Last year I was so excited to follow two genealogy shows on prime time local stations. Since genealogy is one of my hobbies, I tuned in regularly to both shows.
The first show I watched was Faces of America, hosted by Dr. Henry Louis Gates. It featured a variety of well-known guests, including Meryl Streep, Stephen Colbert, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Yo Yo Ma, to name just a few. Ancestry.com and other genealogy researchers presented the information to the guests in a studio setting. It was quite interesting, especially when they included very expensive genomic DNA testing. These tests were able to find the major geographical locations of each of the guests long ago ancestors, right to region on a specific continent! Most fascinating was who in the group shared the same ancestor. Of course, the producers of the show had to have chosen the guests based on prior knowledge. I cannot imagine how expensive the production of this show had to have been!
Wouldn’t I love to have genomic testing done, or even DNA testing–but the cost does not fit into my budget. Another problem is that I don’t have male relatives that I am in contact with, except for nephews or grandsons. I need to have direct descendants to be included in a DNA groups for specific family lines. Women’s genes can trace matriarchal/regional ancestors, but not the specifics needed to narrow relations down to specific familial lines. My birth family “daughtered out.” Without brothers or male cousins, I have to rely on my research. I do that with the wonderful help of Ancestry.com, whose ads you can’t miss if you watch television! What a boon that site has been for me, especially since it keeps collating and adding records that were almost impossible to tap into without expensive travel, even up to ten years ago.
The other genealogy show I watch regularly is Who Do You Think You Are? This show has been on television in Britain and Australia for several years. It just started in the U.S. last year. Once again, it features celebrity guests, but the searches conducted are more along the lines of what the ordinary person would do. I’m sure the writers, directors and researchers have to prescreen the guests and gather some of the information ahead of time, as well as make contacts. However, the time spent traveling, and the reactions of the guests, as well as the impact of the discoveries, are real. The episodes focus on a problematic ancestor of the guest celebrity, the search for the origins of that ancestor, and the outcomes of that ancestor’s life. Most of the stories are quite compelling. What I find intriguing is how ordinary the celebrity is, once he/she is on the search and meeting with his/her family. It is a revealing look at the guest outside of the hoopla of celebrity.
I have made my own interesting discoveries about several ancestors through the years. One of them involves my maternal grandmother, Mary Egan Horne Rockfield. I will be sharing pictures and insights in my next blog entry. Stay tuned!