Uncovers a Bewitching Past for Harry Potter's Emma Watson

Thu Jul 30, 2009 6:00am EDT

* Reuters is not responsible for the content in this press release.

  PROVO, UT, Jul 30 (MARKET WIRE) -- 
Actress Emma Watson, who plays an exceptionally talented witch and the
best friend of Harry Potter in the blockbuster Harry Potter series, has a
real-life connection to her role as Hermione. According to the family
history research experts at, English records show Watson's
distant relative was Joan Playle of Essex County, England, a 16th-century
English woman convicted of witchcraft in 1592.

    While the details around Playle's conviction remain a mystery, records
indicate she was unmarried, which could have led to the accusation of
being a witch. During the Elizabethan era, women who were poor, old,
widowed, single or otherwise unprotected were those most often at risk
for such accusations. Based on the research, it appears
Playle was not executed for her alleged crimes, but she was
excommunicated from the Church of England and was one of only 270 known
individuals accused of and tried for witchcraft in all of England during
the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

    "Researching your family's past can have just as many twists and turns as
a movie blockbuster, and this was exciting research to delve into for our
team," said Anastasia Tyler, a genealogist at "It's not
every day we're able to trace the branches of a family tree back to
16th-century witch trials. Combine that with a celebrity connection to
Emma Watson and the fact that she plays a witch in Harry Potter... you
couldn't script it any better."

    Research also revealed Playle was convicted in the parish of Great Waltham
in Essex County, a town approximately 50 miles northeast of London and
about 100 miles from Oxfordshire, where Watson grew up.

    Magical Cast-Mate Family Trees

    The family history experts at conjured up even more magic in
Harry Potter cast-mates' family trees:

--  Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) -- Although Radcliffe isn't related to
    princes or wizards, his family does hail from Ireland, which is magic
    enough in its own right. He descends from bakers and plumbers and grocers,
    respectable occupations the Dursleys would likely be proud to have in their
--  Rupert Grint (Ronald Weasley) -- Grint's family was employed in a
    truly "Muggle" brand of "defense against the dark arts," with two of his
    2nd great-grandfathers and one of his 3rd great-grandfathers working in the
    Royal Small Arms Factory in London as a "barrel turner," "sight filer" and
    "gun smith" respectively.
--  Helena Bonham Carter (Belatrix Lestrange) -- Bonham Carter is the
    cast's true "half-blooded prince," as she descends from a long line of
    nobility. Her great-grandfather Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford
    and Asquith, served as Liberal Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from
    1908 through 1916, and her 3rd great-grandfather Sir John Carter III
    received the honor of knighthood from His Majesty King George III.
--  JK Rowling -- Interestingly, the author's own family tree lacks the
    charms and enchantments of her books. Her 2nd great-grandfather Henry John
    Holland worked for several years as a "car man." And in 1841, her 4th great-
    grandfather John Robson was a "tea dealer."

To find out what magic your family tree might hold, visit

    About is the world's largest online resource for family history and
has digitized and put online over 4 billion records over the past twelve
years. Ancestry users have created over ten million family trees
containing over one billion profiles. has local Web sites
directed at nine countries, and more than 8 million unique visitors spent
more than 5 million hours on an Ancestry Web site in May 2009 (comScore
Media Metrix, Worldwide). For more information on and its
other family history resources, visit

    Web sites:

Sara Black
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