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A Christmas Family Reunion

It all started at age 13 when Joanna was put on a plane to Brisbane, with a mother that she had only known for a couple of years, and a new Australian stepfather. Joanna was heartbroken from being suddenly and inexplicably removed from her home in Kent. She loved her father dearly, and had grown up with him, his younger brother Rodney, and her paternal grandmother.

She wrote many letters to her father but they were never answered. Her mother never spoke about why she broke up with her father.

Once Joanna had grown up and had a family of her own she always felt that she had failed to give her family something very important in the form of paternal grandparents and other relatives from that side of the family. She wanted them to know her father.

Several years ago, Joanna decided to return to London, leaving her family behind in Australia, in order to look for her father’s side of the family. Her children were very supportive, as they knew how much England, and her father had always meant to her.

She travelled to England to visit the General Records Office and searched the register of births, marriages and deaths. From the clues she got from these records, she knocked on a few doors, including her old home in Westerham Kent, but had no success. Over many years she had sent letters searching for "Pearsons" all over the UK. Whether they reached her family, or whether they were simply ignored, she never knew.

After years of searching Joanna had become very disillusioned. She had applied for a number of death certificates with no success. However, one day, out of the blue, she received confirmation that one of the death certificates was, in fact, for her father.

Saddened but determined Joanna decided it was time to try to find her uncles and any children that her father may have had subsequent to her departure. She had exhausted all possibilities searching the births, deaths and marriage register so she decided it was time to try a new source of information. That’s when she discovered 192.com! Jo found that this online directory was much easier to use, had current and comprehensive listings, and gave instant results.

On a director record on 192.com, she found an address for a legal firm in Norfolk, where Judge Benjamin Page Pearson had worked. She remembered "Uncle Ben," a solicitor, from her childhood, and this seemed like the best lead she’d had in a long time. She carefully drafted, what she hoped was a suitably polite and unimposing letter. She was very excited as Christmas was approaching and she was sure it would work this time.

Unfortunately, by February, Joanna had still received no word and had resigned herself to the fact that the Pearson’s were probably quite happy without the little girl from Westerham and didn’t need a reminder from the past. That was until her mobile phone rang and an unfamiliar voice said, "Hi Jo, this is Rod." "Do I know you Rod?" she asked "Yes," he said, "but we haven’t spoken since 1965."

After half an hour of unbelievable elation, disbelief and tears on the phone, she had just found out that she had a half brother and sister, as well as cousins, nieces and nephews, and would be meeting them all soon.

Shortly after the phone call, Jo met her Uncle Rodney at a restaurant and they almost didn’t recognise each other. He told her that he had received a phone call from the law firm in Kings Lynn where Uncle Ben had worked before he died of cancer. "We thought you should know about this letter that arrived for your brother, from someone called Joanna".

It was an incredibly emotional day when she met her half sister and brother, Amanda and Christopher and cousins, Alexandra and Thomas. She actually had to be pushed through the doorway at her Uncle’s home, the excitement was almost too much.

Since the reunion Joanna’s daughter Kimberley has flown out from Australia to meet her grandfather’s family.

Joanna is planning the first Pearson family Christmas for almost 45 years including her son Nicholas and daughter Kimberley.

Joanna said of the reunion "I have found out a lot about my family, myself and my heritage. I feel more complete as a person."

She went on to say "My father’s family had always wondered what happened to me. Thanks to 192.com we now all know. Christmas in 2009 will be unlike any other for Kim, Nick and me and the incredible feeling that I am the luckiest person in the world will remain with me forever."

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Joanna and her family
Joanna and her family