As family historians across the country head to London for this weekend’s Who Do You Think You Are Live event, the HOP’s Emma Peplow blogs about using www.historyofparliamentonline.org to try and find some of her ancestors…
Many people who use our website are researching their family history. With thousands of biographies of MPs from the 14th century onwards, for those of you have an MP for an ancestor there will be plenty of information, and possibly new sources, to discover.
Not being among those lucky few, I still thought it would be interesting to see what www.thehistoryofparliamentonline.org could tell me about my own family’s past. We have a quite unusual surname, Peplow, and from a very young girl I remember being told ‘our family history’, or myth, it really should be called! Peplow is a small village in Shropshire, north-east of Shrewsbury, and the surname can be traced to this village. As a child, I was told that through this we could trace our ancestors back to William the Conqueror, and that my great-great-great-great-great-great-(I forget now the number of generations) Grandfather gambled away the grand Peplow Hall. My great-Grandfather, apparently, had even spoken to solicitors to try and get the hall back!
Of course, those in the family who have traced our history properly have debunked these myths, but it seems clear that the family can still be traced to the village in Shropshire, although with less grand roots! So what could the History of Parliament add to this story? A quick search for ‘Peplow’ came up with Rowland Hill, MP for Shropshire 1821-32 who married Ann Clegg, the very young heiress to the Peplow estate, really quite scandalously, as one contemporary said:
A more disgraceful transaction has certainly seldom taken place, and at all events poor silly Sir Rowland is as completely sold as any slave or beast of burthen, and whatever he gains in money will lose, and ought to lose, in character.
Further digging into the History’s website demonstrated that Peplow Hall was later at the center of a 19th Century Reformist challenge, as the pocket borough of Bishop’s Castle was the only one in Shropshire to challenge the hold of the patrons, in this case the Clive family. The first dissident candidate was one Thomas Clark of Peplow Hall, although his candidacy was not as successful as the group had hoped.
For my ancestors, well, I haven’t found any secrets of their past. However, I have been able to add colour and detail about the politics and lives of those who lived in the tiny village of Peplow throughout the years. Well worth typing my name in the ‘search’ bar in any case – who knows what you will uncover!
For more on the History of Parliament and family history, visit our website.