Who Do You Think You Are - Season 8, Episode 6 recap

Shane Jacobson


Season 8 of the popular family history show Who Do You Think You Are? screened over several weeks during 2016. Here at State Records of South Australia we recapped each episode at the time and highlighted any records in our collection relevant to topics covered. Now on our blog for your reading pleasure are all of our recaps. 

In episoide 6 we joined comedian, actor and writer Shane Jacobson as he travelled to Scandinavia in search of possible Viking ancestors.

We began with Shane discussing with his father how little they know about their family history. It is known that Shane’s grandfather was at one stage a carny and that up until the age of sixteen Shane’s father did not know his real name or date of birth. There was plenty for Shane to find out.

He first travelled to Geelong to discover that his great grandfather, Otto Jacobson worked as a labourer. Otto declared himself insolvent in 1906 due to his inability to pay back his debts on simple items such as milk and bread as well as medical payments for sick members of the family. Otto died in 1936 and Shane was able to visit his burial place in Geelong.

Shane then travelled to our very own Adelaide and visited the State Library of South Australia where he viewed the South Australian Police Gazettes (we also hold these in the series GRG5/50) and learned that Otto in fact jumped ship in 1883. Those sailors who ‘deserted’ their ship were considered criminals and often information about ‘deserters’ can be found in Police Gazettes – at times they were even given prison sentences! Otto was 19 years old at the time he deserted and was said to be from Russia. Shane also learned that Otto became a naturalised citizen of Australian in 1914 where he stated he was a Russian-Finn – a possible lead to the Viking ancestors.

Shane’s next destination was Finland as he visited the National Library in Helsinki and learnt more about the history of Finland through the country’s time as part of the Swedish empire and also as an independent area of the Russian empire. Shane then travelled to Uusikaupunki, Finland and at a shipping museum discovered that Otto was born in 1864 and worked as a sailor in very tough conditions with little pay. It was no wonder he jumped ship in Adelaide in search of a better life. It was discovered that Otto’s brother Gustaf Jr. also migrated to Australia in 1892 which left Shane amazed that there may be more Jacobsons in Australia that he had no idea about.

Shane then travelled to Turku, which is the oldest city in Finland, and discovered another ancestor who had jumped ship – Shane labelled them the ‘Runaway Jacobsons’. In Turku, Shane looked to discover if he had any Viking ancestors but was faced with the reality that there was no way to prove or disprove that he did. He also discovered that a ‘family crest’ his father bought from a shopping centre was in fact not the Jacobson family crest; it was just a pretty picture!

Finally in Turku, Shane visited the farm where his great, great grandfather was born and discovered that he in fact had relatives who were still living on this site today. Shane then shared an evening with his ‘new’ wing of the family. It just goes to show, you never know where your family history might lead you.

While we probably don’t hold any records about Vikings in our collection, there were a number of records used in this episode covering topics and themes we can assist you with.

  • Deserters from ships can often be found in the series GRG5/50 South Australian Police Gazettes which we hold in our collection. These gazettes cover 1861 – 1973 and have an access restriction of 60 years.
  • Records from the Insolvency Court (GRG66) in our collection will assist in finding any ancestors who may have declared for insolvency. The series GRG66/3 Index to insolvencies covers the years 1841 – 1923.
  • State Records holds many records relating to immigration and passenger arrivals, details of which can be found on our Immigration fact sheet.

If you’re just beginning your family history journey then it’s also worth checking out our webpage on Family History Research at State Records.

If you would like some more information on the above records, or have a question about how our collection can help you with your family history research then you can send us an enquiry.

More WDYTYA Season 8 recaps can be found on the State Records blog.

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