Julie Walters to open new UK Who Do You Think You Are? TV series

The new series of the UK series of Who Do You Think You Are? is to open with Julie Walters, on BBC One.

Logo from BBC's UK series of Who Do You Think You Are?

The new UK series of Who Do You Think You Are? is almost with us.

Actress and Novelist Julie Walters CBE will be leading this year’s celebrities, as the show celebrates its 10th year in the UK. The BBC One series begins on Thursday 7th August at 9pm.

Other celebrities going under the researcher’s spotlight are: Brian Blessed, Tamzin Outhwaite, Brendan O’Carroll (who has been rumoured since the last series by the Irish Independent), Sheridan Smith, Mary Berry, Martin Shaw, Reggie Yates, Twiggy, and Billy Connolly.

The series will be preceded by a special documentary about the series’ 10 years of genealogy, on 6th August at 10:35pm, that will look back on the outstanding moments from this award-winning series.

If you’re struggling to wait for the series to begin, and you’re in the UK with use of iPlayer, then check out The Secret History of Our Streets for a fascinating look at urban life in the UK.

Sarah Millican voted most popular Who Do You Think You Are? (UK) Series 10 episode

Sarah Millican wins 67% of the ‘favourite Who Do You Think You Are? UK series 10 episode’ vote, but where did the rest of the celebrities rank? Plus, rumours for series 11 in 2014.

A few months back, I ran a poll on this blog, where you could vote for your favourite episode from the 10th Series of the UK version of Who Do You Think You Are?, with voting split between the first and second half of the series.

Having collated all of the votes together, for all 10 celebrity episodes, there is a clear winner.

Comedian, Sarah Millican, won the poll with 67% of the votes.

Her voting surged after she retweeted the link to the poll.

In her episode, she aimed to find out about her family’s history in the South Shields area of the UK, and also to see if she could find something her family could be proud of. Well, Sarah, (if you’re reading), you can be proud of your poll glory too.

Here’s a clip from her episode:

Sarah Millican Who Do You Think You Are? clip

Her nearest rival to this glory came from actor Nitin Ganatra who scored 11%, and in third came actor and singer Minnie Driver with 7%.

If you’re the kind of person who likes pies and charts, you’re in luck:

Best episode of UK Who Do You Think You Are? series 10

Gary Linekar and Nigel Havers languished in joint last place, both with just one vote each. Nick Hewer managed to muster two votes – a score that would surely get him fired.

Who Do You Think You Are? UK Series 11 for 2014?

Whilst I’ve yet to see confirmation that the 11th series of Who Do You Think You Are? is coming this year, it was reported by the Irish Independent in November, that comedian and writer Brendan O’Carroll – who is most famous for playing Agnes Brown in ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’ – has filmed his episode.

Photograph: Alan Peebles/BBC
Brendan O’Carrol as Agnes Brown in ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’. Photograph: Alan Peebles/BBC

VOTE: Your favourite episode from the second half of Who Do You Think You Are? (UK, Series 10)

Vote for your favourite episode from the second half of the 10th UK Series of BBC One’s Who Do You Think You Are?

So, the tenth series of the UK version of Who Do You Think You Are? has ended.

Following on from my poll on the first five episodes, it’s time to vote for your favourite episode from the second half of the series.

Voting lasts for one month.

VOTE: Your favourite episode from the first half of Who Do You Think You Are? (UK, Series 10)

Vote for your favourite episode of the first half of the 10th UK series of Who Do You Think You Are?

We’re unbelievably halfway through the tenth UK series of Who Do You Think You Are?.

Not all of the celebrities that I suspected, have appeared in this first half, and some I didn’t guess correctly, or didn’t even guess at all.

Which episode, from this first half of this series, is your favourite? Vote now – the poll closes in 1 month, by which time, we’ll almost be at the end of the series.

Encouraging children to take an interest in their genealogy

What motivates children to take an interest in genealogy?

I remember being about 11 or 12 and sitting in the front rooms of both sets of maternal Great Grandparents and being completely bored by tails of the war years. Whilst one Gt Grandfather saw action in Egypt and other places, whilst the other was with the Home Guard, yet to my child ears, they were so utterly boring.

As a child, I didn’t want to know about ‘The War’. It meant nothing to me, and I couldn’t comprehend the date, why people would want to fight each other, and certainly not the scale of what actually took place. My mother was the same – she too had spent many hours listening to the very same stories as a child, and had not been interested either.

Now, as an adult, with those Great Grandparents all deceased, I’m left with a gap. An unrecorded gap in oral history, in personal history, and with only a few pay-to-view scanned documents sitting in sites like Ancestry or FindMyPast.

I was in Cambridge earlier today, picking up a few last minute Christmas presents when I spotted the following book from the Who Do You Think You Are? brand. I generally don’t buy genealogy books, as I rely on online information, but this one was different – it was aimed at children.

Be A Family Tree Detective book
Be A Family Tree Detective

I picked it up and flicked through, to find that it was full of colourful pictures, flaps to reveal information, and more along the lines of a pop-up book (without the pop-up bit).

inside the Be A Family Detective book
Inside the book – open the envelope to look at Census, lift the magnifying glass to reveal a tip. 

I wondered what it was that inspired me to start (although admittedly i was 16/17yrs old) – knowing that it wasn’t anything like this. Had it have been, i would most likely have been hooked and written down the stories (or at least listened and perhaps remembered some of them) at a much younger age.

I also got home to find that Who Do You Think You Are? magazine had also landed on my doormat – the January edition – and inside was a great tree chart from FindMyPast – encouraging people to fill in their ancestors. What a great way to help inspire kids to think about the past lives of their family?

The free FindMyPast tree chart with the January 2013 edition of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine.
The free FindMyPast tree chart with the January 2013 edition of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine.

What was it that motivated you, and at what age?

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2012

Review of my day at the Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2012 (WDYTYA Live) show at Olympia, London – including my top tips for you and for the WDYTYA Live organisers!

Back for my second and consecutive WDYTYA? Live show in Olympia, London.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2012
Day 2 (25th Feb 2012) – it’s impossible to take a photo that shows the full scale of WDYTYA Live.

Last year I was able to catch the entertaining Monty Don, who talked about his experiences of filming his episode and the effect that it had on him. Unfortunately I missed this year’s Emilia Fox, whose episode was heart-wrenching and fascinating.

WDYTYALive workshops and talks

Instead, I had pre-booked myself on to a couple of talks – the first being a keynote workshop organised by the Society of Genealogists and hosted by the brilliantly raconteur (and freshly outed event tweeter) Else Churchill. The topic of the workshop was “Breaking the barriers of Social Networking – Strategies and Tricks”.

By name, it made me quite excited to attend to see if there is anything that I could use in my own research. The session was led by Laurence Harris from MyHeritage, and whilst interesting, it did stray away from social networking – even touching on DNA testing – and did feel a little at times like a product pitch by MyHeritage. However, there were some good ideas at using social media, and Laurence was clear in his descriptions of the benefits, disadvantages and concerns over using social networks and other online platforms as tools for research. He even introduced me to Mocavo – a genealogy-savvy search tool (and kudos to Mocavo for tweeting at me in response to my tweet about them).

This was followed by a Q&A session with a panel of experts who were certainly from quite a wide range of backgrounds – including D. Joshua Taylor from BrightSolid.com (the partners that help deliver FindMyPast), and Lisa Louise Cook (Genealogy Gems, Google expert).

Else Churchill introduces the panel
Else Churchill (far left) introducing the panel of the Keynote Workshop: ‘Breaking The Barriers with Social Networking – Strategies and Tricks’.

This year, I was also fortunate to meet the brilliant geneageek Lisa Louise Cook after she literally wowed the audience as they frantically scribbled notes during her talk ‘Google Search Strategies for the Family Historian’. What she doesn’t know about using the family of Google products for genealogy research just isn’t worth knowing.

She introduced the audience to ‘search operators’ and how to wield these to make Google search work its hardest for you. I’d never heard of ‘synonym search’ or using a date range tool in my search box, but I know that I will be doing this from now on.

If you’ve never heard of Lisa before, check out her free podcasts on iTunes!


Titanic themed FindMyPast theatre
FindMyPast might be bigger, but Family History Societies are equally essential in your research.

It’s important to remember the hard work that societies do for genealogy – it’s not all down to the big names like Ancestry, FindMyPast or GenesReunited. Who Do You Think You Are? Live gives huge exposure to a vast number of these local societies and I was very pleased to finally meet Carol Noble from the Cambridgeshire Family History Society, who was very helpful and great to talk to – I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for records for her from now on!

I was also pleased to see the Suffolk Family History Society there too, who gave me some inside news about the availability of some more records from Elveden. Lots of other counties were also present – Norfolk’s stand was crawling with people eagerly browsing their books and cd-roms. I was a little bit disappointed to see that the Somerset and Dorset Family History Society didn’t appear to have (unless I totally missed it) anything to buy and take away – ideally I’d love to get my hands on a cd-rom of parish register transcriptions in the style of the CFHS or Suffolk Family History Society – but instead, they were offering look-ups on their computer for £2 each.

Tips for your WDYTYA Live visit

  • Leave yourself plenty of time if you’re traveling via London Underground – Earls Court station gets very busy and isn’t the easiest to navigate.
  • Be prepared for lots of walking and standing….. and talking!
  • Book tickets for the ‘big’ workshops and talks online as early as you can – many of these were sold out weeks in advance.

Tips for WDYTYA Live prior to my next visit

  • More chairs needed up in the gallery area!
  • Set up a ‘tweet-up’ lounge space for genealogy twitter chums to meet up in *yikes* real life (!) and talk genealogy social media and tech!
  • Encourage the Local History societies to put their region name up on the top boards of their stands in big letters – takes ages to track down the county you want!


Nick Barratt with film crew in tow; the legend that is Eric Knowles valuing heirlooms; a man with an incredible moustache; and author Chris Paton wearing a rosette.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011

The fifth Who Do You Think You Are? Live runs from 25th-27th February 2011 at London’s Olympia.

The fifth Who Do You Think You Are? Live runs from 25th-27th February 2011.

This was actually the first time that I had been to Who Do You Think You Are? Live. I thought that I would go along to find out for myself what it was like, to catch a talk by Monty Don, and also ‘entertain’ my Twitter followers for a few hours live from the event.

After quite an early start from Huntingdon station, I got down to Earls Court in good time. The train for Olympia seems to take an age to arrive, but thankfully once you’re on it, it’s just a short trip. I knew that I was on the right track as this train to Olympia was packed at 10:30am.

I’ve been to Olympia loads of times before for marketing/technology shows, so pretty much know my way around the place. Upon arrival, i nipped upstairs to the gallery to take the above photo and a couple of others before checking out where the Who Do You Think You Are? Theatre was (it’s upstairs), where I had my ticket to see Monty Don.

I was pleased to look out across the hall to see some very familiar brands – of course the Who Do You Think You Are? magazine team were there, but also Ancestry.co.uk, FindMyPast, FamilySearch, Society of Genealogists, and a fantastic Victorian set, complete with staff in period costume belonging to Genes Reunited.

Amongst them were an array of other organisations that provide information on DNA testing, Caribbean ancestry, the fantastic Cassini Maps team and many many others.

The Society of Genealogists had paved the way for a plethora of local family history societies to hold stands there too – I was pleased to stumble across my chums Cambridgeshire Family History Society (CFHS) and Parish Chest – both of whom I regularly shop with.

Up on the gallery level could be found other organisations – identifying/dating photographs, war medals.

Celebrities at WDYTYA Live

I stumbled across Eric Knowles – the legendary antique expert. I swear he didn’t leave his little stand for a second! And caught some fleeting glimpses of Nick Barratt.

Monty Don’s talk was both fascinating and funny. You could tell that he had enjoyed every moment of his adventure with WDYTYA, and even told the stories of the bits you didn’t see in his episode, and about further research that had taken place after the episode.

I had planned to catch Tony Robinson talking with Ancestry.co.uk but by this time I was already flagging on my feet so decided to start my journey homewards.

I think it was well worth the trip and I had a really good day. I didn’t go there looking for any particular information though, but there were plenty of people with notepads and folders – perhaps making use of the Ancestry.co.uk advice, or the Ask The Experts team upstairs.

I would definitely go again, but maybe not annually unless there was something specific I wanted to see or buy.

A few bits of advice:
They were allowing re-entry as long as you kept your ticket, so by lunchtime when i was starting to get a bit hot, i was pleased to grab some fresh air and a little walk over the road to get some lunch.

It can get quite hot in there, but fortunately i’d put my jacket in my rucksack… and there was a stand selling icecream.

The queue for the Who Do You Think You Are? theatre gets quite long quite quickly, so give yourself plenty of time if you fancy getting a really good seat.

There’s quite a lot of seats upstairs if you fancy taking the weight off your feet for a few minutes.

The Mystery and The Monkey

James Martin (1851-1934), originally uploaded by familytreeuk.

The December issue of the BBC’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine features my photograph in their ‘Over To You’ section (page 36).

I’m pleased to see it in print – it’s such an interesting/amusing photograph – showing a real mixture of characters. There appears to be four railwaymen (like my Great Great Grandfather, James Martin who appears at the top of the photo with the monkey on his shoulders), but also some sailors too (their hats read ‘Albert’).

I think that the photo was taken in 1887. My reasons for this are that this was the year of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee (hence ‘Albert’ on the hats) and the jumpers of the ‘sailors’ appear to have “RTYC” (Royal Thames Yacht Club?) embroidered on them and they raced in 1887…..

“Ocean races officially organised by clubs were unknown until 1887. That was the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, and a race ‘the like of which had never been known in the annals of yacht racing’ was announced by the Royal Thames Yacht Club over a course of 1,520 nautical miles round the British Isles. Later meetings at the Albemarle Street Club House refferred to this event as the Jubilee Yacht Race.” – Royal Thames Yacht Club history

I also think that my Gt Gt Grandfather looks like he’s in his thirties.

I’m amused by the ‘dwarves/smurfs’ at the front of the photo and also of the very scary looking ‘black beard’ pirate character lurking towards the back.

Who were they? What was going on? When was this? Where was it taken?

Hopefully the magazine will throw up some answers in the show’s web forums.