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My surprise pretends to be the English cousin of the American president

Paul Harris (left) has unearthed family records that show an ancestral connection to President Biden

Last week, the BBC investigated the recent discovery of an English link in the ancestry of US President Joe Biden. Since then, a family in England has claimed a connection to the president through the same ancestors. They explained what it means to them.

My surprise pretends to be the English cousin of the American president

Short gray line of presentation

For 20 years, Paul Harris has made it a hobby of stepping back in time.

Little by little, he pieced together the disparate parts of his ancestors like an epic puzzle.

There was her grandmother, Kathleen Mary Brooks, and her great-grandmother, Ann Maria Davies, before her.

Beyond that, the name Biden began to appear. The name only sounded one day late last year, when Mr Harris’ daughter Rose Patton made an impromptu comment.

“Wouldn’t it be funny if we were related to Joe Biden?” she said, referring to the newly elected President of the United States.

Stunned by the idea, Mr. Harris told his daughter he would look into the matter.

My surprise pretends to be the English cousin of the American president

Daughter Rose Patton (left) said she hinted at the Biden link as a joke

When he did, he found research which had established a strong connection between the president and Bidens of Westbourne, a village in West Sussex in England.

Suddenly the dots started to join. Names, dates, places – every detail of these Bidens matched his records perfectly.

This led him to a surprising conclusion: he appeared to be President Biden’s fifth cousin.

“You know, that hadn’t even occurred to me,” Mr Harris told the BBC. “Even when he was elected, his name was not registered.”

Mr Harris, a 60-year-old software engineer from Hampshire, claims family ties to the president through his great-great-grandmother, Emily Biden.

She was originally from Westbourne, where several generations of her family once lived.

Among them was his uncle, William Biden, whose life choices would reverberate through time and space in ways he could never have imagined. A census file and other documents suggest he emigrated from England to the United States in the early 1800s.

Analysis of these documents last year gave historian Eddy Greenfield and genealogist Megan Smolenyak the confidence to write William Biden’s name in history.

They identified him as President Biden’s great-great-great-grandfather. Then, in an article last week, the BBC showed how she came to this conclusion.

Now Mr. Harris has filled in more blanks.

He showed BBC records of births, marriages and census data that bridges the current occupant of the White House.

My surprise pretends to be the English cousin of the American president

Family tree showing President Joe Biden’s connection to an English family

Mr Harris grew up in the coastal town of Portsmouth, not far from where his Biden ancestors took root in southern England centuries ago.

“We come from a working class family at all levels,” said Mr. Harris, drawing parallels to the humble traps of President Biden’s youth in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Little stories of this legacy pricked Mr. Harris’ ears. He wanted to know more, and in the early 2000s he started looking for hard evidence to verify these stories.

My surprise pretends to be the English cousin of the American president

Mr Harris said three generations of his family lived at 101 Boulton Rd in Portsmouth. Pictured here outside the house is her great-grandmother, Anne Davies (R), with three of her children

He meticulously assembled the records, compiling them into an encyclopedic dossier of biographical minutiae. It included every known member of his family, from long-deceased grandfathers to his eight-year-old granddaughter, Ivy.

Without his curiosity, the connection to President Biden may never have been discovered. She was behind the discussion in which her mother, Ms Patton, 34, hinted at a possible relationship “as some kind of joke”.

Once the connection was made, the family embraced their new ancestry with pride.

Mr Harris and his daughter made several pilgrimages to Westbourne to search for Biden’s gravestones, which they never found. Ms Patton’s four children were more excited about the family tree, which two of them – Ivy and her 12-year-old brother Marley – printed to show off to their friends at school.

My surprise pretends to be the English cousin of the American president

Ivy and Marley want their grandpa to write a letter to the White House

A gesture of recognition from President Biden would be even more exciting for the children.

“They are awaiting their invitation to the White House,” Mr. Harris said.

Although this is apparently a joke, the prospect of a family reunion is not inconceivable.

Prior to his presidency, Mr Biden made several trips to meet distant relatives in the Republic of Ireland, where the ancestors of the more famous side of his family came from.

“I think he is right to be proud of his Irish heritage,” said Mr Harris. “Now he can also be proud of his English heritage.”

Learn more about Joe Biden’s Irish roots:

It is unclear what President Biden knows about this legacy, which the BBC has brought to the attention of the White House unanswered.

President Biden has been pretty busy lately, with much of his time taken up with summits in the UK and Europe.

“It’s not like he can pop and have tea with us,” Ms. Patton said. Yet she urged her father to write to her anyway.

If he answered, his letter would be one for the ages.

“It would be nice to have something for the kids, something they can keep for their kids,” Ms. Patton said.

My surprise pretends to be the English cousin of the American president

Mr Harris said he was not expecting a response from the President given his busy schedule

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