Learning about your family's history can be a daunting prospect, especially when faced with filling out a family tree. That's where a show like Who Do You Think You Are comes into play, where celebrities are helped by a team of researchers who give them a place to start and aid them along their journey of discovery. But can you hire the Who Do You Think You Are researchers to trace back your own family ancestry, and how do you go about finding them in the first place?
Well, it turns out you can, and it's pretty easy to contact them. Who Do You Think You Are, which began in 2004, has seen many genealogy researchers and experts advise and work with celebrities on uncovering their family history. For a show that relies heavily on research, there is a huge team involved, and it can seem a little daunting pinning just one researcher or expert down. "There's a big engine room of research that goes on throughout the year," director Rosie Schellenberg explained to the Royal Television Society in March. But thankfully, many of those involved in this process do offer their expertise to help you discover your past.
A great place to start is with WDYTYA's lead genealogist Laura Berry. She's already shared tips with the BBC when it comes to compiling your family tree, but Berry also offers her expertise to the public. The genealogist can help you "research your family history from scratch" as detailed on her website, by "piecing together the lives of the people who came before you using archival documents".
Basically, hiring someone like Berry would be like having your own episode of WDYTYA. She uses the same techniques as would be used on the show, and Berry can also present her findings in a variety of ways for you to share with the rest of your family and for future generations to discover.
While genealogy company Anglia Research focuses on tracking down missing heirs and lost documents, one of their genealogists Eileen Butcher has worked on both the UK and U.S. versions of WDYTYA. She's also provided her expertise for two other BBC documentaries, The Secret History of My Family and Made In Great Britain. Like Berry, Butcher is available to assist in your ancestry research and also given some insight into how it's done on the BBC series.
"You tend to be asked to research a small section of the story, and you may not have much idea of what comes before or after until the programme is aired," she explained to Anglia Research. "The research you're asked to do is very varied. You really have to pick up anything they throw at you — and there's always a time constraint."
"Generally they need the information by tomorrow. But the work is never run of the mill. As a researcher you need to have an eye for the details that will bring the story to life."
You can contact both Berry and Butcher via their websites, which both contain further information on the ancestry services they provide.