Thursday, 4 October 2007

Who do you think you are?

I don't often get to watch television weekday evenings as I am at work, but I had this evening off and managed to catch Who Do You Think You Are? which is an absolutely fascinating series about tracing the history of a television personality or some other famous person.

This evening they traced the family background of Alistair McGowan who traced his paternal line back through about seven or eight generations, all beginning with his father who had 'anglo-indian' listed on his birth certificate. Which prompted a visit to India to see whether the family did indeed have an Indian heritage as McGowan was always told that the family was just English, but happened to be born in India.

Well, the journey was fascinating, McGowan does indeed have an Indian ancestry. What happened was that when the British colonised India, the military men were given financial incentives to marry the natives as this would establish the colony and create loyal British subjects that would have ties to both Britain and India.

The strangest thing is that there are still McGowans in India and they all look quite distinctly Indian, but have names like Cecil, Ralph and Jonny! Anyway, McGowan managed (with the help of the BBC!) to track the family line back a bit further.

Essentially, what he was hoping to do was find out who was the first of the McGowans to arrive in India and where he came from. It took a few generations, but McGowan eventually ended up back at the British Library with a military Librarian and discovered that the original McGowan (John) was Irish! Poor Alistair, he was hoping to find that his however-many-Greats Grandfather came from Scotland as he felt quite an affinity for Scotland!

Wow - you just never know do you? It must be so interesting to figure out where you originally came from, but it would get very confusing unless you stuck to one line and most people go for the paternal line, but that is not the only family tree you have! It is also a very expensive and time consuming research project, fortunately those that take part in this series have the support of the BBC - I don't think that they could have done it otherwise!

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