A RETIRED civil servant from Sydenham was ‘flabbergasted’ to discover he was related to Abraham Lincoln.
Robert Gilchrist, 61, has discovered he is the eighth cousin three times removed of the most famous US president.
As a result he has been offered a once-in-a-lifetime trip to explore his relative’s resting place in America’s Midwest.
The Illinois Office of Tourism asked genealogist Anthony Adolph to help find people in the UK who were related to Lincoln, whose life was made into a film starring Daniel Day Lewis last year.
Mr Gilchrist, of Woodbastwick Road, Sydenham, has been tracing his family tree for around four years and came across an appeal from Mr Adolph in an ancestry magazine.
He said: “The advert asked if people had ancestors who lived in Hingham in Norfolk in the 1600s. I knew one of my ancestors had married a Lincoln about 400 years ago and emigrated because of the religious turmoil.
“I did some more research on the internet and sent off the details.
“However I didn’t think anything of it and then about three weeks later I was told I was a relative - I was flabbergasted.
“When I told my family, they had a similar reaction to me as in: ‘this kind of thing does not happen to people like us’.
"Lincoln was such an influential figure in American history highlighted by his abolishment of slavery."
The Illinois Office of Tourism has offered Mr Gilchrist a trip to America this summer so he can visit the 16th US president’s house, the law offices where he worked and his final resting place in Oak Ridge Cemetery.
Mr Gilchrist added: “I’ve been reading up on him and hopefully my wife and I will be in Springfield Illinois for Independence Day on July 4 which would be amazing.”
The search for a UK relative was a difficult one as expert Mr Adolph admitted.
The Tracing Your Aristocratic Ancestors author said: “I was inundated - I never realised there were so many Lincoln enthusiasts out there, who believed they were related to the Lincoln family.
“Several people tried to claim the title through inherited family trees, which were unfortunately incorrect, but then we saw Robert’s information and we knew we had found a strong contender.”
Mr Gilchrist could trace his mother’s genealogy to Samuel Gilman, an apprentice weaver, who was baptised in Hingham in 1644.
With Mr Adolph’s help he discovered it was likely Samuel’s father Robert Gilman was the son of an earlier Robert Gilman, who was a brother of an Edward Gilman.
It was Edward Gilman's daughter, Bridget, who was the mother of Abraham Lincoln’s migrant ancestor Samuel Lincoln.
Bridget was the five times great grandmother of President Lincoln - making Robert Gilchrist an eighth cousin three times removed of the president.
For more information on tracing your family history, read this News Shopper article on the Bromley Archives.