Home video on YouTube of aunt’s trip to city the key that unlocked past of woman adopted as a baby in 1960s; family to reunite in Canada.
A Hawaiian former professional hula dancer adopted from a Fanling orphanage in the 1960s has traced her birth mother through social media after efforts via official channels failed.
Mandy Horst, 50, a retired businesswoman, says she first contacted Hong Kong’s Social Welfare Department 10 years ago with information from her adoption records, but the department was not helpful.
I pretty much gave up,” she said.
But Horst rekindled the search for her roots in June, by approaching agencies in the city and messaging people who share her unusual Chinese surname, Tsigg, on Facebook.
Her curiosity was ignited a decade ago when her American mother, Sue Loftis, gave her a box containing her British passport and a social worker’s interview with her then 17-year-old mother, Jenny Tsigg.
The box also contained a jacket and metal bracelet engraved with her name that she was wearing when she arrived aged 22 months in California in 1965 from the Fanling Babies Home.
She remained curious about where her high cheekbones come from; when visiting India and Tibet she was told by many people she looks Tibetan. The adoption records said her mother was born in Calcutta, India, and moved to Hong Kong aged one.
Early in her renewed search this summer, Horst came across a 2012 YouTube clip posted by Diana Tsigg – a home video of her family’s trip to Hong Kong and a visit to their former Mid-Levels address, but the detail meant nothing to Horst at the time.
Horst contacted the department again and they helped her obtain a certified copy of her birth certificate. The document recorded her mother’s name as Jennie Tsigg and her address, which later became the key detail in identifying her aunt.
“Hong Kong is much more open now to reuniting families from that time,” she said. “But it’s a Herculean task for sure.”
When Horst enlisted the help of Winnie Siu Davies, a Hong Kong-based woman who has helped other adoptees, they noticed the Conduit Road address in the YouTube clip matched that on Horst’s birth certificate.
On September 25, Horst decided to post a message on Diana Tsigg’s Facebook wall to ask if she was her aunt.
“Yes, I am your aunt, what a thing,” came the reply.
Horst has been in touch with her birth mother by email and has told her to let go of any guilt she still holds for giving her up.
“I reassured her I never in my life felt abandoned. I’ve had a wonderful life and I’m actually quite grateful that she had the fortitude and the maturity to give me up so that I would have a better life,” she said.
Horst is now a member of the Fanling Babies Home network, which was created to help adopted children from Hong Kong find their birth parents. Many such children have no documentation, so group members like Horst share expertise online and at meet-ups. The group will hold an adoptees’ reunion in Hong Kong in November of next year.
Horst has learned that the Tsiggs emigrated to Montreal in 1966 and then moved to Toronto.
Her aunt, Diana Tsigg, has shared some details about the family. She told Horst her grandfather, whose family hails from Shandong , met her grandmother in India, where he worked as an English teacher.
Horst hopes her grandmother, who grew up in the foothills of the Himalayas, will be able to shed light on the provenance of her distinctive high cheekbones.
Diana Tsigg told Horst her father was a “playboy gangster from Shanghai”. She is considering how to trace the man, who would now be in his seventies.
She will travel to Toronto at the end of October to meet her mother, half-sister and half-brother, aunt, grandmother and grandfather, who is now 98.
“I actually had a goal that by the end of October I was going to reunite,” Horst said.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Fanling orphan finds her birth mum