With my interest in family history come all sorts of interesting stories attached to individuals in my family tree. Some of these are undoubtedly apocryphal but others are certainly true; many fall somewhere in between.

Family history is littered with myth and legend; illegitimacy often covered up, origins confused and always, but always, stories about lost titles and family treasures. Delving into such stories usually reveals some germ of truth but it is rarely as interesting as the reality. The stories I am including here try to separate fact from fiction but without omitting the most interesting bits of either.

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My Brown family probably originates from the village of Chippenham, and the surrounding area, in Cambridgeshire, though this has not been proven. What seems clear is that my great grandfather, John Brown, was born in London in 1860, one of 3 known children born to Edward and Ann Brown. Astonishingly, John had a sister that none of his living descendants seems to have heard of and vice versa, until very recently; exactly why this should have been the case is a mystery that will probably never be solved. Good fortune has, however, brought many of us together now and a story is slowly unfolding.

The story of the Browns


The Hornetts are the male line of my father's grandmother, Kate Ellen Hornett. She was born in 1895 and lived a very long life, surviving until the age of 96; such long lives seem to have been not uncommon in this line which has been traced back, so far, to Charles Hornett who was born around the time of the Battle of Trafalgar. There have been family stories that suggest the line is of French hugenot origin but no evidence of this has been found. However, no clear evidence of any other origin has been found, either. Moving in the opposite direction, many of the descendants of Charles Hornett have been identified mostly living in the UK but some also in foreign parts, particularly the United States. No doubt more will be revealed as time passes.

The story of the Hornetts


Aldworth is an ancient name, supposedly linked to the village of the same name in Berkshire. Some members of the family moved to Ireland in the 16th century and it is from this branch that my Aldworths are said to be descended, however, exactly how is unclear. A title, wealth and a link to the 'Lady Freemason' have all been claimed and sought, but none has been found. Instead, a family with 9 sons all serving, and surviving, in the First World War, emigrees to South Africa, Canada and the USA, a cousin involved in a major financial scandal in South Africa and a drunken great grand aunt - who could ask for more ?

The story of the Aldworths


My mother's parents were both from continental Europe, her father coming from Switzerland and her mother from Germany. The paternal side remains almost totally unknown although I have been able to discover a probale line for the maternal side which appears to have roots in the Neckar Valley, about 30 miles south east of Heidelberg. Exactly why mum's parents came to England is unknown and even the dates and routes followed are unclear. Nonetheless, I hope to be able to make progress in tracing their ancestors in due course.

The story of the Hanggis and Kuhns


Donald James Hangge is the greatest enigma in my family tree. Although there are other areas that have proved, and continue to prove, difficult to resolve, Don really should be easy to find, except that he isn't. My mother's half-brother, he disappeared from his family in the 1930s, never to be seen again. Where did he go ?

The story of Donald James Hangge.


Without doubt, the most significant figure in my tree, of those directly related to me, is John Thorburn, an adventurer whose exploits could easily rank alongside those of Indiana Jones; a man who had huge influence on a country, who overcame huge difficulties by sheer will power, who made several fortunes and yet died a pauper. Almost 60 years ago, one of his grandchildren suggested that his life story should be included in a film production of Alexander Korda, but to no avail; any takers ?

The story of John Thorburn


John Mitchell was an unlikely 'high-flyer'. Born to a very ordinary family, he started his working life as an apprentice bonnet maker and yet rose in station to become a senior police oficer, despite his early career being affected by ill discipline and drunkenness. He was involved in one of the 'Jack the Ripper' murder cases and became a friend of Frederick Abberline, the most famous officer of the time; he probably gained more mentions in 'The Times' for his various cases than any other family member.

The story of John Francis Mitchell


Cornelius Traveller married my 3g grand aunt, Ann Eliza Atkins in London in 1840 and had 5 children with her. Sadly, Ann died before her time, as did 3 of the children, and Cornelius remarried. Together with his 2 surviving children and new wife, Cornelius then undertook the arduous journey across the Atlantic followed by a trek across America to Salt Lake City, and eventually moved on to Richmond, Utah, where he became a High Priest in the Mormon church as well as becoming a high ranking official in the City administration. The surviving daughters of his first marriage both produced large families of their own and have many, many descendants living today.

The story of Cornelius Traveller and his family


There can be very few family trees that do not include people who died in wars. We have, in fact, been killing each other in large numbers for as long as we have existed, though most researchers are unlikely to discover relatives who succumbed in conflicts much before Napoleonic times. In my case, I have found only a handful who served in the armed forces before the First World War and none of these seem to have lost their lives. However, the appalling carnage of that war took its toll of my family as it did of so many others. The war that followed just 2 decades later made its mark too.

My War Dead


William Osborne was an employee of the White Star Line who was unfortunate enough to sign on to serve on the 'RMS Titanic'. He was also one of very many whose bodies were never recovered or, if recovered, were never identified. This is what I know of his short life and story.

The story of Saloon Steward William E Osborne

I hope you have found these stories of interest.

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