8    Apr 20100 comments

Television: Bringing genealogy to the masses

Television brings genealogy into our homes.


The BBC hit show "Who Do You Think You are?" created an entire industry, websites, books, a family history fair in London attracting 15,000 attendees. Over the years, each series has resulted in a major increase in masses of people whose interest in family history came about as a result of watching those episodes.

The new US version has also been a demonstrable hit as it has received excellent viewer numbers and has resulted in many queries received by genealogy societies, libraries and archives. In fact, the NBC network announced just a few days ago that the series has been renewed for a second season.

While most of us in the field believed without doubt that the new show would result in major traffic from beginners who had never thought much about family history, why it was important, or how to start, it appears that even experienced genealogists are finding useful tips from the new show.

In northern California, a longtime consummate genealogist - Rosanne Leeson - was able to solve her own Civil War history mystery after watching the recent Matthew Broderick episode, and shared this with me.

Wow! I am sitting here with tears in my eyes!

I have just had my first benefit from watching the "Who Do You Think You Are?" show!

During the Broderick episode, where the actor found his great-great-grandfather's grave in the Marietta (Georgia) National Cemetery, Rosanne learned about that cemetery and that dead soldiers had been moved there from Atlanta.

Rosanne had been trying for decades to find out what had happened to her great-grandmother's youngest brother who came to the US from Bavaria in the early 1860s. She had already discovered an archival record and knew when, where and how he had died. But she couldn't find out what happened to his body. At one point, she was told that his remains had probably been buried in a common or pauper's grave.

Once she heard about the Marietta cemetery, however, she went online, read its history and saw the list of the buried, which included her great-grand-uncle.

She picked up the phone and called the cemetery. The staff were going to send someone out to look and see if there was a stone and photograph it for her. They indicated that it was their duty and pleasure to provide closure to the family after some 150 years.

Although the genealogy community knew the show would be a hit, television networks rely on numbers. As we had all expected, the numbers indicated that there was great interest in the show.

Here are the television stats for each of the episodes so far, according to MediaWeek:.

Episode 1 with Sarah Jessica Parker: The show stats revealed 6.91 million total viewers and for adults 18-49 (1.6/6)

Episode 2 with Emmitt Smith: Finished second in both total viewers (7.15 million) and adults 18-49 (1.8/6). This was an increase of 240,000 viewers and 12% more in the demographic over Episode 1.

Episode 3 with Lisa Kudrow: Finished second in both total viewers (7.14 million) and adults 18-49 (1.7/ 7) at 8pm.

Episode 4 with Matthew Broderick: Finished second in total viewers (6.21 million) and third among adults 18-49 (1.5/ 2) at 8pm.

Episode 5 with Brooke Shields: Finished first at 8pm slot for adults 18-49 (1.4/ 6) and second in total viewers (5.90 million).

We're looking forward to the rest of the series, and to its second season!

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