Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Genealogy Roadshow Kicks Off

     Last night I turned on PBS, grabbed a bowl of popcorn and a beer then sat down, prepared to be entertained.  I was not disappointed.  First on my viewing list was, "Antiques Roadshow", an old favorite, then the new genealogy program, "Genealogy Roadshow", the direct descendant of the Irish show of the same name.  It was everything I had hoped for.  The format is similar to that of "Antiques Roadshow", in that the show travels from city to city, where  participants meet with professionals; appraisers in the first instance, genealogists in the second.

     I've written before that I'm not overly impressed with the way, "Who Do You Think You Are", approaches the genealogy show, featuring only celebrities.  Having said that, I do enjoy that show; but still I longed for a more egalitarian version.  Now I have it. 

      Roadshow levels the playing field, so to speak, showing several ordinary individuals who come to the show with family stories and/or their own research, seeking a professional view.  In a very relaxed atmosphere, with an audience looking on, genealogists examine the stories, and either confirm or disprove the conclusions of the participants.  Pertinent documents appear on a large screen for all to view as the genealogists walk them through the steps they took to discover them, and what they mean. I also like the way history is integrated into the stories and used to demonstrate the impact current events and mores had on what happened.

     This is the NY Times reviewer's take, with which I could not disagree more:
   In the opening installments, inquirers learn whether they are related to a former Tennessee governor, to Davy Crockett, to a famous feuding clan. Historical background is imparted, some of it ridiculously elementary (like a primer on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War). But the show only occasionally conveys the excitement that a good ancestral search brings. 

     I beg to differ.  Anyone who has done, "an ancestral search", which I would bet he has not, knows there is often a whole lot of drudgery and endless documents to read through before anything worthy of excitement emerges.  I for one was fairly excited when the details of the illegitimate, interracial son of a governor, by his family's maid no less, unfolded.  The only way paternity was proved was through an old letter donated to a local historical society, what are the odds?  And did I mention the future governor was only 14 at the time of conception?

     I was a little surprised at the genealogist who told a participant they were, "probably" related to a famous person, but I will definitely be watching this show each week as it travels the country.  Now I just hope PBS orders more episodes, and I get chosen to appear.  I still need to know about that Indian Princess and when my Galloway ancestors disembarked and if my great great Uncle Daniel ever married Hattie and if 3rd great Grandpa Wiggins was in fact a doctor and...

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