Most of us know the story behind the animated movie Finding Nemo, where a clownfish sets out to find his missing son, but sometimes fact is stranger than fiction as reported by Maungaturoto couple Gail and Gerald Barnett.
We even have a TV show which brings estranged families back together but, in this situation, where life imitates art, Maungaturoto resident Gail Barnett goes one step further.
What can be more rewarding than finding a family member after a long search?
Well, what about a long lost family member, one who you never knew existed, finding you?
In a real life situation where fact is stranger than fiction, Gail collected her mail a couple of years ago to find a letter addressed to her but in her deceased Mother’s handwriting – and so the mystery began.
The letter came from a Margot Miller of Sussex, England, informing Gail she was her sister.
“I guess she’s really a half-sister but as far as the family is concerned she’s simply our sister and aunty and it’s like she’s been part of the gang forever.”
Though she knew she was adopted it wasn’t until her adoptive parents passed and son Iain broached the subject of Margot locating her birth mother.
Iain trawled births, deaths and marriages records and found her mum left the UK as a war bride, heading for New Zealand, later to be joined by her husband once he ended his tour of duty.
Thanks to the Internet and modern technology, pieces of the family puzzle gradually came to light and the more they found, the better the fit until Margot, certain she had found her family, wrote to her sister in Maungaturoto. Not only was this a surprise to Gail but also to her other siblings, another brother in New Zealand and a brother and sister living in Australia.
Emails were exchanged, then photographs and, says Gail, there was no doubt.
“Margot is the spitting image of our mother.”
Much of the past 12 months has been planning a get-together and three weeks ago Margot arrived in New Zealand to meet her family as did sister Lois from Australia. A keen bowler, as is Gail’s husband Gerald, Margot arrived in time to join a team for a tournament at Mangawhai, enjoying our summer heat though finding the greens running much faster that she is used to.
It was all part of a special family get together and there are more uncanny similarities too.
After raising her own family of three, Margot went back to work in a department store doing the same retail job as her mother, and just a short way from the store where her Mum worked.
Says sister Lois: “She has lots of Mum’s mannerisms, wears the same cardigans Mum used to wear and even brushes her hair with the same movements.”
But wait, there’s more. Both Margot and Gail have sons named Iain, both using the Scottish Gaelic spelling. Margo and Lois also both have sons named Stephen. Too many likenesses to be just simple coincidence.
Margot’s stay is all but over, though having just celebrated her 76th birthday with her new-found family and in good health, she has voiced her intention to come again.
That’s in the future, but this past year has certainly been one that this family will celebrate, relate and remember for generations to come.
TOGETHER: Celebrating their new-found family ties are, from left, Gerald Barnett, Margot Miller, Gail Barnett, and Lois Dyas.
“She has lots of Mum’s mannerisms, wears the same cardigans Mum used to wear and even brushes her hair with the same movements.”
- Lois Dyas, Sister