WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?

Find your family’s star stories

It’s exciting watching the stars of Who Do You Think You Are? as they delve into their family history. But it’s not just celebrities who have incredible stories in their past. Discover the TV-worthy tales in your own family tree with our expert advice.

Brooke Shields

From rags to riches

There are clear divisions in Brooke's family. Her aim on Who Do You Think You Are? was to better understand these divisions, and discover the reasons for them. The result was a perfect example of just what an emotional rollercoaster family history can be.

The film star's parents came from different ends of the social spectrum, and divorced when she was just five months old. However, a more confusing rift existed between Brooke's mother and grandmother.

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The first answers came in a series of birth and death certificates. These detailed documents revealed that her grandmother Theresa was left to care for her three younger siblings at the age of just 10, after her own mother died. A newspaper article revealed more difficulties, as Theresa's 13-year-old brother drowned. It seems Theresa later resented the fact that while she had been forced to stay in a troubled home, her daughter moved away at the first opportunity.

Having solved this puzzle, Brooke looked into her father's noble roots. The privilege this side of the family lived in was best illustrated by a visit to her 4x great-grandfather's summer home – a magnificent villa dating back to Ancient Rome!

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Search old newspapers
If an ancestor’s death looks suspicious, check contemporary newspapers to see if they reported the incident. Our extensive newspaper collection includes searchable copies of The Times from 1788 to 1833.


However, the surprises didn’t stop there. A wedding certificate revealed that the actress’ 5x great-grandfather actually hailed from France. It turned out that Marino Torlonias masterminded the escape of an accused abbot, before fleeing to Italy and changing his name.

The final stop on this amazing journey was perhaps the most incredible. Delving deeper into her French roots, Brooke discovered that she was the direct descendant of King Henry IV, and through him, related to Louis XIV, the most powerful ruler of the 17th century. A far cry from poverty in New Jersey!

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Trace noble roots
Noble or titled families are often the easiest to trace, as they kept detailed pedigrees of their aristocratic lineage. We have several important collections covering the upper classes.


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