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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Genealogy Roadshow – My Impressions and Thoughts on the Newest Genealogy Show

Note: Going into the viewing of the first episode of Genealogy Roadshow late Tuesday night (I caught a first repeat at midnight) I knew that a “call” had been put out earlier this year for people interested in solving a family history mystery. So I, like most in the genealogy community at large, had a little background knowledge of how the people came to be filmed. Here are my impressions and thoughts ...

Boy! That line looks like they’re there for an Antiques Roadshow episode. They even have a host a la Mark Walberg or Lara Spencer. But as they’re showing this, they seem to have quickly glossed over that people have submitted their questions to be answered prior to this day. (So I don’t think the others standing there in line have questions in hand and are getting answers at a table like the onsite appraisals at the Antiques Roadshow but that’s sort of the impression being given.)

It’s fast paced with dramatic music to enhance “the moment.” They give a bit of info to each participant but again, like in Who Do You Think You Are (WDYTYA), not a lot of genealogy how-it’s-done is being shown or explained as they do the reveal. I think a bit more how to/where to go needs to be presented. I realize that for those viewers who likely have not dipped their toes into researching their genealogy this might be a snoozer. BUT by presenting a bit more how to/where to go, those viewers who are motivated to get started with their genealogy don't get a shock when the answer they seek requires more than just a little work. I wonder if they have anyway to figure the statistics on their audience in regards to the percent that have never done genealogy, does a little, and does a lot. I'm guessing if you watch it, you have some level of interest whether you've done anything about it or not.

The two presenters are both quite lively but sensitive when needed with their delivery of both good news and bad news.

After a few of these reveals and the follow up with the host after each reveal, I’m getting a People’s Court feeling mixed in with the Antiques Roadshow feel at the beginning and in between things. It’s kind of odd, but kind of/sort of works sometimes. There’s also the feel of being at a meeting and having this revealed in front of “friends” – quite different than a presenter and participant alone in a room somewhere like on WDYTYA. I wonder what the original Irish version of this show is actually like. HINT: BBC America/PBS – bring the original UK version of these shows (WDYTYA, Genealogy Roadshow) to America. Perhaps make it a mixture of the various seasons using the personalities that we in the US might know from WDYTYA UK, Canada or any of the other international versions. (I know legal logistics would make this unlikely.)

The fast pace is more upbeat but maybe a few less reveals would allow a more thorough coverage/presentation of the reveals. (I think this is the genealogist in me. I wouldn’t just gloss over what’s been found. I explain why we looked at something and what it tells us.)

The follow up with the host showed in at least one case that a miss-connect appears to have happened -- though the presenter said “highly-probable” the participant took it as “I’m definitely related.” Those two statements are not equal. I hope someone gently pointed this out to the person.

Another very brief segment had to do with DNA. They didn’t even bother to explain it nor that it took how many weeks to get the results. The topic really should have been presented better. (Though the presenter did fine with what was presented). I hope for the next DNA reveal the topic is covered more thoroughly.

Overall, I think it was a good mixture of a variety of questions answered and different situations. I like that they took on both the bad news (no, you are not related to …) along with the good news.

I think the series will accomplish what is one of its likely goals: get viewers interested in genealogy. But, I hope when these newbies go seeking their family history they find the help they need – things are not handed to you like in these reveals! There is work involved. HINT: Hey, Genealogy Roadshow: If you get a second season, wrap up each episode telling viewers to seek out their local genealogical and historical societies because many offer help in getting started. After all, your presenters are both presidents of two national societies.

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