Recently, Lorine at Olive Tree Genealogy, did a blog post about the PBS series "Finding Your Roots". I think she may have been reading my mind, because I have been mulling over a similar post the last week or so. But I want to give you my thoughts about the three major shows out there.
First, Finding Your Roots: I dislike this show for a few reasons....
The host, Henry Louis Gates, is a specialist in African American History. Because of his own agenda, I believe, every SINGLE EPISODE is about slavery, or if a white person has black roots in their tree, or vice versa. I would prefer to see a show that just naturally finds a trail and follows it. He admits in the Kyra Sedgwick episode, that because her ancestor was so famous in American History, he sought out something different on him. He purposely went looking for what he wanted to find. What if he hadn't found it? What would the slant be then, how would he work slavery into the storyline? If you notice, Kevin Bacon's family was glossed over, less time spent on it, because his family didn't meet the agenda. Kyra's family, who is well known in the history of this country, needed some dirt dug up on them. That is the mindset I see.
The host makes the show too much about himself. I have watched all the episodes available online to date, and in every one, he always goes back to his family tree, his great grandmother, his life. The show is supposed to be about those he asked to be on it.
There is not enough genealogy information given. He glosses over facts, doesn't give a good overview of how they came to find this information out (this could be an editing problem).
Overall, I think it is a poorly made show. If he wanted to make a show that focused on African American genealogy, then that is what he should have done. He is trying to use the format of a genealogy show to promote his personal opinions. I don't doubt he is very well qualified in his area of expertise, but most people who tune into a show touted as a genealogy show, don't want the slant, the agenda. They want to know how these people found the information, their stories.
Who Do You Think You Are, from NBC is my next show that I watch:
Overall, I like this show. I am not a huge "celerity follower", but to watch some people I like, such as Reba McIntire or Marisa Tomei, find out where their family tree leads them is interesting. There is a bit of information given about where some records are found, which might spark someone else to look into those resources they hadn't thought about before.
My only wish on this show, is that they do a similar show for everyday people like myself, who also want to find out where they come from. I have had a brick wall in my family for 20 years, and desperately could use professional help in getting past it. But like most family genealogist, I cannot afford the cost of doing that.
The Generations Project from BYUtv:
I have been watching this show online for several seasons. I dislike the newer format they have gone with this season, in removing the host. I really enjoyed that aspect of the layout of the show, her asking questions, setting up a certain part of the video.
I also dislike the need to have an end goal, to change something in your own life, in order to be on the show. I actually applied for this show, in hopes of getting through my brick wall, that I mentioned above. After two phone calls with a casting director, I backed out. I didn't like the way they pushed you to have an agenda, other than finding out where/who you come from. That is my main goal. I don't have some deep seated issues that I need to resolve.
The best part of this show, is that it is about everyday people, like you and me, who are trying to find information. Simple.
None of these shows will give you a "how to" on genealogy. That is best left to experts that you can learn from who have written many books, websites, and produced videos on the subject. Do your research, learn how to do genealogy, and enjoy these shows for what they are, entertainment.