Adopted as a baby | how I successfully traced my birth mother

Jean Penn pageI was born Nicholas Watson in the early hours of Monday, June 16, 19** at Lambeth Hospital in London. My mother was a single 19-year-old girl from Nottingham who was living in London at the time. Unfortunately having children out of wedlock in the 1960s was not really the done thing. In many cases mothers were really on their own without any help from the government or their family if money was tight, notwithstanding the possibility of being ostracised and shamed for daring to become pregnant when you were not married. My birth mother took the heartbreaking decision to put me up for adoption and in August 1969 my adoptive parents took me into their care. Because there were two Nicholas' in the family already, my adoptive parents called me Penn. Apparently it was a tossup between Guy and Penn, I think I would probably have preferred Nicholas or Guy when I was at school, being called Penn was pretty much like being a magnet for all the little sh1ts who took pleasure in ridiculing anybody who was different. I had it all, Bic, Biro, you name it, then I had to deal with having ginger hair as well. I can laugh about nowadays because I've still got my hair, a lot of the kids I went to school with are doing a very good impression of Duncan Goodhew these days.

Up until early summer I had never really thought seriously about tracing my birth mother. She has always been in my thoughts as far back as I can remember, I had always wondered where she was, what she was doing, what type of lady she was, and if she had got her own family. Taking the steps to trace my birth mother was a very frightening thought, even for a thick-skinned dude like myself. Whereas I'm not embarrassed by being in a wheelchair, I wasn't quite sure how I would be received if I did find my birth family.  It was after watching a series on ITV called "Long Lost Family" I decided that indeed I did want to trace my birth mother. Finding my birth family was not something I had ever discussed with my adoptive parents. Knowing them the way I do, I knew for sure that they would be very supportive and help me as much as they possibly could. The first thing I did was to write an article and put it on my website, you never know, if somebody from my birth family was looking for me then the chances are they would come across my article. As it happens this did not happen so the next step I took was to find some websites that enables you to place adverts looking for lost family. I found a website called and placed a little bit of relative information, obviously without giving out too much personal details in case the wrong person came across it. Even though the advert didn't generate any replies from my birth family, a few people did contact me. The majority of them were obviously looking for paid work in the form of finding my birth family. However a couple of people who contacted me turned out to be completely genuine and nothing more than caring folk who had their own experience with adoption and wanted to offer the benefit of their experience and try and help me. Luckily my parents kept all the documentation from my adoption which meant I knew the name my birth mother has given me. The people from the forum managed to locate who we thought was my birth mother. However, due to some confusion regarding my mother's first name, we have actually got the wrong person.

The next step was to obtain my real birth certificate, this would have vital information including my birth mother's name and where she was born. I contacted the GRO (Gen Registry Office) and for a small fee of £5 had them send me my original birth certificate. Bingo! this was a vital information that I needed. It turns out that my birth mother's first name was not Michelle, it was actually Jean. So armed with this information both of the ladies who had been helping me pretty much located my birth mother in no time at all. However, it didn't end there, being the responsible people they are, they wouldn't just hand over the address, I first had to go through the necessary process of contacting the post adoption team in my area. It seems silly, but if you were adopted before 1975, you have got to have counselling before you are able to obtain any information about your adoption. People born after this period don't need any counselling, they can just ask for the documents to be sent to them directly. It wasn't very long, maybe eight weeks after I first contacted the post adoption team here in Torbay that I received the phone call I had been waiting for, they had obtained some documents that had been filed with the National Adoption Agency. A lady came to see me bringing with her the documents that for all these years have been sitting  somewhere dark gathering dust. Amongst the documentation were several personally written letters from my birth mother. The letters weren't directly addressed to me, they were letters addressed to the adoption agency giving them information about how I was progressing in her care. Some of the letters were extremely sad and just made me even more determined that I wanted to find her, if nothing else, I just wanted to let her know that I was grateful to her for giving birth to me and that I was doing fine in life.

 The time came to write a letter, I am not normally one for being stuck for words, or taking a long time to write letters, however it seems seemed like an eternity before I was happy with my letter, after all this was going to be a very important letter and I had to get it right before I would even send it. The letter was very short and to the point and contained some relevant information that only my birth mother would understand. Anyone who is thinking about sending that first letter to their birth mother must think very carefully about what  they put in their letter. You've got to remember that even though your birth mother will know that you exist, it may be the case that nobody in her family knows of your existence, you mustn't under any circumstances give your true identity away in the letter as this could possibly open up a huge can of worms for your birth mother. In many cases birth mothers have not told their family of your existence and it is vitally important that they be the one to announce to their family that you are the child that they gave birth to and gave up for adoption. Here is the letter I sent to my birth mother, it may give you an idea of how to construct your own letter.

I finally plucked up the courage to take my letter and pop it in the letterbox at the end of our road. I remember as a letter fell into the box, I thought "well there is no going back now". I had an inkling that she would Google both my name and town and I wasn't wrong. I checked my website statistics on Friday and noticed that somebody had entered my name and town into Google. Could this be her, was it too good to be true? Well after looking at the IP address and seeing that this person was in the same district in Nottingham as my birth mother, I think it was safe to say that this was either a huge coincidence, or it was indeed her and she had successfully found my website. It was really scary to see that this person was browsing my website at exactly the same time as I was, we were even on the same page on occasions. A few days went by until a suspicious looking envelope dropped through the letterbox. It wasn't the stamped addressed envelope that I had included in my letter, but there was just something about it, maybe it was just one of those strange moments where you just know. Anyway, I opened the letter and straight away knew everything was going to be okay when a lovely photo of her smiling back at me dropped out of the letter into my lap.

Receiving this letter felt fantastic, it was like having a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. The letter was absolutely brilliant, she obviously thought very carefully about what to write, she gave me a little bit of information about certain things but didn't go too over the top, it was just about the most perfect letter anyone could have written to a child they haven't seen for 42 years. With the benefit of computers nowadays, she did include an e-mail address so of course there is no way I was going to wait before writing back to her. After receiving her letter the words were just so easy to write, obviously I have got a lifetime of stories and tales to tell Jean, I reckon I wouldn't even cover half of my life in 100 e-mails, it is absolutely so much fun and brings me so much joy every time I write an e-mail to her, I've always got something to tell her about what I've been doing over the years. I've spoken to Jean nearly every day now via e-mail and have even spoke to her via Skype, even though she didn't have a WebCam, at least I could hear her voice and she could see me.

The other fantastic thing that has come out of this is I have gained another sister, as well as a 19yr old niece and a nephew who was born January 2012.


I finally get to meet my birth mother

Jean-PennJean, Rebecca and jeans partner Steve travelled down to Brixham on Friday, December 16 2011. They rented a bungalow here in Brixham which with the aid of a ramp was accessible to me. Jean and myself decided to meet up at the Market Garden restaurant opposite the Golden Hind down at Brixham Harbour. I arrived about 5 min before Jean, unfortunately she didn't see me and went in the back way which was quite funny as I watched her walking up and down looking for me whilst I was outside looking in. Anyway, she eventually saw me outside and we gave each other a big hug. It's not as if we haven't spoken or seen each other because we have been talking on Skype for a while so I suppose it wasn't like the old days where people only wrote or talked on the phone.  We spent probably an hour and a half chatting before Bex and Steve joined us. It was quite amazing really, even though we had all only met for the first time two hours before, we all felt so comfortable with each other. We then bought fish and chips and took them back to the bungalow where Jean and Bex set one of the fish on fire, but that's another story.

I took everybody on a little tour around Torbay on Saturday, basically to show them where I used to live, where I went to school, where I used to hang out, but not necessarily what I used to get up to all the time, after all I've only just met them. On Saturday evening all of us including my father went to the Prince William restaurant for a meal, unfortunately my mother was in New York  so couldn't join us. The last time I went to the Prince William I wasn't particularly impressed, however this time it was the complete opposite, the food was absolutely first-class and I will definitely be going back again.

Sunday was to be our last full day together so we went over to Morrisons to pick up food for an evening meal, a lovely 2K fresh salmon. We then ate lunch in the van on Paignton seafront, far too cold to get out and sit on the beach I'm afraid. We then trundled over to Torquay and went up to Babbacombe Downs where we finally found the Angel tearoom. The bad news was that we needed to reserve a table, the good news is they had a couple of tables free for half an hour so at least we could have a cup of their lovely tea, and absolutely delightful it was. If you're in the vicinity of Babbacombe Downs any time, I would seriously suggest you check out the Angel tearoom, the food looked fabulous, I only had some cinnamon toast, Bex and Steve had a cream tea which by all accounts went down very well. They serve traditional tea in teapots, no teabags, proper tea leaves, and boy can you taste the difference, never tasted such a nice day before. Steve and Jean then cooked that nice big salmon in the evening and we relaxed watching from television and the evening.

It all went far too quickly, Monday morning came, they came to my house at 11:30 AM and by 1:05 they were driving off back to Nottingham leaving me with a tear in my eye.

Anyway enough of the melodramatics, I'm sure that springtime will be here before we know it and I will be back down for a little longer next time. Bex will have given birth to junior so I am sure she will feel a lot more comfortable. I'll have a new nephew to spoil which I am really really looking forward to.

So there you go, a little story about how I found my birth mother and then what happened when I met her, I hope you enjoyed reading.

Click here to see some more photos of everyone

Some people may wonder if life suddenly becomes a little confusing once you have found your birth mother, after all you have suddenly gained another mother, not many people have two mothers. However, you've got to remember that even though your birth mother is the person who gave life to you, she is not the person who brought you up. My adoptive parents are the only parents I have known for the last 42 years, they are as much my parents as if they gave life to me and that will never change, there is absolutely no confusion whatsoever. All birth mothers will be aware of this, I'm sure that they are not expecting to walk into our lives and carry on from where they left off. What I will say and I would imagine a lot of people in my position would agree is that mother and child bond stays intact, the moment I met my birth mother I knew everything would be okay. She is incredibly special to me, she is so much more than a friend, I foresee many many years of very very close friendship between us. But I will always have a mother and that will never change. I'm quite sure that some parents who have adopted worry that their children will somehow abandon them once they find their birth parents, this is something that won't happen, I am so comfortable with my relationship with both my birth mother and my adoptive mother, there is absolutely no confusion whatsoever, is actually fantastic and I'm so glad things have worked out. My mother is also fantastic, she hasn't once shown any disinterest in my birth mother, she wants to be involved which has made the whole process that much easier.

I can only speak for myself, but if anyone reading this is adopted and is unsure whether or not they want to trace their blood relatives, I would tell you to go for it. Look at it this way, if you don't do it then you will always wonder "what if?" If you do trace your birth relatives and unfortunately get rejected, well you've done it and you know where you stand and you can basically get on with the rest of your life. However, if like me you go for it and they welcome you with open arms, well, you've got the whole future to look forward to, and boy I intend to make the best of it.

Here are some links that may help

The Government Record Office