Family explores links to Carrick

The Smyth family with Gavin Andrews.
The Smyth family with Gavin Andrews.

A family from Co Down traced their roots to Carrickfergus as part of a new BBC Northern Ireland series, Family Footsteps.

Gavin Andrews will take the Smyth family from Bangor on a genealogical detective trail in the first episode tonight (BBC One NI 7.30pm), as they piece together their family tree and discover fascinating insights into the lives of their family members in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The series starts with a boat trip for the Smyth family, who sail from Bangor across Belfast Lough to Carrick, where Peter’s family lived for generations. Their first big discovery will see that their former family home is now a tanning parlour!

Going further back, they find out that business interests took this adventurous family overseas.

Their next family footstep takes them all the way to St Petersburg in Russia, where it is revealed one of their ancestors, Robert, ran a prestigious bookshop.

This leads to revelations of royal connections for the Smyth family – Robert’s sister, Lizzie, followed him out to Russia where she was hired as a governess for a famous princess.

The second programme which will be shown on October 28 at 7.30pm continues the Russian connection. Still in St Petersburg it transpires that another family member was operating in St Petersburg at the start of the 20th century.

Ralph, brother of Robert and Lizzie, was ostensibly a businessman but evidence points to him actually being a British spy. The Russian Revolution was to have devastating consequences for this branch of the family and sent them fleeing for their lives.

Back home, Emily and Ruby take etiquette lessons to discover what life may have been like for a governess. A family will reveals a prized possession, a harmonium, and the family enjoy a Victorian-style sing-song.

And it transpires there’s another adventurer in the family, this time a sea captain who sailed around the world, surviving a shipwreck in the process.

In the final episode, its back to 1711 and a family link to a witch, as the Smyths can be traced back to a woman who was accused in the Islandmagee Witch Trials.

Found guilty of witchcraft, the family discover her fate. In a family tree full of foreign adventure and travel, the real danger to the family was found much closer to home.

Family Footsteps is produced by Waddell Media for BBC Northern Ireland with support from Northern Ireland Screen’s Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund.