13 August 2008

UK: Who do you think you are?

Genealogy can be more than just an amusing pastime, according to an article in the UK's Guardian paper, which talks about the new series of the extremely popular Who Do You think You Are? television show.

The story even raises the spectre of snobbism of "old families," talks about class (which seems to still be a big thing in the UK). Happily, it also mentions the loss of family records:
Going back to my roots. Ancestor-worship is spreading out from the aristocracy to the downtrodden masses. Offers received via direct mail to trace your entire family tree for £50 should be treated with scepticism – often you just get a telephone directory of people with the same surname – but the yearning is natural enough.

When adopted children grow to a certain age they invariably have an urge to meet, or at least find out about, their birth parents – however much they love their adoptive parents. Yet many of us are hazy about where our great grandparents lived and what they did – let alone of previous generations. Ignorance does not equate to indifference. We would be interested to know. When people move house all the time an awful lot of old family records get lost or chucked out. But whatever the quality of our record keeping, we all go back to Adam and Eve.
The story talks about the new series of WDYTYA and mentions how each show is the culmination of months of research and travel on behalf of the celebrity spotlighted and how they each react to the discoveries.

This season's lineup includes Patsy Kensit, Boris Johnson, Esther Rantzen and Jerry Springer. According to the story, NBC (here in the "colonies") will be producing its own copycat version of the show. While class here is not the issue it is on the other side of the Big Pond:
For the classless Americans the interest will be not so much what their ancestors did but where they came from. However fierce the patriotism and strong the identity in that cultural melting pot there will no shortage of takers wishing to identify their forebears amidst the huddled masses who yearned to breathe free. For many of the Brits, geography rather than class is also the key aspect.
It addresses what we genealogists know to be the advantages of genealogical family research:
Encouraging genealogy is an effective method of combating racism. By understanding the diversity of one's own background, "celebrating", or at least respecting, the diversity of others becomes more likely.
Genealogy can also be a spur to education. We will pay more attention to history and geography if our families are caught up in it. There is also the sobering thought that as we evaluate our ancestors we focus on what our descendants will think of us – if they can be bothered to find out.
Read the entire article at the link above. And you may be interested in the comments of readers following the article.

1 comment:

  1. Patsy Kensit's episode was very interesting. Her family is known to have connections with the Krays and criminal records for both her father and grandfather didn't make it easy going for her. However, it all got very interesting the further back she went. It was great to see her find out that that line of her family wasn't all bad!