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September 24, 2013

Genealogy Roadshow: Interesting Concept, Great Show

Genealogy Roadshow: Interesting Concept, Great Show
Genealogy Roadshow premiered last night on PBS. I was able to watch it and I was impressed! The show features ordinary people who line up for a chance to have one of their genealogy mysteries or questions answered.

Last night's episode took place in the Belmont Mansion in Nashville Tennessee. If you've ever watched Antiques Roadshow you will have an idea how the show works. The participants submit their questions in advance and then take turns either sitting at a table with one of the two genealogists, Kenyatta Berry, president of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), and D. Joshua Taylor, president of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS). 

Their expertise rang through but they also showed us that they are both naturals in front of the camera. They were warm and friendly, which provided a relaxed informal atmosphere to the show. If you missed last night's episode, depending where you live, you can watch it online on PBS Videos

Warning: Spoiler Alert!  

Participants vary. One was  a man who had a photograph of a black man and a small white boy. They were identified on the back as "Uncle Fayte" and ( I  forget the little boy's name but the owner of the photo knew who he was). The man's question was who was this "Uncle Fayte" and how was he connected to the family. This was actually my favourite segment in the show. The photo was very poignant as the little boy seemed so happy in the man's arms, and the man himself had a lovely half-smile on his face - very unusual for such early photographs. A lovely surprise awaited the gentleman who owned the photo as the research team not only found out who Uncle Fayte was, they tracked down a living 3rd great grand-daughter and brought her to the show.

Another was a woman whose family lore was that they were related to George Washington. A very touching segment involved a young woman who had never met her father. The behind-the-scenes research team had not only found photographs of him from childhood to adulthood, they found his sister and a living niece. She was brought to the show as a surprise to the young woman, and presented her with a lovely scrapbook of photographs about her father.

Some of the participants were disappointed to learn that they were not related to a famous person. Family lore was shot down but kudos to the show's producers for allowing this! It's refreshing to see a show that is "real" in the sense that often our family lore is incorrect, or mixed up, and beginning genealogists especially need to realize that they may find facts they don't like as they continue their research.

To nitpick, I wasn't sure I liked the "audience" standing around the table watching and applauding while Josh or Kenyatta spoke to the participants. And I definitely did not like the music! But those are two very minor complaints.

All in all, it was entertaining and informative and I will definitely be watching next week's episode. The show airs on PBS at 9 p.m. Eastern.


Anonymous said...

I also liked the fact that they didn't concentrate only on the "good stuff." If a family story wasn't true, they said so - gently. The one thing I did find lacking is they did not explain how they got their paper trail. If someone is new to genealogy, this would be very confusing. I realized they are trying to feature as many as possible in each episode, but it edits out many important steps involved, leaving newbies to think they have to hire a pro to do their research. Also would have been nice to explain why being proven of Sub-Saharan descent is so important. But, the show is new, and maybe as time goes on, things will be expanded and explained. It was good!

Denise Olson said...

I agree with everything you said. It was much more interesting than WDYTYA because it was much easier to relate to the people involved. Like you, I think Josh and Kenyatta are naturals and the interaction with the respondents was delightful.

Monday night is now a great TV night - thanks to both Roadshows.pap

Claudia said...

I loved this show too, the people seemed much more appreciative than on that "other" show.

Heirlooms Reunited said...

Loved the show and so glad that it is on the air - but I guess I must be a little obsessive because I would have enjoyed a whole show about each vignette, especially Uncle Fayte. Too fast moving when I wanted to linger on, but I'm glad for what I got, and anymore would likely have turned off the general audience, whose engagement is a must. One of the things I like the most about research, since I thankfully don't have deadlines, is how things keep linking to other interesting things, some that I never knew about. Perhaps someone will be inspired to write Uncle Fayte's biography.

Anonymous said...

I would have appreciated a little more detail being provided. I thought the lack of detail made the genealogy seem fairly haphazard.

For example, there were two Lafayette Cox listed in the directory she showed. One was the servant of the Kennedy family and one was a bartender. How did the researcher choose which one was the one who bought land and who served in the Union Army?

In addition, the letter that they showed as proof that Albert Roberts was the biological son of Austin P was just a gossipy letter. All it did was confirm that other people were saying what her family had been saying all along...but it's still gossip. It was hardly proof of anything but the gossip was out there.

It made genealogy seem a little bit looser than I hope it actually is.

Canadian Cousin said...

Sounds like an interesting program. Unfortunately, I appear to live in the wrong part of the world (Newfoundland), since when I tried to watch an episode on PBS Video I received the following message: "We're sorry, but this video is not available in your region due to right restrictions."

I'll have to check when the program airs on cable here and will try PVRing it.

Thanks for your review!