Tales of Royalty and sea captains

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RETIRED MoD engineer Norman Dawkins, 66, has uncovered the sort of sparkling facts which any researcher would dream of.

His investigations go back more than 300 years and to family in the south of England.

But Norman’s probes were to take him to even greater finds and to fascinating links in history which may mean he is related to Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge.

In his past is a relative called Marmaduke Weastell who married a Margaret Middleton in 1777 in Old Hartlepool.

Norman believes he may be a direct ancestor of Kate Middleton.

The Duchess is already known to have relations in the North-East and Norman said: “It looks a strong possibility that there is a link. Middleton was not that common a name in Old Hartlepool.

“It may be that I am related to her.”

Norman’s retirement was the spur for him to take up the hobby which also yielded other finds.

With the help of library expert Sandra McKay, Norman traced a branch of his family to Staindrop and to an Eliza Layborne born 1825 who was his great, great grandmother. The best was still to come.

The census for that year showed Eliza Dawkins was listed on the crew of the ship Sea Nymph and so was her husband William Dawkins and their young son and daughter.

Families were not normally allowed on ships and Norman concluded: “They could only have been on board if he was the captain and they were registered as travelling with him.

“My dad used to tell me tales of a sea captain in the family and that his great granddad was a sea captain, but he just thought it was a dad telling his son some stories.

“It seems like he was right.”

Norman’s quest has also helped him to trace relatives who were buried at the Spion Kop Cemetery in Hartlepool.

“I didn’t even know where my great grandparents were buried, but I have found that out.

“I have got back to 1680 on my mother Jane Anne Foster Horsley’s side of the Headland.

“I have also got back to the 1770s on my dad’s side and to my great, great, great, great, great grandfather from the south west of England.

The 1841 Census shows he was on it and that he was aged 80 and was born in Deal in Kent.”

He put his successful search down to Sandra and the library team, and said: “Without her help, I don’t think I could have got as far as I did.”

Up to 30 people at a time use Hartlepool’s Trace Your Ancestors service at the Central Library in York Road which runs each Wednesday, from 10am to 12pm.

The library has every official record on Hartlepool’s population since official records began in 1837 and every town Census since they were first logged in 1841.

Anyone wanting more information can contact the library’s reference section on (01429) 242909.