09 March 2012

Genealogy, TV, and You

First, let me say that I hate reality television for the most part. I really could care less what drama is going on in the lives of a celebrity or someone looking for love by whoring it up with a large pool of potential mates that they never get to know. I don't have the patience for game shows that are so contrived that half the program is the "suspense" of waiting for the host to tell the contestant whether or not they answered a simple question correctly. There are two exceptions however. One is the "Amazing Race", which I love because I'd love to travel and they go to interesting places and learn fun new things. The other is "Who Do You Think You Are", where they take celebrities and follow their roots to find something that they didn't know about their family. It's genealogical crack. And it's on Prime Time! I have watched it and learned quite a bit. Sometimes how they get through to a new relative helps me get past my own brick wall. While on Ancestry's Facebook page, someone mentioned that there was a similar show on BYUTV for regular folk and that PBS also had a show coming out. I found myself wondering what other programs about genealogy were available. Turns out quite a few. Here are some that I found, what they're about and where you can buy/watch them.

Celebrity Themed
"Who Do You Think You Are?"- There is an American and British version of this show. This is actually a British import, having already eight seasons. The American version is currently airing their third on NBC, Fridays. The concept is simple: take a celebrity, research their history. The shows both have good tips and links on their websites and I recommend watching both if you can. Currently the American version has their first season for sale; the British has their seven completed seasons out. I was able to find both on Amazon, but they were also available on the respective websites of each version as well. They also sell companion books that go into more detail for each season. I haven't looked into those, but some people on Ancestry's facebook page have said it's well worth a look.

"Finding Your Roots" is a new one coming out middle of March 2012 on PBS. On this show, two celebrities from seemingly disparate backgrounds are connected together through their family histories. Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the producer, writer and presenter and this is just his latest genealogy show. "African American Lives" and "African American Lives 2" were his first forays into televised genealogy with notable African Americans as the guests. Dealing with the specific trials of tracing African American heritage, it is a compelling story at times. The best part is the many resources linked on the respective websites. That alone is well worth the look. "Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates Jr." was his series in 2010 for PBS. It also showed celebrities like the Who Do You Think You Are concept taking 12 celebrities on the journey in four episodes. These are already on DVD and you can find them in the PBS shop. There are also companion books for these programs.

"Family Historian" is a long running New York genealogical program that gave many tips on searching out family history. This website has the episodes for sale, but be warned, both the show and the website are decidedly low production. (There is music playing on the website that will drive you batty- mute your speakers)

"Where are shows about non-celebrities like me????"
Not a day goes by that someone isn't on a forum asking why celebrities get to have their genealogy researched for them while ordinary people have to work hard and do it themselves. Well, fear not! You too can find help while getting your 15 minutes of televised fame! "Generations Project on BYUTV" is one that deals with "everyday" people. BYUTV is a cable channel provided by Brigham Young University and their sponsor the LDS Church. There are currently 36 episodes on their website for viewing. Want to be on tv? Then this is your option! If you live in the United States or Canada, you can tell them your story and may be chosen to be on their program.

"Ancestors In the Attic" is a Canadian series in it's fourth season. This program also deals with "ordinary" folk. They take Canadians and travel through Canada and the world to solve their familial mysteries. I've not found a place to purchase the series, but they are viewable on their website. One other is "Genealogy Roadshow", which is an Irish program in the vein of Antiques Roadshow. They take ordinary people with rumors and stories and try to find the truth behind them. Actually very interesting.

Other viewing options
These don't deal with a specific history as much as give you ideas where/how to search. "Genealogy Quest Series" by the Larimer County Genealogical Society (Colorado) is an interesting series using experts to give tips and tricks on how to research. "Ancestors" by KBYU has two seasons (1997 & 2000) available for purchase. This one has a website full of links and tips, so even if you don't purchase the DVDs, you should check it out. "Genealogy Gems TV" has a website, a facebook page, iTunes podcast and a Youtube channel all dedicated to teaching you new things about genealogy. I like this one because it's very active and truly helpful. Ancestry also has it's own Youtube channel for short presentations from their resident genealogy experts on how to use the site as well as get around brick walls. In fact, there are quite a few channels and individual episodes available on Youtube if you just search "genealogy".

Many of the programs' sites have online viewing options. Remember, however, that international copyright laws may prohibit your country from viewing them online. Some I could even find a link to buy the DVD collection. I looked at Hulu.com by simply searching "genealogy" and came up with many clips and episodes from several different shows including History Detectives and Who Do You Think You Are. So if you have the will, you can find some interesting programs that may give you a new avenue for your own search.

And if you simply must watch Reality TV, isn't it better to have an option that is fun and informative?

No comments:

Post a Comment