We get the in­side track on the new se­ries of WDYTYA? plus how to re­search your Scot­tish kin

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Ready for the BBC’s an­nual feast of fam­ily his­tory – the rip-roar­ing ge­nealog­i­cal rev­e­la­tions, thrilling de­tec­tive work and emo­tional ups and downs? Get your han­kies and note­books ready, Who Do You Think You Are? is back for its 12th se­ries on 13 Au­gust bring­ing the fam­ily his­to­ries of 10 of the UK’s top celebri­ties vividly to life.

If you can’t wait for the crackle of parch­ment and the whiff of velum as your favourite star opens those dusty, cen­turies-old doc­u­ments to re­veal their an­ces­tors’ amaz­ing sto­ries, then read on for a sneak pre­view of what’s in store.

This year the sto­ries are plucked from all cor­ners of the globe – from Tu­nisia to Shored­itch, War­saw to Liverpool – spot­light­ing his­toric themes from the past three cen­turies and ear­lier, and char­ac­ters that will have you rac­ing to the ar­chives to in­ves­ti­gate your own an­ces­tors.

Kathryn Tay­lor, se­ries pro­ducer, says: “We’ve man­aged to find sto­ries that are a lit­tle un­usual and take us to fur­ther flung des­ti­na­tions – sto­ries that we don’t so fre­quently find – sto­ries that push us fur­ther back in time. One celebrity finds an an­ces­tor who started off life in Scot­land and ended up in Tas­ma­nia hav­ing been con­victed of a crime that we would now think of as petty, but for which they were trans­ported.”

One of the dom­i­nant themes this year seems to be that of es­cape. There is a dar­ing flight from Nazi-oc­cu­pied Europe, Manch­ester mill work­ers who kicked off their clogs and risked all to start a new life in the New World, an em­i­nent French­man who led a dou­ble life and sought refuge from per­se­cu­tion, a Leeds dyer who made an un­usual ca­reer move to side­step the life of work­ing class drudgery the gen­er­a­tions be­fore him had led – and a con­vict who earned his free­dom but never quite made good his es­cape.

Paul Hol­ly­wood’s episode is tipped to be open­ing the se­ries at the time of go­ing to press. It tells the story of the ma­ter­nal side of The Great Bri­tish Bake Off judge’s fam­ily. Paul’s roots are in Wal­lasey, Liverpool, and the start­ing point is his grand­fa­ther Nor­man Har­man who Paul was very close to as a child. “Paul was very cu­ri­ous to find out about Nor­man’s life be­fore he was around – and es­pe­cially his wartime ex­pe­ri­ences,” ex­plains Alice Fraser, who re­searched his episode.

Nor­man had never spo­ken about the war, but had a ner­vous tic – and Paul grad­u­ally un­cov­ered the shock­ing cause of this. “Very of­ten it’s the things that are un­der our noses that can tell us the most – the doc­u­ments that get stuffed into boxes and hid­den away in at­tics,”

I’d like to be the King of Ire­land. But if I was, I’d be quite gra­cious

ex­plains Alice. “In our case Jill, Paul’s mum, kept many tele­grams and let­ters that Paul’s grand­fa­ther had sent to his wife. Th­ese were a trea­sure trove and gave Paul a glimpse into what Nor­man was think­ing and feel­ing at that time.”

Other mil­i­tary records al­lowed the team to plot Nor­man’s move­ments and tell his wartime story. “Paul has a huge re­spect for his grandad and that drove him to find out as much as he could – he was very moved by what he learnt about what he had been through.”

An­other strand takes Paul up to the High­lands for an en­counter with some very spir­ited an­ces­tors in­clud­ing his 4x great grand­fa­ther. “We were able to find some mem­oirs re­lat­ing to in­hab­i­tants of the area of the High­lands where Paul’s fam­ily came from and that gave us some quite lively and colour­ful ac­counts of his fore­bears,” says Alice.

Kathryn ad­mits to hav­ing a cou­ple of favourites among this year’s episodes: “One is in­cred­i­bly tragic – Jane Sey­mour’s story, which takes her back to her Pol­ish-Jewish past. That has some real tragedy in there, which is in­cred­i­bly af­fect­ing. The other story that I find re­ally un­usual is Derek Ja­cobi’s jour­ney into his fam­ily’s Huguenot past. He took his fam­ily tree back to his 6x great grand­fa­ther and all the way to the court of Louis XIV. From there, it led back to Eng­land where we found rel­a­tives linked to the Protes­tant court of Wil­liam III, Wil­liam of Or­ange. I found it thrilling as the re­search fell into place.”

The se­ries runs from 13 Au­gust on BBC One at 9pm for 10 weeks with a break on 3 Septem­ber.

We learnt about the Amer­i­can set­tlerss at school. I can’t be­lieve

my rel­a­tives ac­tu­ally did it

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