A woman who couldn’t find where her son was buried for 53 years has helped to reunite dozens of other families.
Gina Jacobs, who lives in Greasby, gave birth to her son Robert in February 1969 but he was stillborn. She never saw the baby, while her husband was told to collect Robert from the hospital and leave him at the cemetery.
In the 20th century, stillborn babies were taken to cemeteries across Wirral and buried in “mass graves” or at the foot of someone being buried that day.
Fathers were asked to collect their child in a box from the hospital and take it to the cemetery themselves.
The practise, which occurred across the UK, came to light after a BBC North West programme featured Lilian Thorpe who was able to locate the burial site of her daughter Belinda in Manchester.
Gina Jacobs heard about the programme and was inspired to locate her baby at Landican cemetery in Wirral after 53 years of not knowing what happened to him.
For years Gina thought her baby had been buried at the foot of someone who was buried that day. However, it later turned out he had been buried in a mass grave with 62 other children.
After the story went public and Gina posted on Facebook to thank a cemetery staff member who helped her find where Robert was buried, she said she was inundated with messages from people from Wirral who had the same experience.
Gina believes she has since helped reunite about 25 to 30 families with lost sons, daughters, brothers and sisters with the help of cemetery staff.
For some families, it turned out the babies were buried at a completely different cemetery than where they were told. Others like Gina were told they were buried with someone only for it to turn out they were buried with dozens of other babies. Some still aren’t able to find the exact location as the area where they were buried has been grassed over.
A Wirral Council spokesperson said it is progressing with creating a memorial stone which is expected to be revealed at the end of July. At a recent meeting about the stone, those there thought Gina should get recognition for the work she has done.
Speaking to the LDRS, Gina said, “I really don’t think I deserve all this recognition, I don’t think I’ve done that much really but I want people to feel the same thing I did and it worries me that there are so many people countrywide who want to find these babies.
“I want to help these people, I want to help them in any small way that I can. It’s being able to tell someone you have found their baby, it’s just amazing really.”
Finding Robert helped Gina find closure after many years of not talking about what happened. She said, “For me personally it meant great joy in that I have a place to visit which I never did before and finding Robert has animated me to help other people, it brings such joy to be able to have done this.”
She added, “Personally it is lovely because he is now part of the family. For me personally, I cannot put it into words, it’s such a big thing. He was always part of the family but you weren’t allowed to acknowledge this fact as families didn’t speak about it.”
Gina thinks raising more awareness of the issue outside of Birkenhead may help in reuniting more families with their stillborn relatives. She added, “There’s people in Wallasey, there’s people all over the place. There’s people in Neston and Heswall who wouldn’t be in Birkenhead Memories (a Facebook group). I want everyone to find their babies.”
After families got in touch with details to help locate the children, Gina would go to Landican and work with staff to help find the plot where the child was buried. She said, “I kind of took it on myself when they sent me the details and I would go to Landican. I wouldn’t have dreamt it would have escalated the way it did.”
Though she thinks the process could be made easier, Gina said cemetery staff had been very helpful, in particular a former staff member Michelle who “would move mountains” to help her. Though one baby took ten days to find, Gina said: “The majority are often found within minutes.”
Wirral Council said the easiest way to locate a baby is by emailing email@example.com or calling 0151 666 3001.
The information the council would need includes:
The full name of each parent
Date of still-birth
Address at the time of birth
Religion of the parents
The hospital where the birth happened
Main image: Gina Jacobs wasn’t able to find her son Robert for 53 years. Credit: Edward Barnes