Long-Lost Sisters Find Each Other After Decades

Sandra McDougal & Betty Bickford
Sandra Jane McDougal ( left ) and her sister Betty Bickford ( right ). Photo by Joe Phelan – Kennebec Journal.

Congratulations to long-lost sisters Betty Bickford, 66, and Sandra Jane McDougal, 62, on their successful reunion, after years of trying to find each other.

According to the Portland Press Herald, the two sisters were separated by adoption when they were young, and, although they have lived near each other for years, they didn’t make contact with each other until two years ago. The sisters both lived in nearby towns in Kennebec County, Maine. Although they both knew several of the same people and their sons had been friends for many years, the two sisters never met until 2014.

Bickford was born in 1949, but never lived with her birth mother. She was immediately turned over to her maternal grandparents to be raised. Four years later, Bickford’s biological mother gave birth to McDougal. However, the grandparents were not able to take on the responsibility of raising another granddaughter, so McDougal was given up for adoption.

Even at the young age of 4 years old, Bickford knew that something was going on in the family and eventually her grandmother told her that she had a younger sister who had been given up for adoption. While Bickford was growing up, she couldn’t help but think about the sister that she knew she had, but never knew personally.

McDougal, on the other hand, learned that she was adopted when her adoptive sister told her about it. McDougal’s adopted parents later confirmed to her that she had been adopted. This unexpected family revelation left McDougal wondering about the family she never knew and whether or not she had any siblings.

When Bickford was 17 years old, she finally met her birth mother, who confirmed to her that she had a younger sister who had been given up for adoption. Bickford’s mother told her that her sister’s given name was Helen Jane. However, Bickford was not given the permission needed by her mother to access the sealed state adoption records for her younger sister. Her mother’s refusal to give permission to access the adoption records brought Bickford’s search for her sister to a dead end for many decades to come.

Eventually, Bickford found out McDougal’s birth date. Unfortunately, McDougal’s adopted parents had changed her given name to Sandra Jane, which made Bickford’s search for her even harder. And, although McDougal was curious to find out who her biological family was, she wasn’t actively searching for them for fear of hurting her adoptive parents.

One of many ironic facts in this reunion story is that Bickford actually attended and graduated from high school with McDougal’s older adopted brother, Eddie, but the two sisters never met during this time. McDougal started as a freshman at the same high school the year after Bickford graduated.

Bickford and McDougal grew up, got married and had children of their own without ever knowing each other. In fact, both women were in their 60s when they first met.

Maine opened up their adoption records in 2011. That’s when McDougal decided to get her adoption records from the state and find out who her biological family was. After getting her birth and adoption records , McDougal used some online people search sites to find her birth mother’s obituary. Then she was able to find her biological sister’s name and address.

In August 2014, McDougal finally mustered up the courage to knock on Bickford’s door and meet her in person. Upon realizing that McDougal was her long-lost younger sister, Bickford welcomed McDougal into her home with open arms.

Now that the sisters have been reunited and their family circle is complete, the two sisters stay in regular contact with one another.