A Hardy Family Research Trip
Val Weedon researches her family connections to Thomas Hardy
Val Weedon with 'cousin Tom'
Dorset bound, after recently establishing I am related to Thomas Hardy! My first stop off was Puddletown, formerly Piddletown, about 5 miles north of Dorchester where I knew a number of my ancestors had originated. I went in hope that I would track down relatives that still lived there and I was lucky enough to find cousin Martin Antell after being encouraged by a couple of locals to “knock on his front door” as they knew “he would be delighted to meet a relative”. Martin is a descendent of John Antell who married one of the Hand sisters, Mary. I was warmly invited into his home by his wife Gladys and knew immediately they were family.
Val with Martin Antell
There is a distinct pink cottage as you first enter Puddletown that the Antell’s lived in. It is understood that a young Thomas Hardy visited often and would jointly write poetry with cousin John Antell.
The rest of my week’s journey was mainly spent at the Dorset History Centre where they house thousands of Thomas Hardy related documents. I had set myself the task of finding out information about my great, great aunt Jemima Hand, Thomas Hardy’s mother and greatest influence. I managed to copy a number of press cuttings that will be useful in my continued research into my family tree.
It was not all work during my short week’s stay. I popped over to Max Gate for an afternoon tea party with The New Hardy Players and managed to get a selfie with Thomas Hardy, another cousin. Well okay it wasn’t the real Thomas, but the actor Chris Pullen.
I spent more time with Martin Antell and his charming wife Gladys who in turn introduced me to another cousin, another John Antell, who had been a Mayor of Dorchester, an original Mayor of Casterbridge apparently.
Weather lovely, wish you were here.
Val Weedon - 25th September 2019