My Thoughts on Episode 1 of Who Do You Think You Are

Like most genealogists, I counted the minutes until the premiere of Who Do You Think You Are? last night. As the moments approached, I grabbed the remote control and made sure I had a Pepsi near by for the show. The wait was well worth it. It was very well put together with Sarah Jessica Parker starting at the beginning by going to talk with her Mom and then moving backwards in time. Not only did I find that the show was entertaining, but also had many great quotes (I wrote down a few and will share later).

Here is what I liked:

  • They showed SJP scanning through the computer system at the Massachusetts Historical Society, granted someone was there to assist her. But she did do some of the work.
  • The showed many of the societies that we go to for information, some of us even belong to a few of them.
  • They used a variety of records
  • The story was worth watching unfold

What I did not like:

  • Sarah visited 5 different states in her quest for family information. She stated at each junction that she needed to go to whatever state next for more information. As we do research it would be wonderful to just get up and go. This is not realistic for the average genealogist.
  • Original sources shown to SJP, no white gloves a pencil to close for comfort. We would have welcomed a discussion on these issues.
  • It would have been nice to find the death record of John Hodge in CA, to make 100% sure they were talking about the right ancestor.


I appreciate the different records that were shown throughout WDYTYA, in this episode we saw death records, obituaries, court records, a few different census records, various letters and estate papers. It shows that you never know where you will find the next clue that you are looking for. Remember to never leave a stone unturned. Though I would have liked to see her try to read the original documents without having the transcription right there.

As for places to look for these records, one can appreciate the fact that WDYTYA showed us the value of going to the local Historical Society or Genealogy Society for help. This episode took us to a local OH library, NEHGS, in Boston, MA. Massachusetts Historical Society, and a Museum.

As for Sarah Jessica Parker, I felt she was honest in her feelings and emotions throughout the show, at one point she stated she found the information “physically upsetting” and another part of the show she said “how absolutely terrifying” it was. Her emotions showed through when she was reading the letter about John Hodge and how he had died, they showed her wiping the tears from her eyes a few times or while waiting for the records by knocking her heels together or how she kept holding her head when they were going over information on the Salem witch trials and her ancestor Esther Elwell. I believe that as genealogists we all can understand her statements,  “family plays a central part in my life, I am a wife, mother and a sister,” and “to know who you are, you have to know where you came from.”

My favorite quote from the show was when SJP was in Boston at NEGS when Josh Taylor said to her “I swear on a stack of genealogy!”

I know there has been a lot of comparisons between WDYTYA and Faces of America in regards to the format. Personally, I feel that each program was set up successfully. I enjoyed watching both programs and hope that this will be a continuing topic for television.

In the end, I would also like to say that I found it touching the Sarah Jessica Parker wanted to pay her respects to those who were not as lucky as her 10th Great Grandma. Showing her removing snow from the various graves you could tell she was thinking how lucky her family was.

I cannot wait for this Friday’s show with Emmit Smith!



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