REAL LIFE

I found eight secret siblings

Brian thought he was an only child

New South Wales man Brian Charlton, 69, thought he was an only child but his two daughters dug into his past and uncovered eight secret siblings!

Adopted at birth, Brian spoke to that’s life! about meeting his family for the first time in over 60 years. 

Pressing my ear against the door, I was listening in on Mum and Grandma’s conversation. They were talking about me. Then I heard the word ‘adopted’. Maybe I’m adopted, I briefly thought.

At just seven years old, I didn’t fully understand and walked away none the wiser.  My mum, Amy, was my whole world and her kind heart captivated everyone who met her. But when I was nine, everything changed when she passed away unexpectedly. 

My Dad, Jack, sent me away to live at the Bexley Boys’ home in Sydney and didn’t look back. With his new girlfriend and her four kids, Dad built a new life without me. Then when I was 14, he passed away too. ‘You’re no son of mine,’ he had told me spitefully before he died. 

I couldn’t help but reflect on his final words and the conversation I’d overhead when I was seven. I’m adopted, I realised. 

Brian Charlton as a teen
Me aged 14 (Credit: supplied / Brian Charlton)

Finding a photo Mum gave me when I was small, it took on a new meaning. The black and white image of a young woman had the name Marie Kendall scrawled on the back. Was she my biological mother? 

Pushing it all to the back of my mind, I got married in 1971 to my lovely wife Margaret, now 66, and together we had three children, Ainsley, now 45, Yolanda, 42, and Arron, 39.

As the kids grew up, they’d ask about my past. Telling wonderful stories of my adoptive mum, I couldn’t share anything about my blood line other than the dusty photo. ‘Wow, she’s beautiful,’ they’d say about Marie. 

Inquisitive, Ainsley and Yolanda began digging into my adoption records. With just the name Marie Kendall to go on, I was certain they would come up empty-handed. ‘You’re wasting your time,’ I told them.

Then we got some paperwork from an abbey my birth mum had lived in from the age of 14 to 19. On one document, in perfect cursive writing, stood nine names.

‘These must all be her children,’ Yolanda jumped up. 

‘Ya joking!’ I said in disbelief. Brian, Kathleen, Rosslyn, Ross, Tracey*, William, Darlene, Mark and Russell, I read. Could they all be my brothers and sisters? I wondered tearing up.

‘How did we not know?’ I choked up

Brian meeting Darlene
It was great to meet my sister Darlene (Credit: supplied / Brian Charlton)

Jumping online, the girls tried to track down my potential family on Facebook. Is Marie Kendall your mum? they typed. Within minutes Darlene replied, YES!

From the age of 14, Marie gave birth to Kathleen, me, Rosslyn, Ross and Tracey. All adopted out, Marie managed to name us and snap a quick photo to take to our new families.

I shuddered to think of what happened for her to have five kids so young. Marie then went on to give birth to and raise Darlene, Mark and William, while Russell was raised by his biological dad. 

Just before Marie passed away in 1994, she confessed to Darlene, 61, there were ‘another six kids’. Darlene had been searching ever since. ‘Well you found me,’ I joked as we chatted over the phone. I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard that many years ago my sister Kathleen, 75, had lived just five minutes down the road from me!

‘How did we not know?’ I choked up. The next day, Margaret and the kids and I went to meet Darlene and her family. Hugging my sister felt like coming home.

Then, she introduced me to my brothers Mark, 59, and Ross, 66. My head began to spin. I’d been an only child for 69 years – this was incredible!

‘You are all so similar,’ Yolanda roared with laughter as we shared stories. 

I later met William, and Darlene had also tracked down our two sisters, Tracey, 64, and Kathleen, 75. Receiving a letter from Tracey, she expressed her love for us all but asked for her privacy. 

But making contact with Kathleen in Queensland, we chatted away on the phone like old friends. She also revealed my brother Russell had sadly passed away in 2002. 

Rosslyn, with the adopted name of Smith, was the hardest to track. We called the Adoption Special Services to help us. Not wanting to get my hopes up, I focused on getting to know my new brothers and sisters. But in September 2017,
we found the final piece to make my family a whole. 

Brian with siblings
Darlene, Ross and I (Credit: supplied / Brian Charlton)

Finding Rosslyn, 68, in Queensland, we were like two peas in a pod. Our phone chats last hours with us gabbing about the past, present and future. 

I haven’t just gained eight siblings, I’ve got nieces, nephews and in-laws too! I’m over the moon that in just two years, I went from an only child to one of nine!

With my 70th birthday creeping up I hope to make my way up to the sunshine state to meet Rosslyn and Kathleen in person. ‘I’ll walk there if I have to,’ I told Margaret. 

I’m still in awe we found each other and I hope if anyone is thinking of tracing their roots, they go for it. You don’t just find a person, you find a family.

Related stories