Genealogy TV/Online Programs

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Thirty five years ago we were all sitting in front of our televisions watching the first episode of an eight episode miniseries called “Roots” based on the book by Alex Haley. The miniseries ran from January 23-30, 1977.

“Roots” held the attention of a continent for eight straight nights. I can’t think of a television show that would do that now. There were about 55 actors starring in the production. The time period was from about 1750 through to 1870.

This was a television show that changed a lot of lives. Many people began researching their family history because of watching “Roots.” It made people curious about those who came before them.

How did “Roots” change your life? Did you start researching your family history because of “Roots?” Do you remember sitting in front of the television to watch this epic story?

©2012 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

Last night’s episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” featuring Kim Cattrall was a repeat of the UK episode Kim did. The opening was different as they showed a timeline of her career which they did not do in the UK version.

They cut a whole section of the episode where she searched passenger lists to see if her grandfather had left the country. It turns out he stowed away on a ship to the USA. There were small snippets taken out in other parts of the show.

They put subtitles in the US version when Kim met Bella’s family. The note about the family being in touch with the family in Australia was at the end of the UK show.

Kim’s search was really interesting and all the twists and turns kept your attention. If the powers that be are listening it would be fantastic to see more of the British episodes of “Who Do You Think You Are?” on North American television.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research

Rosie O’Donnell’s episode last night was great. The fact that her family arrived in the United States from Canada and not straight from Ireland highlighted an emigration pattern found in many families.

Next week’s episode features Kim Cattrall. The preview note says that “Kim unlocks the 70-year-old mystery behind her grandfather’s abandonment of his young family.” Kim Cattrall appeared on the original UK series and this seems to be the same episode.

The story itself is extremely interesting and takes quite a few twist and turns. I can understand why it is going to be repeated on American television. I wonder if they filmed some of the scenes again. The sad part is how much they will have to cut for the extra commercial time.

Now the question is will they be repeating the UK show for Jerry Springer as well?

©2011 – Blair Archival Research

Remember on Friday 4 February 2011 at 8 pm on NBC the new season of “Who Do You Think You Are?” will begin with Vanessa Williams examining her family history.

Did you enjoy watching Who Do You Think You Are this spring? If you liked the celebrity family histories but wished you could see family histories of ordinary people then The Generations Project is for you.

This is a project that follows ordinary people on their search for their family’s history. The episodes can be viewed online and are between fifty and sixty minutes long. They cover many different areas of research. The main idea is the story behind the search for your family history.

Why not check it out at The Generations Project.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

I have watched the first two episodes of “Who Do You Think You Are?” and have been enjoying the program very much. These episodes have dealt with several important aspects of United States history which I found interesting and learned something new.

The shows for Sarah Jessica Parker and Emmitt Smith both focused on one family line. The British shows, more often than not, cover several family lines which can make the journey more inclusive.

Unfortunately with North American television there is the requirement of many commercial breaks. As a result the length of the program is shortened which does not allow for much leeway in the amount information they can cover in one hour.

There has been a lot of talk about wanting to hear the stories of ordinary people. Why do they have to use celebrities? One thing to remember is that whether Sarah Jessica Parker is an actress or a cashier her family history would still be the same.

What is more or less certain in relation to your family history is that you will learn about different countries while doing your research. In North America almost everyone comes from somewhere else. This series will introduce people to countries and their histories that they might not have previously known.

If you have a family connected to one of the places or events featured they may also provide you with new sources to research your own family history.

The ratings for the program have been good. If this keeps up would they possibly consider doing another season? I think that would be fantastic!

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

The United States version of this popular British television show is to air on March 5th on NBC television. This show has crossed the globe with Canada, Ireland, Australia, Sweden, Poland and South Africa all creating their own versions of “Who Do You Think You Are?” since the programs inception in 2004.

In Britain it is not just the television show “Who Do You Think You Are?” there is also the monthly magazine, website and family history exhibition, “Who Do You Think You Are? Live” that is held annually the last weekend of February.

I have had the pleasure of watching the versions from Canada, Britain and Australia. The stories have been interesting and along the way I learned something new. The BBC production of Jane Horrocks family history took her to Lancashire to see how her family was involved in the cotton industry. My family was also involved in the cotton industry in Lancashire so I learned a bit of history that related to my family story from her family story.

The Canadian version lasted one season and was only half an hour in length. A bit disappointing since you couldn’t really get into the journey of discovering the celebrity’s family history. In North America there is the unavoidable “commercial time” that cuts into the program. This is not as much of an issue in Britain and Australia.

There has been a lot of talk that people are disappointed in the fact that they are not showing the research process in this program and others like it. They believe this causes people to think they can just go online and find out their family history without doing much leg work.

The point of these programs is to present a story that the viewers will find interesting. I just enjoy the story aspect of the program and how the celebrity reacts to what is discovered about their family’s past.

How many of us actually knew what it took to research our family history when we first started? Something hooked us and we began our road of discovery into our own personal history. We learned the process along the way. If we knew the work involved would we have actually started researching our family history?

Let’s enjoy the ride that these people are embarking on and share their joys and sorrows in discovering their family stories.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research