Like many, I have been fascinated by the reports in the media lately regarding the finding of Richard III’s remains in the former Greyfriars Church in Leicester.
I was a student in Leicester in the early 1980’s. So it was that I walked past the rather nondescript area where King Richard III was buried on a daily basis on my way to and from lectures and never for one instance thinking of the historical importance of the church that had stood there before.
On my most recent visit to the city, back in January, I was aware of the excitement that was building around the find at Greyfriars car park and picked up some leaflets at the tourist office on the subject. Then this week the world’s media covered the announcement that it was “beyond reasonable doubt” the skeleton of the monarch.
From my point of view, as a family historian, one of the really interesting things was the use of DNA from a descendent of the dead king’s sister to reach this conclusion.
The team from Leicester University had turned to the historian and author John Ashdown-Hill. Back in 2004 he had been able to tracked down the late Joy Ibsen, a direct descendant of Richardâ€™s sister Anne of York and from her to the Canadian born Michael Ibsen, a cabinet maker in London.
Again, of interest to us family historians, is what John Ashdown-Hill said on the BBC’s Radio 4 “Today” programme
â€œAn enormous family tree grew on my computer. You have to trace every possible line of descent because you donâ€™t know which one will die out in 1745 and which one will carry on to the present day â€“ you have to trace them all.â€
On the Who Do You Think You Are Magazine’s website it is reported that the team did not rely on just the one line from Anne of York down to Joy Ibsen, as is the impression gained from some of the media reports this week.
Not only did the genealogists find documentary evidence for each â€˜linkâ€™ of the chain between Anne of York and the late Joy Ibsen, but they were able to make contact with a second maternal line descendant â€“ who wishes remain anonymous â€“ whose DNA was used to confirm a match between genetic material extracted from the skeleton and a swab provided by Joyâ€™s son, Michael.
â€œRight from the start of the project, we did not want to rely entirely on the DNA between Michael and the skeleton. We always wanted to triangulate that wherever possible,â€ explains Professor SchÃ¼rer. â€œWe set about trying to secure a second maternal line, and after several weeks of research we actually did discover this person. The documentary evidence again is there to support this.â€
In a couple of weeks the Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE show will be at Olympia and already they have moved the talk by Dr Turi King called “Discovering Richard III” from a smaller area to now be held in the Celebrity Theatre / SOG studio 1 on Saturday, 1.00pm â€“ 1.45pm.
It is billed as telling the story of the research project undertaken at the University of Leicester to discover the burial place of Richard III and the related work to scientifically identify the skeletal remains.
Personally I can’t wait for this year’s WDYTYA? LIVE as I missed last year due to fog disrupting my travel plans!
Sign up now for my FREE English and Welsh family history tips by email..