subject'.

She met her birth mother, Marcia in 2003, but she died a few months later. Marcis said she had another daughter called Helen, who Jenny assumed was a half-sister. DND tests later revealed the two sisters had the same biological father, Wilfred Harrison, whom neither of them had the chance to meet. After phone calls and Emails, Jenny and Helen arranged to meet in October 2007. It was the first time they had ever met, as Jenny was given up for adoption at around six weeks old in 1949.

They have spent the last five years getting to know one another, and learning about their wildly different upbringings.

Helen left school at 15 without any qualifications, and worked as a checkout girl after Tommy Lumsden, the man she believed was her father,  demanded she work to support the family. She married at 19, and later divorced. Jenny was privately educated in Newcastle upon Tyne, and represented the city and county as a champion swimmer, eventually choosing golf as her career.

In a  further twist, the two sisters believe they might actually have met without realising it a few years ago, when Helen was working as a nurse and Jenny was admitted to her hospital with a sports injury. Also, at one stage, they were staying within miles of each other in Florida.

Quite a remarkable story. 

Catching a criminal hiding in your family tree

Do you feel confident that your family history doesn't have any skeletons in the cupboard? If so, it might be wise to prepare yourself for a dark secret to emerge. Research has shown that one in twenty Britons is related to a crminal. The survey by Ancestry.co,uk also found that one in a hundred had pirate ancestors.

In 2008, the actress Patsy Kensit traced her relations on Who Do You Think You Are to discover the criminal roots of her father who was linked to London gangesters including the Krays.

The study also showed that almost 20 per cent of people are related to a servant and six per cent boast a millionaire ancestor. One per cent counted a bigamist anong their relations while one in thirty family trees can be traced to royalty.

Agatha Christie went missing ......

Mrs Agatha Christie, of Sunningdale, Berks who left home on 3rd December, 1926 and whose motor-car was foiund abandoned and Newlands Corner early next morning, was found staying as a guest at the Harrogate Hydro.

From a message received from the local police, Colonel Christie travelled to Harrogate and in company with Ispector MacDowell went into the Hydro and took up a position in the lounge. After half and hour's wait a woman came down the stairs, and Colonel Christie at once recognised her as his wife. After an affectionate greeting they entered the dining-room together.

Colonel Christie afterwards stated that Mrs Christie was suffering from complete loss of memory. "She doed not know who she is," he said. "We are hoping to take her to London to see specialists, and that after rest and quiet she will be fully restored."

Mrs Christie arrived at the Hydro on 4th December and she had with her only an attache case. She registered in an assumed name.

Hello Ron ...... I've just been to your funeral

A grandmother went to a funeral service for an old friend after reading a death notice in the local paper - only to find out she had got the wrong Ron Jones. Margaret Griffiths, 74, joined mourners at a local church after reading a notice reporting that Mr Jones, an upholsterer, had passed away.

But she was later told by a friend: "Ron's still alive. I saw him yesterday." Mrs Griffiths rang Mr Jones to tell him: "I've just been to your funeral. He was a bit surprised, " she added.

The mix-up happened because there were two Ron Jones of about the same age living in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, both upholsterers. The correct Mr Jones also attended the funeral, but Mrs Griffiths did not see him. Mr Jones, 73, said:" It was very nice of Margaret to get dressed up for my funeral - I was quite touched."

The youngest casualty

A 14-yeaqr-old boy killed while serving his country has been confirmed as Britain's youngest known services casualty of the Second World War. Reginald Earnshaw was 14 years and 152 days old when he died under enemy fire aboard the SS North Devon nearly 70 years ago. The merchant navy cabin boy had lied about his age, claiming he was 15, so that he could join the war effort.

Official confirmation of his age became possible after his sister, Pauline Harvey, responded to its appeal for his relatives to come forward. His story came to light after a shipmate led a four-year quest to find out what happened to his friend. Alf Tubb was an 18 year-old machine-gunner when their ship was bombed by German aircraft as it made its way to Tyneside on 6th July, 1941. He returned fire before rushing to the engine room to find Reggie but was beaten back by steam. Five other people died in the attack that night.

Was Christopher Columbus a Scot?

A Spanish historian claims to have resolved the true identity of the 15th century explorer Christopher Columbus: his real name was Peter and he hailed from Douglas in Scotland. The nationality of the man who discovered the Americas has been a subject of much speculation in the five centuries since his death. Contemporary accounts described the explorer as Genoese, but over the centuries it has been claimed that he was a native of Greece, Spain, Catalonia, France, Corsica and Portugal. According to another argument, he was Jewish.

The latest theory comes to the surprising conclusion that the great navigator, who died in 1506 after four voyages to the New World, came from Scotland. The historian claims that Columbus was born to Scottish shopkeepers in the Italian port of Genoa and was christened Peter, only changing his name later in life. His surname was originally Scotto, indicating that the family was not Italian but of Scottish origin. After extensive research combing the archives in Genoa and Spain, the researcher further revealed that the family hailed from Douglas, Lanarkshire.

The ancestral home of President Obama in England?

Two English parishes are vying for recognition as the ancestral home of President Barack Obama. genealogists believe that Mr Obama, whose father was Kenyan, is related through his Kansan mother's family to some of the earliest settlers. Two links to England suggest that two direct ancestors of the 44th president may still be lying in the medieval churchyards of Sutton-in-Ashfield, Notts or Stapleford, a village just outside Cambridge.

Researchers at the New England Historic Genealogical Society believe he is the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson of Edward Fitzrandolph, a settler from Nottinghamshire. A parish record showing his baptism at St Mary Magdalene in Sutton-in-Ashfield in July 1607 is still held at the county archive.

But an even older link, to Stapleford, has been established in the form of Thomas Blossom who was born in 1580 and arrived in America in 1629. He grew up in Stapleford, where his father Peter - a direct ancestor through 14 generations - is buried.

The King versus Kaiser Bill

King Edward VII landed the first blow in our hostility with Germany by punching his nephew, the Kaiser, in a row over a boat race, histortical research has revealed. The spat, which was kept secret, show how the Royal Family, depite its German origins, fuelled tensions years before the First World War. In 1895 Edward, then Prince of Wales, challenged Wilhelm II to a race in their rowing boats used to get ashore from their royal yachts and the Cowes Week regatta. The Kaiser's rowers won the race to the steps of the Royal Yacht Squadron and the Kaiser then jeered Edward. Straightaway, King Teddy punched him in the mouth and knocked him down and stormed into the Yacht Club.

It seems there was a cover-up. Thne sailors who all witnessed this were told they must not tell anyone and so it has remained a secret until revealed recently in the research.

Don't grieve for me if I am killed!

Winston Churchill wrote a tender letter to his wife, Clementine, telling her not to grieve for him if he was killed fighting in the First World War. The letter which has never been shown to the public, was dated 17th July, 1915. The note displays Churchill's usual self-confidence and resilience but also his spiritual side. It was written after he had resigned as First Lord of the Admiralty following the disastrous Dardanelles Campaign. Churchill then chose active service commanding the 6th Bn Royal Scots Fusiliers in an attempt to rehabilitate his reputation. In a heartfelt sign-off at the end of the letter, he wrote: "Do not grieve for me too much. I am a spirit confident of my rights."

The Lord's ancestors were paupers!

Lord Heseltine, the former Tory cabinet minister and multi-millionaire businessman, has discovered that his great-grandfather died a pauper and was buried in an unmarked grave. As a self-made man, the politician was once dismissed as someone who 'buys his own furniture', has built up a £240 million fortune through property and publishing. He traced his roots from his birth in Swansea to find that both his great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather were buried in pauper's graves in Dan-y-Graig cemetery.

Long-lost father to marry mother

Christine Orchard, 57 and Chester Locke, 64 who were forced apart 40 years ago when they had a child out of wedlock are to marry after being reunited by their daughter Tracey, 40.

The couple, from Taunton, became sweethearts after meeting at a youth club in 1965 but when Mrs Orchard became pregnant two years later, aged 16, her mother told her to choose between her baby and her relationship. The couple lost all contact until their daughter traced her father.

1,500-year-old family tree

A British pensioner claims to have produced the world's biggest family tree after tracing nearly 10,000 relatives and ancestors, including Alfred the Great and William the Conqueror.

Roy Blackmore of Taunton, Somerset who is now 86 years old, was orphaned as a child and has spent around £20,000 and five hours a day for 28 years scouring archives, cemetery records and census registers to trace his roots back. He discovered that his ancestors included farmers, monks, a cowboy, Civil War soldiers, a king of France, William the Conqueror and Alfred the Great.

He has now traced and listed 9,390 ancestors and applied to the Guiness Book of Records for the title of the world's largest documented family tree. He reckons that he has now found relatives right back to the Cerdick family in AD500, and can link himself through 37 generations to William the Conqueror in the 11th century and 45 generations to Alfred the Great in AD880.

And can it be?

Solving an 1890s sex scandal?

The body of a womanising 19th century Australian statesman has been dug up in order to resolve a paternity case. The remains of Charles Cameron Kingston, whose bahaviour caused a scandal when he was the premier of South Australia in the 1890s, were exhumed from a cemetery in Adelaide and will be subjected to DNA testing.

The unusual exhumation was requested by a prominent businessman and his sister, who believe that they are descendants of a illegitimate child believed to have been fathered by the poilitician. Kingston, who died in 1908, was known for his sexual indiscretions and was eventually ostracised by colonial society in Adelaide, a city which still has a reputation for moral rectitude and is known as the City of Churches.

The brother and sister, who wish to remain anonymous, are keen to prove their link to the premier for historical, rather than financial, reasons. "It's not about money," said John Bannon, a former state premier who is acting as a consultant on the case. "There is no estate and incidentally all those involved in the project are doing it completely pro bono as an historical exercise as much as anything."

145 years of the whole family researched in one-one-two!

The entire population of a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has been found to speak with a West Country accent - because the residents all descend from one man from Gloucestershire (he on the left) William Marsters, an English carpenter and barrelmaker who settled there in 1863. He had four wives, seventeen children and fifty-four grandchildren before his death in 1899.

Palmerston Island, with a land mass of less than one square mile, is home to 63 people who are all descended from William. The island is one of the smallest and most remote of the Cook Islands, with a land mass of less than one square mile. The highest point on the island is 20ft above sea level.

William Marsters arrived on Palmerston - named by Captain Cook after Lord Palmerston, the First Lord of the British Admiralty at the time - on July 8th, 1863. Already travelling with three Polynesian wives, he later took a fourth. The atoll was uninhabited at the time, and Marsters used wood salvaged from shipwrecks to build and populate a tiny community, which soon included a church, school room and homes.

He then grew more than 8,000 coconut trees for shelter and food and exported sea cucumbers from the nearby lagoon to the Chinese market. He carried a loaded gun with him at all times and was guarded by two fierce dogs.

After his death, Mr Marster's legacy remained intact and in 1954 ownership of the island was granted to his descendants. Although under the protection of New Zealand, it is still run by his great-grandson. The reason for the family's survival is put down to its strict adherence to religious laws. It is split into three branches, one for each original wife, and marriage within each branch is strictly forbidden.

The Act of Settlement

When the Act of Settlement, which had passed the House of Commons by a majority of 1 (118 votes to 117), was implemented in 1714 to put George I on the throne, 53 people with superior claims were excluded, as Catholics. King George I was the first German King of England and was born on 28 Mary 1660 in Hanover, Germany, the eldest son of the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. In 1682, George married his cousin Sophia and they had two children. A decade later, he divorced her for alleged infidelity and imprisoned her in a castle until her death in 1726.                  And it was true!

In succession to the throne of England

In 1903, a genealogist, the Marquis de Ruvigny, calculated that 6,039 individuals had by then been excluded, of whom 858 were living, so that Edward VII was genealogically 859th in line of succession. Edward VII (Albert Edward; 9th November 1841 to 6th May, 1910 was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Emperor of India from 22nd January, 1901 until his death.

Edward, eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert was born in Buckingham Palace in 1841.Before his accession to the throne, Edward held the title of Prince of Wales, and has the distinction of having been heir apparent to the throne longer than anyone in English or British history.        He waited so long to become King.  

The Princes in the Tower

One of the so-called Princes in the Tower of London which in those days was a royal residence as well as a prison, was never seen again, but allegedly murdered by Richard III. The younger one, Richard, actually survived and ended life as a bricklayer, according to an historian. David Baldwin, who lectures at the University of Leicester. He believes that Edward, the elder of the Princes, died of natural causes and that Richard, the younger one, was secretly sent to live with his mother. Edward V of England and his brother, Richard of York were the two young sons of Edward IV of England and Elizabeth Woodville, and they were declared illegitimate by the Act of Parliament Titulus Regius. This meant that neither boy would be able to become king, and arranged to have himself crowned Richard III.

The skeletons of two children discovered under the staircase leading to the chapel during the course of renovations in the White Tower in 1674 fuelled the belief that Richard III had them murdered. But David Baldwin argues that after Richard III was killed in the Battle of Bosworth, the prince was taken to St John's Abbey in Colchester, where he worked as a bricklayer. There, he kept his identity a secret for fear of reprisals from Henry VII and he died in 1550. Upon the orders of Charles II, the remains that had been found were reburied in Westminster Abbey. In 1933, the grave was exhumed and found to contain both human and animal bones; however precise identification of the age and sex was not then possible.

     King Richard III

There are several pieces of circumstantial evidence to suggest they were not killed and when Henry VII became king, he visited Colchester no less than four times during his reign, which he didn't do for other regions. The impression is that there was something going on there behind the scenes."If the boys were indeed murdered, there are several major suspects for the crime. However Richard III's hold on the monarchy was insecure, and the princes remained a threat as long as they were alive. They themselves were not a threat, but Richard's enemies could have launched rebellions in their names. Rumours of their death were in wide circulation by late 1843, but Richard never attempted to prove that they were alive by having them seen in public, which strongly suggests that they were dead by then. Rather, he remained completely silent on the matter.

But could it be?

The Aristocrat and the Rocker

When Baronet Sir Benjamin Slade, 60,  sent out advertisements seeking an heir to his £7.5million home he was swamped by bizarre claims from all over the world.

As many as 15,000 people contacted him suggesting that they deserved to take over the stunning 13th-century Maunsel House in Somerset, including one bizarre declaration of kinship from a convict in a Delhi prison.

Isaac Slade, the lead singer of multi-million-selling band The Fray, has emerged as the prime candidate to take over the running of the property. Sir Benjamin said: " I'm just over the moon to have found Isaac - and exciting discovery. Aside from the fact that he's a mega-star, he has so much going for him".

Slade who is 26 and born in Denver, Colorado, USA is related to Sir Benjamin through the Worcester branch of the family, who started the Slade Art School before moving to America. He was tracing his roots last year when he found out about Sir Banjamin's challenge, and immediately contacted Maunsel House.

Sir Benjamin has been desperate to get rid of the Grade II listed building because he finds the upkeep costly and exhausting. He has no children and tried to pass it on to various members of his family without success.

Maunsell House, set in 1,500 acres, has nine bedrooms, a ballroom, library and five reception rooms.

Can it really be?

What is the truth?

A man who claims to be the illegitimate son of Princess Margaret is taking his claim to court. Robert Brown, aged 51, says that, as the child of Queen Elizabeth's late sister, he is 12th in line to the throne, placing him between Zara Phillips and Princess Margaret's only know son, Viscount Linley, in the line of succession. The accountant from Jersey will appear before a family court judge, sitting in private, to challenge rules which prevent public inspection of the princess's sealed will.

Mr Brown says that he has been driven to pursue his claim 'at a intellectual level, even though he knows that the evidence is limited'.Although he was born on January 5th, 1955 in Nairobi, Kenya, to a birth mother listed as Cynthia Joan Brown on his birth certificate, the accountant claims that around the time of his birth, it was reported that Princess Margaret was confined to bed with what was described as a 'hacking cough', and that she had been seen with an expanding waistline.

Mr Brown cites the Queen, the Attorney General and the executors of the wills of the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret as defendants in the summons and is seeking access to the wills of both the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. The princess died in 2002, aged 71.

Buckingham Palace has declined to comment about the case.

Will he ever find out the truth?

A 95-year mystery surrounding one of the youngest victims of the sinking of the Titanic has been solved. It was originally thought that the boy, whose body was recovered from the sea six days after the sinking, was a Finnish child aged about 13 months.

Buried in a small plot in a Halifax cemetery, the young boy was simply called the unknown child - a poignant symbol of all the children who perished when the famed vessel went down in the North Atlantic in 1912.

It has been proved, after Canadian DNA tests were conducted, that the child was actually a 19-month old English boy Sidney Leslie Goodwin, who was travelling on the Titanic with his family to start a new life in America.

The truth has been proved

Di and Di

Research by Dr Nick Barratt and historian Saul David has revealed that Lincolnshire woman Di Foster, known for her remarkable resemblance to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, is in fact a distant cousin of the princess. Both are descended from a member of the Churchill family in the 18th century.

Well would you believe it?

Meeting up after Fifty Years

Seventy years locked up in institutions hardly seems to be a punishment that befits the crime of stealing half-a-crown. However, it is just such a fate that befell Jean Gambell when at the age of 15, in 1947, she was falsely accused of stealing 2s 6d from the doctor's surgery where she worked as a cleaner.

She was sectioned under the 1890 Lunacy Act and even though the money was later found, she has been moved from mental institution to mental institution ever since. More recently, she went into a care home and has been lost to her family, who thought she was dead.

Her brother David, aged 63, who still lives in his mother's old home in Wirral, Merseyside, received a questionaire addressed to his mother from Macclesfield Mews Care Home. He thought it was just a survey for old people and was just about to throw it away when he saw Jean's name pencilled in on one corner. This made him realise that his sister could still be alive?

He rang the care home straight away and they confirmed that his sister was there. He and his brother who had last seen their sister as small children, travelled to the Macclefield home.

They were told by the staff that their 85-year old sister was deaf, could only communicate in writing and was very unlikely to remember them. A little old lady on walking sticks came in and she cried out: "Alan . . . David" and then put her arms around them. It was very emotional. Not long after being reunited, Jean suffered a stroke and died, meeting her brothers for just a few weeks afe being separated for seventy years.

Macclesfield Social Services are now conducting an enquiry into Miss Gambell's incarceration.

Well, would you believe it and how sad?

All alone in the world?

A former beauty with no known family could have no mourners at her funeral on January 14th, 2008. Now the minister who is due to witness the funeral with just the funeral director for company has appealed for mourners to mark the death of 83-year-old Olive Archer.

Miss Archer never married and had no children. She spent the last five years of her life at Kingston St Michael care home near Chippenham, Wilts where no one came to visit.

The Revd. Londsale found an old photograph in her belongings which shows her to have been a beautiful woman in her younger days, just like a film star. "It is very sad that the passing of a life is only marked by a funeral director and a minister", she said.

Miss Lonsdale believes Miss Archer lived in Swindon until five years ago when she moved to the care home. She also thinks that Miss Archer may have had a sister, but vthe pair lost touch. Miss Archer died in hospital on 20th December, 2007 after collapsing at the care home with a suspected stroke.

How sad to be all alone - but it did have a happy ending

Mother solves 60-year mystery

A six-year-old boy who asked his mother about a photograph on the wall led her on a journey to solve a 60-year-old mystery of her great-uncle Jim, who was shot down during the Second World War.

Denis Hern could tell her son Callum only that the man in the picture in gtheir home was Flt. Sgt.James Hern, her great-uncle, who died aged 22 and was buried in Belgrade after being shot down. Callum begged to know more so Mrs Hern began a research project and now has the full story of Flt. Sgt. Hern, who was a rear gunner in a Halifax bomber of 148 squardon that was attacked by a German fighter on 3rd July, 1944.

Five crew survived and Mrs Hern's research even led to one of the survivors, Flying Officer Don McPherson, a Canadian, being reunited with Flt. Sgt. Hern's brother Bill.

A happy ending

Separated for 100 years?

A woman who thought she was the last surviving member of her family has been given the ultimate surprise - 25 relatives she knew nothing about.

Raised as an only child, Dorothy Ladlow, nee Fawn, aged 70 from Gulworthy, near Tavistock in Devon, had always believed that she had no blood relatives. Then she discovered photographs in a biscuit tin and, witb the help of Nottingham University, she and her husband, John, tracked down family in Canada.

"I first contacted my cousin, Audrey Fawn, who came to England. Then there was a reunion arranged for September and we went over, not realising just how many people there were in my extended family", she said.

Her great uncle, Joseph Fawn, emigrated to Canada 100 years ago. Mrs Ladlow had heard of an uncle Joe, but that was about 60 years ago. It was not until her father died in 1994 that they stumbled across the photographs. One of the images was a group of people standing in front of a car, with the caption 'Relatives in Canada'.

In September the Ladlows travelled to Ontario and stayed with her cousin at her home in Niagara Falls. All of her relatives were at the reunion, with the exception of a few who were living in the United States.

Separated but now joined back together!

Ring of Truth

A diamond ring could prove that Charles Dickens had a secret love child with his sister-in-law Georgina Hogarth, auctioneers who are selling the item said. The ring's anonymous owners, who claim to be descendants of Hogarth, are said to be convinced the pair had an affair that produced a son, Hector. Dickens never recognised him as his own. The novelist's close relationship with Hogarth, who lived in the family home as housekeeper, led to rumours of an affair. But he made her take a virginity test and denied anything about their relationship.

The auctioneers are selling the ring inscribed: 'Alfred Tennyson to Charles Dickens 1854', which the owners said was passed down from the illegitimate child. The analysis of documentation has led to belief that Hector was the son of Dickens and Hogarth. If the link is confirmed, the 0.9 carat ring could earn more than £25,000 to £35,000 price at auction.

The identity of Hector's father was never established. He was given the ring in 1890 and the owners have a nespaper cutting showing a photograpoh of him wearing it in 1922 in Calcutta, India, where one of Dickens' legitimate sons died. The curator of the Dickens Museum in London said that he had seen a picture of the ring and its documents and said that it would turn the Dickens' scholarship of the last 80 or 90 years on its head if it was true.