Known to millions as the 'bearded one' from The Goodies and now acknowledged
as the country's best-known bird watcher, Bill Oddie bravely turns his
inquiring gaze into the tangled and sometimes obscure branches of his
own family tree - unprepared for the surprises it contains.
"This isn't curiosity - it's self-help," he says candidly, revealing
that his research began after he had suffered two severe bouts of clinical
"I was an only child, brought up by my father and his mother, with
no extended family.
"I sensed I didn't know the truth even about the people I did remember."
Oddie's research uncovered the tragic truth about the mother he saw
only four times in his young life.
"It was like only seeing the trailer, never the whole film", he
"In the 1950s she was put in a mental institution - she disappeared
out of my life in slightly mysterious circumstances and the rest of
my family was a big blank."
But the lonely, only child who sought solace from the strictures of
his Birmingham home by escaping to the countryside, also often longed
to have a sister.
"Not a brother, a sister," he insists. "The irony was - I did have."
Oddie discovered that, a couple of years before he was born, his mother
had suffered a miscarriage at seven months, then later given birth to
a baby girl - who had survived for just five days.
"My mother had heard her crying and wanted to go to her - but my Granny
had stopped her. In her head she must have had to live in the same house
as someone she blamed for her baby's death.
"It's very unreal and very sad," he admits.
The trail continues back into the flourishing textile industry of Oddie's
Lancashire roots, where his family had earned a precarious living, with
long hours, poor housing and high infant mortality.
"The 1891 census shows my grandmother working in the mills at the age
of 13," he reveals, "and an inquest in the local paper reveals that
my grandfather died of cancer of the tonsils, probably brought on by
the work he did.
"This programme has allowed me to put everything into an historical
context and realise how lucky I am."