We have all heard the stories of the celebrities whose family history was too dull or boring to be made into an episode for the British series of Who Do You Think You Are?
Michael Parkinson, Cherie Blair, Eamonn Holmes and Stephen Mangan come to mind. But now The Sun newspaper has revealed in an exclusive that Rolling Stone’s Ronnie Wood has been left out of this year’s set of programmes for a completely different reason altogether.
The 71 year old’s family tree was richly populated with Gypsies who lived on barges and therefore was so complicated that the researchers have had to stall for more time!
Our Girl star and Coronation Street actress Michelle Keegan uncovers some exceptional women on her family tree in the episode of Who Do You Think You Are? that is on tonight, Wednesday 6th June 2018 in the U.K.
This Series fifteen of the BBC’s genealogy programme reveals shocking discoveries, laughter and tears along the way. While the rest of the episodes are due to be shown later in the summer, it begins tonight with a stand alone episode to coincide with the BBC’s ‘Hear Her’ series that celebrates the centenary of women obtaining the vote in Britain.
In this programme Michelle Keegan uncovers a special connection to suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst when setting out to trace her Mancunian roots. She also follows a branch of her family tree to Gibraltar and back into several generations to the north of Italy.
You can read about the discoveries in this article on TheGenealogist’s website. (Warning: article may contain spoilers.)
*Disclosure: Please note this post contains an affiliate link. This does notmean that you pay more just that I make a percentage on the sales from my links. The payments help me pay for the cost of running the site. You may like to read this explanation here:
Just as we were all snoozing in the summer sun the BBC suddenly announced that the ever popular genealogy TV series is back. The surprise is that according to the Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine the fourteenth series kicks off in less than two weeks time!
This is what the BBC say at their Media Centre pages on their website.
The BAFTA award-winning genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are? is back for a fourteenth series with a brand new star studded line-up from the worlds of TV, sport, music, comedy and dance.
The show, produced by Wall to Wall (a Warner Bros Television Production UK Ltd company), will return to BBC One this summer.
Actor Charles Dance, sports broadcaster Clare Balding, presenter Emma Willis, Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood, actor Noel Clarke, popstar Lulu, EastEnders actress Lisa Hammond, Citizen Khan comedian Adil Ray, presenter Fearne Cotton, and actress and comedian Ruby Wax all delve into their past in this year’s series.
The series will follow actor Charles Dance’s extraordinary journey as he uncovers the true story of the father he never knew, Craig Revel Horwood traces his Australian roots and discovers he’s not the first dancer in the family, while Clare Balding explores her great grandfather’s deep and possibly romantic relationship with a male artist. From the Australian gold rush to baking powder, from prisoners of war to African royalty, from long lost relatives to vanishing fortunes, our celebrities uncover the remarkable and compelling stories of their ancestors.
In this highly anticipated new series viewers can expect tears, laughter, shocking discoveries, emotional revelations and some intriguing surprises as our celebrities explore their family trees and delve back centuries into their ancestry.
Executive Producer for Wall to Wall Colette Flight says: “Who Do You Think You Are? returns with another fantastic line-up. Our ten celebrities set off on the trail of their ancestors, their journeys taking them to all corners of the globe and places the series has never been before, from a remote Caribbean island to a kingdom in Uganda. The stories they unearth in their family trees are affecting, revelatory, and always fascinating.”
Tom McDonald, BBC Head of Commissioning, Natural History and Specialist Factual, says: “Following its recent BAFTA success, this new series of Who Do You Think You Are? promises fascinating revelations from some of the UK’s best-loved actors, performers and presenters. The series continues to be our most watched history series across the BBC – and I know viewers are in for a real treat.”
Disclosure: Please note this post contains affiliate links.
I watched the first programme in the new BBC series of Who Do You Think You Are? with a certain amount of extra interest this week. As the show revealed that the cockney actor, who plays the landlord of the Queen Vic in East Enders, was descended from Albert Buttivant I became a bit concerned when Danny Dyer started talking about French ancestry.
You see, I was involved in putting together the article for TheGenealogist website, which you can read here.
Our research had not traced Albert Buttivant, the one time inmate of the Old Town Workhouse, back to France and so I wondered where the show was going! Imagine my relief, as our article had already been published on TheGenealogist’s website, that the programme quickly got back on course and identified the line to be the same as the one that we had found back to East Anglia.
I watched nervously as they made the same connection as we had to the landowning ancestor named Robert Gosnold (1587-1633), a member of the landed gentry with a coat of arms. It is the Gosnold family connection that gives Danny a gateway ancestor into blue blooded forebears via Thomas Cromwell. The self taught lawyer who had risen from being the son of a blacksmith to be the Chief Minister to Henry VIII only to lose the king’s favour and end in execution on Tower Hill.
As we had guessed correctly – the marriage of Thomas Cromwell’s son Gregory to Elizabeth Seymour, sister of Jane Seymour and Henry VIII’s third wife, was Danny Dyer’s link to royalty. We knew that this was where the programme would be heading, as it had been widely trailed in the press in the days before; but it just goes to show how many of us mere common people could possibly find a drop of diluted royal blood in our own ancestry if we looked far enough back and had a spot of luck.
What the programme didn’t tackle, however, is the strength of the Seymour’s claim to royal blood and with it Danny Dyer’s claim. It is through Jane and Elizabeth’s mother, Margaret Wentworth, that a descent from the blood-royal of England was maintained by the family. The assertion is that it flows in their veins from an intermarriage between a Wentworth and a supposed daughter of Sir Henry Percy (1364–1403), known as Harry Hotspur, who was the eldest son of the 1st Earl of Northumberland. Hotspur had married Elizabeth Mortimer, grand-daughter to Lionel Duke of Clarence the third son of King Edward III of England.
At the time of Jane Seymour’s marriage to Henry VIII few people would have dared to dispute a pedigree with the king and he was convinced that his bride was a royal cousin. In the TV episode Danny’s pedigree was presented on a beautiful scroll by a Herald from the College of Arms, who is an expert in the oldest families of the realm. So it does make me wonder, is that a line drawn under that particular dispute then?
While at the NEC for the Who Do You Think You Are? Live show I managed to catch up with Andrew Chapman the editor of the Discover Your Ancestors Bookazines and online periodicals.
Some readers of the publications may have noticed that I am now a regular writer for Discover Your Ancestors, so I make no apology for this being the first of my video interviews from a great three days in Brum!
Read my article in this month’s Discover Your Ancestors periodical on the highest ranking British ofﬁcer held by the Germans and found in the new online German prisoner of war records released by TheGenealogist .
Last Thursday night, on BBC TV, saw what many people on my facebook page are saying was the best programme in the 12th UK series of Who Do You Think You Are so far. The subject was Frank Gardner, the BBC’s Security Correspondent who made the news himself in June 2004 when he was shot six times and seriously wounded by al-Qaeda sympathisers in Saudi Arabia.
It was his maternal family tree, that was the subject of the one hour show. It would seem to have delighted those viewers that have commented on social media because, while it did pick out certain key ancestors to look at in more detail, the episode went on to trace Frank’s line as far back as the research would take them. This happened to be to William the Conqueror himself and so it more than validated the family story, that Frank had heard as a child from his mother, that they were descended from the Normans.
You certainly couldn’t have wanted to find a better ancestor than the Norman King, if you were trying to prove that your family came over with the Normans! Without any shadow of a doubt William, Duke of Normandy, is one Norman that no one can dispute arrived in England at that time.
The satisfaction of being able to trace one generation back to another and then back to another, and so on for 31 generations, is something that very few of us can have the gratification of being able to do. Yet I was asked by a contact this weekend if I had noticed that it was often a pretty zig-zag line that was taken. The lineage, they had spotted from the pedigree shown on the screen, would meander back though the mother of an ancestor and then her mother. The next generation back was again via the female line and then, perhaps, the male branch for a couple of generations before going up the female line again.
“How could the Herald at the College of Arms have told Frank that he was directly descended from William the Conqueror?”
“Because he is!” I replied, nonplussed. “A direct line does not mean everyone has to have the same surname and be descended from the male. Women are just as important as ancestors to us all.”
I believe that this is a mistake that many may make in their family tree research. Unintentionally concentrating on charging back up one line following the father, the grandfather to trace the surname back. This can even happen if our quest started with a woman.
It takes two to create an offspring and the child, we know now, receives half their DNA from each parent. So take time to investigate some of your female lines and see where they take you. You too may be as lucky as Frank Gardner in your discoveries.
TheGenealogist website’s researchers have also turned up an interesting fact about the journalist’s dad.
I watched the Sir Derek Jacobi episode of Who Do You think You Are? with great interest this week. The television researchers showed us that although the famous actor was born into a South London family of humble stock, he was descended from a Huguenot ancestor of status. Joseph De La Plaigne had been imprisoned in France for his protestant beliefs, before making his escape to England in his sixties.
It gave me great delight to find the TV programme showed Sir Derek a copy of his illustrious forebear’s will, as I too had discovered this very same document when looking around the Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills on TheGenealogist’s website.
Many people from all stations of society, including some whom we would not have expected to have, made wills and so it is certainly worth taking a look to see if your ancestors left one.
Before 1858, England and Wales were divided into two provinces. The largest and most influential was Canterbury, which covered the South of England up to the Midlands and also Wales. The other was York, which covered Durham, Yorkshire, Northumberland, Westmorland, Cumberland, Lancashire, Cheshire, Nottinghamshire, and the Isle of Man. The two provinces of Canterbury and York each had their own Archbishop, and were divided into several dioceses. Each diocese had a minimum of two bishops, and these dioceses were also divided again into archdeaconries.
All wills, up until 12 January 1858, had to be proven in a church court to ensure that the will was legal. Wills were proven in over 250 church courts across the country, and the records of these are now stored mostly in local record offices.
For more on wills there is a module that reveals more about the subject inside the Family History Researcher Academy course on English/Welsh Family History that is available from the link below. The course takes the student from beginning researching their English/Welsh ancestor to deal with many intermediate level lessons such as wills and much more.
Did you watch the Paul Hollywood programme in the 12th series of Who Do You Think You Are?
I thought it was a great show to start the new series off. Paul came across as a genuine normal guy who like many of us wished he had taken the time to speak more to his relatives about the past before they sadly died.
Even though one of the main lessons in my Family History course is to talk to your relatives and jot down what they tell you, as a basis for then trying to substantiate their stories with research in actual records, I too am guilty of not having done this before it was too late with some of my own family.
In this week’s TV show Paul Hollywood, from The Great British Bake Off, was taken back to his grandfather’s WWII experience in North Africa. It was here that his grandfather Norman Harman (1913 – 2003) had been sent as soon as he had completed his training. At Medjez el Bab in Tunisia, Norman’s Light Anti-Aircraft division were protecting the infantry from enemy air attacks at the time of the major Allied offensive to take Tunis from the German forces. With the enemy throwing bombs and missiles at them it was hard on these men.
From there Paul travelled to Italy, where he learnt about how his grandfather was part of the landing force that became trapped on the beaches at Anzio for four months, surrounded by Germans and all the while under constant aerial bombardment. Paul gets to see the landing area where his grandfather and the other men would have felt like sitting ducks, with death and devastation all around them. Norman and his comrades finally managed to land and their gun was then transported five miles inland. Unfortunately for them the regiment was soon surrounded by the enemy in a dangerously exposed area. Huge numbers of men had no choice but to dig themselves into 7ft long fox holes and spend months trapped, coming under repeated German shell attacks.
In May 1944 and thanks to Norman’s regiment’s extraordinary efforts, the stalemate at Anzio was broken. The next month the Allied armies went on to liberate Rome, but not without the loss of 14,000 lives. Paul’s grandfather brought back from this conflict a visible memento of his terrifying time. He had developed a facial tic that stayed with him until he died.
Researching his line even further back, Paul Hollywood was seen in the Who Do You Think You Are? programme to use TheGenealogist’s ‘family forename search’ to find Alexander McKenzie, a Wood Turner who had come down to Liverpool from his native Glasgow. I was very glad to see that this company’s excellent resource was used by Paul, in place of one of the other two subscription sites who normally always get a look in.
Following his Scottish family line up to Glasgow Paul then found that the next generation in the McKenzie family was a Glasgow Policeman, down from the Highlands, who had a certain amount of trouble avoiding alcohol and was eventually dismissed from the Police force, moved to Liverpool before returning to Glasgow and death in the Poorhouse.
Paul then discovered in the programme that his great, great, great, great grandfather Donald McKenzie, was a Highland postman with quite extraordinary stamina. As a crofter with little land he had to make ends meet with other employment. Donald’s was a post runner. Not having a horse, with which to cover his rounds delivering the mail to 30,000 people, Donald simply ran the 120 miles with the mail every week from one side of Scotland to the other.
With thanks to TheGenealogist for permission to use part of their article as a basis for this post. You can read the full piece, that reveals even more about Paul Hollywood’s family history, by clicking this link:
The BBC have now revealed the running order in which the Who do You Think You Are? celebrities episodes will be broadcast this coming August, September and October. This is the 12th series in the UK and I for one am intrigued as to what family history stories are going to be revealed.
This perennially popular genealogical TV programme starts with the Great British Bake Off judge Paul Hollywood, whose maternal family will be explored on 13th August. From what I have read it will be concentrating on his grandfather’s war experiences in Tunisia and Africa before jumping back a few generations to a Scottish line of his. Paul’s ancestor was a postman, in the Highlands, who was unable to afford a horse with which to cover his rounds delivering the mail to 30,000 people. Donald McKenzie, instead, ran the 120 miles with the mail every week.
The series will be aired every Thursday evening at 9pm on BBC One, with a one week break in between Derek Jacobi and Jerry Hall’s episodes on 3 September.
Although the schedule may still be subject to change, Frances de la Tour’s story will close the series on 22nd of October.
13 August: Paul Hollywood
20 August: Jane Seymour
27 August: Derek Jacobi
3 September: No episode
10 September: Jerry Hall
17 September: Gareth Malone
24 September: Anne Reid
1 October: Frank Gardner
8 October: Anita Rani
15 October: Mark Gatiss
22 October: Frances de la Tour
Hit a brick wall with your English/Welsh ancestors?
Learn how to discover the many records and resources to find your forebears within
I’ve been reading a fascinating article by leading genealogist Laura Berry in this month’s Discover Your Ancestors Periodical. It explains more about how between the 17th and 20th centuries hundreds of thousands of foreign settlers applied for protection from the Crown and government by becoming British subjects.
Laura, knows her subject as she is a freelance writer, family historian and archive researcher who has been the lead genealogist for the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? series in the past and has written about family history for many publications. In her article for Discover Your Ancestors she explains that prior to 1844 the vast majority of applicants became ‘denizens’ after pleading for a patent of denization from the monarch, which bestowed certain privileges and was easier to obtain than a private Act of Naturalisation from Parliament. To be entitled to almost equal rights as people born in this country, aliens needed to be ‘naturalised’, a process that was made more affordable with the passing of the 1844 Naturalisation Act when the Home Office assumed responsibility for issuing naturalisation certificates and a private Act of Parliament was no longer necessary.
This is only one of many really interesting articles in this month’s online periodical and I highly recommend you buy a copy.