Who Do You Think You Are? is an awesome show, a virtual time-travel through the unknown ancestries of some of Australia’s biggest and most beloved names.
Seven seasons in there have been some crackers, none more so than Aussie comedian Adam Hills whose episode took him from suburban Melbourne to the docks of Woolloomooloo, across the world to the Czech Republic and finally to the island of Malta where he found out - to his delight - that he was descended from an actual pirate.
Not that pirate. THIS pirate:
All seven seasons of Who Do You Think You Are? Australia will be available On Demand from 8 August before the new season starts in September and if you’re ever looking to be uplifted or to have a good cry - or to just be reminded how freaking incredible immigration is and what an enormous, positive impact it really does have on a country - then you should definitely start with episode one, series one and just keep going.
But in the meantime, whet your palate with Adam Hills’ episode, which really does sum up everything wonderful about this show like:
When they get emotional at coming face to face with the very place their ancestors lived and breathed
It doesn’t matter if the house is no longer standing, the spirit remains, and that’s what matters.
When they discover living relatives they didn’t know existed
Adam’s Czech great-grandfather was one of nine kids, but one of only TWO who survived past infancy. Imagine Adam’s joy at at finding German cousins he didn’t know he had, even if he can’t always understand everything they’re saying.
When it becomes very clear that every single one of us is really lucky to be here
A common thread through WDYTYA is “there but for the grace of God go I…”
So many celebs find that they ended up where they did purely because of the luck, cunning or good fortune of their ancestors. Adam’s story of being able to grow up, safely, in 1970s Australia is no different. “Something as big as a war and something as small as one person’s prejudice can have a huge effect on a family’s history," he says.
When they catch up with that cool relo we all loved as a kid
Adam’s Maltese relos were clearly the fun ones in his family and his awesome Aunt Mary is no exception. When Adam asks her the collective term for a group of Maltese people she answers “wogs”, and when he notes that his grandfather had a lot of kids in quick succession she retorts, “Yes, there wasn’t any television in those days.” Pure gold.
When they visit a place they’ve known their whole life but see it in a different light
Adam heads to Woolloomooloo’s famed wharves in central Sydney, now overrun with fancy restaurants, swanky hotels and homes belonging to Russell Crowe and John Laws, only to discover that it was - at one point - referred to as “Little Malta”, such were the numbers of Maltese immigrants living and working in the dockyards.
The moment he discovers he can trace his direct descendants back to the 15th century
Most of us are lucky if we know where our grandparents are from. Beyond that, it’s a mystery, but when Adam visits Malta he finds his family name - complete with coat of arms - going back over 500 YEARS.
When they learn one really cool thing about someone they’re a direct descendant of
... such as the fact that one of his ancestors was a freakin' pirate! Aaaar!
But through all the fun times and pirate discoveries, the show reinforces just how important it is to know where you came from and furthermore, how crucial immigration is - to any society - and how we need to keep embracing other cultures, not push them away.
Both sides of Adam’s family - the Czech-German side and the Maltese side - came as penniless immigrants from the other side of the world to Australia to give it a shot. This is the story of most of our immigrants. Most make good and, beyond that, make an enormous contribution to Australian life, and most of us wouldn’t be here without them.
Watch the Adam Hills episode of Who Do You Think You Are? right here:
Series 1-7 are available on SBS On Demand from August 8.
Series 8 of Who Do You Think You Are? Australia begins Tuesday September 13 at 7.30pm (AEST) on SBS.