Aussie WDYTYA Season 5


You can buy earlier series of the Aussie WDYTYA online.

You can buy earlier series of the Aussie WDYTYA online.

Are you enjoying this season’s Australian Who Do You Think You Are (WDYTYA)?

I certainly am – I even think this may be their best yet.  The background researchers have done a great job and the individuals we’re following seem to really care about what happened to their families in the past.

James Tanner from Genealogy’s Star was recently bemoaning (rightly!) discussing his experience with helping a friend get started with their genealogy. There does seem to be a tendency for new genealogists to want to wander an orchard full of genealogical data, plucking off whichever fruit appeals to them, or looking for a specific tree called “the Smith Family”.

Certainly the downside of programs like WDYTYA or Ancestry’s advertising, is that they make it appear as if information drops from the skies or is just there for plucking from the trees like ripe fruit. No wonder we’re seeing a proliferation of incorrect and ill-considered trees on public web sites.

Of course, there were probably always some trees full of errors (some of the old patron submissions on the IGI, for example), but they used to be hidden in someone’s cupboard rather than out there for the next quick-fix “researcher” to incorporate into their own tree. I guess there’ll always be those who want to be rigorous with their research, “doubting Thomases” who want the proof and nothing but the proof (me, for example), and those who are happy to rely on “but my family always said…..”.

WDYTYA does make it look easier than it is, and deceptive in how you can research: when was the last time you were taken into the compactus (plural? compactii?) of an archival repository to collect your documents? Yes, right, never!

And yes, newspaper articles are plucked as if from that same magic research tree without reference to Trove, which all Aussie researchers have come to almost take for granted. I have to remind myself that once we were finding at least some of the same information by laborious scrolling of microfilms for pertinent dates or events, or by taking advantage of indexes equally laboriously compiled by volunteers from various family history societies.

What I don’t find myself doing (at least not too much!) is talking to the screen during WDYTYA as I do through “Who’s been sleeping in my house” saying “use Trove”,” look up the BDM indexes”, “check the electoral rolls”.

But returning to last night’s show on Michael Caton (of The Castle and “tell him he’s dreaming” fame), the show made me think about two things pertinent to my own family history:

  1. My Denis Gavin may have left off his work as a carrier after he ceased employment at Binbian Downs, not having the funds to set up his own “rig” but equally he may have been impacted by the encroaching impact of Cobb & Co. This is a thought I’ll be pursuing in future research.
  2. Michael’s ancestor had links to the (in)famous bushranger Thunderbolt both early in his career but also near Tenterfield in the early 1860s because of the gold rush. They didn’t mention this was at Tooloom, only that it was near the Queensland border. However I have evidence that my George Kunkel was working as a pork butcher on the same goldfields. I wonder if he ever sold meat to Thunderbolt? Just one of those irrelevant and silly thoughts –but the fact remains he was working in the same area at the same time so would have been very familiar with the stories of Thunderbolt’s activities.

The other amusing diversion was that during Caton’s visit to Cunnamulla, there was a background sign about the Cunnamulla Fella, the eponymous country song, and apparently also the name of a local festival!

 Have any of the recent WDYTYA shows made you re-think any aspect of your family history?

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14 thoughts on “Aussie WDYTYA Season 5

  1. as a child and teenager – driving from the mid-north coast – Lismore or Coffs Harbour to
    Quirindi (past Tamworth), where my grandparents later lived in retiredment (from their farm locally), I have not
    thought of “(in)famous bushranger Thunderbolt” – in many years – passing his region.
    Was he a problem to my ancestors? – need to chk the Trove.

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  2. Love that I’m not the only one enviously watching how effortlessly and instantly (?!) the records appear from the stacks in WDYTYA!

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  3. Pauleen WDYTYA is also a must watch for me although I have to watch the online video as I am still at work when the TV show is on. I have to admit to the envy as well. I’ve not heard much about Thunderbolt the bushranger. I come from Ned Kelly country :) and got excited when a family member told me a story had been passed down their line that my ggg grandparents had paid a fine/bail for Ned’s mother’s after one of the “run ins” with the troopers.

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  4. Those copy-and-paste trees make me want to tear my hair out. And cited sources/references (if any)? Oh, someone else’s unsourced tree. Argh!

    Still, I’m glad that episode gave you some interesting thoughts about your own research.

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      • Oh, yes, I agree that it’s interesting to see the research and with any luck a few tips get passed on… but it’s entertainment, really. Best to take the genealogy hat off when watching, maybe?

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  5. I don’t think it’s silly at all Pauleen I often wonder who my ancestors ‘rubbed shoulders’ with. I recently found out that a cousin used to attend an Adelaide art society with Sir Hans Heysen. It’s these and other simple or funny anecdotes which keep me looking for more.

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    • They certainly add to our knowledge and understanding of our ancestors, don’t they Kylie? Fancy knowing Sir Hans Heysen. These snippets are every bit as revealing as someone’s BDM data.

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