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24 September 2014
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Who Do You Think You Are?

Family Ties, BBC FOUR

Skeletons in the cupboard, treasure in the attic, peasants or peers, kings or commoners - all are possible when exploring the far-reaching branches of our family trees.

Ten brave ancestral adventurers take that exciting step in BBC FOUR'S Family Ties, to be linked with BBC TWO's landmark genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are?

Says series producer Peter Gordon: "Many people have a burning desire to understand their own families and tracing our ancestry is the second largest use of the internet.

"Three of our films also have a DNA element which has revolutionised genealogical research - now you can confirm or deny who was related to you."

Typical of the films is David Lewis of Milton Keynes who found a battered, old briefcase 30 years after his father's death.

"It was like a Pandora's Box," he says. "Once I'd opened it the secrets were out. I knew I had to find out more and put together all the pieces of Dad's life."

His story, The Third Woman, reveals a passionate affair, a murdered baby and a half-sister David knew nothing about.

"We have come across some delicate situations," says Peter Gordon. "We never knew fully what we were going to discover and all of the films have a real emotional resonance.

"When we asked people to come forward, we had hundreds of responses - that need to know about some hidden part of our past is within us all.

"I hope these films will inspire people to take that first step in finding out."

Family Ties starts on BBC FOUR, Tuesday 12 October at 10.00pm.

Programme synopses

Becoming A Jew - 12 October 2004

Directed & filmed by Emily Conroy

When he was 19 the Rev Derek Overfield was told he didn't exist. He spent the last 40 years unable to confirm who his real parents were.

Until last year that is, when he finally discovered his mother's identity. In the process, this Baptist minister also discovered that he is in fact Jewish, and that he has a half-brother who is a London cabbie.

Whilst coming to terms with all this the search for his real father goes on.

The Bailey Bunch - 19 October 2004

Directed & filmed by Annabel Hobley

The larger than life Bailey family from Ohio have come to Scotland in search of their roots.

As Highland storyteller Scot recounts oral histories of their clan-lands, they are exposed to the full force of the Scottish heritage industry, from Braveheart monuments to tartan emporia.

John Bailey, the father, is deeply moved as he discovers genealogical and emotional links with the land his forebears fled from four centuries ago.

Meanwhile the teenagers turn their noses up at haggis, and nine-year-old Stevie complains that everything in Scotland is smaller than in Ohio.

Lord Longford's Love Child - 26 October 2004

Directed & recorded by Catherine Glenny

The eighth Lord Longford is a title that Thomas Pakenham chooses not to use, though he is the latest in a family tree that stretches back to the 12th century.

His daughter Eliza is writing a book about their family history and she has discovered a secret account book detailing payments made by one of his forebears 200 years ago to a number of illegitimate children.

One of them intrigues Thomas Pakenham. This is the story of the enigmatic Catherine Weekes and the mysteries surrounding her.

Along the way they find her grave, track down the owner of a lost portrait and speculate on the nature of aristocratic marriage and sex.

A Journey Around My Grandmother - 2 November 2004 Directed & filmed by Javotte Flatman

This is the story of four generations of women, told by the youngest, Javotte, who made this film.

At 88, her French grandmother lives in a nursing home in Paris and experiences deep feelings of abandonment.

Javotte and her mother can't help but make a connection between the way her grandmother is experiencing old-age and what happened to her in her childhood.

In 1916 she had been abandoned at birth by Clementine, Javotte's great-grandmother, and the effects of this act have resonated through generations of family life.

To help her grandmother lay to rest these ghosts, as well as to satisfy their own curiosity, Javotte and her mother set off on a voyage of discovery to the Auvergne and Paris in an attempt to uncover the story of Clementine and her abandoned daughter.

Walter's War - 9 November 2004

Directed & filmed by Alice Mayhall

Wolfgang, in his late 30s and a successful artist, was born and brought up in the UK with a German mother and English father.

At school in the Midlands, he was called 'Nazi' and teased for being German.

What his schoolmates didn't know, and what Wolfgang discovered later, was that his childhood hero and much-loved, and loving, Uncle Walter was just that - a Nazi, who could have been an SS officer.

Wolfgang sets out to separate fact from fiction and forces himself and his German relatives to confront the past and the present.

Was Uncle Walter an SS officer? Where and why did he disappear for three years at the end of the war?

Mother Of Pearl - 16 November 2004

Directed & filmed by Claire Faragher

When Winifred O'Donnell was buried her family knew her only as a mother who, in her younger years, had been a singer in West End shows.

In fact, as her granddaughter Alison later discovered, she was a bigamist who had abandoned her first husband and two young children.

In this film Alison, a granddaughter of the second marriage, pieces together the story of Winifred's first family and how their abandonment has affected the children and grandchildren she left behind.

The Third Woman - 23 November 2004

Directed & filmed by Tim Whitwell

When David Lewis's father died he left behind a potent mix of memories.

He was a career soldier, a loving but strict father, a heavy drinker who, when drunk, became a bully and a wife-beater.

But nothing prepared David for the discovery he made 30 years after his father's death.

In a battered old briefcase he discovered letters revealing a first marriage and a case of infanticide, as well as other letters revealing that there had been a third woman in his father's life: an Austrian waitress with whom he'd had a passionate affair and which resulted in a daughter, David's half-sister.

To try and understand what had turned his father into such a troubled man David makes two journeys: the first to find his Austrian half-sister, the other into his father's dark past.

The Showgirl's Daughter - 30 November 2004

Directed & filmed by John Pendleton

Forty-one years ago a showgirl gave birth to a baby daughter.

Sarah has grown up with snippets of information about her mother - an elusive and intriguing figure.

It is only recently that she has been told that her name at birth was Simone - and now she wants to find out more.

It's an emotional journey for Sarah. Who had the greatest influence on her? - her academic, adoptive parents or what she imagines might be the theatrical inheritance of her birth mother dancing in sequins and feathers during the last great days of cabaret in London.

Sarah takes her first tentative steps in making contact with her birth mother. Will it end happily ever after, or does that just happen in fairy stories?

Daisy's Secret - 7 December 2004 Directed & filmed by Amanda Richardson

In 1936 Daisy handed over her baby to the Foundling Hospital. He was given a new name and a new identity and, along with hundreds of other boys, spent the rest of his childhood in this institution.

Forty-six years after his birth John Caldicott and Daisy, his mother, were reunited.

But to her dying day Daisy refused to divulge anything about his father. It was a closely guarded family secret and Daisy had covered her tracks well.

But John needs to know more: where did he come from, who was he?

Using birth certificates, archives and marriage lines John tries to understand more about the circumstances surrounding his birth and why he was given away.

Will a DNA test provide an answer or a surprising twist?

A Lion-Tamer's Tale - 14 December 2004

Directed & recorded by Alexandra Briscoe

Lorenzo the Lion-Tamer was James Wilson's great-grandfather and one of the 19th century's great circus showmen - the equivalent of today's football star or pop-singer.

James himself has a colourful fairground ancestry, and now in very different circumstances runs an amusement arcade in Arbroath.

James admits to being obsessed by Lorenzo and has managed to piece together details of his life.

Now he wants to know more, and this film follows him on a quest to discover the real Lorenzo.

What was the life of a lion-tamer like, and what were the circumstances of his death?

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