Find my Past: The TV series

The other day I stumbled on a new genealogy programme on the Yesterday Channel. Under the banner of the commercial family history website findmypast, this series takes climactic historic events, andfollows the journeys of people whose ancestors were involved.

This trailer is for the episode looking at the hundreds of British soldiers shot for cowardice, desertion and other offences such as falling asleep on duty on the Western Front during the Great War:

Other episodes look at the Battle of Britain, the Mutiny on the Bounty, D-Day, Jack the Ripper and the Titanic.

I watched the Jack the Ripper episode the other day and found it very engaging. It is nice to see family history with ‘normal’ people and not just celebrities. The Jack the Ripper episode featured Dr Nick Barratt (genealogy’s own Troy Mclure who crops up everywhere), and a host of other experts.

As I have often said, anything that heightens awareness of family history is a good thing, as long as it doesn’t gloss over the long yet rewarding work that is involved.

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Filed under Family History, On TV, western front, World War One

8 responses to “Find my Past: The TV series

  1. John Erickson

    I’m not sure I’d watch the “military execution” show. I think if I found out that my ancestor had been shot for falling asleep in the trenches, I’d want to go find the descendants of the officer who ordered it and return the favour. (Hey, I understand discipline and all, but isn’t that … well…. OVERKILL?)

    • James Daly

      I watched the Jack the Ripper episode and it wasn’t too bad. I’ve read some very snooty comments about the shot at dawn episode, but usually when you see snooty comments about history documentaries they are by people who’ve never really done anything themselves, and having a dig always makes you look like an expert, right?

      Anyway, on the shot at dawn thing… it is horrible, looking back. I do think that cases where men were shot for cowardice, sleeping on duty, going AWOL etc are abhorent. Obviously when men were shot for murder, that’s is hard to criticise. I don’t support capital punishment at all, but in the context of the time it was the legal practice in most countries, including Britain. One argument is that death by firing squad was in the Army act and hence any new recruits knew the risks that they ran, but I think having to shoot your own soldiers ‘to encourage the others’ shows a failure of leadership in the first place.

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