Geneabloggers have been buzzing about the Rob Lowe episode of Who Do You Think You Are. Apparently some feel one of his ancestors sneaked into eligibility for the DAR under false pretenses. Like many bloggers, I really don’t care, but it did inspire me to put down a few thoughts about genealogy TV.
Am I the only genealogist in America who finds Who Do You Think You Are boring? I love the idea of having family history shows on television, but this one just doesn’t hold any interest for me. We follow celebrities going needlessly from place to place to replicate work that has already been done by others. Then we watch them look surprised. Then we listen as they attempt to say something profound, sometimes only managing to say something offensive.
On the other hand I am a fan of Henry Louis Gates American Ancestors on PBS. First of all, there are several stories in each program. Each episode has a theme; one was religion, another African American history. The three guests are presented with information about their ancestors, sometimes traveling to see places or meet cousins. They also make extensive use of DNA to tell a story. Sometimes it seems that the evidence is a bit thin, but the stories are interesting and draw the listener in. There are three or four stories intertwined in an episode to make an interesting human story about American history.
I do research in family history because I love stories. Like everyone I have ancestors I admire and some I don’t. I love to discover their stories and understand where I came from, but ultimately I am responsible for my own decisions and my own life. A lot of people sacrificed to give me the opportunities I have and a little luck hasn’t hurt either, but I am neither a better nor a worse person because of the deeds of those who went before me. I am just the lucky one, who has had a lot of chances and made mostly good decisions.