Visitors to Cairns & District Family History society usually know a little about their recent family history, and are keen to use CDFHS resources to learn more about earlier generations and start building a family tree.
Not Bob Taylor. When he joined CDFHS in late 2015, the only facts that he knew were his name, his date of birth, and from his birth certificate that his mother was named Sheila Taylor.
After 60 years of searching, he still hadn’t been able to learn anything more about who he was or where he came from.
Bob is a former child migrant – one of many thousands of children sent from Britain to Australia between 1912 and 1967. To make room in the overflowing orphanages in the UK, and to satisfy Australia’s need for more people, these poor young children were sent out with all the best intentions and great promises of a wonderful life, only to be abused and misused by the people who were supposed to be educating and caring for them.
Bob was 10 years old when he arrived in Western Australia. After spending six years at the Christian Brothers-run home, Boys’ Town Bindoon, Bob left at the age of 16 to fend for himself. He initially found work on local farms and eventually ended up spending his career as a ranger in Australia’s National Parks.
Bob started searching for information as soon as he left Bindoon. He travelled back to England four times, including to the address where he was born in Lancashire. A number of organisations and researchers attempted to find his mother for him – including researching and contacting many different Sheila Taylors, but all to no avail.
In the late 1980s, awareness of these child migration schemes spread through the media due to the incredible efforts of Nottingham social worker, Margaret Humphreys. Many sad stories were revealed, both in the UK and in Australia.
By 2011, and still no further in his search, Bob published a book called ‘Who Am I?‘, ever hopeful that someone somewhere might read his story and know something… just one small fact or clue that could help Bob identify his mother and finally learn who he is.
After all these years, Bob knew it was most unlikely that his mother was still alive, as she could be aged well into her 90s. So his last wish was affirmed – and printed on the back cover of his book – to find his mother’s grave.
Then in late 2015, a chance meeting with me and Heather Cox at a local meeting of the Forgotten Australians Support Service in Cairns changed the course of Bob’s life. We could see from the previous research that all traditional avenues had been exhausted and that DNA testing was possibly his last hope of finding some connection to his birth relatives.
I don’t think Bob was particularly hopeful, but after 6 decades of searching – nothing else had worked… anything was worth a try… science and technology seem to have amazing capabilities these days – so Bob decided to give it a go.
And it worked.
Just months after testing his DNA, Bob discovered the identity of his mother and finally knew who he was too.
Contact was established with his relatives in the UK, and in July he had the pleasure of meeting them in person, when the Child Migrants Trust funded a reunion trip for him.
DNA helps find 76-year-old child migrant’s family after 6 decades of searching tells Bob’s story in more detail, explains how the DNA testing works, reveals that his cousins were looking for him as well, and shares photos of his family reunion in Spain and London.
During his visit to London, Bob’s lifelong wish was finally achieved when his cousins Rod and Chris took him to visit his mother’s grave in Kent.
Bob at his mother’s and grandparents’ grave in Kent, England
Bob’s son Gary at his grandmother’s and great grandparents’ grave.
Bob (centre) with his cousins Rod (left) and Chris (right) at their grandparents’ grave.
Although Bob was separated from his mother at birth, she left the greatest clue to her identity in his DNA – in every cell of his body, and his DNA has finally brought him back to her.