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Hugh Quarshie

Discuss last year's series of Who Do You Think You Are?, which featured Bruce Forsyth, Dervla Kirwan, Monty Don and six more famous faces as they traced their family trees

Hugh Quarshie

Postby Matt Elton » Thu Sep 02, 2010 8:59 am

The Holby City and Star Wars actor traces his European heritage in Monday night's episode of Who Do You Think You Are?. Check back to the site after the show has aired for some unseen footage and a full recap – and let us know what you thought here...
Matt Elton
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Re: Hugh Quarshie

Postby FamilyHistoryAddict » Mon Sep 06, 2010 11:15 pm

Wow! To think I thought I wouldn't enjoy this one. It was great! I don't watch Holby so Hugh was fairly new to me. What an absolutely charming man. So good mannered.

I loved the story and the bit at the end where all the photos came tumbling out was fantastic. It's every family historian's dream for something like that to happen.

Glad that the Dutchman wasn't as bad as he seemed. He took care of his children financially by leaving them in his will and wanted to return but was unable to do so. It seems he preferred his African wife to his Dutch wife.

Great story - it unravelled well in a logical and easy to understand order.

I think the large amount of photos of the subjects helped to make this programme a resounding success. It's nice to see photos so that you can put faces to names.

Really enjoyed this one. I didn't get bored once and was absolutely enthralled - loved Hugh's manner and sense of humour.

Cheers, FHA
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Re: Hugh Quarshie

Postby MRDoortmont » Mon Sep 06, 2010 11:42 pm

Tonight BBC 1 broadcast the Hugh Quarshie episode of the Who Do You Think You Are series 7. It was my privilege to contribute to the programme in several ways, advising the team, as well as providing materials and contacts. For me the story was not new. Already in 1995, as part of a research project into the Dutch historical presence in Ghana, I visited the Kamerling House in Elmina and Abii village. I met several of the family members and was impressed by their knowledge of their family history.

On my return home,I contacted Eric Kamerling, whom I had known for many years as a fellow genealogist. He showed me the photos and papers from Ghana and told me the story of his great-grand-uncle Pieter Martinus Johannes Kamerling, who went to Africa and had a family there. It is a thrilling story and it was very nice to relive and re-tell it with Hugh and the Wall-to-Wall production team.

Obviously, as is the case with all television documentaries, the story is bigger than the small screen allows for. Additional info on some of the stars from the programme is available in the Gold Coast Data Base. Work on a more complete publication is in progress but requires additional research, both in The Netherlands and Ghana.

One issue brought up in the programme can be addressed here already. In the episode one of the mysteries is the name of Pieter Kamerling's wife. In family tradition she is called Efua Yenkye (pronounced 'Yentshee'; mis-spelled on the on-screen family tree as 'Jensch'). In the Dutch documents she is called Ellen van der Spek, and even signs a document with that name. On screen I say that in my opinion the two ladies are one and the same. It now turns out from new evidence that Efua Yenkye (aka Janet van der Spek) was Pieter's first wife in Ghana. He fell out with her over money and other matters and Janet took Pieter to court over the dispute. It meant the end of that relationship. About a year later he was married to Ellen, in all probability Janet's sister, with whom - as the programme showed so vividly - he had a loving relationship that survived their separation.

For more info on the Kamerling family and Dutch-Ghanaian genealogies, check out my blog at:
and my Gold Coast DataBase website at:
Anna Kamerling, Hugh Quarshie's great-grandmother (courtesy of Eric Kamerling)
Kamerling_Anna_01_web2.jpg (30.47 KiB) Viewed 7867 times
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Re: Hugh Quarshie

Postby MCorjanus » Tue Sep 07, 2010 9:04 am

From the Netherlands, we have discovered your series and try to watch every week. The British do know how to tell a story. Yesterdays' episode on Hugh Quarshie was thrilling and touching at once. Who would have thought that this British-Ghanese actor would have such a Dutch ancestry! It was a breathtaking moment when his distant cousin in Vorden, the Netherlands, produced the same photograph of Hugh's grandfather. The same thing goes for all these relatives called Kamerling Hugh met in Ghana.
It is clear that Pieter Kamerling was a man who came to love Africa which never disappeared from his heart. In this story, black and white are equal
Many thanks to Mr. Erik Kamerling and Prof. Doortmont for their Dutch contributions. BBC, keep up the good work!
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Re: Hugh Quarshie

Postby naa Aduwah » Tue Sep 07, 2010 1:44 pm

A programme that proved a sensation in our house. Partly because I am of Scandinavian-Ghanaian heritage and what a revelation - appears my husband and our children’s historic Dutch Cape Coast ancestry, is linked to Hugh’s family tree!

It was nice to see Hugh with his family, before he left on his journey -including the reference to his Swedish Wife. I wrongly guessed that this was intended to signpost us to later programme content. Cape Coast having been in Swedish Control from the 1650s, passing to the Danish and then Dutch with the Elmina we saw, having been built by the Portuguese.

The Swedish influence can be found at Fort Christiansborg - now the Osu Castle and seat of Ghana's democratic government. I suspect that many from Ghana, like Hugh, also have Swedish connections and blood. Certainly my father, who was proud of his Ga blue blood, was rather mystified in the late 1950s to find he shared a rare sub-blood group with my mother, who can trace her Finnish ancestry for at least 700 years. As we know Finland gained its independence quite late in European history.

Again well done – tends to show the significant Ghanaian communities in Uk and Holland, are like Salmon - just coming back to our second home - Europe .
naa Aduwah
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Re: Hugh Quarshie

Postby MRDoortmont » Wed Sep 08, 2010 8:13 am

@Naa Aduwah: Just to put the record straight: it were the Danes that had a substantial presence on the Gold Coast and occupied Christiansborg Castle at Osu, Accra from the mid-17th to the mid-19th century. The Swedes tried to establish a foothold on the Gold Coast in the mid-17th century, but failed and were gone by 1660.

Cape Coast was the British headquarters, and was - except for two years in the 17th century - never in Dutch hands. From the 1660s onwards the political opposition was between the British and their Fante allies on the one hand and the Dutch and their Asante allies (from 1702) on the other. The two headquarters (British Cape Coast and Dutch Elmina) were facing each other from two promonteries in the coastline, only 14 km apart. Between Accra and Half-Assini (on the Ivory Coast border) British and Dutch occupied over twenty forts, often alternately, or in pairs. For instance, Sekondi, where P.M.J. Kamerling was based as fort commander, had both a Dutch and a British fort, controlling their own part of the town. Kamerling's journals indicate several scuffles between the populations of British and Dutch Sekondi, which he and his British counterpart had to settle.

Intermarriage was a practice that already existed in Portuguese times, and continued well into the 19th century. It was very much part of the natural social order of the coastal communities, and provided for social and economic security on both sides of the colour line, as well as for political stability in a complex political environment.

Only after the introduction of formal colonialism by the British in the late 19th century did the character change. This also explains why, in the case of Hugh's family, the English great-grandfather of the late 1870s has dissappeared in the mists of time - also in family tradition - while the Dutch ancestors of just one generation earlier have become an integral part of the family tradition.
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Re: Hugh Quarshie

Postby meekhcs » Wed Sep 08, 2010 12:07 pm

I have been an avid family historian for several years now, and have subscribed to the magazine from it's first edition, however I have always found the idea of researching celebrity families as a little "false". As a consequence this is the first series that I have watched with any regularity but I must say I was thoroughly captivated by this weeks episode featuring Hugh Quarshie. How wonderful to find photographs of so many generations of one family. He must have had a wonderful time sharing everything with his family when he returned home.
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Re: Hugh Quarshie

Postby Lady1 » Sun Sep 12, 2010 10:47 am

What an awesome episode.
I tust that Hugh will ensure his lineage as that with his Swedish wife is kept alive.Whilst he had not been to Ghana for five years prior to this programme. He should ensure that his young children meet their Ghanaian ancestors in order to keep their history alive. This is obviously ditto to their Swedish ancestry.
Great Programme it would be good to have updates if any at all.
In addition I believe we need more diversity on who do you think you are. Whilst the entertainment world might not be able to wholly present a diverse subject matter, maybe the series could focus on non celebs which would be more diverse than it currently is. I appreciate that this presents challenges, it would none-the-less make for spellbound viewing.
Excellant episode!
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Re: Hugh Quarshie

Postby MRDoortmont » Sun Sep 12, 2010 8:05 pm

@Lady1. Unfortunately, WDYTYA (BBC website or WDYTYA Magazine) does not allow for a structured update. However, as the original researcher of the subject, I am planning to prepare a more complete publication of the results. The form it is going to take is not yet clear, but it will include more info on all aspects touched upon in the programme, with photographs and schedules. It will also include a full biography of P.M.J. Kamerling, both discussing his life in the Netherlands and in Ghana, his family, and his circle of friends and colleagues. It will take some time for this to be finished though, as it involves re-interviewing family and doing new archival research in Ghana, as well as the Netherlands and possibly England.

In the mean time, interested parties can have a look at my Gold Coast DataBase, which contains information on many Dutch-Ghanaian families, including the Kamerling family ( Note that the information in the database is tentative at all times, and can not be taken as final evidence.
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Re: Hugh Quarshie

Postby lesley.mazey » Mon Sep 13, 2010 11:25 am

As a long time fan of the series (and hater of the lovie types just aftre tracing their links to royalty) I was a little apprehensive when sitting down to watch this particular epoisode. I do not watch Casuality so had no idea who Hugh was!!

But I was delighted to see such a gentle respectful man finding out so many wonderful secrets/surprises. I was especialy impressed by how he put the acting village chief's mind at rest about the occupying of the stool.

It was nice to see that not all black african histories have to bang on about the slave trade and make us all feel guilty. I hope this info gives Hugh many happy dreams for the future.


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