Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Who do you think you are? With Update!

Tonight's the night that "Who Do You Think You Are?" returns to television, on the TLC network. According to the ads, tonight's celebrity focus is Kelly Clarkson, the first winner (in 2002) of the "American Idol" singing contest television show. She's one of the few Idol winners who have truly succeeded in the music industry--she has sold millions of records and earned numerous industry awards. She's quite the success story.

I wonder how many singers/entertainers will be found amongst her ancestors? I'll be watching!!

Who watched the show last night? What did you think? I found it interesting that Kelly only focused on her 3rd great-grandfather on her mother's side--and her mom had already started the research!! Yea, Mom!

Even though Kelly didn't find any musical ancestors, she did learn a bit of American history--her ancestor had served in the Civil War, spent time in one of more notorious POW camps (remember the photo of the starving man?), escaped, and later entered into politics as a state senator. What an interesting life! This is one of the reasons why I love genealogy--the research isn't just about our ancestors, it's about our social and political history as a nation. It's a great way to get re-acquainted with our American history.

Looking forward to the next episode...

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Who Do You Think You Are?

The word is out now--the fairly popular television show "Who Do You Think You Are?" is returning to the airwaves on Tuesday, July 23rd on the TLC network.  Like the Ancestry.com commercials, the show has inspired a lot of people to think about--and talk about--their family history. Using celebrities as subjects, the show "researches" their family history and tells the celebrities the compelling stories that we all yearn to find in our own ancestry. The show even has the celebrities "start" the research by using Ancestry.com.

Don't get me wrong--I use Ancestry.com as one of many tools for my own research, and for my clients.  But we genealogists know that Ancestry.com is not the only tool to use.  And, we all know that the show utilizes professional archivists, librarians, and genealogists who spend many weeks and even months--off camera--to do the real research. Unfortunately, the show never tells its audience how long it does take to find our ancestors and their stories. I wish they would make that disclaimer.

Even so, I do like the show. Yes, I admit it. And it's on my calendar to watch. I'm in it for the fun of it all.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Writings of our Founding Fathers

As genealogists, we all know how important it is to find the writings of our ancestors--whether they be personal letters, diaries, published essays and so on.  Now imagine one of those ancestors--and their writings--had a national and even revolutionary impact in their lifetimes and on history. And imagine the personal, social, and intimate insights that we learn from our ancestors.

Thanks to Dick Eastman, I've learned of a relatively new website called "Founders Online".   It's a treasure trove of great documents written by the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton and many others. You may of heard of these guys--the ones who wrote the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and staged a little revolution way back when.  

Founders Online, at http://founders.archives.gov/, has digitalized more than 119,000 documents and letters written by our Founding Fathers. Yes, more than 119,000. More than 30,000 attributed just to George Washington. Yes, 30,000 and then some!! Is there enough time to read them all? Sadly, no, unless you are incredibly obsessive and determined. :)

There is just one woman I've found in the site: Abigail Adams, the wife of John Adams--and it's not just her letters to John Adams that are included.  She was a prolific writer of letters throughout her lifetime, expressing her attitudes that range from running the family farm to expressing opinions about the revolution and politics.  Even though she did not have the equivalent of a high school education, she read and edited her husband's legal briefs before he submitted them to court. And she wisely foretold of a women's revolution, should the men refuse to consider women's rights and role in the new democracy. Her letters alone provide wonderful insights of an 18th century woman.

 So, if you're in the mood to extend the 4th of July holiday, or just interested in American history, check out the site: http://founders.archives.gov/.