Hopwood Hard Hat

People who search genealogy websites often find birth and marriage records, newspaper clippings, faded photographs or maybe a long-lost relative.

Hopwood DePree found a 60-room English manor.

As a child growing up in Holland, Mich., in the 1970s, Mr. DePree was transfixed when his beloved maternal grandfather, Pap, a history buff, told him about a huge slice of rolling land across the ocean where his forebears had a grand house called Hopwood Castle.

A castle in Britain owned by his family? Named for his family? No way.

Fast forward three and a half decades. Mr. DePree, by then an actor and producer in Los Angeles, was at his computer early one night in the spring of 2013, trawling an ancestry website.

The past had become a favorite destination for him after Pap’s death in 2008 and, two years later, the sudden death of his father, Thomas, from a massive heart attack. Mr. DePree was left unmoored, uncertain about the way forward. Tracing his roots was a comfort.

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