Who do you think you are? Ancestry can unlock mysteries


I watched “Who Do You Think You Are?” on SBS last night – one of my favourite shows – and it was a particularly touching episode about Paul McDermott the comedian and his family history. If you haven’t seen this brilliant program before, it follows Australian media personalities as they uncover secrets and mysteries of their ancestry. Paul discovered that his mother Betty was adopted and in a sad twist, her birth mother was buried in an unmarked grave nearby to her childhood home. She had an inkling that she was adopted but never knew the full extent of what happened – her parents had both died by the time she was three. It was enthralling, albeit upsetting, viewing as Paul explored his family tree and the sad events that punctuated his mother and grandmother’s lives.

I can certainly relate to this show – a couple of years ago I looked into my family history and found out that the woman my paternal grandfather thought was his older sister, was actually his mother. Sadly he died many years before this was uncovered, though I don’t feel he was any less loved, although I do wish he had known. His “mother” (really his grandmother) had died when he was 21 and he loved her dearly, but there’s a part of me that resents her for not telling him the truth…in those days it was very much taboo for an 15 year old to be a mother. The story was a bit muddled up but from what I understand, my grandfather’s mother fell in love with the local mayor’s son (who was 23 at the time) and consequently fell pregnant with my grandfather Louis. She hid it from her mother for many months and I suppose they both decided it was best for Anita to live a normal life – she later married another man and had 5 more children. She died 2 years before my grandfather and took her secret to the grave.

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Whenever I watched these interesting shows, I remember my interesting family history, and wonder what else there is left to discover, and about other people’s own lineage! My husband’s ancestry in Scotland is part of the reason we have travelled there several times – he strongly believes he has royal blood, but I can’t be so sure! The great thing about technology is that it can allow us to find records with ease and at a low cost if we aren’t famous enough to be on “Who Do You Think You Are?”! I do hope Paul McDermott and his mother have had some closure, which I think is a great benefit of genealogy, though you do have to be prepared for some surprises!


Did you watch “Who Do You Think You Are”? Have you ever looked into your family history? What did you discover?