It's a family first...

IT was a quest born of a tragic discovery, and the questions it raised, lasted a lifetime. But at the grand age of 98, Ethel Oxford can today sit back a happy woman.

By Tracey Sparling

IT was a quest born of a tragic discovery, and the questions it raised, lasted a lifetime. But at the grand age of 98, Ethel Oxford can today sit back a happy woman. Features editor TRACEY SPARLING brings the culmination of a heartwarming story.

You could be forgiven for thinking this happy picture looks like any other family reunion.

Yet these relatives had never met each other before the day the photograph was taken, and behind their smiles lies a tale which has brought peace to a 98-year-old woman's heart.

Back in March, our Finding Friends column reported how Ethel Oxford had finally discovered who her late mother was - and now our story has led to her meeting relatives in Ipswich who she never knew existed.

At the age of 13 Ethel was told by her family that her 'mum' was not her real mum. Years later she found her mother's name Marguerite Oxford on the internet - and discovered she died when Ethel was a aged one and a half. Ethel suspects relatives probably hid the news from her to save any upset, but she was inevitably left feeling rootless and abandoned.

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From the internet she discovered Marguerite had been born in Ipswich on July 19, 1883 and her parents were Charles and Mary Ann Oxford who had a glove and legging factory at 24 St Matthew's Street, Ipswich.

Marguerite was known as Daisy and had eight brothers and sisters called Maude, Charles, George, Edward, Harry, Mary, Frederick, Archibald, and Alonzo. Maude was a medium and was known locally as Madame Zeta. George was a farmer in Essex, and Alonzo was a lay preacher in Devon.

By chance, Maude's granddaughter Gloria Young from Queenscliffe Road, Ipswich saw the Star story, and got in touch to establish that Ethel is her great aunt.

Then Carl Lewis who is descended from George, also got in touch and turned out to be a great nephew.

An excited Ethel and her daughter Mary Aaron decided to make the trip from their homes near Bristol, to Ipswich to meet up with these new relatives. At the weekend they travelled to town with a great sense of anticipation and afterwards, Ethel could barely disguise the joy in her voice. She said: “I have now found out about six new relatives, and that wouldn't have been possible without the Evening Star's help.

She admitted: “I still can't quite believe it, and I keep thinking about them.”

“After 80 years of worrying - well not worrying exactly, but ever since I've been old enough to want to find out the truth, it has preyed on my mind. I began to think I had no relatives, I started to think wrong things about them, wondering why they had never been in touch. It was a mystery for most of my life and whenever I tried to solve the mystery I hit brick walls.

“I think the reunion helped my new relatives as well. They are splendid people and we got on so well that it seemed I had always known them. If only I'd found them years earlier - it's all come a generation too late. Nevertheless it was very nice to see them. We will certainly stay in touch.”

She added: “I remember when Mary was young she used to ask why is it that other children have aunts and uncles, while she had none. So it was also nice for Mary to meet her new relatives.”

Gloria was delighted to meet a relative of Maude, who see was very close to. She said: “This was the first time we had met, but it was really weird because there is such a family resemblance between Ethel and my grandmother Maude,” said Gloria, 61.

“Ethel is an amazing woman and her sense of humour is so much like my father's.”

Ethel and Mary met Gloria, her two sisters Valerie Mallett and Yvonne Corder, and sister-in-law Paula Davies for lunch. Gloria got out a case of old photos and took down some from her walls for everyone to look through, and different people were able to add various details.

They did not find a family picture showing any one who could have been Marguerite Oxford, but spotted a few other family traits like similar teeth and eyes.

Gloria and her husband Rex took their visitors on a tour to see the older parts of Ipswich, and the Waterfront, which Ethel loved. She said: “The area was lovely, so peaceful and orderly, despite the development. The bulldozers have been in but I think it will stay true to its roots. Everyone everywhere in Ipswich was so friendly.”

The next day they met Ethel's great nephew Carl, from north Ipswich, who said: “I ran them around to see a few sights. Our family split several generations ago, and I'm quite a distant relative, so I was not able to tell her much of interest. It was more an act of kindness to an old lady.

“We all think we should have asked questions earlier about our family history, but I think it's only as you get older and aware of your own mortality that you get interested.”

Mary said: “My mother was also absolutely delighted to meet up with Carl's side of the family too - it meant a great deal to her. This was also a very pleasant meeting and more interesting facts came out. He took us to St Matthew's Street and to see where mum's sister was born in Curriers Lane.

“We came home feeling we could picture something of the life my mother's mother lived in Ipswich, at the turn of the last century. Once again thank you to Star readers - and we are still getting feedback.”

N

Do you have any more details on the Oxford family? email tedAaron@aol.com.

1908: Ethel Oxford was born.

1909: Unbeknown to her, her real mother died.

1921: At the age of 13, Ethel discovered her 'mum' was in fact not her birth mother. She then spent many years trying to trace her roots.

2000+: In recent years the Internet developed and she was able to find her mother's name Marguerite Oxford online - to discover she died when Ethel was a toddler.

March 2006: The internet trail led Ethel, who lives near Bristol, to Ipswich where Marguerite was born. She and daughter Mary contacted The Evening Star for help.

May: They had received a host of emails and phone calls from Star readers trying to help find any surviving relatives in Suffolk.

July: They made the journey to Ipswich to meet those relatives, and see the streets where Marguerite grew up.

The Finding Friends column has led to many other people finding answers before.

It aims to reunite long lost family and friends, by publishing your appeal to a wide audience, both in paper and at www.eveningstar.co.uk. If there is someone you want to trace, just fill in this form and return it to us, to take part free of charge. You never know who might see your appeal.