NEWS: Who Do You Think You Are? Comes Home to NBC

It’s a genealogy homecoming! It has just been announced that the hit TV show “Who Do You Think You Are?” is returning to its original home network NBC after 7 years. Read on to learn more about this exciting transition and what’s in store for the new season. 

WDYTYA NBC Series

After 7 years of airing on TLC, the celebrity family history TV show “Who Do You Think You Are?” is transitioning back to NBC, where it originally aired from 2010-2012. The producers are excited about this homecoming and you should be, too!

“Who Do You Think You Are?” Returns to NBC

From the NBC Press Release, Universal City, Calif. May 6, 2019:

The Emmy Award-winning documentary series “Who Do You Think You Are?” returns to celebrate all new journeys of self-discovery, connection and diversity on NBC with 13 episodes. A new group of celebrities will celebrate culture and set sail on their mission to connect with their personal history.
 
From executive producers Lisa Kudrow, Dan Bucatinsky, and Ancestry, the global leader in family history and consumer genomics, the series returns to NBC at a time when ancestral and genealogical exploration is enjoying unprecedented popularity. Cutting-edge research tools and billions of digitized records from Ancestry will provide remarkable insights into the star’s background and illustrate the cultural mosaic that connects us all together.
 
“Dan and I could not possibly be happier to be back at NBC where we get to work with Paul Telegdy, George Cheeks and Meredith Ahr. It honestly feels like we’re back home,” said executive producer Lisa Kudrow.
 
“Now, more than ever, people are looking to connect with their ancestry to uncover a deeper understanding of who they are,” said Meredith Ahr, President, Alternative and Reality Group, NBC Entertainment. “We’re excited to once again travel around the world with some of our favorite celebrities as they get answers and surprises about family members who came before them.”
 
Each week a different celebrity will go on a poignant search to trace their family tree with the help of historians and experts, unlocking past mysteries and unbelievable real-life stories across the world and through time.
 
“Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky, along with our team at Shed Media, have made ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ not only a great television show but a genre-defining brand. We are thrilled to come back home to NBC. It couldn’t be a more perfect fit,” said Mike Darnell, President, Warner Bros. Unscripted and Alternative Television.
 
“Who Do You Think You Are” will be produced by Shed Media and Is or Isn’t Entertainment. Lisa Kudrow, Dan Bucatinsky, Pam Healey and Stephanie Schwam will executive produce.”

 

Lisa’s Exclusive Interview with Lisa Kudrow!

Check out this exclusive interview from season 5 of The Genealogy Gems Podcast, episode #81 where Lisa Louise Cooke interviews Lisa Kudrow, executive producer of Who Do You Think You Are? and star of the hit tv show Friends. Click the YouTube video player to listen to the interview in its entirety.

Are You a Cookie Cutter Genealogist?

Two of my favorite things, cookies and genealogy, have more in common than you might think! Follow me down this genealogy rabbit hole and discover how you can take you family tree further!

cookie cutter genealogist

Cookies for My Descendants!

My grandson loves Super Mario games and specifically the mascot Mario. (Actually both of my grandsons do!) So, when it came time to create a sweet treat for his birthday, I opted for sugar cookies decorated as Mario.

Normally I would use a cookie cutter to create a decorated character cookie. Unfortunately, the local craft stories didn’t carry the Mario cutter, and I didn’t have time to get it ordered and delivered.

I hit a cookie decorating brick wall.

But brick walls, whether in genealogy or cookie decorating can often be overcome.

When we come face to face with a brick wall, we need to assess the situation, seek additional advice, and assemble the appropriate tools.

In the case of ole Mario, I first found a drinking glass just slightly larger than the size I wanted the cookie to be. It worked well as a cookie cutter, but I later decided to improvise a cookie cutter of my own.

To create the cookie cutter, I copied an image of his face into a Word document, and then enlarged it to the size of a cookie and printed it out on a sheet of paper. I carefully cut the image out, and then placed the cut-out on a sheet of wax paper, drawing around the edges and then cutting it out.

Next I found a good, sharp paring knife. I placed the wax paper template on the rolled-out cookie dough and carefully cut around it with the paring knife. Brick wall busted!

cookies

The finished cookies for my grandson’s birthday

Are you a cookie cutter genealogist?

All this cookie cutting and problem solving got me thinking about genealogy. (Ok, I admit it – I’m always thinking about genealogy!) It brought to mind an email I received just the other day from a listener, Kristine, who described herself as a “cookie-cutter” researcher.

Kristine's email

Hi Lisa,
I just retired and guess what is first on my list of things I WANT to do? 🙂  I jumped in with both feet listening to your
Premium podcasts and realized a few times that I am the ‘cookie-cutter’ researcher.  But, no more. You are the Captain of my ship now. Thank you!

After binging on your podcasts the last two weeks, the first bit of advice I took was changing the way I searched on Newspapers.com. My family’s everyday life’s treasures were buried in the pages of the local news! You made me take a second look after I dismissed the possibility of ever reading about them. 

Thank you so much for your dedicated work on behalf of all the genealogists. My Premium subscription will NEVER run out.  When a family member says “I don’t know what to get you” I’m prepared to solve that dilemma!

A listener for life
Kristine

I really admire how Kristine took an honest look at her current research techniques. She was open to acknowledging that she had more to learn. It’s just  icing on the cake for me that she started listening to the Genealogy Gems Podcast.

It’s easy to become a cookie-cutter genealogist in today’s automated world.

Every day more and more is being done for us automatically. Genealogy record hints and matches on genealogy websites is just one example. These can be very effective tools, but they can also lull you into a false sense that the work is done or correct.

An accepted record hint can in no way be considered as work that is done or correct. It is only the beginning.

In Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #232 professional genealogist and lecturer Elissa Scalise Powell and I discussed the pitfalls of “shallow research,” or as Kristine described it, being a “cookie-cutter” researcher.

Elissa says that while we will find a lot of “low-hanging fruit” in the early days of our genealogical search, there always comes a time when we need to dig deeper. All genealogists will need to stretch and reach for other sources. These types of sources are:

  • not straightforward,
  • possibly unknown to you at this time,
  • not easily accessible,
  • time-consuming to explore,
  • take study to understand it,
  • not self-explanatory.

Moving Beyond Cookie Cutter Genealogy

I also recently I received a question from a reader that provides a great example of a scenario where it’s time to move on to these rich and yet more challenging sources. Harold writes:

I have a totally “back to basics” question. 

Since I started seriously doing genealogy about 8 months ago, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about my ancestors…families going back as far as those covered in the 1850 census and since then. 

But once you get to the 1840 census and earlier, I do not understand how any genealogist can use the meager records in the census, that only identify the head of the family and the number of adults and children living in the household, to any sense prove that they are your ancestors, or to find their predecessors who are likely to have lived in another state.

After all, in those days, often maiden aunts, grandparents, and others stayed with families, so you can never be sure who all the people are.

And they had a dozen kids, not all of whom survived.

So you cannot count on just the “number” of people listed in the 1840 census to prove anything.  Even worse, my ancestors, and I think most people’s, seemed to be moving westward every generation from the establishment of the colonies, so there are dozens of states to choose from, and hundreds or thousands of people with the same surnames in them.

I believe I have found the name of my great-grandfather on an 1840 census in Ohio (though it is possible it is just a duplicate name), but there is no telling where he lived in 1830 or earlier. 

As far as I can tell, my ancestors were all poor dirt farmers, moved westward every generation, and didn’t have any records of stores or businesses they might have owned that would have those kinds of records. Yet, there are people who claim they can trace their ancestry back to the Mayflower and the like, but I do not understand how anyone can legitimately trace their ancestry back prior to 1840 unless they have something like a family Bible or similar transcription kept in the family.

Sure, you can find names on earlier census, but lots of people have the same name, and lots of names are spelled wrong, etc. and there are a lot of states and territories to choose from.

So how can ANYONE claim they can PROVE their ancestry from 1840 and before? 

The “cookie cutter” Harold was using was the U.S. Federal Census. Cookie cutters provide great, consistent results, but over the decades the census cookie cutter shape changes. The check marks don’t provide the same level of details that we find in later enumerations.

For example, the 1850 U.S. Federal Census provided the name, age, and gender of everyone in the family. It also provided valuable and identifying information such as occupations and place of birth.

1850 census

Information provided on the 1850 U.S. Federal Census

Just ten years earlier, the 1840 enumeration looked dramatically different:

1840 census

1840 U.S. Federal Census

As Harold lamented, in 1840 we only find the name of the head of household, followed by the number of people in the household who fell within a certain age range. There’s still valuable information here, but clearly not as detailed as later enumerations.

So, the general answer to his question is that he is right, from 1840 on back you typically cannot rely just on census records. 

However, it is indeed often possible to reliably take your family tree further back in time.

Genealogical research at this point in history requires deeper cross-referencing of the types of sources that Elissa referred to in the podcast episode. Examples of these sources include wills and probate records, land deeds, homestead records, tax records, marriage records, old newspapers, compiled genealogies and more. They all play a part in piecing together a family tree.

Some of these records are available online. However, in many cases, you will use only the internet to help you determine where the records are held. Then you must access the records in person, by contacting the repository, asking a friend or fellow researcher in the area to copy it for you, or hire a professional genealogist in the area where they are held. 

Regarding Harold’s question regarding genealogists who are able to tie their family tree to the Mayflower, this is indeed possible. There is a lot of excellent documentation over the last few centuries on descendants of the Mayflower, so it is sometimes not that difficult to connect up an ancestor in your own tree with the descendant of the Mayflower. This can indeed take your own tree back much further. However, that’s a topic for another article.

A Sweet Tool that Can Help

In addition to discussing the sources and strategies that you can use to avoid being a cookie cutter genealogist, Elissa and I also discuss the Genealogical Proof Standard (also known as the GPS) in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #232.

The Genealogical Proof Standard was created to help genealogists gain confidence in their research conclusions by providing criteria that can be followed. A genealogical conclusion is considered proved when it meets all five GPS components.

You can learn more about the GPS in episode #20 of my Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast.

Family History Genealogy Made Easy Podcast

Sweet Rewards

It’s normal for new genealogists to follow the basic cookie-cutter approach of birth, marriage, death and census records. But these standard sources can only take you so far (as Harold discovered!)

Reaching further back in your family tree by embracing more challenging sources and digging deeper offers a much sweeter reward!

ancestor fortune cookie

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 233

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 233

with Lisa Louise Cooke
September 2019

Listen now, click player below:

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Download the episode (mp3)

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In this Episode

Today we’re going to take a look at what so many records and record collections have in common: they are often Lists. Now that may sound pretty straight forward, but there’s a lot more to Lists than meet the eye.

A list of names, places or other information has a lot to tell us and can be used in unique ways. Professional genealogist Cari Taplin joins me in this episode for a conversation about what is so lovely about lists.

My Summer Vacation

If you’ve been following me on Instagram – you can find me here on Instagram or by searching for genealogy gems podcast in the free Instagram app – then you know that I’ve spent a bit of my time this summer getting a taste of some of the work many of my ancestors did and probably that many of your ancestors did: farming.

Bill and I have a close friend who owns his grandfather’s 1904 homestead in North Dakota. A few years back Bill went up there to help them open it back up and get things up and running. This year we helped them harvest their crop of oats. (They even have a sign in the field that says, “These oats will grow up to be Cheerios”)

Cheerios in the farm fields

Of course, we used equipment that our ancestors may not have had. I learned to drive the combine, and I turned the field with the tractor. But in many ways, things haven’t changed all that much.

One of the things that really struck me was how the farming community out there pulls together.

Now to put this in perspective: the 240-acre homestead is about two miles down a dirt road from Canada. The house has fallen into disrepair over the decades, so our friend bought an old farmhouse in the nearby town where he grew up. That town has a population of just over 50 people!

North Dakota Farmland

North Dakota farmland. Photo Credit: Lisa Louise Cooke, Genealogy Gems

So, we’re talking about a pretty remote location, and folks are scattered on various farms miles apart. But when a tractor was in need of repair, within the hour a neighbor would be pulling up ready to crawl under it alongside our friend to work on it till it was fixed. When a piece of equipment was needed that he didn’t have, it would soon be rolling down the road from a neighboring farm to pitch in.

Everyone had one eye on the sky at all times to watch the ever-changing weather, and there was such a commitment by all to make sure no neighbor was left with unharvested crops before a storm hit.

So even though the combines of today are motorized massive machines with air conditioning and stereos, the work ethic, the commitment and the community was unchanged from when his granddad first filed his homestead claim. Bill and I felt really blessed to be a part of it.

Think of us next time you eat your cheerios.

Farm selfie

Farm selfie

MyHeritage

MyHeritage.com is the place to make connections with relatives overseas, particularly with those who may still live in your ancestral homeland. Click the logo above to get started.

GEM: Interview with Cari Taplin

If you’ve been doing genealogy for any length of time, then you have probably encountered a list. They come in all shapes and sizes, and at first glance they may seem very straight forward.

Cari Taplin, a certified genealogist out of Pflugerville, Texas, says it’s worth taking the time to really examine lists carefully because there may be more there than meets the eye.

Cari Taplin genealogist

Cari  currently serves on the boards of the Association for Professional Genealogists and is the Vice President of Membership for the Federation of Genealogical Societies. As the owner of GenealogyPANTS, she provides speaking, research, and consultation services, focusing on midwestern and Great Lakes states and methodology.

Types of Lists

Nearly every time we sit down to do genealogy research we run into a list. There are loads of them out there. Here’s just a starter list of the lists you might run into:

  • indexes of any kind
  • city directories
  • tax lists
  • petitions
  • censuses
  • church membership
  • members of a club or society
  • fraternal organization member lists
  • community groups
  • committees
  • lists in newspapers like hotel registrations, letters at post office
  • hospital admittances and discharges
  • cemetery books
  • event participants
  • jurors
  • estate sales
  • militia rolls
  • voter lists
  • land lottery winners
  • school class lists
  • yearbooks
  • agricultural lists
1850 census

Census records are examples of lists

Significance of List Construction

Of course, not every list is alphabetically organized by any means. We might run into a list of prison inmates listed by number, or burial sites listed by plot or location. The information can be organized in many different ways.

Cari says that the way the list maker decided to organize the list tells us a lot about the information.

For example, a list that is alphabetized might be an indication that it is a recreated list. Other ways that lists may be constructed include chronologically or by location.

Here are follow up tasks you can do:

  • Evaluate for potential error
  • Locate the original source

 

List Explanation or Instructions

Understanding the thinking behind how the list was constructed is also important.

The U.S. Federal Census is a great example of a list that has other background documents such as the enumerator instructions. We don’t see these instructional documents unless we go looking for them. The instructions provide background on the creation of the list, and that can help us get more out of it.

Research Tip: Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses From 1790 to 2000. From that page you download the PDF of enumerator instructions.

Here’s an example of how understanding the census enumerator instructions can help you better understand how to interpret it:

In 1900 the census was answered as if it were a particular day. This means that if someone died a few days later, they may still be listed as alive in the 1900 census. If you know that they died that year, you now have more information that it was after the enumeration date.

Genealogy websites like Ancestry, FamilySearch and MyHeritage often provide background on the creation and purpose of their record collections.  

Tax List example: there are laws behind them. Look up the statute. Google to find summations of tax laws at the time. Keep in mind that they might be in order of location.

When analyzing a list, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What was this list created for?
  • Why is it in this order?
  • What does that then tell me about these people?

What’s we’re really talking about is educating ourselves
so that we’re not contributing to the errors that get out there.
It’s an investment in accuracy.

Context

It can be tempting to just scan the list, grab your ancestor out of it, and move on. But if we do that, we could be leaving a lot of genealogical gold behind.

“Evidence mining requires attention to detail, including details that might initially seem insignificant.” ––BCG, Genealogy Standards, #40, p. 24

Here are some ideas as to what we should look for:

  • Sometimes it’s just a name (example: petition lists)
  • There might be columns at the top – pay attention to those details for more understanding
  • Other people in the list: the FAN Club (Friends, Associates, Neighbors.) Look for those names in other documents.

 

Organizing Your Research and the Data Collected from Lists

Cari uses spreadsheets to organize her genealogical research project data.

Come of the benefits of using a spreadsheet are that you can:

  • easily sort the data
  • easily manipulate the data
  • visualize the data in different forms

Free Download: Read How German Address Books at Ancestry.com are Helping Bust Brick Walls and download the free spreadsheet template.

Addresses found in German Address Books marked in the spreadsheet

Addresses found in German Address Books marked in the spreadsheet

Explore the Bigger List

Often times you do a search, and you find a single record. But that single record is actually part of a massive internal list, an indexed list from which the search engine is pulling.

An example of this is when you run a search for your ancestor at the Bureau of Land Management website (BLM).  After finding your ancestor’s record, you can then run a search by that land description to find other people who owned land and possibly lived nearby.

Watch the FamilySearch video on the batch search technique that Lisa mentioned.

What Constitutes Proof?

“Evidence mining requires attention to detail, including details that might initially seem insignificant.” – BCG, Genealogy Standards, #40, p.24

Review the Genealogical Proof Standard in the show notes for Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 232.

2 men with 1 name

When everyone in the family wants to name their children after Grandpa, you can end up with a lot people in a county with the same name. You need to tease them apart.

Questions to ask:

  • Who did they associate with?
  • Who were their siblings?
  • Where were each of them located?

All of these things can help differentiate them. A spreadsheet is an excellent tool for this.

The Yearbook List Example

Very often the list of names is the full list of students. However, not every student necessarily had their photo taken. Count the names and then count the photos to verify you have the right person. Search the Ancestry Yearbook collection to try and find another photo of the person to compare.  

Cari’s Main Message

Don’t skip over a list because it’s lacking some identifying information. You still need to record it. You may come back to it one day!

Visit Cari Online: Genealogy Pants

 

Profile America: The Gregorian Correction

Wednesday, September 11th. This was a day that didn’t exist in Colonial America in 1752, as the familiar calendar underwent what is called the “Gregorian correction,” switching from the ancient Julian calendar to adjust for errors accumulated over centuries.

After September 2nd, the next day was September 14th. The British parliament’s Calendar Act of 1750 had also changed New Year’s Day from March 25th to January 1st. As a result, the year 1751 had only 282 days. Since then, with leap years built in as in 2020, the calendar has remained constant.

Sources: 
Calendars timeline, accessed 6/6/2019  
Calendar Act  
Calendar riots  
Printing services, County Business Patterns, NAICS 32311  
Printing employment, Annual Survey of Manufacturers, NAICS 32311  

News: Watch Lisa’s new MyHeritage Education Center

Visit the MyHeritage Education Center to watch videos and read article to help you get more out of using MyHeritage. Watch the presentation at the MyHeritage Education Center: How to Find Your Family in Newspapers with SuperSearch

Download the Show Notes PDF in the Genealogy Gems Podcast app. 

 

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