Each episode of Genealogy Roadshow shows the results of researching family trees of a number of guests. Unlike most other genealogy television programs, Genealogy Roadshow guests are not well-known celebrities. Instead, they are folks like you and me. Most of the guests are interested in confirming family stories they heard when growing up. A few want to find out more about their ancestry, often after being raised in dysfunctional families or when a family seemed to "hush up" some event of two or three generations ago.
Genealogy Roadshow is hosted by two well-known and respected professional genealogists: Kenyatta Berry and Josh Taylor. They are backed up by a team of professional researchers, led by Jean Wilcox Hibben. Jean and her crew never appear on camera, however.
Each guest submits his or her questions and any available documentation well in advance of the show's videotaping date. The professionals then research each question carefully and even prepare written reports, complete with photocopies of all relevant documents researched. However, the documentation usually is not shown in detail during the television program, due to time constraints. Instead, the audience is shown an abbreviated version, typically shown on large television monitors connected to iPads.
I did exchange email messages in the past week with two guests of the program and both told me they were given excellent books detailing the research performed.
This week's episode was videotaped in Detroit and continued last week's format of one guest at a time seated with either Kenyatta or with Josh and watched as answers to their previously-submitted questions were shown to confirm or to disprove each guest's initial assumptions. The audience stood around the guest and host.
I like the format of the show and said so last week. However, many newsletter readers posted comments at the end of my article and quite a few disagreed with my views. You can read my article and the following comments at http://goo.gl/acgL4d. I didn't see anything this week to change my mind and I suspect very few of the commenters changed their minds either.
In short, if you are looking for a detailed tutorial on how to research your family tree, complete with examples of documents used, you will be disappointed in Genealogy Roadshow. However, if you are looking for an entertaining program that shows the enjoyment of researching your own family history, you probably will enjoy the program.
This week, I had the pleasure of watching the program while seated next to a family member who has zero genealogy experience. I tried not to prejudice him in advance with my own comments and views. I wanted to see how he liked the program. After this week's episode finished, I quizzed him at some length.
In short, he loved the program. He thought it was entertaining and reported that it kept his attention much longer than he had expected. He later told me that he had planned to only watch the first few minutes while waiting for his laundry to finish drying. Instead, he sat through the entire thing, ignoring his laundry. He then asked me a bunch of questions after the program ended. He previously thought that genealogy must be boring but this week's episode of Genealogy Roadshow displayed a view that he had never previously considered. He smiled when he said he probably will watch next week's episode.
I consider that feedback as proof that the program is good for genealogy: this program attracts newcomers and shows them why family history is fun and just how interesting it can be. Sure, it is not an in-depth lesson on "how to" tutorial and I will suggest that it shouldn't become that. "How to" information is important, but first exposing newcomers to in-depth details probably would be boring and would cause most newcomers to change the channel.
I will suggest the present format is more effective at serving and attracting a wider audience. Once intrigued by the idea, those future family historians can learn all the "how to" information from a number of traditional channels, the same as you and I did.
Please feel free to disagree with me in comments below. I am sure that many will. However, I also know my non-genealogy friend will be watching next week's episode. Had he watched a program that focused on how to research your family tree, he probably would be elsewhere next Monday evening.
In the meantime, if you missed this evening's broadcast of Genealogy Roadshow, check your local listings to see when your local PBS station(s) will re-run tonight's episode. Most PBS stations do re-run successful programs frequently. Also, check the comments of my earlier article at http://goo.gl/acgL4d to learn how several commenters have been able to view past PBS episodes online. You might find this week's episode will also be available online soon.