Alexander Armstrong’s Who Do You Think You Are? episode didn’t relate much to family history as most of us know it - certainly, he didn’t need censuses or birth, marriage and death indexes to trace his roots. In my view, though, that didn’t matter, as the fantastic stories in his family and his enthusiasm for the search made for an enjoyable programme.
I really took to Alexander. Coming from a privileged background, and discovering such incredibly prestigious roots, it would have been easy for him to across as a snob. As it was, he seemed both witty and generally delighted with the secrets he uncovered.
I’ve spoken to a fair few people who claim to be related to William the Conqueror. However, I’ve never met anyone who can trace their lineage so cleanly, and prove such a direct line from the famous King. This made for the perfect conclusion to an episode that used nobility as its spine, but also delved deeper into its characters – the revelation that Edward Somerset was a scientific trailblazer was particularly unexpected!
If you believe you have similarly aristocratic roots, we have several resources to help you trace them, including copies of many of Burke’s directories of the upper classes. We even have heralds’ records, charting families’ right to use coats of arms through detailed pedigrees.