TV star Bill takes stroll back in time to climb forgotten family tree
CORONATION Street actor William Roache has unearthed snippets of his grandmother's remarkable life on the hit TV series Who Do You Think You Are?
The actor, who was born in Ilkeston, discovered that his maternal grandmother, Mary "Zillah" Waddicor, had run a bustling cafe at Alton Towers – an unusual role for a woman in that era.
William, who plays Ken Barlow in the long-running ITV1 soap opera, also found that his father, Vincent, had taken over from his own father's medical practice after he died of influenza.
All of his discoveries as he climbed through the ages of his family tree will be revealed in tonight's episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, which tasks celebrities with tracking down their ancestors.
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William, who holds the world record as the longest-serving soap actor, said it was thrilling to discover so much.
The 80-year-old said: "It was very interesting to take part in the show and trace my family history.
"I found out a lot more about my mother's childhood than I knew, which made me love and respect her even more."
During the programme, William speaks candidly about his mother's upbringing and his fond memories about his grandmother.
He said: "The strength and determination I have is, if I got it from anybody, from my mother.
"She was a lovely person, my mother, but she had a tough childhood.
"Her father, Albert, drank and she hated him, just hated him. But her mother, my grandmother, was a lovely person.
"She was called Zillah and all I remember of her was a lovely, kind, wonderful woman that I wished I had known better."
Mr Roache's grandmother was found after searching through the Staffordshire County Council's archive service.
In the show, Mr Roache delves into the archives and records at William Salt Library, in Stafford, to discover more about his forgotten family history.
The search through records dating back more than 100 years revealed a wealth of information on his ancestors.
The research culminated in the discovery of the life of his grandmother.
Staffordshire County Councillor Pat Corfield, cabinet member for culture and communities, said: "Staffordshire is fortunate to have such a thorough documented history of its people's heritage.
"It is a huge success to see the libraries and archive service being put to such good use.
"Bill was able to make use of the excellent collection of information held there."
The Staffordshire archive service's collections are available for public viewing, allowing access to all the preserved information.
The William Salt Library is an independent charitable library set up in 1872 and is managed by its own trustees, with support from Staffordshire County Council.
The library is run alongside the archive service and can also be visited free.
Both services have collections with documents dating back hundreds of years.
Mr Corfield said: "I would encourage anyone with an interest in tracing their ancestry to contact the archive service or William Salt Library and make use of the facilities."
The collections can be used to help trace ancestors or find out more about the history of where they lived back through several centuries.
For more information on the Staffordshire County Council services, visit www.staffordshire.gov.uk/leisure/archives.
Tonight's episode of Who Do You Think You Are? is on BBC One at 9pm.