Well-known Australians play detective as they go in search of their family history, revealing secrets from their past.
16 Jul 2015 - 3:29 PM  UPDATED 20 Jul 2015 - 1:52 PM

Episode 1: Shaun Micallef

Shaun Patrick Micallef is an Australian actor, comedian and writer. His credits include Full Frontal, The Micallef Program, the sitcom Welcher & Welcher, the variety show Micallef Tonight, the satirical comedy series Newstopia on SBS and the game show Talkin' 'Bout Your Generation on Network Ten. 

Shaun was never told much about his family’s past. He decides to embark on a quest to find out why. He begins by investigating his maternal line. One of his mother’s relatives has been researching a family tree. It leads Shaun to Turkey and the discovery that his great-great-great-grandfather on his mother’s side had a brush with one of the most famous women of the 18th Century, Florence Nightingale.


Episode 2: Kerry O'Brien

Kerry O'Brien is one of Australia’s most revered television journalists. For many years he fronted the 7.30 Report and now hosts 4 Corners on the ABC. Kerry embarks on a journey to find the first of the O’Brien’s to come to Australia and to test the validity of old family myths. He discovers ancestors fleeing from the terrible potato famine in Ireland in 1850; taking the perilous voyage on a disease ravaged ship to their new homeland.

Kerry’s great-great-grandfather Charles is struck down by illness but survives. He goes on to embrace the opportunities that Australia offers, becoming a businessman and hotelier. But Kerry discovers that his fortunes slide just as fast as they have risen. A long list of insolvencies follow and Charles ends up losing it all. Kerry learns that the strong bonds forged by those who undertook that dangerous voyage to Australia will come back to save Charles in his time of need.


Episode 3: Melissa George

Melissa George left her suburban Perth home at the age of 16 to pursue an acting career in Sydney scoring early success as a regular on the TV soap series Home and Away. Now she has an international film and TV career.

While Melissa knows something about her father’s side of the family there are a number of gaps in her mother’s ancestral story. Melissa has a sense of a number of secrets being held back, of things not talked about, even a sense of some shame. Her journey takes her first to Rottnest Island to investigate a case of suspected abuse of a prisoner in a colonial gaol.


Episode 4: Vince Colosimo

Vince Colosimo has played some unforgettable roles. Born and bred in Melbourne, Vince's parents are both from Calabria in the south of Italy. Vince knows little about his forebears’ lives before they came to Australia.

In this program, Vince discovers the truth about his grandfather’s war experience, which has remarkable twists and turns. He uncovers a horrendous and tragic episode of World War II, and a truly extraordinary story of survival that will forever change his view of his grandfather.


Episode 5: John Wood

Actor John Wood is best known for his role in Blue Heelers yet his detective work in this program reaffirms truth is more surprising than fiction. John’s investigation into his father’s capture and imprisonment in a POW camp in Nazi Europe reveals desolation, devotion and an unexpected love story. This pilgrimage to retrace his dead father’s footsteps gives him a powerful insight into a man he thought he already knew everything about.

John’s also on a mission to discover how his supposedly impoverished great-grandfather acquired 2800 acres of land on the best river in the country in the 19th century. The search takes him to Sweden where his forefathers lived and worked, to eventually uncover wealth that belies his working class roots.


Episode 6: Michael O'Loughlin

Aboriginal footballer Michael O’Loughlin traces the bloodlines of his family, discovering an ancestor who was the first to be granted land in the newly formed colony of South Australia. As political agenda’s changed, an inter-generational fight for the right to land ensued.

Michael also investigates a family legend that connects him to Australia’s $50 bill and discovers a life-changing ancestor, who was one of the last tribal Aboriginals from the Coorong and Lake regions to move onto the mission. Working alongside Australia’s foremost anthropologist, Norman Tindale, his legacy was to preserve the memory of a disintegrating culture.



Join stars Geoffrey Rush, Toni Collette, Luke Nguyen, David Wenham, Dawn Fraser, Peter Rowsthorn, Greig Pickhaver & Ray Martinas in the new season of Who Do You Think You Are. Starts Tuesday 4 August, 7:30pm on SBS.


See also: Genealogy Resources