Monday 22 January 2018

Bittersweet connection as man (27) finally tracks down his Irish family only to discover his dad died 20 years ago

Glen Jankowski's search for his dad connected him with his extended family in Donegal
Glen Jankowski's search for his dad connected him with his extended family in Donegal
Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

A British man has connected with his extended Irish family after a long search for his father ended with the heartbreaking discovery that he passed away more than two decades ago.

Glen Jankowski (27), who lives in Leeds, grew up in a series of foster homes and never had the opportunity to meet his father.

Over the years, Glen began to trace his heritage with the help of his mother Linda, who had a romance with a Donegal man named Martin McBride in the late 1980s.

“I was born in London in 1989 and from about three, grew up in a series of foster homes. After foster care, I started to trace my family roots and met most of my maternal family at age 20,” said Glen.

“My mother told me my father was from Donegal, about the same age as her and was tall with mousy brown hair. His name was Martin McBride. She thought he might have had a lot of siblings too.

“Throughout the years asked social services to find him. Unfortunately Martin McBride is a common name and he wasn't on my birth certificate so they never got far.  I was also a bit nervous as I'm gay and whilst I'm proud to be gay, you never know how someone else will react,” he said.

Glen and his mum Linda decided to approach a journalist in Martin’s home county of Donegal and an article published on website Donegal Daily helped the pair make a connection with Martin’s family.

“My mother was great and together we must have messaged at least 30 Martin McBrides on Facebook.

“My dad's family were always searching for Glen McBride, not knowing I have my maternal grandfather's polish surname. We kept missing each other,” he said.

“The reunion finally came last month when my mother had the brilliant idea to talk to a local journalist where we knew Martin was from. She befriended Elaine McCallig from Donegal Daily and together they wrote a short article with some pictures of me. It worked and within a day I was talking to my aunt, Catherine Cullen, and my cousins,” said Glen.

Although Glen’s search was focused on finding his father Martin, the lecturer was upset to discover his dad had died more than 20 years ago, when Glen was 4. Upon meeting his family, Glen was told that his paternal grandmother was also keen to connect with him before her death last summer.

“My father died when I would have been four-years-old. His family always searched for me though. Over the years they searched London hospital archives, went back to my old addresses and messaged Glens on Facebook living in London, where they thought I was. At one point they were even going to hire a private investigator. I'm told my grandma was particularly keen to meet me before she died in August last year.”

Last week, Glen flew to Donegal to spend a week with his extended family, which includes 21 cousins and nine aunts and uncles in Carrigart.

“I went over for six days in Donegal last week. I went to my cousin's 11th birthday party on Tuesday, attended my grandparents' anniversary mass on the Wednesday, went swimming in Donegal pier on the Thursday, shopping on the Friday and on my final night my family arranged for a big dinner out which was beautiful.  Everyone was so welcoming and easy to talk to. It just flew by.

“It was disappointing to discover Martin had died but finding out about this big, beautiful family was a very big silver lining,” said Glen.

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