On her blog today, Welshcakes writes of the death of a cousin with whom she had lost touch. Her attempts to find him had come to nothing and it is only long after his death that she hears of it from another cousin.
I grew up without a father. He and my mother weren't married and, to my knowledge, I never met him during my childhood. As I grew older I began to wonder more about him but my interest waxed and waned with the moon.
In the 1980s I discovered that he had moved to the Carmarthen area and was probably still living there, although he had been ill.
At the end of the 90s I began a Masters course in Trinity College, Carmarthen. Out of curiosity I looked him up in the phonebook and found he was still listed. Every time I drove to college I passed his house.
I wondered what to do: should I sit outside and see if anyone appeared? Phone and pretend to be a researcher of some sort in order to find out more about his situation. I would never make a private eye; I am far too honest and easily embarrassed. I didn't know how much he knew about me and whether, if she was still alive, his wife knew about me. The last thing I wanted to do was to cause any trouble. I did nothing.
Then a few years ago I had the opportunity through a BBC programme about family history, Who Do You Think You Are?, to make a digital film. As a result of this Husband became interested in genealogy.
With the right software and the internet, he has been able to trace different branches of my and his families back to the 16th century. He discovered that my father's family history had already been well-documented by someone. According to that he had a wife and daughter - but there was no mention of me, unsurprisingly.
Making the film had aroused my interest again; I wanted to know more about where I came from, who I am. After I'd dithered for a bit we emailed the lady who had done his family tree. After she'd asked some questions, she said that my father was dead but that his wife still lived in the same house and that they did indeed have a daughter who was called Sarah. She, the genealogist, offered to act as an intermediary if I wanted to make contact as she knew the family well.
After dithering again I said yes, please, I would be grateful if she found out what she could.
She soon came back to me.
My father's wife (whom he married some years after my birth) knew about me but wasn't willing to meet me; she had now told her daughter (my younger half-sister) about me but she didn't want to know me either.
My father died in 2001. If I'd acted when I was in college I might have been able to meet with him. I don't know whether he'd have agreed or whether his health would have allowed but I missed that chance.
I thought hard about posting this but understanding Welshcakes' regret, I wanted to urge anyone who's lost contact, or never had contact, with a relative to take the chance if it comes along. You might do it and regret it but at least you'll know.