Last year I put what I knew about my family tree on Genes Reunited. Within days I was emailed by a member who said part of my tree was wrong.
I had assumed I was related to the first wife of my 2 x great grandfather (Edward Grummitt, 1813-84), but the member showed me clearly that my 2 x great grandmother was actually his second wife, Mary Searson (1815-98). My father was Peter Searson Pope, my sister is Teresa Searson Pope and my youngest son is Jonathan Henry Searson Pope. Nobody in the family had a clue why my father had this name, so it was a fascinating discovery when we found our long lost gateway ancestor Mary Searson!
The member also pointed out quite excitedly that this discovery was very good news for my family tree, because Mary Searson was what is known as a “gateway ancestor”. She traced her line back to Elizabeth Whalley (1717-). The Whalleys are a famous family who can trace their roots back to the Norman Conquest because Sir Wyamarus Whalley (1040-1100) was the standard bearer for William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings. Sir Wyamarus and his brother, Sir Stephen, both came over with William from Normandy and both were awarded lands in Lancashire by the grateful king. Their name lives on in the village of Whaley, Lancashire and in Whalley Range, Greater Manchester. Sir Wyamarus is actually my 20 x great grandfather, so an amazing historical link.
However Mary Searson’s line went back to even better things. She was a direct descendant of Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Emperor, a line which could be traced because there is a second very important gateway ancestor in her lineage – Ann Dubois (born 1325) who married Henry Whalley, my 16 x great grandfather in 1348. Ann Dubois was descended from the Counts of Hainault and Louvain who were directly descended from Charlemagne, and through him I could trace her ancestry back to Walter, King of the Franks (ca239-306 AD).
It turns out that Charlemagne, like Queen Elizabeth I and many Christian rulers, tried to prove his direct descent from Adam! Much of this is fantastic speculation but the ancestors of Charlemagne, with dates going back as far as 3 AD, are thought to be reasonably accurate and these kings are historical. My latest relationship chart therefore shows my lineage all the way back to Clodomir III, King of the Franks (3 AD – 63 AD)! Not bad going to trace lineage back from 1815 to 3 AD as a result of one email from another Genes Reunited member. However, it has taken nearly a year to compile it all. Incidentally, some of the very early dates are only approximate and the best estimate of Walter, King of the Franks dates is ca239-306.
Another interesting branch of the family can trace its ancestry back through the Searsons and Whalleys to the Cromwells. Frances Cromwell (1575-post 1620), aunt of Oliver Cromwell (my 1st cousin 11 x removed) married Richard Whalley (1569-1632) and her pedigree traces back to Thomas Cromwell (1483-1540) - my 14 x great uncle! He was no less a person than First Minister of King Henry VIII, who created him 1st Earl of Essex.
I would have known nothing about my illustrious past if I hadn’t put my family tree on your website, so a very big thank you for all that your site has revealed about my family’s past.