Another Great Episode! Though the episode didn’t really focus much on genealogy, it was very heavy on family history, which is great. I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, names and dates don’t mean much unless you have a story to go with it.
I’ve really enjoyed watching these shows every Friday. It has turned into a date night with my wife and she is taking a slight interest in them as well, which is nice. She has even expressed a desire to trace her own family history. I say if it gets people involved in genealogy it is a success. So far, so good!
Tonight’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are was great! The tone of this episode was drastically different than last week’s show. Here are my initial thoughts of the show, in no particular order:
- The focus of this episode was entirely on one part of American history. While it was interesting how Sarah Jessica Parkier’s family was involved in the Gold Rush AND the Salem Witch Trials, I think it was effective to focus on just a single topic as they did this week with slavery.
- The scene where Emmitt learns about his white slave-owning ancestor was particularly moving. It must have been very emotional for Emmitt to learn that his own ancestor not only bought and sold slaves, but that he was likely a direct result of that ancestor raping a slave. I thought it was great how at the moment Emmitt learned this and showed such visible scorn for that man, he also realized that man was a part of who he is.
- It was interesting to learn of Emmitt’s Native American and European ancestry.
- It was cool to see Megan Smolenyak on Primetime National TV.
- I didn’t like how there was no direct evidence to link Emmitt’s ancestry back to a particular place in Africa. This is the sad case for so many African-Americans, and it really is heart-breaking that they will never be able to trace their roots back to their ancestral homelands in Africa.
- Finally, the tragic story of slavery presented in this episode made for better pure family history than last week, where it was more about linking SJP’s line to significant events. While finding links like SJP did is definately fun and exhilirating, learning of the difficulites of our ancestors provides a deeper, more human touch. Maybe it is just me, but I find tragedy more compelling than triumph.
Randy Seaver over at Genea-Musings just wrote about the questions on the 2010 Census. He points out:
Unfortunately for late 21st and 22nd century genealogists, there are no questions about relationships of people living in the household, marital status, birth place, or citizenship status. Too bad. You would think that the government would like to know about these issues.
This made me think of a few other questions I have found helpful on past census forms. Here are my thoughts on these missing questions and some others which are not included on this year’s form, and would have provided valuable clues for genealogists in the future:
- Relationships between household members – I’ve seen many ancestors that were living with their cousins. This omission will be especially frustrating when the cousins share a surname.
- Marital Status – with so many people cohabitating, it will be difficult to find marriage records. People might spend unnecessary time searching for records that do not exist (if the couple never ties the knot).
- Age at first marriage – this was helpful in tracking down multiple marriages.
- Birthplace of Mother and Father – I’ve used this one a lot, especially for my constantly resettling ancestors. Sometimes these ancestors have common names, so providing mother’s and father’s birthplace has allowed me to differentiate between 2 Bob Smiths in the same town, especially since answers to the age question are so often unreliable.
- Person 1’s birth place – Are you serious? It will be much harder to track down birth certificates without listing the place of birth.
- Citizenship Status/year of immigration – Finding immigration and naturalization records will be made more difficult by this omission.
- Value of property/rent paid – this question gave valuable insights into the relative wealth of our ancestors. Though it likely won’t be too sorely missed, it was a nice little bit of info.
- Occupation – again, though it wasn’t a crucial data point, it did help identify possible sources for other records relating to employment.
- Number of Children/Number still living – this was a great way to track down children who died in their youth.
- Military Service – it would have been nice to have this information on the census to help with finding military documentation.
If I was running the census, question 11 would be to provide a 5-generation pedigree chart for each person and question 12 would be to list the locations and dates for which all vital records can be found.
That’s it! I’m calling the census bureau to get this thing changed. Who’s with me?