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Long Lost Sisters Find Each Other Through DNA Website After 70 Years

Long Lost Sisters Find Each Other Through DNA Website After 70 Years

Two unsuspecting women were in for a wonderful surprise as they discovered they were long lost sisters after joining a DNA website.

Rilba Jones, 79, and Mary Brand, 73, were able to finally meet 70 years on after uploading their DNA to genealogy website ancestry.com.

Despite living 3,500 miles apart, the pair made the long trip to visit each other after learning of their relation.

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Discussing the amazing meeting, Hull based Rilba said: "I've wondered all my life about my identity and this has been life changing.

The sisters made the long journey to meet up (Credit: SWNS)
The sisters made the long journey to meet up (Credit: SWNS)

"I was only really looking to see what my ethnicity was...all of sudden Mary's at my doorstep and I couldn't have felt more at home - I got such a warm welcome."

She added: "It's better late than never. I couldn't believe it, I'd been waiting for this moment for over 70 years."

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Rilba, a retired nurse, had always questioned who her father was, after being told by her mother that he was a Flight Lieutenant who was killed during the Second World War.

While she had been trying to investigate their family history all her life, previous attempts to get to the bottom of who her father was had always been rebutted.

Rilba never knew who her dad was (Credit: SWNS)
Rilba never knew who her dad was (Credit: SWNS)

As a youngster, Rilba was told her father was Flight Lieutenant Blair White, who was shot down and killed in the invasion of Sicily in 1943.

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But when she was 14 she'd been sent into a back bedroom as a punishment where she discovered an account which had been locked away which revealed her mother's secret pregnancy and subsequent efforts by relatives to find a "suitable" husband.

Her real father was actually John Norman Harris, who left Canada to join the RAF in 1937 - and probably met Rilba's mother when he was being treated for injuries at Torbay Hospital in Torquay in 1939.

She was born in September 1940, nine months later.

Flight Lieutenant Harris's plane was shot down in 1942 during a raid on Hamburg and he spent the rest of the war at the Luftwaffe-run camp Stalag Luft III, which held captured Western Allied air force personnel.

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In 1943 prisoners constructed a gymnastic vaulting horse to disguise men, tools and containers of soil, while a tunnel was dug, allowing three men to escape to safety. Her dad's role in the break-out was re-enacted in the 1950 film The Wooden Horse.

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Rilba was never told the truth about her father (Credit: SWNS)
Rilba was never told the truth about her father (Credit: SWNS)

After the War he returned to Canada and went on to have four more children.

A talented writer, he was best-known for his mystery novel The Weird World of Wes Beattie, published shortly before his death in 1964.

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However, Rilba knew none of this until meeting Mary, from Ontario, Canada, and hearing her incredible accounts of their dad's life.

By a complete coincidence, Mary had also been searching for long-lost family when she came across her English half sister.

Seeing as Mary was flagged as a potential first cousin on Rilba's DNA site, she originally ignored her messages as she'd thought they were nothing more than a scam.

However, after doing some extensive Googling and working out the truth, Mary's daughter eventually managed to ring Rilba's family, and tell them of their unexpected relation.

The two sisters bonded over their dad (Credit: SWNS)
The two sisters bonded over their dad (Credit: SWNS)

Mary recalled: "My daughter Googled her, and we found her right away. She looks very much like my older sister Elizabeth and my younger brother John.

"We had no idea that there was a half sister in England. I'm positive he had no idea either.

"Meeting Rilba was like a wonderful gift from our father. He has been dead for 55 years, but now I have another piece of him. She's smart - just like our dad."

While looking back on the amazing moment, and the information Mary was able to share about their heritage, Rilba added: "I was so pleased to learn who my father was - he led such an interesting life and was a war hero.

"I spent so much of my youth trying to find this man, but when you don't find answers you just give up.

Their dad is a famous author and war hero (Credit: SWNS)
Their dad is a famous author and war hero (Credit: SWNS)

"Now, years and years later, I'd completely forgotten about it and I've got all of the answers and I've got a sister.

"I didn't know what to expect all those years wondering and searching for answers - but it wasn't this.

"Now I can tell everyone I'm half-Canadian."

The two sisters speak regularly, exchanging emails and stories from their lives, patching together pieces that were once missing. And Mary now even plans to attend Rilba's 80th birthday later this year.

What a feel good story!

Featured Image Credit: SWNS

Topics: Family, Real, Real Life

Joanna Freedman

Joanna is a journalist at Tyla with a particular interest in highlighting women's issues and telling inspiring first person stories. She's also their resident foodie, and loves covering exciting new beauty launches, too. Contact her at [email protected]