Yesterday, the BBC released a programme celebrating 100 episodes of the show that made genealogy ‘cool again… well, sort of’, according to Davina McCall. Tonight will see its brand new 11th series kick off with Julie Walters on BBC One at 9pm. We won’t ruin it for you, but let’s just say the episode focuses on farming and politics, with a dash of criminal scandal added for good measure.
This series looks set to be a cracker, as series producer Kathryn Taylor explained to ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ magazine: “When we make ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ we always find that there are universal themes that shine through, such as bravery, tragedy and love. However, what we’ve noticed with this series is that we seem to have a lot of fights – fights for freedom, fights for political rights and fights for justice. We’ve really got an empowered set of underdogs this year!”
Apart from Julie Walters, the relatives of that ‘empowered set of underdogs’ include: baking guru and ‘The Great British Bake Off’ judge Mary Berry; Shakespearean actor Brian Blessed, who recently revealed he turned down the role of Doctor Who years ago; funny man, actor and traveller Billy Connolly; Brendan O’Carroll, aka ‘Agnes Brown’; ex-Eastender and ‘New Tricks’ actress Tamzin Outhwaite; Martin Shaw, known both for his role as Inspector George Gently and his unorthodox views on relationships (he has been married three times, and says living in separate houses keeps his relationship with his current partner of 10 years fresh); ‘Gavin and Stacey’ and ‘Two Pints of Lager an Packet of Crisps’ star Sheridan Smith; the iconic Twiggy; and Radio One DJ and ‘The Voice’ presenter Reggie Yates.
They’ll certainly have to work hard to equal the revelations of the past 100 episodes. Memorable moments touched on in the anniversary programme included Alaistair McGowan’s realisation that his ‘Scottish’ family name was actually firmly Indian, Natasha Kaplinsky’s distressing discovery of the nature of many of her relatives’ deaths in the Holocaust, Kim Cattrall’s shock at finding out that her long-lost grandfather was a bigamist, and David Mitchell’s indignation at his Church of Scotland minister great-great-great-grandfather’s using his will to humiliate and berate his alcoholic wife, in the end leaving her no money since she “could not be trusted”. “No wonder she drank!” he exclaimed. Nothing, though, quite topped Matthew Pinsent’s story, which voyaged via the World War One trenches, opium dens and the Tudor court and culminated in the jaw-dropping discovery that his family roots could be traced back as far as… well, God.
We’ll certainly be glued to our couches as the new series unfolds, and long may the programme last. Who would you like to see on it? And do you know enough about your ancestors and their military past? There could be a war hero in your family just waiting to be discovered and remembered. Delve into the interesting world of military genealogy and search the Forces War Records site; let us help you start, or continue your genealogy quest!