22    Aug 20112 comments

UK: JK Rowling discovers her past on ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’

JK Rowling - of Harry Potter fame - was featured on Wednesday night's episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?"

The popular BBC1 programme focused on Rowling's interesting family history.

It  followed her late mother’s French roots, starting with her maternal great-grandfather, Louis Volant. Rowling’s family had been convinced that Louis received the prestigious Légion d'honneur for bravery during World War I. Rowling also received that award for her contribution to literature for the popular Harry Potter series.

The family tale was proved wrong as the award-winning Louis Volant was an unrelated man with the same name as her great-grandfather. However, her great-grandfather was in fact similar to Rowling.

 Like Rowling, he had started from nothing and worked his way up to the top of his profession as head wine waiter (sommelier) at the London Savoy. When the war broke, Louis was forced to return to France where he was awarded the equally commendable Croix de Guerre for exceptional bravery in defending the village of Courcelles-le-Comte.

Rowling was also surprised by the discovery that her great-great-great grandmother, great-great-grandmother and great-grandmother were all - like herself - single mothers. 

Is it just pure coincidence or could it be that your ancestry shapes the person you are today? Rowling herself has stated  “It is humbling to see yourself as a tiny part of a huge family tree, but it is also strangely reassuring.”

Tune in next Wednesday to watch Sebastian Coe, former Olympic gold medal winner and chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, delve into his family’s past and find out whether his grandmother’s claims about a privileged ancestry are true.  Were Lord Coe’s family all born with silver spoons in their mouths?

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  1. My Foley and Regan g-g-grandfathers were from Kilmichael Parish (townlands of Ballina, Mountmusic, Clashbredane). The Lenihan name is associated with the Foleys trghuoh marriage the Lenihans emigrated and settled in New Hampshire about ten years before Patrick Foley (my g-g-grandfather) came. Patrick Foley could read and write and served as a town clerk and as an officer in several organizations. I have baptism info, but nothing else from Ireland.
  2. This episode has only just shown on Australia's multicultural channel , SBS . Her grandfather was a very galant and heroic man , whose territorial company repulsed a major German assault , with him being the key figure in the battle . We don't hear much of what happened to him after WW1 . He went back to England for awhile to keep in touch with his family , then he returned again to France .
    He lived there until his death in 1949 . I would have liked to have found out more about that time ?

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