This week’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? was a repeat. At first, I thought Kim Cattrall was maybe going to search another part of her ancestry. Then with the teasers, I realized it was the same family as she searched in 2009 on the BBC version of the show. Only as the episode drew nearer did it occur to me that they might just be airing the exact same episode re-edited, which is what they did. I think it was kind of shameless for NBC to do that without being up front about it.
The search for George Baugh, Kim’s grandfather, began by visiting her aunts, Marjorie Haselden and Dorothy Stockton, in Liverpool. Her mother, Shane Cattrall, was also visiting at the time.
They started with a large family wedding photo where George was hiding inside the house and could barely be seen through a window. Shane told that when she was eight years old, George asked her to leave with him, but she stayed and they never heard from him again. The three women were very emotional, talking about how their father abandoned them. Genealogy is usually about generations further removed, but this episode was much closer.
Besides creating all new voiceovers, the US version obviously had to cut back on the time, since the BBC version is 60 minutes long and the US is 42. Bits of many conversations were trimmed.
The voiceover explained about post-depression era Liverpool. The US version cut to the family tree chart before returning to the family. The BBC version did not include such charts. I’m undecided what I think about that. Is the US version “dumbed down” so we can figure out the family tree, or does it clarify the family being researched? Maybe both.
Another obvious difference is the onscreen graphics showing the names of everyone on the show. I definitely prefer the US version that does this whereas the BBC leaves us guessing sometimes about the names and how to spell them.
Kim’s first clue was a newspaper article from 1980 about the wedding dress made by Amy Baugh, George’s mother, for her daughter, which then was worn by her granddaughter.
Again, in the voiceovers, Kim has “asked a researcher to look for any documents on her family”. We know the research was done before the cameras showed up. Why do they have to lie to us? And just when I thought this was an affectation of the US version of the show, the BBC version used the exact same wording in their voiceover.
Knocking On Doors
Knocking on the door from the address from the newspaper clipping, no one was home, so Kim went next door and found Norma Blakeman, who worked with her aunt and still was in contact with Edna Radcliffe, George’s sister. It’s interesting that this woman had known both sides of the family but never mentioned it before. Did she not realize they were related and had no contact?
Meeting George’s sisters in Derbyshire (not shown on screen; hope I got that right), Amy Garrett and Edna Radcliffe, they had some tea and talked about George. It sounded like their mother was shamed by his behavior and didn’t want her daughters mentioning his name, so that probably explains why there was no contact with her family. They also didn’t have any photos of George.
The BBC version of this scene was longer and in a different order. They began with the sisters sharing some photos, one of a wedding picture for their brother (apparently another brother, not named on the show) and George’s parents. Also, answering the door, Amy said she wanted to meet Kim for a long time, obviously contacted during the research phase. Kim learned that George’s father was an alcoholic but George was not. Kim also asked what they thought happened to him and Amy said she thought that maybe he went to America or joined the Foreign Legion. They thought he had stowed away to America.
Another bit they skipped was when Kim said she had some sympathy for George because of his alcoholic father, but he also had a caring mother. The information about him being a stowaway was her next biggest lead.
This is where the US version skipped an entire scene. Many genealogists were complaining that there was no genealogy research shown in this episode, but I believe this scene would qualify for them.
Skipping Whole Scenes
Back in Liverpool, Kim met with maritime expert Chris Webb.
“I think you’ll find that even on passenger lists you’ll sometimes find surprises,” Chris said. Kim was surprised that they might find something about a stowaway at all.
Searching Ancestry, they found him on a ship passenger list going to the US as a stowaway then being sent back to England in 1935, which was before he left the family and even before Dorothy was born. It showed that he was a baker (seen later without having been mentioned before) and he listed himself as single. Seen on screen, but not spoken, he was listed as “George Baugh alias Albert Williams”. Chris explained how someone could stowaway on a ship, but with the 10-12 day trip to the US, he probably had to come out of his hiding place for food or other reasons at some point.
Another interesting part was where the ship list showed a relative left behind. Not explained this way clearly in the episode, it appeared that first it said “information refused” then was crossed off and his wife’s address was listed, which contradicted where he claimed to be single. On the special inquiry page, it showed that he was sent back on the 20th, after arriving on the 15th.
They also searched FindMyPast but did not find him on that site. Neither of the titles of the web sites was shown or mentioned, with neither as a sponsor for the BBC version.
Kim figured out that Dorothy was born the year after his return and wondered what story he had told her grandmother about the month he was gone. At this point, she returns to her hotel in Liverpool and the US version picks up again.
Syncing Up Again
A package arrived for Kim at her hotel. How long was she on that trip to meet her great aunts (and the researcher), I wonder? She opened the envelope to find the marriage certificate for George Baugh and Isabella Oliver in 1939, the year after he left her grandmother. The US version cut to commercial before she revealed what the document showed. Just like on the ship list, he was listed as a baker and single.
And Out Of Sync
Kim met with a legal historian to learn more about bigamy at the time. As mentioned before, the BBC version doesn’t show the names of the people met along the way, so all I got was her first name, Rebecca. She shared statistics showing that in 1938, 287 people were tried for bigamy and 276 were convicted, which carried a penalty of up to seven years in prison, a fine, or both. Divorce was less readily available, was more complicated, and the costs could be much higher.
Heading to Durham County, Kim went looking for more information about George’s second family.
“I think I need to find out if he had children. I’m sure he did.”
At the Durham County Records Office, Kim met with archivist Liz Bregazzi to find records. In the Register of Electors, they found both Baugh and Oliver families as neighbors. Next, they looked through the parish baptism registers. Kim looked through the register herself, finding the first child born in 1949, and then two others, with one being born in 1959 making him younger than Kim. Unlike many US episodes, the pages were not marked and Kim was shown looking down the names on each page to find the listings. They never explained why they stopped at 1959, though it was probably the researcher who knew they had found all the listings.
To The Tudhoe Pub
Kim went to Tudhoe Village to try to find more. This is where the episodes are different again. In the US version, Kim is seen asking the Green Tree Pub owner if she knew anyone by the name of Baugh. In the BBC version, a narrator explained in voiceover that there were no Baughs left in the village and they skipped ahead in the scene to flipping through the phone book looking for Olivers.
After the phone call to Maisie Oliver, George’s sister-in-law, Kim had a bit more to say in the BBC version. She made a comment about finding her way to their home, which later turned into an amusing few seconds showing her struggling with the stick shift, also mentioning during the drive that she was a little nervous and didn’t want to alarm Maisie or be a pain in the butt.
George Gets A Face
Maisie Oliver and her daughter Sheila Curtis were the next visit for Kim. She learned that George met Bella in Manchester in 1938 where they had their first daughter before moving to Tudhoe (apparently before they were married). They shared some photos, first from the wedding where George was cut out of the picture, then a couple others of George. And then they showed a picture that was labelled as “emigrating”. The BBC version showed quite a few more pictures.
Just to confuse people more, they showed a Canadian flag right before they cut to the next commercial. Where did Canada fit in to this story?
More Voiceovers Of Details
Both shows went into voiceovers at this point, explaining that George and his family immigrated to Australia in 1961. The BBC version had much more detail. He applied for naturalization in Australia within a year and the family never returned to the UK. George ran a post office and a shop before retiring in 1972. He died in Sydney in 1974, followed by Isabella in 1990. They showed more pictures from the family’s time in Australia, not clear where they came from. Were they sent back to the Oliver family or were they acquired while researching the family in Australia?
The US version mentioned the immigration and inserted another scene to plug Ancestry. Many genealogists questioned why the information was found on the “Catrall Family Tree”. I additionally question why the surname is spelled incorrectly and where they got the footage that they used. Because Kim was never heard completing a whole sentence, it was apparently pieced together from other scenes that were cut.
Not To Australia
This is as far as Kim felt she needed to go. She did not want to meet George’s other children.
The BBC version explained that Shane lived in Vancouver and that Kim brought them together to share what she had learned.
Sitting with the three sisters, Kim read from George’s marriage certificate, showed them the wedding picture that George was absent from, and then went on to name his four children. While Kim told more of the story in the BBC version, the US version told it quickly in the narrator’s voiceover. The US version also held the suspense of showing a picture of George for them to see until after another commercial break. The two younger sisters had a harder time dealing with it, while Shane was relieved to finally know the truth and not have to think about it anymore.
“So one picture escaped,” was Marjorie’s first reaction. Looking at him, she said she saw her two grandsons in him and became more emotional, as did Dorothy. At the beginning of the episode, Shane was the more emotional of the three, telling what she could remember of her father.
The BBC version also showed the sisters looking at more of the pictures. Also mentioned was that his second daughter died of a heart attack “not too long ago”, but the other three were alive and well and still living in Australia.
Shane said, “I feel relieved.” And Dorothy agreed, “I guess we can close the book.”
Again cut from the US version, Kim continued “Or open a new one… Maybe you and I will go to Australia.”
The epilogue explained that they had since been in touch with their Australian half-siblings. That also appeared in the BBC version.
Obviously there had to be differences in the shows due to the time constraints. The US version shortened many of the conversations and the mini interviews that Kim gave throughout the episode. They cut one scene entirely where Kim learned that George had stowed away to the US even before he left the family in 1938. Many funny lines were cut, making the show a bit more depressing than the BBC version. One line at the end was one of my favorites; it wasn’t entirely skipped, but edited: “I think this is the biggest joy that George Baugh has ever brought, other than, you know, being a sperm donor.”
Anyone who didn’t know would probably assume this was a normal NBC episode because they made no claim that it was filmed by the BBC and aired in 2009. It was unneccessary to add the Ancestry plug; I think we all know who sponsors the show and injecting that scene was dumb in my opinion, especially considering all the reactions from other genealogists as well about where the information was found on their web site, in the “Catrall Family Tree”.
As mentioned before, some genealogists complained that this episode didn’t trace back far enough and focused instead on a single person. I saw nothing wrong with that, especially since I have previously said that this show was about family history and not genealogy. Piecing together the stories is harder than just finding the data and continuing backwards in time.
As much as I enjoy watching more episodes, I hope NBC doesn’t repeat another BBC episode. They’re all available online in one way or another. I’d rather see new stories.
This article continues the Nitpicker’s Series, Season 2.