Celebs Research Roots on TLC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?”
Everything old is new again, and genealogy is one of the very old things that seems to be a new trend on TV. “Genealogy Roadshow” premieres Sept. 23 on PBS, but first there was TLC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” In that version, celebrities seek their roots by zipping around the world and consulting with historians and professional genealogists.
Since I write about my family history at Ancestors in Aprons, I was interested to see “Who Do You Think You Are,” hoping that I could learn some tips and tricks for tracing my own ancestors. I did, in fact, pick up some ideas about where to look.
However, the show downplays the long hours poring over dusty manuscripts that gets you beyond what is available online. Ancestry.com was a sponsor and prominently featured in each episode, and I use that source, but comes a time when you need to go to a specialized library or a historical site.
Two things were rather annoying from that point of view. One, I don’t have an unlimited budget, so I can’t say – as the celebs always did – “Oh my three times great-grandfather came from a small town in England? Guess I’d better go to England.”
And second, if I actually DID go to England, I’d have to search around myself rather than walk into a library and have a genealogist hand me a folder of information already researched.
Nevertheless, the show is both fun and educational and just might sell you on searching out your own roots. The eight episodes are now available in their entirety for viewing on line.
“Genealogy Roadshow” Premiering on PBS
Next up, PBS will be launching a new genealogy show, mimicking the wildly popular “Antiques Roadshow.” In “Genealogy Roadshow,” ordinary people with some interesting family stories talk to one of two experts to find out whether their family legends are true. Am I related to Jessie James? Why is there an African American man holding a white child in this picture, and how is he related to my family? Am I related to any Civil War soldiers? Revolutionary War soldiers? Is a white Governor of Tennessee really an ancestor of my African American family?
As you can see, the questions and family legends are engaging and full of drama. In the first hour-long show, the two experts (which I saw in a preview version) dealt with the family history of eight people, plus did a quick DNA analysis of one person. In the case of the DNA test, you don’t need an expert to interpret. There are several companies that send you detailed results.
One of the experts on the show explains where most of the information comes from that she is sharing, but the other just tells the person’s story with no clue as to how he learned the information. For someone who is interested in tracing their own family, that is very frustrating.
Just as with “Antiques Roadshow,” some people get answers that delight them, and others are disappointed to learn, that “No, you are not related to George Washington.”
The first show airs on Sept. 23, and takes place at the historic Belmont Mansion in Nashville, Tennessee. Some time is devoted to explaining the history of the mansion, which is quite interesting. Subsequent shows will go to Austin, Detroit and to San Francisco, where they prove that every family has an interesting story – and many mysteries to solve.
“Genealogy Roadshow” was created in Ireland, where it was a huge hit, and I predict it will strike it rich in the United States, too. But watch with caution. I can personally attest to the fact the genealogy is highly addictive.