Actor and adventurer Brian Blessed is next up in the new season of  Who Do You Think You Are? tomorrow night. He is not looking for crowns or prizes in his past, but he is looking for humanity.

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“The greatest dramas are about ordinary people, ordinary relationships. That is where you learn so much, that has great meaning and that is what I’m looking for” said Brian.

The legendary actor is hoping to find ancestors from humble backgrounds in his family tree and the show does not disappoint. The Who Do You Think You Are? team uncover a real life Oliver Twist in his ancestry. Jabez Blessed, who was born in 1817, is recorded as making a daring escape at the age of 11, running away from the church to make his own way on the streets.

Jabez was left an orphan when both his parents died in their early forties. As paupers, Jabez and his three siblings entered the workhouse. Martha, aged 14 died a week later and 22 month old Elizabeth shortly afterwards. Jabez’s only surviving sibling, 8 year old Charles, was left alone in the workhouse when Jebez was moved to a different poorhouse.

Eventually Jabez escapes and tries to survive on the streets, possibly making a living from running errands or as part of a group of boys performing street entertainment.

Wiping away a tear at Jabez’s graveside, Brian said: “I don’t think I’ve ever cried in my life. Never cried, not even as a baby.”


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.

Brian Gallagher

Brian is the International Social Media Specialist for Ancestry, working closely with our United Kingdom, Sweden, German and Australian teams.

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