Alberta family separated by adoption for seven decades is finally reunited
Published Sunday, January 13, 2019 2:01PM MST
Last Updated Sunday, January 13, 2019 6:28PM MST
A family of five has finally been brought back together after 70 years of being apart, meeting for the first time in Olds this weekend.
Bob Elfstedt, who lives in Sherwood Park, was placed for adoption as a baby when he was born out of wedlock in 1939.
His parents eventually did marry and had four other children, but they never told any of them about Bob.
Bob says he always had a desire to learn about his birth family and to find out if he had any siblings. Now, at 79 years old, he finally discovered he does and many still live in Alberta.
“We’re only four hours drive apart,” he says.
In Olds, Eugene Jackson says he and his three sisters, Sheila, Sheri and Shirley, were contacted by Bob who learned about the familial connection through Ancestry.ca.
After working on the website for a number of weeks, Bob managed to get in touch with his younger sister, Sheri, over the phone.
“And I've thought all my life, how do you start this conversation?” he said with a smile. “So I said, ‘I got the name from the guy who gave it to me’, and she said ‘that's me’, I told her ‘I'm not a salesman, please don't hang up on me.”
Bob then broke the news to her and Sheri immediately called her other siblings, putting Bob in touch with Eugene, his younger brother by five years.
“We never knew we had a brother,” Eugene says. “We had no inkling.”
A short time later, they managed to confirm that Bob was their full biological brother and, on Saturday, the family was all brought together in Olds for the first time.
Shirley, who flew in from Nova Scotia to meet her new brother, says it’s a surreal experience.
“It’s amazing. I’m still trying to process it in my head. I thought I had this whole week to process it but seeing him this morning was very emotional,” she says. “I’ve talked to him on the phone a couple of times but I never knew I’d react like that when I saw him.”
Bob says the connections even come down to the names he shares with his siblings.
“My brother’s name is Eugene. My second name is Eugene. Robert is my first name and it was my mother’s favourite uncle. This is what it’s all tied back to. It was meant to happen. It was just too bad it took 70 years to make it happen.”
During his search, Bob says he also learned some interesting things about his heritage too.
“My [adoptive] dad was from Sweden and I just found out that my [birth] mother was Swedish. Everything rolls together and there’s a reason that it’s supposed to happen.”
They’re still waiting on a few other DNA tests to be completed, but they all say there are lots of similarities.
“My eldest sister looks almost identical to me and my sister in Nova Scotia looks really close to me.”
Sheila says she felt an instant connection with Bob when she was speaking with him on the phone.
"It was like I knew him already, so that's got to be kind of a genetic thing, right there."
Bob adds that he’s glad he took the plunge to try and learn more about his family.
“It's probably the best thing that's happened to me, I've never been so high in happiness, all my life I've wondered, and it's no more wondering, there they are right in front of me, and they're alive, this is the best thing that ever happened.”
The newly reunited siblings say they plan to spend as much time as they can together to make up for lost time.
“We’ve got a lot of years to catch up on. We’re going to be busy for a while,” says Eugene.
(With files from Kevin Fleming)