A foundling who was abandoned at London's Victoria Embankment in the middle of World War II has revealed his 25-year struggle to persecute his family history.
Tony May, 78, of St. Albans, was found wrapped in a light blue lady's mantle on a bench at the pier in November 1942 before being taken to a police station near the Houses of Parliament and named "Victor Banks" to the place where he was found.
He was then adopted by Arthur and Ivy May with a little girl in 1944, and while they were open about his adoption, he never felt the urge to look into his biological family – until his adoptive parents died.
In a BBC podcast, he admitted, “It really wasn't a big deal. But I remember my sister telling everyone we were adopted and I was so embarrassed. & # 39;
Tony May, 78, of St. Albans, was found in a light blue lady's mantle on a bench on the pier in November 1942. Pictured with his half sister with whom he was reunited
But when he started looking for his birth parents, it was much harder than he ever imagined – even on the radio and television in the 1990s to find more information.
Tony's break came after he joined a Facebook group for foundlings in 2016, and a woman named Julia Bell, a genetic genealogist who used DNA to find American soldiers who had children during World War II, offered to to help him – in whatever is her "most complex case so far".
Fascinated by his theory that due to the timing of his job, he may have been plumbed, she began to look at his family tree and search birth records, DNA on ancestral sites, and old newspaper clippings.
Julia's first clue was a newspaper clipping she found on December 20, 1942, that reported Tony's discovery: “A four-week-old blue-eyed boy, wrapped in a light blue jacket, part of a woman's costume, was found abandoned on the bank. & # 39;
Tony as a baby, a foundling who was abandoned at London's Victoria Embankment in the middle of World War II
It turned out that Tony's father was a married soldier, Eric Wisbey (right), who had an affair with his mother Mary (22) at the age of 35 (left) before returning to Australia and causing her to give up on him
She then began sharing Tony's saliva with a number of privately owned companies that offer DNA matching with other customers in her database.
This resulted in a fourth cousin named June from Scotland, who Julia suspected of sharing great-great-great-grandparents with Tony and sharing her full family tree – which led her to find a common cousin.
Julia explained the method of examining the lineage of three people, called "triangulation": "I found a pair of ancestors that lived in the 1860s and that all three people shared. Then I have a table with all the different possible lineages created with every marriage and birth.
I searched for people who were living descendants below and asked them to do a DNA test. Every time I found a closer match that helped me to refocus and get closer to my goal. & # 39;
Tony said he never felt the urge to look into his biological family – until his adoptive parents died
Two years later, in 2018, Julia finally came across a couple she believed to be Tony's maternal grandparents from Edinburgh and while her son Bill, who is in her nineties, didn't want to do a DNA test Bill's daughter Kathleen too.
It turned out that Kathleen was Tony's first cousin, which means that Tony's mother was probably Bill's sister.
And while Bill's sister Mary died in 1988, she had two surviving children born just four years after Tony and daughter Sheena – Tony's potential half-sister – agreed to meet Julia in 2019.
When Sheena spoke of the moment she discovered her mother's secret past, she said, "(My cousin) came here and said to me," I am 80% sure that your mother is Tony's mother. "You could have knocked me over with a feather, I didn't know anything about it!
Tony at the Victoria Embankment, where he was found as a baby in 1942 during World War II
I thought: How could my mother have done that? And then I thought, "What did she have to go through to feel like she had to do something like that?" If only she could have spoken to us. & # 39;
But she had no doubt when she agreed to meet Tony last year and remembered, "He came in and I thought," This is my mother walking towards me. "He was so like her that it was scary. I just couldn't take my eyes off him. & # 39;
Sheena helped Tony create a picture of her mother Mary, who married Sheena's father in 1946 and had two children. She described her as someone who "would do anything for everyone".
Tony and Julia then started to find his birth father, and it turned out that Mary had been secretly married before – and threatened to jump off the bridge on which Tony had been left the same day before going with her former one Husband disappeared – whom she later divorced.
Mary had married a Kirkcaldy man named James on August 1, 1942, but she applied for divorce in 1946 – and was guilty of having left behind the baby, whom he later committed to suicide.
His daughter said to Julia: “He was a very supportive and helpful person. It just seems so unusual for him, and I think it was a real burden, ”she says.
In fact, in his late 70s, he tried to commit suicide and was treated for severe depression. I think the 1942 incident with the baby (is something) that he had worn over the years and for which he felt guilty and ashamed. I think it contributed to his attempted suicide. & # 39;
Sheena helped Tony create a picture of her mother Mary, who married Sheena's father in 1946 (Mary and Sheena's father, her second husband).
Mary introduced herself to Sheena, who is Tony's half-sister – his father was a married soldier
When Sheena, Mary's daughter, learned the truth about her mother's secret past, she said, “I am angry and bitter that my mother felt that she had to hide everything (shown together).
However, the man had not been Tony's father, and further investigation of local DNA records showed traces in Yorkshire and Hertfordshire and led to a soldier named Eric Wisbey, who died in 2004.
Eric's son – presumably Tony's half-brother Ken – died in 2011, but left daughter Leesa, who Julia traced back to Australia.
Leesa agreed to do a DNA test to prove she was Tony's niece and confirmed that Eric had been Tony's father.
Leesa told Tony that Eric was in the Army Pay Corps in 1942 and was stationed in Edinburgh, just a few miles from Mary's hometown Kirkcaldy.
Tony, depicted at different ages in his youth, said he always grew up knowing that he was adopted
Ivy May, who Tony adopted with her husband Arthur and a little girl in 1944, and they were open about his adoption
At that time, Mary was only 22 and lived with her parents, while Eric was 35 and married to a young son in Australia.
Eric had returned to Australia and left Mary pregnant and had no choice but to give up Tony – and Leesa admitted that her father Ken had always suspected that he had a half-brother but never got to the bottom of it before his death.
When Sheena, Mary's daughter, learned the truth about her mother's secret past, she said, “I am angry and bitter that my mother felt that she had to hide everything. What she must have been through for the rest of her life is absolutely heartbreaking in my opinion. & # 39;
Regarding his family's discovery in Australia, Tony said: “I have a father who went to Australia and now I have spoken to my father's granddaughter over the Internet. These are huge bonuses.
In 2018, Julia finally stumbled across a couple she believed to be Tony's maternal grandparents from Edinburgh, and found his half-sister Sheena (pictured together).
Tony's relationship with his half-sister Sheena grew stronger and he said: "When Julia first told me that she had a result, I think I was a little stunned," says Tony.
"But now I've met my half sister, I corresponded with my half niece in Australia. I look forward to introducing my son and daughter to Sheena's family. It breathed new life into me. & # 39;
He added from his birth mother: "I wish I could tell her." I'm sorry you had to do it.
"I was sure that she wouldn't have left me without a damn good reason."
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