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Page last updated at 09:28 GMT, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 10:28 UK
'My grandfather was a bigamist'
By Emma Midgley
BBC Berkshire

Derek Trinder and Karen Kimberley
Karen's family include a bigamist, a suffragette and a Polish prisoner of war

Karen Kimberley comes from Taplow in Berkshire, but she has managed to trace her family's origins to Lancashire, Chelsea and even Poland.

Her ancestors span every variation from a Chelsea suffragette to a Polish prisoner of war.

Her grandfather has also been unmasked as a womanising rogue who entered into a bigamist marriage while travelling the world.

Karen's research was aided by Berkshire Family History Society in Reading.

Karen said she had been having 'sleepless nights' since learning about her relatives. "I keep lying awake and thinking about their stories," she said.

Colourful ancestors

One of Karen's colourful ancestors was Henry David Butterworth, known as Harry, Karen's paternal grandfather - who has always been rumoured to be 'the bigamist' of the family.

But researching Harry's past has raised even more questions than it has answered.

"Harry changed his name, age and falsified his qualifications before getting a job abroad while married to my grandmother," said Karen.

Harry David Butterworth (left)
Karen's grandmother learned of her husband's bigamy following his death

"During the times he went abroad we found a string of letters from a number of different women.

"In 1944 he was travelling to India on a ship called The Regent and he met a lady called Isabel, a BBC journalist. We've found letters from her as well as from a number of other ladies. He was really a bit of a cad and a bounder."

Henry used his travels to enjoy affairs with a number of women. He was so little in contact with his wife, that she only discovered that he had died a year after his funeral. It was then that Karen's grandmother discovered her husband had another family, who had become the beneficiaries of his will.

'I started to question everything'

Karen has since read the letters exchanged between her grandmother and the other 'wife', which survive along with letters to Harry from other women.

"When I found his will, which is a public record, I found he'd left a large amount of money," said Karen. "He was always talking about being poverty-stricken. It was quite surprising how much he'd left. He left about £140,000 in today's money."

"I started to ask myself, was he actually travelling abroad, or did he just use that as an excuse to lead a double life with his other women?

"We have to challenge everything. It's kind of shifted my world view. It has led to a few sleepless nights, wondering how he lived."


Another interesting ancestor who became a subject of Karen's research was her paternal great-grandmother, who was called Florence Clegg, mother of Olive Ashworth, who was married to Harry.

A painting from Florence's autograph book
Suffragettes adopted the colour scheme of purple, white and green

According to family legend Florence had been one of the first suffragettes and had campaigned along with Emmeline Pankhurst while at university.

And the discovery of an autograph book, kept by Florence while she was at university between 1902 and 1904, gives an insight into turn of the century with its collection of contemporary cartoons, paintings and verses.

Derek Trinder from the Berkshire Family History Society said that Florence would have been the 'Chelsea Sloane ranger' of her day.

"She would have been one of the most educated women of her generation," he said. "It was very unusual for women to go to university at that time. It was the first teacher-training college for women and very progressive for its time.

"Some of the people who appeared in that autograph book were later involved in the suffragette movement in London."

POW camp victim

The final chapter in the story of Karen's ancestors is that of her step-grandfather, Franciszek Dudek, a Polish soldier who she believes was captured and tortured by the Germans in World War II.

Marjorie and Franciszek Duduk
Franciszek survived the Second World War, and emigrated to Philidelphia

Her grandmother Marjorie met Franciszek while working at Turners asbestos factory - the largest asbestos factory in Europe at the time.

"I learned quite a bit about him from my aunt Frances," said Karen. "She was named after her father. He was in the Polish Army and won medals in the Second World War. My aunt thinks that he was at Dachau concentration camp."

Derek said: "He was conscripted from 1939 and he fought against the Germans for between eight and 10 days. The last record we have of him in action is as a rifleman in industrial Poland. Then he disappears and we have no further trace of him until he turns up in 1945 in Paris in April.

"What happened in those intervening six years we don't know, but I think he was captured and either sent to a slave labour camp, a POW camp or a concentration camp. He could have been in Dachau. He was certainly in a prisoner of war camp."

Although 20% of the Polish population were killed in World War II, Franciszek survived and lived to emigrate to Philadelphia. However, he died young from stomach cancer, possibly aggravated by malnutrition suffered while a prisoner of war.

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