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Series guide: Who Do You Think You Are? 2019

Picture of Niall Cullen - Senior Content Strategist
Niall Cullen
10 June 2019

See which celebrities took part in Who Do You Think You Are? UK series 16 and review the episodes' best bits.

Who Do You Think You Are? UK, the BAFTA-winning show that sees famous faces delving into their family history returned for its 16th season in July 2019. The first five episodes aired every Monday at 9pm on BBC One, while the final three installments moved to Wednesday nights in the same slot.

Here, you'll find episode reviews, our favourite moments and tips on how you too can make discoveries about your past, just like the stars.

The BAFTA-winning Who Do You Think You Are? returns with amazing stories from Daniel Radcliffe, Kate Winslet, Sharon...

Posted by BBC One on Friday, July 12, 2019

The celebrity line-up for Who Do You Think You Are? UK 2019 included:

Episode 1: Daniel Radcliffe

In one of the most emotional Who Do You Think You Are? episodes ever, Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe discovered connections to crime, Ireland and the First World War.

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The first half of Radcliffe's journey saw him explore the maternal side of his family tree. A photograph of his great-great grandfather which bared an uncanny resemblance to Daniel inspired him to find out more.

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Using historical newspapers, Radcliffe uncovered details of a heist at his family's Hatton Garden jewellers, an event which sadly drove his great grandfather to take his own life. The heartache wouldn't end there. Later, while researching his paternal line, Daniel discovered bittersweet First World War letters that were exchanged between his great-great uncle Ernie and loved ones back home.

These were to be the last communications Ernie would have with his family. He died in 1916 after being struck by a rogue shell.

Episode 2: Naomie Harris

James Bond actress Naomie Harris became curious about her past after a DNA test claimed she was 48% Nigerian.

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This led her on an intriguing voyage of discovery through the Caribbean nations of Trinidad, Grenada and Jamaica. Along the way, Naomie encountered uncomfortable links to slavery and was able to connect her traditional family research back to her African DNA origins.

Ultimately, Naomie was astounded and delighted at how far back she could trace her roots.

Episode 2: Jack and Michael Whitehall

For the first time ever on Who Do You Think You Are?, a family pairing uncovered their shared history together. We loved the dynamic between comedian Jack and his Dad as they explored the tragic childhood of Michael's grandfather R.R.B and the dastardly deed of their ancestor Thomas Jones Philips.

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Richard Ernest Baxter (REB) Whitehall was orphaned at a young after his commercial traveler father was killed supposedly killed in a pony and trap accident. His widow Caroline contracted syphilis and was hospitalized as a "lunatic" leaving R.E.B to be cared for by a wealthy local benefactor. Further digging revealed that Caroline's husband Richard had actually died from symptoms commonly associated with "The Pox". Had he contracted the deadly disease on his travels before passing it on to his wife?

Findmypast - London office
Findmypast - London office

Caroline Whitehall in the 1881 census. Search for your ancestor today

Next the Whitehall's headed to Wales to investigate the role their family played during the dramatic Newport rising. To Jack's horror, it was revealed that their Tory ancestor, Thomas Jones Philips, was directly responsible for the suppression of the protests and the arrest of Chartist hero John Frost.

the dastardly Mr Philips appeared regularly in the papers. Did your ancestors make headlines?

Episode 4: Kate Winslet

Hollywood a-lister Kate Winslet explored her maternal Swedish lineage and discovered a drummer boy ancestor's illuminating service record in this compelling edition of the show.

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Travelling from Sweden to Reading to Buckingham Palace to Devon, Kate uncovered stories that prove her family background consists of humble roots alongside some remarkable individuals. The Oscar-winner seemed completely overwhelmed with the revelations, exclaiming;

"I know, I really know where I came from and that to me is the most wonderful thing to have come out of this story."

Episode 5: Katherine Ryan

Canadian comedian Katherine Ryan traced her mother’s ancestors through Canada all the way to cod traders in Newfoundland, and finally, to Poole in Dorset. As her daughter is English, she wanted to honour her Canadian ancestors, but hoped to find an English link.

Among her ancestors she found love letters, poetry, travelling ministers, traders and a pub owner. Having been so close to her grandmother, she said;

‘‘This is lovely to have done… she [my grandmother] really wanted us to talk more about her family, and now we’ve done that."

Episode 6: Paul Merton

Have I Got News for You team captain Paul Merton explored his family history in a truly enthralling edition of the hit genealogy show. With Irish heritage on his mother's side, we wondered if Paul’s journey would be as revealing as Boy George's was. We weren’t disappointed.

He uncovered connections to crime, the First World War, the 1916 Easter Rising and busted some family myths along the way. Of his great-grandfather, who was the focus of much of the episode, Paul commented:

“The more you find out about the man the more he becomes a real-life human being and maybe it is more difficult to deal with the loss of someone you know about”

Episode 7: Sharon Osbourne

The music manager and former X Factor judge knew she had Irish and jewish roots but wanted to find out more about her elusive maternal line. What she discovered along the way ranged from uplifting to shocking to downright heartbreaking. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mrs. O traced a long line of hardworking females, including her grandmother Doris who she tracked down on the 1939 Register.

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Later, as her research brought her to America, Sharon uncovered the tragic story of how her great-grandmother lost several children and worked herself to death in a cotton mill in Massachusetts. Yes, family history can be harrowing at times but all of our ancestors stories deserve to be told.

Episode 8: Mark Wright

The Only Way Is Essex star Mark Wright traced his father’s family in the final episode of the series: the Wright ancestors of London’s East End and Essex, and Jewish ancestors from Spain, who were caught up in the turmoil of the Spanish Inquisition. A poignant, moving end to this series.

Mark’s great-great-grandfather Edward Wright may have been on the wrong side of the law, but redeemed himself by lying about his age so he could enlist in the army during the First World War. Next, Mark discovered he had Jewish roots, tracing one line back to Southern Spain, where his 9x great-grandfather was persecuted during the Spanish Inquisition.

With such a star-studded cast, series 16 of Who Do You Think You Are? UK kept up captivated from start to finish. We already can't wait for next year. We'll continue to bring you Who Do You Think You Are? news as we get it. In the meantime, why not join the conversation with the Findmypast Community on Facebook or Instagram?

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Cover image: BBC