“LAST week I received a birthday card which said, ‘to my daughter’ and I’ve never had that before – it was wonderful.”

When Dorothy Rachel Eastwood was told by her orphanage that she had ‘new parents and a new name’, she began to wonder what had happened to her previous family.

Born in a mother and baby home in 1941, Dorothy and her mum Joan had a difficult start to life.

Aged 17 and unmarried, Joan faced a huge stigma and the pair were moved from Worcestershire to a different mother and baby home in Manchester.

Joan worked as a domestic servant for a vicar but during this job both she and two-year-old Dorothy fell ill.

Dorothy, 78, said: “I think my mum was coerced into putting me into care.

“I was placed in an orphanage in Clitheroe and mum used to visit me with a friend. She asked if she could take me out for a walk but they refused, mum told me she would come back another time.

“When she next came, the owners told her I had died but I had actually been moved to an orphanage in Audenshaw.”

Dorothy spent the next six years at the orphanage but when she was eight, she was taken to the matron’s office and told she would be ‘going on holiday’.

Dorothy said: “It turned out I was a being sent to Tasmania as a child migrant.”

More than 130,000 children were sent to a ‘better life’ in former colonies, mainly Australia and Canada, from the 1920s to 1970s.

Dorothy said: “I was adopted by an English couple from Rossendale who used to take me out for the day.

“One day I was told ‘from now on, this couple will be your mum and dad and your name has been changed’. I started to wonder where my other parents were and why these were my ‘new’ ones but you didn’t ask questions.”

In February 1952, Dorothy and her adopted parents returned to England and lived in Clitheroe but she was not allowed to talk about her adoption or ask about the orphanage.

Dorothy married Colin in 1962 and the pair moved to Widnes in 1970 before finally settling in Great Sankey.

Dorothy, who has two sons and two grandchildren, said: “I’ve spent 40 years looking for my mum, I waited until after my adoptive parents died.

“I hit so many brick walls and so many lows.

“I managed to find out some information about my early years and the Child Migrants Trust were incredibly helpful but eventually they hit a wall too. When you are adopted, it is always at the back of your mind that you want to search for where you are really from.

“I always thought I would stumble upon a plot of land in a cemetery and it would be mum’s grave.”

In July, Dorothy decided to take a DNA test in a last-ditch attempt to find out who her birth mum was.

In September she was told the life-changing news that she not only had a half-sister and half-brother but her mum was still alive.

Her long lost family live in Berkshire and so Dorothy, husband Colin and her youngest son made the trip to be reunited with 95-year-old Joan Peers in October.

Dorothy said: “It was very emotional for us all, especially mum who had thought I was dead for all these years.

“We’ve visited three times now including for my birthday. The card said, ‘to my daughter’ and I’ve never had that before.

“Mum is absolutely wonderful and my new family are fantastic and have been so welcoming.

“She still calls me Rachel, which is my birth name.”