SHENANDOAH -- London, England is a mere 3,500 miles from the coal region of Pennsylvania, but you can forgive folks in Shamokin and Shenandoah if they're feeling a close bond with Great Britain's royal family these days after news broke that the future princess has a connection to coal country.
Last week, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their engagement. The couple is set to get married in the spring of 2018. You might be saying to yourself, "yeah, this is old news." Well, thanks to one local historian's research, Markle's family tree actually links back to our area, dating all the way back to the 1800s.
Next spring, the world will be watching when American TV star Meghan Markle joins Britain's royal family, marrying Prince Harry, but for folks here in northeastern Pennsylvania, Markle's matrimony hits close to home.
It turns out Markle has family ties to Schuylkill and Northumberland counties. According to local historian and retired Southern Columbia teacher Andy Ulicny, who studied Markle's family tree, Markle's great-great-great-grandfather worked in the mines in Tower City and in the Shenandoah area.
On the other side of the family, Markle's great-grandfather was born in Shamokin in 1891.
"Meghan Markle, whose real name is Rebeccah, was born in 1981 in Los Angeles. Her father, Thomas Wayne Markle, in 1944. Her grandfather, Gordon Arnold Markle, was born in Juniata County. Meghan's great-grandfather was Isaac Markle, and he was born in Shamokin," said Ulicny of Shenandoah.
Newswatch 16 spoke with a few people in Shamokin who were very surprised to hear that Prince Harry's fiancée of all people has a local connection.
"I think that's amazing that we have a connection to the royals. That's wonderful," said Betty Ann Layton, Shamokin.
"I'm very shocked and glad that somebody in this area actually found somebody good," said Amy McCabe, Shamokin.
One gentlemen we spoke with has an invite out to Prince Harry and Markle. He sent out an invitation to the couple to visit the area because he wants a taste of royalty.
"They'll need a lot of security. That's for sure. I think it'd be wonderful. That would be such an honor," said Robert Rubendall of Shamokin.
Ulicny tells Newswatch 16 that he devoted about two or three hours of research into his findings after a production company reached out to him for a documentary on the couple that aired on BBC. He added that he just enjoys studying genealogy in his free time.