29 January 2009

WDYTYA: Impact on genealogy, American-style?

We had all better be prepared for April 20 as soon as the first episode ends on the US version of the run-away BBC hit genealogy show, Who Do You Think You Are? Will the US genealogy industry be ready for the "Invasion of the Ancestor Seekers"?

Randy Seaver's Genea-Amusing post asked if genealogy societies will be ready for the aftermath and offered a plethora of suggestions and recommendations. Among them: having "how-to" classes ready to go; handling media inquiries; advertising opportunities and much more.

Thomas MacAntee posted on Geneabloggers.com about the possible impact the show may have on geneabloggers and asked bloggers to chime in.

What do I think? I'm betting our computers will melt from overload and - considering the backgrounds of the first three announced celebs - Jewish genealogy resources may well be in the forefront of the onslaught.

An additional impact of the show may be to mitigate some economic downturn factors for the genealogy industry - mentioned previously by Randy, Leland and Tracing the Tribe - by creating a large pool of newly-inspired beginning researchers.

Tracing the Tribe first informed readers about the upcoming NBC version here in March 2008.

NBC's press release (see below) indicates that the first three announced celebrities will be Lisa Kudrow, Sarah Jessica Parker and Susan Sarandon - all with Jewish ancestry. Kudrow went back to Belarus for her search, but I don't yet know about Parker's and Sarandon's segments. As I've mentioned, Kudrow's family and mine are from the Mogilev area of Belarus.

Another MOT (Member of the Tribe) actor David Schwimmer (also from "Friends") will appear in the BBC version next season.

NBC offered a blurb on their site:

From producer Lisa Kudrow comes a new series that is unlike anything on U.S. television. Based on the popular BBC documentary series, Who Do You Think You Are? takes viewers on an inspiring and personal journey into the past of America's best-known celebrities, sharing their emotion and surprise as they uncover stories of heroism, tragedy, love and betrayal that lie at the heart of their family story. At the same time, the series celebrates the making of our great nation and the people who traveled here in search of freedom and opportunity.One-hour alternative series

The short item ended with a peek at what else is expected, including an archive of celebrity ancestry information, and the ability for users to get started on a personal search into family history.

Here's the NBC press release:

BURBANK - January 27, 2009 - Some of today’s most-beloved and iconic celebrities including Lisa Kudrow, Sarah Jessica Parker and Susan Sarandon are set to star in NBC’s new alternative series “Who Do You Think You Are?” premiering on Monday, April 20 (8-9 p.m. ET).

From executive producer Kudrow (”Friends,” “The Comeback”) in conjunction with her production company Is or Isn’t Entertainment and the U.K.’s Wall to Wall productions, the series - an adaptation of the award-winning hit British television documentary series - will lead celebrities on a journey of self-discovery as they unearth their family trees that reveal surprising, inspiring and even tragic stories that often are linked to crucial events in American history.

Additional celebrity names will be announced shortly.

The announcement was made today by Paul Telegdy, Executive Vice President, Alternative Programming, NBC and Universal Media Studios.

“No other program gives this unique glimpse into the personal lives of celebrities or takes viewers on a quantum leap through history in such an entertaining way,” said Telegdy. “We are thrilled to have Lisa, Susan and Sarah Jessica kick off this groundbreaking series.”

“This show personalizes history and turns it into a gripping narrative,” said Kudrow. “The most striking thing about the show is the realization of how connected we all are.”

Each episode will take viewers on an emotional, personal - and often mysterious - quest following one of America’s best-known celebrities into his or her past, sharing the celebrity’s surprise as they uncover stories of heroism and tragedy, love and betrayal, secrets and intrigue that lie at the heart of their family history.

At the same time, the series celebrates the twists and turns of a developing great nation and the people who made their way here in search of freedom and opportunity. As each one discovers their unknown relatives - most of whom overcame hard times - the show will take the audience back into world history to expose how the lives of everyone’s collective ancestors’ have shaped today’s world.

“Who Do You Think You Are?” is produced by
Wall to Wall productions in association with Is Or Isn’t Entertainment. Alex Graham and Lucy Carter from Wall to Wall and Lisa Kudrow, Dan Bucatinsky and Don Roos from Is or Isn’t Entertainment are the executive producers. Bryn Freedman (”Intervention”) is the co-executive producer. The unique, award-winning series is based on the popular BBC television documentary series created and executive-produced by Alex Graham.

Wall to Wall is an Emmy Award-winning producer of factual and drama programming. Recently voted one of the seven most creative production companies in the world by the Real Screen Global 100 List, Wall to Wall is best known in the U.S. for the break-out reality formats “Frontier House” and “Colonial
House.” Is or Isn’t Entertainment has been developing and producing television for the last five years, producing the critically acclaimed and Emmy nominated series “The Comeback.”

Where will you be at 8pm on April 20? I'm hoping it will be shown here in Israel, but I can't count on seeing it as it happens. FYI, an Israeli version of the show is also being prepared.


  1. Excellent commentary and analysis.

    Is Jewishgen.org ready? :)

  2. Thanks, Randy. Since many JewishGen databases are now available on Ancestry for free, beginners will be able to research from both sites! Wouldn't it be great if the show creates a "Roots"-like stir among millions of viewers?

  3. Schelly,
    I have left comments to Randy and Thomas on this subject. It is so exciting to think of all the things that can happen from this show. Where I once had the frame of mind "Naw, no one would go for that" I now feel sparks in my "Mojo" lighting up!