Friday, March 19, 2010

In Living Color

I, along with a large percentage of the genealogy community, have been glued to the television on Friday evenings since the beginning of the NBC series, Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA). Each week a celebrity's search for his/her ancestors is featured. The first week they featured Sarah Jessica Parker, and last week it was Emmitt Smith's turn.  Great episodes, though I have to admit to wanting to go re-watch Emmitt's since I missed part of it. 

But I think that tonight's episode is going to be very hard to beat.  Tonight they featured Lisa Kudrow. I'm not sure what made tonight's episode so personal to me, given that I have no known Jewish ancestors and no known link to the Holocaust. But I found myself riveted to the television like I haven't been in a very long time.  Tonight's episode was more than a search for someone's family history, it was a search for someone's family story

Yes, there were stories in the other episodes, and I imagine there will be stories in the episodes to come.  But I made a connection with Lisa Kudrow tonight as I watched her travels.  One of her comments, while she was in Illya, was to the effect of "This is where she walked, this is what she'd seen when she lived".  I found myself brought back to the time, about five years ago, when I was first going through my family's old photographs, in sepia tone or black and white. By the time I finished sorting the photographs and scanning them into my computer I actually had to remind myself that, while the pictures were in black and white, life has always happened in color. I couldn't fathom what these people and places looked like in color.

Ever since this early genealogical time I have longed for the chance to go back to Pittston and Nanticoke in Luzerne County PA so I can see where my grandparents and great-grandparents lived, worked, walked, and played. In true, living color. Perhaps one day I'll get the chance to make that trip. Dare I even dream to go back to the places where my great-grandparents were born and raised? To learn about their lives in their countries and try to grasp the historical basis for their leaving their homelands? I guess maybe this is why Lisa Kudrow's story touched me so deeply ... it was a true search for the story of the people that made her Lisa.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Women of OMcHodoy

March is Women's History Month, and this month's edition of "Smile for the Camera" asks us to sing the praises of the unsung heroines of our ancestry. Without further ado, I present to you the women who made up OMcHodoy:
"O" is for "O'Rourke, as in my mother, Regina "Jean" Ann O'Rourke.

"Mc" is for "McHUGH", as in Noreen, Marianne, and AnnieMcHugh.

"Hod" is for "Hodick", as in Mary, Susan, Sylvestina and Justina Hodick.
"Doy" is for "Doyle" for Regina "Jean", Margaret, Mary Ann, Alice, Johanna and Anna Doyle.

Friday, March 5, 2010


If you by chance happen to be on Facebook, and if by chance you happen to have the same friend list as I have, you might by chance be wondering what all the WDYTYA'ing is all about. Unless, of course, you happen to know that tonight was NBC's debut of their series, Who Do You Think You Are?, a documentary walking celebrities through their family trees.  Tonight's debut episode featured Sarah Jessica Parker. Did you watch the show? If so, tell me what you thought.

I enjoyed this show much more than the PBS series, Faces of America if for one reason only: WDYTYA spent the entire episode on one person, whereas Faces of America bounces back and forth between several people in one episode. WDYTYA was much easier for me to follow.  To be fair, though, I only saw 2 of the Faces of America shows.

Thomas at Destination: Austin Family posted his thoughts very succinctly on his blog. I shared many of his thoughts, so I won't repeat them all here. But I will repeat one thing that struck me as well as Thomas:  The lack of narrative or explanation as to what goes into high-quality genealogical research.

I realize it was only an hour-long show and that they wanted to relay the story as it unfolded as opposed to how it unfolded, but just a quick statement here and there about the importance of the research process would have gone a long way.  I hope this doesn't sound cruel, because I really enjoyed the show and can't wait for the next episode, but I think it was a bit irresponsible not to bring up the process by which the researchers determined that the John S. Hodge in the 1850 Census record was the John S. Hodge Sarah Jessica Parker wanted to find. I suspect this show, as well as Faces of America, will bring new enthusiasts to the world of genealogy and it's important that we teach the beginners how to analyze data right from the start.  To do otherwise is akin to encouraging people to assume relationships based only on shared names on a historical document.

And we all know what happens when we assume things. 

All the same, I enjoyed the show, can't wait for the next one, and recommend it to any genealogy enthusiast.