12 October 2020
Have you been inspired by David Walliams and Jodie Whittaker's journeys of discovery on the BBC show Who Do You Think You Are? Find out more about tracing your own ancestors with our quick guide.
Did you enjoy the latest episode of Who Do You Think You Are?
In episode four of Who Do You Think You Are? - 2 November - Silent Witness actor Liz Carr gets forensic about her family history. She investigates a rumour that an ancestor was involved in some sort of assault, discovering that her paternal great-great-great-grandfather was involved in the attempted murder of a prominent landlord in rural Northern Ireland in the 1850s.
On her mother's side, she learns about her grandfather, who died when her mother was just two. Orphaned as a child, John Joseph Hughes took part in the Royal Navy's Northern Patrol during the First World War, then joined the merchant navy and travelled the world.
In episode three of Who Do You Think You Are? - 26 October - actor and writer Ruth Jones - Nessa from Gavin and Stacey - confessed to a passion “to share the wonderful characters in Wales” and she finds several in her own family tree.
On her mum’s side, Ruth discovered Welsh mariners who travelled the world. On her late dad’s side, Ruth learnt that her grandfather Henry Richard Jones was a leading figure in the Medical Aid Societies of South Wales, a forerunner of the NHS.
Ruth discovered how her granddad’s work led him to lobby the Minister of Health Aneurin Bevan - a fellow Welshman who became known as the father of the NHS. Locally, Ruth’s grandad was remembered for his devotion to his fellow men and women.
In episode two of Who Do You Think You Are? - 19 October, David Walliams discovers the story of his paternal great grandfather - whose prolonged and traumatic experience on the battlefields of France and Belgium left him with such severe symptoms of PTSD that he could never return to peacetime life with his young family.
On his mother’s side, David unearths the story of a great-great grandfather who became blind as the result of pioneering eye surgery in the 1880s. David’s amazed to find out that, like him, his ancestor became an entertainer - first a street musician and then a travelling showman, running fairground attractions with the help of his wife and children.
In episode 1, Dr Who star Jodie Whittaker explored the romantic story she had been told about how her beloved paternal grandmother Greta came to be given the middle name of Verdun - also the name of a First World War battle, and uncovered much more about Greta’s eldest half-brother’s forgotten sacrifice.
On her mum’s side, Jodie got to the bottom of how her great-great grandfather worked his way up from being a child labourer in a Yorkshire coal mine to a mine owner - and how, controversially, his sons kept the family’s mines open during the biggest strikes of the 1920s.
Of course, it's not just celebrities who have stories to tell about their ancestry, your own family history will have twists and turns, tales of hardship and success… it's all there waiting to be discovered!
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Did you know? Photo expert Jayne Shrimpton, who appears in David Walliams' episode, is running a special webinar on dating family photographs on 24 November – find out more…
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In her Who Do You Think You Are? episode Jodie Whittaker visited the National Coal Mining Museum in West Yorkshire, a fascinating visitor attraction which also holds a library of records on miners. In our latest blog we take a look at the archives, libraries and museums that have reopened in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Read more…
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