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Why Danny Dyer's Who Do You Think You Are? is one of the best

Picture of Niall Cullen - Content Marketing Lead
Niall Cullen
6 January 2020

Actor Danny Dyer's family tree went under the spotlight on series 13 of Who Do You Think You Are? UK back in 2016.

Born and bred an East End boy, Danny Dyer delved into his past in the hope that a strong male figure would emerge on his family tree. What we watched him discover was that and so much more.

Danny Dyer's birth record

Danny Dyer's birth record

The riveting episode of Who Do You Think You Are? started with Dyer tracing his relatively recent past in the East End of London. His initial research took him as far as the Buttivant family who had firm roots in Mile End Old Town. Albert and Ann Buttivant, Danny's 3 x great grandparents, were reported to have ran the local workhouse but on closer inspection, Danny discovered that they were regular inmates rather than management. Given their poor backgrounds, it was inevitable that the family may have fallen foul of the law at some point and this led to Danny's next avenue of research.

Tragic crime

Dyer decided to search Findmypast's comprehensive crime records, the largest British collection online, and was astounded at what he discovered.

Mary Ann Buttivant, daughter of Albert and Ann, and Danny's great-great grandmother was convicted of concealing the body of her dead baby in 1878.

Danny Dyer related to criminals

Mary Ann Buttivant's crime record on Findmypast.

Reading further into this tragic story, he realised that the crime was an unfortunate attempt by Mary Ann to deliver her baby on her own that went dreadfully wrong. She was only 17 at the time, pleaded guilty and served no jail time. Understandably, this revelation upset the actor, who hoped his journey into his family history would become a little brighter.

Blue blood

And it did! To his delight, Danny discovered that his 10 x great grandfather, Robert Gosnold, was a member of the landed gentry who fought in the English Civil War. As a defeated Royalist in the war, Gosnold would go on to be stripped of his wealth and his family quickly fell down the social standings of the time. However, Gosnold's mother was part of the Tollemache family who are still considered gentry to this day. Danny went to meet his distant relative Lord Tollemache.

It was during his time with Lord Tollemache that Dyer started to uncover his deep connections to royalty. Danny's 12 x great grandfather Lionel Tollemache was married to Catherine Cromwell, the great-granddaughter of Lord Thomas Cromwell, King Henry VIII's right-hand man and 'the most controversial man in British history'. He is Danny's 15 x great grandfather. His reaction was priceless as he exclaimed;

"How can these people be my relatives and why don't I know about this?!"

Concentrating on his royal pedigree, Danny then discovered that Thomas Cromwell's son Gregory married Elizabeth Seymour, sister of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII's third and favourite wife. From there, Danny discovered the unthinkable – he is a direct descendant of King Edward III!

Your reaction

Why is Danny Dyer's episode considered one of the best editions of Who Do You Think You Are? ever. Just ask Twitter.

Cover image: BBC