I just finished watching the first episode of the NBC series Who Do You Think You Are? Having recently watched the PBS Series Faces Of America, my initial reaction was very positive. I thought Faces of America was a little disjointed and scattered. It was hard to follow the stories when they jumped back and forth between all of the subjects. I thought Who Do You Think You Are was great for the following reasons:
- Sarah Jessica Parker was depicted as the researcher. In Faces of America, Henry Louis Gates was presenting the information to the subjects, who basically just sat back and took it all in. In WDYTYA Episode 1, The subject is doing the leg work (supposedly, at least). I find this much more engaging than just listening to the story of the ancestors.
- A document trail was presented (at least partially). We were able to see the death certificate, census records, old letters, obituaries, court documents, etc, that formed the basis for the family history. This in my opinion makes it more authentically a “genealogy” show. Without these pieces, it is just a history show, if that makes sense.
- Real genealogical roadblocks were presented. How could a man that shows up in the 1850 census be listed as deceased in an obituary for his son as dying in 1849? This is indicative of the speed bumps that genealogists face time and again in their research. It made the search more authentic.
While Faces of America wasn’t a terrible show, I think the authentic touch presented in WDYTYA makes for better genealogical television. What do you think?