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Swiss Mummy Identified as Ancestor of Boris Johnson

26 January 2018

Boris Johnson has found a new way to make headlines: By being the distant descendant of a mummified corpse of a woman who has baffled scientists since she was discovered in a Swiss church more than 40 years ago.

The identity of the woman, buried in 1787 under the Barfüsser church in Basel, has always been a mystery, the Basler Zeitung reported.

Anna Catharina Bischoff's body was uncovered in 1975 while renovations were being done on the Barfuesser church. She is believed to be Johnson's great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother, according to researchers who had been testing her body since 2015and announced their findings on Thursday.

The exact circumstances of Anna Catharina Bischoff's life are also unclear, though the BBC reports that she appears to have contracted syphilis while working to cure patients with the disease in France.

The British foreign minister is the six-times grandson of the Basel mummy. It may not have worked, but the mercury did help to preserve her body until now.

Boris Johnson. Credit PA
Boris Johnson. Credit PA

However, the identity of the woman within seemed lost to history until recently discovered archives revealed that the mummy had actually been unearthed before, in 1843.

Using the most up to date methods, scientists were able to extract DNA material from the mummy's big toe. Five generations of von Pfeffels later, and we find Marie Luise von Pfeffel marrying one Stanley Fred Williams.

Bischoff was born in 1719 into a wealthy Basel family and married a pastor before having seven children, two of whom survived to become adults.

On the death of her husband she returned to her home town of Basel, and apparently underwent rigorous mercury treatment in the hope of a cure.

Their daughter Yvonne married Osman Wilfred Johnson Kemal... and their son, Stanley Johnson, is British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's father. Rosemary Brobst-Rhyner is another of her descendants.

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Swiss Mummy Identified as Ancestor of Boris Johnson