May 28, 2015

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 Ancestry.com’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!

WWI-Era Orphaned Heirloom Looking for Its Family

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A U.K. news site recently reported a story about an orphaned heirloom World War I medal that is trying to get back home–with help from a retired postal worker.

Terry Lane is a member of a group that searches people’s properties for old artifacts (they get permission!). He discovered the medal in a trash bin in the woods. He cleaned it up enough to tell that it’s a WWI British silver medal with an inscription: “PTE A J Stedman ASC” and a notation that meant he was a supply specialist for Kitchener’s New Army.

Lane contacted an expert researcher who has worked on Who Do You Think You Are? for help. They have determined that the man was likely an Albert J Stedman, who lived in that locale. Lane hopes to track down a descendant to whom he can return the medal.

Do you have any stories of orphaned heirlooms, lost or found? Let us know!

If you like this post….

  • Check out this post with advice on how to track down a family to return something.
  • Interested in genealogy volunteerism? Click here to read a post on what has replaced that classic do-gooder organization, Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness.

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!