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Who Do You Think You Are? David Mitchell

5 Aug

Tonight was episode four of the seventh series of Who Do You Think You Are? and featured comedian David Mitchell although I have to confess that I don’t think I have ever seen any of his shows.

The show was a lot more laid back than last week’s episode with Kate Humble, and certainly not as emotional or sensational as last week. It focused almost entirely on David Mitchell’s Scottish ancestry, and the first thing that stood out for me was the amazing Scottish landscape, the weather during the filming seemed ideal, showing the scenery off to it’s full potential and if nothing else this show makes an excellent advert for Scottish tourism.

Essentially the show was in two parts, the first part featuring the Mitchell family farm (Ribigill), set in some truly breathtaking scenery. The farm itself had an interesting history from the Highland Clearances to it’s present state of decay, although the Mitchell family seemed to be free of any involvement in the Clearances, to David’s relief.

For the second part the focus switched to the Isle of Skye and the Forbes family, beginning with a exploration of some of the scholars and authors of the Forbes family and their passion for the Gaelic language. The episode ends in Sleat, Skye with a Minister, whose good works during his lifetime were somewhat offset by the contents of his will.

The stories that unfolded may not have been as sensational as last week, but they were still interesting and more typical of the sort of stories we are all likely to find in our own family trees. I must say I did enjoy watching David Mitchell exploring his ancestry, I think in part due to the fact that he seemed to be doing a lot of walking and a couple of times was to be seen travelling on a bus or waiting at a bus stop, very uncelebrity like.

Who Do You Think You Are? Kate Humble

29 Jul

Tonight’s Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA) was episode three of the seventh series and featured Kate Humble, probably best known as a presenter on the BBC’s Springwatch and Autumnwatch.

This episode must surely be one of the most incredible episodes in the show’s history. Kate Humble is such a charming and down to earth personality and to share this incredibly emotional journey with her was truly remarkable.

The first part revealed the life of her grandfather Bill Humble, who turned out to be a famous test pilot, and a larger than life character. Kate was seemingly unaware of this famous ancestor’s exploits and was astonished to find herself almost falling over photos and recordings that featured him. As a family historian finding recordings and being able to talk to someone who knew and worked with an ancestor would be a dream come true.

Kate tearfully admitted that she was ashamed that she had not known all these years and more importantly not taken the trouble to find out, something which will be familiar to many a family historian I am sure (myself included) who only realise when it is too late what has been lost.

The next part of the programme turned to coal mining, and her ancestor’s connection with the industry, and the tragedy that caused a change of career for one ancestor. The heart breaking story of a terrible accident and loss of life took its toll on Kate, just as it had on her ancestor.

The third part concerned her mother’s father who had joined the RAF in the Second World War and ended up shot down and in various prisoner of war camps before ending up in the camp that was made famous in the film The Great Escape.

Kate learnt more about her grandfather’s role in the audacious escape plans and the events that followed with the help of the log book that her grandfather kept and his repatriation report at the National Archives.

It was only when she was over in Poland at the site of the camp with an expert on the subject that the true significance and importance of the contents of the log book were revealed.

Technically this episode was very much like the first episode featuring Davina McCall in that there was a strong focus on a few central individuals but not much actual family tree building. This time around I wasn’t so bothered.

I don’t know whether it was because I was caught up in the emotional story, or that the individuals were such strong characters of historical importance or just the charm and openness of Kate Humble. One thing is for certain, I think it is going to be a hard episode to beat. It seems that this series of WDYTYA just gets better and better with every episode.

Who Do You Think You Are? Chris Moyles

22 Jul

I must confess to being a little disappointed by last week’s episode with Davina McCall and was not really expecting to enjoy this week’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? with Chris Moyles.

I think the fact that Chris Moyles is a BBC Radio 1 DJ put me off, not that I have ever heard his show (I probably haven’t listened to Radio 1 for 20 years). Also the fact that this episode was going to feature his Irish ancestry was putting me off as well, as I have no connection with the subject.

I now admit that I was wrong on both counts. Chris Moyles turned out to be not only likeable and entertaining to watch but he also seemed genuinely interested in the stories of his ancestors that were unfolding and more importantly asking the sort of questions that a genealogist should do when faced with every new piece of information.

The fact that much of the programme featured Irish research didn’t prove to be such an issue either, although there were a few specific Irish situations (such as potato famine and home rule), the central issue of poverty and illness is pretty much the same whether you are in Ireland or England.

The final part of the programme in the fields of France (or was it Belgium?) retracing the final days of his great grandfather in First World War brought the show to a predictable but nonetheless emotional conclusion.

Overall I felt this weeks episode was a great improvement over last week’s episode (nothing personal Davina!). I really enjoyed watching Chris Moyles (which I wasn’t expecting to do) and it was great to watch the research unfolding as the programme progressed.

Heir Hunters (another genealogy related TV programme from the BBC)

21 Jul

Having some time off has meant that I was able to watch a television programme that I wouldn’t normally (because I should be at work when it is on).

The programme is Heir Hunters, and it is in it’s third series on BBC1 at the moment. The programme is about businesses that primarily trace the blood relations of individuals who died without leaving a will. Obviously the businesses take a percentage of any inheritance that is successfully united with beneficiaries.

Each programme features two or three cases, usually this means showing researchers in an office searching microfilms of the GRO BMD indexes looking for relations, and travellers out on the road visiting possible relations.

From the family historian’s point of view there is not a lot to be learnt from the programme unless you happen to be related to one of the deceased individuals. Although the research involved is slightly different from normal genealogy (in that they are mainly working forward rather than backwards), the research processes shown are pretty much the basics of birth, marriage and death certificates and wills.

Many of the cases dealt with are from the Bona Vacantia Division of the Treasury Solicitor, their website contains a list of current estates which are still unclaimed. The current series can of course still be seen on BBC iPlayer in the UK.

Who Do You Think You Are? Davina McCall

19 Jul

Wednesday the 15th July 2009 saw the first episode of the seventh series of Who Do You Think You Are? on BBC1. This episode featured Davina McCall and her ancestors, she is probably best known for her role as a presenter on the Big Brother television show.

I have mixed feelings about this episode, to me it seemed to differ from previous episodes in that very little of the research process was shown or much actual pedigree building, that being said it was still an interesting show.

I won’t go into all the details (there is a brief synopsis on the BBC website and more detailed reviews elsewhere) but it began with a brief attempt to prove a family rumour of a royal connection, which was never really likely to succeed, however the story of the life of James Thomas Bedborough that emerged was much more interesting.

The second half of the programme focused on her French ancestors, and again an interesting story emerged concerning her great grandfather Celestin Hennion and his role in many important events in French history, although I must admit to having very little interest or knowledge of French history as a whole, so by the end of it my interest was beginning to slip away.

All in all it was quite enjoyable, but for me it suffered from being so tightly focused on these two ancestors. Nevertheless it was good to see someone who seemed genuinely interested in learning more about her roots and not afraid to share her troubled times (and those of her mother) with the viewers.

If you missed the programme (and live in the UK) you will still be able to watch it on the BBC iPlayer for a while.

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