Find your family’s star stories

It’s exciting watching the stars of Who Do You Think You Are? as they delve into their family history. But it’s not just celebrities who have incredible stories in their past. Discover the TV-worthy tales in your own family tree with our expert advice.

Matthew Broderick

Fighting for their country

Matthew Broderick knew there were military connections in his father's family. However, he had no idea of the heroics his ancestors performed for their country, until he started his march through his paternal roots.

Matthew's sister told him his grandfather, Joe, was a quiet, moody man. She knew he was involved in World War I, but wasn’t sure exactly how. So, the actor visited the US National Archives, where Joe’s service record revealed he was a medic, and served in France.

You can find details of your ancestors’ bravery in World War I among our military records. Our service records are divided into two collections: Service Records and Pension Records.

Meuse Argonne BattlefieldThe enthusiastic celebrity flew over to France, where a historian recounted his relative’s role in the famous Battle of Argonne Forest. At just 22, he was forced to dodge machine gun fire from friend and foe as he saved the lives of his fellow soldiers.

Medal records showed Joe was awarded the Purple Heart after being wounded in action, and later received the highly renowned Distinguished Service Cross. Proud and awed, Matthew paid his respects to over 14,000 of his grandfather’s fallen comrades at the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery.

Discover details of your forebears’ most courageous acts among our World War I Medal Index Cards. Just about everybody who served in WWI was awarded at least one medal, which means their records will appear here.

Gettysburg BattlefieldThe comedy star then turned his attention to his grandmother, Mary Martindale. Using Ancestry.com, he found her in the 1910 Census – living in an orphanage. It turned out both her parents died when she was very young.

Matthew followed the Martindale line through the censuses on Ancestry.com, until he came to Robert Martindale, his 2x great-grandfather. The evidence suggested Robert served in the American Civil War. Delving deeper, Matthew found his enlistment document, and then uncovered a muster roll that revealed his ancestor fought at the historic Battle of Gettysburg. Sadly, the records also showed he was killed by a musket shot to the head.

Move back through your family’s generations using our census records. By comparing changes in your ancestors’ circumstances with historical events, you can build a detailed picture of the paths their lives took.

The actor’s final task was to find his forebear’s last resting place. He discovered Robert was originally buried close to where he fell, but was later moved to the Marietta National Cemetery. Matthew was able to confirm that an unmarked grave belonged to his 2x great-grandfather, and say a silent thanks for his sacrifice.

To read our opinions on Matthew's story - and share your thoughts - see our blog

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WDYTYA? TV Episode on BBC1

Matthew Broderick: Sunday 3rd October

Discover the heroics of the comedy actor's military ancestors, from the American Civil War to World War I.

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