Genes Reunited Blog
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Alexander Armstrong kicked off this week's Who Do You Think You Are by claiming he has always been called posh and that he would be disappointed if his research didn't reveal a 'posh' background. As it turned out, he didn't need to worry...
Alexander Henry Fenwick Armstrong was born in 1970 - we found Alexander's birth record in the Genes Reunited records:
Alexander started his journey by talking to his parents, a great starting point for anyone delving into their family history. He wanted to learn more about his mother Virginia Thompson-McCausland's side of the family. Virginia's mother was Helen McCausland and Helen's father was Maurice Marcus McCausland, Alexander's great grandfather, who was born in 1872.
Maurice's parents were Laura and Connolly.
Alexander wanted to find out how the McCauslands had done so well for themselves. He learned that his 6x great grandmother, Mary Boughton, was a lady of the bedchamber to Queen Charlotte, confirming Alexander's solid link to royalty in the 18th century.
Mary had two sons, Edward and Charles. Charles was Alexander's 5x great grandfather. Edward inherited the baronetcy from his cousin Sir Theodosius in a controversial turn of events. A baronet is styled "Sir" like a knight, but ranks above all knighthoods except for the Order of the Garter and the Order of the Thistle.
Alexander discovered a letter which Edward sent to Charles informing him of Theodosius' death. Edward described the death as 'wonderful' news because it meant he would inherit the baronetcy. However, Theodosius' death was deemed suspicious and his body was examined by physicians, who later claimed he had been poisoned.
Alexander travelled to Boughton Hall to read the records of the trial which followed to see if Edward acquired the baronetcy through foul play.
In the end Captain John Donellan, Theodosius' brother in law, was tried for the murder. He was found guilty of poisoning Theodosius, although Alexander thought it more likely that he had died from syphilis, as Donellan claimed and medical records supported.
When Edward died in 1794 he left his estate to his illegitimate daughters and left Charles £100 - a pittance compared to the value of his estate.
Alexander discovered that Mary Boughton, his 6x great grandmother, was the great granddaughter of the first Duke of Beaufort, Alexander's 9x great grandfather Henry Somerset. Today the Beauforts are one of the wealthiest aristocratic families in the country.
Henry's father was Edward Somerset, 6th Earl of Worcester, who lost most of the family's fortune in the 16th century during the civil war. Edward donated money to King Charles I from early on in the civil war; he loaned the King the equivalent of £70 million in today's money.
Charles I, out of what we can assume was gratitude, made Edward the Earl of Glamorgan and secret envoy to the Catholic confederates in Ireland. However, Edwards positions was short lived when the King's letter, containing details regarding the secret envoy, fell into the wrong hands. The King had no choice but to deny all knowledge of the mission and accuse Edward of high treason. Edward was imprisoned in Ireland and his home, Raglan Castle, fell. In 1649 King Charles was executed.
Edward never again occupied the family seat of Raglan. Alexander felt that Edward was heroic and didn't get the reward he deserved.
Edward turned to science in later life. He invented a water commanding engine which harnessed steam power 40 years before steam engines were invented. Edward died in 1667 and it was believed that he literally took the designs for the steam engine to his grave.
In a bizarre twist 200 years later, a group of engineers took a trip to Raglan in 1861 to exhume a model of the engine from Edward's grave. Alexander found a detailed account of the mission which stated that the engineers hoped to find a model of the engine in Edward's tomb but after a thorough search failed to find anything.
Finally, Alexander traced the earliest roots of the Somerset family and discovered Edward III 20 generations back in the 1300s. Edward III was a distant relative of William the Conqueror, making William the Conqueror Alexander's 27 x great grandfather!
Another Who Do You Think You Are episode that just goes to show, you never can tell what you might discover when you start digging into your family history.