Friday, March 5, 2010

Episode 1 - Who Do You Think You Are?

Last night, I watched the first episode of the new, American version of Who Do You Think You Are?, the long awaited weekly television series that traces the family history of celebrities. Episode 1 featured Sarah Jessica Parker of Sex and the City fame (although she certainly has more than that on her resume).

Here are impressions of the show:

  • Sarah Jessica Parker genuinely seemed to be engaged and earnest in her desire to seek out the connections that her ancestors had to history like the California Gold Rush and the Salem Witch Hunt.
  • Some elements of research were glossed over without any real explanation like a great grandfather reported in a newspaper to have died in 1849 appearing in the census of 1850 without something verifying that they were in fact dealing with the 'right' individual. If only my family research was that simple.
  • The use of historical documents, some like an original Salem Witch Hunt warrant, showed the tremendous variety of records that might be available to assist in research efforts. It's not just vital records for births, marriages, and deaths along with census records that fill in all the blanks.
  • It's hard to believe that anyone would be touching a 1690's document without wearing gloves. I almost shuddered thinking of the risk that the document faced as bare fingers, admittedly gently, flipped it over and I'm sure I let out an audible gasp as I watched it happen.
  • The hour long format gave sufficient time to tell the story well and I guess all the 'coming up' and 'recap' sections before and after commercial breaks are necessary - I just don't enjoy them. I'd prefer that the time be used in a more instructive manner but maybe that just means I wouldn't do well as a television show producer.
  • I liked seeing the interaction with a number of genealogists and historians rather than having a single 'staff' genealogist portrayed as the researcher. This makes the research element real . I've certainly been helped by many people with a variety of expertise over the years.
  • Following the show, I noticed a delay in getting on to the Ancestry site. I'm going to assume this is directly related to the show's airing and higher than usual traffic on the site. If I'm correct, that's okay as it means the show is having the effect of raising interest and awareness in genealogy and there's nothing wrong with 'going mainstream.'
Episode 2 is a week away but my PVR is already set!

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