Surprise family Christmas at West Cliff Hall

Christmas really will be a family occasion at West Cliff Hall Care Home in Hythe after one of its residents made a surprise discovery that she is related to two of the home’s staff.

Keen genealogist Janet Pack, a resident in the home for the past year, noticed from the name badge of kitchen assistant Tom Whitemore that his surname was the same as her maiden name. Tom’s daughter Chelsey also works as an administrator at the care home.

Thinking it was too much of a co-incidence, Janet set about researching further back into her family tree and to her surprise, she found that they shared the same great great grandfather, John Whitemore, who was born in 1786 and had nine children.

This means that Tom is Janet’s cousin twice removed and that she, Tom and Chelsey are blood relations!

“When I first saw Tom’s name badge, I said to him, you’re having me on,” said Janet. “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. Married for 56 years to her late husband Dave Pack with whom she had a son, she was previously an HR administrator at the Princess Anne Hospital between 1968 and 2002.

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.

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.

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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Matt Laak

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