Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Thoughts on Finding Your Roots

After watching Finding Your Roots last evening:

I'm wondering if you're as moved by seeing your ancestor's name on a voters list the first time he was able to vote following the Second Reform Act of 1867 in the UK as Michael K. Williams was in seeing his ancestor's following the US Civil War.

Did anyone tell Felicity Huffman that millions of people in the US likely share her 9th great grandfather, that she likely inherited none of her genome from him, and that as a leader in the community he was likely complicit in suppressing rights for the indigenous people.

But none of that would make for the syrupy slop PBS served up in this episode.


5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty much done with Finding Your Roots. There is no process illustrated in most cases and the history is just handed to them. All seem to have used their acting skills to show the emotion of the moment. With few exceptions there is little to indicate the effort required to produce their "book of life". And as John said, these folks don't seem to realize how many people share those many times great-grandparents and some manage to use that connection to explain something about themselves. I find that the episodes that don't go many generations back are often more interesting because there was more effort required to get that information.

Anonymous said...

"Syrupy slop"? That comment is beneath you. Finding Your Roots" is definitely not made for seasoned genealogians, but I find it entertaining nontheless. As for Michael K. Williams' reaction to his several-times greatgrandfather's name on the votors list: you just don't get it. That would be amazing and emotional to almost anyone who knows the history behind it. I say good on Henry Louis Gates for all his presentations, which need to be condensed into a 50 minute segment. Even though I've been a genealogist for fifty years, I almost always learn something from his shows and most I consider darn good stories.

Claire Smith-Burns said...

I am an experienced genealogist and genealogical educator. What I enjoy about "Finding Your Roots" is that, unlike "Who Do You Think You Are," they don't try to bamboozle the audience with the process of finding genealogical information. I get tired of the researchers on WDYTYA saying, "I guess you'll have to fly off to Ireland to find out more!" Or, on the other hand, making it look just too easy - "Let's just enter that name on Ancestry." As a former archivist, I am also horrified when original documents are handled with bare hands. FYR is about the story, rather than the process but the underlying message is that, "Family History is interesting, do-able and it is about the people who are the reason why you are here today."

David Hook said...


Neither "Finding Your Roots" nor "Who Do You Think You Are" are or have ever been how-to genealogy shows. This seems to always infuriate some genealogists for some reason. But these shows are meant more to get non-genealogists interested in genealogy. Sure, nobody in real life actually drives up to a courthouse and finds someone waiting for them with their family history on a scroll. But the show is all about telling a story.

Anonymous said...

“Finding Your Roots” is not intended as a guide to genealogical reasearch, but as a storybook about roots: the roots of the show’s guests, and by exptension, the roots of its viewers as well. The underlying purpose is to use genealogy and genetics to demonstrate that what we have in common outweighs our differences, in the hope that we can start listening to each other for a change, and start workinh together to find constructive ways of resolving the differences that remain. That’s why each episode features a group of people whose stories all share a common theme, and the episodes often reveal unexpected DNA results, including surprising matches to other guests from prior episodes.