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Family suffragette connection 'empowering', Michelle Keegan reveals

The actress is the latest star to take part in the BBC's Who Do You Think You Are? series.

Michelle Keegan has revealed her pride after learning her great-great-grandmother was involved in the early suffragette movement.

The actress, 30, explored her family history as part of the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? series.

As well as discovering she had Italian roots and her ancestors had been torn apart by the Second World War, Keegan found her grandfather’s side of the family had a special connection to suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst.

Centenary of the Representation of the People Act
Emmeline Pankhurst, founding member of the Women’s Social and Political Union, in 1912 (PA)

Her great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth, married Jack Kirwan in 1901 and their daughter Norah’s birth certificate was registered by Pankhurst who was a registrar for the district in Manchester at the time.

The 1911 census also revealed Elizabeth had entered her occupation as “suffragist”, an important way of protesting women’s lack of representation in society at the time.

Another unearthed document found Elizabeth top of a voting list for her district in 1918, the first time she and many other women would have experienced voting.

Keegan said it was particularly significant because 2018 marks the centenary of the first women being given the vote.

She said: “I could have done it four years ago or last year but the fact is a hundred years this year, makes it a little bit more special to me, and makes me think oh maybe it was fate.”

The Our Girl actress added: “It’s very empowering. I bet a lot of these women would have been fighting for this for years. This day would have meant a lot to them.

“I’m sure my great-great-great-grandkids would watch the show in 100 years from now and think no way were we part of the suffragette movement and no way we got Italian roots, so it’s something that has dawned that is really special that all the family members can look back on.”

Who Do You Think You Are? Michelle Keegan airs on BBC One on Wednesday June 6.

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