our family stories

Family stories are what makes genealogy so rewarding. Funny, moving, unusual or heartwarming, real-life tales of your ancestors' activities bring them to life in a way names and dates alone can never do. Here, we're giving you the chance to share your favourite stories, and enjoy those from other members. Perhaps you can pick up tips from their research?

Eilleen's story

My forebear was an accidental bigamist

Eilleen Parsons, North Devon

Eilleen uncovered the shocking truth about her forebear’s second marriage

Wills are often very revealing family history documents. However, I bet very few have led to a story as surprising as the one I uncovered about my 2x great-grandfather, Charles John Robinson.

The tale first came to light after a court case in 1868. The case revolved around the legitimacy of the will of Sophia Wombwell.

Being with no children, Sophie left a legacy to her niece, Catherine West Robinson – the daughter of Sophia's sister Harriett and her husband, Charles. The opposition claimed Catherine had no entitlement to it as she was illegitimate.

Apparently, in 1809, Charles (then aged 18) married a Mary Weston. He was a "Master in the merchant service", and later that year he was captured by the French. He remained a prisoner until 1814.

During this time, Charles heard nothing about his wife. On his return, he still couldn't find any news of her whereabouts. So, in 1824, presuming she must be dead, he married Harriett Wombwell, stating he was a widow.

It seems Charles discovered his error sometime between 1861 and 1868. Technically, his marriage to Harriett was invalid, and the resulting children all illegitimate.

Fortunately, the court found it was an "understandable" error to make. It therefore awarded to the Robinsons. In 1864, aged 73, Charles actually remarried Harriett after his first wife did actually die!

QUICK TIP

Could a will in your family throw up a similarly revealing tale? There's only one way to find out – discover which of your relatives left a will with our National Probate Calendar

My ancestor was photographed by the Queen

Lin Hyde, via emailRead more

My great-grandad performed for the King

Lesley Elson, KentRead more

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  1. Not valid at the following houses and gardens: Ascott, Avebury Manor and Garden, Antony Woodland Garden, Boarstall Tower, Buscot Park, Carrick-a-Rede, Chastleton House, Clumber Park, Coleridge Cottage, Crom, Dunster Working Water Mill, Eastbury Manor House, 20 Forthlin Road, Gawthorpe Hall, Giant's Causeway, Gondola, Grantham House, Greenway, Gunby Hall, Hardy's Cottage, The Homewood, Horton Court, Lawrence House, Little Clarendon, Lundy, Max Gate, Mendips, Murlough NRR, Oakhurst Cottage, Old Soar Manor, Orford Ness, Philipps House, Portstewart Strand, Priest's House, Red House, Shugborough, Stembridge Tower Mill, St Michael's Mount, Tatton Park, Treasurer's House (Martock), Waddesdon Manor, Wakehurst Place, West Green House Garden, Westwood Manor, White Mill, and all properties managed by Historic House Hotels Ltd, English Heritage CADW and local authorities.
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