Popular Genealogy TV Programs

February 2014 Update: Who Do You Think You Are? returns for their 2015 season on The Learning Channel on March 8. The eight new episodes will include celebrities Julie Chen, Angie Harmon, Sean Hayes, Bill Paxton, Josh Groban, Melissa Etheridge, Tony Goldwyn, and America Ferrera. See more details below.

Interest in genealogy appears to be at an all-time high, with a recent Harris Interactive Survey indicating that four in five Americans wish to learn more about their family history.

Roots of Faith

Catholic Life Television just announced a new genelaogy TV program, “Roots of Faith Ancestry” last month. It will be hosted by genealogy experts Renee Richard, Judy Riffel and Leonard Smith III. This show explores our ancestral origins to help know more about who we are today. The first series of 11 episodes focuses on basic genealogy records and methods.

The episodes are available on the Catholic Life Television website at Roots of Faith Ancestry Website and also are available through Vimeo.com as well as through Roku.

Finding Your Roots

Finding Your Roots with Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is a PBS-TV series that explores race, culture and identity through genealogy and genetics. PBS-TV hosts the popular series with Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., host of the network’s past genealogy programs: African American Lives I & II, Oprah’s Roots, and Faces of America (see below), is rumored to be hosting another new genealogy program later this year.

The PBS Series will return Tuesday, September 23 for its second season. The 10-part series explores the heritages and ancestries of 30 of today’s leading entertainers, athletes, chefs, and media personalities, including Ben Affleck, Jessica Alba, Khandi Alexander, Tom Colicchio, Tina Fey, Sally Field, Derek Jeter, Stephen King, Nas, Anna Deavere Smith, Sting, and Courtney Vance

In the second, 10-part season, Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, continues his journey into the past to illuminate the familial histories of 30 of today’s most recognizable names in sports, music, film, television, theatre, and literature. Filmed on location around the world, season two of Finding Your Roots, premieres nationally Tuesdays, September 23rd – November 25th at 7 p.m. MT on PBS (check local listings).”

Viewers can watch past episodes of Finding Your Roots on PBS-TV at Visit Finding Your Roots Website>

Faces of America

Dr. Gates presented 12 celebrities in his popular 2010 PBS-TV program, The Faces of America. Viewers can visit the webpage of this program at The Faces of America Webpage. Viewers can watch the videos of this popular series on the different celebrities for FREE. The celebrities included professor and poet Elizabeth Alexander, chef Mario Batali, comedian Stephen Colbert, novelist Louise Erdrich, journalist Malcolm Gladwell, actress Eva Longoria, musician Yo-Yo Ma, director Mike Nichols, Her Majesty Queen Noor, television host/heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, actress Meryl Streep, and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi. Viewers can purchase the TV series DVD on their website.

Professor Gates is Editor-in-Chief of TheRoot.com, a daily online magazine focusing on issues of interest to the African American community and written from an African American perspective, and the Oxford African American Studies Center, the first comprehensive scholarly online resource in the field of African American and Africana Studies. He is co-editor, with K. Anthony Appiah, of Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. With Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, he is the co-editor of the eight-volume biographical encyclopedia African American Lives (Oxford, 2008).

Genealogy Roadshow

Genealogy Roadshow is an exciting and groundbreaking PBS documentary series that aims to reunite people from all walks of life with their past, present and future. The show will combine history and science to uncover the fascinating stories of diverse Americans. Each individual’s past will link to a larger community history, revealing the rich cultural tapestry of America.

The show, part “Antiques Roadshow” and part “History Detectives,” has genealogy experts Kenyatta D. Berry, D. Joshua Taylor and Mary Tedesco explore guests’ family history mysteries and legends. It’s shot in talk show format: We see an introduction to the guest, then the guest sits down with the expert and the expert reveals the truth behind the family story. A live audience (composed of both family history enthusiasts and hired extras) looks on.

Josh Taylor, (pictured above) a popular professional genealogist, is one of the hosts. GENEALOGY ROADSHOW will feature participants from several American cities,  who want to explore unverified genealogical claims, passed down through family history, that may (or may not) connect them to an event or a historical figure. These cities were chosen as American crossroads of culture, diversity, industry and history, with deep pools of potential participants and stories. THE GENEALOGY ROADSHOW has been a hit in Ireland, where Everybody wants answers to questions about their own histories to help make sense of their lives today.

2015 Season Highlights: Shooting locations and highlights for the six episodes in season two are:

Jan 13, New Orleans: A couple with ancestry in the same small Italian town explore whether they’re related, a woman wants to find out who committed a murder in her family’s past, a home held in one family for more than a century has a fascinating story, and a woman discovers her ancestor’s journey from slavery to freedom.

Jan 20, St. Louis: A woman discovers her mother’s life-changing secret, a woman finds out if she’s descended from the pirate Blackbeard, a mother and daughter want to know if they’re related to a famous author, and a young man seeks connection to the Mali tribe of Africa

Jan. 27, Philadelphia: A man learns about the historic event that drove his family to Phildelphia, another may be a Viking descendant, a family wants to know its involvement with one of history’s biggest scams, a man hopes to confirm his link to a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and two sisters learn their ancestors were part of the great Irish migration

Feb. 3, New Orleans: A local man wants to recover history washed away in Hurricane Katrina, a woman discovers connections to both sides of the Civil War, another unravels the mystery behind her grandfather’s adoption, and a man explores a link to New Orleans Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau

Feb. 10, St. Louis: A musician hopes to find family connections to a famous St. Louis jazz composer, two sisters find out if they’re related links to a survivor of the Donner party disaster, and an Italian-American woman learns whether she’s related to Italian royalty

Feb. 17, Philadelphia: One woman’s ancestor may have inspired labor laws, a pastor may have an outlaw in her family tree, DNA testing helps a woman find answers about slavery in her family, and another woman learns her ancestor may have helped people escape the Holocaust

You can see photos from each filming event, which also included a family history fair with vendors, on the show’s website. Guests were cast earlier this year, after a call for genealogists to submit their family mysteries.

Taylor reveals the research strategies experts used to unravel family mysteries during season one in our on-demand webinar, 11 Essential Research Tricks from Genealogy Roadshow. It’s available in ShopFamilyTree.com.

Select this link at Genealogy Roadshow Website.

History Detectives

Per Wikipedia, History Detectives is a documentary television series on PBS that started in 2003. A group of researchers help people to seek answers to various historical questions they have, usually centering around a family heirloom, an old house or other historic object or structure. It devotes itself “to exploring the complexities of historical mysteries, searching out the facts, myths and conundrums that connect local folklore, family legends and interesting objects.

Each segment begins with a brief introduction and then shows the “detective” meeting with a person who has brought the case to their attention. The cases always revolve around a physical object which is supposedly related in some manner to American history. Usually these are family heirlooms of some type, although occasionally they are public objects or landmarks or items owned by private archives or museums. The person presenting them with the case then shows the investigator the item in question and relates their understanding of how this item is connected to American history. Often this involves some element of folk history which has been handed down as family or local lore.

A 2014 episode included “The Disappearance of Glenn Miller.” As Glenn Miller’s musical career soared, he traded in his commercial success for a military uniform (pictured above) to entertain US troops during World War II. Then, on a foggy afternoon, December 15, 1944, he took off from England heading for France. His plane vanished over the English Channel. Glenn Miller was never seen again.

Since that fateful day, Glenn Miller’s disappearance has remained a mystery. Did friendly fire destroy the plane? Was Miller involved in espionage? Was he on a secret mission to end the war?

Recent discoveries including an intriguing entry in an aircraft spotter’s log give the History Detectives fresh leads and new clues to explore. Along the way, they learn of the unusual role Glenn and his music played in winning hearts and minds during World War II. Ironically, experts deducted his plane crashed due to the plane’s carburetor well known icing problem during the flight across the English Channel.

The History Detectives series runs during the summer through the fall on PBS-TV. You can watch past episodes on their History Detectives website.

Who Do You Think You Are?

Who Do You Think You Are? is an American genealogy documentary series that premiered on NBC-TV in 2010 and continued in July 2013 on The Learning Channel (TLC). The show is an adaptation of the British series of the same name, aired by the BBC. Each week a celebrity goes on a journey to trace his or her family tree. Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky are executive producers for the series, which is a partnership between TLC, Shed Entertainment, and Ancestry.com.

2015 Season Series Info

The series will return to TLC for a third season in March. New episodes return Sunday, March 8 at 10/9c

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? returns this spring to give eight new celebrities a unique opportunity to dig into their roots and learn more about their family history. The two-time Emmy nominated series is Executive Produced by Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky. New episodes begin Sunday, March 8 at 10/9c.

TLC announces the additional featured contributors for the upcoming episodes:

Melissa Etheridge, who heads to Quebec to trace the history of her paternal side, learns about the scandalous marriage of her 6x great-grandparents.

America Ferrera, who brings the series to Honduras for the first time ever, learns about the father she barely knew, and unravels her great-grandfather’s role in the violent Central American political system.

Tony Goldwyn, who is familiar with his prestigious paternal Hollywood lineage, but knows little about his mother’s side of the family. In his episode, he comes to learn about his 3x great-grandparents, who fought for women’s rights and westward expansion.

Josh Groban, who discovers his 8x great-grandfather was a highly educated and renowned scientist that studied astronomy, and was quoted by Isaac Newton himself.

The episodic air order is currently scheduled as:

March 8 Julie Chen
March 15 Josh Groban
March 22 Angie Harmon
March 29 Sean Hayes
April 5 Tony Goldwyn
April 12 America Ferrera
April 19 Bill Paxton
April 26 Melissa Etheridge

Ancestry, the world’s largest online family history resource, is teaming up again with TLC as a sponsor of the upcoming season. As part of the show sponsorship, Ancestry provides exhaustive family history research on each of the featured celebrities, which is used to build out the story of each episode.

The series is produced for TLC by Shed Media and Is or Isn’t Entertainment, and is based on an original format created by Wall to Wall Media and Alex Graham.

You can visit the TLC WDYTYA website at TLC WDYTYA Website for more info and watch past episodes.

WDYTYA History

Season one celebrities in 2010 included celebrities Sarah Jessica Parker, Emmitt Smith, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Broderick, Brooke Shields, Susan Saradon, and Spike Lee.
Season two celebrities in 2011 included Vanessa Williams, Tim McGraw, Rosie O’Donnell, Kim Cattrall, Lionel Ritchie, Steve Buscemi, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Ashley Judd.
Season three featured celebrities Edie Falco, Helen Hunt, Blair Underwood, Martin Sheen, Reba McEntire, Rashida Jones, Rob Lowe, Marisa Tomei, Rita Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jerome Bettis, and Paula Deen.
Season four celebrities included the popular country singer Kelly Clarkson, actors Chris O’Donnell and Jim Parsons, super model Cindy Crawford, comedian and talk show host Chelsea Handler, and actresses Christina Applegate and Zooey Deschanel.
Season five celebreties included Cynthia Nixon (Sex & the City), Rachel McAdams (The Notebook), Valerie Bertinelli (One Day at a Time), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls), Kelsey Grammer (Cheers, Fraiser) and Rachel’s sister Kayleen McAdams.

The series executive producers are Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky. Ancestry.com is again one of the sponsors.

Updates courtesy of the show producers and Larimer County Genealogical Society.

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