Saturday, March 06, 2010


Like most of my geneablogging colleagues I was waiting for the premiere
of the new NBC genealogy program "Who Do You Think You Are?" with
great anticipation and hopes it would do a good job making genealogy
interesting to the general public. After watching the first episode last
night, I think the answer is a resounding yes.

I liked the fact that the search for Sarah Jessica Parker's Hodge
ancestors began where any family history research should start if
possible with a conversation with family members who might have
information. And then other sources were shown as useful for
tracing your family, such as census records, obituaries, and best of
all, historical and genealogical societies. I wish more had been said
about how long such searches usually take for the average person,

One review I've seen refers to the program as "Ancestry with the
Stars" and some bloggers have said they wish the program would
use everyday people as subjects, but let's face it, folks, first and
foremost this is an entertainment program. If it is to have any
chance of ratings success it needs a Sarah Jessica Parker rather
than a Mary Jones to attract viewers.

One point that had some of my Fb friends concerned was that neither
SJP and the archivist were wearing gloves when handling the original
warrant for witchcraft against SJP's ancestor. But the use of gloves
seems to not be a universal rule. I recalled that the History Detectives
show mentioned this and found this link on Facebook about why they
are also occasionally shown not using gloves:!/note.php?note_id=126856096153

While I eventually tired of SJP's reactions I don't doubt they were genuine.
The show was filmed before the birth of her twins and she used the Hodge
and Elwell surnames as part of her childrens' names.

Finally, during the show my brother called. He and his fiancee were
watching and wondered if SJP's Elwell ancestor was one of the witches
in our own family tree. I told him no, that ours were Mary Eastey and
Rebecca Blake. Then after the commercial when SJP was visiting a
memorial to the victims of the Witch Hysteria, the second marker she
brushed the snow off was for Mary Eastey! What are the odds?

Overall, I give the premiere an A-. What did the general public
think? I haven't seen any ratings yet, but after the show aired,
traffic at the site seems to have suddenly become
quite heavy!

So, what did you think of "Who Do You Think You Are?"


Cheryle Hoover Davis said...

I loved it! As I watched the show, I thought of the things you brought up, Bill...and came to the same conclusions.

Over all...I think this show is an excellent avenue to get interest peaked in genealogy! Huzzah!

Jo said...

I was concerned the show wouldn't live up to its hype, but was pleasantly surprised. Even my husband, who is not into genealogy at all, thought it was well done. But for me the real kicker was Thomas Hodge and Abigail Elwell are my 4thgtgdparents. They were researching MY line. I didn't know about Esther Elwell being accused of witchcraft. What a GREAT experience for me. So, even though the starting person is a celebrity now, they come from folks just like the rest of us.

Lisa Ellam said...

I agree, I also loved the show! I just wish they had told how much time and how many genealogists it took to find all that information. A newbie to genealogy might think they can just hop on Ancestry and get all their answers. I'm afraid they will become frustrated and disappointed too early and give up.

Greta Koehl said...

Wow, you are the second blogger I have read today who had some connection - Jo Lee at Those Who Went Before ( actually has a family connection to the New England line that was discussed, and a third blogger found out something about California gold-miner records that she hadn't known. There are a few minor things I'd like to see added, but I like the show and plan to stick with it.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen the show due to the fact that, well, I'm not in the U.S. right now (boo hoo!). And the online content appears to be blocked (as with so many other TV channels from here).

It would be great if this show sparks wider interest in genealogy. Watching the previews, I did feel the some of the actresses were rather dramatic in their reaction... LOL

footnoteMaven said...

Yes Bill, I am one of those who questioned the absent gloves and the pencil.

Thanks for the History Detectives link. It would seem not all experts and archivists agree. And isn't that why we're here? To learn?

I enjoyed the show and look forward to more.


Karen Packard Rhodes said...

In my blog post, visible here, , I say I was "surprised and pleased." Yup, overall they did a good job, though I, too wondered about a few things.

Let's see what the next episode is like.