Who Do You Think You Are?


  • Over two million Brits plan to write their family history, driven by a renewed interest in genealogy
  • TV programmes like Who Do You Think You Are? and easily-available digital archives have contributed to a boom in people investigating their family history
  • Investigating and writing a family history is a way of ‘personalising the past and bringing it to life for the next generation’, says self-publishing company Type & Tell

Driven by a renewed interest in genealogy, thanks to popular TV programmes like Who Do You Think You Are? more than two million budding authors in the UK are planning to write a book about their family history reveals new research from Type & Tell.

More than half (54 per cent) of those planning to draft a family history want to make sure their children or grandchildren know about their ancestors, and 42 per cent believe their family has an exceptionally interesting history, which would make a captivating read for others. Much of this interest is due to the ease of accessing information about a person’s ancestry via popular websites, as 59 per cent of those planning to document their family history have been inspired to tell their stories by research into their relatives’ past. This rises to three quarters of men (75 per cent) compared to just 40 per cent of women.

Popular shows like Who Do You Think You Are?, which has aired on the BBC since 2004 and regularly attracts an audience of over six million viewers, have helped to stimulate significant interest in the process of investigating family histories. The programme has uncovered some colourful characters in the family line of celebrities, including:

  • Danny Dyer finding out he is related to King Edward III
  • Emma Willis discovering that her five-times-great great grandfather, along with two others, stabbed and tortured a blacksmith and his son in the 18th century
  • Olympic rower Matthew Pinsent unearthing that he was related to William the Conqueror
  • JK Rowling finding out her great-grandfather was awarded the Croix de Guerre, a French military decoration for heroism in a fierce WW1 battle where more than 800 of his colleagues died

It has become increasingly easy to research a family history, with sites like ancestry.co.uk holding a huge volume of digital data. Anyone wanting to research their ancestry can find records online rather than having to go from library to record office and physically track them down.

A similar revolution in the publishing industry is now enabling these amateur genealogists to put their history down on paper and publish it, whether as a personal memento or for wider publication.

Our desire to understand our genes and heritage is perhaps nothing new, but the ease with which we can now all discover intimate details of our ancestors’ lives has brought their stories to life for a new generation. Inspired by TV shows and armed with new digital platforms, people are finding fascinating stories hidden in archives and libraries, and they want to share these stories with a wider audience.

The rise of accessible self-publishing means people can write and publish their family history independently and cost-effectively without having to convince a publishing house of its broader interest. Though sometimes the stories revealed in our own families can be more captivating than any we could think up ourselves. Investigating and writing a family history is a way of personalising the past and bringing it to life for the next generation.

The findings revealed that a quarter (26 per cent) of budding family history writers plan on giving a written history of their family away as a gift. With people looking for ever more personalised gifts for loved ones, offering up a family history is certainly a unique memento.

We’re seeing a lot of interest from people who view this peek into the past as the perfect gift. It is an exceptionally thoughtful and personal present that, thanks to the ever-improving economies of digital printing technology, is more affordable than ever, so it is little wonder that family histories are soaring in popularity.


Table one: Why people want to write their family history

Why people want to write their family historyPercentage of those planning to write their family history for whom this is a reason
I am interested in the process of investigating my family history59 per cent
To make sure my children or grandchildren know about their ancestors54 per cent
My family or a member of my family has a really interesting history42 per cent
I want to have a written record of my family and the things they have done35 per cent
To give as a gift for a family member26 per cent

Source: Type & Tell

Type & Tell is a self-publishing platform that guides users throughout the publishing process, from professional editorial guidance and cover design, through to publication, distribution and printing. Its’ pioneering writing and typesetting “book creator” technology enables authors to create and typeset their book for free. Authors also have control over their own book design, pricing and distribution and receive 100% author royalties. Authors can create and sell in paperback and e-book formats. They can also have their family histories ghost-written.



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