Genealogy is an insidiously addictive pastime. Over the last few weeks, I’ve managed to keep away from the tangled twigs and roots of my family tree, but there in my inbox yesterday was a message in reply to a query I had sent off at the beginning of the year. It didn’t actually help with my original query, but it turned out that here was a very distant cousin still living in the area where my great-grandmother came from, providing me with a lineage that appears to go back to the Norman Conquest – with ancestors on both sides of the Battle of Hastings, to boot!
My interest in the family tree originally stemmed (pardon the pun!) from an effort to explain to my daughter and granddaughters how they are related to various people they meet at family gatherings in the UK. Then as I unearthed more and more information and discovered more and more ancestors, I was hooked.
I’m not searching for connections to famous people, and indeed so far the vast majority of forefathers have been peasants and miners, with a number of little stories along the way that are of interest only to the immediate family.
When I told my cousin that our great-grandmother from Derbyshire was called Elizabeth Hardwick, she grinned and exclaimed, “Ah, Bess of Hardwick!” As I read through the pedigree sent to me yesterday, it was my turn to grin. There, indeed, was the great lady herself.
Bess of Hardwick, it appears, is our second cousin thirteen times removed!
Or is she? I shall have to investigate very closely, checking records and the evidence produced by my correspondent. If she is right, I shall be proudly claiming family ties with a number of Baronets, Earls and Dukes, not to mention a Dowager Duchess in my direct line! Whether there really is a link with the Plantagenets – who are very topical at present, since Richard III turned up in a Leicester car park last year – is a moot point. But you may find me polishing my coronet if you drop in unexpectedly 😀
My great-granny Elizabeth Hardwick was unable to read and write, as is evident from the marriage certificate, signed with a cross by all parties except the registrar. Had they been literate they would have noticed that he had misspelled their names: Elizabeth became “Hardick” and her groom, whose name was Joseph Probert, is registered as “Proverbs”. A far cry from our illustrious second cousin!