The February 18 edition of Who Do You Think You Are? featured Rosie O'Donnell as she researched her family tree. I had a chance to talk with Rosie about her experiences a couple of weeks ago. You can read my earlier article at http://goo.gl/crqLt. Her appearance on Who Do You Think You Are? closely followed what she had predicted.
Rosie was the middle of five children. She was ten years old when her mother died of cancer. Nobody in the family ever spoke of her mother again. The family was Catholic and, with a name of O'Donnell and a number of other Irish names (Murtha, Murtaugh, McKenna) for all her close relatives, Rosie knew her ancestry must be Irish. However, she knew almost nothing else about her heritage.
The first goal was to learn more about her mother's family. A second task was to identify the picture of a woman whose portrait was always displayed in the home when Rosie was growing up. In her searches, Rosie visited New Jersey, New York, Montreal, and Kildare (Ireland). She had great success with her search.
Rosie traced one line in her family tree back to prior to the potato famine. During the famine, her great-great-grandparents and their children lived in a workhouse in Kildare. Rosie even visited a typical nineteenth-century workhouse, although not the one in which her ancestors lived. Still, it is believed to be similar to the one in her ancestry.
One thing I liked about this week's show is that Rosie visited various archives and researched the records herself, the same as you and I would do. I have no doubt that professional genealogists had already examined the same records long before the show was videotaped. However, the process was displayed in the same manner as that of anyone else researching their own family tree without assistance from professional genealogists and a camera crew. This week, we saw Rosie cranking microfilm machines and looking online herself. In some previous episodes, information was "spoon fed" to the celebrity which did not set a good example for would-be genealogists. This week's episode provided a great example for the rest of us.
Perhaps the best quote from the program was when Rosie said, "It was much more moving than I expected it to be."
Who Do You Think You Are? is broadcast on NBC on Fridays at 8 PM Eastern time. This week's episode with Rosie O'Donnell should also become available soon on NBC's web site at http://www.nbc.com/who-do-you-think-you-are/
By the way, the lady in the picture died tragically.