Genealogy Programing: “Genealogy Roadshow” and “Who Do You Think You Are?”

Last night was the premiere episode of the US version of the “Genealogy Roadshow.” This is a program that originated in Ireland on RTÉ. The format follows that of the “Antiques Roadshow” a long time BBC production. You can certainly see that format with the presenter and the enquirer at the same table and the crowd surrounding them listening to the evaluation. The crowd around the table provides an extra component to the proceedings as they react to what they are hearing and seeing. The new element is the screen and digital images.

I am a huge fan of the “Antiques Roadshow” and the “Genealogy Roadshow” didn’t disappoint. It would have been nice if we could have found out a little more about some of the documents. I would like to have learned more about who wrote the Austin Peay letter, why it was written and where it came from. The presentation of some of the documents on screen was so fast you could hardly read them.

This show was all about the family stories of everyday people. This is something that a lot of viewers have been looking for according to comments I have heard about the program “Who Do You Think You Are?” and its use of celebrities. What we need to remember is they are only celebrities because they are in the public eye and we are aware of what they do for a living. If they were teachers or firefighters their story would be the same and it would be considered the story of an everyday person.

The main difference for me between the two programs is that you get more of a history lesson on “Who Do You Think You Are?” than you do on “Genealogy Roadshow.” “Who Do You Think You Are?” is all about the story. On “Genealogy Roadshow” they are proving or disproving a family story or they may prove that it is actually a little different than the family thought.

“Genealogy Roadshow” is a fast paced production which fits in with the instant need to know, get the story and move on of most of today’s viewers. As researchers we know this isn’t the way researching your family history works. If it gets more people interested in their family history, in particular young people, then I’m all for it.

How many of us actually knew what we were in for when we first started researching our family history? As researchers we follow good research practices but that is not going to be shown on genealogy based programs. The research is the behind the scenes hard work that makes the program come to life. What I love most about family history based programing is the story. These programs present the stories found in the history of a family.

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