Saturday, 06 June 2020


A very special story

This is a very special story.

Diana Campbell-Barnaby is a member of St Andrew’s Community Church in Whitianga. Shirley Barker-Kirby is a retired Presbyterian minister. Diana and Shirley met each other in 2012 when Shirley filled in for Mary Petersen who was overseas. Mary was the St Andrew’s minister from 2004 to 2015.

Shirley is a born Kiwi, but spent most of her adult life in Canada. Her husband (who was Canadian) passed away in 2003. She returned to New Zealand in 2006.

Since 2012, Shirley has preached at St Andrew’s at regular intervals.

Shirley is an adopted child and took an interest in genealogy some years ago. She was aware of the name of her birth mother, Eileen Rennie (born Ross), and in addition to researching her adoptive family, she has also started to research her birth family.

Just before Easter this year, while Shirley was again in Whitianga, she mentioned to Diana that she was planning a trip to Dunedin and would like to visit the graves of her birth mother’s grandparents, Alexander and Catherine Munro. Catherine’s maiden name was Ross. Diana was stunned.

“My grandfather was John Ross,” says Diana. “He was Catherine Munro’s brother. Alexander and Catherine Munro’s daughter, Linda gave birth to Eileen Rennie. As it turned out, my great-grandparents are Shirley’s great-great-grandparents. Shirley and I are family and despite the fact that we’ve known each other for six years, we had no idea.

“The challenge now is to explain to people how we are related, the best we can come up with is ‘second cousins, but a generation apart.’”

Shirley has learned a lot about her birth family from Diana since their amazing discovery. “Diana showed me many photos and told me many stories,” Shirley says. “She’s also put me in touch with another cousin living in Twizel, whom I visited when I went down south.

“I’ve known for many, any years that I was an adopted child and it’s as if this ‘shadow’ place in my life is suddenly filled with light. I have two families now. I would say that I’m extremely blessed.”

Caption - “Second cousins, but a generation apart,” Shirley Barker-Kirby (left) and Diana Campbell-Barnaby.


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