'It was so emotional' - Hartlepool woman on moment she met her father for the first time in her life
Complete chance has united a Hartlepool woman with the dad she had never seen in her life.
It was all down to DNA technology that Sharon Collier, 52, and Alex Kennedy, 79, from Dumbarton, set eyes on each other for the first time.
And Sharon has now shared her story with the Hartlepool Mail for a very specific reason, saying: “I want to inspire other people not to give up looking for their family.”
It was an emotional meeting which came after Sharon had spent 36 years trying unsuccessfully to find her dad.
She knew small details and made two visits to Scotland, sent more than 50 messages on social media to people called Kennedy in the Dumbarton area, tried the electoral roll and made numerous phone calls.
She was at the point of giving up but then came an unexpected breakthrough .
Sharon’s son, Paul Williams, 35, was researching his own family tree on a site which used a DNA search.
By chance and at the same time, Alex’s own family in Scotland had given Alex a family tree DNA gift set for Christmas.
Alex and Paul both did their research at the same time and a remarkable coincidence was under way.
Sharon, a mother of two, grandmother of three and general manager for Specsavers, in Middlesbrough, explained: “Paul came to me and said ‘I think I have found your dad’.
"He had a match with someone who was 99 per cent either his uncle or his grandfather.”
That discovery led to an exchange of emails and to an eventual meeting up of Sharon and Alex – with Alex visiting his daughter in Hartlepool this week.
"It is crazy, “ said Sharon. “I did my own DNA and it was a 100 per cent match. I had started searching for my dad when I was 16 and I had tried to do it all my life,
"It was a total coincidence that Paul had been looking online for his own family tree and came up with this.”
She added: “Me and Alex messaged at first through texts but I had this gut feeling that I wanted to meet him. I got on a train to Inverness and he was there at the station for me,
"I had seen a picture of him. I was so nervous and overwhelmed. I got off the train, we embraced each other and cried.”
Alex, who had a brief relationship with Sharon’s mother, told the Mail he had no idea that he had a daughter in Hartlepool until they got in touch with each other.
He described Sharon as “an incredible girl, she is beautiful and I am really proud of her”.
He said he had been contract working in civil engineering all over the country in the 1960s, including the North East, and had no idea that he was a father until DNA technology played its part.
Sharon added: “It is fantastic and I am sharing this story because I want to inspire other people not to give up looking for their family.
"I still get goose pimples when I talk about it.”