25 January 2007

Ancestors or Oprah?

The TV choice facing me at 8 pm last evening was Ancestors in the Attic on History Television Canada or Oprah's Roots: An African American Lives Special on PBS. I opted for Ancestors.

The first segment, finding information on Howard Dabbs, a Canadian bomber captain who died at the age of 20 during a WWII mission, and whether there was a Dabbs Lake named after him, should have been no more difficult than searching Google, a newspaper archive online or Canada Geonames. Just about all the family history research seemed to have already been done by a relative.

The second segment showed how to find coroner's reports. What was not said was that often you are better off checking local newspaper coverage than looking for a coroner's report.

The final segment was on the Rush family, father and children, who were inmates of Smallburgh Union Workhouse in Norfolk, England, in 1851. The panel relied on census records to infer that the mother had deserted the family. It would have been good to check the records of the workhouse for the period which are at the Norfolk Record Office in Norwich.

I switched to PBS after Ancestors. What a refreshing difference in presentation style!