Saturday, February 26, 2011

Who Do You Think You Are? Season 2 Episode 4 - My Thoughts

[Editor's Note: I realize I have not yet posted my review of the Tim McGraw and Rosie O'Donnell episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? but they will be posted soon - I promise!]

Last night, February 25, 2011, NBC broadcast the fourth episode of Season 2 of Who Do You Think You Are? which featured the actress Kim Cattrall.  Here is my take on the episode:
  • There was a real mystery, a real story here. And an emotional one at that. I am hoping that the "newbies" to genealogy and family history realize that they will find skeletons in the family closet and they will need to record the facts and not embellish them or hide them because they make others in the family uncomfortable.
  • This wasn't really genealogy although genealogical records and search practices were used.  Most of us who have been involved with genealogy for many years or those of us who are professional realize that what was shown on the Kim Cattrall episode was more private investigator work or more specifically, forensic genealogy.
    • Abandonment of a family by a mother or father was somewhat common in the 1900 - 1940 period for several reasons: economic conditions, two major world wars, strict divorce laws, etc. And this issue cuts across cultural lines - no family was really immune from it.
    • This was a difficult episode for me personally since my family has a history of men abandoning families. My family history speaks to the strong and determined women who were forced to keep the family unit together.
    • I liked that the story started with a simple newspaper clipping and that resources such as phone books were utilized.  I noticed there was little "online" research per se - Kim actually went to a pub and did some sleuthing!  
    • What was up with the "Cattrall Family Tree" on Ancestry when Kim located her grandfather having died in Australia in 1974? I looked on Ancestry last night but couldn't find the tree - perhaps it was just a "mock up" for the show.  Still, this was just sloppy work in my opinion. 
    • I realize this was a "re-hashing" of the BBC episode Kim Cattrall did over in the UK but it isn't clear to me if original footage from that version was used or if these scenes were "re-staged" for the American version.
    Overall, I think this episode had the emotional pull that can really attract a person to researching their family history, even when the stories and circumstances are sad.  And while the research techniques used were typical ones used by genealogists, I'm not sure the general viewing public realizes that this was more of a "private investigator" show than a genealogy show.

    During last night's GeneaBloggers Radio show which I hosted last night after WDYTYA, we discussed the idea of a future episode having to deal with adoption.  I think that it would be an eye opener for many viewers to understand how and what records are created once an adoption takes place and how an adoptee can find his or her birth parents. Also, I would like WDYTYA to cover some of the important adoption scandals in US history including the Orphan Trains and Georgia Tann of Tennessee.

    © 2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee


    Linda McCauley said...

    I find it interesting that so much of the complaining from the genealogy community about this show has been that they go back too far too fast. Yet when they focused on one generation and tried to flesh out the story many are saying that's not genealogy.

    I guess I'm a family historian and not a genealogist because I want to know more than the just BMD dates and places.

    Sven-Ove said...

    What I found interesting was that he was able to get married again without a divorce. What the program did not told was how did the church in England work when it was possible. In Sweden it would have been almost impossible to do it. If this was possible in the 1900s what was possible earlier.