Friday, July 8, 2011

Famous Ancestors

My great, great, great (great?) grandfather was Captain Matthew Webb (1848 - 1883) the first person to swim the English Channel! He continued his career as a professional entertainer and swimmer in the USA. He performed very popular feats of high diving, diving into shallow pools and once tread water and floated in a tank of water for 128 hours! Quite a guy.

He met his demise while attempting (and failing) to swim under Niagra Falls, a feat many observers considered suicidal. They were correct!

The other day I Googled him and found a reference to the Find a Grave site where someone had posted a photo of his grave. Alongside the photo were comments left by visitors to the site. One entry caught my attention as it said the poster was a direct relative to Matthew Webb. It was a woman who lived in Norman, Oklahoma and she left an email address. Here is an unknown relative of mine! I emailed her and after a lengthy exchange of emails we ended up talking on the phone.

One of my nephews had previously made an attempt to trace the family tree as it applied to Capt. Webb but reached a dead end when he read that Webb had no children. The woman from Oklahoma refuted this, saying her mother had done the same search and had found several offspring in various areas of the USA.

This woman is most likely a cousin of some sort and it was great talking to someone from that side of my family.

Captain Webb's image was featured on a box of Bryant and May matches and is said to be the inspiration for the character of Inspector Clouseau, portrayed originally in the Pink Panther movies by Peter Sellers.


  1. This was an interesting post about your famous great, great, great (?) grandfather. I'm glad you found a relative that you didn't know about before...

    You & Norma take care. We miss you both.


  2. Great post! Capt. Webb sounds like quite the character. I see the resemblance! LOL

    I need to do some genealogy research but I'm way too lazy! I'll get on it one of these days.

  3. Growing up I was always told that Captain Matthew Webb was my 4th great Uncle. But he isn't and I find this disappointing for some reason!