top of page
  • Writer's pictureFiona Appleton-Thorn

If you are the descendant of an infamous “Traitor,” would you want to know?

In some cases, finding out you are indeed descended from one of history’s bad guys is not a proud moment. But what if the so called “Traitor” was fighting for equality of religion? What if that individual has been remembered every year in England for at least one day in early November for the last 415 years?

“Remember, remember the 5th of November. Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.”

Brits hearing this one line immediately name Guy Fawkes as the perpetrator of the crimes of conspiracy and attempting to blow up the Houses of Parliament with King James I inside it. Every year on the 5th of November the bonfires and fireworks events attract people in their thousands. In some areas effigies of the "Guy" are still burned on the fires and yet if you ask the revelers why, they either don't know or are under that popular misconception that Guy Fawkes was a plotter who was burned to death for his crimes.

Fact is Guy Fawkes was merely the conspirator found with the barrels of gunpowder in the cellar of the Parliament building in 1605 and was in fact not the mastermind behind it.

After his arrest and initial interrogation, Guido (Guy) Fawkes revealed nothing. King James I then ordered torture on November 6th forcing him to reveal the other members of the group. Over the next few days Fawkes named each of the participants who were dedicated Roman Catholics attempting to put a stop to the rule of a protestant monarch and the persecution of the original faith in England. If you’d like to know more about the plot itself and the timeline of events, click here.

Guy Fawkes was born in 1570. He was recruited into the conspiracy in 1604 by Thomas Winter to assist in the digging of a tunnel from a rented house where he pretended to be a servant called John Johnson. The tunnel was abandoned when a cellar in the House of Lords was able to be rented instead. Guy was then put to work procuring quantities of gunpowder to be stored in the cellar. As the quantity grew Fawkes not only hid the powder under firewood, he also guarded it.

He was tried for High Treason on 27 Jan 1606 and was sentenced to be Hung Drawn and Quartered in the Old Palace Yard on 31 Jan 1606 with three of his fellow conspirators Thomas Wintour, Ambrose Rookwood, and Robert Keyes. However, after seeing the prolonged execution of the other three, Guy jumped from the ladder up to the gallows. He broke his neck and died instantly. His body was still quartered and his severed head displayed as a warning to other rebellious Catholics.

The Conspirators of The Gunpowder Plot Rebellion

Is One of Them Your Ancestor?

Robert Catesby – Conceiver of the plot, was born in Lapworth, Warwickshire, England in 1573. He left 1 son living at the time of his death on 8 Nov 1605 at Holbeche House, Staffordshire. Robert was married to Catherine Leigh, granddaughter of Sir Thomas Leigh of Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire. The couple’s first son William died in infancy, but their second son, also a Robert, was baptized on 11 Nov 1595.

Thomas Winter (Wintour)- Possible Brother in Law to Robert Catesby Born around 1571 in Worcestershire, England. Some report Thomas married Elizabeth Catesby in about 1593, but there is no factual evidence to support this apart from an entry in a family bible. There is an indication that Thomas left no children as he named his elder brother in his will, but no other family. He trusted his elder brother Robert and his cousin Francis Tresham so much that he included them in the conspiracy. He was tried for his part in the plot and was executed in Old Palace Yard on the 31 January 1606.

Robert Winter (Wintour) Brother of Thomas Winter Born around 1566 at Huddington Court, Worcestershire, England. As eldest son he inherited the family estate in Huddington and his heirs are well documented. He married Gertrude Talbot in about 1593. He fathered 4 children: George, John, Helena and Mary Wintour. He was tried for his part in the plot and was executed in St Paul’s Churchyard on the 30 January 1606.

Thomas Percy Brother in law of John Wright Born in 1560 great grandson of the 4th Earl of Northumberland. He married Martha Wright in 1591. He had 2 children by this marriage Martha and Robert. He died on 8 Nov 1605 at Holbeche House in Staffordshire during a shoot out alongside Catesby.

John Wright School Friend of Guy Fawkes Born in 1568. He married his wife Dorothy and had 1 daughter.

Francis Tresham Cousin of Robert Catesby and Brother in Law to Lord Monteagle (The person who uncovered the plot to the King.) Born around 1567 at Rushton Hall in Northamptonshire. The son of Sir Thomas Tresham who died around 1605. He married Anne Tufton, daughter of Sir John Tufton of Hothfield in Kent. They had 3 children Lucy and Thomas (twins, although Thomas died in Infancy) and Elizabeth. Lucy became a nun in Brussels, and Elizabeth married Sir George Heneage of Hainton, Lincolnshire. Other Co-conspirators named were:

Father John Gerard, John Grant, Ambrose Rokewood, Robert Keyes, Sir Everard Digby, Francis Tresham, Thomas Bates and Thomas Ward, John Winter (Wintour) younger brother of Thomas and Robert Winter mentioned above.

There were others aware of the plot and although they may not have taken part in the planning or any of the logistics, they did nothing to prevent them. They were simply poised to take part in the aftermath and sought to help take over the ruling power for Catholics. These included exiled patriots and priests with significant influence in Spain and with the Papacy in Rome:

Oswald Tesimond (Father Greenway), Father Henry Garnet, Hugh Owen, Sir Edmund Baynham, Juan deValasco Duke of Friars and Constable of Castile.

As noted, many of the above men already had children before the plot was hatched in May 1605 and do have living descendants today. You may be surprised who!

The 2017 miniseries “Gunpowder” is now available on most streaming services like Netflix. The lead actor Kit Harington stars as Robert Catesby, a charismatic character with a hidden wild side.

Kit Harington (also known for his Game of Thrones role as Jon Snow) was baptized Christopher Catesby Harington. "Catesby" was his mother's maiden name, a descendant of Robert Catesby.

In this article he speaks of his family connection to the architect of the infamous Gunpowder Plot : He may also related to other historical figures according to "" like Edward I and Princess Diana. (We haven't attempted to verify this claim- though sources may be mentioned)

Having a last name (Surname) matching any of the 19 above is not the only indication of possible lineage as females upon marriage usually adopted the name of their new spouse. Maiden names were often given as a second forename to preserve the name. Some people know that they have a name that is unique or a traditional inclusion, but they don’t know where it originally came from. The only way to know for sure is to research records including but not limited to: Parish Records, Census, Taxation, Court Rolls and the records of the courts of the Monarchs. The best way to begin your search is to start with the basic 7. Your own details (1) and then record your parents (2) and grandparents (4). From there the family branches increase considerably but are essential to the investigation. As each generation adds a minimum of 2 parents to each person in your tree, it can potentially increase as follows:

7 (2 generations) + 8 (3rd Gen.) = 15 Individuals 15 (3rd Gen) + 16 (4th Gen) = 31 Individuals 31 (4th Gen.) + 32 (5th Gen.) = 63 Individuals 63 (5th Gen.) + 64 (6th Gen.) =127 Individuals There are on average between two and three generations of each family every 100 years, so the six generations in the above example may only get to the 1800’s. To get back to the 1600’s it could take another six generations and use of records that are not universally available online.

This is where having a professional genealogist or family history researcher working on the search for you can be beneficial as they have access to records or know where to look for them if they exist. (Not all records have survived)

Another Leaf Genealogy has search packages or monthly search options to consistently grow your tree for you. View the options here:

21 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page