Posted by on 23 February 2011 in General, Record Collections

Last night’s episode from the American Who Do You Think You Are? series was both emotive and inspiring. Film director Spike Lee delved into his slave roots to uncover stories of hardship, toil, but most of all courage.

Slavery is a topic we don’t hear much about in this country. In the context of a modern Western society, it’s incredible to  think that people not only believed this way of life was acceptable, but fought hard to protect it. As Lee himself said, the idea of owning another human being is simply an alien concept to most people these days.

We have millions of records investigating  America’s slavery past, and the people who shaped it. These include some brand new slave certificates, petitions and emancipation records from different states. Just try searching for the words ‘slave’ and ‘slavery’ in our Card Catalogue – and rememember to untick ‘Only records from the UK and Ireland’.

Outside the issue of slavery, it was fascinating to see Lee delving so far into his past. In the UK, we’re used to seeing WDYTYA? celebrities focus on one ancestor, or a small group. I enjoyed watching his journey through the generations, and seeing the new questions each step raised.

That’s the beauty of building your family tree, rather than just searching for individual ancestors. It puts each new discovery in the wider context of your complete family story, so they mean much more. If you haven’t yet created your tree at, I would definitely encourage you to start now.

While we’re talking about Who Do You Think You Are?, don’t forget the Live show at London Olympia starts this Friday. If you haven’t got your ticket yet, you can choose between our two special offers: 1 ticket for £13, or 2 for £25.



Although it is nice to see the ancestry of celebs, it would also be great if the option was also open to the general pubic. There are many like myself who’s has spent many, many years researching BUT have been hampered by the like of finance and resources. Surely, it is easy enough to set that up? We would really feel like “Millionairs” then?!!

23 February 2011 at 9:19 pm
Chris R 

“In the UK, we’re used to seeing WDYTYA? celebrities focus on one ancestor, or a small group”

Really? I seem to remember Boris following his ancestry through half the royal families of Europe. And what about Matthew Pinsent – tracing his ancestry back to Katherine Howard, and from there to William the Conqueror? Actually many of the UK episodes go back quite a long way. It’s the US ones that don’t. In fact I seem to remember a UK celebrity who not only traced back to the slaves, but went on from there to find out which part of Africa they came from! I think this article is an attempt to ‘big up’ the US series – which is a shadow of the UK one. There is far too much of the celebrities spouting homespun philosophy and not enough actual history – but then the US only has about two hundred years of that, don’t they?

23 February 2011 at 11:20 pm
15 November 2011 at 10:12 pm