Two sisters who were put up for adoption at the end of the Second World War have reunited after 75 years. Annie IJpelaar, 78, and Sheila Anne Fry, 75, who lives in Bristol, reunited in June 2022 after Sheila’s daughter-in-law took it upon herself to track her long-lost relative.
Sheila had been adopted shortly after birth at the end of war in 1946 in the UK and had no knowledge of her birth parents’ identities. She uncovered the identity of her father using DNA site and discovered she had a half-sister who lived in the Netherlands - who was born just a few months after her.
Sheila’s daughter-in-law, Karen, was messaged by Annie’s son, Marc, and both sisters did a DNA test which confirmed that they were related. After a FaceTime call in May 2022, the sisters met for the first time in Drunan, the Netherlands, in June 2022.
Sheila, 75, a retired shop assistant, said: “It was like looking in the mirror and talking to myself. We had done a video link before we met face to face, but it was amazing. We have the same hobbies, and the same medical complaints it is very strange - we look very much alike.
“I always knew I was adopted, my mum told me when I was a little girl. My mum said I was special because mummy and daddy picked me.”
Sheila had been adopted shortly after birth at the end of war in 1946 by Clifford and Mary Willmott - and had no knowledge of her birth parents. Sheila’s adoption records contained her biological mother’s full name, but there was no information about her father.
Sheila’s adoptive parents had stated that her father was a Canadian soldier who fought against the Nazis in Europe and returned home after the war. The search for Sheila’s birth father remained unsuccessful for eight years, leading Sheila to believe she had hit a dead end.
Sheila said: “I never thought of looking on my father’s side. What we presume happened is as the forces were closing down, he had been in Holland, and they had Annie. Then he was sent to Bristol and met my mother.
“We think he maybe knew about Annie but didn’t know about me, I didn’t know anything about it until my daughter-in-law told me.”
Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, Annie was also trying to uncover her family history. Annie was born just a few months before Sheila and grew up with her birth mother and stepfather.
Unaware that her stepfather was not her biological father, Annie only discovered the truth after overhearing a conversation between relatives and searching through family documents.
Annie’s biological father was a Canadian soldier who had fought in World War II and participated in the liberation of the Netherlands from Nazi occupation. Annie’s son, Marc, 50, an Founder of a Web Design and Online Marketing Company, made a breakthrough when a joke between cousins led to him ordering a DNA test.
When the email arrived announcing a DNA match, Marc was astonished to discover that Sheila was his mother’s half-sister. After verifying the DNA connection by testing both sisters, Marc finally told his mother he had found her a sister and arranged a video call in May 2022.
Marc said: “The situation was special - they had an amazing conversation. There were challenges because they both had trouble hearing and the communication between them was funny.
“But they look the same, they have the same hobbies. It was amazing. The next step was a face-to-face meeting in Holland in June 2022.
Sheila said: “It was amazing to meet face to face, we both love to crochet, and we both knit and do crafts. I must say, Annie is a lot better than me, she has an awful lot of patience by the sounds of it.”
Shelia hopes Annie will visit her in the UK in the future. Annie, a retired craftswoman, from Drunen, Netherlands said: “It was very special, and we immediately connected. Although the language was a problem it felt very strange and also natural to see and talk to my sister after all these years.
“It is great to finally meet Sheila, but it can be difficult to keep in touch as we are not very good with computers and phones. My English is not good, but I am trying to learn. I wish she lived closer.”