Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Family History TV Shows

I have to be honest here - it was watching the BBC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" that first got me interested in genealogy. Watching celebrities uncover stories about their ancestors made me want to do the same. The programme was, and still is, very entertaining, however I soon discovered when I started my own research that it doesn't really portray how difficult genealogy can be.

The celebrities who have been featured on the show tend to have professional genealogists carry out the work on their behalf, rather than experiencing the joys of researching their own family tree. Of course, they still benefit from learning all about their ancestors and how they lived. From a viewer's perspective this is the heart of the show. Some of the stories told have been very powerful. For example, Stephen Fry, David Baddiel, and Esther Rantzen all researched stories relating to Jewish persecution in Europe before the Second World War.

Since WDYTYA? first started several other genealogy shows have aired, including an American version. This follows the same format as the British version. Celebrities who have featured include Spike Lee, Brooke Shields, Sarah Jessica Parker, and her husband, Matthew Broderick. His story, in particular, was very interesting, as he researched an ancestor who had fought and died in the American Civil War. Matthew had previously known nothing about his great-grandfather, but came to feel extremely proud of him once he learnt of his military achievements.

Other television shows featuring family history research to be aware of include Heir Hunters and Find My Past. They differ in format to WDYTYA?, and are not as focused on the process of genealogical research. Nevertheless, they can be useful in learning how to develop the skills needed to successfully expand your family tree back through the generations.

I thoroughly recommend watching family history programmes as a way of learning about genealogy. They can inspire you to begin research into your own ancestry, as they did for me. They are also a valuable resource for helpful hints and tips, and they are extremely educational in terms of learning about social history, and important historical landmarks. Last, but not least, they can just be entertaining to watch.

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