Wednesday, 5 September 2012

WDYTYA review - Annie Lennox

There was a slight delay tonight in watching Annie Lennox's episode of Who Do You Think You Are - Dallas was back on Channel 5 and I wasn't missing that for ANYTHING! The good news, if you didn't watch it, is that JR Ewing is still a big old meanie!

Tonight's episode followed Annie Lennox, and was on very familiar territory, being filmed entirely here in Scotland. I say familiar, but I was actually grateful that a lot of it took place in Aberdeen, as this is the only city in Scotland I've never been to - so that's definitely now on the to do list. The story itself was very competently told, although compared to previous editions, there was considerably more generation hopping going on, and a lot of travelling back and forth - this is definitely one to have a second viewing of, as there was a lot happening.

The stories on offer were very different, and the subject was clearly very keen to find out what was going on, always half the battle in keeping the viewer engaged. The tale of Victorian poverty in Macduff was particularly interesting - sorry, strike that, it was bloody outrageous! James Rose was portrayed as a nasty piece of work in terms of the way that he seemed to abandon his illegitimate daughter, only to have his sister employ her when her mother died, at the least to the point where she was "of no further use". There's Victorian society for you. At the other extreme, the series also dealt with connections to royalty amongst some of Scotland's most stunning scenery. No not Braemar, dances with the Queen Mother and all that nonsense - we're talking about the fact here that Annie's great grandmother was a Paton! Also on the royalty theme (no seriously, forget Braemar, monarchy really doesn't impress me) we also had the very regal presence of Pete Wadley from the National Records of Scotland, doing a seriously good turn at the end of the show. Scotland's answer to Else Churchill, oh yes!

In terms of the processes shown in the programme, it was all very competent, but to me the key lesson was actually one on the kirk session records. There is a tendency to forget, not just in Scotland, but also in the rest of the UK, that when the state took over the handling of the registration of vital records, poor relief and all that the church used to handle, that the church itself did not actually go away. Just because civil registration commenced in 1855 does not mean that it is still not worth accessing kirk session records after that date (or vestry records, or whatever) - but many people do. Tonight was a masterclass in why that really is not the case.

Perhaps not an all time classic, but this was definitely a very enjoyable episode, in what is now certainly settling down into being a competent and well put together run. But it is now up against Dallas, and having watched that tonight, I suspect that the Beeb now has a fight on its hands for viewers. Just remember the iPlayer folks...!

* If interested in getting started with Scottish family history for yourself, yours truly has a few offerings that may help. On Saturday I will be giving a talk in Newcastle at the National Family History Fair entitled Discover Scottish Family History (, whilst from September 26th I'll be teaching a five week online course for beginners entitled Scottish Research Online (see If you're in Scotland I will also be giving a two hour workshop at Summerlee Industrial Museum on Saturday 29th September in Coatbridge entitled Starting Your Scottish Family Tree, as part of a day long programme of events being organised by Lanarkshire Family History Society. I have also written several Scottish based family history books that may help - details are available at


Check out my Scotland's Greatest Story research service
New book: It's Perthshire 1866 - there's been a murder... (from June 12th 2012)

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