Joan Rosalie Gardener

That’s my great grandmothers name. She died before I was born but I never would have known her anyway. 

 My Nan was adopted. She was adopted by a family who adopted other children too, but they kept their birth surnames. My Nan always knew her mother was called Gardener too, but that was all she knew. 

It’s all she wanted to know. As far as Nan was concerned, her parents didn’t want her so she didn’t want them either. We don’t think she ever tried to find out any more information. If she did she didn’t ever talk about it. If it was mentioned she just said she wasn’t interested and that was that. I can kind of understand the sentiment. 

My mum has always felt different. She had grandparents out there that she never knew. She felt like a big chunk of who she was had been hidden from her. 

I guess we all assumed Nan’s mother was unmarried. That was probably the most common reason for adoption around that time, 1937.  

We’ve since found out that wasn’t the case. She was married. She was married before she became pregnant and to my Nan’s father. They were married in Brighton the year before. So why the adoption? I’m sure they had a very good reason, but we can’t find it. We’d love to know. 

Our only real hope now is to find somebody who knew them. For that we have to look on the Isle of Wight. They moved here and lived in Ryde for most of their marriage, we believe. 

“Mrs Gardener was well known as a member of the Women’s Royal Volentary  Services for her work in connection with Ryde Darby and Joan Club”. 

This is what the local paper said of her, after her death in 1974. Surely somebody must remember her? 


The circumstances of her death really shocked me. Mum went searching for a simple death certificate and found a coroner’s report. There surely must be a living person on the Isle of Wight right now who can remember the depressed woman found dead near the golf course. I can’t imagine this is something that happened there very often in the 70s. 

Did the depression start before the adoption? Did the adoption trigger the depression? Did she struggle with this her whole life? I wonder if we’ll ever know. 

Her husband, my great grandfather is believed to have moved back to Brighton shortly after her death. Possibly to live with his sister. His name was George Henry Rowland Gardener and he later died in Brighton. They didn’t have any more children, as far as we can tell. 

Please share this, particularly if you have contacts on the Isle of Wight or Brighton. I know it’s a long shot, but we really would love to find out more about our hidden relatives. Any information at all would be wonderful. 

*edited to add – Joan’s maiden name was Gibbons. Just in case this helps to jog anybody’s memory*