Saturday, March 27, 2010

Who Do You Think You Are? - The Matthew Broderick Episode

The U.S. version of Who Do You Think You Are? continues to improve in the ratings and has placed consistently high, holding down second place in it's Friday night time slot. This week's episode traced the ancestry of Tony Award winning and movie actor Matthew Broderick.

I've posted before that the show, in my opinion, is succeeding in raising awareness of family connections, perhaps in a way that no other North American show has been able, with the possible exception of Alex Haley's Roots in the 1970's. The Matthew Broderick episode revealed an ancestry with strong military roots - a grandfather who was a decorated World War 1 hero and the somewhat graphically described in records death of a US Civil War great-great grandfather.

This was an episode to which I could easily relate, much more than the previous episodes. As interesting as Sarah Jessica Parker's connections to the California Gold Rush and the Salem Witch Hunt, Emmitt Smith's connections to the slave trade, and Lisa Kudrow's connection to the Holocaust and Eastern Europe were to watch, Matthew Broderick's military connection and his reactions to this past resonated with me.

I remember a time when I considered Remembrance Day (in Canada) or Veteran's Day (in the U.S.) to be important but not personal and then, I discovered through family history research that I had ancestors who fought and died in war. I had ancestors whose passion provoked them to enlist even if they never made into battle. Suddenly, the war events moved from the academic to take on new meaning. There were heroes in my family like young Jimmy Gammie, who at the age of only 23, made the ultimate sacrifice, a sacrifice that dramatically shaped the future of my family.

I've come to learn through all of the family research that every family and every family member has a story to tell. Who Do You Think You Are? is telling some of those stories, and perhaps fortunately not as a genealogical instruction video but rather in a way that touches the summation that we are of our ancestors.


  1. Great post Ian! You have nailed it - every family and each member in that family has a story to tell. It is our job, as family historians, to make sure those stories do not get lost.

  2. This was also the episode that really caught my husband's interest. I have also been doing research on ancestors in the Civil War, and the researchers and experts they featured remind me a great deal of the ones I've met - all very dedicated to their subjects.