I had a chance this evening to watch the U.S. version of Who Do You Think You Are? on TLC. This week’s episode featured Canadian actress Rachel McAdams and her sister Kayleen McAdams. The two were shown researching their mother’s family tree. Unlike many of the past episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? the sisters were able to research (with a lot of assistance from professional genealogists) two different branches of their mother’s ancestry.
They first traced their ancestry back to a couple in England who apparently met when both were employed as servants in a mansion near Plymouth, England. I was pleased to see an old friend, Paul Drake, featured as the history and genealogy expert in Plymouth. Paul produced a number of documents showing the family and their employment. Paul also mentioned that the mansion is still standing so the sisters soon visited the place and learned more at the place where their ancestors worked and first met.
The scene then shifted to a different branch of the family tree where the two learned that one of their ancestors was a Loyalist soldier during the American Revolution. Loyalists were those who remained loyal to the king during the American Revolution. The McAdams’ ancestors had been living near Lake Champlain, the border between Vermont and New York. They escaped to nearby Quebec province with where the husband joined the British military there. His family was separated from him for most of the war, living in a refugee camp under very harsh conditions. I used to live about 75 miles from there and am familiar with the area and the weather. Anyone who has spent a winter in that area can imagine what it was like to live in a tent or rudimentary shack made of tree trunks and branches, probably with a dirt floor. It had to be a cold and unsanitary experience. One of the children apparently died while living in the refugee camp.
After the war, the soldier and his family received several hundred acres of land to homestead, all of it on or near the St. Lawrence River and therefore very close to the U.S. border.
In Canada, Loyalists are considered to be the true heroes of the American Revolution, unlike the American history books that teach Americans that the Patriots were the heroes.
All in all, I found this week’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? to be enjoyable, entertaining, and a good example to viewers who are not experienced genealogists. To be sure, there were multiple research opportunities that were not followed to find other ancestors. However, I suspect the producers did show the most interesting stories that could fit into a 60-minute program.
NOTE: I have been told in the past that professional genealogists research ALL possible branches of each celebrity’s ancestry and then select only the most interesting branches for the televised program. Each celebrity does receive a book from the genealogists showing all the details of ALL identified ancestors, even those not featured in the 60-minute program.
You can view a video of part of this week’s episode showing Rachel and Kayleen McAdams’ meeting with an historian in Ottawa to learn about the life of their Loyalist ancestor at http://www.usatoday.com/videos/life/tv/2014/08/06/13674177.
Next week’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? will feature actress Valerie Bertinelli. She is best known for her work on the television shows One Day at a Time and Hot in Cleveland. She has family roots in Jefferson Township, near Scranton, Pennsylvania. At least part of the program was videotaped at the Lackawanna Historical Society’s Catlin House, the former residence of George H. Catlin, an early financier in Scranton’s Hill Section. The Catlin House now serves as the headquarters of the Lackawanna Historical Society.
Valerie Bertinelli’s episode of TLC’s Who Do You Think You Are? will premiere on Wednesday, August 13 at 9 p.m. Eastern time. Check your local listings for the time and channel near you.