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.

52 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.

      • eirlys grey

        my great grandfather left wa;es in about 1870 for America leaving his wife and 3 children we do not know what happened to him but we do think that he is buried in death valley California but his middle life in America is a mystery.please can you help us thankyou

  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

    • Bailey

      Same comments as here about finding the show accidentally just because the tv happened to be on ,I am disappointed not to have heard about the series and like so many others would love to be able to access prof.help.many years trying,several enthusiastic searchers oldest 80 has now given up trying ,to find grandparents info and refuses to offer paternal dna as disillusioned so only my female dna,and no near matches .just us 2 oldies last of the line would love to solve the mystery of who they really were.love the programme hope to see others but please let us know for future ones so dont miss ,best wishes seasons greetings to all at ancestry.many thanks anyway Bailey

    • Jennifer Daniels

      I would like to find out if my family is related to aero nautical engineer John Stringfellow, my family name is Stringfellow and originated from the Sheffield area as did John Stringfellow.

    • Dave Norman

      That was my question and I think to myself it was a one off.. cos I live in Bristol and I would love to join you joining in with the show I spend a lot of time doing my research a lot of money and I expect nothing less.. it’s like I said it’s definitely a one off..

  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!

    • Dave Norman

      I’d love to see that episode looks like it’s quite interesting. I hope your husband get some sort of success out of its research.. amazing.

  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.

  18. Douglas I Percival

    I have carried out a lot of research into my family over the last 3 years but have come up against a blockage.

    My family myth/legend from 2 different sources is that we are related to Spencer Perceval, the only assassinated Prime Minister of the UK. I am unable to trace that link from my Irish records in the early 1800’s.

  19. Patricia Wilcox

    I too was so surprised to find this show half way through the series and I am in often through the day. I had never seen any advert or promotion even though another contributor says it was on Ancestry, yet I am on Ancestry every day! I have been researching for many years and have 2 major blocks both on my mother’s side so would love the opportunity to get some advice. One of which involves a Prussian born immigrant who has 2 sons transported while another joins the Mormans and is one of the pioneers of Salt Lake City while My mother is decended from his daughters illegitimate son. I still can’t find the parents marriage anywhere and am wondering if the original immigrant was part of the Kings Legion..I have been stuck at the same point since 1993 so would have loved the chance to put this forward. Please, promise there will be another series!

  20. Anne Benefield

    I too would like to know how you find out where they are filming, interviewing people – I am a member of several sites and magazines – but never saw anything about the events. Not even an update from Ancestry.
    Please let us know Thank you

  21. Margaret Walker

    What a wonderfully interesting programme, I have only just found it but am watching all the episodes on catch up. How I wish someone would help me with one or two of my brick walls, I have been doing mine and my husbands family history since 1982, I have done really well with my husbands family, I even found a change of name, however, I have several question marks with my own family. My Grandfather was born in Battersea in 1885 and was told by his mother Annie Hammond nee’Hood that his father was a schoolmaster and he went off to teach a Russian boy languages when my grandfather was six months old and never returned, I have never found a marriage for his parents and his mother was very secretive. I have had my DNA tested with Ancestry and I have a match with people that are the same name as my great grandmother Annie Hood but I can’t exactly fit her in at this moment in time. I do hope this programme will carry on and there will be other series.

  22. Jennifer Osborne

    Hi, I have a mystery in my family and am trying to find out who my grandmother is, sadly there is no-one of that generation left to ask, i must have paternal relatives somewhere, but haven’t been able to find any. Thank you.

  23. John Clifford

    Like the program & help you are giving I have abrick wall but 1500 a bit far back but I feel that would not be problem for your researchers , My tree is back to 1570 but I have a Robert Clifford a land owner with 50 acres & property 1555 in Ashton Keynes Wiltshire my wish did he come from the northern Cliffords famous lots of history Kind Regards John Clifford

  24. Jennie Rankine

    I am really enjoying watching this series. It is fascinating to see how family mysteries are revealed and so touching to see the emotions of the participants. Is there going to be another series and if so how can I apply? My bugbear is why my Tinnock forebears, who lived in the King’s Cross/St Pancras area, changed their name to Rickards.

  25. Debra Heaton

    I have been working on my family tree for a few years now and have a couple of mysteries and a fair bit of intrigue, would love to find to answers, loving the show, so fascinating.

  26. sylvia chawner

    Here’s another who has been searching for years and years and been a contributor to Ancestry. My brick wall is my great grand mother Ellen Ann Thomas, born to a Coast Guard family, her father died as a result of wounds inflicted at the battle of Azoff, then she lost her mother and came to live with family in London, she had 2 children within a year and lived with a man named Arthur Thomas, possibly not his real name or the father of the children. I have tracked her to 1912 after that there is no record of either of them. Both my grand parents and one of their sons died during the 1918 flu epidemic and my mother went to live with strangers at the age of 8 her 2 other brothers went to an orphanage, Mum had a few photographs and memories of her family, but nothing much to go on. I would love to contribute to any show and to know about Ellen and Arthur, they have been an enigma in my life for more than 24 years.

  27. Carol Cooper

    I have traced my husband’s family back to King Henry II of England (born 1133) and beyond. However, the research all hinges on a John (or George) Bragg born 1722. His parents were born in Wenham Massachusetts derived from the first Puritan settlers. However, John(George) must have returned to Rattlesden in Essex England to marry, have family and die there. Have taken the view that perhaps due to his parents in the USA dying he returned to England as a minor with another family but I cannot find any records that can confirm this. Would all our illusions of grandeur be for nothing? Would dearly love your help.

  28. Janette Gaynor

    I would love to apply to this show, my father never knew his real father, but we heard from his sister, that his father bigamasly married his mother, he had 5 other children to his other wife, he was apparently sent to prison over this, but we so need to find out where we come from, as my mothers mother was adopted at birth , so we are unsure of our roots there too !

  29. Lynn

    I have a family ‘skeleton in the cupboard’ mystery in an upstairs downstairs context but am finding it difficult to prove. The whole side of the family are looking to me to solve this but I need help. I have all the names in this scenario .. they are my gt gt grandmother and gt gt grandfather. Please can you help?

  30. Janet HAWKINS / Charrington

    I also came across this program by accident and am really enjoying it. I have been tracing my family tree and hit a brick wall on many lines. My great grand father married in India to a French lady whose family I would love to trace . I managed to trace his father ( my GG grandfather ) to a Manor house in Cadaleigh in Devon, but cant go back any further, I would love to know who is father was ( my grand mothers side). Also on the other side of my family ( Charrington ) my granfathers side form Battersea London… How do you get to be on the show, so I maybe able to get a little help and advice?

  31. Donna Goddard

    Hi. I would really like to find out about my grandfather. We can’t get very far at all. My mother was the result of an affair and has Half brothers and sisters older and younger than her. My mother was taken to live with family members so her mother could carry on with her marriage to her husband. We have found my grandfather boarded a ship for canada and thats where we have no clues as to where he went after he arrived in canada

  32. Lesley Murphy

    Love the program I have been trying to do our family tree but get stopped at gr nan if I put Catherine Murphy Cork Ireland I would be pleased if you could recommend someone to help me thanks

  33. Linda Wylie

    Love this programme and just wondered how I missed this as I would have loved to attend. My great grandmother is a stumbling block in that in 1881 census she is 5 years old and in 1911 is 45 and has my grandmother with her. I cannot find her birth registration anywhere and am following the family from the 1881 census although this family say I have got it wrong. Can someone guide me as to where I should look now. (She does not appear on 1901 census and nor does my grandmother who was born in 1899).

  34. David Cooper

    I the same as Linda Wylie wanted to chance my luck because nobody in the family can find answers and have basically all given up but my family problem could be to difficult because I want to find out if my family past are Huguenot that ended up in Dublin a lot of what i have done leads me to believe that we are but cannot prove it also im to believe we even received freedom of the city of Dublin through the marriage of the two families that would be Babington’s and us Coopers I have a lot of info but no proof, could you help. so I would like to find out if im Huguenot and did we get the freedom of the City of Dublin all this would help me go back beyond what I have. I hope your show carries on for along time I find It very interesting and love the work you guys do I have already done my DNA test and have been doing the family tree for 10 years or more and cannot get past this.

  35. Caroline Jackson

    I too would love to know how to apply for a future series. My late grandmother was one of a twin of girls born in 1911 and bought up with their 2 older siblings by their mother having been told that their father “upped and left them”. On researching into my tree I found that the husband of my great grandmother from whom she and her twin got their surnames had in fact died some time earlier – in 1899 and therefore the twins were illegitimate which is borne out by their birth certificates. Their elder siblings were therefore half-siblings. Their mother did not remarry until 1921, 10 years after the girls were born, so I doubt that their step-father was their biological father. I am wondering whether there is any mileage in my doing an Ancestry DNA test to try to find relatives that might lead me to the identity of my great grandfather should any of his descendants have also done the tests and are on the database – or is it not as simple as that???? I am also interested in finding any descendants of my great-grandmother’s first husband who died in 1899 as he had been married twice before and both of his other wives had died leaving children behind. I have traced some of the descendants/timelines of the children of his second marriage but those from his first marriage have proved to be somewhat elusive. I would love to have some breakthroughs.

  36. Gwen Sandford

    I would like help finding out what happened to my grandad who was reported as missing presumed dead following his posting to Galipolli in the first world war. Some years later he turned up on grandma’s doorstep. During this time, she’d moved on and had a baby boy with an American serviceman. Would the programme be able to help solve the mystery of where grandad was and who was the mystery American serviceman? I’d love to hear back from you!

  37. Christine Ansell

    Fantastic show. I would be interested in applying to find out about my father’s Irish family. He is now dead. His father died when he was 3. Through DNA I have linked to an Irish family. A real puzzle. Same name, but Northern Ireland and different age and different wife! I had thought the family came from Dublin and were tailors and shoemakers, not farmers from northern Ireland. But DNA cannot lie. I would love to solve this puzzle and connect up the family tree.

  38. Damien

    Love the show. However, looking for more information on international adoptions that took place in February 1967 thru Protestant Homes because my adoption took place thru one of these homes in New York state. Both of my adoption parents have past away, so I am now looking for information on my adoption. I was ten months old when the adoption took place and I know that many Great Britain and other European Countries would keep newborns with the mothers until they were old enough to travel. I would give more information here unfortunately it is not right the right place to do so.

  39. Pam Sampson

    I would like to apply for the next series if there is one, found illegitimate children of my great uncle through Ancestry and we are great pals but cannot find my great grandfather, was told he changed his name due to criminal deeds also on my fathers maternal side was told we are from Hugenots, would like to know

  40. Leah Marsh

    I did not previously know about the existence of this show. After reading this article, I will gladly take it over for viewing. I believe that the stories there should be amazing. Family history is a great source of exciting content. I do surveys (you can find my work on the rocketpayz.com) and recently became interested in family ancestry. Family secrets are an extraordinarily interesting research topic.

  41. Shelli Lee Mersni

    My 3rd great-grandfather Daniel H. Chestnut who married a Gazildia “Tillie” Wilson . He died on November 23, 1915, in Lack, Pennsylvania, having lived a long life of 80 years how every that the end no one knows who his parents are his dad is either a Samuel Chestnut
    1799– or a man by the name of james blaine chestnut 1809 -1872 so i really need help some here please and thank you

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