I found Rupert Penry-Jones’ Who Do You Think You Are? episode last night both inspiring and thought-provoking. I have to say, I’m not sure the actor felt the same about the revelations he uncovered – although as a colleague pointed out to me this morning, it may have been the Indian heat that drained his enthusiasm.
It was refreshing and enlightening to see a World War II battle from the point of view of a medical unit. We rarely see this side of war – although anyone who’s familiar with the classic series Band of Brothers will remember a particularly moving episode focussing on a medic’s role. William Thorne clearly saved many hundreds of lives during the Battle of Monte Cassino alone, and he was rightly recognised as a hero.
It was during his trip to India that Rupert’s energy seemed to ebb away – but if anything, my interest grew. If you’ve ever looked into the country’s history, you’ll know that the Siege of Cawnpore and the massacre that followed it are among the darkest days of any conflict. It was fascinating to hear a contemporary view of the events that surrounded it.
If you suspect your ancestors served in South Asia, check out our register of the East India Company from 1844. We also have a complete directory of India from 1895, featuring alphabetical lists of residents all over the country.
It was also interesting to see Rupert delving into parish registers to trace his line further back. The ending was something of an anti-climax, as he almost found the answers he was hoping for – but not quite. All the same, it was an extremely enjoyable episode.
Of course, parish registers aren’t limited to India – they’re a crucial resource for any research before 1837. Our growing parish section features records from around the country – see a complete list