I enjoy watching genealogical programs such as Who Do You Think You Are – but I’m beginning to wonder if you have to be a celebrity in order to have “interesting” antecedents?  A stroll through my ancestral house results in a forlorn nodding of the head, and mutterings like “twist of fate” and “always the bridesmaid, never the bride”.

Last month marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic.  Joseph Bruce ISMAY 1862-1937 was involved with the White Star Line and an international conglomerate of shipping companies; he made it a practice to sail on maiden voyages of “his” ships and the Titanic was no exception. History may judge Mr. Ismay harshly but I would be delighted to see him firmly attached to my family tree.

Bruce was the Liverpool-born grandson of Joseph ISMAY who built small boats in Maryport, Cumberland. Our ISMAYs come from Cumberland, also.  Jane ISMAY, who married Adam FLETCHER, was born at Beckermet, less than 20 miles from Maryport. Her son John travelled to Dover, in Kent, to serve as an apprentice ironmonger to his uncle Thomas ISMAY. Was Jane’s family close kin to boatbuilder Joseph?  Probably – but I’ve yet to prove it.

Until 1998, the highest honour awarded by The Franklin Institute (headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) was the Elliott Cresson Medal, endowed to distinguished scientists and technologists. One hundred years ago, it was awarded, in the engineering category, to Alexander Graham BELL 1847-1922 for “Electrical Transmission of Articulate Speech”. Alexander’s maternal grandfather was a surgeon in the Royal Navy, married to Mary WHITE of Dover.  Mary’s paternal grandmother was another Mary, baptized Mary STARR, and she who had an older sister Susannah STARR – who was my  six times great grandmother.

Almost, but not quite, I console myself.

I’ve a third "almost" connection to boast about, this time on my father’s side of the family. Elizabeth Barrett, the poet and future Mrs. Robert Browning, was a well brought up young lady and, as such, grew up with servants, including her personal maid Ann.  One of my family?  Well, no - but Ann married into my GENT family.  She married my ancestor?  Well, almost - she married my three times great grandfather's older brother.  A tenuous connection to fame, I admit, but probably as close as I'm likely to get!