Most people who know anything about our family realize that Paul Brown, founder, part owner and coach of both the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals is first cousin of my grandmother and Uncle Bill.
I find it humorous that many use our cousin Paul as our family’s claim to fame. While Paul Brown was certainly a great Brown, he is not the only famous person in our family, and certainly on the scale of some of the members, he was hardly famous at all.
A distant cousin, but a member of the family nonetheless, is John Brown, many people nowadays don’t remember John Brown and those that do think him to be the abolitionist that made a mess of Harper’s Ferry. That is not the John Brown we are discussing here. This John Brown was a servant and believed lover of the Queen of England, Victoria. Mrs. Brown, as she was rumored by political enemies was buried not only with a dressing gown of Prince Albert’s, but with a lock of hair and a photo of John Brown.
Many in positions of power in the British government dealt with the wrath of Mr. Brown when they dared to speak against the Queen, and it was even rumored that the two married after the death of the Prince.
While that charge has always been denied by the British government, it is believed the two were quite in love and that Brown was held in such high regard in the Palace, that Edward VII had all mementos, statues and document made by his mother for and of Brown destroyed or discarded at the time of her death, to aid in the erasure of his memory.
Another famous cousin in our family is the Emmy nominated actress Kyra Sedgwick. Our branches in the family tree split at Samuel Sedgwick and Mary Hopkins, so the relationship is distant enough that it barely matters. And her marriage to Kevin Bacon kept this author from researching the effect of marriage to distant cousins.
While her primary claim to fame is currently the lead in the TNT series The Closer, her filmography begins in the early eighties as a member of the cast Another World.
The Browns and the Sedgwicks are not the only families with well known members. The Sherwood family, Paul Brown’s mother’s family, is a lineage anyone would be happy to have as their own. The former Ida Belle Sherwood was reportedly a descendant (according to many researchers – a belief of which I do not subscribe) of one of the most nobel blood lines of any of the families. She was a descendant of the Carolingian Dynasty. For those who are not historians, this blood line included Charlemagne of the Franks and Pippin the Elder. In the picture above, she appears to have all that nobility and grace still within her.
While searching for other famous members of the family one would have little further to go than nearly any member of the Wyatt family. While many a historian would be able to recall Thomas the Younger, leader of the Wyatt Rebellion against the Queen Mary I, many forget about Thomas the Elder, his father. He was a member of the Court of Mary’s father Henry VIII, a poet of great renown, and the alleged lover of Anne Boleyn. His sister, the author’s fifteenth great grandmother, was also a member of the Royal Court, as lady in waiting to Anne Boleyn.
Time and location remove the memories of who is the celebrity in the family. For my parents and grandparents generations, Paul Brown may well have been the celebrity of the day. For our generation, it is quite possible that Kyra Sedgwick and husband Kevin Bacon could be considered ours. There are many, many others, however. Every family has them. It is nearly impossible to step back more than a few generations in any group of people and not stumble across some blue blood.
Also, remember, when researching your family do not discount your female ancestors as just having been married to or mothers of famous male figures. There are many women famous, notorious and monied in their own right. Sadly, much before the 1950’s they are relegated to the background.