The celebrities discovered that there was more to their family histories than met the eye. For several participants, their research took them abroad, proving that the make-up of a modern Briton is a subtle mix of many influences.
The Doctor may be clued-up on pretty much everything the universe has to offer but Scottish-born David Tennant didn't know a lot about his family background until he plunged himself into the Who Do You Think You Are? experience. His research took him from the long-abandoned cottages of Scotland's rural highlands to the troubled streets of Londonderry during the Partition of Ireland. David discovered that economic hardship forced his great-great grandfather to leave the family croft in Mull to seek work in Glasgow. He also learned that his grandparents were once the Posh and Becks of Londonderry!
Jeremy Irons has always felt an affinity with Ireland – so much so that he now lives there. But he was keen to find out whether he possessed any genuine Irish blood. The picture that emerged was a fascinating insight into how the histories of the English and the Irish have become intertwined. In the case of Jeremy's family, it was often romance that brought the two strands of his heritage together. Along the way, Jeremy also uncovered the story of a colourful family figure who campaigned on behalf of the Chartist movement during the 19th century.
Antiques expert David Dickinson had to do quite a bit of digging to uncover his own heritage. He was adopted as a baby, so the search for his true roots had a special resonance for him. David's Who Do You Think You Are? journey took him to Istanbul, where he explored his Armenian origins. His grandfather had been a successful textile trader, who emigrated to Manchester from the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century. Interestingly, David entered the textile trade as a youth without being aware of the profession's importance to his natural family.
Nigella Lawson's dad was the Chancellor of the Exchequer and her mum was heiress to the Lyons Coffee House dynasty. This relatively prominent background meant that Nigella already knew quite a bit about her heritage. Nevertheless, her research rapidly drew her into a fascinating journey across Europe to uncover her Jewish roots. Nigella also learned that her ancestors were a disparate lot. They included upstanding members of the community and fugitives from the law.
A DNA test was the lynchpin of Colin Jackson's investigation into his family background. Colin's parents emigrated to Britain from Jamaica in the 1960s. The DNA test revealed how complex a Jamaican heritage can be. As well as Sub-Saharan African and European blood, Colin's genetic make-up also contained a "native American" element. His research in Jamaica suggested that this derived from the Taino people, who were the island's indigenous inhabitants. Colin's emotional family odyssey also revealed a 19th-century freed slave and a man who helped build the Panama Canal.
Julia Sawalha's father settled in Britain during the 1950s after emigrating from Jordan. His forbears were Bedouins – nomadic tribespeople who lived in the desert. Julia's maternal lineage is just as fascinating. She was able to document several generations, confirming a long-held suspicion that her mother's family were Huguenots, Protestant refugees who fled France to avoid persecution. Julia's ancestor, Daniel Dubock, escaped from Normandy at the end of the 17th century. His descendants made their home in east London, first as silk weavers and then as grocers.
The First World War dominated the lives of Robert Lindsay's grandfathers. His paternal grandfather was wounded while serving with the Sherwood Foresters in 1916. His maternal grandfather took part in the ill-fated Gallipoli landings of 1915, while serving aboard HMS Prince of Wales. Further research into his mother's side of the family threw up some surprises, including children born out of wedlock and bigamous marriages. Robert's investigations laid bare the rigorous social strictures operating in Victorian Britain: it wasn't difficult to earn a bad reputation if you didn't fit in.
Barbara Windsor's onscreen persona sums up the resolutely cheerful spirit of the East End. But what does a cockney heritage really mean? Barbara's investigations revealed that her 19th-century ancestors must have needed every ounce of their resolve to survive the hardships of East End life. Unemployment, hunger, alcoholism and disease all played a part in the lives of her forbears. Barbara also discovered that she has Irish ancestry. Her great grandmother's family fled to the East End to escape the potato famine ravaging Cork in the mid-19th century.
Nicky Campbell took an unusual decision at the outset of his Who Do You Think You Are? project. He had been adopted at birth and had already spent some time researching his biological heritage. So he decided to learn more about his adoptive family. He started by looking into the war record of his father, who served in Burma during the Second World War. His quickly learned why Burma's "forgotten war" came to be regarded as one of the conflict's bitterest campaigns. Nicky also travelled to his grandfather's birthplace, Brisbane in Australia, where he uncovered some shocking revelations