Tracing your family tree could turn up some famous relatives!

Karl Webb discovered he had distant links to Charles Dickens in his family tree.

Karl Webb discovered he had distant links to Charles Dickens in his family tree. - Credit: KARL WEBB

One of the advantages I found with having extra time at home since the covid restrictions were introduced, is that I can look deeper into researching my family tree. Although I was born in England, as were my immediate family, my ancestry DNA results show that I have 31 per cent Scottish origins -- which is amusing as for the past two years, I have attended Burns Night celebrations in traditional Scottish dress (wearing a Royal Stewart tartan kilt as the most appropriate for an Englishman). 

Curious about my newfound heritage, I decided to trace and record my Scottish ancestors, the closest being my second great grandmother, Ann Hogarth. The Hogarth line leads me to Berwickshire where most of the family lived, but also showed that a some headed towards London in the early 1700s.

It was the London strand that gave me a real shock as I found out that I have two famous, but distant, relatives. First was my second cousin, seven times removed – William Hogarth (1697-1729), who was a well-known artist in his lifetime and is still remembered today; he was born and lived in London, his house in Chiswick (Hogarth House) still exists and has been preserved as a museum. 

However, the biggest surprise for me was my second cousin, five times removed - Catherine Thomson Hogarth (1815-1879). Catherine was married to the novelist, Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812-1870). They do say if you research your family tree through enough generations, you will find someone famous. 

This remarkable find had me thinking about Huntingdon’s most famous residents such as Oliver Cromwell, Samuel Pepys, and Edward Montagu (the Earl of Sandwich) and who in our community, whether born here or not, has family ties to these well-known characters? We are on the road out of the restrictions but there is plenty of time to start researching your own family trees. Free and paid-for applications are easy to find online and a few questions with family members can get you started in your research. 

Huntingdon has an amazing history with twists and turns throughout time. For those using the internet and social media, there are many historical and nostalgia groups detailing Huntingdon’s past and present. I will finish here with a reminder that April 25 is Huntingdonshire Day (chosen as the day Oliver Cromwell was born in 1599). This is a time to reflect on the history of our town and county; in the last few years we have seen the Huntingdonshire Flag flown from the town hall and outside of the district council offices.