Woman’s search for relatives

Gretchen Cooper is trying to find her long lost relatives in Kraaifontein.

Gretchen Cooper is searching for lost relatives she believes are living in Kraaifontein.

Ms Cooper’s mother split from her daughter’s father before she was born, losing touch with him and other members of the family. It’s these relatives that Ms Cooper, now 26, hopes to meet, and she says she feels “incomplete” without them.

“I have been in search of my father, John William Thomas, and his family for as long as I can remember,” Ms Cooper said.

Her search intensified in 2007 when she discovered her father had died the previous year, on October 3, 2006.

“When I was 16 years old, my heart was broken into a million pieces when we were informed by Home Affairs that he had passed away the year before. It was right there and then that I realised I would never find him. I then spent more time looking for his children or relatives to help me figure out where I’m from.”

Her last positive lead on them was when she heard that her father had been living with his daughter in Kraaifontein before he died.

“I have been on Facebook pages, the internet, phoning cemeteries, municipalities, all to get any info to help me in my search – but no luck. I’ve searched for a grave number, but I can’t even find out where he is buried. So I’m constantly trying a different cemetery.”

Through her research, Ms Cooper has picked up bits and pieces of her father’s family history.

Mr Thomas was of English descent, having moved with his family from England to South Africa when he was 12.

He stayed in Pretoria for a while with his first wife, Hilda.

Ms Cooper currently lives in Malmesbury.

Before her parents separated, the family had lived in Stellenbosch. Early in 1991, three months before Ms Cooper was born, her parents separated, and Mr Thomas moved to Paarl.

While her parents had not stayed in touch, Ms Cooper said she knew of at least one occasion when her father had sent a family friend to contact her.

Although that meeting never happened, she feels encouraged that her father tried to see her, and she has never given up hope of finding her lost relatives.

“I feel so incomplete not knowing them,” she said.