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Shirley Ballas' episode

A place to chat about the 15th series of the genealogy programme, which will feature stories from Olivia Colman, Lee Mack, Boy George and more

Shirley Ballas' episode

Postby Rosemary Collins » Fri Jul 27, 2018 9:13 am

Hello everyone!

The next episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, starring Strictly Come Dancing judge and ballroom dancer Shirley Ballas, will be broadcast at 9pm on Monday 30 July 2018 on BBC One.

Shirley's journey will take her from her native Merseyside to South Africa as she uncovers the secrets in her family tree.

As ever, we'd love it if you'd let us know what you think of the episode here!
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Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine

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Re: Shirley Ballas' episode

Postby PostedPast » Tue Jul 31, 2018 7:13 am

It was a fascinating episode. Family stories can't always be relied upon and that was never truer in Shirley's family.
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Re: Shirley Ballas' episode

Postby KayFarndon » Tue Jul 31, 2018 9:26 am

Yes, this was a much better story and kept my interest to the end.
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Re: Shirley Ballas' episode

Postby AdrianB38 » Tue Jul 31, 2018 10:01 am

From the point of view of doing research, this was (again) another instance of "Here's another document that I have for you that I'm not allowed to say that the crew have just given me to give to you." In fairness, it's actually quite difficult to see how else things can be engineered, although at one time certificates were sent off for and we would see the celebrity with an envelope, which I think is a more natural way of arranging things than now, when someone who doesn't appear to be an expert genealogist just happens to have a certificate.

Fortunately, the 2 basic story lines were so good that the plumbing details didn't matter. I did feel that there was a bit too much supposition in the first story of the supposed good time girl whose story turned out to be a tragedy. Exactly why her husband left his estate to his mother was never resolved, as far as I know, yet might have been a key part of her story.

The 2nd story of how the black ancestry turned out to be true and was then twisted into the crushing prospect of slavery, I found gripping. I have to confess that I really didn't appreciate the fact that there were slaves in Cape Colony, while the way that so many people were just bundled under the single heading of Malays was sad and, in retrospect, utterly disrespectful of their identities.

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Re: Shirley Ballas' episode

Postby PostedPast » Tue Jul 31, 2018 10:15 am

I guess there has to be a balance between showing viewers the celebrity and the actual research. Yes, those documents can't just appear but would viewers want to see that research? I would – but I don't think the makers would see it as a ratings winner. Having said that, I'm amazed that sometimes I can find an obscure document very easily.
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Re: Shirley Ballas' episode

Postby AdrianB38 » Tue Jul 31, 2018 11:53 am

PostedPast wrote:... would viewers want to see that research? ...

The vast bulk of viewers wouldn't be in the slightest bit interested. The problem with the current way of working is that it breaks the suspension of disbelief - Shirley didn't know anything of her family history beyond the couple of rumours, yet mysteriously her mother happens to have a marriage certificate for her whatever-grandparents...?? How??

I think I'd prefer the old way where her mother wouldn't have that certificate and you'd later see Shirley getting an envelope with it in. But in fairness, that probably takes up more on-screen time.
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Re: Shirley Ballas' episode

Postby sdelay » Tue Jul 31, 2018 12:34 pm

Interesting episode But maybe there was too little supposition about the second story. There, the second odd will was explained as being a bequest to a loyal servant. But we never heard about who was the father of Caroline Otto's children.

Could it possibly be the case that Da Costa was the father of the children or that another member of his family was the father of the children? That feels more consistent to me with the large size of the planned bequest and the subsequent baptism into Christianity.

Perhaps this was looked into and the evidence is against it. But it would be interesting to hear why.
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Re: Shirley Ballas' episode

Postby HardWork » Tue Jul 31, 2018 1:45 pm

Though it might be part of the appeal, I think one of the problems with these family history programmess is that they have to be built round a narrative. The guest begins with one impression that evidence goes on to suggest may well be wrong and then replaces it with another. For instance, we know Shirley's great-grandmother divorced her husband. We do not know why or when. Who is to say if any of the children were not illegitimate? In 1911, the g-grandmother described herself as head of household, which may indicate that the couple had already split. Also she was a shopkeeper not a shop assistant, suggesting she was working for herself. Who's to say she had not contracted syphilis prior to marriage to her second husband? Why did they adopt and not have their own child?

My point is family history research frequently only gives snippets of information and no firm interpretation can be drawn from them usually, as to motives and character. Yet these show's subjects often seem to create these images of character and are probably encouraged to do so for the sake of the story-telling - but often the difference between fact and imagination gets blurred, into a new "fact"
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Re: Shirley Ballas' episode

Postby AdrianB38 » Tue Jul 31, 2018 5:53 pm

sdelay wrote: ... Could it possibly be the case that Da Costa was the father of the children or that another member of his family was the father of the children? ...


My impression was that might well be possible and I didn't hear anything to say that the researchers had denied that possiblity. Rather I felt that they were making the least unlikely suggestion to start with, knowing that some of us could be relied on to let our imagination run further. Having said that, bearing in mind that this was South Africa, was such a relationship likely or likely to be acknowledged? It would be a good bet in India but the dynamics of India were not owner / slave, unlike here. I guess we'll never know...

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Re: Shirley Ballas' episode

Postby Medmerry » Wed Aug 01, 2018 3:47 pm

I think this episode shows that hearsay amongst families is usually true. If you are told you have black ancestry then it's a good bet that this is the case, with subtle variations. I like the way the experts let Shirley do the talking and don't profer opinions. A hairdresser may be able to identify other race hair amongst your normal lot and this could send you on your own conquest.
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