Genealogy On Television

The excitement is in the air – genealogy is going mainstream and hitting the television screens.  The dream of genealogists everywhere is finally coming true.

On Fox’s hit show The Simpsons, the daughter of the Simpson family begins searching for her ancestors because of a homework assignment.  Even if you aren’t a Simpson’s fan, you’ll enjoy this episode.  You can watch the episode (entitled The Color Yellow), here.

Another show that has gotten genealogists excited is PBS’s Faces Of America.  Faces of America is a show that traces the ancestry of twelve celebrities such as Eva Longoria, Stephen Colbert, and Mario Batali.  The show is hosted by Dr. Henry Louis Gates and there are four episodes.  You can view the episodes here.

On the BYU channel, The Generations Project is a popular genealogy show.  The big difference with this show is it follows regular people like you and me as they begin the search for their ancestors.  The show provides professional researchers and travel expenses as the contestant learns more about their family tree.  You can watch the episodes here and apply to be on the show here.

But the show that is going the most mainstream of all is NBC’s new show Who Do You Think You Are.  Produced by Lisa Kudrow (of Friends fame), this show researches the ancestry of seven celebrities.  The show premieres on Friday, March 5.  The first episode is to reportedly feature Sarah Jessica Parker.  You can view previews and trailers for the show here.

Hopefully this is just the start to a long line of genealogy related shows.  These shows have the potential to increase knowledge and interest in genealogy.  Get ready for a boost in genealogical interest.

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16 responses to “Genealogy On Television

  1. I hadn’t known about the BYU show (I live in Florida and have only basic cable), but they are doing it right — showing plain people. I would rather that WDYTYA would use just plain people, too. I’ve been celebritied to death — and apparently so have others. See comments on my blog post about the show.

    But, overall, it’s a good idea to have genealogy play a part. I am thrilled when genealogy is made part of the plot of a show. “Star Trek: Voyager” has a wonderfully genealogical episode called “11:59″ in which Captain Janeway tries to trace down a family legend about a female ancestor of hers who supposedly was an astronaut in the late 20th/early 21st century (for those who aren’t Trek fans, “Voyager” takes place in the 24th century). Captain Janeway’s search is intercut with the adventures of the ancestress, and as her action unfolds, we find that, as usual, the family legend had it all wrong! It’s a delightful episode, and they got it right. Of course, it’s one of my favorites, and I have contemplated attempting to wrest permission from Paramount to show the episode in my genealogy classes.

    So, even though I am just not into celebrities, I’m happy to see genealogy on the tube, and I will make an effort to watch WDYTYA tomorrow night. Thank you also for posting the links to Dr. Gate’s show, because I missed most of those.
    .-= Karen Packard Rhodes´s last blog ..Women’s History Month: Names and naming =-.

  2. If WDYTYA is genealogy going mainstream, then genealogy went mainstream in 2004.
    Truth is that genealogy has a natural popularity, and WDYTYA is a success because of it.

    • Why exactly do you believe that genealogy went mainstream in 2004?

      Personally, I think that genealogy hasn’t been “put out there” enough. The only time you saw it on television was the U.K version of WDYTYA and maybe some public television broadcasts. But besides that, genealogy was just not on television.

      For the U.S. genealogy is finally going mainstream. It is being mentioned and discussed more and more. My only hope is that more and more shows with this theme come out.

  3. Oh, that Voyager episode rings a vague bell – will definitely dig out the DVD and re-watch it this weekend! It looks like we in NZ can also watch The Generations Project online so I will make some time for that one too.
    .-= Alex´s last blog ..The will of Thomas ADAMS =-.

  4. Apropos Simpson’s daughter looking for her roots… I once taught a genealogy course for young (gifted) children (~11y/o). During the first class, I showed them some surprising family trees, including that of the Simpsons (available here). It is taken from Matt Groening’s The Simpsons Uncensored Family Album.
    .-= Arnon´s last blog .. =-.

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  10. Thanks for this information,Elyse. I did not know about some of these television shows

  11. How do I add this to my RSS reader? I am sorry I’m a newbie :(

    • Martine –

      To subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog, you just have to click on the orange square on the top right of this blog.

      If you’re still having trouble then let me know because I’ll just send you the direct link.

      Don’t feel bad for being a newbie. We’ve all been on at one point or another. :)


  12. After having the genealogy bug for almost 30 years and enduring the glazing over of the eyes of non-genies when the subject came up, I’m beyond thrilled that it’s finally “gone mainstream” via prime time TV. Far as I’m concerned, climbing family trees is THE best kind of reality show, and I have no problem with celebs as subjects of “Faces” and WDYTYA. Those I’ve seen so far are as surprised and/or humbled when presented with new information about their ancestors as we “nobodies” are on learning about ours. I’m all for anything that gets non-genies interested in family history, even using celebrities. Whatever works.
    .-= Joanna´s last blog ..Augustus Saint-Gaudens and the Cornish Colony =-.

    • Hi. I’m from the UK and we had the first WDYTYA series back in 2004. With celebrities it is quite amusing to see how their egos clash with the results of their finds (moreso than it would be for ‘civilian’ researchers). I remember that John Hurt (of Lord of the Rings fame) was very, very disappointed – and you could tell (!) – about his link to the Marquis of Sligo being disproved!
      .-= Jenny Smith´s last blog ..Genealogy programs and websites I use =-.

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