When June Horbury’s adoptive father died in December 2001, amongst his things she found a shabby old box which contained his legal documents. Inside was her adoption certificate issued by a court in Woodlands, Doncaster, Yorkshire. June was adopted when she was three weeks old. This is June’s story of how she found her birth family.
“I always knew I was adopted but as soon as I saw my birth mother’s name, Eileen Morris, on this old piece of paper, something stirred inside me and I knew I had to try and find her. My husband told me to leave well alone and, in some respects, I wish I had. A warning here, if you have been adopted and try to find your long lost family be prepared for failure or rejection.
“How could I find her? Questions were going round and round in my head. How do I start my search? How old was she when I was born? Was I to presume she had married? How many years after my birth was this marriage? I attended the General Registry Office in London and after many visits I found her birth and marriage certificates. I now had her married surname. Anyone who is a family historian knows how time consuming it is to find one little piece of information. Eighteen years ago there wasn’t very much information on the internet. The My Family.com web site was only launched in December 1998.
“Once we had the surname my daughter and I wrote letters to all the people in the telephone book, in the Yorkshire region, with the surname Tyas. We said we were looking for family tree information and included contact telephone numbers. We received many phone calls but no information about Eileen Tyas. We had given up hope of trying to find her. Then I was at my daughter’s house and the phone rang. The caller said she had information about Eileen Tyas and that she was Eileen’s daughter, Carol. I was speechless. An invitation was given to my daughter and I to visit Carol at her home. We were made very welcome. She told us that Eileen was still alive and living in her own home in Doncaster. I was going to arrange another visit but my daughter said we should tell them why we were there. It wasn’t just to gain information to produce a family tree. They were shocked as they didn’t know of my existence.
“At first, Eileen denied she had given birth to me but eventually said it was true. I sent her photographs of myself and my family and told her I had had a wonderful life. She replied giving information about herself but said she did not want to meet me, and returned my photographs. The most upsetting part of the letter was when she told me about my conception and that she would not give me my birth father’s name. I was devastated by this news.
“However, I did appreciate the circumstances she found herself in following my birth. The year was 1938. She was an 18-year-old unmarried mother, living with an uncaring foster mother and a father working away. Her own childhood had been tragic and that was why she was living with a foster mother. Was she to have a termination considering the way I had been conceived? Would I be a reminder of the conception and what effect would this have on her seeing me every day of her life? If she kept me how could she possibly look after me and bring me up? The only thing she could do was to have me adopted.
“I still wanted to find my birth father. However, the law states that people adopted before 12th November, 1975 are required to receive counselling before being given access to adoption information. This is required because some natural parents and adopters may have been led to believe that their children would never be able to trace their original names or identity of their parents. People adopted after that date are not legally required to have counselling. I was 62 but had to see a counsellor, which I did.”
June contacted the Doncaster Magistrates and Family Court and, after completing application forms, attended the court. “It was very official. I was told I must only address any questions to the Clerk of the Court. I believe the other two people in attendance were Magistrates or JP’s and they would decide if any official documents could be released to me. There was very little information in my file. Just a letter from my adoptive mother’s doctor who instigated the adoption. Sadly my birth father’s name was not on any of the documents. The Clerk told me that in 1938 adoptions were dealt with very differently.
“I was still not giving up trying to find him. My half-sister gave me information about a very elderly lady, Dorothy May Parry, who was the daughter of Eileen’s foster mum and lived in the same house as Eileen in 1938. However, she would not meet me although she did tell me my mother had a long-term boyfriend of 21 months, but said she couldn’t remember the name. I looked at the electoral roles to see if a male lived in the house at the time my mother lived there. I found the name Edward Lyford and checked this out. Had I exhausted all avenues to find my father? When my birth mother died another opportunity presented itself. Amongst her belongings was a photograph of a young man on a motor bike. Scribbled on the back of the photograph was the name Cliff Dawson. Was this another lead? This photograph wasn’t the only secret which was revealed. Something which happened at my mother’s funeral shocked the family, once again producing yet another family member.”
June is keen to make clear she never felt abandoned or unwanted by her birth mother. “I was three weeks old when I was handed over to my adoptive parents but it wasn’t until over 60 years later that I discovered a shocking secret. I was devastated.”
June was born in a home for unmarried mothers in Hyde Park, Doncaster. She was adopted by a miner and his wife and spent her childhood years in the York Road area of the town. On leaving school she got a job as a Junior Typist at the NCB and was eventually promoted to PA for the Chief Radiologist for the Yorkshire Coal Field. Upon marriage she moved to the Barnsley and Sheffield areas but along with her husband Mike, and their two children, moved back to live in Hatfield in 1970. Mike was the local policeman and was nicknamed the Sheriff of Hatfield by his colleagues.
Once the children were at school she began studying for a Cert (Ed) at Huddersfield Technical College, now Huddersfield University, and two years later for a BA (Ed) at Hull University. Throughout her teaching career June taught at several schools in the Doncaster area including Hatfield, Don Valley and her final position as Head of Department at Thorne Grammar School.
Her early attempts at writing began as a 12-year-old when she wrote an article which was published in the Doncaster Gazette, and many years later a story about adoption for My Heritage which was awarded a prize.
When she discovered her birth family, they encouraged her to produce a family tree and obviously this took many years of research. However, this wasn’t enough for them or her so after collecting old photographs, family letters and listening to stories she decided to write her autobiography Life after Adoption which was produced during lockdown and published in September 2020.
June’s Book “When my adoptive father died, I was looking through his things and came across a shabby, old box which contained his legal documents, and there it was, my adoption certificate. I always knew I was adopted but as soon as I saw my birth mother’s name on this old piece of paper, something stirred inside me and I knew at that moment, I had to try and find her. My husband told me to ‘leave well alone’ and in some respects he was right, as when I did find her I discovered a dreadful secret. I was devastated. But it didn’t end there, as following her death some years later, another secret was revealed which shocked my family. Had my husband been right when he said, ‘Leave well alone’? This story is told over eight decades from just before the start of World War Two and depicts life and times from then until the present day.”
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