Posted by on 29 September 2011 in General, Record Collections

Who Do You Think You Are? on

Following his mother’s well-documented and legendary Canadian lineage led to Richard Madeley uncovering some of the founding figures of America and Canada.

Richard’s father Christopher, an Englishman, married Mary Claire during the 1950s, and Richard was born in Romford, Essex.

His grandfather Hector emigrated from Scotland to Quebec, Canada, where he worked as a logger. Working the land and harvesting seasonal crops, he managed to work his way west across the country and ended up on a farm in Saskatchewan. This was where he met and fell in love with Richard’s grandmother Barbara who ran the family wheat farm.

Richard was able to trace his Canadian lineage back from Nova Scotia a further 250 years and seven generations, due to the major roles his family played in society. Census records are instrumental in helping you find out information about your ancestors lives, Richard used the 1871 Canadian Census to find other relatives, and additional information such as their occupations

The Nova Scotia Death records helped Richard to track where his 2x great-grandfather was living, thus allowing him to follow this line in more depth. Interestingly, the census tells us that his great great grandfather was listed as a ‘gentleman’. Using newspaper records he was able to add more historical context, establishing that his ancestor was a friend of the Prime Minister of Canada. His 5x great-grandfather John Hicks married into an influential family and the town was named after him before it changed to Bridgetown.

The story took Richard south back to Boston, Massachusetts – a key migrant town. He was fascinated to find out about his family’s involvement in a highly political case of malpractice, a death during childbirth in 1650. His ancestor Ann became one of the first documented cases of petitioning for women’s rights, centuries before they got the vote.

We then went further south to Rhode Island, where Richard’s 4x great-grandfather was involved in King Phillip’s war and the colonisation of the Native Americans. The Great Swamp Fight of 1675 on Sasquatch land, was a battle that saw major loss of life and homes decimated. I thought Richard appeared to be moved by the story. He expressed his guilt after it was highlighted by a living member of the tribe, especially after the realisation that it was an act of genocide on the natives, which his ancestor was directly responsible for. It was very eerie and sad to think about what took place at that spot all those years earlier.

Richard’s story gives a real insight into American/Canadian colonies and how they were formed and it was clearly exciting for him that his family was one of the founding families. He is fortunate that many of his ancestors were instrumental during the early colonisation as figures of the movement, and many of their stories have been well documented and preserved.

Our immigration collections span the globe including Australia and New Zealand, which you can start searching here.  It’s also worth searching our passenger lists to see if your family were also early settlers.


Ruth Blair 

Canada has a Prime Minister not a President.

29 September 2011 at 1:56 pm
Annabel Reeves 

Well spotted Ruth! Funnily enough Nicola had just noticed her mistake as your comment appeared. Great minds eh? 🙂

29 September 2011 at 2:24 pm
Penny Holt 

And why, oh why, can’t we see these episodes of WDYTYA in Canada? I’d much rather see the UK versions than the US (or at least have the choice.) Please have a word with the BBC. I for one would like to have the whole series on DVD, but they won’t produce them in North American format.

29 September 2011 at 8:21 pm
Ruth Blair 

I agree with you 100% Penny! I have been trying to get BBC Canada to put them online to no avail. I would buy the whole series on DVD.

30 September 2011 at 12:48 pm