Actor Learns Painful Family History on TV Show

Letters explain a suicide and a death in war
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 15, 2019 6:46 PM CDT
Updated Jul 20, 2019 11:30 AM CDT
Family Suicide Note Leaves Daniel Radcliffe Emotional
Daniel Radcliffe read his great-grandfather's suicide note on a BBC program.   (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)

The suicide note left by his great-grandfather had an emotional effect on Daniel Radcliffe. “You want to just reach into the past and just go, ‘Whatever you’re going through, you have so much to offer the people who are around you still … you have so much to give to them," the actor said after reading the note, the Sun reports. "And, they still would all have loved you." The actor broke down on Who Do You Think You Are? The BBC series shows celebrities dramatic information about their families, per People. Samuel Gershon, 42, killed himself after a robbery at his London jewelry store in 1936. He filed an insurance claim, but with British fascism on the rise, there was evidence that anti-Semitic detectives didn't take the case seriously, per the Sun, suspecting the robbery was faked. "Jews are so frequently responsible for the bringing down of their own business premises," a police report said. Gershon was unable to face the bankruptcy and failure of the business he built.

Radcliffe also learned during filming that his great-great-uncle Ernie McDowell was killed in World War I. He was one of four brothers of Radcliffe's great-great-grandmother Flo who fought in the war. Ernie, who lived in Northern Ireland, was the only one not to survive, per the Mirror. On the episode, Radcliffe read letters between Ernie and his mother, Elizabeth, and his girlfriend, Jeanie. One from Elizabeth urged Ernie to return safely "to the same loving mother that you left behind." Ernie and Jeanie married in 1915 while he was recovering from injuries. But one of the letters Radcliffe read was from a soldier in Ernie's unit to Elizabeth. In 1916, it said, "your boy and two more chaps from Belfast" had just reached a trench when a shell hit, killing all three instantly. (More Daniel Radcliffe stories.)

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