Gene Notes

Some random and some not-so-random thoughts on family history.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Genealogy Television

Cousin Karen at Genealogy Frame of Mind had a great post last Thursday on Genealogy and TV. If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it.

However, I have to say I am both blown away and hugely disappointed in "Faces of America." Except for the bit on DNA, there is no effort to show the amount of work that goes into researching a family tree, and the fact that Dr. Gates traced poetess Elizabeth Alexander's roots back to Charlemagne, to me is suspect. For years I've poo-pooed such claims because I think the work really has no real sources to back it up. I may be wrong, but we all know how hard it is to work without written records.

Getting back to the DNA portion, it was really interesting to me when Gates and his father had their DNA tested and Gates the younger could see what he got from each parent. And that they could see he had problems with lactose intolerance and that he had an epiphyseal problem. Gates suffered a hip fracture at the age of 14. He was also told that there was no evidence of early Alzheimer's disease. And this is what fascinated me. Not that I would want to know if I did have evidence of Alzheimer's, but I think with all the genetic engineering that someday Alzheimer's will be a thing of the past. What if one found out in their forties or fifties that one could prevent a disease like Alzheimer's by taking a combination of drugs?

DH watched the show with me Wednesday night and was both fascinated and skeptic. He only finds what I do on a daily basis mildly interesting and doesn't understand my need to know everything about my families. I admit to my share of skepticism regarding the Royal lineages, but my fascination lies with the DNA.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" on the other hand pleasantly surprised me. I liked the format a lot better where they just did one celebrity at a time instead of the incessant jumping around. I like how Sarah Jessica Parker was more engaged in the search than just sitting there and getting results. I frankly was surprised there wasn't more on in the program.  My DH actually sat and watched the program with me and didn't scoff at everything and talk through the program like he did with "Faces in America." Although he denies having any interest in genealogy, he seemed to get into this program a bit. He only made one snide remark about SJP's ancestress in Salem, Massachusetts. Still, I am disturbed by the seeming jumping to conclusions about the 1850 census and the John S. Hodge who must be her ancestor. I also liked the venues they sent her to, a public library, a private library - the New England Historic Genealogy Society - and the Massachusetts Genealogy Society. I think it is important that newbies learn that you do need to get out and do some actual research in research facilities instead of parking themselves in front of the internet or you are liable to miss out on some good resources.

Happy Hunting!

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes


  1. Unlike most H-wood types, Ive heard SJP has a mind.

  2. Yeah, I find it interesting that they are doing one with her husband, Matthew Broderick, and his leads to Gettysburg!

  3. Hi there,

    I just wanted to let you know that it was the Massachusetts Historical Society they visited after Hist Gen...not the Massachusetts Geneological Society. (

    Thanks for the insightful write up on the show.