Ancestry Blog » Who Do You Think You Are? The official blog of Ancestry Fri, 24 Oct 2014 14:29:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Branch Out Comes to the UK. Enter to Win the Ultimate Family History Package! Thu, 09 Oct 2014 19:50:26 +0000 Brian Gallagher Read more]]> ACOM_BranchOut250x250_badgeWe know you love your family history research. We also know how challenging it can be to break through brick walls, locate a missing ancestor or prove a family connection you have long suspected. Have you ever imagined yourself on an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?

While we can’t get you a spot on the next season, we can offer you the next best thing – access to the research team behind the US Who Do You Think You Are? show.

We have run our Branch Out competition in the US and many of you told us you would love the chance to enter. We have listened to our members and we are delighted to bring Branch Out  to the UK.

This is your opportunity to work one-on-one with the family history experts on our ProGenealogists team. So, what do you win? The Grand Prize winner, upon confirmation of eligibility, will receive the following prize package:

  • Twenty (20) hours of ProGenealogist research
  • One (1) Annual Worldwide subscription
  • One (1) Copy of Family Tree Maker software

So, if you’ve always wanted to receive expert help from our ProGenealogists team, enter the UK Branch Out contest by clicking here. After entering some basic information, let us know how far you have gotten on your own. We want to know what you’ve discovered and what you would hope to learn with the help of our expert research team.

The deadline for entries is Sunday, November 9th at 11:59:59 P.M., so sign up today! The winner will be selected and announced by the end of November so stay tuned for updates!   Entry is open to residents of the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) and is subject to our Official Rules.

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’60s icon Twiggy is next to explore her roots on Who Do You Think You Are? (UK) Wed, 08 Oct 2014 15:37:17 +0000 Brian Gallagher Read more]]> It’s the 100th episode of Who Do You Think You Are? tomorrow night at 9pm on BBC1. Next to explore her family history is 1960s icon Twiggy.


Raymond Bryson


Twiggy, born Lesley Hornby, is a famous model, actor, and designer. Growing up in London, Twiggy had a happy childhood but knew very little about her relatives. Her parents told her nothing about their families.

‘We were a very ordinary, happy family, and I had a happy childhood’, said Twiggy.

Everything changed when Twiggy was sixteen-years old. A photographer spotted her photo on the wall of a Mayfair hairdresser and went on to write a story describing Twiggy as the ‘face of the sixties’. She went on to be known as the world’s first supermodel.

‘It was madness. I was suddenly in the newspapers and being flown all around the world’, recalls Twiggy.

Having been born and raised in London, Twiggy feels she is a Londoner through and through. Will she discover that her roots lie elsewhere?

‘What am I going to find out? I’m off on an awfully big adventure and I’m very excited’, said Twiggy.

The Who Do You Think You Are? team discovered that Twiggy has more than one strong woman in her family tree, and just a touch of crime, too.

Tune in to see what happens on Twiggy’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are?

Who Do You Think You Are? airs on  BBC1 tomorrow at 9pm. Join us on Twitter and Facebook to share your thoughts or questions.

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World Famous Comedian Billy ‘The Big Yin’ Connolly is next on Who Do You Think You Are? (UK) Thu, 02 Oct 2014 08:45:39 +0000 Brian Gallagher Read more]]> World famous comedian Billy Connolly is the next star to go on his family history journey on tonight’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are?


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‘The Big Yin’ is famous for his Scottish wit and has entertained audiences for many years with stories of his life in Scotland. Having endured a tough childhood at the hands of an abusive father after his mother walked out, many people were surprised to hear that he wanted to explore his family history.

“I’m 71, so I’m a lot closer to death than I am to birth… I’d like my children to know where I come from. I know so pitifully little” said Billy

Billy’s journey starts in his hometown of Glasgow. Having always considered himself Scottish through and through, he is surprised to find out that the Who Do You Think You Are? team is taking him to India. The show takes Billy on a trip that follows in the footsteps of his Army ancestors.

He finds out that his great-great-great-grandfather was present at a very important moment in Indian history. The surprises don’t stop there though! Billy discovers that his connection to India is deeper than he could have ever imagined.

Tune in to see what happens on Billy Connolly’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are?

Who Do You Think You Are? airs on  BBC1 tonight at 9pm. Join us on Twitter and Facebook to share your thoughts or questions.

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From London to Ghana with Reggie Yates on the next episode of Who Do You Think You Are? (UK) Wed, 24 Sep 2014 11:52:49 +0000 Brian Gallagher Read more]]> Presenter and DJ Reggie Yates is the next celebrity to share their family history journey with us on tomorrow night’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are?


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Growing up in London Reggie was conscious of the bustling nature of a city with a diverse immigrant population. Both of Reggie’s parents are from Ghana and his father is mixed-race. It is his father’s family that are a mystery to him.

‘‘Growing up in London you sort of get asked all the time where you’re from because there are so many immigrants’’ said Reggie.

His parents split up when he was just four years old and having been raised by his mother, Reggie knows little about his father’s family. The Who Do You Think You Are? Team travel to Ghana with Reggie to delve deeper into his father’s side of the family.

Reggie meets with a local chief and his trip uncovers some unexpected surprises in his family tree.

‘‘Oh my God, what is wrong with these Yates men?’’ exclaims Reggie at one point in his journey.

Tune in to see what happens on Reggie Yates’ episode of Who Do You Think You Are?

Who Do You Think You Are? airs on  BBC1 this Thursday at 9pm. Join us on Twitter and Facebook to share your thoughts or questions.




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Behind-the-Scenes with Who Do You Think You Are? Production Crew Thu, 18 Sep 2014 14:41:18 +0000 Kristie Wells Read more]]> We recently sat down with Jim Albarano, Line Producer, and Vicky Bramley, Production Manager, from Shed Media US, the production company behind the hit Who Do You Think You Are? show to ask them a few questions.

Jim and Vicky have a long history with Who Do You Think You Are? and they have experienced all sorts of challenges while filming.

From tornadoes to massive snowstorms, weather can play a critical role when trying to film a scene. One episode can take up to two weeks and sometimes involve traveling to multiple countries, so when Mother Nature starts to act up, it can wreak havoc on their schedule. But weather also gave them a once in a lifetime opportunity during the filming of Gwyneth Paltrow’s episode when a massive snowstorm rolled through New York and basically, shut the city down. They were scheduled to film inside the New York public library and after a few phone calls, received permission to open the library up for a couple of hours to get the shot they came for.

We also discussed how much time goes into researching the episode, their favorite part of the job, places they wish to travel, and so much more. See what they had to say in the interview below or watch it directly on our YouTube page,

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Star of stage and screen Martin Shaw is next on Who Do You Think You Are? (UK) Wed, 17 Sep 2014 09:23:41 +0000 Brian Gallagher Read more]]> Actor Martin Shaw is the next celebrity to explore his family history on tomorrow night’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are?

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Born and raised in Birmingham, the eldest of two children, Martin now lives in Norfolk. The star of over 100 films, plays and television shows, Martin is curious to discover the truth about what happened to his grandfather, Edwin.

‘‘As far as I know, at about 1930 or at the beginning of the 1930s Edwin vanished,’’ said Martin.

Keen to unravel the mystery, the Who Do You Think You Are? team arrange for Martin to meet with a military historian who starts him on his journey to explore his grandfather’s military career. They discover that he enlisted in the Royal Marines at age 18. He went on defend Birmingham from the German air assault during the Second World War.

Was there more to Edwin? What will Martin Shaw discover on his journey through his families past?

‘‘Grandparents are usually there in your memory, but I don’t know what kind of man he was. It would be wonderful to find out now who he was, what he did – mysterious Edwin,’’ said Martin.

Who Do You Think You Are? airs on  BBC1 this Thursday at 9pm. Join us on Twitter and Facebook to share your thoughts or questions.

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Mary Berry of the “Great British Bake Off” discovers her family story on the next “Who Do You Think You Are?” (UK) Wed, 10 Sep 2014 09:00:08 +0000 Brian Gallagher Read more]]> Star of the Great British Bake Off, Mary Berry is next to delve into her ancestry on tomorrow night’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are?


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It turns out that baking is in Mary’s genes as she discovers that her ancestor Robert Houghton ran a bakery in Norwich. He ran the bakery for almost 40 years and even supplied the city workhouse. To Mary’s surprise, his bakery was located in an area renowned for prostitution and criminality.

Mrs Berry also learns that her 3rd great-grandfather was a printer and bookseller. Successful for a time, he was hit with bankruptcy and he and his family were sent to the workhouse. Only two of the children were spared that experience, her great-great-grandmother Mary and her brother Chris.

“I know Robert Houghton worked very hard in his bakery, but I think my genes come from Mary, who survived the workhouse and was very family focused, just like me,” said Mary.

Who Do You Think You Are? airs on  BBC1 this Thursday at 9pm. Join us on Twitter and Facebook to share your thoughts or questions.

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BAFTA Award-Winning Actress Sheridan Smith Searches for Her Musical Ancestry on “Who Do You Think You Are?” (UK) Wed, 03 Sep 2014 14:40:29 +0000 Brian Gallagher Read more]]> Question mark


BAFTA award-winning actress Sheridan Smith is set to explore her musical roots on tomorrow night’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are?


The episode traces the rise and fall of her great-great-grandfather, Benjamin Doubleday. A music teacher, he went on to become one of the country’s best-known banjo players of the 1880s. He entertained upper-class audiences in sold-out shows and the future seemed bright for Benjamin Doubleday.

Sadly, his success did not last. Benjamin risked everything to put on his biggest show yet, but lost it all when the show flopped! Having lost all his money, his wife left him taking their four children with her. To compound the misery, he was jailed for arson shortly after-but was he really responsible?

Eventually reunited with two of his children, Harriet and May, they toured the north of England as a banjo trio.

Sheridan left home at sixteen to become an actress in London. She sang alongside her country music-playing parents for years, and is proud of her family’s musical heritage.
“The gene has been passed down through my great-great-grandfather,” said Sheridan. “It’s made me want to learn to play all sorts of instruments.”

Who Do You Think You Are? airs on  BBC1 this Thursday at 9pm. Join us on Twitter and Facebook to share your thoughts or questions.


Image courtesy of Karen Ellot. Flickr/creative commons

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Mrs. Brown’s Boys funnyman Brendan O’Carroll is next on Who Do You Think You Are? ( UK ) Wed, 27 Aug 2014 15:14:51 +0000 Brian Gallagher Read more]]> Mrs. Brown’s Boys star, Irish comedian Brendan O’Carroll is the next celebrity to get the  Who Do You Think You Are? treatment tomorrow night. Brendan now lives in Florida, but still calls Dublin home.

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Brendan has heard from family members that his grandfather was shot during the Irish War of Independence in 1920. Acutely aware that family stories can be embellished, Brendan is keen to get to the truth of that story. What happened? Why was he shot? Was he fighting for Irish freedom? Who shot him?

“I would like to find out just what happened that night,” said Brendan.

During the show the Who Do You Think You Are? team uncovers a sworn statement from a British spy that identifies the man who shot Brendan’s grandfather. He was shot by a decorated World War One soldier, who was operating as a British intelligence officer in Ireland.

British intelligence had been seeking information on his two sons. When he refused to pass on information about his sons, he was warned that he would be shot if they did not surrender!

Tune in for what promises to be an exciting and emotional episode of Who Do You Think You Are?


Who Do You Think You Are? airs on  BBC1 this Thursday at 9pm. Join us on Twitter and Facebook to share your thoughts or questions.


Image courtesy of Karen Ellot. Flickr/creative commons.

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Who Do You Think You Are? Changes Kelsey Grammer’s Perspective Wed, 20 Aug 2014 21:56:57 +0000 Read more]]> We’ll let you in on a secret. Kelsey Grammer

When we do family history research for Who Do You Think You Are? we find all kinds of stories in each celebrity’s family tree. Our ancestors lived through amazing historical events, made decisions both good and bad, and went through hardships—some they overcame, and some conquered them. But sometimes we find that to tell one person’s story, we have to change perspective and tell it from another person’s point of view.

Kelsey Grammer is well acquainted with a change of perspective. After nine seasons on the hit television show Cheers, Kelsey’s story changed directions when his character, Frasier Crane, became the focal point of one of the most successful TV spinoffs of all time.

Kelsey Grammer’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? features the members of the Dimmick family. We were able to document the families of Joseph Dimmick and his son, also named Joseph, in records from Ohio and Illinois. Then we learned from census records that the family left Illinois shortly after 1850 and moved to Oregon. In fact, if you pay attention to the birthplaces of Joseph Jr.’s family—Illinois, Oregon, and California—a single 1880 census record painted a picture of a family who crossed the American plains more than a decade before the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.

But, as often happens, we found that Kelsey Grammer’s 2nd and 3rd great-grandparents didn’t leave behind as many records of that journey as we would have liked. So we looked to change our perspective. As family historians, we use this technique all the time, especially when it comes to finding contemporary sources. For example, not all of our ancestors were avid journal keepers or letter writers. But if you can find a written first-hand account by someone else who experienced the same thing your ancestors did, you can gain further insight into your ancestor’s life story.

So we set out to see if there was someone else who left us a record. On a website focused on residents in Schuyler County, Illinois, we found a list of people who traveled the Oregon Trail in the same company as the Dimmicks. One of them happened to be Joseph Dimmick Sr.’s nephew, Joseph Gragg.

When Joseph Gragg died, he left a large collection of papers now located at the Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Oregon Library. Among those papers was his personal account of the experience of the Gragg and Dimmick families along the Oregon Trail.

Thomas Dimmick Quote

In his account, Joseph included descriptions of river crossings and the search for food. He also provided a detailed timeline of events affecting the entire party as they crossed the country.

Best of all, Joseph recorded stories about the people who traveled with him. Among these was the description of the tragic death of Joseph Dimmick Sr.’s son Thomas:

He [Thomas Dimmick] and two others had been out on a buffalo hunt … and the weather being very hot, he drank quite freely of poor water … . In the latter part of the night he was taken sick with the cholera and died about six or seven o’clock. … hasty preparations were made with his bedding and clothing and his body buried alone on the plains . . . .In the afternoon the train moved sadly on leaving the grave of this loved one – a grave never again to be looked upon by anyone who had ever seen him.

Thomas Dimmick was Joseph Gragg’s first cousin and was just a few years older than Joseph Jr.. The death of his cousin would have been a huge loss. It would have been hard to leave him behind on the trail. Joseph Gragg’s account serves as a reminder that our ancestors lived not just with their immediate families but among extended families, neighbors, friends, and associates. They were part of a larger community. And that larger group gives us more chances to find a first-hand account of our own ancestors’ lives. All we need to do is change our perspective.

Learn more about Kelsey’s journey or watch the full episode on Watch more celebrities discover their family history on all-new episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? Wednesdays 9|8c on TLC.

Other episodes this season:

For those of you who were following along on Twitter last night, here is a recap of the posts shared by us and other participants in the chat:

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