Watch the New Season of Who Do You Think You Are?

Family GeekMom TV and Movies
My grandmother as a baby, along with her grandfather who did much of my family's genealogy work on that side of the family. Photo: My great grandfather perhaps?

Starting this Friday, February 4th, is the second season of NBC’s wonderful show, Who Do You Think You Are?, put together by Executive Producer Lisa Kudrow. It’s a genealogy show, with each episode tracing a branch of one famous person’s family tree. As a very amateurish genealogist myself, I loved watching the first season, seeing the real stories that unfolded behind the names and dates. I also enjoyed seeing a more personal and human side to celebrities.

The nice thing about Who Do You Think You Are? is that it holds appeal for anyone interested in genealogy, celebrities, or history. Sometimes the journeys they take keep them in this country, going back to a time long gone, and other journeys take them to Europe or Africa, exploring the mixture that is the heritage of most people in the United States.

As I watch these episodes, I’m both riveted by their stories and discoveries, and also so thankful for the hard work of a few of my own ancestors. I have very detailed information going back to the early 1600s in many cases, as keeping family records was valued in most branches of my family.

The show must have an arrangement with Ancestry.com, since that’s what they use to dig into so many primary sources and databases. Ancestry.com costs money to use, but if genealogy is your thing, it’s a small price to pay for access to so much. They have an incredibly huge amount of materials which you can search, and one of these days I hope to have the time to make a membership worthwhile.

I highly recommend the show Who Do You Think You Are?, whose second season begins by tracing the roots of Vanessa Williams on Friday, February 4th, on NBC. Check it out. If you want to catch season one, all the episodes are available on the NBC website for a limited time, only until February 5th.

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4 thoughts on “Watch the New Season of Who Do You Think You Are?

  1. When my husband and I were first married (about 17 years ago) we got a copy of Family Tree Maker for DOS and did the best we could to fill in our family tree. At some point, we got a free trial to an online genealogy site, but came up with nothing. Our family tree sat, gathering dust, until I came across Who Do You Think You Are? last year. After a few episodes, I noticed that there was always at least one scene where the celebrities logged into Ancestry.com and looked something up. (They have the benefit of a lot of help from professional genealogists, too.) So I got a two-week free trial, just to see what would turn up. What a difference 10 or 15 years makes in the digital world! I assumed that after two weeks I would have exhausted all the information available, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Eventually, I figured out that while Ancestry has a ton of information, they don’t have everything. I constantly scour various state indexes for vital statistics, county genealogy society websites, FindAGrave, the Bureau of Land Management, and even Google books. There are even societies that focus on a particular surname that have huge amounts of data. The first time I googled a long-dead ancestor, I couldn’t believe I found him mentioned in a county history book as an early settler. Details were included about how and when he migrated to that county that I never would have figured out just from census records and birth/marriage/death records. What I hadn’t expected to get from this process was a personal connection to historical events. As I discover when an ancestor might have immigrated (most of them arrived in the 150 years before Independence), I end up learning about historical events that might have prompted the migration. There’s always more to learn than just an ancestor’s birth, marriage and death dates.

    Genealogy is one of those hobbies that will never get boring!

    1. What a success story, Rox! And thanks for listing some other great resources. You’re right – there is never an end to genealogy research, for better or for worse. =) I’m so glad you were able to resurrect your interest.

  2. You should check out some of the UK series if you can, it’s been running since 2004. The David Baddiel one was particularly interesting, I dunno if you would know who he is but hardly matters, tracing his jewish history and finding out what happened to his family (a theme which occurs a lot here). Always fascinating even if you don’t know the person I think! Will have to check out some of the US series.

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