Sisters met for the first time in their lifetime after matching by Ancestry DNA test. Finding her sister was just one of the many pieces in Nelson woman’s decades long search for her family
A long embrace the first time they met couldn’t make up for the years the sisters were apart.
Nelson’s Annie Bougen, 61, spent an anxious Friday morning waiting for the moment Meredith Savins’ car would roll up her drive.
Meredith, 56, had flown from Australia to meet her sister for the first time.
The pair had never spoken before their reunion in Nelson.
But they had been in contact via messenger for the past several months; catching up on the decades of sisterhood and exchanging photos.
There was laughter, tears of joy and exclamations of: “Oh my god”, and “I’m shaking” as they met for the first time on a gloomy Nelson day.
Meredith is one of Annie’s last missing pieces to the family puzzle she has been assembling since her 20s.
Annie was conceived in Taupō before her mother was “shipped up to Auckland as a secret”. Annie was adopted out in 1961.
Her 20-year-old unmarried, religious parents were unable to keep her during a time when children out of wedlock was taboo.
Annie says her father “buggered off to Australia, as a cop out”.
“He was brought up as a very devout Brethren, and a child out of wedlock was a very strict no no, so I can understand why he ran.”
Annie grew up in Waikato, knowing she was adopted, but she had no clues as to her birth parents’ identity.
In 1985, the Adult Adoption Information Act was passed allowing adopted people aged 20 and over to apply for their original birth certificate to find their named birth parents.
Annie received her birth certificate displaying her birth mother’s name, but with so many years having passed, she had no idea if her mother had married.
Her first step was trawling through five years of marriage certificates to discover her mother’s birth name was Anderson.
With that information in hand, she took a friend to the former Canterbury Public Library to comb through the electoral roll.
“We basically looked at every town and city under ‘A’, looking for the person.”
When she finally had an address, Annie made her move and reached out to her birth mother.
“I sent her a letter for her to open, should she wish … then she got in contact with me, which was cool.”
The pair is still in touch with Annie also in contact with three half sisters.
Finding her birth father was much less laborious.
Her mother had kept in touch with him, “in a very loose way”, so she was able to track him down.
When she finally met her father about 25 years ago, he was on his third serious partner and Annie had a further three half siblings to track down.
A flick through Annie’s scrapbook started in the 1980s shows her passion in finding her family. Letters are barely holding on to the paper with drying, yellowed sellotape, recording snapshots of her links to blood relatives.
In 2021, Annie and her husband bought each other Ancestry DNA kits for Christmas and within weeks, Annie was receiving emails of matches to her DNA.
Unbeknownst to Annie, Meredith had also completed an Ancestry DNA kit a couple of years prior.
When Annie completed her kit, Meredith came up as a match, she says.
“We’ve been communicating for about eight to nine months now, then she just said last month: ‘I’m due for a holiday, I’m coming to New Zealand to meet you’.”
Inside Annie’s home, one of the first questions to Meredith was: “Coffee?”
Meredith replied she would have one, “black and no sugar”, Annie revelled in their first similarity.
“Just like me!”
Meredith says meeting Annie was “a little surreal, it really is” but over the next three days together, they would have a lifetime to catch up on.
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