Posted by on 17 August 2010 in General

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


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17 August 2010 at 6:38 pm
Moira Fidler 

I enjoyed Ruperts story very much, especially when he went to India, as I have been trying to research a family that went there myself.
It was lovely to see that all those emotional and loving letters from his ancestor to his wife had survived….wouldn’t we all hope to find something like that!
It was great too that Rupert tried to get back as far as he could and solve the mystery of his Indian heritage…shame the reords ran out before he managed to solve it completely
There was a strong British community in India and in Africa so I would love to see more on Ancestry from these regions.(hopefully accessable by those of us who have a UK only subscription!)

18 August 2010 at 2:20 pm
Clare Wenger 

I have been trying to trace a relative of mine – Rees Lewis (1878-1919) who went to Bombay ca, 1917 with his new wife, Annie Thomas (1880-1978). Rees worked for the Bombay Trust and died in Bombay in 1919. Annie died in the UK.
It seems to be very difficult to trace anyone who did not work for the East India Company. Can anyone suggest sources? I have an Indian searching in Mumbai, it would be useful if I could give her more clues!

20 August 2010 at 5:14 pm

So why was only the maternal side of the family researched? Perhaps because the freebie visits to Italy and India were more enticing to the production team than a wet weekend in Wales?

21 August 2010 at 3:45 pm

Rupert’s East India Company Army military career mirrored my ancestor David West’s, I would love to know where the Allahabad expert found the touching letters between husband and wife and the letter from the commanding officer to his widow. My ancestor was a a staff sergeant (supernumery)attached to the Commiseriat department under Major Carthew during the mutiny, he died in Futtepore
presumably of cholera. My ancestor arrived and died at the same time as Rupert’s and was originally attached to the Madras Artillery. Is there another archive in India which may hold some of these precious personal heirlooms?

22 August 2010 at 1:06 pm
Nigel Batty-Smith 

Another fantastic episode in the present series, with which I could identify.

My mothers Great grandfather was Major-General Lewis William Buck, Madras Staff Corps, who commanded a division in Madras 1882-84, and Hyderabad in 1884. In addition, her Great great grandfather was George Read Edward Beresford, Manager of the Delhi bank. He and his wife, Sarah Purdy, and five of their children were massacred in the Indian Mutiny on 11th May 1857. This is well documented from accounts of the time.

We have a number of letters to family members from Lewis Buck in the family archives, sent at the time also.

I really feel that this series is probably the best yet. It is not focussing on recent history for a change. Refreshing!

28 August 2010 at 10:12 pm