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.

Jason Donovan

Creating a nation

Australian Jason Donovan had always felt a stronger attachment to the British ancestors on his father’s side of the family. However, he soon found his mother’s kin played a key role in the founding of his home nation.

Jason’s maternal grandmother left him a collection of family records and mementoes. A prominent figure in these was his grandmother Edith Lyons. He delved deeper, and found she had been a successful singer during the early years of Australia’s independence.

The Neighbours star used birth, marriage and death certificates to trace Eileen’s line back to Tasmania. Here, he found her grandfather Joseph’s name on a transportation register from 1842. His Jewish ancestor was convicted of handling stolen goods in England, and sentenced to ten years in the penal colony.

Top TipTOP TIP
During the 18th and 19th centuries, over 160,000 convicts were transported to Britain’s developing penal colonies in Australia. Find out if your family’s black sheep were among them in our comprehensive transportation registers.


Convict settlement in Tasmania

Joseph’s story did have a happy ending. He used his religious connections to leave the penitentiary, then raised enough money to bring his family to join him in Australia. His son was born in the country, and continued the family in his new home.

Jason then turned his attention to his maternal grandfather’s line. The Australian Society of Genealogists had a variety of certificates and other records, which allowed him to trace his roots back to a William Cox who was born in Dorset in 1764. Ominously, it seemed William also came to Australia on a convict ship.

Top TipTOP TIP
The largest and most detailed online resource for tracing your wayward forebears is our Criminal Registers, 1791-1892. These reveal the trial, conviction and sentencing of over half a million lawbreakers from all over the UK.


This time the truth was far more respectable. The registers showed William was captain of the ship Minerva – a soldier in charge of the crew and prisoners. Jason found his forebear was an early pioneer in the colony, and became a well-known property developer.

Three Sisters in the Blue Moutains

Fittingly, the pinnacle of William’s life came in the gigantic Blue Mountains near Sydney. He was asked to build the first road joining New South Wales with the unexplored plains across the rest of Australia. His own diary and letters written by the Governor revealed how he performed this hazardous task with incredible determination and ingenuity, and came to be a leading figure in the development of a new nation.


Top TipTOP TIP
We’ve recently added the largest online collection of Australian birth, marriage and death records, to help you trace all your ancestors down under. This includes records from each of the country’s states.


To read our opinions on Jason's story - and share your thoughts - see our blog

Get started today!

New to family history? To start tracing your ancestors, and uncovering their fascinating stories, follow our simple step-by step guide.

Build your family tree: Our easy-to-use tree builder even gives handy hints as you go, to help you find the right records.

Trace your surname: Just enter your name to discover a wealth of fascinating facts, including the places where it was most popular through history.

Find out more

Keep up-to-date
Make sure you hear about our latest record releases, site news and special offers by signing up to our newsletter.

Ask for help
Chat to thousands of other members, and find answers to your family history questions, on our Message Boards.

Find new relatives
Our Member Connect feature automatically matches you with other members that are researching the same ancestors.

WDYTYA? TV Episode on BBC1

Alan Cumming: Monday 13th September

Explore the military exploits of the thespian's medal-winning maternal grandfather - with a shocking twist. Find out more here

UK TV Series 2010 Celebrity Stories

Bruce Forsyth:
Follow the Strictly Come Dancing host as he travels to America in search of hard evidence about his bigamist great-grandfather.
Find out more here

Rupert Everett:
Discover the shocking truth about the film star's paternal grandfather, and a relative he never knew existed.
Find out more here

Dervla Kirwan:
Examine the Ballykissangel actress’ connections to an Irish revolutionary icon who died for his cause.
Find out more here

Monty Don:
Discover whether the celebrity gardener can unearth a lost fortune in his roots.
Find out more here

Alexander Armstrong:
Enjoy a right royal treat as the funnyman strides through a past full of castles and titles.
Find out more here

Jason Donovan:
Follow the soap star's mission to learn about a mother he hardly knew.
Find out more here

Hugh Quarshie
Trace the Holby City actor’s journey across Europe and Africa - uncovering a royal connection along the way.
Find out more here

Alan Cumming:
Explore the military exploits of the thespian's medal-winning maternal grandfather - with a shocking twist..
Find out more here

  • Visit our other sites:

© 2002-2014 Ancestry.com | New Privacy | Cookies | New Terms and Conditions | Operated by Ancestry.com Europe S.à r.l.