Frank Gardner’s family history shows a direct line to the Conqueror

William the Conqueror

Last Thursday night, on BBC TV, saw what many people on my facebook page are saying was the best programme in the 12th UK series of Who Do You Think You Are so far. The subject was Frank Gardner, the BBC’s Security Correspondent who made the news himself in June 2004 when he was shot six times and seriously wounded by al-Qaeda sympathisers in Saudi Arabia.

It was his maternal family tree, that was the subject of the one hour show. It would seem to have delighted those viewers that have commented on social media because, while it did pick out certain key ancestors to look at in more detail, the episode went on to trace Frank’s line as far back as the research would take them. This happened to be to William the Conqueror himself and so it more than validated the family story, that Frank had heard as a child from his mother, that they were descended from the Normans.

You certainly couldn’t have wanted to find a better ancestor than the Norman King, if you were trying to prove that your family came over with the Normans! Without any shadow of a doubt William, Duke of Normandy, is one Norman that no one can dispute arrived in England at that time.

 

The satisfaction of being able to trace one generation back to another and then back to another, and so on for 31 generations, is something that very few of us can have the gratification of being able to do. Yet I was asked by a contact this weekend if I had noticed that it was often a pretty zig-zag line that was taken. The lineage, they had spotted from the pedigree shown on the screen, would meander back though the mother of an ancestor and then her mother. The next generation back was again via the female line and then, perhaps, the male branch for a couple of generations before going up the female line again.

“How could the Herald at the College of Arms have told Frank that he was directly descended from William the Conqueror?”

“Because he is!” I replied, nonplussed. “A direct line does not mean everyone has to have the same surname and be descended from the male. Women are just as important as ancestors to us all.”

I believe that this is a mistake that many may make in their family tree research. Unintentionally concentrating on charging back up one line following the father, the grandfather to trace the surname back. This can even happen if our quest started with a woman.

It takes two to create an offspring and the child, we know now, receives half their DNA from each parent. So take time to investigate some of your female lines and see where they take you. You too may be as lucky as Frank Gardner in your discoveries.

 

TheGenealogist website’s researchers have also turned up an interesting fact about the journalist’s dad.

Read their featured article here about Frank Gardner’s James Bond like father.

 

Read the featured article on Frank Gardner at TheGenealogist.co.uk

 

 

 

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Aristos and Family history

Siberechts-Longleat HouseHave you caught the TV series about Longleat House and the Thynn family on the BBC? Its called All Change at Longleat and had me gripped as we witnessed the tensions that revolve around the eccentric Marquess of Bath and his son and daughter-in-law who have taken over the running of the house and estate.

Lord Bath, we discover, has handed over the control of the £190 million estate to his son, Ceawlin, but the handover isn’t going smoothly. Ceawlin, whose title is Lord Weymouth but only uses this on formal occasions, prefers to be known by his first name. With such an uncommon name as this I am sure that he is never mistaken for one of the members of the lower echelons of society.

In the first programme in the series we find out that Ceawlin has upset his father by removing some of the murals painted by the latter in the apartments where they had all lived once lived and the pair are no longer on speaking terms. In the village on the estate, there’s further unrest after Ceawlin puts up the villagers’ rents.

Meanwhile, Ceawlin’s glamorous wife Emma is settling into life at Longleat as Lady Weymouth.

In the safari park, the animal keepers wonder how Ceawlin will compare to his father. Lord Bath is still a flamboyant, controversial figure and the village fair allows the viewer to witness the awkwardness of  a meeting between the son and his father. Although now in retirement, the Marquess continues to enjoy a famously open marriage. Various ‘wifelets’ still visit when his wife is away.

46 Longleat house (70)

For me the most telling part was when Ceawlin was asked whether his childhood was a happy one, growing up at Longleat. There was quite a pause as he considered what his answer should be, then he tellingly said “Happy bits and not so happy bits.” Another pause and “it was what it was.”

He admitted that as a child he would definitely have preferred to have lived in a cottage in the village like most of his friends did. We heard how, in his teenage years, members of the public traipsed not just through the main house but also through the private apartment where he lived.

For those of us from a less privileged background, who may have occasionally dreamed of life in the upper classes, then this insight into one such family may make us realise that the grass is definitely never greener on the the other side of the hill.

 

Many more of us than we think may be descended from aristocratic ancestors. Be it from junior lines that have fallen away from the main family, to those who are fruits of liaisons between an aristocrat and another.

If you want to explore this fascinating part of family history research then Pen and Sword books have published Anthony Adolph’s book: Tracing Your Aristocratic Ancestors.

Tracing Your Aristocratic AncestorsClick this link to read more:

http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Tracing-Your-Aristocratic-Ancestors/p/3827?aid=1101

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Who Do You Think You Are? Sir Derek Jacobi – Wills and more

 

Derek Jacobi from TheGenealogist

I watched the Sir Derek Jacobi episode of Who Do You think You Are? with great interest this week. The television researchers showed us that although the famous actor was born into a South London family of humble stock, he was descended from a Huguenot ancestor of status. Joseph De La Plaigne had been imprisoned in France for his protestant beliefs, before making his escape to England in his sixties.

It gave me great delight to find the TV programme showed Sir Derek a copy of his illustrious forebear’s will, as I too had discovered this very same document when looking around the Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills on TheGenealogist’s website.

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

If you want to read more about this and some of Sir Derek’s other ancestors’ last wishes, then there is an article on TheGenealogist’s website that I helped put together.

TheGenealogist Wills of ancestor of Sir Derek Jacobi

Many people from all stations of society, including some whom we would not have expected to have, made wills and so it is certainly worth taking a look to see if your ancestors left one.

Before 1858, England and Wales were divided into two provinces. The largest and most influential was Canterbury, which covered the South of England up to the Midlands and also Wales. The other was York, which covered Durham, Yorkshire, Northumberland, Westmorland, Cumberland, Lancashire, Cheshire, Nottinghamshire, and the Isle of Man. The two provinces of Canterbury and York each had their own Archbishop, and were divided into several dioceses. Each diocese had a minimum of two bishops, and these dioceses were also divided again into archdeaconries.

All wills, up until 12 January 1858, had to be proven in a church court to ensure that the will was legal. Wills were proven in over 250 church courts across the country, and the records of these are now stored mostly in local record offices.

For more on wills there is a module that reveals more about the subject inside the Family History Researcher Academy course on English/Welsh Family History that is available from the link below. The course takes the student from beginning researching their English/Welsh ancestor to deal with many intermediate level lessons such as wills and much more.

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Who Do You Think You Are? Paul Hollywood

Paul_Hollywood
Paul_Hollywood

Did you watch the Paul Hollywood programme in the 12th series of Who Do You Think You Are?

I thought it was a great show to start the new series off. Paul came across as a genuine normal guy who like many of us wished he had taken the time to speak more to his relatives about the past before they sadly died.

Even though one of the main lessons in my Family History course is to talk to your relatives and jot down what they tell you, as a basis for then trying to substantiate their stories with research in actual records, I too am guilty of not having done this before it was too late with some of my own family.

 

In this week’s TV show Paul Hollywood, from The Great British Bake Off, was taken back to his grandfather’s WWII experience in North Africa. It was here that his grandfather Norman Harman (1913 – 2003) had been sent as soon as he had completed his training. At Medjez el Bab in Tunisia, Norman’s Light Anti-Aircraft division were protecting the infantry from enemy air attacks at the time of the major Allied offensive to take Tunis from the German forces. With the enemy throwing bombs and missiles at them it was hard on these men.

From there Paul travelled to Italy, where he learnt about how his grandfather was part of the landing force that became trapped on the beaches at Anzio for four months, surrounded by Germans and all the while under constant aerial bombardment. Paul gets to see the landing area where his grandfather and the other men would have felt like sitting ducks, with death and devastation all around them. Norman and his comrades finally managed to land and their gun was then transported five miles inland. Unfortunately for them the regiment was soon surrounded by the enemy in a dangerously exposed area. Huge numbers of men had no choice but to dig themselves into 7ft long fox holes and spend months trapped, coming under repeated German shell attacks.

In May 1944 and thanks to Norman’s regiment’s extraordinary efforts, the stalemate at Anzio was broken. The next month the Allied armies went on to liberate Rome, but not without the loss of 14,000 lives. Paul’s grandfather brought back from this conflict a visible memento of his terrifying time. He had developed a facial tic that stayed with him until he died.

Researching his line even further back, Paul Hollywood was seen in the Who Do You Think You Are? programme to use TheGenealogist’s ‘family forename search’ to find Alexander McKenzie, a Wood Turner who had come down to Liverpool from his native Glasgow. I was very glad to see that this company’s excellent resource was used by Paul, in place of one of the other two subscription sites who normally always get a look in.

Following his Scottish family line up to Glasgow Paul then found that the next generation in the McKenzie family was a Glasgow Policeman, down from the Highlands, who had a certain amount of trouble avoiding alcohol and was eventually dismissed from the Police force, moved to Liverpool before returning to Glasgow and death in the Poorhouse.

Paul then discovered in the programme that his great, great, great, great grandfather Donald McKenzie, was a Highland postman with quite extraordinary stamina. As a crofter with little land he had to make ends meet with other employment. Donald’s was a post runner. Not having a horse, with which to cover his rounds delivering the mail to 30,000 people, Donald simply ran the 120 miles with the mail every week from one side of Scotland to the other.

 

 

With thanks to TheGenealogist for permission to use part of their article as a basis for this post. You can read the full piece, that reveals even more about Paul Hollywood’s family history, by clicking this link:

http://www.thegenealogist.co.uk/affiliate/?affid=ptergx&page=808

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Who Do You Think You Are? Series 12 schedule announced.

 

Paul_Hollywood
Paul_Hollywood

The BBC have now revealed the running order in which the Who do You Think You Are? celebrities episodes will be broadcast this coming August, September and October. This is the 12th series in the UK and I for one am intrigued as to what family history stories are going to be revealed.

This perennially popular genealogical TV programme starts with the Great British Bake Off judge Paul Hollywood, whose maternal family will be explored on 13th August. From what I have read it will be concentrating on his grandfather’s war experiences in Tunisia and Africa before jumping back a few generations to a Scottish line of his. Paul’s ancestor was a postman, in the Highlands, who was unable to afford a horse with which to cover his rounds delivering the mail to 30,000 people. Donald McKenzie, instead, ran the 120 miles with the mail every week.

The series will be aired every Thursday evening at 9pm on BBC One, with a one week break in between Derek Jacobi and Jerry Hall’s episodes on 3 September.

Although the schedule may still be subject to change, Frances de la Tour’s story will close the series on 22nd of October.

  • 13 August: Paul Hollywood
  • 20 August: Jane Seymour
  • 27 August: Derek Jacobi
  • 3 September: No episode
  • 10 September: Jerry Hall
  • 17 September: Gareth Malone
  • 24 September: Anne Reid
  • 1 October: Frank Gardner
  • 8 October: Anita Rani
  • 15 October: Mark Gatiss
  • 22 October: Frances de la Tour

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Sinking of the Lusitania

RMS LusitaniaI don’t know if you caught the Channel 5 programme on the sinking of the Cunard ocean liner RMS Lusitania? If not it is available online until May 2016 here:

http://www.channel5.com/shows/lusitania-18-minutes-that-changed-ww1/episodes/lusitania-18-minutes-that-changed-ww1

The loss of 1119 lives occurred on 7 May 1915 during the First World War, as Germany waged submarine warfare against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

Recently I was approached by a client, whose family oral stories included one that claimed that several of his great-uncles had gone down in the ship. Understanding that family tales can get elaborated upon, he asked me to do some research to see if I could confirm or disprove the reports.

Luckily, for all family historians who think that they may have ancestors who sailed on the Lusitania, there is a great website which carries the passenger and crew lists for the fatal voyage on 7th May 1915 and it can be found here:

http://www.rmslusitania.info/

rmslusitania.info

 

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Days to go to the Who Do You Think You Are? Live show 2015

 

Who Do you Think You Are? LIVE 2011
Who Do you Think You Are? LIVE

This week, on Thursday 16th, Friday 17th and Saturday 18th of April the Who Do You Think You Are? Live show rolls into the National Exhibition Centre for the first time. The largest Family History Show in the U.K. it has moved up to the Midlands from London.

For those of us seeking answers, to family history brick walls, this is one of the most exciting times of the calendar as it allows us a chance to get to listen to all manner of experts gathered under one roof.

 

Reggie Yates Alistair McGowanTamsin OuthwaiteApart from the main celebrity speakers, such as Reggie Yates, Tamzin Outhwaite and Alistair McGowan there are many other presentations that I am looking forward to.

One talk that I spotted in the email news from S&N Genealogy supplies is Our Ancestors’ Working Lives by Celia Heritage, Professional Genealogist & Author. Celia will be explaining how we can find out more about an ancestor through the records of their working life in TheGenealogist’s talk theatre, situated just by the entrance.

There are, of course, so many other workshops to take in that a little bit of planning may be needed to fit in what appeals to your particular interest. Take a look at the Society of Genealogists Workshop programme online. One of the other great strengths of the show is being able to chat with the knowledgeable people from the various family history societies, or to sit down with a Society of Genealogist expert. Maybe you will be in luck and meet a person that is researching a collateral line to yours!

To emphasize just how much of a breakthrough a chance meeting such as this can be, here is a little story to end with.

This weekend I was taking a break in a small Leicestershire Bed & Breakfast and was talking to another guest who had discovered a whole batch of new ancestors by meeting someone whose ancestor had been employed as a ship’s captain by my fellow guest’s ship owning ancestor. The Captain’s descendent was able to fill in the ship owner’s descendent about people that, until then, he was completely unaware of. This just emphasises how making connections at events such as Who Do You Think You Are? Live can be priceless.

 

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Celebrities at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015

Celebrities that will be making an appearance at the NEC on 17 April 2015 for the much anticipated annual family history show Who Do You Think You Are? Live have now all been announced:

Reggie Yates
First will be Reggie Yates, who appeared on the TV programme Who Do You Think You Are? last year, in an episode which saw him travel to Ghana to trace his grandfather, Harry Philip Yates. Once there, he unravelled a complicated family history in which Ghanaian culture and British colonialism collided.

Born in London in 1983, the presenter knew very little about his father’s side of the family, after his parents separated when he was just four years old. He grew up with his mother and never met his paternal grandparents, but his Who Do Think You Are? experience made him feel more connected to both his own father and his wider family: “I feel like I’m part of something, and being here and learning about our history has made that even more real.”

During his trip to Ghana, the presenter enlisted the help of historian, Carina Ray, to discover more about the men in his family including George Yates, an Englishman who came over to the Gold Coast to work in the mining industry. Reggie also met his adopted uncle, JB, and spoke to Ghanaian chief Nana about his great grandmother.

Reggie will be on Thursday 16th April 10 am till Midday.

 

Alistair McGowan
Secondly we can look forward to seeing Actor and impressionist Alistair McGowan when he takes the Friday celebrity slot at Who Do You Think You Are? Live. Alistair will be talking about the discovery of his Anglo-Indian heritage and his experiences of filming in India.

Alistair talk about his time on the show. He’s an entertaining speaker so you’ll be in for a treat of witty stories and celebrity voices as he speaks about his colonial origins.
During his episode, in series 4, Alistair traces his father, George McGowan (1928-2003), from Calcutta, India after noticing the birth certificate stated George was Anglo-Indian.

In Calcutta, Alistair visits the red brick family home near the docks with his uncle, Rusty, who hadn’t been back for sixty years. Rusty reveals Alistair’s grandfather, Cecil, was a dock foreman and a dedicated body builder, with the pictures and muscles to prove it.

Local Anglo-Indian expert, Melvin Brown, explains Anglo-Indian ancestry originated from the British East India Company, which encouraged unions between it’s staff and the local populace, most often British men and Indian women, by paying for their marriages.

Eager to find where his mystery Indian ancestor mingled with the McGowans, Alistair visits Allahabad, where his great grandfather, Richard (d.1923), was a telegraph operator. Near the cemetery where Richard lies beneath a simple stone slab amid snakes and long grass, Alistair locates a whole community of McGowans, living together in a large house surrounded by exotic greenery.

 

 

Tamsin Outhwaite

Saturday sees the actress Tamzin Outhwaite, who shared her exploration of her Italian roots in her episode of Who Do You Think You Are? which aired in August last year. The organizers of the show say they are thrilled to announce that Tamzin will be talking about her discoveries at Who Do You Think You Are? Live at the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre on Saturday 18th April at 10.15 – 12.00.

In her episode of WDYTYA?, Tamzin traced the life of her great grandfather Adelmo and his imprisonment in Palace Camp, Isle of Man, in August 1940 among Italian fascists and other immigrants with his son, Peter.
Adelmo was a proud family man who was never seen without a shirt and tie. His dedication towards providing for his family was extraordinary; he even missed an important wedding to open his ice-cream shop in Manchester. Hearing of her family’s internment left both Tamzin and viewers distraught.
We can look forward to additional behind-the-scenes moments, and more of Tamzin’s family history, during WDYTYA? LIVE show.

 

Tickets for the show are £16 in advance (£22 on the door) or you can order two for £26 using the code WMS2426 (if ordered before 7 April). You can book online at www.whodoyouthinkyouarelive.com or by calling 0844 873 7330. There is a transaction fee of £2.25 for each order.

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Twiggy’s Family History on Who Do You Think You Are?

 

wdytya2014_twiggy  In the last of the present series and in a show that was the 100th from the BBC of the gripping genealogical programme, we were treated to 60’s icon, model and fashion designer Twiggy.

And what a great show it was.

Twiggy’s Who Do You Think You Are? research revealed that she has a family history story filled with colourful characters, leading lives as eventful as her own has been.

The story of her great-great-grandmother who turned to crime “uttering forged coins” (passing them in payment) and spending time in a Victorian prison. The same woman and her daughter who were prosecuted for stealing a significant amount of money from the girls employer. The mother, having taken all the responsibility and being convicted, doing hard labour.

Others who ended up in the workhouse and the tale of the parish, when faced with having to support the inmates of this harsh institution, prosecuted the husband for abandonment of his wife and children and had him committed to jail with hard labour.

The fact that the convicted man’s occupation was that of a Slater, a hard job dependent on seasonal employment and from his death records we discover that he had a strangulated hernia. All of which point to another era when the welfare state did not exist to provide the safety net that we all so much take for granted today.

So why did the Workhouse exist? Why was there such fear on the part of the administrators of the Parish Poor Relief that they made conditions harsher than those that a labourer on the outside had to endure?

Workhouse tasks
Picking oakum (pulling apart old rope) was a punishment in prison for Twiggy’s 2x great-grandmother. It was also the task given to Workhouse inmates.

 

 

For centuries in England, those who fell on hard times would become the responsibility of their parish. The old poor law system had coped well enough until around 1800 new demands on the system caused the government to think again.

Unemployment had risen to new heights, a consequence of the growing industrialisation of the country that now needed less men to make the goods that previously had been created in the old cottage industries.

Another pressure on the poor law came from the disaster of a succession of bad harvests that meant those who subsisted in rural areas found it difficult to feed themselves.

Then, on top of this, the ending of the Napoleonic Wars caused a great many soldiers to return from France with no work to go to.

In today’s United Kingdom, we often refer to a North South divide with the balance being towards the richer South. In the 1800s the industrial north, with its large cotton mills and other factories, fared better than the South where fewer industries existed to employ those people who had previously worked on the land and were no longer required.

As the situation got worse for the government, by 1832 they believed that they had to overhaul the poor law system and the way in which the poor relief was distributed. A Royal Commission was asked to look into it and as a result parliament passed the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834.

A belief was widely held in the country that the poor were often undeserving of the money. That they were idle if they had no work. Under the new Act Parishes were compelled to ban together into Poor Law Unions that often covered a 20 mile radius and each Union a Board of Guardians were chosen to administer the new system.

The biggest result of this change that could have affected your ancestors was the provision of a workhouse in each Union.

Five hundred plus of these Union Workhouses were constructed during the next 50 years with two-thirds of them having been built by 1840.

Although workhouses were not a new phenomenon, under the old system most of the unemployed would have received poor relief while continuing to live in their own homes (so called “out relief”).

Any parishioners, now needing help after the passing of the new law, were compelled to live inside the workhouse, where conditions were made as harsh as possible so as to discourage all but those who were desperate from applying.

Families were split up. Men and women segregated with children over seven separated from their mothers and forced to live in the children’s section.

On admission the poor would have to undress, have their clothes taken away from them until they were discharged. They would have had a thorough wash and then dress in the workhouse uniform of rough shapeless material. This stripping away of identity was all part of the discouragement from claiming indoor relief.

 

I have more on the Poor Laws, the Workhouse and Crime and punishment as just some of the many topics covered in my comprehensive Family History Researcher Academy course for anyone researching their English/Welsh family history. At the moment there is a Special Offer trial from the link on this page of £1 for the first two weeks!

Read what some of my past members have said:

“I am finding the course very useful, even though I have been doing family history for many years.  Kind regards. ” H.Stephens

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Indian Mutiny story in Who Do You Think You Are?

wdytya2014_connolly

If you caught the BBC TV programme Who Do You Think You Are? this week then you too were treated to a really interesting story.

It was that of Billy Connolly and in particular his ancestral links back to India.

His maternal great-great-grandfather was a soldier in British India who married the daughter of another British soldier. One who had seen the atrocities of the Indian Mutiny first hand and who himself was married to a young Indian girl at the time.

The Anglo-Indian aspect is another fascinating subject that could be examined in detail, but today I wanted to concentrate on the 1857 Indian Mutiny, as the British called it, or the First War of Indian Independence, as it is known to Indians.

What was good about this episode of the TV series was that it explained a bit about this historical time. There were brutal killings on both sides and it reminded me to go and look in my notes for an inscription that I had once seen on a headstone in one of the old cemeteries here on the other side of the world in Jersey, Channel Islands. There is no connection to Billy Connolly other than it is a person who also witnessed the brutality that his ancestor had in Northern India and the effect that it had on her.

 

Last year I was looking at some of the old Victorian monuments in Mont A L’Abbe Old Graveyard in Jersey when I came across this one:

Lavinia Fanny Kelly Hicks

Granddaughter of the above Mary Symons and the beloved wife of Captain W.J. Hicks H.M.E.I.S, who died at sea on her homeward voyage on the 28th of April 1858 in the 19th year of her age. Her constitution having been destroyed by the suffering she experienced during the mutiny at Allahabad.

So many other questions spring to mind from this.

 Lavinia Hicks headstone

This particular headstone can be viewed in its entirety as part of the Diamond subscription of TheGenealogist. This site has published photographs and transcriptions from several churchyards and cemeteries and I am told by my contacts at TheGenealogist that there are more to come in the future months.

Just search for Lavina Hicks and you can see the actual headstone that I was so moved by.

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