Thursday, February 18, 2010

Genealogy Goes Mainstream

Has genealogy finally hit the mainstream? It seems so with the new television series, Faces of America on PBS which premeried last week and the upcoming Who Do You Think You Are (WDYTYA) scheduled to premiere March 5, 2010.

Will those of us who already do family history be inundated with friends and family who are suddenly bitten by the genealogy bug? I think its hard to say.  I'm hoping with WDYTYA being broadcast on network television and premiering on a Friday evening,  people will be interested in digging their family roots.

in 2008, CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Coroporation) ran WDYTYA for only one season here in Canada.  It was on at 7:30 pm on Thursday evenings and was only one half hour long. I think it's too bad the show wasn't popular enough to be renewed.  The line-up of Canadian celebrities came from various apects of life, and in my opinion, had broad appeal.  Who would have thought that hockey player, coach and "Hockey Night in Canada" commentator, Don Cherry would tear up at Vimy Ridge where his grandfather fought?  Or what about opera singer, Measha Bruggergosman's reaction to finding out her 4th great-grandfather, John Gosman was a Black Loyalist?  Steven Page, one of the founding members of the alternative rock band, The Bare Naked Ladies has a fascinating family story.  What he learns about his family will shock you. Check out this CBC WDYTYA video with the episode of Steven Page  (Part 2 and Part 3).

As much as I enjoy watching Faces of America, I liked WDYTYA better.  Why?  The celebrities on FOA are handed a book with their family history already done for them.  The host, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has visited these people's homeland and spoken with the locals and the families.  Unfortunately, the celebrities themselves didn't go along.  What I liked so much about the CBC WDYTYA format was that you see the celebrities talking to the older members of their families, asking them questions about who their ancestors were and where they came from and why they come to Canada.  Further, the celebrities themselves do a little bit of research on their family history.  You see Steven Page on searching for his grandfather on the 1911 Canadian census, and then visiting the Toronto Archives.  The best part, though, is when the celebrities go back to their ancestors' homeland.  They meet with relatives and neighbours, tour their ancestors' homes and towns, and learn more about where their roots are.

I'm looking forward to NBC's WDYTYA.  It will be interesting to see if follows a similar format to the Canadian version.  


The opinions expressed about these shows are my own.  I did not receive compensation in any format for my reviews.

Copyright 2010 by Kathryn Lake.