Posted by Kristen Hyde on November 30, 2018 in My Family Secrets Revealed, United Kingdom

In Ch4’s new family history show, My Family Secrets Revealed, historian, Tessa Dunlop, had the pleasure of solving some of Britain’s trickiest family history mysteries through the power of AncestryDNA and traditional family history research. We caught up with Tessa to find out what drew her to working on the show and some of the remarkable stories she can’t wait for the public to see when My Family Secrets Revealed airs on December 3rd.

What is My Family Secrets Revealed about?
I think of it as an emotional version of the Antiques Roadshow, but without the bric-a-brac and valuables. My Family Secrets Revealed is all about relationships! Instead of teapots and vases, people came to us with ancestors’ birth certificates and fragments of family stories and – hey presto! – suddenly you are in the middle of an epic family drama dating back centuries. Tears flowed, families were reunited, people were stunned, and sometimes even disappointed. We were on a hunt for the truth even if the truth sometimes hurts.

What kind of stories were you involved in telling and revealing on My Family Secrets Revealed?
I was personally struck by how many WWI stories there were, having just passed the 100th anniversary of WWI. Several people had medals of ancestors who had fallen in that last year of the war when the great German Spring Offensive pushed further west than had been managed since 1914 – for both sides the losses were horrific. It struck me how emotional Armistice must have been if your son, father, or brother had survived the whole war only to die in the spring of 1918.

On the female side, there were several cases of women who were domestic servants and had illegitimate children. It was a stark reminder of just how vulnerable so many women were to the ways of entitled powerful men. Domestic servants had no protection of any sort, financial or otherwise, so if they got pregnant, it was up to the master of the house if that was the end of their job or accommodation.

What was the experience like of working on the set of My Family Secret Revealed and revealing these meaningful discoveries to people?
I was actually eight weeks pregnant at the time, so feeling pretty emotional (and sick!). I found I reacted more to a particular story if it resonated with something in my own life. This is reflective of how we each approach history – men tend to study military history because they can imagine themselves being there, and similarly, women study women’s history because we can relate to the struggles of the Suffragettes, for instance. With very high infant mortality over 100 years ago, I found it particularly emotional uncovering child loss in people’s stories.

There were some really upbeat moments too – people being told of siblings they didn’t even know existed or discovering they were actually related to a famous person. Love to confirm things are fact, not fantasy!

In terms of being on set, I have a total girl crush on Sian Williams. She was such a great anchor for the show, a consummate professional and has become a wonderful friend.

What was your favourite storyline from the series?
There was a delightful man, Peter, originally from Liverpool. He wanted to find out more about his father who he had lost contact with before he died and had never found out why he was the recipient of a British Empire Medal. The story that unfolded was immense.

Tell us about one story from the series viewers should definitely not miss.
There was a lovely woman called Tiffany who wanted to know if Reginald Kenneth Dwight (aka Elton John, for those of you scratching your heads) is a direct relation. Another Londoner, June, suspected she could be related to Charles Craig, one of Britain’s biggest and best opera singers of the 20th Century. You’ll have to watch the episodes to find out the truth!

Why do you think understanding the lives and stories of our ancestors is important?
Everyone loves a good story! I think often understanding our past helps us make sense of ourselves. So much of our development is established early by our parents and the same for them, so finding out what went on in preceding generations can shed light on personality traits and family affectations. For some people, a sense of belonging is really important…finding a root, be it geographical, national, or genetic, can help us anchor our identity, and therefore ourselves.

What would you say to someone who might be curious about exploring their family history?
Time, persistence, nous, and not taking ‘no’ for an answer. It is all out there – we are so lucky in Britain as the Victorians were great bookkeepers and today we have amazing organisations, archives, and libraries on hand to help. It can feel overwhelming at times, but that’s why companies like Ancestry are invaluable.

My Family Secrets Revealed will air daily at 1.05pm on Ch4, from December 3 – 21st 2018.

Kristen Hyde

Kristen is Ancestry's Social Media Manager for the United Kingdom.

21 Comments

  1. Simon Darling

    Hello. I have just come across this series by chance. Is there a way I can contact the programme makers to see if they could find out the truth about a supposed incident in our family history from the 1700s. Thank you Simon Darling

    • Enid Jackson

      I have followed my husbands family tree dating back to the 1500,s. But one obstacle is my husbands mothers birth certificate. And also his Grandfather on his mother’s side, my husband never knew anything about his Grandfather but I managed to find a probate of his Grandfather, we found out that his first name was Robert, and that is what my husband is called. In his probate he mentioned that money left would look after his mother and a minor, but my husband is unaware of another child. This child was never spoken about. I have tried various geanology sites to no avail. My husband would dearly love to see his mothers birth certificate and also about the mystery minor. How can one apply to be on the show.

  2. Debbie Naylor

    I also came across the series by chance and found the first episode really interesting. Do you plan to film another series? If so, how do people find out where it’s being filmed and how to take part? Thanks

  3. Patricia Beeson

    Like both Debbie and Simon I too would like to know if there is someway I can access some help. I have been trying to find out who exactly my grandfather was for almost 20 years. I’ve done DNA too and every long shot I can think of when all the conventional avenues proved to be dead ends. I have his name, occupation and the fact that he lived with my nan for almost 20 years and fathered her 4 children then in 1931 he just disappears from the paper trail. Not having a marriage cert means I have no age to go on nor any father’s name. Any words of advice would be appreciated.

  4. Vanessa Schaffeler

    I do wish somebody would help my husband look into his family – he’s stuck on his great grandfather who is reputed to be related (illegitimately, it seems) to the Dukes of Richmond but made up his surname based on theirs – he was in a census with that name, and the previous census with his acting name. But as the names were invented by him there’s no birth certificate that we can find! But from photographs, there seems to be a definite family resemblance between members of my husband’s family and various Dukes of Richmond! I have no idea how he can find out the answer and it’s driving me mad as it’s become an obsession with him!

  5. Elizabeth Kemp.

    This is a question. My husband’s family came from Monk Soham in Suffolk at the Great great great grandfather level. My son lives in Fleetwood and came across a person who lived in Fleetwood called Frederick Kemp of Fleetwood. He looks the image of my late husband but we cannot find a connection. They seem to come from the Prittlewell area or Great Stambridge or Thetford area. Would it be possible to have help with trying to get to see if there is a connection please . ?

  6. Marie-Christine Mosey

    I would also love to know when another series is being produced and how to take part. It would be great for my husband to find out if possible about his grandfather on his fathers side as nothing is showing on his fathers birth certificate, but there has been a family rumor that they are related to the Mosely’s, but I have been unable to find evidence of this.

    • Gaynor Ivers

      Hi, I’m desperately trying to trace my father’s family and prove my Irish ancestry. Although I have his Baptism Certificate which states that he was born in Rathkeale Limerick Ireland on 01/10/1901, there is no record of his birth registration. It is possible that he was born in the Rathkeale Workhouse, in which case any record of his birth may have been destroyed when the Workhouse was set on fire by the IRA back in the 1920’s, but it would be good to know for sure. My father’s name was Maurice Enright. My father always said he was a chauffeur for De Valera and a member of the Irish Army. He died when I was quite young.

  7. gemma donno

    yes i also would like to know if there is another series and how could we apply , my great grandparents were very interesting people and my great grandfather was in charge of special effects at pinewood and denford studios but had a amazing background but they had secrets

  8. Donna Holland

    Hello I would also like to know if another series is going to be produced and how to apply to the show, as there are family rumours that my husband could be related to John Constable, (the famous painter) he did spend considerable time looking on ancestry but couldnt establish any links and it would be great for him to find out.

    • Christine Lambert /Harbutt

      I would also be interested in applying for the show. My late father was always convinced that we were linked to William Harbutt the inventor of Plasticine and his wife Elizabeth Harbutt portrait artist to Queen Victoria. I have done considerable family history research but can find no link. As Harbutt is not a particularly common name I feel there should be a link some where.

  9. Deborah Pascoal

    I am interested in trying to trace my family as all I know is that my great great great grand father come from Scotland his name is William Henry Herron esq 1803 and he went to South Africa some time in around 1820s as he died there in 1840 his son is Thomas Herron born in Scotland 1822 he married to a Mary Jane Hulley they had twin children Ruben and Maria Jane born 1865 RUBEN married a E Kennedy and had son William Thomas Herron born in south Africa in 1902 he married Mabel Cowley don’t know anything about my Grand Mother side all I know they from The Isle of a man

  10. MARGARET MACHIN

    How do these programs begin, like most people we only got to know about it when it was aired on Channel 4 recently, yet there appears to be 100’s of people attending? I wish I knew how they all got the information about such a program? I personally have hit that many brick walls over the years researching my family history, that at times wondered if it was any use carrying on. I would love someone to come up with some answers for me and the experts concerned I am sure would be able to help, fingers crossed another series and will get to hear about it this time.

  11. William S. Bowie

    You add a magnet to one side.. the charges there will want to spin with the magnets charges OF THE SAME CHARGE. Which is why the N and S have specific connections to specific sides of the crystal. Once spinning they should create a magnetic field as well. But what im curious about is how if the electric charges built up on one side are beginning to spin, what happens to the charges on the other side? And does the crystal then begin to produce the same electric spinning charges as it is once again influenced by its own creations being changed. Because the crystal gets boomessays mechanical stress from things like magnetic fields right. Hmm its a bit up in the air.

  12. SANDRA WHITE

    I would like to trace my mother’s favourite brother Harry Haigh and his family who all emigrated to Canada when I was a teenager, I am now 74. I was told that his eldest son moved to America to race cars, he was a mechanic in Britain. My mother was the youngest of 13 children and her oldest brother was killed in the First World War. How would I register for the next series?

  13. Karen Couzens

    My mother has told me that her family are from the Gorringe family who started a large department store in London, Whiteleys.
    Wondered if you could confirm this

  14. Anita Baker

    Hu, as no one seems to be replying to your posts, I can tell you that I applied for this show via an advert on Ancestry.com. The series was based on the American show Genealogy Roadshow by Big Mountain Productions. I was lucky to be selected and following several phone calls was requested to attend Capestone Hall in Macclesfield. After a day waiting I was finally filmed at 6pm. Unfortunately, minecwas not part of the final edit but researcher Brad have me some truly fascinating information, which being adopted had been impossible for me to find. I am now waiting for Ancestry to get through and forward the research as the Producer informed me would happen when the show was aired. Fantastic opportunity and something I will truly treasure forever.

  15. Margaret Cooke

    hi can you help me I have been trying to trace my father’s ancestors his name was Harry Ewins the Ewins side isn’t bad to trace but his grandmother, my great grandmother was born in Petersmarizberg South Africa during the Boar War I’m presuming
    I cannot get her birth certificate or a previous marriage certificate
    any suggestions please Thank you

  16. Carol Norwood-Hill

    I have a family tree which shows that I am descend from King Harold, that king from the Battle of Hastings, but cannot tell much from it, as there is so many names so how I personally am related I do not know. Family story goes that I am also related to the Marshall Family who were murdered in Denham Village in the 1870’s but again cannot find the link. My Grandfather William Arthur Edward Norwood fought throughout the whole of the First World War but again cannot find any information about him. Can My Family Secrets Revealed help?

  17. Lorna Davies

    I have been told that my gggggg(not sure how many g) grandfather was Henry Gee who agreed for Chester to run the first horse race hence the locals would say they were going to the gee gees and I believe that is were the saying comes from. My maternal grandmother was a Gee but I have only gone back bout 5 generations. Would need help to go back further. Would love to be on any future programme.

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