Here’s an interesting interview from Findmypast.co.uk Titanic TV show. It’s all about that special feeling evoked when connecting with the real people who were your ancestors:

Jessica Wilson appeared in Titanic, the second episode of Find My Past the TV show. We talked to Jessica to find out her experiences of appearing on the show and how it has affected her life.

Q: What was the most surprising or emotional moment for you?

A: Reading my great-grandfather’s own account in the New York Times of the night the Titanic sank. It surprised me quite how emotional I found reading it. Despite being related, I didn’t think it would touch me as much as it did. By that point I had been given so much background information on his role, his colleagues and the lead up to that night, that reading his own account brought it all together. The story of the Titanic is familiar to everyone but to hear one individual’s account was harrowing, let alone to know that person was my great-grandfather.

Q: How has being involved in the programme affected you or your life?

A: I’ve always been interested in my family history, but know more about my maternal ancestry. The programme has made me think more about exploring my paternal roots and making the most of asking my family more about it while I can. I think the programme has made me realise how important it is to have an awareness of your ancestry and to be proud of it.

Q: Are you proud of your ancestor’s role in this historical event?

A: Immensely! Not only of how important his job was on the ship but to hear just how far he went to make every effort he could to get help. Especially after the Captain had told him he could step down, to have carried on sending the distress signals, with freezing Atlantic water around his legs rather than searching for the nearest lifeboat, was a very heroic act. In such a situation as his I feel it is a true test of character how he chose to act, his loyalty to both the ship and his colleagues.

Q: Do you feel you’ve got to know your ancestor better?

A: I learnt so much about what he did and what he went through, as well as learning about his character. I was very touched by his loyalty to his colleagues and his selflessness in his actions. Even his humour at such a fraught time portrayed more of his personality and strength of character.

Q: If you could meet your ancestor face to face, what question would you ask them?

A: That is a really difficult question to answer because after following his story, there is so much I would like to ask him, but once my great-grandfather returned from New York, he never really spoke about the Titanic again. So I guess I would ask him ‘which of his relatives he was most proud of and why?’

Q: How did you find out you were going to be in a TV programme about your family history? What was your reaction?

A: The researchers traced my cousin in Swaziland, who put them in contact with my father, and he gave them my phone number. Initially I was quite apprehensive to take part in the programme; I was a little worried about what I might find out and felt uncomfortable at the idea of being filmed. The team were very reassuring though and the more I thought about it, the more I realised what a great opportunity it was. I thought that if I were ever do something significant I would like to think that my ancestors would want to know about it and be proud. If the stories in our family history aren’t told they get forgotten, and this was such a good opportunity to learn more about Harold Bride. Often family stories change from generation to generation as parts get omitted or fabricated, whereas this was a way to hear the truth and facts about my great-grandfather that I otherwise wouldn’t have known. It was a very surreal experience, especially agreeing to take part not knowing who the programme would be focusing on or where they would be taking me. So I guess it was a little bit of blind faith and pure curiosity.

Q: Has it sunk in that your ancestor was involved in such a momentous point in history?

A: I’d always know that Harold Bride was on the Titanic but I never knew the details. Reading how his actions that night played such a huge part in the reason so many people survived made it more impressive. It hits me a little more each time I discuss the programme with people, to see their reaction to his story, and how impressed they are to hear what he did. It’s interesting to me because he was my great-grandfather, but to hear how much it interests other people makes me realise how momentous his story actually is. A friend even asked me to talk to her primary school class about it, so the idea that another generation will hear his story is quite special too.

Read more about the Titanic episode

Find out more about Find My Past the TV show

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