Exploring the family trees of Team GB’s gold medallists
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics delighted audiences around the world, and we saw success, drama, tears and tragedy. It got us wondering: what successes lie in the family trees of Team GB’s champions? We took to our family history records to find out.
Everyone has stories waiting to be found in their family tree. In case you were after some inspiration, here we share what we found when stepping into the shoes of these Olympians’ ancestors.
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This is a sample of what we found, from military heroes and pacifists, to intriguing middle names and heartbreak. They are just a few examples of the stories you could discover about your own family history.
Tom Daley’s family tree
We wondered whether champion diver Tom's love of the water runs in his family tree. Turns out, it does. The gold medallist’s family are mainly from Devon. Tom was born in Plymouth in 1994 to parents Debra Selvester and Robert Daley, who sadly died in 2011 from a brain tumour.
On his late father’s side, we found that Tom’s 2x great-grandfather, William George Eastlake, worked as a waterman and a boatman. William’s stepfather Joseph Wilson was also a boatman.
William’s father, Tom Daley’s 3x great-grandfather Edwin Eastlake, was a barber in the Royal Navy aboard HMS Cambridge, which ran aground during a storm in 1872. There was a newspaper article about it in the South Wales Daily News. It’s very likely Edwin was on board at the time. He also received a medal for good conduct in 1880, which we found in the London Evening Standard.
Edwin wasn’t always a barber. In the 1861 Census he was a sawyer, and we found him falling foul of the law in 1865, stealing fowls with his brother George.
Adam Peaty’s family tree
Born Adam George Peaty in 1994, the swimming champion comes from Staffordshire and is the youngest of four children. His parents Mark and Caroline married in 1992.
Adam’s great-grandfather was Thomas John Peaty, who was born in 1890. He suffered tragedy throughout his life. His first wife Gertrude Johnson died before 1931, as he remarried Adeline Sampson that year. His daughter Gertrude Lily died in 1933, aged only 18.
William Henry Peaty was born in Staffordshire in 1880 and was Thomas' brother. William served in the North Staffordshire Regiment during the First World War. He had a few minor offences listed on his war record including falling out without permission and causing a disturbance in his billet.
Sadly, William died from natural causes on 16 March 1915 at Hastings. Because he wasn’t on active service at the time, his wife Julia Ann was denied a pension.
William and Thomas’ father, and Adam Peaty’s 2x great-grandfather was Henry George Peaty. He was a waggoner, born in Bombay, India around 1857. We believe his father was in the army and stationed out there, perhaps even during the Indian Rebellion.
Charlotte Dujardin’s family tree
We traced the ancestry of Charlotte Dujardin, the most decorated British female Olympian of all time, back to 19th-century Europe. Charlotte Susan Jane Dujardin was born in London in 1985 to parents Jane Shawe and Ian Dujardin.
Charlotte’s great-grandfather was Henry William du Jardin, born in 1899. When he was a teenager, he lied about his age to enlist in the Middlesex Regiment to fight during the First World War. However, he was found out, and was later discharged.
On the 1911 Census, the occupations of his parents and siblings ranged from mattress bedding maker and factory timekeeper, to jam topper, collar machinist and stationery assistant.
We discovered that the Dujardin name comes from France. Charlotte’s 3x great-grandfather was Arthur Louis Dujardin, born in Arras, France. His wife, and Charlotte’s 3x great-grandmother Maria Catherine, was born in Belgium.
A mattress maker and cabinet maker, we found Arthur in debtors’ prison the London Gazette, 1859.
Beth Shriever’s family tree
BMX gold medallist Bethany Kate Shriever was born in Leytonstone in 1999 to parents Kate Hislam and Paul Shriever. Most of her maternal ancestors are from the London area.
Beth’s 2x great-grandfather Harry Francis Hislam had a brother, Lawrence Matthew. Lawrence’s son, Lawrence Alfred Hislam found himself in trouble with the law at the start of the Second World War.
In 1939, Lawrence appeared across the national newspapers for causing a disturbance outside Downing Street. The pacifist scattered 17 black rubber balls bearing peace slogans, and shouted, ‘look out, bombs!’.
Several people were injured during the panic, and Lawrence later apologised for the distress he’d caused. We also found him on the 1939 Register in Brixton Prison.
Beth's 2x great-grandmother was Ada Elizabeth Vanner, who married Harry Francis Hislam in 1906. Ada had a troubled start to her life: her mother died when she was barely a year old, and her father died in 1895. We found Ada as a servant for William Leonard Dowton in 1891, and later living with her uncle Thomas in 1901 while working as a mantle maker. But by 1911, Ada had a family of her own.
Tom Pidcock’s family tree
Tom won a cross-country mountain biking gold medal at Tokyo 2020. He was born in Leeds in 1999 to parents Giles Pidcock and Sonja Harper. His ancestors can be found in many counties, such as Berkshire, Sussex and Cheshire.
Tom Pidcock’s 2x great-grandfather was Frank Calnan, a chauffeur and mechanic born in Islington. He was in the Royal Flying Corps, the forerunner of the Royal Air Force, during the First World War. According to his service record, he was mentioned in dispatches on an unknown date, and spent some time in hospital.
Frank’s father Daniel, Tom’s 3x great-grandfather, was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1829. His wife Mary was also born in Ireland. We confirmed this by finding Frank on the 1871 Census.
Max Whitlock’s family tree
Artistic gymnast Max Whitlock was born in Hemel Hempstead in 1993 to parents Brian Whitlock and Madeleine Smith. We had greater success tracing Max’s maternal ancestors, finding one relative involved in an altercation with his brother in 1908.
George Ernest Neslen was found guilty of ‘unlawfully and maliciously wounding Charles Edward Neslen’. He was sentenced to one calendar month in prison and hard labour.
The same George Ernest Nelsen was still on the wrong side of the law in 1938. He and a 15-year-old were charged with stealing from a poultry farm. According to one newspaper report, his sentence of three months was suspended so he could attend the funeral of his child.
Laura and Jason Kenny’s family trees
And to round off, we investigated the family history of cycling’s golden couple, Laura Kenny, née Trott, and Jason Kenny.
The most interesting character we found in Jason Kenny’s family tree was his 3x great-grandfather, Philip Fee, or Fea, who was born in County Mayo, Ireland, in 1841. On the 1911 Census, he listed himself as a ‘widower scavenger’.
In 1905, Philip’s daughter Mary was charged with gross neglect. Tragically, her 9-month-old son William died in Fishpool Workhouse. Mary had struggled to find work, as there was no-one to look after William. The father, named as Jack Oldham, had left town.
One of Laura Kenny’s ancestors was listed in the 1911 Census as Albert Victory Washbourne. We thought this was a fantastic middle name, particularly great for the ancestor of an Olympian, but it was in fact Victor, rather than Victory.
We believe Laura Kenny’s 2x great-grandfather was Ralph William Trott. He was born in Deptford in 1883 to Alfred Trott and Truth Dormer. In 1911 he was in the Royal Navy, and we even found his service record.
His character was consistently ‘very good’ and he served in the First World War. His father Alfred, Laura’s 3x great-grandfather, was a marine engineer.