Twin sisters were reunited yesterday after being separated at birth 78 years ago in Aldershot.
It is the longest that a set of twins have been apart before seeing each other again, according to the Guinness World Records, and for Ann Hunt and Elizabeth Hamel it was an emotional moment.
“It’s so wonderful, I’m not on my own any more. I’ve got no words to say. I’m so happy – I have Elizabeth,” said Ann.
Ann, who was given up for adoption and grew up in Aldershot, England where she was born, did not know she had a sister, while Elizabeth, who was kept by her mother and ended up in Portland, Oregon in the United States, found out at the age of 15.
“I was over the moon, I couldn’t speak,” Hunt told the BBC when discussing their first phone call a year ago.
“I let Elizabeth speak mostly, I had to pinch myself because I realised, I’ve got a sibling, a sister.”
Elizabeth (L) and Ann (R) reunited for the first time Image: BBC
The reunion was the result of a 13 year search for answers by Ann, who found a copy of her birth certificate the year that her adoptive mother Gladys died in 2001. Ann’s daughter, who had a keen interest in genealogy and family trees, helped her to start putting the pieces of her family history together.
“We’ve found your sister but there’s a bonus,” she remembers her daughter telling her. “She’s your twin sister.”
Ann (L) and Elizabeth (R) on their wedding days. They both married men named Jim. Image: BBC
After speaking on the phone, Elizabeth wrote a letter to her twin explaining why she was the only one given up for adoption.
“I had curvature of the spine, which in those days was something which made a person unadoptable," she says. "We were both going to be adopted but when mother found out about the curvature of the spine, she decided to keep me."
The twins are due to go to Elizabeth's home in Oregon in a few days, where she is throwing a party for Ann, her daughter Samantha, and 80 of her closest friends.
Sadly, both Ann and Elizabeth have lost their husbands.
"I feel like I've known Liz all my life now," Ann says.
Words: Michelle Fowler, Images: BBC