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Who Do You Think You Are? – Kookie’s Review

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For months I have anticipated the return of one of my favorite shows, “Who Do You Think You Are”.  Even if I don’t know much about the featured celebrity, I hopefully will discover a new source for searching or find a hint that will lead me in a new direction.  Last night “Who Do You Think You Are?” made its 2013 season debut and left me with mixed reviews. 

For starters, searching for ancestors just doesn’t fall into place as it is portrayed on the show.  As someone who has done research in libraries, cemeteries and personal interviews over a period of more than thirty years, I can tell you that you may search months, years or decades to locate one document much less the entire life story of your ancestor. Sometimes you come up totally empty handed.

Personally I love Ancestry, the sponsor of the show.  In fact I have three family trees on their site and praise it as my “go to sight” for research.  However, I believe the illusion of how easy it is to discover your past, who you are, and your family’s place in history on “Who Do You Think You Are?” is just that…… an illusion.  The average beginning genealogist, I’m afraid, will get a false sense of tracing one’s tree.  And when disappointment sets in, some will lose interest and their tree will never branch with limbs and twigs.

Sure, if you are a celebrity and have money to travel, it would make the process easier.  If you are one of the fortunate ones that can hire a professional genealogist to do the research for you, oh well, you have just missed the personal satisfaction of a history lesson in places, events and your heritage.  To me, documents from a professional would merely become a piece of paper with names on it.  I wouldn’t have the pleasure of that “ah ha” moment!  There is no greater reward in genealogy than to discover a document or photo and have the feeling of accomplishment in your pursuit.

Kelly and Rachel  Brown, Kookie Stanley Hemperley and Mamie Stanley-4 generations

        Kelly and Rachel Brown, Kookie Stanley Hemperley and Mamie Stanley                     4 generations

Through the generations: Mother, Mamie Martin Stanley and I located cemeteries, interviewed family members, gathered photos and old documents.  My daughter Kelly Hemperley Brown and her husband Scott and I enjoy locating cemeteries off the beaten path documenting headstones as we go.  Rachel, who is about a year old in this photo, is all grown up now and currently is a Deputy Clerk in Caddo Parish Clerk’s Office. She has researched local court records for me and often accompanies me to different libraries searching old newspapers, microfilms and military histories.  In short, my research has included four generations sharing our family’s history and having that “ah ha” moment together.

While I find the celebrities heritage enjoyable at times, if I had my druthers, every once in a while I would prefer Ancestry send in a John Doe…… you know; ordinary researchers like you and me; the people who have brick walls and do not have the luxury of hiring the pros to do the work for us or to travel extensively.  Every person who has walked the face of this earth is deserving of having their story told regardless of their social status.

Another suggestion I would make to the producers of the show is that they allow the person with the most gathered information on the ancestor be allowed to travel on the discovery journey regardless of whether the featured person is a celebrity or a descendant of John Doe. Had it not been for the encouragement of and the companionship of my mother pointing me in the right direction when I began we would have not had the benefit of sharing what we discovered.  She didn’t have to wait until I arrived home with new information; she experienced it right along with me.

In conclusion when the celebrity located the grave-site of her relative of generations past and greeted it with “what’s up”, I thought how irreverent!  The first words from her mouth should have been that she would have loved to have known him and thank him for his contribution to the war, politics and her family.

Kookie

Who Do You Think You Are – is back! Tonight!

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I’m so excited about “Who Do You Think You Are” coming on tonight.  You can catch it on TLC, and here is a clip of what can be expected this season.

I think it’s really cool that they take the celebrities and help them with their family tree. However, you know what I think would be cooler? Doing a non-celebrity person, such as myself, *cough *cough.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I totally enjoy the show and seeing what unfolds for these people. But I want them to help out people that can’t afford to follow the trail of the brickwall.  Let’s face it.  They can totally afford that journey without a TV show helping them.  Us Non-Celeb folks can’t just pick up and go to the place that holds the next clue, with a team of genealogist sitting in the library waiting to tell us what they have found.

Anywho, I can quit dreaming of that.

I’ll just keep plugging away at little by little and maybe before I die I will find out what my 2nd great-grandfather Francis Hereford Williams’ real name is and who the father of my 2nd great-grandfather John D. Parks is.

Maybe I’ll find out how us Higginbotham’s really descend from the Barbados Higginbotham’s.

Maybe I’ll find out how my 3rd great-grandfather Rev. John J. Triggs came from England sailing his own ship at the age of 17 and became a Methodist Circuit Rider and delivered the word all through the Indian Territories, and who were his parents back in England?

Maybe I could follow the trail of my German ancestors, the Roleke’s, back to Germany and find out what their role was during WWII.  Ok, maybe I don’t want to know that, but wait, I think I have to know!

Maybe I could find out about my Ball ancestors, and was the one born on the boat on the way to America from Ireland, really my 4th great-grandfather and what was his first name?

I could go on, but I’ll stop.  I know you all have the same list like I do, just different names and locations.

I am blessed enough to be able to go to Washington, DC on Aug 1st.  It will be my first trip and guess what I’m going to do?  I’m going to the National Archives, of course!  I’m going to see if I can find a clue to any of the above on my wish list!

I do have to admit, it would be great to have a team of genealogists waiting to help me, because realistically, I’m a little nervous about my first trip to the Archives.  Any of you ever been?  Got any tips?  I’m so afraid I’m going to get there and spin my wheels and come home empty handed.  I can’t afford to waste this opportunity.  I have to come home with the goods on at least one of my ancestors!

So, what about it?  If you showed up to the archives and the team from “Who Do You Think You Are” was there, and said “What do you want help with?  Where do we start?”  Which of your ancestors would you pick? Could you pick just one, or would you beg them to help with your whole wish list.

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