Sisters with a Hemel Hempstead connection are considered to be the world’s longest-separated twins after being reunited for the first time since their birth in 1936.
Ann Hunt and Liz Hamel, 78, have even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records following the emotional meeting, after which they were analysed as part of a study at the Twin Centre in California.
The journey back to each other’s arms began when Ann traced her original birth certificate in 2001 and discovered that her mother, Alice Alexandra Patience Lamb, was from Hemel Hempstead.
With help from her daughter Sammy Stacey, Ann found out her mother’s family were all from the town and many of them had stayed in the area.
Ann had never realised she was born in Aldershot, Hampshire – incredibly, the place where she was already living.
She wasn’t even aware she had a sister, while Liz, who moved to the US 50 years ago, always knew she had a twin but never expected to find her.
Research uncovered the fact Alice Lamb was 33 and working as a domestic servant when she gave birth to the twins, but the father had fled and she decided she could only care for one child.
Little Liz had curvature of the spine, and in the 1930s a physical defect would have made it more difficult for her to be adopted, so Ann was tragically given away.
She lived in an orphanage in London for six months before Gladys Wilson adopted her, with husband Hector whom she later separated from.
Both sisters were raised as only children – Liz with biolgical mum Alice, who later died from a heart attack at 77. While Ann discovered she was adopted at around 13 or 14 years old, she avoided looking for her biological mother out of devotion to Gladys.
The twins’ reunion almost eight decades later uncovered even more interesting facts – they had both married men named Jim, and were both now widowed.
Ann’s daughter Sammy managed to track down Liz across the Atlantic, and sent her a letter. Within 10 minutes of reading it, the separated sisters were talking on the phone.
Ann said: “I sort of wanted to pinch myself. I have got someone as well as me, part of me – a twin. It’s so wonderful, I’m not on my own anymore.”
The pair provided a ‘unique opportunity’ for psychology professor Nancy Segal, who researches twins raised apart to better understand the role of genes and environment in human development. Their hand gestures, manual dexterity and general intelligence were among the qualities analysed, and the resulting data is due to be published in a scientific journal.