Judy Kenyon from Dudley, with her biological mum Gina Masse (Image: SWNS)
Judy Kenyon from Dudley, with her biological mum Gina Masse (Image: SWNS)

As the old adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words – and for pensioner Judy Kenyon, the phrase could not resonate more.

There is a black-and-white snap among the 64-year-old’s family collection that sits proudly on a shelf in her front room – of her as a newborn baby being held by her birth mother Gina.

Judy had never seen herself as a newborn until this year, when she finally tracked down the 84-year-old who was forced to give her up.

And she not only got to see the photo for the first time, she could also tell Gina she was a great, great grandmother – with another one on the way.

“Before recently I’d never seen a picture of myself that tiny before,” says Judy, from Dudley, West Mids. “To know that all those years my mother had kept it feels very special.”

The pair were reconnected with the help of ITV ancestry series Long Lost Family, which returns tonight, more than 20 years after Judy first started her search.

Judy tells us: “I never gave up looking. You keep hoping, praying, that eventually something will come of it. I honestly wasn’t sure whether she would still be alive.”

But she was. Gina was living in France, on the outskirts of Cannes – and was just as eager to be reunited with Judy. Aged 19, Gina had been forced to give up Judy because she was an unwed teenage mother in the early 1950s. She went on to have Kate, 56, Chris, 55, and Jane, 60, but never forgot her firstborn.

When they met at Gina’s home after 64 years, it was the biggest time-gap of the new series and one of the biggest to date. Not that Judy felt that way.

“There was just this very big connection,” she tells us. “You’d think I had grown up in her family because of all
the similarities. Her birthday is the same day as my youngest son’s. Our ideas are similar, the way we talk, our mannerisms, our handwriting, our voices. It’s like we had always been together.”

Judy, born Jane, was adopted at two weeks old and grew up in Shropshire with adoptive brother David, from another family. Her adoptive mother married a wealthy aristocrat – but something was always missing.

Judy says: “I just always felt separate to my parents – like I didn’t belong. They would always introduce me to others as their adoptive child.”

Judy respectfully waited until her adoptive mum died in 2000 to trace her adoption papers. They gave her mother’s name, Gina Haggard, and an address in West London for Gina’s parents. But they were no longer there so she wrote to every Gina Haggard in London.

“I enclosed stamped addressed envelopes in all of the letters,” she says. “Only one person wrote back to wish me luck but didn’t know anything about her.”

Judy now knows the parents had only just moved when she found the address, so had she started her search just a few months earlier, she might have found Gina 20 years ago.

Instead, Judy, who has sons Paul, 46, Mark, 42, Michael, 33, and Philip 27, applied to Long Lost Family in 2012 and again last year. By then she was retired, with five grandchildren aged between eight and 23, and a two-year-old great-granddaughter Harper Rose, with another due this summer.

Gina marked Judy’s birthday every year. She said: “Judy’s father did not want anything to do with it [the baby] and I never saw him again. The GP said, ‘we must get on to the adoption agency’.

“I had her for two weeks and that’s all.”

She kept two photos, one of Judy and one of the two of them, as keepsakes. It’s the latter Judy now has, along with 13 new nieces and nephews.

The pair now regularly phone and WhatsApp and Gina hopes to visit her new family soon. Judy said: “I feel I finally really belong.”