• Jane Turner growing up - and as the famous face of Kath Day Knight (Supplied/Screen Australia)Source: Supplied/Screen Australia
Jane Turner found herself in some surprising places as she turned back the clock on 'Who Do You Think You Are?' including - of all places - the North Korean Demilitarized Zone.
Genevieve Dwyer

24 Oct 2016 - 10:27 AM  UPDATED 24 Oct 2016 - 10:27 AM

Australian comedy icon Jane Turner is probably best known for her iconic role as Kath Day-Knight in the smash hit series Kath and Kim. 

Jane claims her mother, Rosie, with her buzzy energy and forthright pragmatism, was the inspiration for the frizzy-haired Kath. But Jane knows little about her deceased father’s side of the family. What is in the Turner DNA?

Below: Jane shares with SBS her childhood memories - and pictures of her parents, a young Avenal Richard "Dick" Turner and mother Rosanne "Rosie" Baker. 

In a new episode of Who Do You Think You Are? Jane's journey to discover more about her family history takes her all the way to the other side of the world as she investigates the 3x paternal great grandfather James Woodward Turner, born a working class Londoner, he ends up uprooting his family and migrating all the way to Perth, Australia.

Hitting much closer to home was her family's more recent history though as Jane heads to North Korea where she learns the incredible story of her father's involvement with the the first UN fighter unit to take to the skies against the North Korean invasion.

Below, a Q and A with Jane, who shares her experience at undertaking such an incredible personal journey. 

Q. Was your journey an emotional one? What triggered the strongest feelings along the way? 

JT. There was some emotional moments definitely. There was a sadness for my father as I learned about his, I think quite lonely childhood. Not having a mother and being wrenched away from the only family he knew when he was seven.

Q. How does knowing about your family history change how you see yourself and your family?

JT. Knowing more about your forebears definitely enlightens you and offers insight into your own family. You can be more understanding and forgiving when you realise hurt and sorrow can be in your DNA.

Q. What was the hardest thing for you to learn or accept about your family?

JT. Not so much hard  but a sadness of having no family to look upon or ever talk to on my fathers side.

No grandparents, cousins or aunts or uncles - just my dad and no one else.

Q. Who, out of your ancestors would you most like to sit down and have a drink with and why?

JT. I would love to have met my grandparents. My grandmother Ruby who died soon after dad's  birth was only 20 something. My grandfather Stanley Turner sounded like a charmer and funny so he would have been nice to know.

Q. Do you see a connection between any of your own traits that could be attributed to your ancestors? How so?

JT. I think my great great great grandfather James Woodward Turner and I have something in common. He was adventurous and always seeking a new life. He was also very handy and was completely self sufficient. I am practical too and would love to make everything for myself.

Q. Do you have any advice for anyone hoping to seek out their own family tree?

JT. It is a wonderful thing to know where you come from. It is literally your roots , the roots that ground us and give us strength.

Basically we carry around all the DNA of everyone in our past so we have all their aspects and experiences in us somewhere.

Q. How did the reality of filming WDYTYA differ from your expectations?

JT. It was a privilege to do but I was surprised where they took me. That was the fun bit never knowing where you are going next or what you are going to find out.

Q. Are there any lessons that contemporary Australians could draw from your own family history and experience?

JT. The early contact my ancestor James Woodward had with the Aborigines revealed again the terrible mistake of Terra Nullius. He didn't by all accounts mistreat them... But the notion that they just came and took land and arrested (and worse) aborigines  who were just hunting on their traditional lands.

There are wrongs we still have to right.

Watch Jane plus other stars Julia Morris, Peter Garrett, Delta Goodrem, Mal Meninga, Shane Jacobson, 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

BONUS: Watch the full first seven seasons of Who Do You Think You Are? in full - streaming now at SBS On Demand.  

Discover your story with a 14 day free trial at Ancestry.

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