Estimated time to read: 6 minutes
I’d known countless friends who had researched their family trees and heard what a hard and laborious task it was. My brother in law for instance spent over a year researching the origins of his family, tracing them back to the early 1800s with very little scandal uncovered.
However, I’d always been fascinated to know where my family had come from. After all, our family is a major influence on who we are as people and surely tracing the origins of my family would help to explain why I have ended up where I am today.
Clearly the BBC series ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ has similarly inspired countless people across the county to research their family trees. So, with the new series of the show starting this week, I thought I’d share with you the fascinating tales I uncovered during my own research process which includes Oliver Cromwell and a stunning Castle in Ireland.
My brother in law had forewarned me about the time and effort which would be required in order to start the family tree crafting process. He recommended subscribing to Ancestry.co.uk which is a truly fantastic resource containing census records, birth/marriage/death certificates and much more. This of course saves you significant time and effort which would be required travelling to record offices around the country or perhaps even beyond, depending on where your journey to uncover your family tree takes you.
Another great feature about the Ancestry.co.uk website is that you can view family trees that other members have made available to the public. This means that when you are researching your tree, you will be notified when there is someone else who has a person in their own family tree who matches an individual in your own. The degree of success with this can vary greatly, as there will obviously be multiple people with the same names who will have been born on the same day.
Luckily for me, this nice little feature worked perfectly and when I clicked through to look into a match which had been recommended for me, I discovered that a distant family member had already done all of the research for me; much to my brother in law’s annoyance.
My distant relative, who was a descendant of one of my family members from the early 1900s, had research the Lambert family tree all the way back to the Doomsday Book and I was absolutely overawed to discover that my family were closely associated with nobility in the middle ages and often frequented royalty and politicians alike; quite different from my own origins in a sleepy little village in North Wales.
One of the most fascinating discoveries was that I was a direct descendant of General John Lambert who played a vital part in the English Civil War between 1642 and 1651. This was a battle between the Parliamentarians and the Royalists as descent grew over the manner of our country’s rule. It resulted in the replacement of the English Monarchy with governance structure under the rules of Parliamentarian leader Oliver Cromwell.
My relative General John Lambert became second in command to Cromwell towards the end of the Civil War on the back of his military success which included the famous Battle of Preston and also the siege of Pontefract Castle. This also resulted in him being appointed Commander of the War in Scotland in 1650 where he was tasked with settling the affairs of country upon the triumph of the Parliamentarians.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for the General though, who had a major falling out with Cromwell on the back of suggestions that he was a major rival for leadership of the Parliamentarians on account of his strong support from the army. This led to Lambert refusing to take the Oath of Allegiance to the Protector and the bitter feud ultimately resulted in him being deprived of his commissions. He was later restored to authority after reconciliation with Richard Cromwell (the Protector and Oliver Cromwell’s son), this was largely as a result of Cromwell’s inability to command the army in light of a renewed threat from the Royalists and George Monck, who was in command of the English forces in Scotland.
Monck defeated General Lambert’s army and marched onto London unopposed, leading to the restoration of King Charles II to power. Lambert was sent to the Tower of London in 1660 from where he courageously managed to escape one month later when he descended from the Tower via a silk rope according to accounts at the time. He attempted to rekindle the civil war upon his escape by rallying the troops but was ultimately recaptured and sent to Castle Cornet on the Isle of Guernsey charged with High Treason. He was later transferred to Drake’s Island in Plymouth Sound where he died during the severe winter of 1683-84 at the age of 65.
Regardless of what your political viewpoint is, it is still something to be proud of to have a direct relative who was so instrumental in the formation of our country as it is today. Not only has he helped to shape me, but he also had a major impact on the formation of the UK as a whole.
I’ve been incredibly lucky having such a fascinating family to research and I uncovered characters that I knew absolutely nothing about prior to beginning this process. In fact, General John Lambert wasn’t the only famous relative in my line, with an indirect relation through marriage being Sir Edward Carson who was an Irish Unionist Politician in the early 1900s. He was one of the few people in history not part of the monarchy to have received a state funeral, with a statue erected in his honour still standing in front of the Northern Ireland Parliament in Stormont.
I also found out that some slightly more fortunate distant relatives of mine still have in their possession one of two historic buildings which were owned by my family. These were Castle Ellen House (a stately home near Galway built in 1810 by my relatives) and the slightly older 17th century Castle Lambert which is now unfortunately mostly a ruin with only an archway remaining.
If you find yourself inspired by ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, I urge you to go out and start researching your own Family Tree. I’ve learned so much about my family and myself through this process, and it is something that I feel everyone should do at some point in their lives if you are as clueless as I was about your family history.
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