Long-lost cousins reunited after decades
Published: June 6, 2008 | 7101st good news item since 2003
A SEARCH for the past unearthed a future of friendship for these long-lost cousins.
When Yvonne Anderson enrolled on an evening class to trace her family tree she was hoping to delve into the past and discover her ancestors.
What she was not expecting to find was a cousin she never knew existed – sitting across the table from her on the very same course.
And she discovered that she and cousin Joyce Bell had grown up just a few miles away from each other in Newcastle’s East End, but their paths had never crossed.
And as the pair chatted they realised they’d both grown up in the East End and now live just a few miles away from each other.
Mrs Anderson, a 61-year-old widow and grandma-of-two, said: “I started the ‘trace your family tree for beginners’ course at Fenham Library in January.
“At our first class we introduced ourselves and said which family name we were going to research. I was looking into the name Greenall, from Cumbria, and the lady sitting opposite me said she was looking for that name too.
“At the time we just laughed and said ‘I wonder if we’re related’, but we were amazed to find our grandfathers were brothers, making us second cousins.
“We were about six weeks into the course before we found out we were related, but the more I saw Joyce the more I thought she resembled my auntie.”
Mrs Anderson now meets up with her new-found relation every Saturday morning at the library where they are working to produce an online family tree.
And after discovering just how similar their lives have been, they are surprised their paths had not crossed sooner.
Mrs Bell, a 68-year-old widow and mum to Glenn, 41, and Joyce, 43, was born and grew up in Walker, while Mrs Anderson spent the first part of her childhood a stone’s throw away in Byker, before her family moved to Fawdon when she was nine.
Mrs Anderson now lives on Etal Park Estate and Mrs Bell lives just a few miles away in Blakelaw – just one street away from Mrs Anderson’s only child, Kelly, and her two children, Keelan, three, and baby Kaila.
Mrs Bell said: “It’s just incredible we found each other; lovely really, and we will definitely keep in touch.
“We have started a more advanced family history course and we’re going through library archives, army and war records and lots of books.
“It can be quite tricky, but I think I’ve found my great-grandparents and I’ve gone back as far as 1840. In those days not everyone could write properly, so the records we’ve found are not always that clear.
“It’s been so interesting and I’m very pleased I started the course. I joined out of sheer curiosity. I’ve always liked looking at local history.
“It would be great if our story could inspire other people to look into their family history. It’s been a lot of fun and some people may find relatives they never knew they had, just like us.”
Mrs Anderson has now started to produce the family tree on the website Genes Reunited and hopes to keep adding to it.
The women’s story has delighted the staff at Fenham Library.
Caroline Miller, head of adult learning for Newcastle City Council, added: “There are all sorts of benefits to be gained from an adult learning course.
“They can help you catch up on skills not learnt at school, to improve your job prospects or they could just be for a bit of fun.
“Joyce and Yvonne’s story is the first time I’ve heard of someone uncovering unknown family members.”