Sunday, January 31, 2010

Genealogy hits mainstream TV

NBC has been running some promotional advertisements for its upcoming show called Who Do You Think You Are - a look at the family history of celebrities. Apparently, NBC is teaming with for this venture.

NBC describes the program: NBC's commitment to bringing A-list talent to its 2009-2010 prime time schedule includes a unique and personal glimpse into the lives of our favorite celebrities. In each episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, a celebrity embarks on a journey of self-discovery and unearths his or her family tree - revealing surprising, inspiring and sometimes tragic stories that are often linked to events in American history. We share intimate moments with the stars as they learn about their past, and how the struggles of their ancestors have shaped today's world. Stars include Lisa Kudrow, Sarah Jessica Parker and Susan Sarandon. Well, I would definitely take issue on whether or not these people are considered "a-list", but I digress.

I doubt if this will have the kind of impact on potential family historians the way that Alex Haley's Roots did in the 1970s, but at least it's introducing the general population to the intrigue of family history research. I only hope that family history newcomers don't think they will be able to trace their entire family back 300 years in under 60 minutes. Since there will be digital features for the show's viewers to begin their search on, I also am a bit concerned that people with little knowledge of the need for proper research and documentation will go crazy on Ancestry and start adding the wrong families to their trees.

This is already an issue on Ancestry. While I love Ancestry and feel like I couldn't get along without it, I've also learned to be careful with what I add to my tree that was compiled by another researcher. Many of the family trees on Ancestry do not provide documentation or historical records, so it becomes difficult to know if they are accurate. Sure, I've added a few of these to my tree along the way, and my goal is to double-back and confirm as much as I possibly can. This process means that I have been removing people from my trees that I am unable to confirm on my own.

So - it is definitely with great interest that I look forward to this new NBC show. It premieres on Friday, March 5 at 7:00 p.m. central. You can be sure that I'll review it here on

ABC - Good Morning America

ABC's Good Morning America is also getting into the genealogy act by discussing Faces of America with scholar Henry Louis Gates. You may recognize him from the "beer summit" at the White House last summer. Are George Stephanopoulous and Hillary Clinton really "cousins"?

Faces of America - PBS

Faces of America is featured on PBS. The series premieres nationally Wednesdays, February 10 - March 3, 2010 from 8-9 p.m. ET. Based on what I've seen so far, I'm putting my money on the PBS show, rather than NBC, but I'll be watching both of them.

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