Who do you think you are?
Kevin Whately

Kevin Whately - How we did it

Puritan Roots

Great-great-great-great-grandmother: Mary Thompson

At the Bank of England, there was another tantalising discovery. Kevin learned that Mary Thompson was the descendant of a Major Robert Thompson. He was allegedly one of four rich Puritan brothers who rose to great prominence during the Commonwealth, the period when England briefly became a republic.

Step 1

Frank's family tree stated that Mary died in 1776. So, as a starting point, Kevin searched for Mary's burial records online. He discovered an entry stating that she was buried at the church of St John the Baptist in Malden, Surrey.

Kevin met the Reverend Kevin Scott, the vicar of St John the Baptist, who showed him Mary's tomb, where Thomas Whately is also buried, and gave him a copy of the inscription on the tomb. It stated that Mary was the daughter of a Joseph Thompson, and that Thomas and Mary had lived at Nonsuch Park, not far from St John the Baptist church.


Mary Whately
Mary Whately

Kevin went to Nonsuch Park, where he met local expert, Gerald Smith. Gerald explained that Thomas and Mary would not have lived in the house that stands today, as it was rebuilt in 1800. Kevin also discovered that Nonsuch Park was owned by the Thompson family – not by the Whatelys. Mary's brother Joseph Thompson eventually left the estate to Mary and Thomas's son Joseph Whately, Kevin's great-great-great-grandfather.

Kevin wanted to find out how the Thompsons had acquired their great wealth during the Commonwealth. The only clue Gerald could give was that the Thompsons came from a village called Watton-at-Stone in Hertfordshire.

Step 3

In Watton-at-Stone, Kevin met historian Dr Alan Thompson, an expert on the area in the 1600s. Alan confirmed that Mary Thompson was the granddaughter of Major Robert Thompson. Kevin was shown a parish register in which it is recorded that Robert Thompson was baptised on 21 February 1622. Alan also showed Kevin baptismal records for the other three brothers.

Step 4

As a local expert, Alan knew that the eldest Thompson brother, Maurice, had immigrated to Virginia in 1617. His sister had married one of the first merchants to establish himself as a plantation owner in Virginia. But Puritan settlers like Maurice also went to America to experience religious freedom. Later, the other three Thompson brothers, including Kevin's direct ancestor Robert, followed Maurice to the New World.

Step 5

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Professor Burnard describes Major Thompson's career

To find out more about the brothers, Kevin went to The National Archives. There he met a specialist expert, Professor Trevor Burnard. Trevor told him that Robert's brother Maurice was the leading colonial merchant in the 17th century, having arrived in Virginia when tobacco production began. Kevin saw a document proving that Maurice had a monopoly on the tobacco trade out of Virginia. Maurice was also involved in the establishment of the British empire, including the development of the sugar trade and along with Robert, the slave trade.

Kevin met another specialist expert, Professor Bernard Capp, who told him about the Thompson brothers' involvement in the civil war, and their association with Oliver Cromwell. Major Robert Thompson was even a potential husband for one of Cromwell's daughters. During the Commonwealth, Robert also had a significant role as a navy commissioner. Later, his monarchist successor, the famous diarist Samuel Pepys, wrote of him in glowing terms. Kevin was amazed to have traced his family back so far.

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