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Posts Tagged ‘WDYTYA’

The WDYTYA Drinking Game

Genealogists really love Friday nights since the return of NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are (WDYTYA) . Well, knowing our crowd, we loved Friday nights even before the show’s return, but this makes the start of the weekend even more fun.  We like to watch it, we like to criticize it, we like to blog about it, we like to tweet about it, we like to discuss it.  Face it – WE LIKE IT! To add to the fun, I offer the WDYTYA Drinking Game.  Unlike most stunts, you actually are encouraged to try this at home rather than while you’re out!  The rules are simple – just before showtime grab a glass, can, or bottle of your favorite beverage.  If one of the following events happens during the show, take a swig of your favorite swill:

* The celebrity finds new information and remarks, “Well, I guess I have to go to <insert town, state, or country> now!” – one drink

* The celebrity goes back several generations in two minutes or less – one drink for each generation

* There is a plug for Ancestry in the show – one drink if Ancestry is accessed by a researcher, and two drinks if by the celebrity

* The celebrity finds a photograph of their ancestor in a library or archive – one drink, two if it’s a tintype

* During the commercial break, there’s a commercial for Ancestry – one drink, and get up to refill during the other commercials

* White gloves are used to handle a document – one drink

* White gloves are NOT used to handle a document – two drinks, three if you tweet The Photo Detective or footnoteMaven to complain about it

* The celebrity says, “Wow!” after a find – one drink (Caution notice: after seeing the coming attractions for the Rosie O’Donnell episode, make sure your DVR is set if your beverage of choice is alcoholic, because you might be passed out before the show is over.)

* The celebrity compares the ancestor’s life story to their own – one drink

* A genea-colleague tweets, “Hey, I’m related to <celebrity’s ancestor> too!” during the show – one drink, two drinks if you are related too, three if you call in to Geneabloggers Radio to talk about it

* While watching,  you think “I could have found that!” – one drink, two drinks if you can formulate a proper source citation for it while drinking

* The celebrity takes notes – one drink, two drinks if they use a computer.

* A genea-colleague tweets, “Hey, my ancestors are from <celebrity’s ancestor’s location> too!” during the show – one drink, two drinks if yours are from there too

* You know the librarian, archivist, or genealogist who is helping the celebrity on the show – one drink

* You are the librarian, archivist, or genealogist who is helping the celebrity on the show – buy a few cases of beverages and host a party for the rest of us

Enjoy the show tonight, and remember – do try this at home!  Add your own suggestions in the comments…

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On March 28, 2010, I posted Lessons Learned from WDYTYA in which I found some element of the research process in each of the first four episodes that offered  valuable lessons to genealogists.  The “lessons” I highlighted in that post were:

1) Don’t trust everything you read in the newspapers; try to find primary sources for vital information.

2) If you uncover something distasteful about an ancestor – and who among us has not – you might want to consider you have become something better.

3) Don’t overlook the obvious when searching for relatives!

4)  It becomes our responsibility to honor our ancestors by remembering them.

Now that the first season of NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? is complete, I’d like to comment on lessons learned from the final three episodes.

Episode #5 – Brooke Shields

Brooke Shields’ episode focused on two branches of her family: her maternal grandmother and her father’s long line of noble Italian ancestors that initially came from France.  While both stories were interesting, the comment that struck me the most was during the portion of the episode about Brooke’s grandmother.  Brooke knew her grandmother, but was not very close to her, and her main interest in researching her grandmother’s life was to determine what events may have “caused” her to be distant.  Brooke said, “I want to be able to like her.”  In finding out facts about her grandmother’s early life and the tragic events she endured, Brooke was able to understand her better.  Lesson:  Don’t judge a relative’s personality until you learn what shaped them into the person they are (or were).

Episode #6 – Susan Sarandon

I enjoyed this episode the most because the mystery surrounding Susan’s grandmother was so interesting, several resources were required to solve the mystery, and both Susan and her son participated in the research themselves.  But the key moment for me was when Susan visited her family’s grave – only to discover that there is no grave marker.  I knew exactly what she was feeling at that moment, because most of my ancestors have no tombstones or markers.  Lesson:  You may not always find what you are looking for.  Susan had a great idea when she said she’ll have to get a grave marker for her family.

Episode #7 – Spike Lee

Spike Lee’s episode was exciting because I got to watch it with several hundred other genealogists in Salt Lake City at the 2010 NGS conference last week.  It was a very poignant story about Spike’s ancestors transcending slavery to success.  Spike’s grandmother, who was an important influence on his life, lived to be 100 years old.  But, despite his career as a filmmaker, he never thought to record her stories for posterity or ask her questions about her family’s history.  Lesson: Don’t wait until it is too late – talk to older relatives and record their stories!

On May 4, 2010, the Ancestry.com blog had an article along this same idea called Seven Great Lessons from Who Do You Think You Are? Jeanie Croasmun also found a genealogy lesson in each episode.  Only one of our “lessons” is the same; Jeanie focused more on resource-related lessons while I focused on something that just struck me personally in each episode.  There is one thing we all can agree on…we can’t wait for Season 2!

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Lessons Learned from WDYTYA

Genealogy hit prime time television last month with NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? I haven’t been writing about it here, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been watching!  At first, many genealogists were dismayed that the show didn’t highlight more of the “how to” of genealogy.  But, that’s not its purpose.  First and foremost, the show is meant to entertain.  But hopefully non-genealogists will get interested in tracing their family’s history after seeing some of the amazing discoveries that the stars made about their own families.

We are now just past the midway point of the show’s schedule. In just four episodes the show has highlighted various record sources and periods of history, and each story has had a powerful emotional impact.  Despite the fact that WDYTYA doesn’t highlight actual research techniques, there are still many lessons to be learned for those already involved in genealogical research.  Or at least reminders of things we’ve already learned but occasionally forget.   Here is what I have learned so far:

Episode #1 – Sarah Jessica Parker

In SJP’s search for more information on her mother’s family, researchers uncovered her 3rd great-grandfather’s obituary that also cited his father’s year of death.  But the information was later proved wrong with additional research.  Lesson:  Don’t trust everything you read in the newspapers; try to find primary sources for vital information. How many of us have been led down the wrong path by following a family story or second-hand information?  Try to verify information using primary sources if possible, which means a record created at the time of the event.

Episode #2 – Emmitt Smith

Emmitt’s story about his ancestors born into slavery was powerful.  He not only learned about his fourth great-grandmother, Mariah Puryear, who was born a slave, but he was shocked to discover that her father was likely her owner.  Lesson: We may learn things about our ancestors that we won’t make us proud.  Upon learning this information, Emmitt had a great response: the man is his ancestor, but he is not like that man.   Lesson: If you uncover something distasteful about an ancestor – and who among us has not – you might want to consider you have become something better. We should also remember that the “black sheep” ancestor also has ancestors, and some of those may be worthy of admiration.  Genea-blogger footnoteMaven provides the proper perspective with this insightful quote:

It is the wise Family Historian who understands that we can no more take credit for the accomplishments of our ancestors, than we can take blame for their failures.

Our knowledge of them is merely insight into ourselves. You can not change history, take care not to misrepresent it.

Episode #3 – Lisa Kudrow

Lisa Kudrow’s episode was an emotional tear-jerker as she learned about the death of her great-grandmother by the Nazis.  However, the lesson I learned from this episode came from an event that struck me as humorous.  At the Polish State Archives in Gdynia, a document reveals that Lisa’s presumed-dead cousin had a child in Gdynia.  Lisa became so excited at the prospect of finding a descendent.  She asks what records they could look to find the family – census records, tax records, surely there is something?  Archivist Krzysztof Dzieciolowski smiles and plops a large telephone book on the desk.  Lesson: Don’t overlook the obvious when searching for relatives! Occasionally research can be as simple as looking in the phone book!

Episode #4 – Matthew Broderick

Broderick wanted more information on his father’s family, and he discovered war heroes from World War I and the Civil War.  It was interesting that his grandfather was described as “ill-tempered” and the family didn’t talk much about the past.  Perhaps his grandfather’s ill temper came from his experience fighting in the Great War – he was a battlefield hero, but never talked about it.  Broderick also discovered that his 2nd great-grandfather died in battle during the Civil War.  Until the research for this episode, Broderick’s ancestor was buried in an unmarked grave.   Lesson: Just as we can uncover things we’d rather not know, we also can learn about great deeds.  It becomes our responsibility to honor our ancestors by remembering them.

I look forward to the remaining episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? What other lessons shall we learn?

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