William the Conqueror was my great-grandfather - 29 times removed

SOME might boast of royal connections - but not many people can claim to be a direct descendent of William the Conqueror! But Jay Holloway, who runs the Brass Rubbing Centre at Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park, has spent 10 years researching his fa

SOME might boast of royal connections - but not many people can claim to be a direct descendent of William the Conqueror!But Jay Holloway, who runs the Brass Rubbing Centre at Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park, has spent 10 years researching his family tree and made a truly startling discovery.His great-grandfather 29 times removed was none other than the man who won the Battle of Hastings to conquer England in 1066 .In fact, he says, one of the lines can be traced back even further to Alfred the Great.Before relocating it to Combe Martin, Jay ran the Brass Rubbing Centre at Lynmouth and has a passion for medieval history and heraldry, which he passes on to visitors who can try their hand at brass rubbing as well as buy kits to get them started. Little knowing what he'd find, Jay began by tracing his family history and learned his ancestry through his grandmother was linked to the Blechyndens, a very old family of Kentish landed gentry."I followed that and found some more fairly important titled people and followed that back until an earlier ancestor, Gilbert de Clare, married Joan of Acre," he explained.Otherwise known as Joan Plantagenet, she was the daughter of Edward I, whose line can be traced back to William the Conqueror and beyond."When I discovered that it became really interesting!" said Jay."It took a long time to research, something like 10 years, but once you have established that royal connection it becomes easy."The closely linked marriages of tightly knit royal and noble families in Jay's family tree has thrown up some fascinating connections.Another of his great grandfathers 29 times removed was Sir Judhel de Totnes, who founded the castle there and was later awarded the Barony of Barnstaple along with a further 200 North Devon manors for his service to King William."He was the first Norman Lord of Barnstaple and probably built the castle there, now Castle Mound," added Jay."His daughter - my 28 times great grandmother - was born in the town, so you have to go back 1,000 years but I am actually of local descent!"Jay believes it is possible hundreds or even thousands of people might have a link to Royal or distinguished families of history, but the trick is being able to find it. For many, their line of ancestors becomes vague before the 1837 National Index of Births, Deaths and Marriages began, or can only be traced back a little further through parish records until about the 1600s.Unfortunately too, the lands and titles tend not to last until the present day! By the 19th century Jay's ancestor Harry Blechynden was an orphan living with his grandfather, who sold seeds and ran a plant nursery.The Brass Rubbing Centre is open at Combe Martin Wildlife Park throughout Easter and whenever the park is open.


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