Brit adopted as baby reunited with birth mother thanks to Facebook miracle

Katherine Samwell-Smith found her biological mother in Chile after receiving a Facebook message one morning in 2021 that left her “stunned” as she assumed reunions would be “almost impossible”.

Katherine Samwell-Smith has reconnected with her birth mother Ximena in Chile
Katherine Samwell-Smith has reconnected with her birth mother Ximena in Chile

A woman put up for adoption as a baby was able to reconnect with her birth mother, who was 7,000 miles away, thanks to Facebook.

Katherine Samwell-Smith, 45, was born in Chile but came to the UK when she was six months old to be adopted.

She now lives in High Barnet, north London, with her husband Michael Gehr, 49, and their children Benji, nine, and Sophie, six.

When her adoptive mother died in 2010 and she became a mother herself, Katherine longed to find the woman who had given her to an orphanage in Santiago.

Knowing only her mother’s name, she joined a Facebook group in 2019 that reconnects adoptees from Chile with their birth families.

One morning, two years later, Katherine received a message from one of the administrators stating, “We’ve found your B-mother.”

“My heart started racing immediately,” she says.

Katherine hopes to visit Ximena in person next year


real life PA)

Katherine spent two years searching for her birth family


real life PA)

“It turned out that a local police officer who was helping the group found my mother Ximena and knocked on her door asking if she was my mother. She confirmed that it was her.

“I was stunned, she could have easily denied it and closed the door, but my birth mother agreed to speak to me. The parts finally fit together.”

Katherine said she was just hoping someone would point her in the right direction when she joined the Facebook group.

But administrators managed to find her birth mother by compiling a list of women in Chile who shared the same name and contacting each of them.

Thanks to her hard work, Katherine was reunited with Ximena, 68, on FaceTime after being separated for 44 years.

Katherine met her adoptive family on a luggage trolley at Gatwick Airport in 1977


real life PA)

She now has two children of her own, Benji and Sophie


real life PA)

Katherine said, “When I set out to find Ximena, I knew it was a near-impossible task.

“I had very little to do and didn’t know where to start. The Facebook group had ties to Chile, which was key to finding them.

“And I’m so glad they did as I feel like I finally know who I am and I hope to be able to meet them in person over the next year.”

Growing up, the subject of Katherine’s adoption had been discussed openly in her household since she was three or four years old.

She said: “I remember being very proud of the fact that I was adopted and telling everyone at school about it when I was about five.

“It made me feel special and I was completely obsessed with Chilean culture. I loved the fact that I’m 100 percent Chilean.”

Katherine’s biological mother, Ximena, was found by a local police officer who helped with the search


real life PA)

Katherine remembers focusing her schoolwork and projects on Chile.

She said: “I used to know a lot of facts about the country simply because I always did my school projects in Chile.”

Back in 1977, Katherine’s parents, Paul and Rosie, had found the orphanage in Santiago because they knew they wanted to adopt her and had chosen her from a selection of photos.

At the age of six months, Katherine was flown around the world to Gatwick Airport outside London where they met.

She said: “It was by accident that I was lucky enough to be the baby they chose and I often wonder what happened to the other babies in my orphanage.

“My birth mother was only 23 and couldn’t keep me.”

Katherine visited Chile as a teenager with her mother, Rosie


real life PA)

Katherine said she had a very happy childhood and that her mother and father, now 78, told her everything she asked about joining the family.

But at the age of 17, she began to learn more about Chile and took an emotional journey with her mother to her orphanage.

She said: “At the time I wasn’t very interested in finding my birth family, but I asked for my records and the orphanage told me they got rid of them after I turned 16.”

Katherine spent a month in Chile and returned two years later to work as a teacher for six months and felt “reconnected”.

Upon returning to the UK, Katherine started a family of her own with her husband Michael and began searching for her birth family in 2019.

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She said: “My adoptive mother sadly passed away in 2010, which was devastating. It was then that I wondered if my biological mother was still alive.

“I missed my adoptive mother terribly and wanted my biological mother to be in my life. It was like a piece was missing from the puzzle of my life.

When her mother died, Katherine received her adoption papers and began to feel an urge to find out where she came from.

Her search for the Chile Adoption Birth Family Search Facebook group eventually gave her the breakthrough she needed, and she set up a FaceTime call with Ximena in August 2021.

“My husband had to convince me to dial the number because I was so nervous,” she said. Seeing her face on screen was amazing.

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“She struggles with English and I’m no longer fluent in Spanish, so our phone calls involve a lot of waving and smiling and I use Google Translate to talk to her.”

She continued, “I found out I have a half brother who is 18 months older than me and was raised by our grandparents. After me, my mother had no more children and she never married.

“The tough questions still haven’t been asked because I don’t want to have a conversation with her on the phone.

“For me, finding my birth mother has helped close my life. No matter what happens now, I know who I am.”

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