The first episode in this year’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ series features the actress Samantha Womack, best known for her role as Ronnie Mitchell in EastEnders. Born Janus in 1972, Samantha’s parents Noel Janus (Janes), a songwriter and mother Diane’s relationship broke down when Samantha was young. Her mother went on to marry a doctor, Samantha then spent several years travelling around the UK with them.
Born to Doris (Dolly) Ryan in 1949, the show will be concentrating on Noel’s family. Samantha has said that learning about her family background has given her a sense of pride, and that the experience has been “truly healing”.
Samantha’s Great Grandfather Alexander Cunningham Ryan (Doris’ father) was a musician in the Highland Light Infantry; he joined the army aged 14 in 1895 and served for 15 years before being discharged in 1910 after being imprisoned for felony. He enlisted again in 1914 to serve in the war but was discharged in 1915 after receiving a gunshot wound in the right lung.
Alexander was born in Maryhill barracks in 1881 to parents James William, also a soldier born in Sunderland, Durham and Jane born in Glasgow Scotland. Alexander’s birth can be found in the Overseas Birth, Marriage and Death records on The Genealogist.
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Samantha’s Great Grandmother Beatrice Garraud was born to parents Jessie Ryder and Pierre Francois Olidon Garraud. Pierre and Jessie were married in St Pancras in 1892 and had two children. Sadly due to Pierre dying and Jessie moving to New York to become an actress, the children were put into an orphanage.
Using the Master Search on The Genealogist Beatrice can be located on the 1901 census living at the School for Pauper Children, King Street, Hammersmith, her brother Anthony appears to have died aged only 6 in 1899.
Samantha’s episode will be shown on BBC One on 15th August.
The new series will be shown weekly on Wednesday evenings and will include discoveries for Alex Kingston, Annie Lennox, Celia Imrie, Greg Wallace, Hugh Dennis, John Barnes, John Bishop, Patrick Stewart and William Roache.