Tag Archives: bbc

Who Do You Think You Are? Martin Freeman

19 Aug

The seventh series of Who Do You Think You Are? drew to a close tonight with the sixth episode featuring Martin Freeman, probably best known as Tim Canterbury in the UK version of The Office. Like many of the celebrities in this series, the programme began with Martin discussing that he really knew very little about his ancestry beyond his own parents.

Essentially a programme of two parts, the first part concerned Martin’s grandfather Leonard Freeman and his death during the Second World War. This lead to an interesting explanation of the events leading up to the evacuation at Dunkirk and his grandfather’s service in the RAMC, with details from the unit’s war diary and another account of the day when he was killed during an attack by German bombers.

The second part focused on Martin’s great grandparents. This is where things became really interesting with the discovery that his great grandfather Richard Freeman had been born blind and had attend a special school, which in turn seems to have lead to a lifetime involvement in pianos and organs, either tuning, repairing, supplying or playing.

Personally things got very interesting when the focus switched to Worthing in West Sussex, with scenes filmed in Worthing Library, one of my favourite libraries because of it’s wide range of resources for local and family history in Sussex.

The family tree which was slowly assembled revealed an increasingly large family, consisting of several marriages and many children (I think I counted 19 in all). The tragedy is that many of these children never survived into childhood, which seemed unusual. Using death certificates and with help from medical experts the likely cause of these deaths was uncovered. How many genealogists like me have wished that they could have a medical expert on call to explain the terms on a death certificate?

All in all a very interesting story was unravelled in this episode, and although it was quite a tragic story there was little of the emotion and excitement of previous episodes. In this respect it was probably more representative of the sort of stories that the majority of us will find in our family trees.

Who Do You Think You Are? Kim Cattrall

12 Aug

Tonight’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA) was the fifth programme of the seventh series and featured Kim Cattrall as the celebrity subject. She is probably best known as Samantha Jones from the popular television series Sex and the City.

This episode has probably been the most talked about episode of this current series, with several articles revealing that the episode is pretty much about her desire to find out what happened to her missing grandfather and the impact that the investigation had on her and her family.

I don’t think that there has been such a tightly focused episode in the history of WDYTYA, or one with such a well defined aim from the outset. I have great admiration for Kim Cattrall for not only wanting to find out more, but for allowing it to take place in front of the camera. It was never going to be an easy journey to make, and there was never likely to be a happy ending for the family.

There were some very moving scenes, like where Kim’s mother and aunts described so vividly the abandonment and hardship they had faced after his disappearance. Their strength and that of their mother in the face of such hardship is truly remarkable. It is hard to imagine that such poverty existed in parts of this country 70 years ago.

There was very little documentary research shown on screen, some searching of passenger lists for George Baugh’s attempt to stowaway to America was about it. Most of the progress in the story seems to have come from meeting and speaking to neighbours and family, something which was only possible because they were dealing with a much more recent time period than in most episodes (and the fact that they had a celebrity and a camera crew probably helped open doors).

In the final scenes, where Kim revealed the second life of her grandfather to her mother and aunts, she sounded to me like she was in a courtroom, prosecuting this man for what he had done, and perhaps in a way she was. There was never likely to be a question about the verdict. Understandably there was anger and disbelief, but I got the impression that there was also an element of relief that his secret was out and some closure was found. Perhaps not a happy ending, but an ending nevertheless.

Who Do You Think You Are? losing out to Midsomer Murders

8 Aug

According figures given on the website Broadcastnow.co.uk the current series of Who Do You Think You Are? is struggling to find viewers in the face of competition from Midsomer Murders.

Despite getting off to a good start will Davina McCall (6.4 million viewers), once the new series of Midsomer Murders started in direct opposition on ITV the viewing figures have fallen. The Chris Moyles episode saw a significant drop to 4.7 million, Kate Humble wasn’t far behind at 4.6 million, and the most recent episode featuring David Mitchell only managed 4.1 million.

At first I thought is was just that people didn’t like Chris Moyles, but it appears now that the viewers would rather be watching Midsomer Murders regardless of who was the subject of the show. It will be interesting to see what happens in the final two weeks when Who Do You Think You Are? is up against football. I know which one I will be watching!

Let me know what you think? Do you watch it on BBC iPlayer or the repeat on BBC2 rather than watch it when it is first broadcast? Do you think celebrity family history is losing it’s popularity amongst the television audience?

Who Do You Think You Are? Kate Humble – unseen footage

6 Aug

Just in case you haven’t seen enough of the Kate Humble episode of Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA) on BBC iPlayer already, there are now two short segments of unseen footage available on the cover CD of the latest edition of the Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine (Issue 25 September 2009).

The first segment was filmed in the town of Zagan, Poland (mostly at the railway station) and Kate talks to Charles Clarke (a former inmate of Stalag Luft III) about life as a PoW.

The second segment was filmed at Stalag Luft III at the site of the escape tunnel, and is part of the conversation between Kate and historian Howard Tuck that didn’t make it to the final cut.

Both segments are quite short, a couple of minutes each if that, so probably not worth the cover price (£4.99) just for them alone, but for fans of the show there is also a seven page feature about the episode in the magazine. This includes an interview with Kate Humble, photos and information from the programme and background material.

The rest of the magazine is the usual mix of news, advice, features and adverts. This month the focus is on Devon research and the CD also contains a selection of Devon resources. For anyone just starting out on researching their family history this edition of the magazine has the first part of a “14-day family history challenge” which will help get beginners started.

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.

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