Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Finding Your Roots vs. Who Do You Think You Are?

When talking about genealogy with people it is common for the conversation to touch upon the show “Who Do You Think You Are?” Over the years, all different kinds of people have watched the show regardless of their interest level in genealogy as a whole or their own family tree… they usually watch because they are a fan of some actor, actress, or athlete and want to learn a little more about them. More often than not, this leads them to jump to the conclusion of “I wish I had stories like that in my family tree.”

The people I have spoken with make that determination that those types of stories do not exist in their tree mostly because the show focuses on a single line in that celebrity’s genealogy. I guess you could say that is the one thing that many of us familiar with genealogy have a problem with when it comes to the show “Who Do You Think You Are?” It is for this reason that I tend to pay closer attention to and enjoy “Finding Your Roots” a little more than the main stream counterpart.

Like any PBS show, “Finding Your Roots” isn’t as well-known but it takes a much more interesting and broader look at the ancestry of celebrities (of all kinds not just main stream). During the course of an episode, three family trees are analyzed with a common thread running between the three stars. Sometimes it can be as broad as overcoming adversity while other times it is tied to a specific event such as the roles their ancestors played in the Civil War.

While that is one difference (one vs. three) the other, more important and more interesting differentiator is the fact that the latter of the two shows looks at the family tree as a whole not just a singular line (or two). From my own experience, I know that this is the most interesting part of genealogy as you never know what names, places, and events may be adding color to the individual leaves. After all, we are the culmination of all these people who played, for the most part, equal roles in determining the family story and making us who we are.

“Who Do You Think You Are” may have the bigger audience, interesting locations, and larger budget, “Finding Your Roots” brings us closer to the interesting realities of doing genealogical research. Furthermore, the latter show also explores the use of DNA in discovering the mix of places, races, and heritage that exists within all of us. This is why my preference is quite clear but, in the end, taking a look at the sponsorship, Ancestry.com wins no matter which show you prefer.

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