When I learned that the first subject for the Canadian version of Who Do You Think You Are was to be Shaun Majumder, a comedian, I wondered if we were to be subjected to a vehicle for comedy. I need not have been concerned. The program showed Shaun on a thoughtful exploration of his roots, and the larger context of his ancestral journey.
His mother's roots for many generations in Newfoundland led him to the impact of a shipwreck on his family, so much a part of the province's history. He also traced one line back to an early settler from Dorset in England. The fact that many of the original settlers were from that county is little appreciated outside the province.
On his father's side the immigrant ancestor was his father whose origins were East Indian. The program showed Shaun travelling back to India, meeting an extended family and learning about the trauma of the partition of India and Pakistan.
One of the challenges of this type of program is avoiding the aspects of genealogy that make for poor television, the detailed work which is part of any research, not just in family history. The challenge is enhanced as the program only runs for 30 minutes, less commercials, compared to 60 minutes for the British series which has no commercials. The CBC tackles this through the program web site by providing a comprehensive extended story for the episode, and also a short how to video under the title Digging Back, presumably the first of a series. These both were worthwhile supplements to the program.
This was an encouraging start to the series.