Monday, 25 March 2013

Finding Your Roots

I just watched a really interesting new genealogy TV show called Finding Your Roots. It's broadcast on Sunday nights at 8pm on the PBS channel. (Sky channel 166, Virgin Media 243). 

Finding Your Roots draws some comparisons to Who Do You Think You Are? in that it deals with the family trees of celebrity guests each week, however the two shows are different in their approaches. Finding Your Roots deals with two, or sometimes three, subjects each week, and presents them with their genealogy records in a "book of life" rather than them doing the research for themselves. 

This is a clever way to progress through a family history, and in the episode I watched last night it was also quite moving at times. The two subjects were American (it is an American show) politicians Cory Booker and John Lewis. Both men are African-American, which is only relevant in that it allowed the show to include  interesting social history in the context of the ancestry of these two men. Specifically, there was information relating to slavery, the Jim Crow laws, and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The mixture of genealogy and social history, also done very well in Who Do You Think You Are?, is an aspect on which I am very keen.

Finding Your Roots starts with a short biography of each subject, which sets up the genealogical research nicely. At this point they can state if there are any family mysteries that they would like to be investigated. Throughout the rest of the show the results of the research are shown to the participants in their "book of life," a scrapbook that contains photographs and copies of records and other documents. We also get to see interviews with the researchers to see how they found their information. 

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Finding Your Roots is that they use DNA testing to help to unravel some genealogical problems. In fact, the show states that their methods involve "public records, personal family histories, and DNA analysis." In the episode I watched DNA testing was used to confirm that Cory Booker's maternal great-grandfather was a white doctor, and that his grandfather, as the family suspected, was illegitimate. DNA analysis is a fascinating new aspect of family history research, and it promises much for the future.

Finding Your Roots is hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. Throughout the run of the show the celebrities to be featured will be:

S1 EP1 - Harry Connick Jr and Branford Marsalis
S1 EP2 - Cory Booker and John Lewis
S1 EP3 - Barbara Walters and Geoffrey Canada
S1 EP4 - Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick 
S1 EP5 - Angela Buchdahl, Rick Warren, and Yasir Qadhi
S1 EP6 - Robert Downey Jr and Maggie Gyllenhaal
S1 EP7 - Samuel L. Jackson, Condoleezza Rice, and Ruth Simmons
S1 EP8 - Sanjay Gupta, Margaret Cho, and Martha Stewart
S1 EP9 - John Legend, Wanda Sykes, and Margarett Cooper
S1 EP10 - Michelle Rodriguez, Adrian Grenier, and Linda Chavez

I really liked the first episode of Finding Your Roots, and I recommend it to anybody who enjoys watching programmes about genealogy and social history. You can find out more at the official website

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave me a message on anything genealogy related.