Posted by on 31 August 2010 in General

Did you watch Jason Donovan’s Who Do You Think You Are? episode last night? It revealed two sides to Britain’s colonisation of Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries, through two branches of the actor’s family. The result was an interesting glimpse into the relatively recent development of a new nation.

The programme started slowly, and I have to admit, I was in danger of nodding off as we plodded through the story of Jason’s singer grandmother. Things started to pick up with a convict ancestor who was transported to Tasmania – I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I was sent from my home and separated from my family, all for receiving a few stolen pots and pans.

If you have similar tales in your family, check out our collection of transportation registers. These begin with the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, and continue right to the end of British transportation.

The real highlight was the story of William Cox – a pioneering soldier, and clearly a key figure in the transformation of a penal colony into a prosperous nation. The programme did a great job of getting over the magnitude of the tasks that confronted these early settlers – I find it incredible to think that just 200 years ago, people were still discovering completely new territory, with no idea of the terrain and conditions that awaited them.

You can trace your Australian lines back with our new collection of Australian birth, marriage and death records. This is the first time indexes from across the nation have been put together in a single place, so it makes your research far easier.

Let me know your thoughts on the episode below – I’d be interested to hear whether you prefer the detailed history presented in episodes like this one and Dervla Kirwan’s, or the more direct genealogy of say Rupert Everett’s programme.


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31 August 2010 at 8:12 pm
Nigel Batty-Smith 

I thought it was a fascinating story!

It just goes to show that we don’t know from whence we came unless we research the history.

I really think that this is the best series yet, by far. I have just finished watching Hugh Quarshie’s episode, which is a must see if you have not seen it already (repeated on Friday or available on BBC iPlayer – UK only). I’ll leave further comment on that until the next post 🙂

In answer to your question as to whether Dervla Kirwan’s or Rupert Everett’s were the better approach – my personal opinion is that they are both valid, and one should not override the other. A balanced approach to the series will create a broader interest in the subject; and at the end of the day it is still our ancestry.

Many of the celebrity pedigrees that have been shown in all series to-date have multiple lines that have not been explored in the programmes. I think this is for good reason, as it would be all too easy to focus on the Noble or Landed lines to the detriment of the other, just as important tales to be told. One side of my family are from good farming stock and the other landed gentry; which would I choose – both.

7 September 2010 at 12:37 am