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The ‘DNA Detective’ researching the secrets of Chiswick’s past

By Bridget Osborne

The ‘DNA Detective’ researching the secrets of Chiswick’s past 20 March 2018

Julia Bell, who describes herself as a ‘DNA detective’ has turned her attention to Chiswick after helping an old lady uncover the story of why she had been abandoned as a baby. Julia’s research led her to Devon Nook Home for Unmarried Mothers in Chiswick, which opened in Dukes Avenue in 1933 for Roman Catholic girls who found themselves in a socially unacceptable predicament. It transpires that 80 year old Anthea Ring’s mother was one of these girls and now Julia would like to hear from others who passed through this institution in the 1930s and 1940s, to see if she can find out what happened to them and their children.

Found under a blackberry bush

Anthea’s own story is tragic. She was found hidden in blackberry bushes on the South Downs in August 1937 with her hands tied, abandoned to die it seems, but the nine month old baby girl was found by a family out on a walk and she was given to a loving couple for adoption. Although Anthea’s own life has been a long and happy one, she has often wondered what led her to be abandoned in this way.

She took a DNA test five years ago, found that she was 92% Irish and got far enough down the road of tracking her DNA that she was able to meet up with a cousin in America. She then met Julia, who with further research worked out that her birth mother was Lena O’Donnell, who had spent time at Devon Nook. What happened next is lost in the mists of time, but Julia has a working theory that Anthea’s mother was betrayed by someone trying to sell the child and the sale went wrong.

What other tales are there to emerge from Devon Nook? Julia would like to know and if you are able to shed any light about any of the home’s occupants, you can contact her through her website juliabelldna.co.uk

You can read the full version of how Anthea found her mother’s identity, by Claire Bates on the BBC News website here.