Val Weedon researches her family connections to Thomas Hardy

A Hardy Family Research Trip

Val Weedon researches her family connections to Thomas Hardy

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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.

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Val with Martin Antell


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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.

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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

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