One day, Ann Hunt and Elizabeth Hamel were going about their normal routines. But when one received this unexpected letter, out of the blue, their lives became intertwined in a way that neither could have ever imagined.
78-year-old Elizabeth from Albany, Oregon, was enjoying her day like any other. She looked through her mail when she discovered a strange looking letter. She didn’t think much of it at first, but when she opened up the envelope and read the letter, she couldn’t believe what she was reading. “I opened it up and looked at it, and my eyes popped out of my head.” But what was this mysterious letter? And where did it come from?
Going Back In Time
In order to fully appreciate the significance of Ann and Elizabeth’s story, we need to go back to the very beginning. Ann Hunt’s side of the story started in Aldershot, United Kingdom. She was the only child of Hector and Gladys Wilson who worked in a post office. Ann had a happy childhood. But eventually, she would start to look at things differently and she felt like something wasn’t quite right. She began to question everything…
Then we have Elizabeth Hamel, who spent the early years of her life living with her aunt. But there was a good reason for this. Her mother, Alice Lamb, worked in the service as a domestic cook. But the problem was that she had Elizabeth out of wedlock, which, in 1936, was considered a taboo. It was very difficult for Alice to keep her child and her job. “In those days it was a very hush-hush affair,” Elizabeth said.
This wasn’t the only reason that Elizabeth was given up for adoption. There was also medical reasons at play. “I had curvature of the spine, which in those days was something which made a person unadoptable,” she said. She was going to be adopted, but “when Mother found out about the curvature of the spine, she decided to keep me.” This left Alice and Elizabeth in a socially awkward situation and they would have to make huge sacrifices…
In the eyes of society, Elizabeth was “illegitimate, which was very difficult. My mother was a servant living in a home. It was very frightening.” When she was about three years old, she moved to Berkhamsted where she was taken in by a carer. Her mother would come and visit her when she had time off work. But one day, when Alice came unexpectedly after ending a shift, she saw her daughter dressed in rags. For Alice, enough was enough…
Young Love For Ann
As for Ann, she was thriving at school. This is where she met a man by the name of Jim Hunt. It wouldn’t take long before the two classmates hit it off and became really close. After school, Jim started a career as a builder. And when she was 25 years of age, Ann tied the knot with Jim. And while Ann fell in love during her formative years, Elizabeth also found a man whose name was Jim, just three years later…
When Jim Met Elizabeth
Elizabeth’s mother took her with her to the house of Captain Hallam, where she worked and lived on site. They lived there throughout World War II and lived a simple life. And eventually, once the war came to an end, the two women moved to London to start a new life. After Alice moved back up north, Elizabeth blossomed into an independent young woman and it was there that met the man of her dreams, an American man called Jim Hamel.
Elizabeth moved to America, and as life flashed before their eyes, both she and Ann experienced a lot of the same things. Both lost their husbands for different reasons. Also, both had kids and grandkids that they are very proud of. And the kids of both women have commented on their tendency to act silly. Elizabeth’s son Quinton reminisced on the time that she dressed up as a cowgirl: “She liked to be funny with the camera – and still does.”
The same goes for Ann, whose youngest daughter, Samantha Stacey, commented on how her mother is always “pulling funny faces” in front of the camera. What’s interesting about Samantha is that she loves looking into her family trees. Many of us love to look into the past and investigate who came before us. Sometimes, just the tiniest of details can unlock things about our family past that completely change everything. And Samantha has a good reason for being so inquisitive…
Let’s take a step back in time. When Ann was just 14 years of age, she found out that she was actually adopted. When she asked her mother Gladys if she had been adopted, she simply told her that she was sent to her by God. According to Ann, Gladys said, “your mother wasn’t able to keep you, so she allowed me to look after you and to adopt you as mine – someone to love.” Fast forward back to the present…
Unlocking The Past
When the time was right, Ann shared this information with her daughter and asked to help her discover the truth of her family past. This started a long, mind-bending process that would open up many interesting avenues. One of the details that made the investigation so problematic was that they struggled to find the identity of Ann’s mother. But after assuming that she had Ann when she was young, they found out that the mother was actually 33. This was just the beginning…
The Search Is On
Ann and Samantha became women on a mission. They put ads in newspapers, searched endlessly online and tried contacting locals for information. And as soon as they felt like there were no more leads out there, something else came up. The two women had already discovered the whereabouts of Ann’s birth certificate. But this just wasn’t enough. The women would need a lot more information to get to the bottom of this mystery. Ann was desperate to know where she came from.
It felt like all hope was lost. Ann and Samantha had left no stone unturned and exhausted all of their resources, but to no avail. Then, in 2013, something incredible happened. They already knew that Ann’s mother lived up north. But then they discovered that, at the age of 49, Alice married a man by the name of George Burton. And George already had a son by the name of Albert. This was huge for the two women and they wasted no time…
Now they had a new avenue to so many possibilities. At first, they thought that it wouldn’t lead to anything, especially after finding out that Albert had died. However, Albert did have a son, who Ann and Samantha were able to track down and get in touch with. They eventually got the chance to meet with him and ask him what he knew about her mother. Albert’s son had a piece of information that completely turned Ann’s life upside down…
Back To Albany
Meanwhile, in Albany, Oregon, on what seemed to be just a normal day, Elizabeth was standing in shock after reading the letter she had received. She started to read the haunting words out loud: “I am writing to you as I am searching for a family connection.” The letter was addressed from Aldershot, United Kingdom. This was the town that Elizabeth was originally from. But there is one key detail that made her shiver in absolute disbelief…
Elizabeth had always known that this was the town that she was born in. Since 1854, Aldershot had a military base and this is where her father served when she was born. The fact that she was born in Aldershot was something that Alice shared with her all those years ago. Did this mean that the two women were related? All the signs seemed to point at this. What was becoming clearer was that Ann and Elizabeth were connected, somehow…
Connecting The Dots
What’s amazing about this story is that even though the two women only found out about each other in their old age, Ann had already made a huge discovery over 15 years beforehand. She just wasn’t able to connect the dots. We mentioned earlier on that although Ann was raised by Hector and Gladys Wilson, she was always skeptical about her origins. In 2001, when her foster parent died, she finally read her birth certificate for the first time…
The document provided some details that would bring this story full circle in the most incredible way. Her biological mother’s name was Alice Alexandra Patience Lamb, she was listed as a domestic cook. However, it didn’t say anything about any other children or family members. But what did this mean for Ann? Was there family out there that she didn’t know about? Did her mother have other kids and if so, who were they and where could they possibly be?
Twist In The Tale
But then Albert’s son revealed a piece of information that would completely change everything. “Oh yes, Alice has a daughter in the US,” he said. Ann couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She was convinced that she had family out there somewhere, but nothing this serious. This could only mean one thing: Ann had a sister out there. Maybe she was a half-sister. But at the very least, Ann shared the same mother with this mysterious woman…
So these two women, who had never met each other now realized that their lives were completely intertwined. Then, Samantha told Ann, “We’ve found your sister but there’s a bonus…she’s your twin sister.” Ann was shellshocked but was completely elated. Not only did the two women share the same mother, they also shared the same father and also, they were born together, at the same time. “I’m 20 minutes older than my sister,” Elizabeth said joyfully. With every new detail came newfound excitement.
So the emotional moment came when Ann and Elizabeth shared their first conversation over the phone. It was a surreal experience for both of them. But without hesitation, the two women arranged to meet. “I was over the moon, I couldn’t speak,” Ann said. “I let Elizabeth speak mostly, I had to pinch myself because I realized, I’ve got a sibling, a sister. It’s so wonderful, I’m not on my own anymore. I’ve got no words to say. I’m so happy – I have Elizabeth.”
Liz Always Knew
But amazingly, Elizabeth knew that she had a sister. “I’ve been praying for you for many years,” she told Ann in that first phone call. Elizabeth had actually spent a lot of time trying to track down her long-lost twin sister. But it was a mission she considered to be impossible for such a long time. “I thought – being adopted, she could be anywhere in the world,” Elizabeth said. “It was amazing to me that she was still in Aldershot.”
Then, on May 1st, 2014, just a year after the two women spoke for the first the time, Ann flew to the US and reunited with Elizabeth near Los Angeles. After being apart from each other for over 78 years, this was officially the longest gap two siblings had been apart from one another. It even made the Guinness World Records. The two gave each other the warmest of hugs and Elizabeth said to Ann, “how lovely to see you in the flesh.”
If this story can teach us anything, it’s that life can throw the most amazing twists and turns at us when we least expect it. Something so incredible could have been there from the very start. This was certainly the case for Ann and Elizabeth, who after nearly 80 years apart from each other, finally get the chance to be together and do things that normal sisters do. And the fact that the two women met so late in their lives makes their story so powerful.