Friday, March 19, 2010

Who Do YOU Think You Are?

I decided to watch this week's episode of Who Do You Think You Are--featuring the background of producer Lisa Kudrow (above)--because (1) Ancestry sent me a reminder notice and (2) I was flat-out curious. What genealogical secrets would be revealed? What researching tricks would be mentioned? 

As Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter points out, any show about genealogy that gets millions of viewers to watch has to be considered a success. This week's show looked, to my eyes, like 30 minutes (tops) of content stretched to the usual 60 minute slot. At a crucial moment, Lisa uses Ancestry to look up the name of a long-lost relative, and presto! She finds out just enough to locate him in Poland and have a reunion (one that was actually touching, especially when Lisa's father ultimately has a long-distance conversation with this cousin). Seriously, Ancestry is a great tool (2022 update: I've had a World subscription for years). 

This show is a wonderful intro to genealogy for those who have done little or no family research. If, like Roots in the 1970s, it prompts people to ask relatives about stories about their parents/grandparents and other ancestors, it will have done its job. And the show did reinforce an important genealogy lesson: Do your homework so you can recognize ancestors' names in their native languages. If Lisa's researcher had not been able to recognize her great-grandmother's name, all tracing would have stopped. 

 My niece Katie has been kind enough to explain how the Russian alphabet works and show me a site with common Russian names in Cyrillic and English letters. Now when I search for my Schwartz relatives in old microfilmed records of Eastern Europe, I have some idea of what their names might look like. 

UPDATE in 2022: My must-watch genealogy show of the week is Finding Your Roots with Dr. Henry Louis Gates.


  1. Excellent point on the language issues. Thanks for sharing your views - and watching the episode!

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Bill ;-)
    Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"

  2. Hi Bill!

    Thanks very much for your comments. I've been trying to think what else could have been done to help Lisa find her relatives. I wondered whether Lisa's great-grandmother had siblings in other villages, for instance, who could have been traced. Who, exactly, were Yuri's parents and how were they related to Lisa's great-grandmother? That would have been helpful.

    Anyway, an interesting episode. Glad I tuned in. And let's all keep sharing our family stories!

    - Marian