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Climbing the family tree

I’m really digging the genealogy TV show trend happening right now. It started with NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?, now on its third season, and most recently, PBS just introduced Finding Your Roots. Basically, celebrities discover more about their heritage and you feel a lot differently about them after seeing their reactions to what they learn… usually I like them more. Only Helen Hunt came off badly to me so far. She’s a frosty one. As you’d expect from prime time, WDYTYA has the celebrities trotting around the globe, discovering the clues (with help) to their families’ history with lots of tearjerking potential. PBS, on the other hand, does all the research for the celebrities and interviews them in a studio with all the findings. You kind of feel like you’re in school learning about social and political upheaval, but that’s what we like from PBS (aside from anything Masterpiece).

A few weeks ago on WDYTYA, Rita Wilson had an emotional reunion with an uncle she didn’t know was still alive in Greece and learned more about her father’s past in Bulgaria that he never told her about. It seriously was an incredible story and I cried like a baby. It was very fulfilling. Then during the PBS School of Family Trees, I learned that not only is Martha Stewart of Polish descent (rock on!), but she comes from a long line of people in the domestic arts — butchers, basket weavers and other craftspeople.

It’s just totally fascinating. No wonder people want to know more about family members they knew and those in the distant past. How much of me is already there because of those people than I realize? Ah, the nature vs. nurture question. Anyway, from what M and I have heard about our family there are some very interesting stories and places involved. I once found a daguerrotype at my grandparents’ house of a great-grandmother that looked eerily like me. I would be fascinated to find out more. NBC, can you please make a WDYTYA for non-celebs? I would be the first to apply. And I want a crazy, long beautiful family tree with a big fat crest on it built out too. Thanks.

Blank family tree template courtesy of Classic Family Trees (top) The Tree Maker (bottom)

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