Gill Blanchard delivered an absorbing talk called “Behind The Scenes Working For ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’”.
Gill works as a professional house, family and local historian. She has carried out research for the above-named popular BBC series, also appearing on two episodes (Jonnie Peacock and Mary Berry). The production team does some research but many local researchers, people like Gill, are engaged to do much of the background work. Unless researchers are to appear on the programme, they are unaware of the celebrity’s identity.
For the Mary Berry programme, Gill used many sources, such as local newspapers and trade directories, and visited numerous places, including locating family gravestones. She discovered that Mary had a baker ancestor, Robert Houghton, who had his own shop in Ber Street, Norwich. Apparently, according to the inmates of the local workhouse, the bread he supplied was of poor quality!
What we see on television is merely a snapshot, much being left out as the programme-makers focus on the story they think the public will be interested in, emphasising dramatic elements and the big reveal. Gill confirmed that the celebrities are genuinely surprised by the revelations.