‘What are the chances?’ Care home resident discovers staff’s family link

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West Cliff Hall
Janet Pack with new-found relatives Tom and Chelsey Whitemore

A CARE home resident who was researching her family tree discovered she was related to two of the staff.

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Keen genealogist Janet Pack, who has lived at West Cliff Hall in Hythe for the last year, decided to investigate after noticing the name badge of kitchen assistant Tom Whitemore, as that had been her maiden name.

Tom’s daughter Chelsey also works as an administrator at the care home.

Intrigued by the coincidence, Janet set about researching further back into her family tree and discovered they shared the same great great grandfather, John Whitemore, who was born in 1786 and had nine children.

She said: “When I first saw Tom’s name badge, I said to him, ‘you’re having me on’. Whitemore is not a common name and I was genuinely surprised to see someone else sharing my maiden name.”

Tom added: “I was stunned when Janet told me Whitemore was her maiden name. She said there has got to be something in this, so began doing her research. We simply could not believe it when she said we were related. What are the chances of that happening?”

Janet was born in Southampton and lived in Shirley. She was married for 56 years to her late husband Dave Pack, with whom she had a son.

She developed an interest in genealogy in 2000 and became a member of the British Library to enable her to carry out her research work.

Now, most of her work is undertaken on a computer, using software packages that give her access to births, marriages and deaths.

Janet’s research led her to discover that the Whitemore family originates from Blackford near Wincanton in Somerset. Through books written by church warden Susan Hartnell-Beavis, she discovered there were 180 Whitemores living in the parish and set to work tracing her family tree.

Tom’s branch of the family moved to Wallisdown in Dorset because of the opportunities for working on the land in that area. His mother remarried and he has two half-brothers and a half-sister. He and Chelsey now live on the Waterside.

Speaking before Christmas, Chelsey said: “I will be spending some time with Janet on Christmas Eve and we are planning on her coming to my house for lunch in the New Year, mainly to meet my cats, as we all love cats.”

Their new-found relationship has become quite a talking point at West Cliff Hall, which is part of the Hartford Care Group, a family-owned business established more than a century ago in 1908.

West Cliff Hall’s general manager Janie Wilkins said: “This is an absolutely amazing story and one which has enthralled us all here.

“We like to think of ourselves as all part of the Hartford Care family, but this has brought a whole new meaning to that.

“It is fantastic that Janet, Tom and Chelsey now have so much to talk about, and we shall ensure they have a family Christmas that they will never forget.”

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