Last night, March 4, 2011, NBC broadcast the 5th episode of Season 2 of Who Do You Think You Are? which featured singer/songwriter Lionel Richie. Here is my take on the episode:
- Lionel started his research with the help of his sister who ordered the Social Security Number application for their grandmother. I was glad to see this type of document used since it is often overlooked by beginning researchers (perhaps due to its price and waiting period when ordering?). SSN applications have so much information in them and in Richie's case it listed his grandmother's maiden name and the name of her father - Louis Brown.
- More good stuff: seeing Richie appear with researchers in the repositories where records are kept or are accessible, such as the scene with J. Mark Lowe in the Nashville Public Library. Scenes like this drive home the point that you can't find everything for your genealogy research just on the Internet. You have to get out there and go to the places where the records live!
- Most poignant scene: seeing how crestfallen Richie was when he realizes that the cemetery where is great-grandfather is buried in Chattanooga is abandoned and more than that, his ancestor is buried in an unmarked grave in the pauper's section.
- The research process, according to Lowe during his appearance on GeneaBloggers Radio last night, took about seven months, from April - December 2010. Sometimes I wish this was made clear to the viewing audience. There is a severe condensing and compressing of time in the WDYTYA episodes and it appears as if one could do this work in a weekend or a week!
- I was glad to see another episode on African-American genealogy and in fact, it probably used the same resources as the previous Vanessa Williams episode. I wouldn't be surprised if Williams' ancestor who was elected to the legislature ran in the same social circles as Richie's ancestor Brown.
- The story of how Dr. Morgan Brown may have been the father of and owner of Louis Brown amazed me as did several other twists and turns in the story. The fact is I shouldn't be amazed nor should most Americans - it is a lack of knowledge of African-American history that makes this so. I am hoping for more programs that will accurately depict not only what slavery was like and the inter-relationships between owner and enslaved ancestor, but also how several cities experienced an African-American Renaissance in the post-Civil War United States.
- As many said on Twitter during the broadcast, "where did that hour go? Is it over already?"
© 2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee