October 13, 2015

How Genealogists Can Spread The Love Of WDYTYA Goodness


For all the seasons that Who Do You Think You Are have been on there’s almost always a love/hate discussion the next day in the Facebook genealogy community. At first, everyone was happy the show was on and promoting the interest in family history. Then, little by little the critques began. The complaints ranged from there being too much detail that made the stories drag on, to not enough content that showed how many hours it took to find the juicy details.

Of course, what some people failed to take into account was that the show is just an hour long commercial for Ancestry.com. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but it should be understood by those of us who do all forms of research that by criticizing and nit picking the show each week we are doing more harm than good when it comes to promoting the fun of finding family history documentation. We’re darn lucky someone like Lisa Kudrow chose to promote genealogy by producing the programs.

The program has changed from a national station host to The Learning Channel that may or may not be as accessible. As time went by the format for the stories of each celebrity evolved to keep it interesting while staying within a set budget. I’m assuming all this, but I suspect it’s all true.  As has been said recently, many aspects of the episodes can be teaching opportunities for those of us who write about genealogical research. Not just teaching opportunities, but talking points as well.

Now, About Your Own Research

If each celebrity’s life leaves us with questions, that’s a good thing. We might find ourselves with new ideas for our own research. Avenues we haven’t thought of persuing like voter lists, criminal records, church histories, newspaper accounts, or even special censuses for states. Have you considered searching for a topic in Google books? Not just in Google itself, but in their books.

Even more ‘daring’…search for your ancestor by name in a general Google search of images. I’m not advocating just doing research online of course. Find out if your local library has a genealogy section. Maybe your local historical society has a few suggestions for you too. One more suggestion, ask your friends what kind of books they might have that you could use for research. Personally, I have a few genealogy books of my own and can do lookups in them if you ask nicely. 😉

WDYTYA: Show Ends And Paula Deen Has A Surprise

Who Do You Think You Are Is Not Renewed

I’m really bummed out that Who Do You Think You Are? wasn’t renewed for another season. I guess we were lucky it was on as long as it was. It’s my opinion that even with a good time slot, interesting stars and healthy topics like personal family history, it just wasn’t a quick money maker like some of the other shows on TV now. They cater to some made-up demographic they “say” is more of the 20-30 age range, but I’m sorry, it just doesn’t fly with me.

There seems to be a complete misunderstanding on which age group has the most money to spend (us older folks) and which one does spend. Maybe that’s the problem. The mentality of not renewing good family shows like WDYTYA in favor of some low brow fluff is just another example of national stations making a quick buck any way they can.

Paula Deen’s Family History Surprise

I didn’t expect Paula Deen to be all that knowledgeable about the Civil War in the south, or it’s ramifications. I think her interests have run in the direction of making a living and successful business interests. I don’t fault her for that in the least.

I do think she was genuinely saddened by the war story of her ancestor’s son and his eventual death. I imagine she was imagining her own boys in the same situation. I’ve heard some people griping about her not anticipating that some of her family could have been slave owners and rather than looking at it as a seasoned genealogist, I’ve tried to see it from a ‘newbie’s’ point of view as she did.

We all like to believe that our families didn’t own slaves but that is a exercise in futility. I know mine did and I do think it is horrible, but I can’t change history. Some of my ancestors were indentured servants also, and that is a whole other part of history of a kind of slavery. NBC had/has a chance to educate our younger generations about history and how it affected their ancestors then and now, but right now it’s not to be.

Who Do You Think You Are? may be gone now, but you can still find many genealogy-related programs on TV and in podcasts or webinars. Think about investigating some of these well put together programs too.

Some genealogy-related TV viewing  suggestions are:

Finding Your Roots with Henry Lewis Gates, Jr. on PBS (Sundays)

The Story Trek with Todd Hansen on BYUtv (Mondays)

American Ride with Stan Ellsworth (also BYU; Mondays)

History Detectives on PBS

Ancestors on BYUtv

Suggested Genealogy Webinars

Thomas MacEntee has an excellent listing of upcoming genealogy webinars on his blog.

My friend Michael has Genealogy Webinars with Genealogist Michael John Neill is available. These genealogy webinars can be downloaded and you can listen to them on your schedule too.

Those are just two suggestions. Try a Google search for genealogy webinars to see what else you can find.


Who Do You Think You Are Review – Martin Sheen

I’ve enjoyed the Who Do You Think You Are program from day one, and so admittedly, this is a biased opinion from me.  I’ve been trying to determine just what has changed this season, and I think I can say the show seems a bit more streamlined. Not so much of the “how to’s” as other years, but still very interesting to see where each person gets their documentation.

It was interesting to see the parallels between the lives of Sheen’s two multiple grandfathers with both of them fighting for rights and freedoms that they believed in, and the consequences they had to endure.

Start Your Free Family Tree

I found out an previously unknown bit of information on my own Yates family this week. My grandfather Will Yates’ youngest sister Cerilda Eller Yates had a husband who was murdered. One of Cerilda’s descendants shared that information with me.

I was confused about a death record for Cerilda that listed her correct birth date and location, but had her name as Betty Burnley. That first name is about as far away from her actual first name as you can get, and I found out from my cousin that she changed her name so that the people who murdered her husband Earl Deshay wouldn’t be able to find her! I’ll post more about his if I find new information.

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