NSW: Tuesday – A surprising amount of motherhood

29 January 2019

Gary Barnshaw had learning difficulties and had been institutionalised from a young age. Any financial estate he left when he died would of also have been intestate as he lacked capacity to leave written wishes. Gary died in 2016 (on our MD’s birthday) and his birth certificate was needed to ascertain who his mother was as his birth was registered as Barnshaw with mother’s maiden name Barnshaw. There was no father recorded on the certificate.

Although Gary was born in a fairly sizeable town, his mother was recorded on the certificate as being resident in a small rural village and the electoral rolls soon highlighted that there was only one candidate with the right name in the village. Family members were quickly contacted (initially, nieces and nephews) but they were all adamant that Gary was not known to them and not part of their family. However, we knew different….

Gary was born in 1940 and his mother had already had two illegitimate children in the 1930s. One was taken in by the extended family (and known to the nieces and nephews we had contacted), with the elder sister being taken in by Barnardo’s. What with Gary having learning difficulties, his mother clearly knew she could not look after him and he was therefore placed in a ‘Hospital’ (as many children with disabilities were in this period of time).

Gary’s mother moved away from the area and had a further three illegitimate children in a neighbouring county (one dying in infancy). She did marry eventually though it is unknown if her husband was in fact the father of any of her six children. Of course, in order to resolve Gary’s financial estate, all of his siblings (or their children) had to be accounted for…..

Contacting the home where Gary has lived, Elaine (one of his support workers) was delighted to know that he had family, although sad to know that they were not aware of Gary’s existence during his lifetime. She told us he has lived in the ‘Hospital’ for over twenty years before being placed in a more suitable supported living environment and indeed, his Corsa was still parked outside the home!

Having located Irene (number two of the six, Gary being number three), the mission to find the other three (Brenda, June and Jack) was underway. Imagine the surprise of the latter two when we told them they had had three older siblings, with at least one still alive! Their mother was certainly an interesting character and they had no idea that they had another part of their family in the next county!

Image canvases of people displayed on a wall

Our Hall of Fame

We put the three of them in contact but for some time, Brenda presented an almighty challenge. Having been placed in Barnardo’s, she could have landed up anywhere in the country, or even the world. However, Barnardo’s held records of her and provided us with them (for a small fee). Although not all the details were correct, we had enough information to find Brenda’s marriage and unfortunately, her death. She left four children who were only made aware of their mother’s upbringing when they opened a box which she had left, which was not allowed to be opened until after she died.

Gary is fondly remembered by the FWL team (his photograph will soon join the Hall of Fame in our new offices) and his remaining family are now united. His ashes were scattered at Weston-Super-Mare, a place he loved.

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