Have you considered tracing the family history of your home? Who’s Been Sleeping In My House?, is a wonderful new series from the ABC that does just that. Archaeologist and presenter Adam Ford uses the tools of his trade – public records and a good spade – to discover the histories of eight houses around Australia, and the generations of families who've called them home. Think Time Team + Grand Designs rolled into one show! In the first episode, Ford travels to the heart of Ballarat in Victoria. Here, he tells Inside History why he loves digging up the past.
Inside History Magazine: It’s fascinating to see where the trail of clues leads you once you start digging. What is your highlight from the series?
Adam Ford: One of the great things about this show is that I get to do what I do! That is - go on an adventure into the past, which I have done for the past 20 years in various parts of the world. While that sounds a bit romantic, the past is (to paraphrase L.P. Hartley) a foreign country and to explore it is to go on an adventure. The highlight of this show is that the past histories of the houses are completely unknown and I get to dig them out of the records and, in some cases, the buildings themselves.
IHM: It must have been rewarding to discover the story of the 1860s dining room in episode 1 (airing Monday, November 21, 8pm).
Adam Ford: The question of the dining room was really unusual and I wasn’t certain that we were going to find the answer so, yes it was very satisfying. More satisfying and rewarding was being able to reveal the histories of the houses to the owners. In every case they were amazed and quite moved by the stories.
IHM: How and why did you choose these eight houses for the series?
Adam Ford: In a way the houses chose us. We had a look at a lot of places but these eight stood out. Not only are they beautiful, but also all had a fascinating story to tell.
IHM: What’s the first thing someone should do when researching their house?
Adam Ford: Well apart from dropping us a line - www.abc.net.au/tv/whosbeensleeping - the first port of call should be those champions of history keeping, the local libraries and local historical societies. Not only will they be able to point you in the right direction, they will probably provide you with the right questions to ask to get you moving.
IHM: Is there any hidden history about your own home in Victoria, that you’re wanting to dig up?
Adam Ford: Unfortunately not. My house was built in the 1980s – it’s a beautiful mud brick barn of a place but not very old. Mind you, we are bringing up our two daughters in it so we are creating history every day.
Who’s Been Sleeping In My House? starts, November 21 at 8pm on ABC1.
Related stories: Find out how to research the history of your house in issue 5 of Inside History. Go online to read here.