Thursday, 4 December 2014

Out Of Their Trees : Diving Into Daley's DNA

Tom's most recent Facebook profile photo.
Next week I reach another milestone on my blog – I post my 500th article. I’ve got a special article for that, but I think I’m entitled to celebrate with 2 special articles! And this is the first.

Last month I completed preliminary research into the ancestry of Olympic diver Tom Daley. The original idea was to write about it on his 21st birthday next May, but I just couldn’t wait that long and decided to do an intensive 2 week verification process so I can bring it to you today – 2 days after the anniversary of Tom Daley coming out last year. And I would feel really bad if someone else had done their own research and posted it somewhere online before I did!

Actually, somebody already has done. Seamus Rush posted some of Tom Daley’s ancestry online last year. You can read Seamus’s article here. I can’t write a better article, as there’s not a lot that I can say that will be new, so I won’t bother.

Being a perfectionist I verified all the information in Seamus’s article for myself. What it doesn’t have, however, is any of Tom’s ancestry before official registration and census returns began. That set me off on my own original research to find Tom’s more distant ancestry.

At first I was worried that there’d be nothing of interest and no lines of descent to follow, as most of Tom’s ancestors were not as geographically dispersed as they have been in some of my previous “Out Of Their Trees” articles. This, in itself, proved to be a blessing. I had the same experience when researching my ex-partner’s ancestry. All of his recent ancestors were firmly based in one county and it was only when I found a bloodline from a “gateway” family that ancestors came flooding out of history.

A “gateway” family or ancestor is one who comes from a higher social background with direct links into the landed gentry, aristocracy or royalty. In my ancestry that gateway family are the Appleyards, for my ex-partner the Gells, and for Tom Daley it is the Yeos.

Once I’d established a member of the Yeo family as Tom’s ancestor it was relatively easy to go further back because the Yeos are a big, well-established family in Devon, and they help to give Tom an unbroken Devon descent through his grandmother Winifred Eastlake back to at least 1338.

The earliest recorded Yeo is Willliam atte Yeo who was Sheriff of Devon in 1359 (he must have been aged 21 or over to be appointed a sheriff). There is a website of the Yeo Society here which gives a detailed history of the family. There are a couple of errors on the website, but it is still an excellent genealogical resource.

Being a distinctive name makes it highly likely that any member of the Yeo family worldwide (several Yeos emigrated to Canada and Australia) is related to Tom Daley, including several in the lgbt community. I haven’t done the proper research yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Tom is related to Liz Yeo of Sydney, a Gay Games gold medallist in tennis in 2010, or to Paul Yeo, a Gay Games gold medallist in squash in 1990. Other proven descendants of the Yeos include the Princes William, Harry and George (through Princess Diana).

That’s enough of Tom’s general Yeo ancestry, let’s get more personal. I’ll move up Tom’s line of descent to one William Yeo (d.1481) of Heanton Satchville, Devon. Through the marriage of HIS ancestors into other Devon families William was related to all of the major political and royal officials in the county. His wife was Ellen Grenville. Unfortunately there’s a lot of conflicting information about HER ancestry. I’ve spent many hours studying as many references and sources as possible and have come up with an ancestry which I believe fits all the conflicting facts.

Basically (I won’t bore you with the detail), Ellen’s mother Philippa, generally thought to be a daughter of the 1st Baron Bonville is (I believe) his sister. And Ellen’s father and grandfather, as generally accepted, are (I believe) the same man. The dates of birth for all of them only match if my theory is correct. It remains to be seen if other genealogists agree. So, the couples previously regarded as Ellen’s great-grandparents are all now her grandparents.

One of these couples are Sir Theobald Grenville and his wife Margaret Courtenay. Margaret’s parentage has also been questioned in recent years, but there’s no question of her descent from the Earls of Devon, and also from King Edward I.

Tom joins an ever-increasing number of lgbt people and Olympians (including my newly discovered descent from King Edward I for Oscar Pistorius) who can be connected by blood, however distant.

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