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WDYTYA Series 3
WDYTYA Series 4

 

News 

The first phase of the British Army World War One Service Records have been released by Ancestry. Formerly only available by a personal visit to Kew Record Office, the WO363 series (known as the "burnt documents") are a valuable addition. The type of information contained in these records includes: name of solider, age, birthplace, occupation, marital status and regiment number.
The BBC's fifth series of "Who Do You Think You Are?" is running in Summer 2007. See below for information on the celebrities featured.
The fourth series of "Who Do You Think You Are?" ran in Autumn 2007. Click here for information on each of the participants.
The third series of "Who Do You Think You Are?" ran in late 2006. Click here for information on each of the celebrities featured in the series.
Geographical variation in genetic history for medical research

To analyse which genetic differences between people with and without a particular disease are potentially contributing to it, researchers need to know about the variation that is due to differing history and geography.  Three Oxford professors have been funded by the Wellcome Trust to analyse the underlying pattern of genetic variation across the country and will test volunteers who have settled in the same rural area as their parents and grandparents.

                       
Forgotten who was in the second series of "Who Do You Think You Are?"? 

The second series ran in early 2006. Celebrities exploring their family trees included Jeremy Paxman, Sheila Hancock, Stephen Fry, Jane Horrocks, Julian Clary and Gurinda Chada.

                       
                       

"Who Do You Think You Are?" Series Five

The fifth series of Who Do You Think You Are? followed eight more celebrities as they embarked on personal journeys of discovery.

The personalities featured were actress Patsy Kensit, Mayor of London Boris Johnson, talk-show host Jerry Springer, Childline founder Esther Rantzen, actor David Suchet, celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott, model Jodie Kidd and interior designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen

TV star Patsy Kensit was the first of eight celebrities to embark on an emotional personal journey to investigate her family history. 

The first episode saw Patsy's investigation begin with the colourful life of her late father, Jimmy Kensit, who was deeply involved with London's most notorious gangsters of the Sixties: the Krays and the Richardsons.
 
Patsy wanted to understand the roots of his criminality and to discover how far back the "family trade" went. She met a criminologist who had unearthed a copy of her father's criminal record, which revealed the full extent of his activities. She was then shocked to find documents in the National Archives that showed her grandfather was also a prolific criminal.
 
As Patsy's journey continued, she came across a truly remarkable vicar who shone a new light on her family history and provided her with a fresh insight into her own faith and values.

     
     
     
     
Boris Johnson
Mayor of London and former MP Boris Johnson undertook a surprising international investigation into his family roots.
 
Boris's paternal grandparents had significant roles in his upbringing. He knew that his grandfather, "Johnny", was the son of a Turkish journalist and politician who was ultimately kidnapped and lynched in the early Twenties. But, he knew little about his life, reputation and the circumstances of his death.

Boris's half-French grandmother, "Granny Butter", had always claimed to be of posh stock. Although suspicious of this claim, Boris and his siblings remembered Granny Butter teaching them to eat crisps with a knife and fork.

Boris set out to find out more about his roots in Turkey, and the experiences of his great-grandfather, whose vocations were so similar to his own. He encountered the ongoing effects of the political climate of his great-grandfather's era in contemporary Turkey, and discovered personal details about his life and death.

Returning to Western Europe, Boris set off in search of the truth about Granny Butter's background, and followed an intriguing family trail that revealed she was far, far posher than even she had imagined.
     
     
     
     
     
Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen    
Flamboyant interior designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen set out to prove or disprove family legends.
 
"Most people assume that I'm from a long line of gothic, castle-dwelling Welsh gentry", said Laurence, "but I don't think I am". However, an old family letter hinted that some of these assumptions may in fact be correct. 

Following a tantalising clue left by great-aunt Kitty, Laurence set out to investigate. Was there a long lost family estate and fortune somewhere in Somerset? Could Laurence really be a member of the landed gentry?

     
     
     
     
     
Esther Rantzen    
Founder of the children's charity Childline, and famous for the pioneering consumer programme That's Life, Esther Rantzen is a well known TV personality. She discovered who the black sheep of the family was as she delved into her ancestors' past.
 
Esther Rantzen believed her family history was exclusively a story of genteel middle-class respectability, but there was one tale of a 'black sheep' that had always intrigued her.

Esther's cousin revealed the black sheep to be their great-grandfather, Montague Leverson, who, following some 'financial trouble', abandoned his family and fled to America. Esther's investigations into Montague uncovered a scandalous story of fraud, bigamy and murder.

Esther then went on to investigate the origins of her unusual surname. As she traced her family back, she was stunned to learn that her wealthy stockbroker grandfather was born in an East End slum. Her investigations into the Rantzen family's rapid social rise exposed a close family connection to diamond magnate Barney Barnato, one of richest men in the 19th century.
     
     
     
     
     
David Suchet    

Actor David Suchet is well known for his TV portrayal of Agatha Christie's detective Poirot. 

 

He embarked on a journey around Europe hoping to sort out the confusion surrounding his family history. 

 

Some of David Suchet's relations thought his grandfather was German, others Russian, others Estonian. When and why was their name changed from Suchedowitz to Suchet? His mother's side of the family was equally confusing. Was her grandfather called Jarché or Jarchy? He claimed to be a French photographer, but was he?

First, David explored the one English branch of his family, the ancestors of his maternal grandmother, Elsie Jezzard. David had always loved boats, and his investigations revealed that Elsie's grandfather was a master mariner. Further investigation at the National Maritime Museum led him to the coast of Suffolk and the story of a terrible storm, a shipwreck, tragedy and heroism.

David then headed to London and Paris on the trail of his great-grandfather, Monsieur Arnold Jarché, a 19th-century photographer. Was he really the proprietor of the Eiffel Tower Studio, and was he really French? Finally David journeyed across Eastern Europe in search of the birthplace of his grandfather and the roots of his unusual surname.

     
     
     
     
     
Ainsley Harriott    
TV chef Ainsley Harriott unearthed surprises in his family tree. 

He headed to the West Indies to uncover his roots and discovered that Caribbean history wasn't quite as "black and white" as he'd imagined.
 

On arrival in Jamaica, Ainsley thought he knew his father's family history. He had been told that his grandmother's family came to Jamaica as indentured labourers from India. Ainsley wanted to discover where exactly in India his great-grandparents came from but, as he began his research, he was shocked to find himself heading down a very different path to the one he had imagined.

Ainsley thought his grandfather's ancestry was equally straightforward. He knew his great-grandfather was in the colonial West India Regiment and assumed that before that they were slaves. Heading to Barbados, he learnt that his great-grandfather did have a distinguished career in the army, fighting for the British Empire in the Sierra Leone "Hut Tax War" but, apart from this, nothing else was as he had thought.

How, in the time of slavery, did one of his ancestors, an unmarried "free black" woman, accumulate enough money to buy seven houses? His next discovery was even more surprising. Ainsley's great-great-grandfather, James Gordon Harriott, wasn't a black slave as he thought, but something very, very different.

     
     
     
     
     
Jerry Springer    

American chat show host Jerry Springer embarked on a sad personal and emotional journey. 

 

Jerry Springer was born in Golders Green in 1944 after his Jewish parents had escaped to London from Nazi Germany just three days before the outbreak of the Second World War. Jerry's grandmothers did not escape and both were murdered in the holocaust. He did not know what happened to them after his parents' escape, or where they died, and with their death all knowledge of his family's roots were lost.

Jerry set out to discover if he could trace the Springer family. He discovered that his great-grandfather, Abraham Springer, came from the small town of Neustettin. Now in Poland, in the 19th century the town was in the German kingdom of Prussia. Documents revealed that Abraham, too, had to struggle against, but ultimately overcame, an anti-Semitic hate campaign.

Jerry then undertook a painful and disturbing investigation into the fate of his grandmothers. Nazi documents provided shocking detail and Jerry traced their journeys, first to the ghettos and ultimately to their deaths.

     
     
     
     
     
Jodie Kidd    

Model and TV presenter Jodie Kidd already knew some details of her family history but a few surprises were still revealed as she investigated her titled ancestors. 

 

Great-grandparents on both sides of Jodie Kidd's family were awarded titles. Her father's grandfather was Lord Beaverbrook, the legendary newspaper magnate who served in the British cabinet during both World Wars. Her mother's grandfather was the mysterious Sir Rowland Hodge, a Newcastle shipbuilder.

Knowing next to nothing about Sir Rowland, Jodie first headed to Newcastle. She discovered he made a fortune building ships during the First World War, but later fled the city following a terrible scandal. Puzzlingly, despite the scandal, Rowland was still awarded a title a few years later. Two astonishing letters in the Houses of Parliament archives, one from Sir Winston Churchill and the other from King George V, solved the riddle.

Jodie's other great-grandfather, Lord Beaverbrook, was Canadian and Jodie was keen to discover how deep her roots went on the other side of the Atlantic. Her investigations in Canada revealed that her family was embroiled in an infamous 19th-century murder. She managed to trace her family back much further than she ever imagined, and discovered that she descended from some of the earliest European settlers to arrive in 17th-century America.

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
With thanks to BBC Press Office.
     
 

NEW!

British Army WW1 Service and Pension Records  

 

 

Wondering what to buy a genealogist as a present?

 

"Who Do You Think You Are?"

The fifth series of the BBC's acclaimed Family History programme featured Patsy Kensit, Boris Johnson, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Esther Rantzen, David Suchet, Ainsley Harriott, Jerry Springer and Jodie Kidd. Further details are on our News page.

 

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