From Presidential progeny to felonious forebears, family secrets are uncovered this fall across the U.S. in PBS’ surprise-filled new series Genealogy Roadshow. Part detective story, part emotional journey, the show uncovers fascinating stories of diverse Americans in Austin, San Francisco, Nashville and Detroit. Each individual’s past links to a larger community history, revealing the rich cultural tapestry of America.
Genealogy Roadshow features participants who have unique claims and storylines: two Nashville participants have documents they believe make them distant cousins of a famous 19th Century frontiersman and folk hero. A woman in Detroit wanted to learn more about deceased members of her Polish family and found common bonds she never knew existed. A Hispanic woman in Austin wanted to learn whether or not she had a connection to the “Daughters of the Republic of Texas.” Over the course of the series, participants will be reunited with family members they never knew existed, and other story lines reveal surprising turns and dark secrets, including one participant’s lineage that is traced back to a gruesome murder.
“Genealogy Roadshow is an engaging, innovative program that reveals the bigger picture of our nation’s past, present and future,” said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager of General Audience Programming for PBS. ”With a diverse mix of stories in each episode, Genealogy Roadshow appeals to Americans interested in learning about their family histories. And it proves that you don’t need to be famous to be remarkable.”
Genealogy Roadshow’s premiere season will feature participants who want to explore unverified genealogical claims passed down through family history, which may (or may not) connect them to an event or a historical figure. These four first-season cities were chosen as American crossroads of culture, diversity, industry and history, with deep pools of potential participants and stories. After potential participants in Austin, Detroit, Nashville and San Francisco nominated themselves, experts chose the most compelling stories and used resources in genealogy, history and DNA as well as family heirlooms, letters, pictures, historical documents and other clues to hunt down the truth behind the familial myths. The most compelling answers were revealed on camera to the participants before a local audience, on location at an historic building relevant to the cities’ and the participants’ histories.
“It is rare and wonderful when one can produce a show in which literally everyone is qualified to be a part of it,” said executive producer Stuart Krasnow. “PBS is the perfect partner for a show that celebrates the richness of the individual, and the differences between us that make our country unique.”
Major funding for Genealogy Roadshow is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Diversity and Innovation Fund, which supports content that engages diverse viewers and encourages the use of emerging technologies to reach new audiences.
The Genealogy Roadshow is a hit in Ireland, where national public broadcaster RTE commissioned the original format from producer Big Mountain Productions. “It just hit a nerve,” said Big Mountain executive producer Philip McGovern. “Everybody wants answers to questions about their own histories to help make sense of their lives today. We’ve had a lot of interest in the format internationally and are delighted PBS has picked it up.”
PBS’ Genealogy Roadshow is produced by Krasnow Productions. President and owner Stuart Krasnow is a longtime television industry veteran, having worked for all of the country’s top broadcasters in news and entertainment, as well as at numerous cable networks as a creator and executive producer.