This week’s Who Do You Think You Are – the BBC programme in which celebrities trace their family history – was a particularly emotional one. Kim Cattrall set out to discover what had happened to her grandfather who had abandoned his young family some 70 years earlier.
Seeing a celebrity reduced to tears is pretty familiar WDYTYA territory. In fact I’ve long suspected that the amount of emotion to be wrung from a family story is a major factor in deciding which make it to the final series and which are assigned to the cutting room floor.
To the outsider genealogy must seem like a cosy little hobby. The collection of names, dates and dry historic facts may not immediately strike one as something to get the pulse racing and yet the emotional impact of uncovering the past can be very real.
We may not all have a story like Kim’s in our family history but there were certainly elements I could connect to my own family.
I’m someone that believes that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask a question just because you might not like the answer. However, I wonder if before undertaking a journey of ancestral discovery we should all take a moment to consider whether we are prepared not only for what we might find but also for the effect it will have.
So my question this week: Should genealogy carry a health warning?