Family history website launches catalogue of knights

Family historians who suspect they descend from the great and the good can now trace online any ancestors awarded honours as far as back as the 17th century.

An archive published on the web for the first time reveals the names of the heroes of old whose great deeds were recognised by the monarch of their day.

The Catalogue of Knights 1660-1760, launched by family history website Ancestry.co.uk, lists almost 1,300 men who were rewarded with knighthoods for their service to society.

The records, which go live this week, include the date of the knighthood, death date, age at death, birthplace and names of relatives within a short biography.

Just like today, knighthoods in the 17th and 18th centuries were granted for a range of accomplishments, from business to politics, bravery, dedication to duty and to a lesser degree entertainment and literature.

Famous names on the list include Sir Isaac Newton, who in 1705 became the first scientist to be knighted, paving the way for many more honours to be bestowed on members of his profession in the years to come.

Historian Sir Winston Churchill, an ancestor of the 20th century British wartime Prime Minister, was knighted in 1664.

Politicians featuring in the collection include Sir Thomas Bloodworth, the Lord Mayor of London during the Great Fire of London who was knighted despite public criticism of his slow response to the epic blaze.

The records span the English Restoration period, beginning when Charles II claimed the throne after returning from exile, and continue into the

Age of Enlightenment, when scientists and philosophers made some of the greatest breakthroughs of modern times.

They are published in the run-up to the announcement of the 2011 New Year honours.

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