Bay residents have helped solve a 70-year-old mystery by reconnecting a family separated since the 1930s.

Earlier this month the Bay of Plenty Times published a story about 83-year-old Australian woman Patricia Phelps who was trying to find her brothers and sisters who did not know she existed.

Mrs Phelps had been searching for her mother Edna Eileen Hannon since she was 17 and after decades of hunting, discovered she had remarried and had moved to the Bay, changing her name to Edna Sexton.

Mrs Sexton died in 1996 but had eight other children.


The family did not know Mrs Phelps existed until they read the newspaper article.

Mrs Phelps' granddaughter, Tamara Searant-Strachan said the family had received dozens of calls from Bay residents who had read the story, including two from Mrs Phelps' long lost sisters.

"The first phone call we got was from one of Nana's sisters, Valerie," she said.

"It was very emotional, just incredible to make contact after so long. Then we had a call from another sister who happens to live in Australia too.

"She told us Edna, nana's mum, used to come and visit her in Sydney from New Zealand and she always thought she was looking for someone or something when she came over, but the family never knew what.

"It's sad because nan and her mum both searched for each other but never quite looked in the right place."