Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Who Do You Think You Are? Revised Episode Schedule

NBC's hit series Who Do You Think You Are? has genealogists everywhere excited for more! It has just been announced that the schedule has been extended by one week, which is great news for all the fans out there.

Here is the schedule for the remaining episodes:

April 2 - Brooke Shields
April 9 - Sarah Jessica Parker (repeat)
April 16 - No episode
April 23 - Susan Sarandon
April 30 - Spike Lee (Season Finale)

So if you're a fan of the show, keep showing your support and encourage your family and friends to check it out! Who knows - maybe they'll get the genealogy bug too!

(posted by Lacey Cooke, Associate Editor)

Monday, March 29, 2010

A New Source of Help for Google Books

One of the Google’s many resources is Google Books, which allows you to browse through books and magazines of almost any topic imaginable. (Have you checked out Ancestry magazine back issues at Google Books?) But if you’ve been having trouble using the site, want more information, or want to connect with other users, the new Google Books Help Forum is now up and running!

The forum allows you to get answers directly from a team of forum guides as well as other users who may know what you are looking for. You can post your question directly in a new discussion, or you can browse other posed discussion questions. When the forum team has answered it, the discussion will have “Answered” written in green below the link.

You can also sort the list of questions by recent activity, date asked, and popularity. Or you can choose to look at questions that have been answered or unanswered. In addition, Google Books Help Forum has a blog, which you can find a link to on the left side of the forum page. This is a wonderful way for new users or even the most experienced users to get help with any aspect of using Google Books. Good luck finding those genealogy gems!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lots of New Stuff at Genealogy Gems

New Episode: 84
Featuring my interview with Bryce Roper, Product Manager at FamilySearch.

New Media Player:

New Web Site Address:
Yes, now you can use our new dot com address as well as our GenealogyGems.TV address to get to the podcasts!

Are you new to the podcast?  Download our free Genealogy Gems Toolbar.  
It's the easiest way to 1listen to the podcasts, and get instant access to great genealogy content from anywhere on the web!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Free Web Demo Tomorrow March 17, 2010 on Newspapers at the Library of Congress

Chronicling America Live-Web Demonstration: "Extra! Extra! More than 1.7 Million Pages Online" - Wed., Mar. 17, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. EST

Extra! Extra! More than 1.7 Million Newspaper Pages Now Online

Get the news of yesteryear here! Explore contemporary reports of the fight for women's rights, St. Patrick's Day celebrations, baseball scores, earthquakes, and more! It's the news you want and the news you need from Chronicling America, the Library of Congress gateway to America's historic newspapers, published between 1880 and 1922. Join Library of Congress staff for a sampling of century-old headlines and articles of significant events that echo in the headlines of today.

When: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time; 1:00 Central; noon Mountain; 11:00 a.m. Pacific; and 5:00 p.m. GMT.

To attend, go to OPAL at . From the Quick Links column on the left, choose Auditorium.

1. Returning OPAL participants should click on the phrase "Click here to enter the room" in the center of the screen.
2. First time participants should follow the directions highlighted in the gray rectangle in the center of the screen.
3. Type your name (no password is required) and click "Log on" to enter the online conference.

NOTE: Allow yourself time to download the small software plugin needed to participate in the conference. Depending on your network security requirements, you may need assistance from your local technical support group to download and install the plugin. Actual installation should be very quick, depending on your computer and connectivity. For a complete description of system requirements, see .

Tips for first time users can be found at .

To learn more about programs sponsored by the Library of Congress Digital Reference Section, see Virtual Programs & Services - .

To learn more about Chronicling America, see .

To learn more about the Library's Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room, see .

To register for an orientation to the Library's online materials, see .

Rare Video of The Man Behind Who Do You Think You Are?

Realscreen on location: Wall to Wall's Alex Graham

We've heard much from Ancestry, Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky on the U.S. version of the TV series Who Do You Think You Are? that is climbing the ratings in popularity.  However, Alex Graham is THE man behind the show.  WDYTYA is his baby in the UK, and partnership with him was critical to it's crossing the Atlantic.

I've been aware of Alex for several years.  He is the CEO of the British media production company Wall to Wall.  As Alex mentions in this video interview at the RealScreen Summit 2010, along with Who Do You Think You Are?, Wall to Wall is best known for their PBS House Series. The most recent House mini series featured me and my family in "1867."  

The House Series did well for Wall to Wall until it unfortunately fell prey to the "unreality" of Reality TV editing and conflict manufactured by an over zealous production crew that occurred in our mini-series. And it was that decline that made me skeptical of WDYTYA? coming to the U.S.  However when their focus is not conflict but rather inspiration, Wall to Wall does an admiral job of it.

Watch the 4 minute video at the RealScreen website.  And try to ignore the hand puppet that is Alex's right hand :-)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Sign of Success - Who Do You Think You Are? U.S. Version Sold

The website is reporting today that The U.S. version of the genealogy focused TV series Who Do You Think You Are? has been sold by Outright Distribution into Australia and New Zealand.

The series which is being produced by Friends star Lisa Kudrow of Is or Isn't Entertainment and the British production company Wall to Wall premiered in the U.S. on NBC on March 5, 2010 with an episode featuring Sarah Jessica Parker.  I had an opportunity to preview tomorrow night's episode featuring Emmitt Smith and I can tell you now that you'll be glued to your TV.  It's riveting! (Tune in Friday, 8:00 p.m.)

According to the article Australia’s Nine Network and New Zealand’s Prime have licensed the rights to the show which has also been presold to Rogers Broadcasting in Canada, DR Denmark, MTV3 in Finland, SVT in Sweden, RTE in Ireland and DBS in Israel. 

This is good new for the future of the show because international distribution helps make it a financially viable product.  Dare we hope for a season two?  One way to make sure - tune in Friday nights at 8:00pm. and visit the official website often.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

If I don't say this I think my head will explode

I've been reading the blogs and Facebook postings about Who Do You Think You Are? and there's an odd theme that keeps rearing it's head that IMHO is off the mark.  I'm surprised that this particular criticism of the show continues to surface because I think NBC, Ancestry and the producers have been pretty straight forward about what the goal of the show is.  They probably didn't think they had to say what the goal is not.

The goal of the show is entertain and captivate the audience by taking someone that most folks know and can identify with (a celeb) and have them share their personal journey of discovering a line of their family history; sharing the excitement of uncovering clues, facts and insights, and their new found connection with American History. (If NBC succeeds, they make money and the show gets a second season.  For Ancestry, their goal is that viewers will head to and try a search.  If they succeed, they make money, and they stay in business.)

The goal is not to provide a how to class on conducting genealogy research.  

In fact, I say "thank goodness!" that teaching the research process is not their goal.  If is were, you'd see the show replaced by re-runs of The Jay Leno Show faster than you can say "peacock." 

And I have to ask the genealogists out there who are bemoaning the lack of detail about how and where documents were found in the making of the show:  Would you really want that?  Would NBC really be the most qualified entity to provide such instruction?  In fact, dare I say it, would Ancestry really be?  (They have GREAT online documents, but instruction on the research process doesn't appear to be one of their goals either!)

My answer is, No, of course not.  

Let's drift back to the hey day of genealogy entering America's consciousness - the debut of Roots.  Hands down, Roots did more for genealogy than anything else in recent memory.  I don't recall seeing a single document, courthouse, or National Archives employee in that series.  And if we had seen that it would have diluted from the incredible impact it had on all of us.  

Alex Haley and the TV network showed us what was possible - showed us our connection to history - showed us the stories just begging to be uncovered in our own family tree!  We did not walk, we RAN to books, classes, Family History Centers and other resources to learn more about how to do what Alex did.  His aim was true and he nailed it:  He INSPIRED us to want to know more.  

Inspiration is what it is all about. I think that perhaps the genealogist out there, many of whom teach classes on the subject, have perhaps just forgotten for a moment that inspiring your students is goal #1. If you can't do that, all of the technical information in the world will go in one ear and out the other. 

So I count my lucky stars that Who Do You Think You Are? doesn't try to be a classroom for research.  I am very confident that all of the talented and experienced genealogists out there are primed to step in and take on that role for the thousands of newbies who catch the bug after watching the show.

By the way, Kudos to Lisa Kudrow and NBC for including as much history, documents and archive visits as they do in the series.  If you listen carefully to Lisa's interview, (on Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 81 , Genealogy Gems Premium Episode 41, and in the video interview below) you will hear her comment on how they had to fight to include what they did.  Don't underestimate her words.  She says it in passing, but I'm sure that bringing as much history as they did to network TV was a HUGE uphill battle.  There are lots of TV types out there who think Americans can only handle 15 second sound bites.  TV is big business and all about the money.  

So I'm giving NBC and Lisa Kudrow high marks for believing in the American viewing audience.  And we as genealogists will take it from there!

If you'd like to learn more about how to research your family history, I invite you to listen to the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast.  It's free and will walk you through the research process step-by-step.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

WDYTYA Held It's Own in the Ratings

The Overnight Nielsen Ratings for Friday, March 5, 2010 are out and it looks like the new genealogy focused NBC series Who Do You Think You Are? made a respectable showing.

According to the website TV By The Numbers, "NBC claimed second place for the night with the premiere of Who Do You Think You Are? earning a 1.6 with adults 18-49 and 6.85 million viewers. For NBC on a Friday night that’s a pretty good result. It trailed Ghost Whisperer by 1/10th of a 18-49 rating point, but had a commanding 4/10ths lead over Supernanny."

8:00 Timeslot Stats - 18-49 year old Rating/Share Viewers (in Millions)
CBS Ghost Whisperer 1.7/6 7.39
NBC Who Do You Think You Are (Premiere) 1.6/6 6.85
ABC Supernnany 1.2/4 4.36
FOX House (R) 1.0/4 3.67
CW Smallville (R) 8p-10p 0.6/2 1.39

Let's keep up the social networking about WDYTYA and help push these numbers even higher!

Friday, March 5, 2010

It's A Small World After All

This wonderful email showed up in this California Girl's inbox today.  I love being part of the global family history community.  We are truly fortunate that technology brings us closer together in our quest for our ancestors.

Hi Lisa Louise,

This is a huge thank you from me in NSW, Australia. I live about an hour north of Sydney in a little town called Cooranbong and I have been researching my family history since the early 1990s. I love listening to your podcast and it's wonderful to hear all the stories you include about so many people around the world who are researching their family history.

It's such a wonderful thing to do and I love every minute I can spend researching my family's history. During the last year or so I have found some connections with distant relatives in the US - we had common ancestors in England and Ireland who migrated way back in the 1800s.

Your podcast is very interesting to me, even though I don't live in the US. You give such practical tips and advice and I LOVE your passion for family history. Somehow you make your listeners feel like we belong to a global family history community.

-Maria Northcote

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

WDYTYA TV Guest Appearances & Tips

Just got word from Ancestry that the new TV show Who Do You Think You Are? will be promoted on a variety of talk shows in the coming weeks.  (Unfortunately they didn't indicate who would be appearing - likely Lisa Kudrow, possibly some of the celebs featured on the series)  

Here's a list of a few shows to watch for (all dates/times are subject to change):
  • Wednesday, March 3 - Today Show (NBC) 8-9 am; The View (ABC - check your local TV listings); The Joy Behar Show (HLN - Headline News) 9 pm ET
  • Friday, March 5 - Today Show (NBC) 10-11 am
  • Monday, March 8 - Martha Stewart (check your local TV listings)
  • Tuesday, March - Oprah (check your local TV listings);Craig Ferguson (CBS late night)
  • Friday, March 19 - Bonnie Hunt (check your local TV listings)
You can hear from Lisa Kudrow on episode 81 of The Genealogy Gems Podcast as well as Premium Episode 41.

Episode Schedule
In case you're curious about the celebrity line up and timing for the episodes, here is the current schedule according to NBC:
  • March 5 - Sarah Jessica Parker
  • March 12 - Emmitt Smith
  • March 19 - Lisa Kudrow
  • March 26 - Matthew Broderick
  • April 2 - Brooke Shields
  • April 9 - Susan Sarandon
  • April 23 - Spike Lee
Also in their email, Ancestry included a survey asking for feedback on their promotional campaign for the show.  One question in particular caught my eye.  They asked what other types of material they could have distributed to generate interest in addition to the poster and wallpaper on their "spread the word" webpage.

What has stood out to me as missing from the the materials was a "Getting Started" how-to worksheet.  We all hope that the series will generate tremendous interest among non-genealogists, and a worksheet helping them take the first steps in the process would be a great offering.  

The official WDYTYA website has one overview article, and a place to enter a name which takes you to Ancestry.  But, a site such as the National Archives "About Genealogy Research" would be a great link as well.  Perhaps Ancestry could partner with the National Archives to make a one page step-by-step "Getting Started" available on the WDYTYA site, and as a handout that could be emailed to friends and family.

Tip:  If your non-genealogist friends or family members catch a bit of the bug while watching the series, encourage them to take a listen to the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast.  It's free, and will walk them step by step through the research process.  I created it specifically with newbies in mind!

What ideas do you have for not only getting the word out, but for helping excited non-genealogists take those first baby steps?  

WDYTYA: You're Gonna Get It...And You're Gonna Love It!

I just finished watching the first episode of the new NBC TV series Who Do You Think You Are? which featured Sarah Jessica Parker.  I was fortunate enough to receive a preview DVD of the series in conjunction with my interview with Lisa Kudrow, and tomorrow will be watching the remaining 6 episodes marathon style with my daughter who helps me here at Genealogy Gems.

Lisa Kudrow's enthusiasm during my interview with her (Listen here or in iTunes) is now even more understandable.  Not only is the production quality of the show first rate, but the story is compelling.  Sarah Jessica Parker does a fantastic job of narrating her journey.  Her sincere enthusiasm for the unfolding story of her ancestors is a joy to watch.

I've been reading many of the articles being published by the media who participated in a recent telephone press conference with Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky that are now circulating the Internet.  Having been on the call as well gave me a very fresh perspective on this type of reporting.  I scratch my head occasionally as I read the cynical TV land snippets, and often wonder "were we all on the the same call?"

Let me assure my readers that regardless of any harsh online bloviating, you are going to LOVE this show!  As family historians, you will "get it"'ll get why Sarah's eyes light'll get why she now feels like an'll get why it was important to not just read the documents but walk their footsteps.  You're gonna get it, and you're gonna want more!  And the thing I'm most excited about is that I really believe that the non-family historian, non-TV critic viewing audience out there is gonna get it too!

Here's a tip: after watching the episode on March 5 at 8:00 pm read Kimberly Powell's posting on the Salem Witch Trials.

And if you'd like to hear more from Lisa Kudrow listen to Genealogy Gems Podcast Premium Episode 41.