With only a first name, an old Prince Rupert Secondary yearbook and the B.C. phone directory, Janet Keall has found her birth father.
Her 22-year search to find her birth parents after being abandoned as a newborn in Prince Rupert in the 1970s has uncovered four half siblings, all of whom were also abandoned, and a myriad of secrets held by her birth mom until she died last year just months before Keall’s research led to her.
And the recent discovery of her birth father has unveiled another shroud of secrecy. Her father, a professional man living in B.C., did not know that Keall’s mom, his girlfriend in Prince Rupert for a year in the 1970s, had become pregnant and abandoned their child in October 1977 outside the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital. He has been married for decades but Keall is his only child.
Finding him is a milestone that Keall never thought she would see when she began looking into her background years ago. Old-fashioned sleuthing led to the man earlier this year. An old friend of her birth mom gave Keall the first name of someone she recalled her mom dating.
A volunteer who has helped her research archives in Prince Rupert, Robb Rydde, searched high school year books and passed on a potential surname. A simple phone directory led to him. She called at the end of April and last week a DNA paternity test determined that Keall and the man have a 99.9996 per cent probability of being father and daughter.
“He was in a committed relationship with my biological mother when I was conceived,” said Keall, 39. “He had no idea about me at all. There certainly is a shock and a sadness but in the search for my biological parents it is a happy ending.
“We certainly do have physical similarities. You can see it. I am so happy. I am looking forward to meeting him. It still feels surreal.
“He just kept saying, ‘Thank you for not quitting. Not many people would have kept looking, especially with nothing to go on.'”
The two have shared photos and spent hours on the phone together. They will meet in B.C. in June but have agreed not to reveal his identity to protect the mom, who serially abandoned five babies from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s and never told a soul.
“This story and this woman have impacted many lives. We don’t have the right to publicize her identity. She’s not here and there are living family members including the son that she raised,” Keall said. “We would never want to cause him any further distress.”
The mystery of Keall’s birth and her search has captured the hearts of many across North America. The story of her birth mom and the serial abandonment of five babies is believed to be the only known story of its kind. She plans to write a book, has some interest in a film on her story, and still believes there could be one more baby abandoned by her mom that hasn’t been found.
“It just seems so amazing. Even though there have been some positives in the truths I have uncovered, there has also been some sadness,” Keall said.
“This past year has been so shocking. I’m still processing it. But now I have this wonderful gentleman who is my father and I am so happy.”
The first abandoned baby was Keall’s older half-sister, a Maple Ridge woman who was found on the steps of a Prince Rupert house on Feb. 7, 1976. Keall was found outside the Prince Rupert hospital a year and eight months later on Oct. 14, 1977. Keall’s half-brother was found on the steps of a small apartment building in Prince Rupert on May 23, 1979, a year and seven months after Keall was abandoned.
DNA tests between the three showed they share the same mom but have different fathers. All three were adopted and raised in B.C.
A baby boy abandoned on the back doorstep of North Vancouver’s Lions Gate Hospital on July 27, 1980 named Kenneth Allan by the nurses who looked after him, was likely also abandoned by Keall’s birth mom, who lived just around the corner from the hospital at the time.
The boy lived for only a few months. He was never adopted and suffered from numerous medical complications before he died. When he was abandoned he was anemic and was suffering from exposure.
Keall applied for medical records on her mom and learned about another baby her mom abandoned. In 1983 her mom had given birth to a baby girl in Vancouver and shortly afterwards walked out of the hospital, leaving the baby behind.
No one in her mom’s family knew about the girl’s birth. The baby, whom Keall has called Rose, was born with serious medical issues and lived for only a month, most of it as a ward of the government. She died at a hospice and was buried in Vancouver.
Rose died due to rare medical issues that were identical to those of Kenneth Allan, Keall has learned through medical records she has obtained.