A Wearside woman’s enthusiasm for tracing her family tree has thrown up some right Royal surprises.
Leslee Barron was inspired to start researching her roots in the hope of tracing a sister she had never met. The end result left her absolutely stunned.
“We have a direct bloodline to King Henry II, as well as William the Conqueror, and we’re also descended from the Vikings,” said the HR charity co-ordinator.
“I keep wondering what my poor mother, now dead, would’ve made of the information. I don’t think her reaction would have been printable in the Echo!”
Leslee was born in Hendon in 1956, but later moved to Southwick then Chester Road. Today she lives in Berkshire, but still considers Sunderland her home.
“Some of us have a craving to know our family roots; others don’t have any interest. Being the former I couldn’t wait to get started on mine,” she said.
One of the first people Leslee researched was her paternal grandmother, Clementina Mcfee, who was born in Sunderland in 1877 to Scottish parents.
“She was a pious woman, who read from a leather-bound bible each night. I imagine her reading by candle, warmed by a black-leaded range,” said Leslee.
“I still have vague memories of her but, what I wasn’t expecting when starting my research, were the emotions I experienced when finding so many who died young.
“The mortality of your ancestors is striking. You find a name and you find their death. The flower-like cycle of life, bud grows, it blooms, and then it dies.”
Another relative who sparked Leslee’s interest was her maternal grandfather, David Barron, who was born in 1873 but died at sea when her mother was about 14.
“It was impossible for mam to talk of his death without emotion cracking in her voice. He never came back, she’d say, sniffing back the tears,” recalls Leslee.
“She told us he was a captain of a ship, drowned and buried in Germany. A six-footer, whose weathered face creased in all the right places when he laughed.
“The joyous twinkle in mam’s eyes as she talked of her childhood was evidence, if needed, that she adored him. How I would’ve loved to have met him.”
Mystery surrounds the circumstances of David’s death, with one family tale claiming he was found floating in Hamburg harbour with a knife in his back in 1916.
“Murdered? That thought haunts me. Instead, I hang on to the fact that the death year conflicts by a whole decade with another document I have,” said Leslee. “That one states a David Barron was found dead at Stettin Harbour, Poland, in 1926. Cause of death was left blank. Did he drown? Was he murdered? I don’t know.”
Further investigations into the Barron family were made when Leslee connected with a Canadian cousin, Dr Colin Barron, through the Ancestry website in 2009.
Indeed, after comparing notes, Colin revealed they were related to Admiral Lord Collingwood – who took over the Admiralty of the British Navy when Nelson died.
“Old Cuddie is my second cousin, 11x removed,” said Leslee. “He was a gentle soul who hated using the lash on his crew, even though it was commonplace then.
“Sadly, after decades of devoted service keeping Britain and its seas safe, he died on his way home on what would’ve been his last voyage. I feel proud of him.”
Just two years after contacting Leslee, Colin also sadly died – but not before he revealed one “earth-shattering” piece of news; that they had Royal relations.
Indeed, Colin traced a direct line back to King Henry II via the mother of “murdered” sailor David Barron – including links to James Bond author Ian Fleming.
And, after further research, Leslee can now count several kings – including Edward I, II and III – among her family, as well as William the Conqueror.
“William the Conqueror was my 26th great-grandfather!” said Leslee. “When I first heard I had a connections to Royalty it all felt so surreal.
“But my friends keep me grounded by saying ‘Isn’t everyone descended from Royalty?’ They have a point. Some Kings and Queens had as many as 19 babies.
“Go forth and multiply is that famous saying – and the Royals obviously did just that! Oh, and yes, I did managed to track down my long-lost sister too!”