Thursday, 31 May 2007

Kathryn 'Katie' Barnes

I used the name Barbara Barnes because that’s what I was christened a few days after my birth on the 2nd June, 1947.

I was adopted in 1948 at the age of one year, by Mr and Mrs Tiernan. To avoid confusion I’ll call my natural mother ‘Katie’ and my adopted mother ‘mother’. After signing the adoption papers Katie somehow found out where I was living, and was visiting me up until I was five years old. I vaguely remember my mother telling me to say goodbye to Aunty Kathryn when she was leaving. My mother, being a kind woman, allowed her to stay for weekends, until grandmother said I’d be confused and not know who my mother was. So the visits were stopped.

My mother never told me that I was adopted. She never wanted me to know. I found out by accident at the age of twelve, from a psychiatrist of all people. “Did you know you were adopted?” he asked outright. Although I’d always felt different, I was devastated by this news, and temporarily turned against my adoptive parents for lying to me. It became a dark secret that I couldn’t speak about to anyone.

At the age of forty, happily married with two children, I felt confident enough to start a search, strong enough to face rejection. I was counselled by Social Services to see if I could cope with whatever I may find, and given a copy of a report containing my parents’ last known addresses. I have followed every lead on the report and have come to a blank on everything, as far as Katie is concerned. I was also given a bundle of letters (which I still have). Reading them broke my heart, as they document the torment she suffered giving me up. At one point she changed her mind and wrote saying that she wanted me back, and even though she was on her own, she would find a way to keep me. But in a later letter she describes how Father Donnelly had insisted that Barbara goes to a good home, and that she would not be able to provide that kind of security. I could imagine the strict Catholic priest standing over this young girl telling her she must do the right thing.

When I started the search, my mother, then in her eighties, told me that after Katie stopped visiting, she wrote letters to her, which she destroyed after an argument with me, saying that she was living in Tunbridge Wells working on the fruit farms of Kent. My mother said Katie had met a man and they were going to Australia on the £10 ticket.
With the letters Katie had enclosed some photographs of herself which thankfully my mother kept and I now have.

The last known address for Katie on the social workers report had been in Colne in the Manchester area, and so I assumed she was a Northern girl. I found my father who still lived just around the corner from his last known address. He told me that she came from Essex but had moved North with the Land Army and was working on his father’s farm in Wilmslow when they met, fell in love and conceived me. There was a wedding planned which he called off three days before, and I was consequently born in Jericho Public Assistance Infirmary, formerly a work house in Bury.

My father told me Katie had no family and was brought up by her grandmother in the Fens, and spent some time in children’s homes. This lack of a stable family background has contributed to the difficulty I’ve had in finding her. I’ve got four files full of letters and correspondence. I’ve been on the radio and put advertisements in papers but all to no avail. To search in Australia I would need to know the name of the ship and the port she landed in.

I’d given up my search and reconciled myself to never finding her. But when I was off work last year I saw a Trisha programme, which reunited, lost relatives. It stirred up the old feelings of time running out and never finding her. I wrote to them but nothing came of it. I remember trying Cilla Black’s Surprise Surprise a long time ago, but they wrote and said they didn’t get involved with adoption cases.

I would love to know what happened to her. I realise that she may not be alive now, as she’d be in her eighties. Did she go to Australia? I think if she had remained in this country she wouldn’t have been able to keep away. Did she re-marry? Did she have more children? What happened to the young girl who was forced to give me up because she had no family support? If she is alive, does she still think of me? Does she remember the baby girl who’ll be 60 on 2nd June?

I haven’t got the energy right now to start a new search. The Jon situation, and so much to plan for this year. Should I still be raking up the past?
Starting this blog, using her name (although if she married she’s probably changed it) I’ve thought that someone out there may know of a Kathryn ‘Katie’ Barnes, who was in the Land Army in the Wilmslow, Cheshire area the late 1940s, a tall, lively blond girl according to my father, who liked people and life, and may have emigrated to Australia. Who knows?

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood


Emma The Good said...

Hi Barbara:
I read your son's blog on a regular basis and although I can't help you with the Australia question, I might help you if Barnes emigrated to America. Unfortunately, this site only records the deceased and while I saw a number of "Kathryn Barnes" I do not know her birthday. My uncle almost emigrated to Australia, but ended up in the US instead. If your mother did the same and is (unfortunately) deceased, this would find her.

Copy and paste this into your web browser:
Use one of the "free" sites. I am not listing specific sites because one or more may be unresponsive. I liked the New England research site, but you can try them all. Some were updated more recently than others but it is all from the same database.

Type as much information as you know. You can type in social security number and/or last name if you know it.

My blog is
and the full post is down aways (I think April or so). Good Luck!!!
Regs, Emma

BarbaraBarnes said...

Thanks for that Emma. I'll check the sites out. Unfortunately I don't have a full D.O.B for Katie, only that she was born in 1926.

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