November 26, 2015

WDYTYA Archive: What They Didn’t Tell Us In Ginnifer’s Episode

WDYTYA cutting roomNot every juicy finding makes it into each episode of Who Do You Think You Are. Here’s what ended up on the cutting room floor for Ginnifer Goodwin. What else might we learn in the upcoming “Into the Archives” episode?

Did you watch the Ginnifer Goodwin episode of WDYTYA? two weeks ago? Lisa thinks it was one of the best episodes they’ve done to date. Well, the show researchers didn’t tell us everything they learned. There were just so many twists and turns in the plot already!

But TLC gave us one more juicy detail. We just couldn’t share it until after the show aired. Remember the divorce record that was found for Nellie’s unknown first marriage? What the episode doesn’t show is that “Ginnifer discovers that Duff Williams sued Nellie for divorce first, and only married Nellie to avoid jail time for having sex with her outside of matrimony. But the tables were turned when he falsely accused Nellie in court of adultery, and his lies sent him to prison.”

This weekend, WDYTYA offers a special glimpse into its archives. You’ll see highlights from past seasons: triumphs and tragedies, delightful discoveries and sobering moments. According to TLC, “this special episode also unveils outtakes and never-before-seen footage from the series’ vault.” Catch the episode this Sunday, August 16 at 9/8c on TLC.

Be sure to share this post with fellow WDYTYA fans!

When sharing stories from my own family history “vault,” I almost always find I have to leave some things out, too. There isn’t room in every telling for every detail! So in this episode, I’ll be watching closely and thinking about why they left out the things they did.

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastReady to start writing about the juicy stories and unexpected plot twists in your own family history? Blog it! Get started with our free 5-part series on blogging your family history in our Family History Made Easy podcast (episodes 38-42–and check out episode 45 for more inspiration).


This Week’s WDYTYA? New Episode on TLC


Photo (credit: TLC)

This Sunday, August 9 at 9/8c TLC will air actress Alfre Woodard’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are?

In the episode, Alfre Woodard sets out to learn more about her paternal grandfather’s family, which she knows little about since her grandfather died before she knew him. She uncovers the triumphant story of her great-grandfather Alec, who endured the horrors of slavery and ascended from servitude to successful landowner, an extraordinary feat of his time.

Catch a sneak peek of the episode here!

Next week, TLC will air a special episode of the series entitled ‘Into The Archives.’ The special digs into its archives, featuring highlights throughout the past seasons, including triumphs and tragedies, delightful discoveries and sobering moments. This special episode also unveils outtakes and never-before-seen footage from the series’ vault.

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastReady to get started learning about your own family history? Listen to our free Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast here. Also available through iTunes.

You can also subscribe to our free weekly newsletter for more tips and strategies for learning how to climb your family tree.

WDYTYA? Premieres Sunday, July 26 at 9/8c

WDYTYA? Who do you think you are Jennifer GoodwinActress Ginnifer Goodwin (from ABC’s Once Upon A Time) knew nothing about her paternal grandfather John Barton Goodwin’s family because he refused to talk about his parents. In the premiere episode of the brand new season of TLC’s Who Do You Think You Are? she goes on a journey to uncover the truth behind her great-grandparents’ story, and is shocked to discover turbulent lives filled with court cases, drugs and incarcerations.

Like many new moms, Ginnifer became even more interested in learning about her family history after the birth of her son, Oliver. In this episode, she starts her search for information with her dad, Tim, who recalls that his father’s parents were named Nellie and John “Al” Goodwin, and that for some unknown reason, John Barton (Tim’s dad) was abandoned when he was just 11 years old. The last time he did any research, Tim found a 1910 Census return in which Nellie, Al and John Barton are living in Batesville, Arkansas.  Ginnifer wonders what could have happened for Nellie to have let an 11 year old leave her home, and heads to Arkansas to see if she can find some answers with the help of some very talented genealogists.


Local records in Batesville reveal that Nellie’s maiden name was Haynes, and a search for her marriage record returns a result for Nellie and a man named J.D. Williams, and another great grandfather Al Goodwin!

Ginnifer wondered what happened with Nellie’s first marriage that she eventually married Al Goodwin. Was Nellie a young widow?  The local genealogist explains that death records of this time are incomplete and advises Ginnifer to visit the Independence County Courthouse to search for evidence for the other alternative to the end of a marriage: divorce records.

Next week: We’ll share some additional discoveries not covered in Ginnifer’s episode. Stay tuned!

WDYTYA 2015: Summer Episodes Begin July 26

JK Rowling WDYTYAOn Sunday, July 26, 2015 at 9pm EST, Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA 2015) returns to TLC in the United States for more great episodes:

  • TLC will air the U.S. premiere of J.K. Rowling’s episode, where the best-selling author sets off to uncover her maternal French roots. She finds that a family war story might not be what she thought when military records reveal a surprising twist.
  • Tom Bergeron, who is aware of his French Canadian roots on his paternal side, but wants to know what brought his ancestors to North America. He goes as far back as his 10x great grandmother to find the answer.
  • Bryan Cranston, who comes to discover an unfortunate pattern amongst the men in his family.
  • Ginnifer Goodwin, who sets out to learn about her mysterious paternal great grandparents, whom her father, regretfully, does not know much about either.
  • Alfre Woodard, who strives to find out more about the paternal side of her family, and explores how her surname came to be.

While you’re waiting for Who Do You Think You Are Summer 2015 to kick off, enjoy this unseen footage from the J.K. Rowling episode on the old WhoDoYouThinkYouAre website and these fun interviews with genealogy television industry leaders:

WDYTYA: Bill Paxton’s Revolutionary War Roots

???????????????????????????This Sunday evening on TLC, Bill Paxton is the celebrity guest on Who Do You Think You Are? 

I took a sneak peek at the episode, and I love two things about it. First, Bill’s unabashed love for his father, who recently passed away and whom he mentions throughout the episode (“My dad would love this!”). I think of how many of us have lost someone who we wish could hear about our family history discoveries and know that we’re appreciating the past.

Second, of course, the ancestor stories on WDYTYA? always fire my imagination and teach me some history. This episode is no exception. Bill’s four-times great-grandfather Benjamin Sharp was a Revolutionary War veteran who served at the age of 14. As a spy. (How cool is that? How worried must his mother have been?) The show takes Bill to the site of a battle where Bill reads his ancestor’s first-hand account of the event.

But that wasn’t the whole story: Benjamin Sharp still lived a full, rich life after becoming a veteran by age 18. He rose in the ranks of civil service under the young U.S. government. But of course there’s a twist in his later life that dismays Bill and complicates his growing admiration for Benjamin. As most celebrity guests on WDYTYA? conclude, our ancestors were complex people who were just living their lives, not trying to create squeaky-clean legacies their descendants could brag about.

media_icon_like_400_wht_9163If you watch WDYTYA? this Sunday, tell us what you think of the episode on our Facebook page! We’d love to hear from you.

WDYTYA 2015 Doesn’t Disappoint!

TLCDid you catch the opening episode of Who Do You Think You Are? on Sunday evening? I screened it along with several of this season’s episodes that were shared with us here at Genealogy Gems. WDYTYA 2015 doesn’t disappoint!

Julie Chen’s episode marked the first trip of WDYTYA to China. We followed her as she unraveled the riches-to-rags-to-riches story of her grandfather and great-grandfather, which ended at her great-grandfather’s tomb high on a hillside in rural China. (Click here to watch some clips posted by TLC, including one on the feng shui principles behind his grave site selection.)

This coming Sunday at 10pm EST, we go with Josh Groban into even deeper ancestral history: 1600s Germany. He follows the trail of an immigrant ancestor who died en route to bringing his family to Philadelphia.

As TLC explains, Josh “discovers a brilliant man who was not only a deacon, but also a music and singing teacher and well-known astronomer. But Josh finds that his ancestor’s predictions of cataclysmic doom put him in the crosshairs of the church and the fate of his family on the line.” We get to live our genealogy travel dreams vicariously through him, as he tours several beautiful historic places his ancestor lives and handles original documents about his family that are hundreds of years old.

There’s so much more to come with this season of WDYTYA! On March 22, an ancestor of Angie Harmon (Law & Order) will take us into a little-known rebellion by Revolutionary War troops who served faithfully under George Washington at Valley Forge. On March 29, Sean Hayes (Will & Grace) learns about a pattern of family loss and dysfunction that reverberates back several generations. And there’s more to come: Tony Goldwyn, America Ferrera, Bill Paxton and Melissa Etheridge will all appear in April! Watch a WDYTYA spring season teaser below:

New Celebs Announced for WDYTYA 2015

WDYTYA logoThe popular, two-time Emmy-nominated television series Who Do You Think You Are? returns to TLC on Sunday, March 8 (10pm EST/9pm CST in the U.S.) with the family history stories of four fabulous celebs:

  • Melissa Etheridge, who heads to Quebec to trace the history of her paternal side, learns about the scandalous marriage of her 6x great-grandparents.
  • America Ferrera, who brings the series to Honduras for the first time ever, learns about the father she barely knew, and unravels her great-grandfather’s role in the violent Central American political system.
  • Tony Goldwyn, who is familiar with his prestigious paternal Hollywood lineage, but knows little about his mother’s side of the family. In his episode, he comes to learn about his 3x great-grandparents, who fought for women’s rights and westward expansion.
  • Josh Groban, who discovers his 8x great-grandfather was a highly educated and renowned scientist that studied astronomy, and was quoted by Isaac Newton himself.

Previously-announced celebrity guests on WDYTYA 2015 are Julie Chen, Angie Harmon, Bill Paxton and Sean Hayes. The current episode lineup looks like this, so mark your calendars!

  • March 8           Julie Chen
  • March 15         Josh Groban
  • March 22         Angie Harmon
  • March 29         Sean Hayes
  • April 5              Tony Goldwyn
  • April 12            America Ferrera
  • April 19            Bill Paxton
  • April 26            Melissa Etheridge

Genealogy Edu-tainment! Celebrity Interview, Bestseller for Book Club, DNA Chat and More!

tv_film_icon_400_wht_15178 (1)Are you ready for a hearty dose of genealogy edu-tainment? It’s all there in the newest episode of the free Genealogy Gems podcast: a genealogy television celebrity, a best-seller for our new Genealogy Gems Book Club title and an industry insider peek at Ancestry’s DNA products.

Since it’s the beginning of the year, a lot of television shows are ramping back up (like WDYTYA in March). Genealogy Roadshow on PBS will it be back with new episodes and a new addition to the panel of hosts: professional genealogist Mary Tedesco. She joins Lisa in this episode to talk about her experience on the show and about Italian research, her specialty.

genealogy book clubDid you hear about our new featured book for Genealogy Gems Book Club? It’s the internationally best-selling novel Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline! Tune in to the episodes or click to the show notes to learn more about the book and why I chose it for our virtual book club. And don’t forget the best part of our book club: the author will join us for an exclusive interview! The interviews are fun even if you haven’t read the book, and fantastic if you have. That interview is coming up in May.

DNA Guide Diahan Southard also makes an appearance on the January Genealogy Gems podcast episodes. She offers a frank insider’s opinion of what’s going on with AncestryDNA and’s DNA Circles feature. Stay up-to-date in this fast-moving and fascinating aspect of genealogy with Your DNA Guide on Genealogy Gems!

Finally, you’ll hear about Lisa’s newest project. Available by popular demand is the revised and updated 2nd edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox! 

Waiting for WDYTYA 2015? Get Your Fix Here Until March

WDYTYA 2015According to TLC the new season of Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA) will launch on Sunday, March 10, 2015 instead of in February as originally announced.

Need a genealogy tv fix until WDYTYA 2015? Watch several U.K. episodes on YouTube for free:

  • a preview special episode
  • Tamzin Outhwaite
  • Sheridan Smith
  • Reggie Yates
  • Mary Berry
  • Billy Connolly
  • Twiggy
  • Julie Walters
  • Brian Blessed
  • Martin Shaw
  • Brendan O’Carroll

Check out this YouTube channel with 13 full U.S. episodes (purchase per episode ($1.99/$2.99 HD) or buy the season for $14.99 (in HD)):

  • Kelsey Grammar
  • Valerie Bertinelli
  • Rachel McAdams and her sister Kayleen
  • Jesse Tyler Ferguston
  • Christina Applegate
  • Chris O’Donnell
  • Kelly Clarkson and
  • Cindy Crawford.

Browse YouTube for additional past episodes.

Wondering about the WDYTYA 2015 season lineup? The announcement of the delay didn’t indicate whether the celebrity guest list had changed: the four previously announced are Bill Paxton, Julie Chen, Angie Harmon and Sean Hayes.

Breaking News: WDYTYA 2015 Season Announced

WDYTYA logo Digital Spy and TV By the Numbers have announced that Who Do You Think You Are? (US) will return in February 2015 with a new round of stories and celebrities.

According to the reports, eight new episodes are lined up for WDYTYA 2015. Only four have been announced:

  • Bill Paxton, who visits a Revolutionary War battle site to walk in his ancestors’ steps;
  • Julie Chen travels to China to learn more about her grandfather;
  • Angie Harmon turns back the clock to explore an ancestor connected with George Washington;
  • Sean Hayes jets to Ireland to celebrate his Irish roots (click here to catch his antics on his return flight).

The season premieres on February 24th on TLC; check your local listings.

What’s your favorite all-time episode of WDYTYA? Tell us on Facebook!