August 27, 2014

Minnie Driver on WDYTYA: Family Secrets Close to Home

Photo by Simon Fanthorpe, Wall to Wall Media Limited.

Photo by Simon Fanthorpe, Wall to Wall Media Limited.

Tomorrow’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA) with Minnie Driver hits close to home–her own home. She’s not chasing stories of distant ancestors but of her own secretive father. And she doesn’t just imagine the lives of long-dead relatives: she meets living ones!

So here’s what I’m allowed to tell you ahead of time: Minnie’s parents split up when she was young because her dad was already married and had another family. She did know her dad, but he rarely talked about himself.  Her goal on the show is to learn what she can about him and pass on a family legacy to her own young child.

Using sources familiar to genealogists–live interviews, a birth record, census entries, a military history book and more–she learns how her dad’s World War II combat experiences in the Royal Air Force  affected the rest of his life. For the first time, she meets a relative on her father’s side of the family. In the process, she finds a kindred spirit in a family member she never knew about.

I can’t give away any more about Minnie Driver on WDYTYA, but I can share a couple of juicy by-the-way details:

  • The Wellington bomber you see on display at the Brooklands Museum was discovered years ago at the bottom of Loch Ness! The expert who shows the plane to Minnie spearheaded the effort to salvage it and is now trying to completely restore it.
  • Her dad’s “flying stress” wasn’t well understood by the medical community at the time. That’s probably why he was twice hospitalized for his condition. It looks like nobody knew how to help him and nobody really did.

Enjoy the episode! It airs tomorrow night, Wednedsay, August 27, 2014 on TLC. Find out more at TLC.com.

Kelsey Grammer on #WDYTYA & Previous Episodes Return

Kelsey Grammer on WDYTYA courtesy TLC

 

It’s another exciting week of family history TV on TLC! Here’s the latest and a video sneak peek:

“TLC’s two time Emmy-nominated series continues, and this week actor Kelsey Grammer explores his family history tomorrow night, August 20 at 9/8c.

Watch the sneak peek video:

In his episode, Kelsey Grammer takes a trip into the past to explore his beloved grandmother’s family. He uncovers the story of a woman haunted by demons, and finds a connection to family who risked everything in one of the greatest migrations in American history.”

Kelsey Grammer with Archivist Layne Sawyer (Courtesy TLC)

Kelsey Grammer with Archivist Layne Sawyer (Courtesy TLC)

 

 

More WDYTYA Good News:

TLC has acquired episodes from previous seasons of the Who Do You Think You Are?  Tomorrow night two earlier episodes will make their debut on the cable channel. Enjoy encores of Reba McEntire’s episode at 8/9c, and Vanessa Williams’ episode at 10/9c. Back when the episode originally aired Vanessa Williams made an appearance on Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 63 which members can listen to as part of the Premium podcast archive which features over 100 exclusive episodes.

Next week Minnie Driver’s episode will air as the season finale on August 27. Next week’s encore episodes will include Tim McGraw and Rita Wilson.

WDYTYA 2014: Preview of TOMORROW’s Episode!

WDYTYA 2014This week’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? features talented actress Rachel McAdams and her sister Kayleen. I caught a quick preview of it and it doesn’t disappoint! I won’t spoil it for you, but I’ll tell you that I especially love the “sister dynamic,” as they describe it. “We know different stories, we have different versions,” they say. Isn’t that the truth in all families?

I also love the story they discover about an ancestral servant in a grand home (you’ll love this if you’re a Downton Abbey fan!). Another peek into history unfolds their Canadian ancestors’ lives as British Loyalists during the Revolutionary War.

Here’s the description of this WDYTYA 2014 episode from TLC:

“Rachel McAdams and her younger sister Kayleen go on a journey together to unearth their maternal roots, since their mother knows so little about her history. First they follow the trail of their English grandfather’s family, and find an ancestor who sacrificed much of his personal freedom to support his wife and children. Then, while tracking their grandmother’s side, Rachel and Kayleen discover just how deeply connected they are to Canada and a pivotal moment in Canadian history.”

Airs August 6 at 9PM ET/PT on TLC. Tell us what you thought of the episode on our Facebook page after the show!

Special FREE Genealogy Gems Premium Episode Featuring Dan Bucatinsky of WDYTYA?

Dan BucatinskyWho Do You Think You Are? has become a worldwide television phenomenon, starting in the UK and making its way around the world, telling the stories of well-known celebrities in search of their family history.

July 23, 2014 marks the debut of season 5 of the series here in the U.S. and the show’s Executive Producer Dan Bucatinsky (image left) joins me on the podcast to talk about the series.

This episode was just too much fun not to share with everyone. So we will unlocked  this Genealogy Gems Premium episode for all to hear on July 23, 2014 in celebration of the start of the new WDYTYA? season. Premium episode #113 will be available on our website, as well as through the Genealogy Gems Podcast App! Get the app here.

We hope you enjoy the free access to this Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode! Genealogy Gems Premium Membership and Podcast

Not a member yet? There are over 100 episodes just like this one available exclusively to Premium Members for one low price of $29.95 for an entire year. You’ll also get my most popular genealogy classes on video, and new audio and video content added every month. Become a Member Today

TLC’s WDYTYA? New Sneak Peek Video & Honors for the Series

Rachel McAdams WDYTYA

Click Image for video page. Image courtesy of TLC

TLC’s WDYTYA? is about to start its 5th television season here in the U.S. but you can watch a new sneak peek video here. The video was posted yesterday on the Rachel Adams Online website. Rachel will be featured along with her sister in one of the new episodes.

Other celebrities featured this time around are:  This year’s line-up of participants includes Valerie Bertinelli, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Kelsey Grammer, Rachel McAdams and her sister Kayleen McAdams, and Cynthia Nixon.

In other WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? news, it was announced today that the show has just received its second Emmy nomination for Outstanding Structured Reality Program for the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards.

“We’re all so thrilled to have WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? recognized with another Emmy nomination. It was our first season on TLC, and every department was truly wonderful to work with. We’re thrilled with every episode we get to shoot, taking someone on a historical trip through their ancestral past, so this is a much appreciated nod to all the people who worked so hard to make it happen. We are thrilled that our audience has found the show and continued to appreciate it in our new collaboration with TLC,” said Executive Producers Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky.

The series is produced for TLC by Shed Media US and Is or Isn’t Entertainment. Executive Producers are Lisa Kudrow, Dan Bucatinsky, Alex Graham, Pam Healey and Al Edgington. For TLC Executive Producers are Howard Lee, Timothy Kuryak and Amy Winter.

The series premieres July 23 at 9/8c on TLC.

Who Do You Think You Are? Story Website Coming Soon

findmypast who do you think you are storyFindmypast in conjunction with Wall to Wall, the makers of the popular television series Who Do You Think You Are? in the United Kingdom will soon be launching a new commercial website called Create Your Family Story. The site will offer a “quick, free and easy way to produce your family story.”

The website’s launch is coinciding with the ten year anniversary of the British program. According to Who Do You Think You Are? magazine’s recent blog post, “the resource will enable fans to enter details of their immediate family and create a personalised ‘episode’ that can be shared with friends and relatives.”

While the website will not be going live for another few weeks still, you can head to www.whodoyouthinkyouarestory.com and sign up to receive news about the launch.

Who Do You Think You Are? 5th Season Celebs Announced

Who Do You Think You Are?

View the video below

Who Do You Think You Are? season five (and second on TLC) will feature six popular celebrities from TV and film. The Wrap just posted an article announcing the following:

Valerie Bertinelli (a personal fave of mine from childhood days on One Day At a Time to Hot in Cleveland)

Jesse Tyler Ferguson (ABC’s Modern Family)

Lauren Graham (Wonderful in Gilmore Girls, and currently starring in NBC’s Parenthood)

Kelsey Grammer (best known for Cheers and Frasier )

Rachel McAdams (known for movies such as Mean Girls, The Notebook) and her sister, Kayleen McAdams.

Cynthia Nixon (HBO’s Sex in the City)  Here’s an sneak peek at Cynthia’s episode:

Most family historians devoured the previous seasons, but if you missed any there is good news: TLC has been said to have acquired ten episodes from the show’s previous NBC seasons. You can look forward to episodes featuring:

  • Matthew Broderick
  • Lisa Kudrow(listen to Lisa talk about her episode and the series in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 81 and Premium members can hear exclusive audio in Genealogy Gems Premium episode 41
  • Rob Lowe
  • Reba McEntire
  • Tim McGraw
  • Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Sarah Jessica Parker
  • Brooke Shields
  • Vanessa Williams (also featured in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 63)
  • Rita Wilson

Set Your DVR: Who Do You Think You Are? Season 5 begins Wednesday, July 23 at 9/8c.

Read, hear and watch more about Who Do You Think You Are? on the Genealogy Gems website.

Family History Episode 22 – Legend Seekers: A Genealogy TV Classic

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy PodcastOriginally published 2009. Republished March 11, 2014

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-2009. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 22: Legend Seekers: A Genealogy TV Classic

Did you ever catch the PBS documentary Legend Seekers? It aired in 2009 and is now classic genealogy TV. Executive producer Ken Marks joins us on this episode of the podcast. He talks about the unique approach of this show for its time: the family history stories he brought to life were from everyday folks (not movie stars or rock stars) who have some very extraordinary stories in their family tree. Ken talks about the Lively Family Massacre in Illinois, which he recreates in the show, and how he went about helping the TV execs understand the mass appeal of the show.

Then Ken talks about the genealogical serendipity that he has his crew found themselves tapping into throughout the production. That’s something we can all relate to! So sit back and enjoy this sneak peek behind the scenes of a genealogy television classic.

Updates and Links

Legend Seekers: The Legend of the Lively Family Massacre was meant to be a pilot in a new series. The series didn’t pan out but the show was nominated for a regional Emmy award in the documentary category, received two Telly Awards (2008) and the Award of Superior Achievement from the Illinois State Historical Society, according to a press release posted at Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. Click here to watch Legend Seekers: The Legend of the Lively Family Massacre.

 

Other genealogy TV shows you might enjoy:

Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Genealogy Roadshow (stream episodes here)

Who Do You Think You Are?

Advice for First-time Attendee to Who Do You Think You Are? Live in London

Here I am in last year's experts panel

Here I am in last year’s experts panel

Recently I heard from podcast listener Julie, a New Zealander living in Kuwait. My podcast made her aware of Who Do You Think You Are? Live, the huge family history conference coming up in the U.K. in 2014. She’s bought her plane tickets but, she says:

‘I am overwhelmed! I have never been to any sort of family history event, fair, society meeting – this will be my very first one.  I’m not even sure which entry tickets I would be best to get – I am going for the three days but am wondering if a VIP ticket the first day might be a good way to get introduced and then get the two day ticket for the remaining days. With all the SOG workshops, DNA workshops, experts, the “Heirloom Detective,” exhibitors and so much more, I’m not sure how to get the most out of the three days.”

To anyone else feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of attending WDYTYA Live, let me see if I can be of some help:

RE: VIP Day – Since I have been a presenter the last three years, I didn’t deal with tickets. However, I can tell you that the most popular speakers do fill up (particularly the celebs). Also you can spend valuable time standing in line without reserved seats. So if you are keen to see particular talks and want to save time, then a VIP day would probably be really nice. If you’re willing to get in line early and wait, then you can certainly get in to just about any talk you want with pre-purchased workshop tickets. At least that’s how it seemed to me.

RE: Workshop vs Hall. While it would be easy to just spend all day every day in the workshops, in my mind it is the exhibit hall that is really special. They do the exhibit hall much better in London than they do here in the U.S.  It is huge, and exhibitors incorporate a lot of hands-on opportunities. You could easily spend one full day just on exhibits. I would allow at least 1/2 day for the “vendors” and 1/2 day for the “society tables” and fill the rest of my 3 days with lectures and workshops.

The photo specialists are extremely popular. Bring photos with you if you want them looked evaluated, but prepare to queue up for a very long time. (Perhaps get in line first thing one morning.)

Here’s one last important tip: be sure to follow the event blog and keep an eye out on the website as they tend to announce new and last-minute events right up until the end.

I hope that helps you all! And to Julie-from-New-Zealand-in-Kuwait: thanks so much for listening to the podcast!

Family History Episode 4 – Genealogy Conferences, the SS-5, Delayed Birth Records and Death Records

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy PodcastPublished October 29, 2013

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

by Lisa Louise Cooke

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 4: Attending Genealogy Conferences and Vital Records Requests

In our first segment, our guest is the longtime online news anchorman of genealogy, Dick Eastman, the author of Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. He talks about the changing industry and the benefits of attending genealogy conferences.

Next, you’ll learn the ins and outs of using some “vital” sources for U.S. birth and death information: delayed birth records, Social Security applications (SS-5s) and death certificates.

Genealogy Conferences Conversation: A Few Updates

  • Dick and I talk about Footnote.com as a relatively small site. Has that ever changed! Footnote.com is now Fold3.com and it’s a go-to site for millions of online American military records.
  • Family History Expos still offers an exciting conference, especially for first-timers. But there are others as well: In the United States, there’s RootsTech, the National Genealogical Society and many state and regional conferences (like one near my home, the Southern California Genealogical Society’s annual Jamboree). Find a nice directory at Cyndi’s List. Many conferences are starting to offer live streaming sessions for people who can’t attend: check websites for details. In addition, Family Tree University offers regular virtual conferences—where sessions and chat are all online! If you live outside the U.S., look for conferences through your own national or regional genealogical societies. If you can get to London, don’t miss Who Do You Think You Are Live.
  • Dick now writes all of his Plus content himself. If you haven’t already checked out Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter, you should! Both his free and Plus newsletters are great insider sources on what’s new and great (or not-so-great) in the family history world.

The SS-5

You can order a copy of the application that your ancestor filled out when they applied for a Social Security Number: the SS-5. I have done this, and they really are neat, but they aren’t cheap. So let’s talk about the facts you’re going to find on them so you can determine if it is worth the expense.

The SS-5 has changed slightly over time, but may include the applicant’s name, full address, birth date and place and BOTH parents’ names (the mother’s maiden name is requested). If your ancestor applied prior to 1947 then you will also very likely find the name and address of the company they worked for listed, and possibly even their position title.

Here’s an example of a Social Security application form:

Osby Johnson SS5

In the 1970s, the Social Security Administration microfilmed all SS-5 application forms, created a computer database of selected information from the forms, and destroyed the originals. So it’s important to order a copy of the microfilmed original, rather than a printout or abstract from the Administration’s database. And luckily now you can request a Social Security Application SS5 Form online under the Freedom of Information Act.

It will help to have your relative’s Social Security Number (SSN) when you apply for a copy of their SS-5. First, it gives you greater confidence that their SS-5 exists. Second, it’s cheaper to order the SS-5 when you have their SSN. Third, the Social Security Death Index, in which you’ll find their SSN, usually has death data that makes your application for their SS-5 stronger. Privacy concerns have caused some genealogy websites to pull the SSDI, but you can still search it (in many instances for free) at the links provided in Episode 3.

Finally, here’s a little background on the Social Security Number itself. The nine-digit SSN is made up of three parts:

The first set of three digits is called the Area Number. This number was assigned geographically. Generally, numbers were assigned beginning in the Northeast and moving westward. So people whose cards were issued in the East Coast states have the lowest numbers and those on the West Coast have the highest numbers.

Prior to 1972, cards were issued in local Social Security offices around the country and the Area Number represented the state in which the card was issued. This wasn’t necessarily the state where the applicant lived, since you could apply for a card at any Social Security office.

Since 1972, when the SSA began assigning social security numbers and issuing cards centrally from Baltimore, Maryland, the area number assigned has been based on the ZIP code of the mailing address provided on the application for the card. And of course, the applicant’s mailing address doesn’t have to be the same as their place of residence. But in general the area number does give you a good lead as where to look for an ancestor.

The next two digits in the number are called the Group Number, and were used to track fraudulent numbers.

The last set of four digits is the Serial Number, and these were randomly assigned.

UPDATE: The website for ordering Social Security applications (SS-5s) has changed since the podcast first aired. For current ordering instructions, including online ordering, click here. The cost is still $27 to order a deceased relative’s SS-5 if you know the Social Security number and $29 if you don’t know it.

Delayed Birth Certificates

After 1937 folks who qualified to apply for social security had to have proof of their age. If they were born prior to official birth certificates being kept in their state, they applied for a delayed birth certificate.

Anytime someone needs a birth certificate for any reason, they have to contact the state—and often the county—in which the birth occurred. If a birth certificate exists, they can simply purchase a certified copy. But if there were no birth certificates issued at the time of the person’s birth, they could have a “delayed birth certificate” issued by that state or county.

In order to obtain a delayed certificate, they had to provide several pieces of evidence of their age. If these are considered satisfactory, the government would issue the certificate and it would be accepted as legal proof of birth by all U.S. government agencies.

Originally people turned to the census for proof of age. But eventually the Social Security Administration began to ask for birth certificates. For folks like my great grandmother who was born at a time and place where birth certificates were not issued, that meant they had to locate documents that could prove their age and allow them to obtain a delayed birth certificate. Delayed just meaning it was issued after the time of the birth.

Delayed birth certificates are not primary sources. (Remember we talked about Primary Sources in Episode 2. Since the delayed certificate was based on other documents, and not issued at the time of the event by an authority, such as the attending physician, then it is not a primary source. This means that while it’s great background information, it is more prone to error. In order to do the most accurate genealogical research you would want to try to find a primary source if possible. Chances are your ancestor used another primary source, such as an entry in the family bible, to obtain the delayed birth certificate.

The process for ordering a delayed birth certificate is likely going to be the same as ordering a regular birth certificate. You would start with the checking with the county courthouse, and then the Department of health for the state you’re looking in. Let them know that the birth record is a delayed birth certificate. Also the Family History Library card catalogue would be a place to look as many were microfilmed. Go to www.familysearch.org and search for delayed birth records by clicking on Search from the home page. Then click Catalog and do the keyword search just as the episode instructs, using “delayed birth” as your keyword. (Within that search, you can also add parameters for the place name.)

So the lesson here is that even though your ancestor may have been born at a time or in a location where births were not officially recorded by the state, they may very well have a delayed birth certificate on file.

Ordering Death Certificates

The Social Security Death Index is just one resource for getting death information. But in the end you’re going to want the primary source for your ancestor’s death, and that’s the death certificate. While many of your ancestor’s born in the 1800s may not have a birth certificate, there is a much better chance that they have a death certificate since they may have died in the 20th century. Each state in the U.S. began mandating death certificates at a different time, so you have to find out the laws in the state, and probably the county, since death certificates were filed at the county level.

As I said before, the death certificate is going to be able to provide you with a wealth of information. Of course you’ll find the name, date of death and place of death, and possibly their age at death and the cause and exact time of death, place of burial, funeral home, name of physician or medical examiner and any witnesses who were present. The certificate is a primary source for this information.

You may also find information such as their date and place of birth, current residence, occupation, parent’s names and birthplaces, spouse’s name, and marriage status. But because this information is provided by someone other than the ancestor themselves it is really hearsay, and the certificate is considered a secondary source for that information.

And lastly you may find a name in the box that says Informant. This is the person who reported the death to officials. Informants are often spouses, children, and sometimes, depending on the person’s circumstances, just a friend or neighbor. But the informant is almost always someone that you want to investigate further because they obviously were close to your ancestor.

Once you think you know the location where your ancestor died, and the approximate if not exact death date, you’re ready to order a certificate. If the person died in the last 50 years you’ll probably have really good luck at the county courthouse Department of Vital Records. The older the record, the more likely it may have been shipped off by the county records department to the state Department of Health. Look for helpful links to death records at Cyndi’s List Death Records.

Here are some tips that will ensure that you don’t get bogged down in bureaucratic red tape:

  1. Get the appropriate request form – this is usually available online.
  1. Print neatly and clearly – if they can’t read it, they will send it back to be redone.
  1. Provide as much information as you have.
  1. Provide a self addressed stamped envelope.
  1. Make one request per envelope.
  1. Include a photocopy of your driver’s license to prove your identity.
  1. Be sure to include your check for the exact amount required.
  1. Make a copy of the request form for your records and follow up.
  1. Lastly, keep in mind that county offices have limited personnel and are often swamped with paper work. So my best advice is that the more courteous and thorough you are the more success you’ll have.

Online Death Indexes

In the case of very old death certificates, as well as birth certificates, some state agencies have opted to hand them over to state Archives and Historical Societies, or at least make them available for digitizing.

And there you have it, lots of different avenues for tracking down your ancestor’s death records providing you with key information for climbing your family tree.