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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Feature Friday: Who do You Think You Are?

Photo from NBC.com

“To know who you are, you have to know where you came from” the narrator exclaims at the beginning of the show, Who do You Think You Are? Has anyone heard about this show? Who Do You Think You Are is a new show presented by Ancestry.com and the NBC network. Ancestry.com, for those who may not be familiar with it, is a website used to research your ancestry. It has been one of my primary sources in researching my family’s history for dual citizenship. Unfortunately, only so much could be found about my father’s family. Not every document has been uploaded to the site, however, its database is quickly growing. They recently added a census from 1950! All information has so far sadly ended with a 1930 census.

During the show, they showcase several celebrities who are trying to discover their family’s past. Season 1, Episode 1 shares Emmitt Smith’s story about his search. Smith, a Hall of Fame American football player, who played for the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals, decides to study the “deep dark history” of his family, as the coming attractions for the show stated, discovering information about his family’s slave history. Emmit Smith travels to Alabama, and runs into a second cousin, who directs him to the archives in Morganville, Alabama, to further his research. This is where he first encounters the segregation of the south. According to the archivist, the archives are divided into black and white genealogy. Before the 1960s, black genealogy was not as well maintained and more “sporadic”, as the archivist stated. Not only does he learn about his family’s slave history, with further help from African-American genealogist Marjorie Sholes, but that there were interracial relations between an ancestor and a slave owner, and trafficking of the family.

Indeed the story is compelling, interesting, and heart wrenching, even with the negative aspects to it all.

You can watch more about Emmitt’s story here.


Episode 2 features Sex and the City’s star, Sarah Jessica Parker, who only knows bits and pieces about her family history, and sets out to discover more about her mother’s side. The episode begins with a meeting with her mother, who gives her a hunch about her great grandmother and great great grandfather. Hopping on a plane, she travels to her hometown of Cincinnati, beginning the search with genealogist, Natalie Cottrill, and who states that Parker may be related to the Hodges found throughout American history centered in New England, later leading to her family’s history based in Salem, Massachusetts. But, before continuing with the information about Salem, Cottrill points out a widowed mother of her great great grandfather found on a census. With further research an obituary was found, leading their census search to California, and discovering that an ancestor was a miner during the Gold Rush in 1849.

Further into the episode, she learns that an ancestor, Robert Elwell, was in fact, one of the few people to make the sea voyage to America on the Mayflower. Learn more about her story here.

Also featured in Season 1 Brooke Shields, Susan Sarandon, Matthew Broderick, and Spike Lee.

Tonight at 8pm Eastern time, Ancestry.com and NBC will be featuring one of America’s most beloved television sitcom actresses, starring in Friends, Lisa Kudrow. On the NBC website, you can find previews for tonight’s show, but stay tuned to the site next week, as they will be posting the full episode. Thought this would be a great way for all expats to home in on shows while abroad.

Now I pose this question to you:

Have you researched your family history, and if so,
what did you find?

Who do you think you are?

It doesn’t matter if your ancestors did something very important in the history of America, or even the history of the world. What makes it important is that it’s your family history. If you’d like to share what you’ve discovered about your family, please post your story in the comment section. If you don’t have a blog, but would like your story featured, e-mail me at:

PassagetoItaly (AT) gmail (DOT) com

If you now have the urge to research your family’s history, the NBC website give tips on how to start your search… And don’t forget to share with us what you’ve found!

Buon weekend!

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