This voluntary contact register, formerly known as UK DonorLink (UKDL), has been set up to enable people conceived through donated sperm or eggs, their donors and half-siblings to exchange information and, where desired, to contact each other. The register is available throughout the UK and has historically been intended for anyone who donated in a UK clinic or was conceived following treatment in a UK clinic before August 1991. Those that were conceived after 1 August 1991 are welcome to get involved as well.
At 19 years old I found out that I was donor conceived. Sadly my parents had been unable to have a child together due to my father’s infertility. My father had a hereditary illness and it was shortly before he died that my mother decided to tell my sister and I that he was not our real father. I think she chose this moment because she did not want us to worry that we may inherit his disease.
I loved my father dearly and I was heartbroken but also desperate to learn more about my genetic origins and who my donor was. It was tough, on the one hand I had this intense urge to know who I was and where I was from, yet on the other I did not want to be disrespectful for everything my father had done for me. I was in utter turmoil.
As time passed, I found out that I was conceived at a Harley St clinic in the 70s. My mother told me that the physician who had arranged the insemination was Dr Carruthers at Number 17. I contacted him immediately. Sadly he was unable to offer any help. My heart plummeted as he said, “All records were destroyed many years ago”. This was in the mid 90s and there was absolutely nothing I could do. What made it more difficult was that my sister had no interest in finding anything out. I felt utterly alone. I didn’t know anyone else who had been conceived in this way and I had no idea who to turn to. Nobody seemed to understand how affected me.
The months and years passed and I continued to think about this regularly but it was all so pointless. What could I do? Records had been destroyed, the internet was early days, so there was no information available to someone like myself. It was around 2004, I sat and watched a documentary about adoptees reuniting with their birth family, the internet was now more advanced and so I decided to do some research. I found a support group specifically for people who were donor conceived. I have no words which could even articulate how I felt in that moment. It was the most amazing feeling I had ever experienced. Finally I felt a sense of belonging and I could share how I felt with others who instinctively understood what I was going through. We were like a huge family.
A year or so later the government set up an organisation, UKDonorLink, now known as the Donor Conceived Register. The purpose of the organisation was for people who were donor conceived as well as donors to voluntarily submit their DNA so that they could be matched with their donor or half-siblings if any had registered. I was so excited for this and joined at its inception. Sadly I had found neither my donor or any siblings at that time. The service was poorly funded and poorly advertised.
In 2010 I registered my DNA with a genealogy website, again hopeful that I would find my donor or a half-sibling. Nothing closer than a 3rd to 4th cousin which was no help at all. In 2014 my luck began to change. A second cousin joined the website and she had a full family tree I could access. She wasn’t from my mother’s side. I knew my donor was likely to have been a medical student (they all were in the 70s), this helped me trace and work out who he was. But there was another crushing blow when I also quickly worked out that he had died five years earlier. Some months later, I contacted his siblings who had survived him. They were incredibly warm and helpful. They told me about my donor, his life and shared photos with me. It was amazing!
Three years on, in 2017, I finally found my first half-brother through the donor conceived register. Meeting my brother for the first time was one of the best days of my life! Soon after a half sister through the same organisation. I then registered with other genealogy websites, Ancestry, 23&me, MyHeritage until now in 2020 I have a total of 20 siblings, so far.
In finding my donors family and many siblings I have found a sense of peace I had never dreamed possible. Because of this, I remain committed to the Donor Conceived Register to help and support others to find their answers and sense of peace too.