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Do you have Britain's dullest family tree?

Eddie Mair | 12:40 UK time, Tuesday, 21 July 2009


Is your family tree duller than Sir Michael's? If so, please email us at pm@bbc.co.uk or add a comment here.

PA reports it like this:

"Sir Michael Parkinson said today he was "gutted" when the producers of family history programme Who Do You Think You Are? told him his ancestors were too boring for him to take part in the show.

Researchers spent six weeks investigating the veteran interviewer's roots but
failed to unearth anything of interest among the miners, labourers and domestic
staff that make up Parky's antecedents.

Writing in the Radio Times, the 74-year-old said he was a huge fan of the
show. "When Who Do You Think You Are? called and asked if I was interested, I said I
would be delighted, but warned that my own research had unearthed nothing of
note," he wrote.

"'Oh, they all say that. But we always find something,' they said.

"Six weeks later they phoned to apologise. My story was so boring they had to
cancel the entire project. I was gutted."


  • 1. At 1:09pm on 21 Jul 2009, U14056677 wrote:


    Researchers spent six weeks investigating the veteran interviewer's roots but failed to unearth anything of interest among the miners, labourers and domestic staff that make up Parky's antecedents.


    Which is surely the only justification for being one of the chattering classes.

    On the average wage, of course.

    What about Mary, Lady Parkinson (née Heneghan; born 16 July 1939)? How goes her inter - generational claim?

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  • 2. At 1:17pm on 21 Jul 2009, Happyhomeworker wrote:

    Well, on one side of my family my ancestors are (going backwards from grandparents): biscuit salesman, publican/labourer/local drunk, pavior (layer of paving stones - dull, eh?), pavior, gardener, labourer.

    On the other side my direct male ancestors were: sawmaker, sawmaker/cutler, sawmaker, sawmaker, sawmaker, blacksmith. Wow!

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  • 3. At 1:28pm on 21 Jul 2009, Big Sister wrote:

    Happy homeworker: I'm tempted to say that half of your ancestory is cutting edge ;o)

    Nice to see you here again, btw!

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  • 4. At 2:01pm on 21 Jul 2009, jjoldie wrote:

    So much for the BBC celebrating the ordinary!!

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  • 5. At 2:03pm on 21 Jul 2009, Lady_Sue wrote:

    That's terribly funny!

    Big Sis: also enjoyed your witticism @3.

    Most people think their own family history is fascinating and it probably is, to them.

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  • 6. At 2:13pm on 21 Jul 2009, steelpulse wrote:

    Ah yes. Michael Parkinson. I felt bad and annoyed that his life had NOT been used.

    Do we only go into the past to find interest and possible scandal and infamy? We do? Oh!

    A "Who Do You Think You Are" from basic stock would make a nice change. I have lost count on the number of its participients we plebs need to bow to because they are 608th in line to the "Hentzaurian" throne.

    Apologies to Anthony Hope by the way but Boris Johnson - with his forebears (One more than than the other Goldilocks) could allegedly have the power to execute me still, if I misspoke about his ancestry! Half of Europe allegedly belongs to him. lol

    Dull ancestry?

    I have to admit, Eddie, I do.

    It was so boring a kindly professional genealogist allegedly lost interest in it and went on his way - with me being none the wiser. I suspect the research was a yawn fest.

    No maternal grand parentage found at all. So my mater and pater sprung fully formed from somewhere and I go back no further.

    So I must depend on others having all the money spent on researching their pasts an vicariously enjoy the BBC programmes. Although I feel honour bound to let Christopher of Moyles know that a Murder in Midsomer is likely to keep me from watching his gig live. The wife has custody of the remote control. It is an heirloom you know. She at least had ancestors! lol

    Subject: Zero two fifty six colon gmt things are going to be pretty tricky
    Anagram: Peter thy kins bigot react - try going - Met try cool Wiz Foxs on gift

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  • 7. At 2:22pm on 21 Jul 2009, ghblog wrote:

    this reminds me of that episode of Lead Balloon where Jack Dee's 'Scottish' family is rejected for being dull...
    16 - Panda

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  • 8. At 2:32pm on 21 Jul 2009, U14056635 wrote:

    Michael Parkinson boring?
    But he comes from Yorkshire, near Barnsley, I think.
    And he likes talking about how cricket and football was 40 years ago.
    And he likes old films with 'proper' film stars.
    Boring? - yes, I see what you mean.

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  • 9. At 2:40pm on 21 Jul 2009, Alan-Fresco wrote:

    How I envy those "celebs" (why do we celebrate entertainers?) who have the opportunity to look so sincere on these programmes as they imagine the privations that their forebears went through. I am sincere and could ham it up for the programme, I just don't think I have any ancestors? At all?

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  • 10. At 2:46pm on 21 Jul 2009, U14056635 wrote:

    Alan-Fresco - I think there is a very good chance that you DO have ancestors.

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  • 11. At 2:58pm on 21 Jul 2009, Gillianian wrote:

    Crikey! Looking at the list of Parky's ancestors, I think we must be related ;o)

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  • 12. At 3:14pm on 21 Jul 2009, Big Sister wrote:

    There is a Chinese proverb:

    'It's better to be a dog in a peaceful time than be a man in a chaotic period.'

    So perhaps Parky has something to be pleased about.

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  • 13. At 3:40pm on 21 Jul 2009, DI_Wyman wrote:

    I can trace my ancestors right back to the shallow end of the gene pool!

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  • 14. At 4:14pm on 21 Jul 2009, funnyJoedunn wrote:

    There was a bloke who lived down our street who always wore a tank-top jumper and his trousers were about six inches above his ankles. He would often be seen sporting sun glasses and a building site hard hat when it was raining...he was fond of picking up local litter to put in the nearest bin. He was a nice guy...anyway, he always reckoned he was king George the fourths son.

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  • 15. At 4:24pm on 21 Jul 2009, annasee wrote:

    It depends by how you judge "dullness", I suppose. My SO's family only a few generations ago had a mother who, when left a widow and all her children had left home, had to go into the workhouse and died there. I find that tragic.

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  • 16. At 4:32pm on 21 Jul 2009, Anne P. wrote:

    How sad, annasee. I think dullness in relations is mostly in the eye of the beholder. Everyone has a story to tell, perhaps just not what the TV people consider 'interesting' i.e. involving royalty, celebrities, lots of money or scandal.

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  • 17. At 4:55pm on 21 Jul 2009, David_McNickle wrote:

    It would be nice to be famous and get your family traced for free. Not exactly free, the license fees of viewers are probably paying for it.

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  • 18. At 4:57pm on 21 Jul 2009, David_McNickle wrote:

    Hey, Parky owns a pub. Is that boring?

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  • 19. At 7:04pm on 21 Jul 2009, steelpulse wrote:

    Eddie, that gentleman interviewed on this subject had done some research on Mister Parkinson - and even his brief description suggests either the two reseach groups were fishing in completely different seas or perhaps the Who Do You Think You Are were being tactful.

    Allegedly - a misplaced wife - a very VERY young wife?

    Perhaps it got even more "dull" - spelt S.H.O.C.K.I.N.G - as the reseach went on? So "dull" it became unbroadcastable - for sensitivity? Perhaps MIchael Parkinson had to be told something. And that diplomatic Beeb...... lol

    Now that is the sort of family I need. Michael - you can have my history if I can have yours!

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  • 20. At 6:09pm on 22 Jul 2009, PuffinBillie wrote:

    Surely the fact that his ancestors are not interesting is interesting in itself.

    Whatever job they had, the jobs were in a different time. The job of miners was hard and dangerous ... we know that! But perhaps what we don't know is the conditions they had to work in. What about the mine? That must have a history. Likewise labourers. What were they labouring at? Domestic Staff ...where were they working? Just a normal house? If that is so, that in itself would be interesting, what job did the master do and why did he think he needed domestic staff? History is often at its best when at its most mundane. Let's face it, we aren't really interested in the fact that the celebrities in the programme had parents, grandparents aunts and uncles... we are mostly interested in how different the lifestyle is and how it compares to life today. So make the programme, and as it would be so interesting, make it a special double length programme.

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  • 21. At 6:42pm on 22 Jul 2009, rainbowAlison wrote:

    I fear the message is clear: the programme makers are only interested in royalty, rogues and romance. What a pity.

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  • 22. At 7:11pm on 22 Jul 2009, steelpulse wrote:

    It was Parky.

    The dullness of being. Me that is.

    And the power of a utility bill. I lacked one on my visit to Kew National Archives today - my fault but it strikes me as odd. Passport front and centre and I suppose I could have had the missus Email one after scanning it but wht bother her? I will go back and find out how really dull any ancestors were.

    Driving licence or a utility bill. Why do we have that fuss over the ID card? If we all carried a very very old utility bill to show when challenged.

    It has your home address on it - supposedly.

    I think I see a flaw in that plan but hey. I will carry so many next time they - National Archive - will offer me the Keys to The Kingdom - instead of a Readers Card!

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  • 23. At 10:50am on 23 Jul 2009, tallhobbitgirl wrote:

    In response to Parkinson's so called boring family history!
    I'm outraged that he had to experience rejection on such a sensitive topic as ones own family, even if they lived many years ago and therefore was never acquainted with them! Surely this is the point however...the journey of discovery! Finding out about who they were and how they lived, what was happening at that time in their lives and the world as it was around them.
    I'm glad that Nick Barratt has a more colourful picture to paint for our dear Parkinson, and that he can now enjoy and delight in the rich personal heritage that his ancestors are a part of. I think that the series Who do You Think You Are? is lacking the diligence and finesse of the earlier series' research skills, and this not only comes accross in the later shows but also results in this neglect to pick up on Parkinson's own family's ancestorial story. Both insulting Parkinson and depriving WHO viewers of a potentially great show!
    I think this proves that having a specialist team of researchers over an in-house team that are clearly doing a half cut job, can have a big impact on the program and it's credibility!
    The other side to this is the recent news that The National Archives are trying to cut down on their opening times and therefore make it more difficult for interested viewers of this show and many other keen historians and genealogists alike, to view records and take on a tactile, tangible and exciting journey into discovering their own ancestors and personal heritage. This needs to be seriously prevented as both specialist staff and precious documents as well as visitors to TNA will all suffer under this
    ill advised proposal

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  • 24. At 12:41pm on 23 Jul 2009, danensis wrote:

    Most people are descended from the ubiquitous AgLabs. There are a few who are the offspring of milord's dalliance amongst the servants, but that information is unlikely to be recorded in the official documents.

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  • 25. At 9:27pm on 23 Jul 2009, PuffinBillie wrote:

    There is a very good song written about the unsung everyday person, by Clive James and Pete Atkin (yes the Clive James). Called Stranger in Town, it recognises the achievements of a cowboy who was just the average unsung ordinary guy. Check out the lyrics at


    There needs to be more songs like this!

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