PBS has announced their line up for 2012. (Not sure how I missed this announcement.) It is exciting to see that genealogy stays in the forefront of television networks. Finding Your Roots begins March 25 at 8 p.m., Henry Louis Gates, Jr. will dig into the genetics and genealogy in a 10 part series. According to the PBS announcement, “Kevin Bacon, Tyra Banks, Robert Downey, Jr., Sanjay Gupta, John Legend, Martha Stewart, Barbara Walters and Rick Warren” will be lucky enough to have their genealogy completed for them. To read more about Finding Your Roots, please go to the PBS website.
This past week, I found a new show on the History Channel that I have already set to DVR whenever it is on. Any tv show that can give us a glimpse into the past is ok by me. We have Storage Wars (on A&E), Pawn Stars and American Pickers. When I watch these shows, I get excited at any of the historical information they can shed a bit of light on. We cannot expect to be knowledgeable on everything, are we?
Anyhow, while I was watching something on the History Channel the other day, I saw a commercial for Brad Meltzer’s Decoded, (which airs Wednesday evenings 10/9 Central). Lets just say I was a bit intrigued. It’s a weekly tv program that has history, some mysteries, conspiracy theories and heck they even throw in information about secret societies.
Ever since I read Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code, I have been hooked on books, movies or anything else that might involve a conspiracy theory. It’s interesting to see what others think and why they feel the way they do. I will say that some of the theories are very far-fetched, but I am still intrigued.
I spent my day yesterday watching four different episodes that I had dvr’d the day before, and I am hooked. I have asked my followers on Twitter to see if anyone else is watching, and I only received 1 reply. Which, is why I am blogging about it now. You never know where you will find the next clue in your genealogy research and if any of the history based tv shows can bring us one step closer to breaking down that brick wall, I am all for it.
As I was writing this post and looking through the History Channel’s website, I also came across American Restoration, looks like I will be spending a lot of time with the History Channel. If you do not hear from me, call AT&T and have them turn my tv off!
In the beginning of March, NBC premiered Who Do You Think You Are?, and we had been waiting ever so patiently for it. With 4 episodes behind us already, we are more than half way through this season. What a season it has been. So far, they have traced Sarah Jessica Parker to the California Gold Rush and Salem Witch trials. Emmitt Smith follow his ancestors into slavery and found the coast in Africa where is slave ancestors most likely came from. Producer, Lisa Kudrow followed her family into the Holocaust. All of the stories were compelling and brought tears to the eyes of many.
This past friday, we followed the family trails of actor Matthew Broderick. What a story he would have. We knew from the trailers it had to do with a civil war mystery. But what would it be? I have been waiting for his story just to see! The first ancestor he wants to learn about, his dad’s father. He never met him and wanted to know more, (I can relate to that, as I am sure most of my genea blogging friends can). What he found, a highly decorated WWII veteran. The man he had always referred to as “Joe the postman” now came to life as historians and researchers pieced together Joe’s story from WWII. This information helped Matthew understand the reason that his Grandfather was a quiet man and why his father followed in those exact footsteps of keeping things to himself.
The next line Matthew wanted to know about was his Martindale line, which was his paternal grandmother’s family. What he learned her was truly an amazing story. Matthew’s Great Great Grandfather, Robert Martindale was a soldier in the civil war. Having survived the Battle of Gettysburg, Robert and the 20th infantry moved on to Atlanta, Ga where Robert had been killed by a musket “through the head.” How horrible that must have been to read. A local historian showed Matthew where the bodies of the soldiers that had died during this battle had been temporarily buried and then took him to where the remains have been moved to for a proper burial, the Marietta National Cemetery.
I would love to tell you about the mystery that they solved, but feel it would be better if you watched the show. You can watch this episode of Who Do You Think You Are? here
In this episode, it was nice to see Matthew actually pouring through the census books looking for the information himself. Not just relying on someone to do it for him. It also showed those interested in genealogy how important it is to follow the military records. The muster rolls, followed the infantry and can give the researcher information for each location they were in. Personally, I have not done any research into military records so this was a valuable lesson for me. I believe Matthew clarified the feeling that most genealogists have when they find information on their family, “something was filled that I didn’t know was empty.”
I look forward to watching next week’s episode with actress Brooke Shields, this appears to be another great episode.
Like most genealogists, I counted the minutes until the premiere of Who Do You Think You Are? last night. As the moments approached, I grabbed the remote control and made sure I had a Pepsi near by for the show. The wait was well worth it. It was very well put together with Sarah Jessica Parker starting at the beginning by going to talk with her Mom and then moving backwards in time. Not only did I find that the show was entertaining, but also had many great quotes (I wrote down a few and will share later).
Here is what I liked:
- They showed SJP scanning through the computer system at the Massachusetts Historical Society, granted someone was there to assist her. But she did do some of the work.
- The showed many of the societies that we go to for information, some of us even belong to a few of them.
- They used a variety of records
- The story was worth watching unfold
What I did not like:
- Sarah visited 5 different states in her quest for family information. She stated at each junction that she needed to go to whatever state next for more information. As we do research it would be wonderful to just get up and go. This is not realistic for the average genealogist.
- Original sources shown to SJP, no white gloves a pencil to close for comfort. We would have welcomed a discussion on these issues.
- It would have been nice to find the death record of John Hodge in CA, to make 100% sure they were talking about the right ancestor.
I appreciate the different records that were shown throughout WDYTYA, in this episode we saw death records, obituaries, court records, a few different census records, various letters and estate papers. It shows that you never know where you will find the next clue that you are looking for. Remember to never leave a stone unturned. Though I would have liked to see her try to read the original documents without having the transcription right there.
As for places to look for these records, one can appreciate the fact that WDYTYA showed us the value of going to the local Historical Society or Genealogy Society for help. This episode took us to a local OH library, NEGS, in Boston, MA. Massachusetts Historical Society, and a Museum.
As for Sarah Jessica Parker, I felt she was honest in her feelings and emotions throughout the show, at one point she stated she found the information “physically upsetting” and another portion of the show she said “how absolutely terrifying” it was. Her emotions showed through when she was reading the letter about John Hodge and how he had died, they showed her wiping the tears from her eyes a few times or while waiting for the records by knocking her heels together or how she kept holding her head when they were going over information on the Salem witch trials and her ancestor Esther Elwell. I believe that as genealogists we all can understand her statements, “family plays a central part in my life, I am a wife, mother and a sister,” and “to know who you are, you have to know where you came from.”
My favorite quote from the show was when SJP was in Boston at NEGS when Josh Taylor said to her “I swear on a stack of genealogy!”
I know there has been a lot of comparisons between WDYTYA and Faces of America in regards to the format. Personally, I feel that each program was set up successfully. I enjoyed watching both programs and hope that this will be a continuing topic for television.
In the end, I would also like to say that I found it touching the Sarah Jessica Parker wanted to pay her respects to those who were not as lucky as her 10th Great Grandma. Showing her removing snow from the various graves you could tell she was thinking how lucky her family was.
I cannot wait for this Friday’s show with Emmit Smith!