'Who Do You Think You Are' has unearthed a few celebrity secrets over the years. As we await the new season premiere, let's look back at some highlights...
Genevieve Dwyer

31 Aug 2016 - 3:21 PM  UPDATED 6 Apr 2018 - 3:36 PM

When Adam Goodes uncovered family ties to royalty

Among the ancestors that Adam discovered he was descended from his were a powerful white trader turned pastoralist Captain Walter Watson Hughes, who built his wealth as an opium dealer on the China Seas. 

Further investigations revealed that Hughes had fathered a son, John Sansbury, with an Aboriginal woman who was married to the leader of the Narungga nation, known as King Tommy. 

It was King Tommy who actually raised John, as if he were his own son - and so it's this royal connection that was passed on through the generations. 

Watch Adam's episode in full at SBS OnDemand


When Dawn Fraser discovered her Peruvian heritage

Dawn Fraser discovers her Peruvian heritage

Just a few months after Dawn Fraser made headlines nationally for her remarks to Nick Kygrios that he should "go back to where he came from", Dawn went on a journey with Who Do You Think You Are? to uncover where she really came from, and was surprised to find that it was, in fact, Peru. 

Dawn’s Great-Grandfather Lorenzo Miranda Senior was a captain in the Peruvian military at a turbulent time in history when Peru was on the brink of war with Spain. Visiting the country for the very first time, Dawn traced her Great- Grandfather’s steps back to the seaside port of Callao, near Lima, where she heard the thrilling story of a bloody battle iconic in Peruvian history which her Great-Grandfather fought in.

Watch Dawn's episode in full at SBS OnDemand:


When Magda Szubanski came out

Magda didn't actually come out on WDYTYA, but she credits her experience on season three of the program (which aired in 2011) as one of the factors that prompted her 2012 coming out as gay to the Australian public on an episode of Ten's panel show The Project.  

"Interestingly I think the program really impacted on my coming out actually," Magda Szubanski revealed when reflecting back on her experience in the retrospective special of the show's most memorable moments.  

Magda's episode explores her father, Zbigniew Szubanski's history in Poland during World War II, when he worked as an assassin as part of the Polish resistance and also bravely helped hide Jews from the invading Nazis. Magda didn't learn this truth about her father until she was 36. In her 2015 autobiography, Reckoning, she reflected on what a burden this must have been for him to keep this silence for so much of his life and how it made her rethink her own public silence regarding her sexuality. 

Watch Magda's episode in full at SBS OnDemand:

When Cathy Freeman realised that her mum had to ask (and was denied) permission to see her own family

In season one of Who Do You Think You Are? legendary Olympic athlete Cathy Freeman unearths some of Australia's dark history of mistreating Aboriginal Australians, within her own family.

Cathy is shocked by the discrimination and hardship that her Aboriginal ancestors have faced even as recently as her parents. 

Watch the moment she learns that her own mother was prevented from spending Christmas with her family by white authorities who insisted she remain on an Aboriginal settlement:


When Ita Buttrose discovered she was related to a Chief Rabbi

On her WDYTYA journey in season one, Ita followed her maternal side to discover she has a strong Jewish connection, including a chief rabbi, in her family. She ends up tracing her Jewish ancestors to the once impoverished Jewish ghetto where they had lived in New York and Hungary and learns that poverty and hardship drove them to seek a better life in Australia.


When Toni Collette made a shock discovery about her grandfather

Toni Collette's WDYTYA journey, in season seven, was an emotional one as she discovered that her grandfather wasn't who she thought.  Instead she uncovered that a secret wartime affair was behind her father's birth.

In a first for the show, a DNA test was undertaken, with Toni opening the results on screen. They revealed that the man listed on her Dad’s birth certificate was not actually his real father. 

Unfortunately, despite some rather extensive investigations, Toni was not able to identify who actually WAS her real grandfather.

She uncovered an old photograph of her grandmother Norma McWhinney with a striking American serviceman who is thought to be likely candidate. With so many US serviceman coming to Australia during the war though, her search to identify him proved difficult, so she even took to making a public call out for more information on air:

Watch Toni's episode in full at SBS OnDemand:


That time Adam Hills found out he was related to pirates

Aussie comedian Adam Hills' journey in season five took him from suburban Melbourne all the way 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 a pirate.

Watch Adam's episode in full at SBS OnDemand, or right here:


When HG Nelson’s discovered a surprising connection to a fellow Aussie entertainer

Greig Pickhaver, best known as his comedy alter-ego HG Nelson, followed a thread from family folklore, suggesting a link to the late legendary Australian entertainer Ian ‘Turps’ Turpie. Having worked with Turpie on his TV show 'Club Buggery', Greig was very excited to have the rumour confirmed, discovering that they were actually blood relations - second cousins. 

Watch Greig's episode in full at SBS OnDemand:


Season 9 of Who Do You Think You Are? Australia starts Tuesday 17 April at 7:30pm on SBS.

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