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Rupert Penry-Jones

Discuss last year's series of Who Do You Think You Are?, which featured Bruce Forsyth, Dervla Kirwan, Monty Don and six more famous faces as they traced their family trees

Rupert Penry-Jones

Postby Matt Elton » Mon Aug 16, 2010 7:18 pm

The former Spooks star uncovers his Indian connections in this week's new episode of Who Do You Think You Are?. Come back here at 10pm to share your thoughts with other readers...
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Re: Rupert Penry-Jones

Postby ksouthall » Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:08 pm

This was another very interesting programme which highlighted some very important historical events. The meeting with the World War II soldier who was able to provide an account of the action at Monte Cassino highlighted the risks the medics took when trying to help their comrades.
The information about the mutiny in India and the copies of letters written by Rupert’s ancestor in 1857 showed how families coped when separated by war. Rupert also seemed to be very moved by the stories uncovered and able to consider things from his ancestors' perspectives. I really enjoyed it as it was another excellent programme in what has been a great series so far.
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Re: Rupert Penry-Jones

Postby Jeeps » Mon Aug 16, 2010 11:52 pm

I thought it was a great episode and Rupert Penry-Jones was so charming!

It had quite a significance for me because my husband's father fought at Monte Cassino and was wounded. We went there last year and the valley is amazing, as is the monastery. Such a beautiful building and so peaceful now with amazing views.

I have a number of distant relatives in my tree who were born in all the places mentioned in India as the families were part of the military. I shall consider them more carefully now and see just when they were there and what they must have experienced.

IMHO this series is proving to be one of the very best yet.
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Re: Rupert Penry-Jones

Postby j-doris » Tue Aug 17, 2010 9:15 am

My Relative George Neill was at the first relief of Lucknow, and I was wondering where the programme got all that correspondence for Rupert between his ancestor Sergeant Johnstone and his wife? Is there a source in India that I could look at?
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Re: Rupert Penry-Jones

Postby ksouthall » Tue Aug 17, 2010 9:20 am

j-doris wrote:My Relative George Neill was at the first relief of Lucknow, and I was wondering where the programme got all that correspondence for Rupert between his ancestor Sergeant Johnstone and his wife? Is there a source in India that I could look at?


Sylcec would probably be the best person to respond to your question. The only problem would be whether or not your ancestor could read and right as education was still not compulsory at that time in England.

I hope you are lucky and do manage to find copies of letters from your ancestor.
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Re: Rupert Penry-Jones

Postby FamilyHistoryAddict » Tue Aug 17, 2010 10:42 am

Well I enjoyed this one and didn't fall asleep as I did with the Monty Don episode! :D

Firstly I like Rupert. He was very polite and interested. Secondly I've been to Cassino and visited the cemetery there. My uncle fought at Montecassino but survived - so I was very interested in that part of the story.

Plus it was amazing to learn of Rupert's Indian ancestral connections. Those old ragged records were amazing. At least Rupert got Susanna's surname plus the proof of his Anglo Indian ancestry.

I thought it was wonderful that they used Thomas Johnstone's letters. I wonder how they came by those? I hope they let Rupert photocopy them for his own family history records.

I found this episode enthralling. My Grandad's stepfather was wounded at Lucknow so that was interesting to me too.

At least there was a bit of a mystery in this one - did Rupert have Anglo Indian ancestry? From the look of him you would say no, whereas with Alistair McGowan you could see he did have Anglo Indian ancestry.

Cheers, FHA
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Re: Rupert Penry-Jones

Postby Denis Warry » Tue Aug 17, 2010 4:00 pm

From a content point of view, I think this series of Who Do You Think you are? is one of the best. Last night's programme on Rupert Penry-Jones, like the one on Monty Don, were excellent in content, but totally ruined by the noisy bachkground music which made it at times impossible to hear what the speaker was saying. Thank gooness the programmes have sub-titles.

When I listen to a concert on the TV, no-one has the bad manners to talk above the music, so why do we have to have music drowning out speech? I suppose it is because today, many people are afraid of silence.

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Re: Rupert Penry-Jones

Postby paulberyl » Tue Aug 17, 2010 6:14 pm

I have enjoyed this series of WDYTYA? but a couple of "niggles" about the Rupert Penry-Jones episode.

My main criticism is that there was no explanation of where the letters or photograph of his Indian Army ancestor came from (unless I missed this whilst my mother was shouting at me; she is deaf and because we have to shout at her she feels she has got to shout back!). This would have been very useful to people researching Indian Army ancestry.

The other "niggle" is that in the 19th century the term Anglo-Indian (and I assume Indo-British, although I an open to correction) was used to refer to British people living in India. It was only in the 1920s and 1930s that it was used to refer to people of mixed British and Indian heritage. As a counter arguement when the marriage record was traced the term "native" was generally used in the 19th century to refer to Indians. Again I felt that an explanation would have been useful.

Having got that off my chest I have to agree with other comments that I think this series has been one of the best.

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Re: Rupert Penry-Jones

Postby JayneS » Wed Aug 18, 2010 6:01 pm

I had been looking forward to this episode, and I wasn't disappointed. It was very interesting, particularly if you like military history, as I do. One of my ancestors served in India whilst in the army, so it got me wondering if there are any records over in India relating to him. He was in the British Army though, not the Indian, so possibly not.
Rupert came across as quietly charming and genuinely interested. He seemed to manage very well with the 19th century handwriting considering his dyslexia. Writing from that period is not the easiest to read. In fact, I think that some earlier handwriting, 17th and early 18th century, can be easier to read than 19th century. It was also good that he had some empathy with his ancestors actions, particularly in relation to the 1857 uprising, although he personally didn't agree with it. To often people tend to look at the past through 21st century glasses and not from the perspective of the time in question. You can't understand the past properly if you look at it from a modern point of view.
Another excellent episode.
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Re: Rupert Penry-Jones

Postby Sylcec » Thu Aug 19, 2010 11:56 am

Paul - you are quite right in that the term "Anglo-Indian" has a different meaning now, and formally since 1911, than it did in the 19th century and earlier.

It's original meaning was indeed to describe British born people who were domiciled in India over a period of time. They would be covenanted Civil Servants; Army Officers and other senior managers or proprietors of organisations. Wikipedia has quite a good article covering the main points, and in particular says:
Article 366(2) of the Indian Constitution defines Anglo-Indian as "a person whose father or any of whose other male progenitors in the male line is or was of European descent but who is domiciled within the territory of India and is or was born within such territory of parents habitually resident therein and not established there for temporary purposes only


Before the meaning of Anglo-Indian was defined in this way, there were a variety of euphemistic terms used including: Indo-Briton; East-Indian; Country-born I have seen each of these used in the India Office church records. Eurasian is not often used.

Unfortunately I will have to wait a long time until this episode gets shown in Australia (I watched the Martin Freeman one last Sunday - excellent). However, am also curious to know how 'they' managed to uncover original correspondence in Allahabad.

Jayne - the main repository for records of persons serving in India, is the India Office Records at the British Library at St Pancras. However, if your man was in a British Army Regiment (rather than the EIC or Indian Army), then his records will be at the National Archives at Kew.

There are of course archives in India, but these are mostly a mystery to me. However, if you have read William Dalrymple's books, he provides plenty of evidence of local research in Indian archives.
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