• Lisa Wilkinson's journey on 'Who Do You Think You Are?' brought some viewers to tears. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Lisa Wilkinson's journey on 'Who Do You Think You Are?' was an emotional one.
Samuel Leighton-Dore

SBS Voices
20 May 2020 - 10:14 AM  UPDATED 20 May 2020 - 10:45 AM

Last night season 11 of SBS series Who Do You Think You Are? premiered with beloved journalist and TV host Lisa Wilkinson who shared her vulnerabilities in search of her place in her family tree.

"I would describe my roots as working class," Wilkinson says before her journey of ancestral discovery.

"I've never had a big ego... I think that's the Campbelltown girl in me."

Speaking about her father, Raymond Wilkinson, it's instantly clear that this is going to be a highly emotional episode of Australian television - but in a positive, cathartic way.

"The amazing thing is my father passed away almost 30 years ago, and just the mere thought of him and him not being around, I get emotional," the former Today Show host reflects.

"He was a guiding light, so I'm really keen to find out about the Wilkinson line, to find out where traits my father had come from."

When speaking about her mother, Beryl (maiden name Jean), who passed away in March of 2018, Wilkinson is equally teary.

It also becomes immediately clear that this journey isn't one she's undertaking for herself.

"My mum had a very tough childhood," she explains.

"I knew that she'd been born, as they used to say, illegitimately, and she struggled with the derogatory connotations that would've come with that."

Wilkinson continues: "Right up until mum passed away recently I think she still felt there were huge question marks over who she really was."

"Mum is absolutely on this journey with me."

Opening up further about her mother Beryl's challenging upbringing, Wilkinson shares: "Not everyone gets a great start in life and my mum didn't. Her mum would put her in an orphanage at random times, with no rhyme or reason."

"She had to be resilient, when you don't know where you're going to put your head down at night, and mum often didn't, resilience is the key in getting to tomorrow."

We then learn that Beryl Jean only discovered who her real father was in the 1980s, not long after her husband - and Lisa Wilkinson's father - died.

She was given one name by a family member: Gordon Power. That was it. Her own mother and sister had gone to their graves without ever telling Beryl who her father was.

"She will never know more than that," Wilkinson, mother to daughter Billie and sons Louis and Jake, says.

"I hope some of the jigsaw pieces fit together and I can... mostly do this for mum."

Needless to say, viewers were grateful for being included on Wilkinson's journey of self-discovery, which took the former Dolly magazine editor overseas and led to some confronting - and incredibly emotional - revelations.

"Your family story has me captivated," one social media user wrote.

"Thank you for taking us on this journey with you."

"We cried with you, Lisa," a viewer shared.

"The struggles and stories of our newly discovered ancestors is emotional. Your story was very interesting and I hope you've found out more about your family since the show."

Another Twitter commentator added: "So interesting, so sad. Shed a few tears watching."

Us too, Twitter commentator. Us too.

“I’m so glad I got to know my ancestors," Wilkinson reflects following her participation in the series.

"For those that did it really tough," she adds.

"I look at their lives and think I don’t think I would have coped. I’ve also realised how lucky I am, I found my place when it comes to family and I feel incredibly grateful for that because not everybody finds that.”

If you want to see what she dicovered, you can catch up on Lisa Wilkinson's episode of Who Do You Think You Are? below.

Who Do You Think You Are? season 11 screens on Tuesdays at 7:30pm. You can catch up on episode 1 on SBS On Demand now.

Join the conversation #WDYTYA.

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