BBC newsreader and Crimewatch presenter, Sophie Raworth, received the Who Do You Think You Are? treatment. Here's our take on the final episode of a fantastic series of telly
Sophie's journey of discovery began with a visit to her childhood home in Richmond, where she discussed what was already known with her parents. Speaking to relatives is one of the best ways to start researching your family history and Sophie's visit generated a number of potential leads, leads that would eventually reveal tales of religious persecution, a tragic suicide, a feud, transatlantic migration, and an entire family destroyed by disease. Not much to cover here, then!
The journey got off to a disappointing start (for Sophie, anyway). After the bar was set so high by Danny Dyer and his links to William the Conqueror, Sophie was a little disappointed to learn that a relative she once believed mingled with royalty, was actually the skeleton hiding in the family cupboard.
Family rumours had led Sophie to believe she was a direct descendant of a famous piano maker and inventor named Henry Robert Mott who had played for King George IV in the late 18th century. In fact, a pre-made family tree revealed that Sophie's great-great-great-great grandfather was actually Henry's cousin, Samuel Mott, a 'mule of a man' who was sacked from the family piano business after years of bad behaviour.
A newspaper report revealed that after years of struggling to find his place in life, poor Samuel tragically took his own life.
Keen to know more about why Samuel's life went so badly wrong, Sophie headed to Samuel's hometown, Birmingham, to find out more about his early years. There, she discovered that his parents, William and Martha Mott (her 5 x great grandparents) were part of non-conformist community named New Jerusalem Church.
At this time, such communities were viewed with suspicion and minority sects were widely persecuted. Sophie also learnt that while Marth Mott was pregnant with Samuel, the city was rocked by the Priestly Riots of 1791. The prime targets were religious Dissenters, most notably the politically and theologically controversial Joseph Priestley.
Sophie was visibly moved when she learned of the hardships her ancestors endured. She then discovered that, following the riots, the family took a great risk and immigrated with their young family to the newly independent United States in the hopes of finding religious freedom.
The family settled in Manhattan, where they opened a small shop, but never got the chance to realise their American dream. Within two years of their arrival, the family was devastated by the Yellow Fever epidemic that ravaged the city. Both William and Martha succumbed to the disease, and Samuel, separated from his siblings, was sent to live with a bankrupt guardian, leading to a life of hardship and his eventual suicide.
Sophie's journey concluded with a happier story as she turned her attention to the life of her great-grandfather, Edgar Cussons Crowder. Sophie travelled to Kew Gardens to investigate rumours Edgar had once trained there, an exciting proposition for someone from a family to whom, 'gardens… are everything'. Her suspicions were confirmed when she discovered a class photo from 1892 that revealed Edgar had indeed trained as a, 'student gardener'.
Further research revealed Edgar was by no means the only gardener in her family tree. Her 5x great-grandfather, Abraham Crowder (1734-1831), had been Head Gardener at Cusworth Hall, near Doncaster. He had also been a nurseryman who grew plants for sale, mainly pineapples, then an expensive luxury at the height of fashion.
After inspecting a specially heated specially heated building known as a, 'pinery vinery', similar to the one Abraham would have used to grow his plants, Sophie concluded her journey with a newspaper obituary that revealed Abraham died at the ripe old age of 98 after, 'a long, kind and simple life'.
Now.... it's your turn. Click the image below to start searching our records for free, and begin you own journey of family history discovery.