3.16.2010

Who Are You (who who, who who)?

My hobbies are activities that the average person probably doesn't find exciting (this fact goes hand in hand with my trend avoidance). Two examples of this are curling, which I discussed during the recent Olympics, and genealogy. Since they're not that popular, one wouldn't expect to see them on TV much. Curling, for instance, got relegated to CNBC during the Games.

For this reason, I was kind of surprised to see a genealogy show come to NBC. It's called Who Do You Think You Are? Of course, it airs at 7 Central on Friday night, a time slot that popular shows generally avoid, since it is said that people go partying that night (people that are not me). On each episode, a celebrity is assisted in researching his/her family history, including travels to locations relevant to the family tree. It's kind of a commercial for ancestry.com, too, as some of the research that takes place on the show happens on that website (of course, if you want to get serious about genealogy, you need to utilize that resource, whether they pay you to or not).

Two episodes have aired so far, and I have enjoyed them, even though they could hardly have found celebrities I like less to feature. Sarah Jessica Parker, Susan Sarandon, and Spike Lee are the three egregious ones. Only if there were episodes featuring Alec Baldwin, Charlie Sheen, or any rapper would I be less enthused. But the reason this doesn't bother me is because it's not really about them; it's about their ancestors and their stories. Lisa Kudrow, the show's producer, could have done this show featuring random people off the street, and it still would have been interesting to me, although it surely would have drawn fewer viewers.

The stories so far have intersected well with US history. Parker had a relative involved in the Salem witch hysteria, and Emmitt Smith (late of the Dallas Cowboys) had slave ancestors. If you dig enough into any family tree, you are going to find such stories. You just have to head down each branch until you find them. I'm sure the upcoming episodes will also contain great historical happenings.

Not only is this show interesting, but it has a great online contest accompanying it. The grand prize is as follows:
Prizes: ONE (1) GRAND PRIZE: $20,000 USD and six (6) World Deluxe annual subscriptions for Ancestry.com (for winner and five (5) family members), an eight (8) hour consultation with an expert genealogist, and a consultation with five (5) local experts (one (1) hour with each expert). Approximate Retail Value (“ARV”): $23,094 USD.
They describe the cash prize as travel money for a trip to your family's homeland, although what you see above doesn't specify what it's for. That's what I would spend it on, though: a trip to Norway. I want to win this contest, so please don't enter it (in fact, I should probably remove the link to it).

If you're home on Friday night, I would recommend this show. Maybe it will even spark an interest in researching your own family history.

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