Friday, August 5, 2011

Open Discussion Weekend: YOUR Ideal Season of Who Do You Think You Are?

Imagine, just for a moment, that you are the producer of the hit NBC television series, Who Do You Think You Are? What celebrities would you like to see on your perfect season of the show? And why would you choose them?
Is it because it's a particular celebrity you like or did you once read or hear something about their background that intrigued you and you'd like to learn more about?

Here are some of my choices that could make an interesting season:
  • Fashion designer Stella McCartney - Dad is Paul McCartney and some of the family roots have already been published. Strong Irish background - it would be interesting to see the places where the elder McCartney and Mohin families lived. And her mother, Linda Eastman's family name was Epstein. Linda's father changed the name. That side of the family would be interesting as well.
  • Whoopi Goldberg - just because.
  • Russell Crowe - I know nothing about his Australian heritage, and he's an interesting enough character on his own that he surely must have some fascinating ancestors.
  • Either Dan Brown or Patricia Cornwell, best selling authors. Everyone else probably wants to see J. K. Rowling, so I'd opt for a different popular author.
  • Tom Hanks - because I read once that he is related to Abraham Lincoln's mother, Nancy Hanks.
  • Brad Pitt - just so my friend, Jan, could meet her celebrity Hillhouse cousin.
  • Brian Wilson, founder of the Beach Boys, who is my 10th cousin, once removed, through our common Mayflower ancestor, Francis Cooke. I'd like to see how a professional genealogist documents the lineage back to the Mayflower passengers.
  • Jane Fonda, because of her family's Nebraska roots. Her father, Henry Fonda, was born and raised in Nebraska and made his acting debut at the Omaha Community Playhouse. I'd like to learn more about the older generations of that family.
Clearly, my fantasy season of WDYTYA has an unlimited budget and some private celebrities who probably would have no interest in participating. But it's my fantasy, so it doesn't matter!

Be as creative, inventive or as selfish as you like. Provide your list and your reasons in the Comments section below. Have some fun with this one!


  1. Johnny Depp! He was born in KY, his parents were born in KY, his 4 grandparents were born in KY, his eight great grandparents were born in KY and 15 of his 16 great grandparents were born in KY. I'd really like to know more about his Kentucky ancestry. And, of course, he's an excellent actor and totally nice to look at!

  2. Of course, Johnny Depp! How could I forget about him!

  3. George Clooney! Eddie Izzard! Cate Blanchett!

  4. Good choices, Sassy Jane! I see a big season shaping up!

  5. Was going to wait until morning, but you have the wheels turning! Since I'm from Maryland, would love to learn more about our John Waters. Waters directed Serial Mom and Hairspray. Would be some episode!

  6. John Waters would be good, too! He's quite the character.

  7. Don't forget Johnny Depp was in John Water's Cry-Baby. Could be a double episode!

  8. I agree about Betty White, John Waters and a lot of the others. I'd also like to see an episode with Mariel Hemingway (because of who her grandfather was) and Drew Barrymore because of her illustrious pedigree. I also think Carrie Fisher, Linda Ronstadt, Liza Minnelli, Maria Shriver and the actor Oliver Platt (a cousin of Princess Di) would be interesting choices. There are a lot of older stars that I'd love to see on the show too like Margaret O'Brien or Annette Funicello. It would also be nice if they had more authors on...

  9. Frances and Leah - more good choices! Celebrities with a celebrity lineage. Carrie Fisher does an extremely funny family relationship chart in her HBO special where she talks about her dad, Eddie Fisher, leaving her mother, Debbie Reynolds, for Elizabeth Taylor. She says, "For you younger people, this would be like Debbie is Jennifer Aniston, Eddie is Brad Pitt and Elizabeth is Angelina Jolie."

  10. Susan, this was so much fun that I had to come up with my own list -

    I love your choices! But there are so many good ones I think we have enough options for 3 or 4 more seasons! LOL

  11. Oh, man how did I forget George Clooney off my lists. LOL. If the comments keep pouring in here I'll need to keep adding to my list! :)

  12. David Schwimmer was once listed as an upcoming celeb on the UK version, but that episode never happened. I'd like to see if he can trace his Schwimmers to Mukacheve, where mine are from.

    I haven't really considered any others that I would want to see. Just want to see some with similar backgrounds.

  13. I hadn't thought about doing someone of similar ancestry, but that's a great idea. Thus, I 'd choose Jackie Evancho (since Andy Warhol is dead, lol). I want to see the pros deal with the whole Slovak, Rusyn, Ukrainian debate. It could come to blows, which could lead to some great cross-marketing. Anyone ready for Extreme Genealogy?

  14. This is fun! I too am interested in Kentucky genealogy so I agree that Johnny Depp is a fun choice (for all mentioned reasons). My other picks would be:
    Alan Alda-I've adored him since I was a kid watching MASH.
    Maya Angelou-she is such a prolific writer
    Diana Gabaldon-another writer that I think is really interesting
    Kurt Russell-because why not?
    Goldie Hawn-I think she has an interesting background
    Shirley Mclaine-she's different and two for one since she is Warren Beatty's sister

    The list could go on, but those are the ones I could think of off the top of my head!

  15. This isn't as fun a response, but my ideal celebrities would be those who might attract new audiences (especially younger viewers) and possibly introduce them to genealogy.
    Some have been suggested already, but others that come to mind are Nathan Fillion, Hugh Jackman, Zachary Levi, David Boreanaz, Tina Fey, Daniel Craig, Michael C. Hall, Justin Bieber, and Neil Patrick Harris. Essentially, I'd like to see anyone with a currently (or recently) popular show/movie/album (e.g., Craig, Fey, Boreanaz, Bieber) and/or a cult following of fans (e.g., Fillion, Levi).
    I'm not personally a fan of all these folks (e.g., Bieber, Harris), but I think WDYTYA represents a unique opportunity to make genealogy more mainstream, which is more important to me.

  16. Johnny Depp's Kentucky roots would be wonderful. I think I'd like New Yorker Lady Gaga too. Clint Eastwood has old New England roots so I'd like to see him on the show. Maybe Janet Jackson for the Jackson family. David Duchovny has diverse roots. How about Puerto Rican ancestry? Maybe Roberto Alomar, recent baseball hall of fame inductee. Wow, this is really fun!

  17. I would love to see Soledad O'Brien. Her mother is Afro-Cuban and her father is of Irish descent from Australia. Any of her family lines would be interesting. And as a New Orleanian, I would choose Harry Connick, Jr.

  18. I think that seeing our surviving Presidents' would be interesting. I agree that drawing in more young people is a good idea. I am thinking that maybe Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, or some of the other young performers would interest them. Robert Redford, John Travolta, Madonna, Ellen Degeneres and Oprah would be some of my other choices. I ilke many of the others people have mentioned too.

  19. I loved Bill's list - I agree that we need to have at least a few young and hip stars to raise the awareness of profession with a new set of fans. Selfishly, I'd like to see less east coast work. In the interest of them both, how about some Texas celebrities like Jensen Ackles (Supernatural), Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls), Hilary Duff, Beyonce Knowles (I might skip that one), Matthew McConaughey...the list goes on and on.
    Beyond that, Joshua Jackson (just because) and James Garner - that would be a good way to explore his Cherokee roots, visit a nice mid-America state like Oklahoma, and to hear about his interesting life.

  20. Ooh, I like genealogyaddict's list with Matthew McConaughey. When I think of him I also think of Matt Damon, who does a wonderful McConaughey impersonation, so Damon would be on the list. Morgan Freeman, Vigo Mortensen, Robin Williams (I think he's funny), Ryan Reynolds and through in Scarlett Johannson.

    Oh yeah, Johnny Depp's family is from Metcalfe County, Kentucky where my mother and her family are from.