- "My daughter, my only child", were the first words Earnest Williams uttered as he walked into the small room at the Registrar General's Department (RGD) and saw his daughter, Yvonne Williams-Brown, tears streaming down her face.
- Torn apart by a spousal separation, Earnest, 64, last saw his only living child, Yvonne, now 37, at age two.
- So near, yet so far away.
“My daughter, my only child”, were the first words Earnest Williams uttered as he walked into the small room at the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) and saw his daughter, Yvonne Williams-Brown, tears streaming down her face.
Torn apart by a spousal separation, Earnest, 64, last saw his only living child, Yvonne, now 37, at age two. So near, yet so far away. For 35 years, a father and daughter, both living in Jamaica, dreamt about what might have been if they had each other, and whether there was a chance they would meet some day.
That dream became a reality on Thursday, July 29, 2004, when they both laid eyes on each other for the first time since their separation, at an emotional reunion, made possible through intense genealogical research by the RGD’s Island Records Office (IRO).
One month later, both could not be any happier, admitting that their reunion has changed their lives significantly, having spent some amount of time together over the past few weeks.
“I am feeling much better now that I have my daughter with me. So many years passed by and I wasn’t seeing her, but I’m seeing her now. She spends a lot of time with me now,” Mr. Williams shares with JIS News.
Mr. Williams describes Yvonne as very pleasant and easygoing, adding that both his wife and stepchild have readily accepted her into the family.
Yvonne admits that she is much happier these days, feeling a sense of belonging with her father, who she always wanted to meet, but never knew how. “Although I grew up with a stepfather who treated me well, it was not the same living without my real father. Now that I have met him, he is such a nice person. I am very happy and I will not leave him out at all,” she assures.
Maureen Robinson, Mr. Williams’ niece, who was instrumental in the search for Yvonne, says her love for family was the key motivator in helping her uncle to find his daughter.
“I am a person who loves family. While growing we spent a lot of time with him and he always spoke about her. On becoming an adult, I was in a position to help him and so I did,” she explains.
“I knew that finding his daughter was the most important thing to him. He had other children around him but they were not his,” she adds.
The search for Yvonne began in June, when Maureen approached the IRO at the RGD and commissioned their services to find her uncle’s long lost daughter.
According to Mrs. Carol Gillies-Lewis, Assistant Manager at the IRO, genealogical research, described simply, is the tracing of one’s ancestors, and is one of the newest services being offered by the IRO.
“Genealogical searches may be conducted to know the cause of death through generations so as to assist with medical research; to know the actual place of origin of the family; and to discover unknown family members; to obtain factual evidence; as well as to build a family tree,” she told JIS News.
It is necessary for persons to find members of a family before attempting to plot a family tree, which should reveal all linkages.
Mrs. Gillies-Lewis says a search can be successful if the dates and occurrence of events are available. Additional information can be gained from funeral programmes, land titles, wills and deed polls.
She notes that persons conducting searches may contact the IRO for such assistance, as it contains documents dating as far back as the 17th Century, including a copy of Henry Morgan’s will and various slave records.
Using data, including Yvonne’s date of birth, full name, place of birth and parents’ names, the RGD Research Officers began conducting intense investigations in June in Portland where she was born, where their search proved futile.
Refusing to give up, they shifted the focus from Yvonne to her mother, whom they later discovered had married some years ago, discontinuing the use of her maiden name.
Her new name became the lead for the researchers who found themselves in St. Ann this time around, where they discovered that she had lived for many years. They eventually met a young man who claimed to know Yvonne and he gave the officers her contact number.
Believing that they had finally found Mr. Williams’ daughter, they made several calls to the number but received no answer. The RGD personnel resorted to leaving their numbers with the young man in St. Ann, asking him to convey to Yvonne the need to contact them, as her father was trying to find her.
Upon learning that her father was searching for her, an ecstatic Yvonne wasted no time in contacting the RGD in July and a surprise reunion was planned for both on July 19. Overcome with joy, Yvonne tells of her failed attempts to locate her father on many occasions.
“I spent a whole day walking through Sturge Town in St. Ann a few years ago, asking everyone I met if they knew Earnest Williams, but no one could help me, so I gave up and went home,” she points out.
Having led a rough childhood, as an outcast among her mother’s children, Yvonne was eager to meet her father, as she felt that her real happiness would be found with this man whom she had never met before.
“I just knew that he would be a nice man. That’s how I always dreamed about him,” she adds.
She believes that her life would have been much easier, had she spent those years with her biological father.
Today she is still feeling overwhelmed by the reunion. “I finally feel as if I belong to a family. I am loved and I am so happy,” Yvonne says.
Over the years, Mr. Williams also thought of finding Yvonne, but gave up, as her mother had threatened to change her surname from Williams after she moved away with her.
Having seen his own wife through two miscarriages, Mr. Williams felt an even greater urge to find his only living child, but did not have the resources to do so.
Today, he is very grateful for his niece’s efforts that have resulted in a significant change in his life. He now has his daughter with him.
“As a child, ‘uncle’ was extremely kind and attentive. I remember the coins and the sweets, and if I had the last, I would give it to him,” a tearful Maureen recalls. “Finding his daughter is like winning the lotto,” she says.
Maureen believes that the presence of a father is essential to the well- being of every child.
“A single parent cannot play the role of a missing parent, no matter how hard he or she tries. There are certain things I learnt from my father that my mother alone could not give me, because a child needs both parents in order to be balanced,” she notes.
Meanwhile, Mr. Williams is making an appeal to all mothers to avoid keeping children from their fathers because of domestic disputes.
“Every child must be with his father. Allow them to decide what they want to do when they are old enough,” he explains.
Maureen says while the family is happy to have found Yvonne, there’s some amount of sadness in knowing that she had led a hard life without them.
“When I talk to her and I realize what she has gone through, I know that if she had us in her life, it would have been better for her,” she says.
Maureen was also instrumental in reuniting another uncle with his daughter through the RGD. Both are now in England getting acquainted with each other.