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Olympic rower Matthew Pinsent has had little time to find out about his family’s history. However, since the birth of his twin boys he feels that he wants to know more, so that in time, he can pass the knowledge on.
Matthew knows that his father’s family were greatly affected by the First World War, in which three of his great uncles were killed. One of these was George Macpherson, his grandmother Kathleen’s only brother.
Looking through George's school records, Matthew discovers a mystery surrounding his death. According to the records, his great uncle did not die in combat. George commanded a tank during the battle of the Somme. At the Tank Museum in Dorset, Matthew learns that George was not killed by enemy fire, but by his own hand.
Matthew’s journey then takes him to China, where he finds out about his maternal great grandfather’s connection with trading company Jardine Matheson and its link with an infamous trade.
Back in the UK, Matthew makes some remarkable discoveries. He is able to trace his maternal line family back to some of the biggest characters in British history, including Katherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII. Then a medieval manuscript held at the College of Arms, links Matthew's ancestors to William the Conqueror.
You can begin with our guide to researching your family history in England and Wales.
There are several sources you can use to investigate your ancestors’ military history. You can search and download First World War medal index cards online and you may find the regimental war diary. Our podcast will help you work out the sources you need for First World War ancestry.
The pension records of almost one million soldiers who fought in the First World War are now available to search and download from Ancestry.co.uk.
You may, like Matthew, discover a company name during your research. Business records may survive, but they can be difficult to track down because they are records created by private companies. You may find the National Register of Archives helpful.