For Kenny star Shane Jacobson, the family history that he was already aware of was already incredibly intriguing: his father, Ron, was born into a family of carnival workers and lived in a tent until he was 21.
They know nothing of their ancestry, but Shane is convinced they come from Viking stock. His crusade will take him to Finland where Shane’s great grandfather took drastic steps that echo down the Jacobson line.
His journey will take Shane to a medieval church where his ancestor was forced to sit on a shaming stool to atone for her sexual crimes. His search for the truth behind his Viking roots is answered, and in a farmhouse Shane finds his extended Finnish family.
We caught up with Shane ahead of his episode premiere on SBS to find out how we felt about his incredibly colourful and revealing journey.
Q. What was the most interesting thing you learned about yourself during the series?
The more I learnt about my family's past, the more I wanted to know, it was interesting to me that once you start to scratch the surface how quickly you begin to want to uncover everything.
Q. Was your journey an emotional one? What triggered the strongest feelings along the way?
It was far more emotional than I expected. Our family had such limited knowledge of our past and therefore I never felt that connected to my ancestors, but once I started to learn of their lives I felt very connected to them and instantly felt for their circumstances.
Q. How does knowing about your family history change how you see yourself and your family?
And doesn’t change how I feel about my family, but it certainly has connected us with a past that was once a mystery to us all. Feels great to be honest.
Q. What was the hardest thing for you to learn or accept about your family?
My ancestors never had it easy, and I often think about how lucky we have it today by comparison, its not that I cant accept it about them its just a pity they had to endure it.
Q. Who, out of your ancestors would you most like to sit down and have a drink with and why?
My great grandfather, because he is the reason that my bloodline of Jacobson’s exist in Australia.
Q. Do you see a connection between any of your own traits that could be attributed to your ancestors? How so?
I have always believed my family to be a fairly hardy robust and hard working mob, and now I know it comes from a long line of characters with the same strength and endurance.
Q. Do you have any advice for anyone hoping to seek out their own family tree?
I highly recommend it, It is truly thrilling to chase down the details of your ancestors and re live lives that have already been lived, you will feel more connected to your ancestors the second you start to get a tiny bit of detail on them and before you know you are cheering their victories and feeling the pain of their struggles. It truly is an amazing ride.
Q. How did the reality of filming WDYTYA differ from your expectations?
It becomes a very personal and emotional journey very quickly, what starts as a fact finding mission soon becomes an emotional ride into your unknown past, its an emotional roller coaster.
Q. What was the best thing about the experience?
The fact that my family, my children and all of our future children will have this information forever more is better than holding Willy Wonkers golden ticket, his ticket just got you into a factory, the WDYTYA ticket takes you on a journey into your families history spread across the planet.
Q. Are there any lessons that contemporary Australians could draw from your own family history and experience?
I think all people from anywhere should never forget the struggles and victories of the people before us that we all now benefit from.
Watch Shane plus other stars Julia Morris, Peter Garrett, Delta Goodrem, Mal Meninga, Jane Turner, Rachel Griffiths and John Newcombe feature in Season Eight of Who Do You Think You Are?, Tuesdays at 7.30pm (AEST) on SBS.
Watch the first episode below and stream the full series at SBS On Demand