Category Archives: Who Do You Think You Are?

It Pays to Watch Reruns

I spent the last week visiting my Mom in Alabama. We had a good visit and enjoyed spending time in the pool. The visit was a surprise, so we did not have many things planned for our week since Mom still had to work. We did take a day trip to Hurricane Mills, TN to visit the home of Loretta Lynn (I will probably blog about that in a separate post), other than that it was really about hanging out and enjoying the family.

On Friday night, we sat down to watch some tv and I put on the rerun of Who Do You Think You Are? on NBC, with actor Steve Buscemi. Of course, I had already seen the episode, but I wanted my family to watch it. Knowing it is not a show they would ever turn on to watch by themselves.

Let me tell you, I did not fast forward quick enough through the commercials so that my step-father could watch the show. Every time he asked a question, I would pause the tv so that I could give him a proper answer. He thought it was the coolest thing ever as Steve was looking at the death record on his ancestor.

Lets rewind a few days, early in the week I had taken my step-father on the computer to and we did a bit of digging in his family. Nothing to serious, I had a small tree already together for him. It was from a few years back when he was trying to find his parents ship records from Ellis Island. The record had not been available online, and I was able to find it on Anyhow, we spent a good hour on his tree, took it back another generation and I now have a new family to play with when I decide it is time to do some research. We had found a death index from his great-grandfather and I told him we could order it to find more information on the family, but he was not interested. So I dropped it.

Fast forward back to Friday night, as Steve is reading his ancestor’s death record and my step father was ever so intrigued, I told him. We can order your great grandfathers, remember we found the index. He was still not interested. But he did think this whole process is cool.

As a newbie, he had some great points in the show that all of my genealogy friends would appreciate, “how do they know it is his ancestor, there is no proof in what they show us.” I absolutely love that he understood this. I did tell him that other people are doing the research and they know before it is put in front of the camera. We just do not get to see that part.

To end the night, I was told that it was really a good show and he wanted to know when it was on tv. I was so excited to tell him that right now NBC is showing last seasons episodes and there is a new season in the works. I cannot wait to let him know when it starts up again.


First 1/2 of Season 2 WDYTYA? – My thoughts

We are half way through with Season 2 of Who Do You Think You Are?, and it has already been reported that there will be a season 3. The genealogy community has been abuzz with the news all week. Currently, we are half way through the season, having watched the journeys of Vanessa Williams, Tim McGraw, Rosie O’Donnell and Kim Catrall. I have not written any posts on the shows so far, because I was busy just really enjoying them. I have all of them saved on my DVR and plan to sit and rewatch every one of them.

Each celebrity had a compelling story to tell and it makes my week to be able to sit down and share each of their journeys.

  • As Vanessa Williams went on her journey she learned that her grandfather was born a free man. One of the records that she looked at had asked the question if the individual was a slave, his answer, NEVER! How amazing for her and her family to be able to see that document.
  • Tim McGraw’s journey was heartfelt, he researched his fathers line. He did not meet his father until he was a teenager. His journey took him to Washington DC where he got to look at a journal that was kept by a 16-year-old boy who had spent the evening at his ancestors home. The boy was George Washington! Very cool, even though commercials made it look like they were going to be related.
  • Rosie O’Donnell’s journey was very hard for me to watch because I am researching my Irish line and it is difficult. Here I learned that the life of the Irish during the Potato Famine was worse than what I ever could have imagined. Some families went to live in work houses and their whole family was separated. Conditions were poor, Rosie said had the feel of a concentration camp. I shudder at the thought of how they had to live (not just the Irish, anyhow who lived in these types of conditions). Rosie also stated that this is a side of Irish history that has not been told, and that it needs to be told. I cannot agree more. I have spent a bit of time reading about the work houses and I know I will need to spend a lot more time on this side of my family.
  • Kim Catrall’s story was a heartbreaking journey for her family. The emotion at the end between Kim’s mom and her sisters was raw and I almost felt like someone listening in on something so private. Kim’s grandfather left the family over 70 years ago and no one ever heard from him again. Not even his siblings or parents. Kim’s journey took her to meeting many lovely women who pieced this story together bit by bit. What she ended up finding out is that her grandfather remarried 1 year after leaving his wife and 3 girls, penniless. He had 4 more children with his then wife Bella. George never divorced his first wife. Turns out that George and Bella emigrated to Australia, because he wanted to. Bella never saw her family again. Kim decided that she had learned enough and was not interested in going to Australia to meet the extended family she had there. I was happy to read at the end that her mom and sisters have been in contact with their half siblings after the show completed taping. My family has a similar story, except there was a divorce, none the less I have an aunt who found a sister on the ancestry message boards. These two sisters have met and I for one am glad that happened. I have not met this “new” aunt so far. But I hope that one day I can make it happen.

To finish off the season we have Lionel Richie, Steve Buscemi, Gwenth Paltrow and Ashley Judd. I am anxious to watch each episode.

Hopefully they will release a list of season 3’s celebrities soon.

If you are like me and cannot wait to see more of this great show, you can watch the episodes of the BBC version on You Tube.

Matthew Broderick and Episode 4 of Who Do You Think You Are

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.

My Thoughts on Episode 1 of Who Do You Think You Are

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!

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