A review: Who do you think you are

Now that the latest series of who do you think you are has finished, ten more celebrities let us into their historical lives. For me it is a factual series I look forward to because as someone who does their own genealogy, it inspires me to look into areas I would not normally in my own tree. I find that some of the stories resonate in my own tree and I think this is the similar situation for others that do their own genealogy.

The celebrities for this season were in the order of appearance:

  1. Danny Dyer
  2. Amanda Holden
  3. Liz Bonnin
  4. Cheryl
  5. Ricky Tomlinson
  6. Sir Ian McKellen
  7. Greg Davies
  8. Warwick Davis
  9. Sunetra Sarker
  10. Sophie Raworth

I did find most of the stories fascinating. Especially Amanda Holden, Liz Bonnin and Sunetra Sarker because of their ancestors having their stories that took them to other countries. I loved Amanda’s enthusiasm for the vineyard. What really stood out was Liz’s journey to the Caribbean and the links and history I personally learnt about life in the Caribbean at that time. Former series have had celebrities trace their ancestry to India, but it is always a story I love to hear and that was the case with Sunetra. I loved the story of how she was the first to return to a village where her ancestors lived.

I think those that stood out was the enthusiasm and passion they had which for home-grown stories, I adored Sir Ian McKellen, mainly because it was based in Manchester and the North West of England which is where I am from. It was nice to see a piece of my own local history that I was not fully aware of.

One that did have twists and turns was Greg Davies’ episode. For me he is a comedian who I have never really watched or taken to. However I thought I would give it a go and I was not disappointed. With the twists of village life in rural north Wales and how everyone talks and it showed the social importance of life back then. It showed how reputation mattered and the taboo’s that were not accepted that are now. I found Greg’s immersion of getting to know these ancestors of his, really brought the story of his ancestors to life.

I had the same impression for Danny Dyer as I did with Greg Davies. Again I was not disappointed. His humour and shock was value enough for me. When finding out his connections to royalty and his facial and verbal reactions were great. As I have had those moments myself where you have an OH MY WORD!!! gasp of excitement and unbelievable shock. That is what I really caught my attention with this episode.

As an aspiring journalist and a fan of Sophie Raworth was someone I was looking forward to. I loved that she was already going in with a lot of knowledge already and those photographs were beautiful. Like many of us we have gone down the wrong route, as did she but found out they were a relation to her but not directly. Which for us who research lines it can happen a few times. As it has with me when I thought I had relations in Australia. I do, just from a completely different family unit and side of the family.

Although there were some that did disappoint me. I found that the Cheryl episode was okay in looking at mariners as an occupation as well as looking at World War One (which are stories I always love to hear). But personally I could not take to her as I felt she lacked something, whether it was the enthusiasm or that I had been spoilt beforehand with previous episodes, unfortunately I tried but I could not get into it.

Ricky Tomlinson for me came across as rather aggressive and I was angry at him for being so angry. Then again we all act in different ways to history especially when it is personal. I loved the social history to Liverpool and how life was with it being a busy port outside of London.

Warwick Davis I don’t know, I enjoyed it in a way with the musical aspects as I have a theatre musician in my family tree. But it was Warwick’s humour that really came into it all. For me I did not enjoy it compared to the others. Although for others they could have been their favourite.

One thing I did learn to go forward in my research is how I undervalued newspaper articles and how they give valuable information, especially with obituaries. I have used them a little before, but in the future more of newspapers will be used.

It was a series I thoroughly enjoyed and it is the names that attract the numbers to watch the programme. For me I find is useful for inspiration to look in new places for information.

 

 

 

 

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Lest we forget

On the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month we pause for a two-minute silence to remember and reflect on the lives of those who fought for the freedom we enjoy today.

From doing my family tree I have come across relatives of mine who fought in the First World War with very different outcomes on both my maternal and paternal sides of the family.

At a young age I knew about my great-grandfather Thomas Alfred Oakes on my father’s side because of my middle name Louvain, as it is a place in Belgium. My spelling is French but the Flemish spelling is Leuven. I recommend you to google it! My grandmother Thomas’ daughter was the first of this name as her father was not present at her birth in November 1914 as he had left for France to fight in the war.

Thomas Alfred Oakes was part a private in the 6th Cheshire regiment. He survived the war after being discharged in April 1916. Unfortunately I have no exact details on the discharging of his service as many records were burnt in a fire in the Second World War. Thomas went onto to have four more children with his wife. One died in infancy and the other three made it to adulthood. Thomas lived his life and died in 1937 in Stockport where he settled after being born in Scotland and moving around in his childhood due to his father’s occupation as a theatre musician and his name was also Thomas and an Englishman.

Looking onto my maternal side there are two stories in one family that have woe and happiness.

My cousin twice removed Tom Speak was born in Stockport, Cheshire and joined service for the First World War as part of the 13th Cheshire regiment. There is not much information on his service apart from the one major event that Tom was part of, the Battle of the Somme. At the age of 19 he died on the 7th July 1916. His body was never found. His name is on the Thiepval memorial in France.

His particular story of war was rather upsetting because of the horrific nature of that battle, but also his tender age with so much life left in him.

On the other hand Tom’s uncle John Markham also volunteered for service and ended up as a gunner in the Machine Gun Corps. This particular regiment is difficult to research. But from my family research I came across his military record. From this I found out that he was promoted up to a Corporal and travelled all over the place as part of his regiment. John was injured during his service and did make a full recovery. He did survive the war and lived his life till his death in 1944 in Stockport, Cheshire from where he was born.

The correlation of Uncle and Nephew both went to war with very different outcomes shows the perils of the war. Also a situation that happened in many families where two or more members went to fight for King and country and some never returned home.

On Armistice day we remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. But for me I pay my respects to those who fought and were forever changed by the events they participated in. For that I know we all be forever grateful.

 

The further back I go the less I know

Having ancestors who were part of major historical events, makes those events more realistic but also more emotive. The best example of this is the First World War, where many of us who have researched our family tree; or just simply heard stories past down from family members that there is a story to tell and a real connection to past events and people.

That is all well and good as it is of recent history, if you call 100 years recent. The problems occur when you go further back into the 18th, 17th and 16th century and even further back then that. I argue that this is a problem because I do not just want to know a name, a place and particular dates in their lives such as birth, marriage and death. See I want to know about who they were as people based on where they lived and what was going on in that time period.

You would think doing history at school may have helped in some of these matters and it does somewhat. Looking at the French and American civil wars aids in the smallest part, but when looking at 16th century of the United Kingdom, it was not as united as we know it is today! I know history on the monarchy and the royalism of these centuries, but when it comes to the common people of the day I know nothing, which is frustrating.

But why is it frustrating you may ask when we have the instant connection of the internet?

The reason is that some of it is accurate, but not all of it. But just because it is at the click of a mouse in a search engine box makes researching history no easier I must say. Blame it in choice maybe, but when I was younger and I needed information I went to a book. I could go back to these methods again but this will require travel to these places, which I do not mind. These places are all over like in Scotland and Wales. I find Scottish history in these time periods fascinating and not in a romanticised version either. But a true picture of what went on!

In my family tree I do have Welsh and Irish as well as English and Scottish, but because of the records in Scotland I have had a lot more luck here then with other areas of the UK. It could be argued that is why I am drawn to that part of my family tree because of the luck in finding ancestors.

Even with all the records and fast speed connection I find my knowledge lacking substantially. I feel I should know these things because it is history of our country! Maybe blame the lack of knowledge on the education system and what is on the curriculum, rather than anything else.

It is not just a history lesson that I have had, but also a geography lesson which I have thoroughly enjoyed oddly. Again it gives more realism to a person in the context of where they lived, rather than just knowing a name of a place without anything else.

Furthermore I am always eager to learn more as I say it again it gives more realism to someone rather than a name and a few facts. History of somewhere and some place gives us in the present day a small clue to a presumption and assumption of how out ancestors may or may not have behaved in a particular time or event.

Either way it makes history excited and accessible to us all, by simply looking back at our own genealogy.