Who do you think you are?
Rick Stein

Rick Stein

Rick sets out to explore the life of his father, Eric, who tragically took his own life in the 1960s. He traces the causes of his father's manic depression, exploring the racial abuse he suffered as a child during the First World War due to his German ancestry, and the electric shock therapy he received as an adult.

Before marrying Eric, Rick's mother Dorothy had a brief marriage to a man she met while studying at Cambridge University. Rick researches his mother's early life and her time at Newnham College, Cambridge. He explores the story of her first marriage, and talks to his half-brother Jeremy, the child Dorothy was sadly forced to leave behind when she married Eric.

Finally, Rick travels to China in the footsteps of his great-grandfather Henry Parkes, a 19th century Methodist missionary. Henry was one of the first missionaries to travel into China after the Opium Wars. Rick learns of the harsh conditions in which Henry lived and the personal tragedy he suffered.


    • 1. At 11:07pm on 16 Feb 2009, nodbear wrote:

      Rick's story was,as most of the WDYTYA programmes moving and fascinating.

      As a Methodist minister and a fairly experienced amateur genealogist however I wonder about some aspects of the research and/or the editorial angle taken.

      Just a short time of research after the programme has led me to find that Henry Parkes seems indeed to have had a break in his China service - a year after the letter asking to go home which Rick is shown receiving, he was in fact stationed in Stroud in Gloucestershire - and his wife with him - indeed they had a son James who was born in Stroud in September 1875 so it may even be that Mrs Parkes spent rather longer back in England.

      While this does not in any way alter Rick's assessment of Henry's spirit, it does make the powers that be seem less totally deaf to his account.

      Cleraly both Henry and the family did return to China and its risks and dangers but the story was incomplete here - and the research is not hard to do.

      As to the " unpreparedness" for the conditions - I am sure that is true -but one should perhaps realise that Henry Parkes was born in Antigua and was the son of a missionary minister - so he had few illusions about the life he was undertaking in the general sense even if clearly little knowledge of China specifically.

      Incidentally, Ricks great uncle, Charles son James, also became a Methodist minister so the life clearly did not deter another generation of Parkes from joining it - at least one branch.

      This has been quick research - but it it is true as I believe it to be then I think the programme, while rightly highlighting a tragic loss, could have demonstrated more roundly the picture of the Parkes family at that time.
      Heather Noel-Smith

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    • 2. At 08:39am on 17 Feb 2009, U13835067 wrote:

      Who do you think your parent's are? There was very little searching into the past with Rick Stein. No indepth search into the past like many of the others. Rick was more or less trying to understand his parents, even then I found it very unentertaining.

      Let's dig a little deeper BBC or this programmme is going to die just like our ancesters.

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    • 3. At 09:12am on 17 Feb 2009, U13835088 wrote:

      Last night's episode (Rick Stein) I thought was very disappointing. It spent too long on Rick's immediate family and did not delve enough into his roots. I am sure he already knew about his parents lives.

      It was very shallow and generaly this series is very - very poor, compared to earlier series.

      Come on WDYTYA research team, pull your socks up; if you have run out of interesting stars to research, I am sure there are many 'ordinary' people with far more colourful trees to climb into!

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    • 4. At 09:32am on 17 Feb 2009, macsmithUK wrote:

      Rick made an assertion at the start of the program about his ethnicity. The assertion seems to be counter-intuitive, given his family name.

      Not exploring his father's ancestry did not help to support the assertion and it also detracted from the quality of the episode.

      The program's past episodes have created the expectation that both family lines will be explored to a depth of many generations. This episode failed in that respect.

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    • 5. At 12:18pm on 17 Feb 2009, U13835340 wrote:

      It is unlikely that the BBC forgot to explore Rick's paternal line rather that it found something that made it nervous.
      If it were a case of lack of courage and surely courage is what the programme is about then this feeble edition should not have been broascast or at least some explanation offered.

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    • 6. At 1:40pm on 17 Feb 2009, Claire wrote:

      This series of WDYTYA has not been as good. I truly look forward to watching each Monday and so far each Monday I have been left thinking "well, I could have done that! (and in less time too)". I think the hook is seeing how problems in research can be overcome, as well as the stories themselves.

      I will volunteer my family tree if you are stuck. Come on Beeb let's get back to the standard of cracking stories seen in previous series!!

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    • 7. At 4:04pm on 17 Feb 2009, U13835749 wrote:

      I have found the latest series, and last night's episode in particular, very dull and boring. I thought the series was all about genealogy and researching into people's past as far as possible. So far we have had Rory Bremner where you spent a whole hour on his father and great grandfather, followed by something similar for Fiona Bruce. Although my interest did perk up when you started to follow the Bruce's back a few generations. I found last night's episode extremely boring and disappointing. If you cannot find a celebrity with a past worth exploring then I think you should forget the whole thing. Previous series I have loved with one or two exceptions.

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    • 8. At 5:41pm on 17 Feb 2009, Cavershampark wrote:

      I too was rather disappointed by the programme which was very superficial. The Chinese woman who accompanied Rick in Canton, looked half-asleep and made the lamest of remarks. On his father's side there was a fleeting reference to 'Julius Otto Stein' who came to the UK in the 19th century, it would be very interesting to explore that person's origins in Germany, where records can be well kept. (My family can be traced back to 1777.) It could be a Jewish name and how ironic if the master chef of seafood is descended from a rabbi!

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    • 9. At 10:21pm on 18 Feb 2009, wiradanuprojo wrote:

      It was good to see some details of the Parkes' ministry in China, however the impression was given that their sufferings and ministry were all in vain because churches were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. That is true, but in the years since Mao's death the statistics are very different. Read one of Tony Lambert's books with their full statistics: The Resurrection of the Chinese Church or Chinese Christian Millions and Rick would see that there are now at least 80 million Chinese Christians - some in the Three Self Patriotic Movement official churches (which would include former Methodist churches) and many more in unregistered churches. David Aikman's more polemical Jesus in Beijing also contains details of this remarkable growth. Since there were less than 1 million Christian in China when Communism came to power in 1951, this growth in numbers is astonishing.
      So Rick's ancestor had a part in the beginnings of the burgeoning modern church.

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    • 10. At 6:24pm on 19 Feb 2009, smithjoan wrote:

      I missed something when I watched WDYTYA- family HISTORY. I thought I was turning on for genealogy and this episode seemed to be about Rick's fathers illness. Interesting in a way but not what I hoped to find out about Rick Stein. There was a quick mention of Rick's German ancestry and then it was quickly glossed over. Why no dips into the census to find out when the family came over. I found the whole thing a bit disappointing, you don't need a genealogy programme to help you find out about one generation back but we do need help to trace a bit further back. WDYTYA seems to be losing it's way.

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    • 11. At 01:00am on 20 Feb 2009, Steven Thomas wrote:

      I can only agree with those who feel this series is rather disappointing.

      There has been nothing to match the sight of Jeremy Paxman shedding tears over his ancestor bringing up a brood of children alone in a Glasgow tenement block, or Ainsley Harriott's astonishment to find that he had some white ancestors.

      All in all, the series seems to have been rushed out: someone above bemoaned the lack of real research, and probably hit the nail on the head.

      Many of us have someone in our tree who lived in a workhouse or mental institution, and it would have been more instructive to cover this subject in a historical sense so that we could see how attitudes have changed.

      Focusing so heavily on Stein's father was particularly dull when he has already made a documentary about his illness. In that sense, he didn't need to answer the question posed by the programme's title.

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    • 12. At 6:01pm on 20 Feb 2009, maggie488 wrote:

      I am disappointed with the series so far. Most of us need help in finding ordinary people who lived further back than the 1900s.

      After looking forward to the series I haven't enjoyed it.

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    • 13. At 02:27am on 26 Feb 2009, philliplederer wrote:

      I wondered why the family's German ancestry was ignored. Why did his great grand father Julius emigrate? I think too much time was spent on his father's mental illness.

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